Director: Richard Donner
Writer: Terry Black
Cast: John Kassir, Joe Pantoliano, Robert Wuhl, Kathleen York, Gustav Vintas, Stephen Kahan, Michael Ray Bower, Dorothy Neumann, Jack O’Leary, Paul Tuerpe, Rick Zumwalt, and Al Maines
Composer: Nicholas Pike
Air Date: 6/10/1989
Requiring a participant for his experimental surgery, Dr. Emil Manfred (Gustav Vintas) enlists the aid of a homeless man named Ulric (Joe Pantoliano). Following the operation, Ulric—now provided with the nine lives of a cat—decides to exploit his new gift by repeatedly killing himself before an audience of bloodthirsty carnival goers, with a terrible end result.
A classic episode of Tales from the Crypt, this offering deserves praise for its topnotch performances and horror/comedy undertones. “Dig That Cat… He’s Real Gone” should also be commended for its ironic finale, which earns its reputation as the greatest twist ending in the entire series.
This season-one entry benefits from the performance of Joe Pantoliano, best known for his portrayal of Cypher in The Matrix. The dark, witty, and satirical delivery of Pantoliano’s narration, for example, adds an air of humor and intrigue to the life story of Ulric—an otherwise contemptible, unsympathetic protagonist.
Though initially amusing in a morbid sense, Ulric’s “dying” act grows quite repetitive after the second performance. Specifically, the various execution methods (i.e. drowning, shooting, hanging, live burial, and electrocution) employed on Ulric fail to maintain a high shock factor over time, resulting in a slightly tedious and predictable outcome.
“Dig That Cat… He’s Real Gone” is also marred by a frequent lack of subtlety. Notably, the tongue-in-cheek aspects of this episode are often exaggerated to the point of parody, thereby hampering the realism of an already far-fetched narrative. (Those who enjoy Tales from the Crypt for its campy elements will, however, enjoy the over-the-top style of black comedy featured in this episode.)
Despite taking tremendous pleasure in watching Ulric commit suicide, the carnival attendees appear only slightly impressed with the main character’s miraculous ability to return from the dead—likely a satire on horror fans who prefer gore films, torture porn, and awful slasher movies over genre stories of a fantastic or thought-provoking nature.
“Dig That Cat… He’s Real Gone” is a clever and unique effort from Richard Donner—director of Superman: The Movie and the Lethal Weapon series. Tales from the Crypt enthusiasts will therefore enjoy this episode, which combines mad scientist tropes with a supernatural horror theme.
Overall Quality: 7/10
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