Tales from the Crypt without the Cryptkeeper? Believe it or not, that may be what we're in for. According to an exclusive report over at Bloody-Disgusting, not only will TNT's recently-announced Tales from the Crypt revival series not be a weekly anthology like the original show, it will also lack the most beloved element from HBO's famed '80s and '90s incarnation: the pun-loving corpse voiced by John Kassir and designed by special effects makeup artist Kevin Yagher, who charmed audiences with his rotting flesh, penchant for tacky one-liners (“That Grunwald, one little problem and he goes right to pieces!”) and maniacal high-pitched cackle.
In response to fan outrage, Kassir himself has called the alleged snub a “shame/sham” via his official Twitter account, and he expanded on those comments when I spoke to him via phone earlier this afternoon.
“It's funny, I have more trending going on with my name for a job that I don't have than any job I've ever had,” laughed the actor and comedian when he called me to talk about the controversy. He's not kidding: in addition to the expected outrage on social media, a Change.org petition has even been started to bring the character back for the M. Night Shyamalan-produced series, which will be the centerpiece of a two-hour block of horror programming set to debut on TNT this fall.
Not only did Kassir confirm to me that he has not been approached by producers to reprise the role, he in fact learned about the new series the same way the rest of us did: by reading about it online. Ultimately, his absence may be the result of a licensing issue: though TNT has the rights to the Tales from the Crypt name, they presumably don't have the rights to the Cryptkeeper himself, who was created — at least in his television form — specifically for the HBO series.
“The rights to that particular puppet and Cryptkeeper that I voiced and brought personality to and these great puppeteers brought to life with Kevin Yagher directing, that all remains under the rights of the partners, Joel Silver and [Robert] Zemeckis and Walter Hill and David Giler and Richard Donner,” said Kassir, who made sure to clarify that this is merely what he “gathered” after speaking with one of the original producers about the property recently. “You know, these guys still own the rights to that character…the Cryptkeeper has to be licensed separately…if they want it to be used in any other version of Tales from the Crypt that didn't involve the original producers.”
As I already noted, the absence of the Cryptkeeper is a major point of contention for those who hold a nostalgic attachment to the HBO series, with fans online calling the decision “ridiculous” and one even tweeting: “That's like remaking Jaws w/o a shark or Scarface w/o cocaine.” And while Kassir told me he hopes that viewers at least give the new series a chance — Cryptkeeper or no Cryptkeeper — he also tends to agree that without the cackling host (or at the very least an equivalent), “you might as well not call it Tales from the Crypt.”
“He's who people remember,” said Kassir. “He's the visual part of the series. He's your best creepy buddy who told you these stories and let you know that that this show was gonna be fun. …He gave you that right up front, so you knew exactly how to go in and watch it. And that's a big deal. That was the difference between that and all of those other horror anthology shows that have come on the air that came and went, that don't have any kind of personality to the show itself.”
It bears mentioning that Kassir can still do the voice as well as ever. Not only did he break into character several times during our call, he has also reprised the role a number of times in recent years, including for the now-defunct horror network FEARnet (which, among other things, utilized him for their New Year's Shockin' Eve special back in 2012). That said, he's not exactly hurting for work; one look at the actor's IMDB page proves that Kassir's career hasn't let up since the original Tales from the Crypt left the airwaves. “I work a lot,” he affirmed. “It's not like I'm not gonna work if I don't get this job.”