Two-Fisted Tales (1992)

Most folks only know EC Comics for Tales from the Crypt — OK, maybe MAD Magazine — but the truth is, there were a ton of other titles that that venerable publisher released. Just in the horror realm, they also had the Vault of Horror (yes, there was an Amicus film with that title) and Crypt of Terror. But there was also Weird FantasyWeird Science, Crime SuspenStoriesShock SuspenStories, Frontline Combat, Piracy, Weird Science-Fantasy and even the New Direction post-Comics Code books ImpactValor, Extra!, Aces High, Psychoanalysis, M.D. and Incredible Science Fiction.

I’ve been surprised that none of these other EC Comics ever got a movie or series until I learned about Two-Fisted Tales.

Strangely enough, as Harvey Kurtzman was the editor of the book, these war stories didn’t always follow their title and often had a very anti-war prejudice. Kurtzman had been drafted in 1942 and knew the horrors of war first-hand. As he saw the other war comics on the news racks, he was upset by how much they glorified war. He saw no heroes in his stories, only people trapped in situations beyond their control. He would later comment in The Complete EC Library: Two-Fisted Tales Volume 1, “Nobody had done anything on the depressing aspects of war, and this, to me, was such a dumb—it was a terrible disservice to the children.”

I guess no one explained that to anyone who worked on this show.

In 1991, a TV pilot was put together by producers Joel Silver, Richard Donner and Robert Zemeckis. Other than using the logo and some of the art in the opening, that’s pretty much all that feels like the comic. Instead, this is very similar to Tales from the Crypt, with William Sadler played Mr. Rush, a violent man who connects all of the stories.

“Showdown” was written by Frank Darabont and directed by Richard Donner is the story of a gunfighter’s last stand. “King of the Road,” written by Randall Jahnson and directed by Tom Holland, is about a drag racer’s past coming to haunt him. Brad Pitt appears in the one. And “Yellow,” written by Jim Thomas, John Thomas, A. L. Katz and Gilbert Adler and directed by Robert Zemeckis is about a soldier who keeps letting down his military man father. It’s the best episode in here, with great acting by Kirk and Eric Douglas, Lance Henriksen and Dan Aykroyd.

Of the three, “Yellow” is the only one based on an EC Comics story, as it was taken from the first issue of Shock SuspenStories and was written by Al Feldstein and illustrated by Jack Davis.

Sadly, this was a letdown and after one airing, the three episodes all appeared as part of Tales from the Crypt. I was always upset when the show didn’t use the material it was based on. This is really no different, but the last tale is tense and brutal, a rare Zemeckis-directed story that isn’t overly dependent on special effects.

You can watch this on YouTube.

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