Tales From the Crypt – Easel Kill Ya (S3E8)

tftceasel05

Mondrian with less ambition, but about the same amount of talent

Jack Craig (Tim Roth) is an artist whose talent would not even get him a showing in Night Gallery.

A gallery owner is in his loft looking at his work and deems it unworthy of a showing.  She suggests that he start drinking again, but the alcohol might be put to better use if served to the viewers.

Jack has the standard daydream where fantasizes killing his adversary — in this case, planting the business end of a ball-peen hammer in her skull.  Next we see Jack in Obsessives Anonymous, a 12-step type of group.  His problems have been linked to alcohol, but I guess AA has their group trademarked.  He admits that he thinks he would have enjoyed killing her.  “But you didn’t — you faced your demon,” the group leader tells him.  If simply not planting a hammer in someone’s skull is considered a victory, that’s got to be one of the early steps.

tftceasel11Sharon from the group approaches him in the parking lot.  He has not sold a painting in a year, and she wants to be his inspiration to paint a masterpiece.  So they end up in his loft.  Somehow her showing a little leg breaks his mood.

That night, when confronting a noisy neighbor, Jack accidentally causes him to fall from the fire escape and die.  Looking down at the dead body, he is inspired to take his art in a new direction and paints the punk lying dead in the ally.

This is just the kind of morbid art that billionaire Malcolm Mayflower (William Atherton) collects, so Jack pays him a visit with the painting.  Mayflower buys the painting, but only for $200.  But he promises Jack $20,000 for the next one.

tftceasel21Needing more inspiration, he pushes his landlady down the stairs, killing her.  Ca-ching! Jack wants to stop, but Mayflower offers him $100,000 for a third painting.

When Sharon discovers what he has been doing, she runs away.  As Jack chases her, she runs across the street and is hit by a car in a very well staged stunt.  Needing $100,000 for the operation that will save her, he kills again.

Turns out he killed the surgeon who could have saved Sharon.  Doh!  And by leaving his brush at the scene, he led the police right to him.

tftceasel33Meh.  A pretty somber affair.  Too many of the directors forget that this series should have an element of fun to it.  Tim Roth is great as always, but it is played completely straight.  There is a nice closing shot, however, of him looking through some blinds as they close on him.

Post-Post:

  • Title Analysis:  Being a fairly somber episode, maybe they shouldn’t have gone for the pun at all.  First of all, kudos for it being relevant to the episode after non-sequiturs such as Abra Cadaver and Dead Wait.  Sadly, however, it is still a failure.  I assume they were playing off of the phrase “this’ll kill ya” but “easel” is just to much of a stretch.  Coincidentally, there is an episode next season  called “This’ll Kill Ya.”
  • This was a year before Reservoir Dogs and three years before Pulp Fiction.
  • William Atherton is not playing his usual dickish self (Die Hard, Ghostbusters, the forgotten Real Genius, etc).  Normal just doesn’t suit him.

Outer Limits – The Refuge (S3E11)

olrefuge05Wearing just his suit jacket, Raymond Dalton is stumbling through a blizzard.  He is thrilled to come across a Thomas Kinkade matte painting.

Through the requisite lit window, he sees people having a party.  When he tries to enter the yard, an electrical charge knocks him on his cold as a well digger in Montana’s ass; which is the same reception I usually get.

Luckily, during the credits he has been dragged inside the house and is being attended to by nurse Gina Beaumont (Jessica Steen from Earth 2, which I need to rewatch someday).  For some reason, the first thing she gives the freezing man is ice-water.

olrefuge12

Exhibit #1 why this is a dream.

She is promptly chewed out by both the doctor and the leader of the group for lowering the barrier and allowing Dalton in.  Leader Sanford Valle (M. Emmet Walsh) welcomes him to the titular refuge. He says an oil company drilled a little too deep and released a bacteria that polymerized the water like Ice-Nine.

This caused water to freeze at 40 degrees rather than 32 and to not melt until it hits 90 degrees.  Seems like the melting and freezing point should be the same, but I ain’t no expert on polymerized water.  That led to Florida being the tundra they see out the window.

As always in isolated groups of weirdos, dinner is a Downton Abby level of affair. Everyone dresses and acts like they don’t do this same thing every night with the same people.  Dalton meets Valle’s wimpy son Thomas and his floozy wife Justine.  He meets Walsh’s wife Debi who is so hot that it gives away that this just be a dream; or that Walsh has big bucks. Last to join them is dour Sister Angelique who accuses Debi of dressing like a whore.

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Exhibit #2 why this is a dream.

Later Justine comes on to Dalton.  He pushes her away after Gina sees them.  Justine then goes then next room down and beds down with her father-in-law. Thomas catches his wife in bed with Walsh and points a gun at him, but Walsh has a derringer and shoots Thomas first.  Dalton attacks Walsh and suddenly finds himself transported downstairs.

When he awakens, Thomas and the doctor have changed bodies, Justine is Gina, Debi is Justine, Angelique is now Walsh’s babe, and Gina is now Sister Angelique.  Got that?  It is revealed that Walsh is controlling the changes, but he doesn’t understand why Dalton is immune.

After the next change, Gina is Walsh’s new squeeze.  Dalton attacks Walsh and ends up waking up in a lab.  He sees that all the other people in the house are cryoginacally frozen in tubes.

olrefuge17

Exhibit #3 why this is a dream.

Dalton was thawed out because his brain tumor was now operable.  While on the outside, he does research on the other house-members.  He lawyers-up and gets them to re-freeze him so he can use the information to break Walsh’s hold over the others.

Another good episode.  Walsh is always a hoot and I’m a Jessica Steen fan from way back.

Ray Bradbury Theater – The Toynbee Convector (S4E8)

bradbury02I’m not sure if this series is wearing me down, or if it was just a late bloomer — I’m actually starting to like some of the episodes, or at least I can appreciate them when I can see through the figurative filter of 80’s style and the more literal filter of an awful DVD transfer.

It also helps to not go in expecting The Twilight Zone.  As much as Serling was praised for his humanity, it is Bradbury that really digs into it.  The science is given a complete pass, sometimes there is a lack of twist, irony or even closure; sometimes it is just a slice of slightly askew life.

The evidence in this case is that the twist is obvious almost immediately — yet it still kept me interested.  It was well-cast and well-acted; Bradbury’s rambling prose was appropriate to the story and was well executed.

Craig Bennett Stiles (James Whitmore) is looking out at a beautiful day.  There are boats sailing on the blue waters, people are hang gliding in clear blue skies.  A helicopter is flying in carrying reporter Roger Shumway.

rbttoynbee02In the control room, they are running tapes of “burning rain forests, smog alerts, gridlocked cities, sea birds caked with oil — that’s how it was as we entered the [19]90’s”.  But 100 years ago, in 2000, Stiles became the first and only man to travel through time.

After his trip 100 years ago, Stiles went into seclusion after showing the world the pictures he took of the pristine future where man had conquered the ecological chaos he had created in the late 20th century.

Stiles selects Shumway out of the pool of reporters because he has a reputation of telling the truth — that would certainly make him unique in 2015 also.  At 4 pm that afternoon in the year 2100, the world will see his ship whiz by on the time-travel journey he made 100 years earlier.  Stiles and Shumway enter his home.

Stiles shows off the time machine, the Toynbee Convector.  Styles tells us it was named for Arnold Toynbee who said, “If a people, civilization does not rush to meet the future, the future will plow them under, kill and bury them.”

rbttoynbee03I’m not sure if that is an exact quote. Wikipedia summarizes his study of civilizations as “he concluded that they rose by responding successfully to challenges under the leadership of creative minorities composed of elite leaders.”  Which seems pretty self-evident — if they don’t meet the challenges, they fade away.  And there will always be a certain segment of any society that is the smartest or most creative.  Unfortunately, today “elite” has come to mean politicians and actors, both groups which have more than their share of criminals and imbeciles.

Stiles recalls his return to ticker tape parades and the people as he showed them the pictures of the future that was possible for them. “We cleaned and made fresh the air we breathed, we replanted the forests, reclaimed the oceans, lakes and river.”

When Stiles fly-by does not occur at 4:00, Shumway realizes that the whole story, for 100 years, has been a lie.  Seeing the shape of the environment, Stiles came up with the idea of the time-travel to inspire people to change their ways.  He faked tapes, even built tiny perfect fake towns under blue paper skies.  Seeing this beautiful future, people know it was possible and made it happen.

Stiles crawls into the time machine and just seems to die; in the short story, it is more like a suicide.  In the episode, Shumway edits the tapes of his talk with Styles so his deception is cover up, and his words are inspirational,  He even uses laser technology to simulate Stile’s fly-by.

In both versions, Stiles lie is covered up.  The episode is a little more uplifting though, further establishing Stiles as a world-changing hero.  It is nice for a change in sci-fi seeing someone’s lie or hubris actually work out well, and have them be elated at what they have done.

Post-Post:

  • Short story first published in Playboy, January 1984 (by which time incredibly poor photographic choices had literally made the magazine into the joke that it had always inspired — worth a purchase only because of the articles).
  • The plan could have easily backfired.  When presented with tapes of the clean, beautiful future, people could have thought that if they keep doing what there were doing, things would still turn out fine.
  • In any event, maybe we could have kept Al Gore off TV for the past 10 years. That’s gotta be worth something.

Alfred Hitchcock Presents – Silent Witness (S3E5)

ahpsilentwitness06Professor Donald Mason is reading from Richard III (bloody sequels!). One student in particular is enthralled. Claudia stays after class and asks if the line “my conscience hath a thousand several tongues” is Freudian — yikes!  She asks if he is getting a guilt complex — it is clear they are having an affair.

Just wait until Act 6 when she reads “My kingdom for a horse.”  Now that will give him a complex.

When he tries to make an excuse not to see her that night, she busts him on his alibi and says she knows that this is his wife’s gym class night.

That night, Mason suggests that he and his wife go for a drive or to a movie.  When she enters the room, we see she is played by Alfred’s daughter, Pat Hitchcock.  After playing a series of spinsters, maids, schoolmarms and “nottie” friends, here she is cast as the dowdy wife who can’t possibly compete with Claudia on a physical level.  It is piling on to have her character going to the gym — it just ain’t gonna make a difference. She even says, “I’ve got to control my figure if I want to compete with all the jail-bait in your classes.”

Claudia calls him at home.  She says she took a babysitting job at his next-door neighbors, the Davidsons — and can see him right that second. She invites him over after his wife leaves, but he refuses.  Yeah, but he does show up as soon as Pat is out of the house.

Claudia surprises Mason by suggesting they get married.  When he says that is impossible, she threatens to “ruin him forever.”  Then he ruins her forever by strangling her. Then the baby starts crying.

The next day a detective comes to question him.  The detective says that there is a witness, but Mason is relieved to hear that he is just talking about the baby.  “If only she could talk,” the detective says.

ahpsilentwitness15He is less relieved when his wife tells him later that at one year, babies start to understand the world.  That there are cases where babies start to talk about things that they saw before they could speak.  At 14 months, this kid could start squealing soon.  And not in the good way . . . no, wait . . .  yes, the good way.

Mason sees Mrs. Davidson in the yard and she says the baby has been acting strange.  When Mason leans in to look at her, she screams at him.  Mason starts getting paranoid that the baby is growing up and will be talking soon.  Later that day, he peeks at the baby again, setting her off.

The next day, leaving for work, he sees the baby in a stroller and learns that she has said her first word, “Dada.”  Now that the tike is capable of discussing the early 20th avant-garde art scene, we see in his eyes that he is actually thinking about strangling the baby.

Just in case you aren’t clear — this is the Police Station.

Overcome with paranoia, he goes to the police station and confesses.

Mr. Davidson finally gets home from Germany.  When he looks in on his daughter, she again begins screaming.  Mrs. Davidson says the baby is always around women, so has that reaction whenever she sees a man.

There are really no problems here other than it is just a ludicrous plot point to worry that a 14-month old baby is going to rat you out.

One negative is that the beautiful Claudia (Delores Hart) disappears from the story so early.  She also disappeared from Hollywood pretty early, having no credits after age 25.  According to IMDb, she became a nun and remains one to this day.

Post-Post:

  • AHP Deathwatch:  Patricia Hitchcock, and Katherine Warren Theodora Davitt and Dolores Hart are still holding on. [CORRECTED]
  • At 37, the Professor is almost exactly twice as old as Claudia.  I am very disturbed by this; I mean disturbed that I didn’t go into teaching.
  • The Professor’s name is Don on IMDb and is referred as Don in Hitchcock’s remarks.  In the episode, however, he is called Bob.