Alfred Hitchcock Presents – The Right Price (03/08/59)

ahprightprice01Mort and Jocelyn are working in an office.  We know it is olden times because she is using an adding machine the size of a 30 pound turkey and smoking in the office, although sadly not smoking the turkey [1].

Mort has worked out by hand that his share of the profit is $705.  Jocelyn corrects him to say his share is only $505.  She accuses him of accusing her of trying to cheat him.  She checks his figures and says, “You’ve got a seven instead of a three in the 2nd column.”  How that could result in a $200 difference, I can’t see. [2]

She says she doesn’t know why she went into business with him, and he says he regrets letting her buy in.  She loaned him money when no one else would, but at an astronomical 10% because she had a big heart.  He zings her, “You mean that adding machine below your ribs?”  She explains, “Shut up!”  Then she strips naked.

Wait, thank God, she only strips off her dress and remains in a slip.  I can imagine this was quite a shock in 1959, and it actually startled me today.  The married couple walk out the door of their home-office and march up the stairs to bed.  The insulting and sniping continues.  They crawl into their respective twin beds and pull the covers up to their necks.  Jocelyn’s idea of pillow talk is, “You’ll never get a cent of my money.”

ahprightprice09That night, Mort hears a noise downstairs.  He surprises a 54 year-old burglar.  Are there any 54 year-old burglars?  I like to think they’ve all been shot much sooner than that. The burglar asks to see the silver-ware, then rejects it as junk when he sees one of the utensils is a spork. He has a bigger plan in mind, though.

He tells Mort about a job he pulled recently.  The homeowner stuck the insurance company for $5,000 more than the items taken, so everyone was a winner.  You know, except the poor saps whose premiums are raised to cover such fraud.  Playing on Mort’s pride in being a businessman, the burglar suggests a similar arrangement.

Unfortunately, the house is full of junky silverware, cheap art, fake jewelry and glass crystal.  However, there is something even more worthless in the house — his naggingshrewofawife (which is such a stock character on AHP, it should be a single word).  The burglar says he can make that problem disappear.  They haggle and agree on a price of $3,500 to kill her.

No time like the present, so the burglar goes upstairs and enters the couple’s bedroom.  After a few minutes, Mort goes up and finds that the burglar has already suffocated Jocelyn with a pillow.  He offers for Mort to “check her yourself.”  When Mort leans over, the burglar conks him on the head with a pistol butt and suffocates him.

ahprightprice26Jocelyn opens her eyes and they have a good laugh.  She had hired the burglar for $5,000 to go through this whole routine.

A nice little story.  The reveal of them as a married couple was slightly telegraphed — nobody on AHP bickers like that except married couples.  But Jocelyn tearing off her dress was effective even if not particularly at all sexy.  The gem in the story, though, is Eddie Foye Jr. as the burglar.  Much of the episode is simply him and Mort talking.  Foye has such a funny and disarming — even though armed — style of delivering his lines, that it is a pleasure to watch.

I rate it the price is right.

Post-Post:

  • [1] FWIW, I had smoked turkey last Thanksgiving, and it was awesome.
  • [2] I didn’t initially see it because it was clever.  The error was probably $400, so his 50% would be $200 off.  I appreciate them taking the time to make small things work out.
  • In a strange coincidence, Mort is played by Allyn Joslyn.  His wife in the episode is named Jocelyn.
  • June Dulo (Jocelyn) went on to be Murray the Cop’s wife Mimi in The Odd Couple.
  • AHP Deathwatch: No survivors.

Twilight Zone – Wong’s Lost and Found Emporium (11/22/85)

tzwong22As I’m watching this on YouTube, I am distracted by the other videos listed off to the side.  It’s like how you think “Look what he’s having” as the waitress carries a tray to a nearby guy with a really cute date.  I see Cold Equations — a sci-fi classic.  Nightcrawlers — a great episode already viewed.  Escape Clause from the original series.  And here I sit with . . . what?  I was going to name some mundane Chinese dish, but all of them I thought of seemed pretty tasty now that I think of them.  Plus, racist.

Or maybe that’s appropriate.  The only blatantly Asian name in the TZ cast & crew — William F. Wu — just happens to write the episode about Mr. Wong?  Hu knows, maybe he sought them out.  Write what you know, they say.  But this was season one and they never brought him back.  It just smacks of Tales From the Crypt’s infamous African-American episode.

David Wong enters a San Francisco porn shop seeking the titular Lost and Found Emporium.  Since the title is Wong’s Lost and Found Emporium, I bet he finds it.  The clerk [1] is pretty slippery — more slippery than the floor of his shop, I imagine.  He says sometimes the emporium is there and sometimes it is not.  He suggests Wong try in the rear, as he does with many customers.

tzwong17Wong sees two doors in the back of the store.  One opens into a rat-infested alley.  The other opens into a space where the alley should be, but actually leads into a large storeroom.  Which, I guess makes sense, as it is a room in a store.  He enters and inexplicably closes the door behind him.  The door then disappears from the wall.

As he is searching for a clerk, Wong sees another magical door appear.  It opens and he correctly guesses that it is sunny Fort Lauderdale outside.  A Springbreaker walks in, although sadly from Spring of 1936. She says she is searching for lost time.  She became an artist late in life but confesses she didn’t have the patience or discipline to stick with it. I would think those were actually virtues more likely in an older person, but I ain’t no artist.

As Wong is whining — and he really is obnoxious — about how long it took him to find this place, he spots a floating orb behind the woman.  They follow it until it settles on a box of white mice.  There is an instruction card which says to stroke the mice until calm, at least five minutes.  The woman places the box on the floor, but the mice scamper away on little cat’s-dinner feet before she can find relief.  She is distraught as she has lost her last chance at happiness.  “Well, those are the breaks,” Wong says to the heart-broken old woman.

tzwong31Wong soon encounters a man wandering through the aisles.  He has been a self-absorbed jerk up, but he’s really started getting to me now.  He is just pointlessly belligerent and sneering at the man.  “Tell me something, Pops.  You lose anything valuable?  Lost hope?  Lost dreams?  Lost love?”  The old man speaks of losing the respect of his children.  Wong sympathetically responds, “If I hear one more sob story, I’m going to puke.”

He sees another orb, though, and follows it to a mirror.  The instructions tell the man to stare into the mirror for five and a half minutes.  The mirror shows him as a monster, so he shatters it, squandering any future reconciliation with his children.  On the plus side, he did give Wong a good laugh.

Wong next meets a young woman. He explains his bad attitude by saying what he lost and what he seeks is his compassion.  What really pushed him over the edge was the murder of Vincent Chin.  He tells the tragic real-life story of Chin who was murdered by two idiots in Detroit.  Despite being Chinese, they mistook Chin for being Japanese and blamed him for the collapse of the US auto industry. [2]   They beat him to death with a baseball bat and were given probation for their actions.  She agrees to help him find his compassion in exchange for him helping her to find an item to be named later.

tzwong35

Oh yeah, this disembodied head shows signs of life a couple of times. I have no idea why.

He sees her orb descends on a canister.  The instructions tell her to inhale for five seconds.  She does so, and the magic seems to work for a change.  She bursts out laughing, so I guess she had lost her sense of humor; or just noticed Wong’s haircut.

She sees Wong’s orb and they follow it to three bottles, one of which contains his compassion. Yada yada, Wong screws up the test tube that contains his compassion, and just uses the bottles that contain his integrity and childhood memories.  The woman assures him he will still regain his compassion because that comes with integrity.  Not sure I go along with that. Integrity is being honest and living by solid principals.  Ayn Rand novels are full of such people, but I must have missed the chapters describing their compassion.

Wong becomes compassionate enough to stay on at the store as the new manager.  The woman decides to stay on with him.  She hangs a sign on the door which says “Under New Management, Wong’s Lost and Found Emporium” — an ending efficiently spoiled by the episode’s title.

Again with the kindler, gentler Twilight Zone.  In this 1980’s series, To Serve Man really would be a book about curing diseases, ending poverty and driving people to the airport.  Still not what I’m looking for from TZ.  I’m starting to think I’m looking in the wrong place.

Post-Post:

  • [1] The porn clerk is such a doppelganger for Best-of-Show-era Christopher Guest that it is distracting.
  • [2] Maybe they also mistook him for Roger Smith.
  • [2] I guess it would be churlish of me to point out the producers apparently also think Asians are interchangeable as they cast an actor of Japanese heritage to play a man named Wong — typically a Chinese name.  But it’s OK when our moral superiors in Hollywood do it.
  • Also, one incident that led to Wong losing his compassion was the reaction of some bigots when he was out with a Caucasian woman.  I notice the producers were careful to have him end up with an Asian woman in the episode, though.  But it’s OK when our moral superiors in Hollywood do it.
  • Brian Tochi (Wong) was one of those punks on Triacus.
  • TZ Legacy:  None except to make me long for a cruel, ironic twist of fate.

Twilight Zone – Dead Woman’s Shoes (11/22/85)

In the 1962 Twilight Zone episode Dead Man’s Shoes, hobo-American Warren Stevens puts on the titular dead man’s titular shoes but strangely not the dead man’s socks as he goes commando. Possessed by the soul of the previous owner, he becomes a confident gangster seeking revenge.

In this 1985 version, 71 year old Helen Mirren puts on the titular dead woman’s shoes and becomes 40 year old Helen Mirren.  Better.

OK, to be fair, she starts out at 40 in the episode.  She is such a frumpy bundle of nerves, though, it is hard to recognize the elegant woman I’ve seen in roles in her 60s and 70s.  When she puts on the shoes, she transforms into a beautiful woman that I also have trouble squaring with the actress at her current age [1].  So her performance gets a freakish time-warping boost from this episode being 31 years old.  However, even viewed in 1985, her performance would have been amazing.

Hot maid Inez [2] is packing up Susan Montgomery’s clothes to give to a thrift store.  Susan’s husband Kyle says it still pains him to see his dead wife’s things but, you know, get a receipt.  He is played by Jeffrey Tambor who is hideous in a huge bushy beard, silly in white shorty-short tennis togs, and unconvincingly named Kyle.  But it’s nice to see him him men’s clothes again.

tzdeadwomansshoes3The introduction of Maddie (Helen Mirren) is creatively shot from the knee down as she awkwardly makes her way to work.  Framed from the hem of her drab dress to her sensible shoes, she is constantly in the way, startled, apologizing, stumbling.  Her job at the thrift shop is no less nerve-wracking as she is forced to wait on two obnoxious teenage girls.  Then an Elvissy jerk with huge hair, massive sideburns, and several buttons open on his shirt crudely hits on her.

She retreats to the back room.  Needing a boost, she tries on the fabulous shoes that just came in from the Montgomery house.  She walks confidently back out into the shop. Again shot from the knee down, her stride is now straight and purposeful.  She tells Elvis to “buzz off” and leaves the building.

She takes a cab to the Montgomery house.  She is greeted at the door by Inez, who jumps around giddily and licks her face.  No wait, that is Susan’s poodle Fritz.  Inez is baffled as the stranger picks up Fritz and walks right in.  She further stuns Inez by mentioning her cheating husband Carlito.  She prepares to take a shower, but when she removes the shoes, she is Maddie again and baffled by how she got there.

tzdeadwomansshoes4Inez comes in and busts her, but sees that Maddie is genuinely confused.  Despite recognizing the shoes as Susan’s, Inez gives them back to Maddie.  She slips them back on and becomes Susan again. Despite Inez being told twice to get rid of Susan’s clothes, Maddie walks out of the house in a snappy black number.  Or maybe Kyle was hanging on to that one for himself.

Susan calls Kyle at his law office.  He threatens to sue this person with the poor taste to imitate his wife.  Then she mentions how Kyle killed her.  He rushes home and we are treated to an outstanding an shot from the second floor — Kyle walks in the front door, the camera pans past Inez cleaning the 2nd-floor bedroom, and continues to shoot over a balcony overlooking the living room where Kyle confronts Susan.

And by confronts, I mean punches in the face — a really solid one, right on the kisser.  He goes for a gun they keep handy in the living room, but she has already taken it.  She fires at him as he flees the house.  She chases him down the street.  Unable to run on high heels, Susan removes them and instantly reverts to Maddie.  She drops the gun and places the shoes in a convenient Garbage Can, although the Recycle Bin would have been a more appropriate choice for this episode.

The maid at the house the garbage can belongs to sees the shoes in the can and slips them on.  Now she is possessed by Susan. She picks up the gun, crosses Easy Street where this episode apparently takes place, and walks up the Montgomery’s driveway.  A crane shot shows her approaching the house, climbing the steps, and opening the door. The door closes and there is legitimate suspense for a few seconds until a gunshot is heard.

tzdeadwomansshoes5As mentioned, Helen Mirren is just great here.  Theresa Saldana is not given much to do, but is a fine presence.  The only weaknesses are a melodramatic score and Tambor’s performance.  His leaden line readings combined with that absurd beard work against every scene he is in.  Nevertheless, I was wrong to assume this would be a watered down rip-off of the original episode.  It might be the 2nd best segment so far.

I rate it a 13 EEE.

Post-Post:

  • [1] Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  If 70 year old women are your thing, she is pretty awesome.
  • [2] The lovely Theresa Saldana, who died this year.
  • TZ Legacy:  Maybe one time ripping off a classic title for Little Boy Lost was OK, but don’t make a habit of it.  Both “homages” were written by Lynn Baker.  Her next IMDb writing credit was 17 years later.  What do these people in between gigs?
  • Director Peter Medak completely redeems himself after the dreadful Ye Gods.
  • Kyle’s secretary is played by Nana Visitor from Deep Space Nine.
  • Charles Beaumont gets a story-by credit.

Science Fiction Theatre – Out of Nowhere (04/30/55)

sftoutofnowhere02After a lesson on sound waves from host Truman Bradley, we cut to a maid vacuuming on the top floor of the King Tower Office Building.  She is startled when a flock of migratory birds crash through the window. Truman tells us the birds were “victims of progress.  If men didn’t build skyscrapers, then birds wouldn’t get confused and fly into them.”  More accurately, they were victims of having a brain the size of a pea.

Dr. Kennedy, an ornithologist from the local museum is called.  In a feat of stunning perspicacity, he identifies four of the creatures as bats.  They should call him Dr. BirdHouse.  He calls Dr. Osborne, an expert in aerodynamics and bird navigation.  One of the surviving bats is taken to his lab for examination.  He determines that something in the vicinity of the building created a disturbance to the bats’ sonar signal.  He should have studied the leadership qualities that enabled four bats to lead a flock of birds to their death.

Their equipment tells them the signal is stationary and coming from above.  They conjecture a hostile space station is the source.  They discover a mysterious signal and go to Dr. Milton, the inventor of the radar telescope.  He tells them his telescope could not be responsible for the signal they are investigating.

sftoutofnowhere05That evening at 2 am, the signal begins again.  Milton coordinates with every telescope in the US. Unfortunately, they find nothing and give up around 5 am when women in the neighboring high-rises lower their shades.

Drs. Osborne and Jeffries decide to catch breakfast.  A couple of other dudes are enjoying a nice game of pool at 5 am, giving them an idea that the beam might be bouncing around like a pool ball.  One quotes the Law of Reflection, “The angle of incidence equals the angle of reflection.”  He, however, dangerously forgets, the angle of the dangle equals the heat of the meat; and the booty-cutie corollary.

They go back to the General’s office.  Using a map and a string, they are able to determine that the beam is originating from the Johnson Park area.  They are unaware of anything in the area that would create this electronic signal.  They theorize that a hostile power with such an ability could enable their planes to fly atomic and hydrogen weapons into our country.

This episode was fairly excruciating up to this point.  There were 9 dull men and 1 dull woman.  The host and voice-overs took the place of dialogue for several minutes in the opening.  It was just difficult  for me to get excited about this buzz confusing the birds.  They had a chance to win me over at the end, though.

sftoutofnowhere09After the discussing the doomsday scenarios of commies dropping A-bombs and H-bombs on us, they cut to the source of the transmissions — a toy factory.  Had they they shown some remote control gizmo and ended episode right there, I would have been surprised and amused.  It would have also bred some suspense as no one would suspect the toys and they would go merrily on endangering the country.  I’ll say this for Tales of Tomorrow — they didn’t hesitate to destroy the earth.

Instead we get a short hum-drum ending where the toy factory is a cover for commies. In seconds, the cops come in and arrest them.  It felt like one of those neat Alfred Hitchcock wrap-ups where the network prevents anyone from getting away with murder.

I rate this:  Nowhere.

Post-Post:

  • Available on YouTube, but why would ya?

Outer Limits – Second Thoughts (01/19/97)

olsecondthoughts03Howie Mandel is mentally challenged.

Now on to the review.  See, the problem is, it’s hard to have fun with this.  He actually does a good job in the portrayal, but my gut tells me this is exploitative.  Logically, I don’t believe that.  I feel a Flowers for Algernon story coming, and that was good.  Hard to shake that vibe, though.

Blah, blah, dying scientist, Dr. Valerian, transfers his brains into Karl Durand’s (Mandel) noggin.  Afterward, he slips up and uses some big words that Karl would never use.  The next day, his caretakers are stunned to see he can suddenly play the piano as great as me if I were a great piano-player.  However, he is still jealous when his favorite nurse Rose gets engaged, so there must be a little Karl left in there somewhere.  Maybe in “Little Karl.”

Karl goes to Valerian’s office and sees it is being looted by William Talbot.  He is looking for the mind-transfer device Valerian invented.  When he walks out with it, Karl tries to stop him.  In the struggle, Talbot falls down the stairs and dies.  Karl panics, but Valerian surfaces and calms Karl down.[2]  He is then able to transfer Talbot’s mind into his melon also.  And transfer Talbot’s briefcase full of bearer bonds into his brokerage account. [1]

olsecondthoughts02The three personalities fight to be in control.  The wildcard is Talbot who is understandably peeved at being killed.  He does, however, see this as an opportunity to commit crimes that will be blamed on Karl.  Well, whose body does he think will go to jail?  What is he, retar . . . oh wait.

Karl goes on a spending spree buying jewelry for Rose.  When she asks where he got the money, he says his stock split 2 for 1 and he cashed out.  So apparently, the writer thinks a stock split doubles your money.  She says the jewelry has to go back because she is engaged.  We then get to meet her fiancee — a long-haired poet with a soul-patch.  Maybe she should have held on to the jewelry; something tells me Rose will be supporting this guy for a while.

But then, she’s no prize either — coming out of the shower and getting into bed wearing a towel.  Did we use up the season’s NQ (nudity quota) with Bits of Love?  So no more naughty bits of love?  Karl senses the detective investigating Valerian’s and Talbot’s murders is getting too close, so he calls anonymously and sets up a meeting behind a bar (in the alley, not the place where the bartender stands.  He bops the detective on the melon with a beer bottle and takes his gun.  Karl considers shooting him, but instead uses his gizmo to transfer the cop’s mind into his.

olsecondthoughts11

All those people in his head, and tragically not one stylist.

Since the last meet-up went so well, Karl phones Rose’s fiancee and says she was in an accident. Pretending to be a cop, he gives the him the address of the parking lot.

The poet pulls into the lot, and leaps from the car, she’s all he’s got, but he doesn’t get far.

A car ahead flicks on its lights, it has the poet dead in its sights, it guns the engine and spins its tires, it doesn’t care what he desires.

Aw screw it, Karl runs the poet’s ass down and absorbs his brain.

It didn’t go where I expected it to, which is probably a good thing.  I can’t figure out why Karl or Valerian keep adding more souls to the mix.  Of course, Valerian makes sense, but why would he or Karl want Talbot with them?  Or the others?  Also, a big deal is made over the fact that Talbot was dead during his transfer — then nothing is done with that.

Mandel probably did about as well as could be done with the part.  The scenario of a mentally challenged man possessed by five personalities is just risky.  It is way too easy to come off looking silly, especially for a comedian.  So credit to Mandel for attempting it and doing pretty well.  Otherwise, kind of a meh outing.

olsecondthoughts12

I feel your pain.

Post-Post:

  • [1] I kinda see how he might cash in, stealing them from a dead guy. But how did Hans Gruber expect to cash in the bonds from the Nakatomi heist?  Wouldn’t the serial numbers have been reported stolen immediately?
  • Or are they regulated by the same body that allowed Bane to bankrupt Bruce Wayne despite a thousand witnesses and an electronic audit trail?
  • [2] Oh the irony.
  • Title Analysis:  OK, he has a second consciousness in his head.  But he also has a third, fourth and fifth.  Why does the second one get top billing?
  • References sadly not used:  Deal or No Deal, St. Elsewhere or that f-ing surgical-glove-over-the-head thing.