Tales From the Crypt – Split Personality (08/26/92)

Image 002Burt Young, playing a role even dumber than Paulie in the Rocky movies, somehow 1) thinks that his stack of $50 chips are $5 chips, and 2) that he is in big trouble showing 10 in Blackjack.  After unsuccessfully pleading with the dealer (an uncredited Joe Pantoliano) to let him off the hook, he gets a 9 so is sitting fairly pretty (a first for Burt Young) at 19.

Joey Pants reminds him that the dealer could have 20.  Joe Pesci strolls over and encourages him the that next card is will be a 2, paying 5 to 1 for 5-card Charlie, a prospect as smelly as a One Wipe Charlie.  So the poor sap loses everything and — no, wait, he actually gets a 2 and wins a fistful of dollars!

He goes to give Pesci a tip for his asinine, almost sure-to-bankrupt-him advice.  Joe tells him he can’t accept a small gratuity.  On the other hand, Pesci Image 006has the inside line on a no-risk, tax free limited partnership guaranteed to to double all the money almost overnight.

At the bar, Young and Pesci discuss this fail-proof scheme.  Pesci says he has always had a thing about the number 2 — Young drawing the 2, this deal to double the cash.  So Young ends up penniless after all. Oddy Pesci is celebrating with only one hooker.

The next day, a black cat crosses the road causing him to run off the road and blow a tire on his BMW.  He ignores the warning signs and walks to a nearby house featuring identical classic convertibles in the driveway.  When he gets to the strangely designed pink house, in inimitable Joe Pesci style, he says, “What the fuck is this shit?”[1]

Image 014As in every single story on this blog, he lets himself into the house to use the phone.  He is surprised when a beautiful brunette pulls a gun on him as he is looking at a picture of the house’s architect — her father — on a magazine cover.  And further surprised when her twin sister appears.  It is quite understandable that Pesci would would try a scam to pass himself off as an admirer of her father’s work based on a glimpse of one magazine cover,  But then he spouts off about the architect’s other buildings, German Expressionistic influence, 1950’s Futurism, Bauhaus — HTF does he know all that by looking at one picture?

The girls — April and June — are charmed by Pesci’s miraculous knowledge of their father’s work and invite him to have a drink, probably a double.  Unfortunately, just as he learns the twins are Image 016worth $2 billion, the tow truck driver shows up.  Which is really strange because 1) it didn’t take 2 hours, and 2) Pesci was holding down the phone cradle buttons (i.e.was faking the call, for those unfamiliar with 20th century tabletop rotary phones).

But the girls invite him back, and they go out multiple time.  He is amazingly 1) able to get them out of the hermit-like existence of their house, and 2) able to get them to be seen in public with him.  As he continues the story to his solitary hooker.

He starts charming each of them individually and they agree that they wish there were two of him.  In order to marry both of them, ensuring that he can scam them out off all their money, he pretends to suddenly remember he is a twin.  One always has to stay i South Africa to oversee their business interests.  Soon, the twins marry the “twins.”

Image 036Eventually, a tell-tale clue (which sadly requires only Pesci to be topless) enables them to figure out the scam.

There are a couple of twists and, more importantly, a couple of bustiers.  The twins might not be great actresses, but there were beautiful enough to deserve longer careers.  Joe Pesci was a force of nature as always.  Kudos to him for restraining his career and not wearing out his welcome by appearing in 3 movies a year.

No split decision on this one – good episode.

Image 049Post-Post:

  • [1] I wouldn’t have done that for anyone but Pesci.

 

The Cellar Door (2007)

20 Horror Movies for $7.50  — Part VI.

Well this is strange.  I just discovered that I already saw this film on 12/22/10 (yeah, I keep track), but remember absolutely nothing about it.  One purpose of this blog was to force me to watch a lot of new films and especially old TV shows.  But I guess I set the precedent as a completist with the Night of the Living Dead rewatch, though, so here goes.

Herman has a girl in the basement who tries to escape while he’s eating breakfast.  She is is sad shape, bloody, scarred, crying, various bondage devices hanging from the ceiling.  As he goes to open the chained titular basement door (a chain which could have been kicked down by my grandmother), she jabs at him with a stick through the crack.

He stupidly goes downstairs and manages to get in a position where she can get behind him with a baseball bat and bash his head in.  She takes a few good whacks, but stupidly does not finish him off.

She runs to the top of the stairs into the kitchen and stupidly stops to take a look around; possibly for some Pop-Tarts, the brown sugar cinnamon ones probably would have hit the spot (just speculating). Possessing an extraordinarily hard noggin, Herman catches her in the kitchen,

She beats him again with the bat, but stupidly she does not finish him off.

She flees the house, struggling with a broken ankle and manages to go to the most desolate area possible in urban Los Angles — the cement Los Angeles River.  When she goes up the other bank, she is stupid enough to be hit by Herman in his car (still wearing his jammies).  He puts her in the trunk, and that’s it for her.  He wraps her in plastic and buries her in the woods.

There is a key word in each section above.  Maybe I was being generous when I gave this film 2 stars on NetFlix almost 5 years ago.  Five minutes in, the shaky camerawork and choppy editing are almost unwatchable; luckily, I give a movie at least six minutes to hook me.

The girl seemed liked she was giving a great performance despite the horrendous camerawork and editing.  Of course, she is dead now, so unless that was a flashforward, she is out of the picture.  And the location — the only one not subterranean — looked great, but there was just too much shakin’ going on.  But at least the director knows a good performance when he sees it.  And it did pull no punches with the end of that opening scene.

Image 041Maybe Herman’s not totally stupid as this time he constructs a cage in the basement to hold his next victim.  He captures his next guest Rudy after following her home drunk from a club.

And that’s most of the movie.  Oh, there’s a bit with a tampon, there’s a bit with a hose, there’s a bit with her roommate. there’s a bit with a couple of Jehovah’s Witnesses, but basically it’s chick in a box.

And if you are keeping a girl captive, why are you keeping her in a box where most of the viewing has to be done through 2-3 inch gaps?  There’s a reason why cage dancers in 1960’s strip clubs were not working behind bars like picket fences.

Even when Rudy’s roommate is abducted and gets a chance to stab him, she stupidly blows it.  Then she gets a chance to whack him repeatedly with a baseball bat, and stupidly does not finish the job any better than Rudy.  As punishment, he puts the roommates arm in a vice and tightens it — an effective piece of horror sadly ruined by epileptic camera work.

In the kitchen, Herman tells Rudy that he will kill her roommate if she doesn’t return.  Luckily, Bob Villa here didn’t remember that a vice isn’t a ratchet — it goes both ways. The roommate surprises them.  Oh, did I mention Herman has a nail half sticking out of his chest that he doesn’t seem to mind — Rudy pounds it the rest of the way into his body and down he goes.  Do they smartly finish him off?  Of course not.

They run through the house.  They recoil at the sight of two Jehovah’s Witnesses, as we all do; until they realize they are dead.  He kills the roommate, then Rudy gets the idea to put on a wedding dress he inexplicably keeps at the house.  She manages to maneuver Herman into the cage and walks away from the house in the wedding gown.  Leaving the keys on the floor within reach.

Who doesn’t like bloody brides?  Kill Bill, Rec3, etc.  So at least that is a great ending shot — just ruined by some of the most godawful heavy metal music ever recorded.

It really is a shame because this simple concept is all it takes to make a decent movie.

Post-Post:

  • After 8 years, a sequel, Cellar Door 2: Preymates, has been announced.  Cellar Door: Playmates — that might have been something.
  • I get the feeling they were going for something by naming the captor Herman, as in “her man”.  It is even carved above the cage in the basement.  But it is really more a case of “his girl” not “her man” so it really makes no sense.

Thriller – The Incredible Doktor Markesan (02/26/62)

Yeah, but FREE HBO.

Fred & Molly Bancroft pull up to his uncle’s house in a snazzy VW Beetle convertible hoping for some charity.  Fred has written letters to his uncle, but much like my letters to Brit Marling, they have gone unanswered (note: I have written no letters to Brit Marling).  Once the finest estate in the county, it is now a run-down hovel; but one of them 20,000 square foot hovels.

As in every horror show, when there is no answer to their knock, they feel free to let themselves in.

After looking around the dusty, cob-webby, run-down mansion, they finally encounter the run-down man who dwells there (notice I didn’t say “lives there” — see what I did there?), Fred’s uncle Doktor Konrad Markesan.  OK, Konrad is your given name, but you’ve been working in an American university, so let’s cut the Doktor crap (Ich habe nicht für 4 Jahre die medizinische Schule gehen zu Herrn genannt.”)

He invites them into the library where Fred lights a fire, wisely, in the fireplace.  I think the hulking dried out husk of Markesan is in more danger of going up in flames than the old books. He stares dead-eyed as they talk about their trip.  He says he never received Fred’s letters because he has been away; and will be leaving again soon.

He offers them a room upstairs with the proviso that they not ever leave tdoktor03the bedroom at night.  Fred admits that they are flat broke and are hoping Markesan can pull some strings to get them jobs at the Penrose University. Sadly, he is no longer associated with the institution; and those aren’t strings, they’re cob-webs . . . actually on him.  He further warns them not to let anyone at Penrose know he has returned, because his work is highly secret.

That night they go to their room, and just to be sure they don’t go exploring, Markesan locks them in.  They look to the window to escape this fire trap, but it has iron bars.  And they see Markesan shambling out into the bog.

That night, Fred discovers that Markesan is reanimating the dead.  He seems to be convening the corpses nightly until they regain their humanity, and are not slow-witted zombies.  It might help if he kept them in the house and didn’t take them back to the crypt each night.

tdoktor07The next night, Fred sneaks out of the room again.  Again, Markesan has brought his moaning dead pals back to the house.  He has each of them laid out in caskets getting inter-venous feedings.  At midnight, Fred goes to see Markesan’s former professor Angus Holden, holder of the most expansive office hours in college history.  Typically a college professor’s of 12:00 – 12:15 office hours are PM, not AM.

Holden says that Markesan was forced to resign when he began experimenting with reanimating the dead using an extract from mold found in graves.  Well then, wouldn’t every dead body be coming back to life?  I guess the extract is the secret ingredient; like Retsin.  Maybe it’s an ancient Chinese secret ingredient — that’s why there are so many of them.

tdoktor08Molly can’t stand being cooped up, so she too sneaks out of the room. She creeps downstairs and sees the four dead men shambling in.

Meanwhile, out in the bog, Fred goes to the Markesan crypt.  He finds the previous generations still stowed away, but Konrad’s slot is open even though it says he died 8 year ago.

When he runs back to the house to tell Molly, he finds Markesan.  The Doktor says not only can he bring the dead back to life, but he can prolong his own existence forever.  Rarely has such a good episode created so many questions.

Markesan looks like death, not even warmed over, but rolled on a gurney through a warm room.  But he is alive.  Who reanimated him?  He was not saved by his life-prolonging research, he actually had a crypt with a date of death.

Why does he keep marching the intern zombies back out to the unseen bog or crypts or cemetery instead of letting them reside in their comfortable satin-lined coffins where they get they IVs?  Maybe it’s all that moaning.  Maybe some better surroundings, a little Mozart, a few paintings might have humanized them.  Also some Lysol spray and Fabreeze, I imagine.

tdoktor05Of course, when Fred returns, he sees dead-eyed Molly closing herself into a casket. Why, since the secret ingredient was not the blood of a young hottie?  If they killed her to keep the secret, why reanimate her? And why does she get to sleep in the comfy satin coffin — just because she’s a chick?

I’m not that crazy over Karloff as a performer.  He has all the range of Shemp.  He’s a good performer, but pretty much one dead note.  Dick York plays a good everyman, and his wife was fine; however, she was as out of his league as Samantha.  Part of Thriller’s effectiveness is its overbearing Psycho-like shrieking score, but even that works to unnerve you.

I rate it zehr gut.

Post-Post:

  • Konrad Markesan is played by series host Boris Karloff.
  • Dick York is much better and much better cast here than in Vicious Circle.

Hurt (2009)

20 Horror Movies for $7.50  — Part V.

Well this is strange.  I just discovered that I already saw this film on 09/07/13 (yeah, I keep track), but remember absolutely nothing about it.  One purpose of this blog was to force me to watch a lot of new films and old TV shows.  But I guess I set the precedent as a completist with the Night of the Living Dead rewatch, though, so here goes . . .

Darryl Coltrane (William Mopather) takes in his brother’s family after a fatal car crash. The accident is a little fishy as the cars ended up almost nose to nose with one of the them being upside down.  I can’t conceive of a scenario with that result.

The family is less than thrilled to now be living in a salvage yard in the boonies.  Darryl is a little creepy (naturally, being played by William Mopather), but he does take in his sister-in-law Helen and kids Lenore and Conrad.  Much to everyone’s surprise, there is soon another cuddly addition to the family.

No, Darryl didn’t knock up Helen (although the idea has clearly crossed his mind over the years she was married to his brother).  It turns out that dear old dad had another family.  The teenage daughter Sarah comes to live with the family at the junkyard.   Even though the family does not know the relationship, it is still awkward.

Conrad is an artist who’s scrap metal creations are so bad they could be featured in the Museum of Modern Art.  He is a good guy, though, offering his bedroom to her, and not as a bunkie.  Once she arrives, though, things start to get strange.

It is a question for a while whether it is Darryl responsible for the strange occurrences (such as a murdered duck).  Also, the visor falls out of Conrad’s welding mask and nearly blinds him.  Clearly Darryl does not want them there, and is set in his ways.  His passions are his junk and especially a car that he is restoring.

He is further cast as suspicious when he is shown in Helen’s bedroom watching her sleep, and when it is implied that he is peeking at Lenore taking a shower. Plus, he is still William Mopather.

Eventually, Lenore discovers the truth about Sarah and then people start dying or at least getting hurt.  Sarah begins tarting herself up and soon becomes a little Lolita rather than the awkward kid from the beginning.

There is not a whole lot of story, but i liked what was there.  All of the performances and the direction are solid.  It is a strange criticism, and sounds absurdly minor, but one of my few complaints is Helen’s voice.  It is so high pitched and girlish that I had to keep reminding myself that she was the MILF, er . . . mother.

hurt05Post-Post:

  • I gave this 3 stars on NetFlix in 2013, and stand by that.  Would have gone 3.5 if I could.
  • BTW, kudos to William Mopather for not living in Tom Cruise’s shadow.  He was on Lost and also worked with Brit Marling, so he’s Brando to me.
  • Not a lot of effort in this review.  I saw the movie before and despite it being pretty good, I just can’t get too enthusiastic.
  • These are the somber faces of women sitting beside their dying son/brother, who just saw their brother-in-law/uncle hanged, had a best friend murdered, and killed a young girl.  It’s Miller Time!

Ray Bradbury Theater – By the Numbers (09/11/92)

bradbury02We get a brief prologue of a drill sergeant shouting marching orders.  Well, he’s a drill sergeant that is wearing a t-shirt — maybe that happens, but we also get a glimpse of his white pants, which don’t strike me as standard issue.  And his soldier, which we see only in quick shots of body parts, freckles, and a rippling reflection in a pool is a young boy.  We’re not given enough data to know for sure what’s happening, but we can put the pieces together if we want to.  I initially thought this was a mess, but I’ve reconsidered.

rbtbythenumbers01Flash-forward 10 years.  A man on a train orders 2 martinis and tells the waiter that one is for him and one is for whoever might sit in the empty chair across from him, “It saves time.”

Because nothing entices a stranger, particularly a young lady, more than a pre-mixed, lukewarm drink with a soggy olive offered by a stranger.

The man sees another younger man come in and instinctively neaten a stack of linen napkins on a cart.  This brings memories back to the man who seems to have no name.  Fortuitously, the alcoholic car of the train is nearly full, so the young man takes the seat and is offered the martini.  He tells the young man that they met previously — 10 years ago on a hot summer afternoon in a Malibu hotel, by the swimming pool.

rbtbythenumbers02Back then, the boy had worked for his father managing a pool at a luxury hotel.  The father drills him with military precision, marking every second as he runs from task to task straightening stacks of towels, lining up chairs, collecting stray glasses.  While the father has a white shirt (sleeveless — generally the sign of an idiot) and long white pants, the 10 year old boy is wearing next-to-nothing, just a small blue Speedo.  This lends an air of creepiness to the episode that really is not part of the story.

Finally after all of the chores are completed at exactly 12:00:00:00, the boy runs to unlock the gate for the waiting guests — both of them — maybe it is off-season.  The boy unlocks the gate, is ordered ABOUT FACE and ordered to the edge of the pool where he is commanded to HALT.  The father turns and begins pumping some fairly unimpressive iron.  The man and his friend think it is inhuman that the boy can’t take a dip, but the boy has a smile on his face

rbtbythenumbers03The men tell the father that they think he is acting like an idiot. The father tells them that this is his turf.  He has an agreement with the hotel that their jurisdiction ends at the pool gate. Any dissent, and they will be removed “bodily.  I possess a Black Belt in Judo, Boxing, Rifle Marksmanship Certificates. Shake my hand and I’ll break your wrist, sneeze and I’ll crack your nose, one word and your dental surgeon will need 2 years just to reshape your smile.”  Apparently he has a similar jurisdictional agreement with the local police, attorneys and child protective services.

He’s not a monster, however.  He does give his boy time to frolic in the pool — 40 laps worth.  One of the men swims a few laps along side the boy, but can’t keep up.  After a break to serve a few drinks poolside, he is back in the pool.  Again, this is very creepy. Outside of Thailand, who wants to be served alcoholic drinks by an almost naked 10 year old boy?

rbtbythenumbers04The guy’s friend, mustache-guy (because no one has names in this story) predicts that one day the boy will murder his father. That’s why he invited his friend writer-guy to this luxury hotel — maybe this scenario will relieve his writer’s block; or maybe a little shoulder massage is worth a try, too.

Once the pool closes, the father orders the boy to stand at the edge of the pool for an hour.  The father leaves his watch on a towel and tells the boy to consider that the watch is him standing there.  When he returns, now dark, the boy is still at attention.  When the father picks up the towel and the watch falls in the water, the helpful son dives in without permission to get it.  His father merely says, “Waterproof,” smacks him up side his noggin and gives him demerits.

It finally ends when the father finds a used towel after the boy had cleaned the area.  He irately orders his son to stand at the edge of the pool and not move for an hour.  Then dear old dad trips over the towel and falls in.  Turns out dad can’t swim, and is now screaming for help.  He had tricked the boy before and punished him — see the watch incident, for one — so the boy is waiting for an “AT EASE.” before he dares to move.

rbtbythenumbers06The now-grown boy gets up, and heads back to his room.  He stops and sheds a single tear as he straightens the napkins again. Presumably, writer-guy comforts him by following him back to his berth as the last shot is the classic train going into a tunnel.

Interesting little slice of a weird life episode.  But for god sake, get the kid a real bathing suit next time.  Maybe even a shirt when he is serving the guests.  Does the Health Department not have jurisdiction here, either?

Post-Post:

  • Mustache guy was named Sid.
  • Very few deviations from the short story, although framed slightly differently on the train.