"Shoot him, drown him, hang him, zap him with kajilion volts - hey, it's a living! A man who receives a surgical graft of a cat's nine lives becomes a carnival sensation with his dying act."
- -- DVD description for the episode
On a busy night at the Big Top Carnival, ringleader Barker (Robert Wuhl) leads a group of patrons into a show featuring “the tragedy of death and the miracle of resurrection“. Sideshow daredevil Ulric ’the Undying‘ (Joe Pantoliano) plans to resurrect himself after performing his biggest stunt of being buried alive for 12 straight hours. He waves goodbye to the crowd, locks himself in a coffin, and lights a candle. He confidently recalls how he has gotten to this point.
Many years before, Ulric is living on the streets when he is approached by Dr Emil Manfred. He gives Ulric an opportunity to make a lot of money by agreeing to a unique procedure. Ulric goes with the doctor to his lab, where he has been studying ”cat” scans and has concluded felines have glands inside their brains that grant them nine lives - he plans to kill a cat and surgically plant its glands inside Ulric in the hopes it will give him the same. An excited Ulric agrees and goes through with the surgery, which turns out to be very painful. To test out the results, Manfred shoots Ulric in the head — while dead for a brief moment, Ulric successfully resurrects himself. A giddy Manfred pays Ulric the original money he promised, but then they concoct a plan to make even more.
The two head to the Big Top Carnival and pitch a show where Ulric is killed in front of live audiences but rises from the grave. Barker gives them a shot — their first performance has Ulric resurrecting himself after being drowned in a tub of water. A perky assistant named Coralee comically asks Ulric out as the water rises. He drowns, and after another hour, the tub is drained so he can return to life. He resurrects himself and the happy crowd cheers. The act makes them rich and Ulric starts a relationship with Coralee.
Ulric performs his next stunt — a live hanging — in front of a sold out crowd. He hangs himself, but returns to life while still dangling. The roaring success pleases Dr Manfred, who puts most of the earnings toward his research; Ulric, however, looks to boost his profit from his usual 40% take. One night, the two get into a horrible accident while driving away from the carnival. While Manfred is instantly killed, Ulric walks away unscathed but down a life.
The acts continue with Ulric now taking in Manfred’s share in addition to his. He performs two more stunts — one where a lucky raffle winner gets to pull a switch that electrocutes him, and another where spectators fire a crossbow at him for $1000 each. While he successfully rises from the dead both times, Ulric learns how unpredictable the resurrections can be — after the electrocution stunt, he doesn’t resurrect until days later, when he’s at the morgue seconds away from being embalmed. He has Coralee handle all of his post-death arrangements from this moment. The carnival has made a large amount of money and the two plan to take a vacation, but Coralee becomes overwhelmed with greed. She stabs Ulric to death, then runs out with all of the money before he resurrects once more.
Left with no money and two lives, Ulric vows to do one more show but wants all the profits. He reasons that the carnival would be nothing without his success, but Barker just sees him as greedy. The final stunt is the coffin scene from the beginning — he laughs to himself about everything, but stops himself after making a fatal discovery: he’s actually on his last life, as a cat had to be killed for him to get his special gland. He panics and begs to be let out, but the gravediggers above only hear groans and mistake them for a cat. Ulric dies for good in the coffin as a cat lies on his grave.
Opening Segment Edit
"Good evening, fiend fans and welcome to my crawly crypt. This little drama is just about one of life's unexpected pleasures: dying, that is. Most of us only get to do it once and it's all over before you can really enjoy it. But one man did get to die again. And he liked it so much he started doing it for a living. This is the story of Ulric the Undying a sideshow performer who found death not only fun, but profitable. In fact, he's dying to put on a show for you right now."
Closing Segment Edit
"There, there. Nice kitty. Get! Hope you enjoyed our little bedtime story, kids. Alas, poor Ulric, missed a bet. Though Dying for Dollars could have been a popular game show. They could have put it in between Wheel of Misfortune and the Newly Dead game. Unless they buried it in the wrong time slot."
- This episode is available on disc one of the Tales from the Crypt: The Complete First Season DVD collection.
- The ringmaster tells Ulric that HBO has sent their check. Tales from the Crypt was produced and aired by HBO.
- Director Richard Donner cameos as an audience member during Ulric's burial death and can be seen chanting "Ulric, Ulric, Ulric"! along with the crowd. His wife, Lauren Shuler Donner producer of the X-Men franchise, is sitting beside him.