Tales from the Crypt - Cutting Cards (Season 2, Episode 3)

Cutting Cards
Season 2 - Episode 3
from Tales from the Crypt #32
Aired April 21, 1990
Directed by Walter Hill
Worst pun: The fucking onslaught at the end. You'll see. 

Who’s got the losing hand…forearm…elbow? Find out in a shockingly high-stakes game of poker.

The Crypt Keeper begins this episode with, I shit you not, a Marquis de Sade reference. He says after a long night he takes a tip from Sade and "unwind with a little red hot poker." I don't know what pun I was expecting, but that sure wasn't it. 

The story begins with high roller Reno Crevis (Lance Henriksen - Aliens and every direct to DVD horror movie from 1988 until he dies) enters a shitty little hole in the wall casino. He’s decked out in what people in Hollywood assume southerners dress like,  down to his ten gallon hat and ridiculous accent. He looks, walks, and talks like a southern asshole. I’m just gonna say right off the bat how much Lance Henriksen immediately elevates anything he appears in. His IMDb page is a who’s who of who gives a shit movies but I can guarantee that anytime he steps on screen he’s easily the best part of that movie. That man did not one but two Pumpkinhead TV movies and I bet every single frame with him on screen was exponentially better than the rest of the film. But I digress..

Lance barely beat out Foghorn Leghorn for this role
Reno chats a few people up, including the bartender who played the mad scientist in the prior episode and a bartender in the very first episode. All the people there have two things in common: they all recognize Reno, and they all warn him to watch out for Sam Forney. Reno and Sam are no strangers, and we’re about to figure out just how much they fucking hate each other. I just love that everyone in this rundown little back door casino knows all about these two and their numerous exploits around the world, as if they’re some kind of wandering swordsmen who travel the globe playing hold ‘em from town to town and leaving behind nothing but empty saloons and stories of their legendary exploits. Ah the 90’s, when fables of a redneck playing poker were urban legends submitted for the approval of The Midnight Society around a campfire. 

Reno spots Sam (Kevin Tighe) in the backroom by himself. Reno approaches him and before either of them say a word it’s obvious that they fucking hate each other. They poke back and forth at one another; Reno reminding Sam about taking 10 grand off him and Sam reminding Reno he took his car and rubbing in the fact that his wife left him. It could be interpreted as good-natured fun if you didn’t see the looks in their eyes. These two actors look like at any point they’re going to kick the table over and beat the everloving shit out of each other. You don’t need anymore backstory than their banter - you can just sense how much they want to choke the life out of the other. Even when they’re smiling it’s the type of smile you see right before Jack Torrance buries an axe in your chest.

Turns out ole Reno went broke in Vegas, but he still wants to shut Sam the fuck up once and for all. All he’s got is a hundred bucks in his pocket, but that mere pittance doesn’t mean much to Sam. I'd suck a dick and a half for a hundred bucks right now, but again, I digress. Sam has a different wager in mind: loser leaves town. They’ll roll dice and whoever loses has to pack their shit and get out forever. 

Reno rolls first and lands two sixes and seems unbelievably happy with himself. Sam rolls and….it’s two sixes. Reno is angrier about this outcome than I’ve ever been about anything in my life and proposes they settle it with Russian Roulette. They fucking rolled dice once and instead of a tie breaker or best two out of three they jump to blowing their brains out. 

They go back and forth taking turns, talking shit to the other person when the pistol’s not pressed against their own head. I could drag this out and describe every turn but you know how this goes; nobody’s gonna die before the final chamber. It’d be a twist, but even this show isn’t dumb enough for that. Not this season, anyway. What I’ll do instead is leave you with this quote from Lance Henriksen delivered only as Lance can.

Of course you gotta think. Thinking's the fun part of it. Thinking about it. Thinking about what's gonna happen. Listen to that little wheel of fortune click and turn into place when you ease back the hammer. Feeling that metal get warm against your skin. Wondering what it's gonna be like to feel your brains blown out through the side of your head. Wondering what comes after, if anything, or black. Wondering if youre gonna scream. What do you think, Sam? You gonna scream?

I get a smile on my face just reading it.

There’s also a funny little moment right as Sam is about to pull the trigger with only 2 chambers left. Some fat dude rolls up honking his horn and telling them where to park his car. Reno calls the guy an asshole and the guy starts getting uppity. Sam runs up to Reno’s defense and puts his gun in the guy’s face and tells him to fuck off. The guy obliges and leaves, and for a brief moment Sam completely forgets what he was in the middle of and has the biggest shit eating grin on his face. He’s looking at Reno, the man he despises so much that he agreed to a game of Russian Roulette just to be rid of him, with the biggest “bro did you SEE that shit" grin on his face. Reno turns around and the smile fades as he realizes he has a 50-50 shot of Bud Dwyer-ing himself. 

He wants to go in for a high five so bad it's almost painful to look at
Sam pulls the trigger and it clicks. There’s only one chamber left, meaning Reno is about to Private Pyle all over the alley and Sam could not be happier. He’s doing the kind of hysterical laugh you see in a movie when a character finally reaches his breaking point and goes apeshit. He’s essentially Ash in Evil Dead II when everything in the cabin is laughing at him. He might as well be pointing and laughing at Reno like Nelson as he shoots himself in the noggin. God I love this show. Reno puts the gun to his head and tells Sam to make sure everyone knows he had the balls to go through with it. He pulls the trigger…

and it’s a dud. There was a major malfunction, numbnuts, and he is fucking FURIOUS that he didn’t paint the walls with his cerebrum. He accuses Sam of putting in a dud on purpose and Sam insists the bullet's a couple years old and could’ve gotten wet (even though it was in his glove compartment). Reno is having absolutely no part of this and is vehemently outraged about being alive. I feel you, Reno. 

We tried dice, that didn’t work. Russian Roulette was a bust. Nobody ever actually plays Mouse Trap so that’s no go. That leaves one way to settle the score: chop poker. Don’t worry about where they went or how they found 2 doctors to stand by and patch them up after they cut off appendages. Just accept that it’s happening because this is Tales from the Crypt and through Cryptie all things are possible, amen. 

They play a hand and Sam loses a finger. Oh, I get it. He makes a sound like Andrew Dice Clay and a face like this

and all of a sudden things aren’t so fucking funny anymore to Sam. Reno, on the other hand, is having the time on his life. They play another hand and Sam loses again and Reno just keeps talking shit as he hacks off another finger, threatening to pickle his fingers  as a souvenir. Reno loses the next hand and suddenly things aren’t so fucking funny to him anymore. He offers to give Sam a finger back and to get one of the doctors to sew it back on. No dice, Sam hacks off a digit. 

It cuts to later down the line in a hospital. The camera pans over to reveal Sam and Reno without arms or legs playing checkers. With their noses. They’re just heads on stumps and they’re still talking insane amounts of shit to each other about each and every move. Then, just like that, the episode ends with Sam asking Reno to pass the gum and then lean forward and touch heads as it cuts to black. I swear to fucking God. 

The Crypt Keeper is frying their fingers in a pan, because of course he is. How does this great episode end? Hold on to your fucking hats for this barrage:

“I’ve heard of giving someone the finger but this is ridiculous. But at the risk of going out on a limb I’ve got to hand it to Crevis and Forney, they’d do anything to elbow their way to the top.”

Fuck me.

This episode was short but sweet. It’s barely over 20 minutes if you don’t count the opening credits and is about as simple as you can get. It’s just two guys who despise one another doing everything they can to get the other person out of their life. Half of the episode is them standing in an alley playing Russian Roulette, and then they go and play poker. That’s the show. But it doesn’t matter, the entire episode hangs on Henriksen and Tighe’s performances and they absolutely kill it. It's entirely banter back and forth with no frills. There’s no supernatural, no paranormal, no insane ironic twist. There’s no vampires or werewolves or siamese twins. It’s just two guys who are being held together in the end by nothing but gauze, surgical tape, and their unbridled despise for one another. It’s not scary, but it’s a delicious piece of dark comedy and easily one of my top episodes so far, and I bet it’s gonna stay that way.

1 comment:

  1. The scene with them in the alley playing Russian Roulette is seriously one of the best things I've ever seen Henriksen do. He sells the shit out of that whole scene and is absolutely pitch perfect. I kept trying to predict some kind of twist but this episode was great in that it doesn't disappoint you by shoehorning in some cuh-razy supernatural shit. I've heard a lot of TftC episodes that don't really follow the horror format are most well regarded and I'm excited to see what you have to say about those as well.