Ray Bradbury Theater – Sun and Shadow (10/03/92)

a/k/a Sun and Shaddow, as the DVD menu spells it.

We open on a Mexican coastal town.  In a casa over-looking the village square, a woman says, “Breakfast, husband.  And son of the father who is my husband.” Is that the way Mexican women talk?  I had to play it three times to make sense of it.

Ricardo, the father of the son whose mother is his wife is looking from the balcony at the beautiful day.  Suddenly several vans and a Porsche roll into the square and a Hollywood film crew leaps from the vehicles, scattering to their positions.  There is the bumbling rbtsunandshadow03crew, the hot model, and the arrogant director.  So I guess, some stereotypes are alright.

Ricardo is happy with none of this as they have chosen his stairway for the location, and lured his son Tomas to the street to watch the excitement.  The director realizes what is happening and offers Ricardo a few Pesos to use his home.  Ricardo still insists that he move on.  The director, not used to a principled man says, “What?  Move my crew?  All this equipment?  Now?”  Mind you, this entire set-up occurred in the time it took Ricardo to walk down a flight of stairs.

So they move one street over as Ricardo continues to tell off the director for thinking of his people as cardboard cutouts, and his house as a prop.  Once they start filming, Tomas is in the way, so they give him a serape, a sombrero and tell him not to smile as the camera pans across him.  Ricardo shows up again, angry that his son his being used as a prop and orders him home.  Tomas takes off, but with the American dollars still in his pocket, and still wearing the serape and hat, I notice.

The crew starts filming again, this time at the home of Ricardo’s neighbor Jorge who seems to have no problem with it.  Like a classic American do-gooder, Ricardo feels he must explain to Jorge that he is too stupid to understand what is going on.

rbtsunandshadow06The producer of the commercial arrives.  Ricardo puts on a little show for everyone asking what he can do to look more Mexican for their clown show (which he isn’t in, anyway) — sweat a little more?  Grow his hair a little longer?  Tear a hole in his shirt?  He is indignant that his people are being exploited and is adamant in being a role-model for the dignity of his people in the face of these interlopers.

So he walks into the shot and drops his pants.

The production moves to the beach to get away from this nut, but he has already proclaimed the sky as his, so this seems unlikely to work.  The producer decides to “try harder” to buy him off.  Reflecting the low budget of the series, his open wallet briefly exposes a fan of singles.

A policeman finally arrives, and the director illustrates the problem.  As he starts shooting, Ricardo walks into the shot followed by a crowd of his neighbors, stands between the girls (a second has mysteriously become part of the commercial), and drops his pants again.

Again with the speeches, he says that as long as there is one man like him in ten thousand in every city, things will be good.  Without him, chaos.  Even Tomas gives back the money he was paid.  Once again, a single is prominent on top of the fold. They couldn’t have spared a Benjamin?   Just for the outer note?

rbtsunandshadow09There could have been something here, but it was all so simplistic.  The director did not ask permission to use the location — that was wrong.  Ricardo would not take money to allow the location to be use — entirely his decision.  But then he sabotages the production at his neighbor’s house, and on the beach.  What was his point?  They were just looking for a location, no one was being mocked.  Even dressing up Tomas was just throwing the kid a bone.

Ricardo is clearly an intelligent man, but he is reacting like an ancient tribesman who thinks a photograph is going to steal his soul.  Fine, he drove the production out of town instead of them working locally, spreading around a few dollars, bringing a little excitement to the village, probably throwing a kick-ass party that night, and everyone sharing a little weed.  Nice work.  Hey, Mexico, you have those fascistic, know-it-all, do-gooders, too?

rbtsunandshadow08Other than the misguided actions of Ricardo, there were some good points to the episode.  The director was suitably arrogant, British and pony-tailed.  The locations, ironically, were interesting.  And Gregory Sierra, despite his character’s baffling philosophy, was excellent.  He has nothing on IMDb this century — I hope it’s because he just retired on a pile of money, because he was always a great actor.



Midnight’s Child (1992)

midnightschild0020 Horror Movies for $7.50 — Part XV of XX.

A title card tells us we are starting off in Stockholm Sweden so hopes are high with visions of nurses, stewardesses and — that being a free country, bikini teams — dancing in my head. Nope, nuns.  Well that was a buzz-kill.

While schoolgirl Anna is lured to the science lab on the last day of school, another girl goes through her luggage, passport, plane tickets, and au pair contract.  OK, OK, au pair . . . this thing is salvageable.  Anna gets to the dark lab and is clobbered by a pestle[1] the size of a bowling pin — WTF were they mashing up in there?  Cut to a well manicure hand turning on the gas in the lab (which has more jets than United), a body strolling past a lit candle, leaving the school, and KABOOM.

midnightschild02Back in the USA, hot business woman Kate (a Linda Hamilton doppelganger) comes home to a house that is messier than my condo, like they just moved in.  That day.

Stay-at-home dad Bob makes dinner for her and their 8 year old daughter Christina played by 10 year old Elizabeth Moss and looking exactly like she does in Mad Men.  Somehow Bob has managed to burn dinner in  a microwave with a freakin’ timer, so they order enough Chinese food for Peking. On the bright side, maybe they don’t have a gas stove.

midnightschild03That night, just as Bob and Kate are about to have the sex, faux-Anna (hereafter known as Anna) knocks on the door.  Despite her first day being a disaster, she stays on at the house.

Meanwhile, back in Stockholm, Kirsten’s (the faux Anna’s) father is suspicious why her personal things are gone from her room.  Personally, I am suspicious why the enormous conflagration did not seem to do any damage to the school.

Other than the inevitable 1) au pair very mildly flirting with the father scene, and 2) mother feeling replaced and threatened scene, not much happens in the middle section, yet I was never bored. The cast was good in their roles, even though I didn’t recall seeing most of them (as adults, anyway).

midnightschild08So Anna took Christina to a theme park 2 days before Kate had promised to take her.  So Nick and Anna went shopping for Christina’s birthday presents without Kate because she was working.  Nothing radical ever really happened, but that’s all it took to get to the two lines that ignited the 3rd act:  Kate:  “I want that woman out of my house. Now.  Today.”  Nick: “What do we tell Christina?  That Anna had to go away because mommy couldn’t stand the competition?”  Oh no you d’int!

Act III:  Kate storms into the house and into her bedroom, slamming the door.  She midnightschild09immediately gets a call from Dr. Loomis — er, I mean “Anna’s” father. Since his character gets no name on IMDb, let’s just go with Loomis.  He tells Kate that “Anna” is really his daughter Kirsten and , “She is EVIL!”  Wow, he IS Dr. Loomis.  “And that she will do anything to get what she wants . . . your child.”  Christina has been chosen by Anna to make a bond with the devil.

They agree on a meeting place and hang up, but Anna has been eavesdropping on the kitchen phone.  Oddly, Kate has been talking on a black phone, and EVIL Anna has been listening in on a white phone.  Seems like . . . well, I ain’t no director.  Kate tears through the house looking for Christina, but she and “Anna” have fled and are hiding in the woods.

midnightschild13Rather than call the police, Kate goes through “Anna’s” room and finds 2 passports and a t-shirt from the Rhode Island School of Design.  She breaks into Nick’s studio and finds a Gieger-esque painting of the family and “Anna”.  She runs to Christina’s bedroom to find her coloring — so what was the point of hiding in the woods.  As Kate drags Christina screaming out of the house, she is stopped by Anna who has enlisted Nick and, for some reason, the landscaper to stop her.

Kate, again forgoing the police, goes to see Loomis at an abandoned building scarier than “Anna”.  There is the usual EVIL rigamarole, a pact with the devil, wedding a child bride, a pendant, a book.  On the other hand, Satan waits until the child’s 21st birthday to bear him a child.  So either devil-babies have remarkably long gestation periods, or Satan does have some boundaries.

midnightschild14The landscaper finally has a purpose as he kills Loomis in the classic “always run in a straight line when a car or spaceship is bearing down on you” strategy.  Finally Kate calls the police — no, wait, she drives home,  The wedding ceremony has already begun with Nick creepily giving away the bride and putting the pendant on her.  In a struggle, fire spreads throughout the orchard as “Anna” escapes with Christina into the burning house — another brilliant strategy.

Caught between “Anna” and her mother, Christina does the right thing and tosses the book into the fire.  “Anna” tries to retrieve it, but is killed as the roof collapses — a trick Satan usually saves for snowy church roofs.

midnightschild15Despite a firey load-bearing member[2] collapsing on top of her, “Anna” escapes without so much as a singe as she is seen hitchhiking.  Looking like she does, she easily gets a ride — and what luck, a nice couple with a daughter.

There is absolutely nothing remarkable or fresh about this movie, but somehow I found myself kind of liking it.  Maybe it was little Elizabeth Moss looking crazily like grown Elizabeth Moss, maybe it was grown Marcy Walker (Kate) looking like grown Linda Hamilton, maybe it was Olivia D’Abo just looking awesome, maybe after a rough week, I just needed a big fat comfortable chair of a movie.

Would I ever recommend it to anyone?  Never.  Will I ever watch it again?  Never.  Yet, somehow I didn’t feel like it was a waste of time.

midnightschild06However, the poster is God-awful.


  •  [1] Finally, I know which part is the mortar and which part is the pestle.  It’s been keeping me up nights.
  • [2] Coincidentally, the same thing Satan had for Christina in a few years..
  • Executive Producer:  Victoria Principal, who in 1992 should have been in front of the camera.
  • The director went on to do several episodes of Breaking Bad, winning an Emmy for one.
  • Does anyone eat Chinese food at home with chopsticks?  Even the Chinese?  Use a fork, ya hipster doofus!
  • Was the Rhode Island School of Design t-shirt a joke?  That was the alma mater of David Byrne, maybe best known for Psycho Killer.
  • The plural of au pair is aux pairs.

Alfred Hitchcock Presents – Flight to the East (03/23/58)

ahpflighttotheeast002Fictional carrier Trans-World Airlines is taking on passengers in Nairobi in 1958; just as the made-up company Pan-Am ruled the skies in 2001.

Beautiful (although maybe not by not by Nairobi standards) Barbara boards and squeezes into the window seat beside two business-men.  Being 1958, her seatmate Ted bums a cigarette and they both start smoking like TWA Flight 800. [1]  You can tell this is a product of the 1950s — the flight out of Nairobi seems to have no black passengers.

Barbara recognizes Ted as a journalist (a relic just as extinct as TWA, TWA-800, and Pan-AM) and says she has read his pieces on the North African Campaign and later his dispatches on the Mau-Mau uprising in Kenya.  They discuss “Sasha the Terrible” who Ted believes was railroaded for war crimes.

Witness after witness — wait there was a trial in an African uprising? — told of loading crates or driving trucks under Sasha’s guidance.  They told of night trips into the countryside.  The crates delivered under cover of darkness and Sasha getting small packages of payments.

ahpflighttotheeast003Ted tells how an old man in the gallery caught his eye — an old man who showed up every day.  It was Sasha’s father, and he asked that Ted interview his son to prove his innocence.  Ted is convinced that Sasha is innocent, and that he was merely a patsy used by the real ringleader, Arthur Smith.  When it is clear Sasha is going to be found guilty and executed, Ted’s editor has him fired and deported.  Sasha is executed.  Ted reveals to Barbara that he is hand-cuffed to his traveling companion, being escorted out of the country.

Ted tells a story of searching the world for the mysterious Arthur Smith, he just happens to stumble into an obscure shop, on an obscure dirt street, owned by Sasha’s father. The old man accuses Ted of taking a bribe to abandon Sasha.  He throws a Nazi knife at Ted, but is juuuuust a bit outside.  As the old man is pulling out a Nazi pistol, Ted is able to stab him with the knife.

ahpflighttotheeast004Barbara admits knowing more than she let on — her father was the prosecuting attorney.  Her father believed Ted had a plan to advocate for Sasha’s innocence, through his writing, in exchange for half the diamonds Sasha had been stealing.  They invented the character of Arthur Smith to be the kingpin.

The prosecutor believed that Ted’s worldwide search was not for the non-existent Arthur Smith, but for Sasha’s father, who knew where the diamonds were.  He conjectured that Ted  went to the old man to demand half of them.  Ted pulled out his Nazi pistol.  When the old man knocks it from his hand, Ted throws his Nazi knife at him, killing him.

Blah blah blah, Barbara knew a soldier who said on his deathbed that he sold the Nazi pistol and Knife to a journalist that smoked.  Yeah, that’ll hold up in court.

ahpflighttotheeast005A tedious story tediously told, and not just by me.  Poor Barbara does the best she can with a role that requires absolutely nothing of her but to sit in an airplane seat and talk to the person next to her — a role I can’t even play in real life.

I just didn’t like Gary Merrill.  I didn’t like him when he was the crusading journalist and I didn’t like him when he was the conspiring extortionist and killer (although I suppose that second part is pretty reasonable).


  • [1] This was originally a reference to United 93.  Rereading it 18 months later, that seemed disgusting.  Reading this 18 seconds later, I’m not sure why TWA 800 is any more acceptable.
  • AHP Deathwatch:  No survivors.

Ominous (2009)

ominous1120 Movies for $7.50 — Part XIV of XX

A pretty nice car pulls up in front of a not so nice run-down house.  A man steps out and says, “I can’t believe somebody bought this piece of shit.”  He goes in, but is quickly scared out by ghostly breathing and murmurs.

Six months later.

Calling from  his office, the hyper-tanned Mitch interrupts a very pleasant viewing experience (see below) as Sara cleans up some spilled milk.  He informs his wife Sara that the family is taking a trip to her family’s old cabin which he purchased.  The lack of emotion, and really any sign of life, he exhibits in this call, is stunning.  He is a non-entity.

The reaction of Sara is strange also.  We have just seen the cabin a few seconds earlier.  The realtor is correct, it is a “piece of shit.”  Seen in the prologue, it is filthy and does not even seem to still have walls separating the rooms — God knows what’s holding the roof up.  Why isn’t her response, “Are you f***ing crazy?”

Clearly Mitch is successful, he has a beautiful wife with big boobs, his cute young secretary is flirting with him while he talks to his wife, he either owns a tanning bed or has lots of free time to lay out by the pool, and he just bought a cabin in the woods.  Yet, I reiterate, he is a dull, dull zero.  I just hope this is laying the groundwork for him to ominous02eventually go ape-shit with an axe as the movie progresses.

They pull up to site of the house formerly known as “piece of shit.”  Mitch has had the original house torn down and built a large luxurious cabin in its place.

The movie is so inept that it is not clear when Sara learns that he has had this palace built.  He only told her on the phone that he bought the property, but when they get there she says it looks nothing like the pictures, so she is aware of the new structure.  Like her husband, she shows almost no interest or emotion.

Their teenage son Scott has no interest in the house and takes off for a walk in the woods.  Being a teenager, this is at least in character for him.  He too senses someone else and hears murmurs and laughter.  He then becomes very interested in the house — interested in running his ass inside of it to hide.

We discover that Mitch had an affair and his wife and older son’s still hold a huge grudge against him.  Sara says she wishes there was some way she could thank him for the house, clearly implying he ain’t gonna get any — he looks like he spends more time in a tanning bed than regular bed anyway.

ominous05That night, they get a little mileage out of a kid scurrying by just out of Sara’s sight, and other creepy kids being revealed as a character move to the side.  I’m usually a sucker for this kind of thing, but this is going nowhere. There are several, and I mean multiple scenes of the creepy kids near or seen by the daughter Christina, but nothing ever happens.  They are not threatening, the are just there.  After a while you can get used to anything; even a creepy zombie kid just standing around.

The filmmakers also make far too extensive use of screeching violins.  Everyone can agree the the shrieking strings in the Psycho shower scene were great. Imagine them going on for several minutes and you’ll get how grating this noise is.

The next day, Mitch has to go back home for the day — something about trouble at the office or a missed tanning appointment, I forget.  OK, now things are really going to take off.  Well we do get a flashback of Sara’s abusive mother, but it’s too little too late at this point.

ominous07There is some occasional interesting camera work, the creepy kids are explained, and the interaction between the live kids (not involving the parents) often rang true. Otherwise there is nothing to be said for this one.  What a waste of a good title.


  • No, Sean Patrick Flaherty is in this.
  • Available on Amazon Prime, but why would ya?

Night Gallery – Death on a Barge (03/04/73)

ngdeathonabarge01Local boy Ron sneaks down to the docks as he frequently does. He is checking out a beautiful girl named Hyacinth lounging in the moonlight on a boat — OK, let’s call it a barge — that consistently floats about 10 feet from the pier, with no way to board her (or the barge, heyoooo!).

She says it will be dawn soon, and she says she will have to go.  He asks to come over to the barge, but she says, “never”.

The next morning as he is working at the fish market (which could be one reason for not inviting him over), his perfectly lovely girlfriend Phyllis drops by and he says he can’t make it for their date that night.  The fish market owner confides in her that Ron has been going to bed at seven, waking up at midnight, and coming to work at dawn.

ngdeathonabarge02That night, once again, Rob begs to come aboard the barge or for Hyacinth to come ashore; but she refuses.

He suggests he could come over in the daytime, but she refuses.

He suggests that he could come aboard and meet her father, make it a proper courtship, but she refuses — she sleeps in the day and her father sleeps at night.

This guy can’t take a hint.

At dawn, she goes in the boat’s cabin and her father — sporting a genuine peg-leg comes out on the deck.  There is no mention on the actor’s IMDb page, but that peg leg sure looked real to me.  From behind some crates, Phyllis watches as he lays a plank to bridge the gulf between the barge and the pier.

After the old man goes ashore, Phyllis sneaks aboard and sees Hyacinth about to go to sleep — in her coffin.  Hyacinth puts the vampire moves on her which would have been pretty sweet, but Phyllis barely escapes when Hyacinth can’t follow her outside into the sunlight.

ngdeathonabarge04The next night Ron goes to see her and asks why she hasn’t mastered plank technology like her father.  She says the real problem she can’t cross over flowing water, although stagnant water seems to be a problem too.  However, the lagoon is being drained to flood a new marina, so pretty soon she’ll be doing a Pettit across that plank, she promises.

When the lagoon dries up, Hyacinth is able to come ashore and they meet.  Ron insists he loves her despite her obviously being a vampire.  Hyacinth insists she loves him so much she can’t let him go.  Seconds after he leaves, his boss puts the moves on Hyacinth.  Not so much in love with the boss, she has no hesitation in ripping his throat out (sadly off camera).  Ron rushes home and Phyllis has a nice candle light dinner set up for them.

This is a woman who knows her boyfriend is not having a physical relationship with another woman (not positive on that), but is at least sure that he is head over heels in love with her and he would toss Phyllis into the dry lagoon the first second he could get to Hyacinth.  Yet, she is still faithfully committed to their relationship and doesn’t even give him any shit about it.  So ya gotta love her.  If you’re a man.

ngdeathonabarge05Ron gets a call to identify the body of his boss (who would have made a much better lead actor, BTW) and goes back to the boat — which is what?  Just sitting in the dry lagoon now?  The old man didn’t think it might not be a wise investment to move his boat to higher — er, water.

Hyacinth admits killing Ron’s boss, but assures Ron he will return as the undead. And, really, in a fish market, who’s going to pick up the scent?  Still, Ron wants to kill her.  She helpfully points out where her father keeps the oak stake.  She asks Ron to cry out that he loves her as he plunges it into her. Wait, am I still on the right DVD?

Ron just can’t do it, and falls into her arms.  Hyacinth is just about to go all vampire on his neck when her father enters, picks up the stake and drives it through her heart.

Of course, had he done that years earlier, untold numbers of people would still be alive, and I could have gone to bed at a decent hour.

ngdeathonabarge06Ron is a pretty sappy leading man, but Leslie-Anne Warren was so sensual and looked so other-worldly in her simple billowing clothes that she made up for it.  Phyllis’s performance was fine, but her character is just a doormat — she knew Ron was seeing this other woman and didn’t seem to make much of a fuss about it.

The biggest problem is the cinematography.  I assume that is what accounts for the hazy scenes of Ron and Hyacinth at night, and that it was not a terrible artistic choice.  Other sources say there was a lot of filming day-for-night for budgetary reasons, so maybe this is a side effect (another union triumph — it would be filmed crisply in Vancouver today.  Nice work, guys).  Several other scenes are colorful and sharp, so I can’t blame the crummy transfer in this case.

Overall, I liked the concept, but it was sunk like the barge by the awful look of the night scenes and a lackluster leading man.


  • Twilight Zone Legacy:  Jim Boles was in The Arrival and Jess-Belle.
  • If she can’t cross flowing water, why does her father go through the routine with the plank?
  • Leonard Nimoy’s directorial debut.
  • Leslie-Anne Down vs Leslie Anne Warren.  Always confused me as a kid.