Director: Russell Mulcahy
Writer: Ron Finley
Cast: Catherine O’Hara, Peter MacNicol, Joseph Maher, John Kassir, Wesley Mann, Scott Nimerfro, Kevin Cooney, Peter Van Norden, and Sandi Rose
Composer: Vladimir Horunzhy
Air Date: 10/31/1994
Arrested for a license plate violation, Geraldine Ferrett (Catherine O’Hara)—an ambulance-chasing attorney—is taken to a court where citizens are flogged, pilloried, and even executed for trivial offenses. Additional problems arise when Austin Haggard (Peter MacNicol)—a sniveling, incompetent lawyer—is assigned to Geraldine’s case.
The inaugural entry of season six, “Let the Punishment Fit the Crime” benefits from the unnerving cinematography of Rick Bota—a frequent contributor to Tales from the Crypt. Nevertheless, the exaggerated performances of Catherine O’Hara (known for playing Kevin’s mom in the Home Alone series) and Peter MacNicol detract from the subtle, eerie setting of this episode.
“Let the Punishment Fit the Crime” should be commended for its gore and make-up prosthetics (e.g. twisted limbs and decomposing flesh), which add an air of ghoulishness to the zombified corpses of Geraldine’s “victims.”
Despite offering a clever and amusing satire on the litigious nature of modern society, “Let the Punishment Fit the Crime” fails to generate the creepy, claustrophobic atmosphere that should naturally stem from Ron Finley’s narrative premise (i.e. the government of a backwards, nightmarish town going out of its way to terrorize one or more helpless characters)—a shortcoming that can likely be attributed to the over-the-top humor and dialogue featured in practically every scene. (The Twilight Zone’s “Shadow Play,” in contrast, maintains a great deal of nuance, surrealism, and solemnity while exploring a related concept.)
Exposing the petty, draconian, and hypocritical attributes of the American “justice” system, “Let the Punishment Fit the Crime” employs tongue-in-cheek subject matter to examine a real-life problem—similar to season one’s “The Man Who Was Death,” which presents a compelling critique of capital punishment.
“Let the Punishment Fit the Crime” is an occasionally spooky, albeit cartoonish, episode of Tales from the Crypt. Series enthusiasts may therefore enjoy this offering, excessive camp factor notwithstanding.
Overall Quality: 6/10
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