Tales from the Crypt (1989–1996)
15 user 5 critic

The Man Who Was Death 

After the death penalty is abolished, an executioner continues his former job through freelancing...



(screenplay), (screenplay)

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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Niles Talbot (as Bill Sadler)
J.W. Smith ...
Charley Ledbetter
Roy Brocksmith ...
Warden Havers
Theodore Carne
Dani Minnick ...
Cynthia Baldwin
Distraught Woman
Robert Winley ...
Jimmy Flood
Judge #1
Edgar Small ...
Judge #2
Mark Lowenthal ...
District Attorney
F.J. O'Neil ...
Jury Foreman (as Raymond O'Conner)
Jennifer Evans ...
Newscaster #1 (as M. Jennifer Evans)


After working for two years in the electric workshop of a penitentiary, the electrician Niles Talbot has been promoted to executioner, operating an electric chair, and he appreciates his job. When the death penalty is abolished in his state, Niles loses his job. But he decides to become a vigilante, punishing criminals that are released by justice system. Until the day that the death penalty is implemented again in the state. Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

10 June 1989 (USA)  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


William Sadler initially auditioned for the role of the detective who arrests Niles Talbot but asked at his audition about auditioning to play Talbot. The casting director informed Sadler that they sought Christopher Walken or John Malkovich for the role. Nevertheless, Sadler was allowed to audition and was eventually cast as Talbot. See more »


Crypt Keeper: [flies buzz then get zapped by a bug zapper] Aww, poor little fellas. When I think of their childhood, all those cute little maggots hahahahaha. Our story is about a man with nobler ambitions. He likes to kill human pests and he does it in front of an audience. Now that's entertainment hahahaha. So hang onto your hats kiddies, this one's a real shocker.
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Tales from the Crypt Theme
Composed by Danny Elfman
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User Reviews

One of the first and best crypt episodes and maybe the best in terms of quality and storytelling.
10 June 2007 | by (Petersburg, Virginia) – See all my reviews

This episode really sticks out in my mind as one of the finest and best from tales. It's really well done as far as the story and the acting is top notch, and it's special because it's from season one and one of the first episodes to air. The viewer really feels the shocking twist at the end. "The Man Who Was Death" stars William Sadler as Niles Talbot a man who's a executioner for the local state prison and he's tough and dedicated and very good at his job with cockiness and eagerness. Then one day the state legislature decides to revoke the death penalty, and poor Niles is out of a job and in the unemployment line. Never fear though, this man is to eager and determined to work as his work nature is just fine, and as he will find out a little to good in the end! Niles is just a plain country boy who moved to the city and was great at his job of state executioner and his plan is to uphold his own style of justice and punish criminals who are getting away just fine and free. So one by one criminals who are set free by the courts receive their own juice from Niles as he does it his own rebel way with vigilantism style of justice! As with all or most of the crypt episodes fate is often cruel, as when Niles is caught doing his new little hobby the state votes to return the death penalty. Now talk about a shocking twist, now Niles can pay his own juice bill! Overall great episode certainly one of my all time crypt picks not just because of the twist but the acting and narrating of William Sadler is top notch the story is told from his character's point of view a good study of a complex and interesting man. Plus the death penalty theme was well shown which is still a hot button topic in society.

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