Director: Elliot Silverstein
Writer: Andrew Kevin Walker
Cast: Martin Sheen, Billy Zane, Maryan D’Abo, John Kassir, Martin Sheen, Martin Sheen, Martin Sheen, Candi Brough, and Randi Brough
Composer: Walter Werzowa
Air Date: 11/3/1993
After murdering and stealing the act of Zorbin the Magnificent (Martin Sheen), struggling magician Miles Federman (Billy Zane) seeks further assistance from Kraygen (Martin Sheen)—an illusionist whose Box of Death routine grants him the success that Federman craves. Refusing to reveal the secret of his magic, Kraygen is promptly killed by Federman, who—upon premiering his new act before an audience—pays a terrible price for his evil deeds.
Benefiting from the talents of Martin Sheen and Billy Zane, “Well Cooked Hams” offers a variety of entertaining performances to compensate for a bland, unoriginal premise. That being said, this episode should receive criticism for its awkward pacing, absence of character development, and failure to generate excitement leading into the climactic scene.
The acting of Zane (known for playing the Collector in Demon Knight, a Tales from the Crypt spin-off movie) will likely appeal to fans of the comical, over-the-top villains frequently featured in this series.
Additionally worth praising are the gore effects (i.e. stab wounds and acid burns) showcased in “Well Cooked Hams,” providing make-up enthusiasts and fans of visceral horror with a compelling reason to view this episode.
“Well Cooked Hams” is marred by a lack of suspense prior to the (already quite predictable) twist ending, which, though fittingly gruesome, may disappoint Tales from the Crypt viewers of a critical mindset.
Also problematic is the performance of Sheen—an otherwise exceptional actor whose Russian accent, in addition to being rather silly and exaggerated, can make Kraygen’s dialogue somewhat difficult to understand. (For endowing each of his three characters with many unique and memorable personality traits, however, Sheen deserves commendation for his portrayals of Kraygen, Zorbin, and cameraman Thomas Miller.)
“Well Cooked Hams” contains a worthwhile (albeit extremely obvious and self-explanatory) lesson on the consequences of substituting hard work and dedication with a lazy, uninspired approach to building a successful career.
Forgoing the black humor and atmospheric tension of a typical Tales from the Crypt entry, “Well Cooked Hams” is a mediocre season-five installment. The chemistry of Sheen and Zane should nevertheless be praised for adding flavor to the stale, if not thoroughly tedious, subject matter and execution of this episode.
Overall Quality: 5/10
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