Night Gallery – The Diary (S2E8)

ngdiary01

One of the less hideous NG paintings.

For some unknown reason, the Season 1 box set includes 3 episodes from later seasons.  Why would this be?

Shame?  Because they hooked rubes like me into buying the “Complete First Season” box set without stating on the box that it was only 6 episodes? Unlikely.

Teaser?  Because they wanted to demonstrate that the show got better in later seasons inducing people to buy the future box sets?  Well, The Diary was good but the rest of the episode — three brief sketches — only range from OK to God-awful.

Incompetence?  Seems like a stretch.  Printing the episode order wrong inside the box is one thing, but I can’t imagine they just screwed up that badly.  Although, there is also a sleeve for a booklet in the box set which mocks me in its empytude.

Patty Duke is a TV gossip columnist dishing dirt on has-been movie star Carrie Crane (played by has-been [1] movie star Virgina Mayo).  Patty is expressing her disgust at Crane for being busted last night for drunk and disorderly conduct on Sunset Strip.  This is back in the day when such a thing was not actually considered a publicity coup.  She is very dismissive of the aging Crane and reminds her that she is an “old broad,” not an “ingenue on the rise.”

We see this scene on the portable TV of Duke’s condo doorman.  He is shocked to see the real Carrie Crane walk up to his desk . . . mostly shocked that she is walking in a straight line.  She asks to go up to see Duke. She charms him and crashes Duke’s New Year’s Eve party.  Duke is no more civil in person. She berates Crane and threatens to have the doorman fired for letting her in the building.

ngdiary03Crane is far classier, having brought Duke a gift — well, a gift that will tear apart the fabric of her realty, but still a gift.  Duke calls her a “grandmother” and boots her out. Duke does open the gift after she leaves, though, perhaps intending to re-gift it.  It is a diary with January 1st already filled in in Duke’s handwriting — it describes the suicide of Crane.

Duke hears screams and sees from the balcony that Crane has been run over and killed. OK, that one’s a gimmee — it’s not tough to predict your own suicide, Nostradamus.  Although why walk down all those stairs when there is a balcony right there.  Maybe that lack of flair for the dramatic is why she is a has-been.

The January 2nd entry automatically writes itself — OK, that is starting to get spooky.  It predicts Duke’s vacation plans and her phone being broken — and this is one of the old AT&T-issued phones that could withstand an atomic blast.  The diary is 2 for 2.

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BTW, mother of Samwise Gamgee.

She describes the diary to her $35 / hour shrink who has plausible explanations for the diary’s predictions.  In his office, she notices the entry for January 3rd — it describes in her handwriting the death of her boyfriend.  But in such a way that she could not cause, or have caused it, or will have caused it.

She finds that the January 4th page is blank.  In the entry on the 3rd she had wondered — well, her handwriting wondered — how she can live with herself after the lives being lost due to her cruelty.  She takes the blank next page as evidence of her suicide.

She has herself locked in a sanitarium and insists that she be given no sharp instruments in order to survive the day.  Natch, there is a twist that I’m not sure makes sense.  But it does press enough buttons — at least on me — to make me squirm a little and still be thinking about it.  Your mileage may vary.

Post-Post:

  • Twilight Zone Legacy:  David Wayne was in Escape Clause.
  • The nurse in the sanitarium is Lindsey Wagner in one of her first roles.  For some reason, she just seems amazing in this nothing of a role — far better than Diane Keaton in Room with a View.
  • Also included in the episode: The Big Surprise — well executed and written by TZ master Richard Matheson, but really no meat there.  A Matter of Semantics — very short one-note sketch, interesting only if you want to see the guy who played the Joker on TV against Adam West’s Batman.  Professor Peabody’s Last Lecture — unbearably awful in execution and a dreadful punchline despite the presence of the usually great Carl Reiner.
  • [1] Has-been is pretty harsh . . . I feel just terrible.

20 Horror Movies for $5 Recap

20horrormovies01Good

I’m grading on a curve here — not good in the sense that I could have paid $11 to see it and walked away satisfied.  But certainly way ahead of the other movies in this collection.  And better than some movies I actually have paid $11 to watch.

Keepsake (2008) – Probably the best in the collection.  Maybe more than any of the others, it seemed like an effort by serious film-makers.  I just today discovered that I have owned this movie for years and did not realize it.  It was in another cheapo collection that I never finished because I didn’t have the voracious gaping maw of a blog to feed on a deadline.

Hell’s Highway (2002) – I’m not 100% positive if this was the 2nd best, or if I was just giddy because this was the last entry.  It is more that there were a few scenes I appreciated rather than sustained goodness.  Micro-budget, but not afraid for their reach to exceed their grasp, and show some seams.  I could imagine the crew scrambling and running in between takes to get it as right as possible.

Not Bad

“Not Bad” might literally be a synonym for “Good”, but I still have to hedge a little on these. 20 years ago, I could have imagined re-watching one of these on a rainy Saturday afternoon.  That standard is long gone with so many better movies available on demand, but it stills works as a metric.

White Zombie (1932) – I cut this a lot of slack based on the age.  Had this been part of the Universal Monster scene, it would not be in the public domain, would have been better preserved, and would be more highly regarded.  It’s an entertaining watch.

Wages of Sin (2006), In the Dead of Winter (1993) – Wow, I am already having a hard time remembering much about these except that I did get some moments of genuine enjoyment out of both of them.

Trancers (1985)Prom Night (1980)Puppet Master (1989) – These seem like a little bit of a cheat since they were actual theatrically released movies — or at least cult videos — with some recognizable faces.

Tolerable

I’m confident I could sit still and watch these again without being tied to a chair.  But I really can’t imagine voluntarily watching them again without such restraints.

Curtains (1983) – I’m giving this the benefit of the doubt.  The transfer was so terrible, it was tough to watch, but others seem to like it.  If I got a free Blu-Ray, I’d give it another chance.

King of the Zombies (1941) – Very dated, and probably raaaacist.  But make some allowances and it is not a torturous watch.

Inside (2006) – Very slow, but not in a bad way, with an intriguing premise and some good performances.

Cruel World (2005) – Really a train wreck that I am being very charitable to.  On another day, this could easily be in the next bracket down.  Whenever I have doubts that acting is actually a skill, I will remember Edward Furlong’s “performance.”

Grave Mistake (2008) – Kind of fun in its micro-budget silliness.

Nurse (1997) – In the Watchable category only because it doesn’t really do anything wrong.  It is just slow, melodramatic, and fails to adequately exploit an interesting concept.

The Gingerdead Man 3 (2011) – No effort at all was expended in the making of this film.  It is so shameless, however, that it is kind of likable.

Participation Trophies (i.e. Crap)

Night Shadow (1989)  – Man-childs, men-children?  Whatever, just embarrassing.  Infantile acting and a story that takes forever to go nowhere.

Howling IV: The Original Nightmare (1988) – Another slow start that seemed very slow to end also.

Teenage Zombies (1960) – I feel kind of sorry for this one.  It was clearly just some yahoos trying to make a quick buck in the old AIP days.  There is no pretense of art; but that doesn’t make it any easier to watch.

Shaded Places (2000) – Just awful.  Awful performances, unbearable score, leaden pace, and I am guessing a largely improvised script — not necessarily a bad thing, but there is not a Christopher Guest or Larry David in this bunch.

Awaken the Dead (2007) – Well, somebody had to be last.  From the original review:

  • Cinematography: Just dreadful.  I don’t even think it was incompetence or budget constraints; it was just terrible choices.
  • Acting: Mostly terrible.
  • Dialogue: Terrible.
  • Make-Up: Really looked more like Insane Clown Posse than zombies.
  • Story: Adequate.  You don’t really need much for a good zombie movie.
  • Sound: Not well-recorded.  Sound does not get enough respect — in this, and many low-budget movies, expectations are lowered upon hearing the first word of dialogue.

Epilogue

Despite the crap, I was actually surprised at how watchable most of the movies were.  I’ve seen worse blindly choosing on NetFlix.  And all of them were still more enjoyable than watching a movie on Hulu.

Tales from the Crypt – Judy, You’re Not Yourself Today (S2E11)

This is a great example of how you can take a so-so story and use great performances, score and directing to make it fun.  Well, until the ending, at least.

The opening credits really set a tone even though they really have nothing to do with the story.  Bouncy tango music plays while the camera pans across small dolls, statues, tchotchkes, both bric and a-brac.  Hypnotic, yes.  Relevant, not sure.

Donald is a gun enthusiast who seems to also be something as an anglophile as he and his wife speak with English, or at least, patrician accents.  They have prints of fox hunts on the wall and Donald is even is wearing an ascot for God’s sake.

tftcjudy03He heads out to the gun club leaving wife Judy (Carol Kane) at home.  An elderly  solicitor — OK, a witch — knocks at the door and Judy invites her in.  After Judy admires a hideous necklace she is wearing, the old lady gives it to her.  This enables her to switch bodies with Judy just like in Freaky Friday, and the remake of Freaky Friday, and the other remake of Freaky Friday, and all those other movies that ripped off Freaky Friday.

When Donald returns home, Judy in the old woman’s body jumps him.  She convinces Donald that it really is her and he goes looking for the witch in Judy’s body.  Before he leaves, he locks Judy in the old woman’s body in the closet.  It is not clear why he does this.  It turns out to be a good idea, but I really don’t credit his character with being that smart — even with the English accent.  It must be said that Frances Bay as the old woman is GREAT portraying Carol Kane in the much-older body.

tftcjudy04Donald finds the witch in Judy’s body at the train station.  He tricks her into switching the bodies back.  Donald and Judy go back to their house and let the witch out of the closet.  But not before Donald kills her while firing wildly with his pistol.  He buries her in the basement.

Three months later, the decayed corpse arises and repossesses Judy.  Donald accidentally shoots the young Judy as they switch identities for the last time.  Young Judy dies in his arms.  Well, that’s a pisser.

There was a lot of scatter-shot greatness here until it fell apart at the end.  Judy didn’t deserve to die, and Donald didn’t deserve to lose his wife.  It is strange that the writer and director seemed to understand the show so well until this point.  They had a great score, over the top characters, interesting lighting palate, but then that ending — no irony, no comeuppance, just a a downer.

Post-Post:

  • Scott Nimerfro is tied for most TFTC scripts at 11.
  • Strange career for director Randa Haines.  She goes years between projects, but she has directed some big movies — at least big enough that I remember the titles 30 years later — and a very highly regarded TV movie.  Michael Convertino who scored this episode also scored all four of her movies.
  • I always liked that one of Carol Kane’s first credits was in The Last Detail as Young Whore.
  • Frances Bay was the old bag Jerry Seinfeld stole the marble rye from.

Outer Limits – The Message (S1E17)

olmessage01Marlee Matlin, stretching her acting chops by playing a deaf woman, is “hearing” things despite the failure of her implants . . . no, hearing implants.

The next day, teaching her class of deaf kids, she begins hearing things again.  She frantically begins filling the chalkboard zeroes and ones and X’s.

She is taken to the hospital where she meets Larry Drake.  After playing a retarded man on LA Law for years, here he is a NASA engineer who fortuitously happens to be working as a janitor in the hospital.  Now that’s stretching your chops.

He identifies her writings as binary code despite the inclusion of lots of X’s.  He runs the code through his computer, and tells her it is a message.  Just as in Contact, it is a Primer for the rest of the message.

After Marlee inputs more code into a handheld device he gives her, he prints out pages that cover an entire wall.  Tracing through the X’s produces the space-porn from the Pioneer 10 spacecraft.  Alongside a picture of the alien.  The big, big alien.

Marlee’s husband gets home from a trip and is not thrilled to see his wife working with Larry on this project.  He also isn’t thrilled that they have put $900 on his credit card for capacitors and other electronic equipment that aliens have asked for.  I don’t know why capacitors were singled out unless the charge was from  Capacitors R Us; or that’s the only electrical component the writer had heard of thanks to Dr. Emmet Brown’s ground-breaking work on the flux capacitor.

She is upset that her husband doesn’t believe her, so goes to Larry’s place where they set up the equipment on his roof as per the alien’s instructions.  While getting an aspirin, she notices that he takes the same anti-psychotic drug they tried to give her.

olmessage06Marlee’s husband finally tracks them down and tries to stop them.  However, they are able to answer the alien’s plea by firing a blast from the space laser into the alien’s solar sail, enabling them to divert the craft from crashing into the sun.

So-so story, but well performed.

Post-Post:

  • This is the 4th episode written by Brad Wright this season.
  • Larry Drake says the message is a palimpsest, but I don’t think he (or Brad Wright) knows what that means.
  • The husband was just kind of annoying here, but was great as Pusher in a couple of X-Files episodes.
  • Larry Drake was last seen in And All Through the House.
  • They seem a lot happier in the original Pioneer rendition:

“You idiot, I told you no one else would be naked.”