Tales of Tomorrow – Test Flight (10/26/52)

tottestflight01After a brief diversion to CARE last week, we are back to being sponsored by wrist-band king Jacques Kreisler.  Featured this week, the men’s Monte Cristo which is packaged in the barrel of a gun, perfect for air travel (and fabulous served with red currant jelly).  For the ladies, they feature the Flirtation — styled “from the times of Madame Pompadour” so you too can look like an 18th century French whore.

CEO Wayne Crowder is arguing with company controller Davis about his expensive plan to build a spaceship.  He shows this detailed map of his route to Davis and displays a Sharptonesque grasp of the written word, “what we’ll do on the first test flight, break out of the . . . the . . . this . . . into the stratosphere.”  Really, he couldn’t have just guessed either “troh-po” or “trop-po”?  Or showed up sober for rehearsal?

tottestflight11Eager to show off how how much better his SAT math score was than his verbal, he pulls out another chart that maps his planned Velocity per Second versus Light Years.  The trip to Mars is is about 34,000,000 miles, and one light year is 36,000,000,000,000 miles.  I’m no Norman Einstein, but I’m not sure why he has scaled the chart to 11 Light Years.  And how that would only take 7 seconds.

His chief engineer tells him the initial costs for the rocket will be over $500 million.  And this is in 1952 when $500 million meant something. We get stock footage of production, scrap metal being salvaged, trains running.  Crowder places an ad in the paper:  “$100,000 for man to fly me into space.”

tottestflight02After $20M is spent and he still doesn’t have an engine for his rocket, Davis tells him that he should think what will happen to the smaller stockholders.  Crowder gives his detailed plan of how he will pull off this amazing feat of engineering: “I’ve never failed and I won’t start now.”  This guy should be running for president.

The engineer then brings in Mr. Wilkins, a man who can design the engine for his rocket.  Wilkins has brought no blueprints or designs.  He says his concept will use magnets.  Opposite poles attract, similar poles repel.  The Roarkian designer is less interested in being paid than being able to build the spaceship.  He does however insist on a few things.  There will be no questioning of his design, and he gets to be on the flight.

As Crowder builds his rocket, the press labels it Crowder’s Folly and his company’s board tries to stop the project.  When Wilkins tells Crowder that he will need $100M of Mercurium to fuel the ship, Crowder vows to get it.

Eventually, the ship is completed.  On the day it is to lift off, the newspaper headline is WALL STREET LABELS ROCKET “CROWDER’S FOLLY” which is exactly the same headline it had months before.  Or maybe the paper has just been laying around for a few months.  Crowder admits that to fund his folly he fraudulently “over-subscribed the stock” and stupidly paid with a credit card so the subscription automatically renewed.

tottestflight10Wilkins and Crowder board the ship and strap into chairs in the absurdly cavernous cockpit — the engineer in Alien had a tighter capsule.  Once they are in the stratosphere (having passed that other sphere) Wilkins gives the OK to unfasten the safety belts and move freely about the cavern.  This was, after all, only the titular test flight.  Crowder proclaims it a success and tells Wilkins to head back to Earth so he can start work on another $500M ship capable of reaching Mars even though he has committed stock fraud, and pissed away more of other people’s investments than the Clinton Foundation.  Wilkins informs him that this ship is going to Mars.

Crowder overpowers Wilkins and tries to change course.  Wilkins has frozen the controls and says that he is “going home to Mars.”  Crowder wanted to build an empire on Mars, Wilkins just wanted to go home.  As Crowder watches, Wilkins transforms into an alien.  Well, technically he was an alien the entire time; now he no longer species-identifies as a human.

A little disappointing as the world was not destroyed as it was in the first 2 episodes.  Still, for all the hammy acting, live TV mishaps, cheap sets, and cheesy organ music it is very enjoyable.

Test Flight is a success.


  • Lee J. Cobb was #3 of the titular 12 Angry Men.  I’d like to see a sequel called 1 Happy as Shit Man starring the clearly guilty psychopath that Henry Fonda is responsible for setting free to terrorize his neighborhood and those who testified against him.  Snitches get stitches, bitches.
  • I’m not sure if Mercurium is a real thing.  The only other reference is in Star Trek Voyager, also as a spaceship fuel.

Ray Bradbury Theater – The Handler (10/27/92)

Ibradbury02‘m in the final stretch of RBT and I feel like Quint waiting in the water to board the rescue ship.  Viewing the series has often been torturous (but never tortuous; also, no tortoises); having the end in sight should be a relief but is causing some anxiety — like I’ll get to the last episode and someone will discover another season of lost episodes in their attic.

This episode does, at least, get off to a promising start as we see the always amusing but criminally under-used Michael J. Pollard.  He is the soul-proprietor [1] of a mortuary and small graveyard.  He is ringing the chapel-bell [2] and turns it up to 13 only to be busted by a kid outside who also has too much time on his hands.

Later that day, he shakes hands with a yokel who says he has a cold hand, must have just embalmed a frigid woman.  So he imagines the man dead.  A clerk in a store hassles him to speak up, so he imagines her dead.  Six minutes in, I’m imagining me dead.

rbthandler02Back at work, he puts on Toccata and Fugue in D Minor and starts talking to his clients. Pollard enjoys punking them before they are buried.  He bakes a gluttonous fat woman into a cake.  He injects black ink into the body of a racist.  He removes the head from a muscular man so he can have his head sewn onto it someday.  It’s not clear if that is intended to be a joke.

One of the stiffs turns out to have been merely pining for the fjords.  Because he heard Pollards confessions, he is killed.  That night — which is dark, as nights are wont to be, and stormy — shadowy figures come for Pollard.

The next morning, one of the yokels discovers blood on a tombstone and asks, “What kind of storm was that last night?”  Spoken without any humor or irony, it is just another example of why Bradbury should have outsourced the screenplays.  Pollard’s name is also scrawled on all of the tombstones in his cemetery.  One of the yokels makes the profoundly stupid statement, “He couldn’t possibly be buried under all these tombstones.”

rbthandler04“Couldn’t he?” says the kid.

I get that Bradbury was great stylist of the prose in a short story, but the man had a George Lucasian grasp of dialogue.  I keep telling myself that he was born in a different time, and wondering if maybe the small town America he grew up in was really accurately reflected in his stories.



Alfred Hitchcock Presents – Death Sentence (04/27/58)

Norman and Paula Frayne are in bed — or rather, they are in separate twin beds as all couples were in the 50’s (hence the title Death Sentence).  Paula is noticeably 10 years older than Norman. Apparently Hitch didn’t get the Hollywood memo that when a woman is at least 5 years older, she is to play the man’s mother.

ahpdeathsentence02Norman is worried about a contract he lost at his real estate office.  As the contract was won by a realtor named Kennedy, he should just be thankful he’s still alive.  But I’m a little baffled how he works at Frayne Real Estate which his wife’s father owned.  He is pretty wimpy — did he take his wife’s name when they married?  I suppose the correct answer is that he inherited the firm and renamed it after himself, but that seems an unlikely move for his wimpy character.


The next morning at the office, he is surprised by a visit from an old pal. Norman had committed a robbery with Al Revnel, but only Al had been caught.  He did not rat out Norman who spent 12 years in the can as he was charged with murdering the night watchman. You never hear about day watch-men being killed — that seems like the better career move.  Al figures $50,000 should make things even between them, and keep him from implicating Norman.  As that would be $413,000 today, that would shut me up too.

Well, he did keep Norman out of prison.  And the vermicelli-spined (and not even al dente) Norman would have made first season Beecher look like sixth season Beecher.


Al is one of those bullies who likes to touch his victim’s face and get very handsy with them.  He tells Norman to call Paula and tell them he is coming to live with them.  He also calls Norman “buddy-boy” about 400 times in 25 minutes. The first month, he milks Norman for $800 of advances.  He also likes to drop in to have lunch with Paula every day while Norman is at work.

Norman actually shows about 25% of a gonad and forces a confron-tation; although with Paula, not Al.  She says their rondevouzes [1] are very innocent. Apparently Al is feeling Norman up more than he is Paula.  She says she is going to go on a trip to Detroit with a gal-pal.  As this is 1958, she stands a pretty good chance of coming back.  Norman thinks she might be sneaking off with Al so he buys  some dynamite and wires up his car.


Paula hears an explosion, and the twist is that it wasn’t Al who was in the explosion — Norman killed himself.  Kind of anti-climactic.  Al goes back to jail for life for violat-ing his parole by leaving the state. Twelve years for murdering an innocent man, but make the state look bad, and it’s LIFE buddy-boy!


  • [1] The plural of rondezvous is also rendezvous, but you pronounce the “s”.
  • AHP Deathwatch:  James Best made it until this year.  Probably best known as Rosco P. Coltrane on The Dukes of Hazzard.  He also starred in Jess-Belle.
  • I was watching The Walking Dead on a second screen at the same time as AHP — Does the Dos Equis slogan make any sense at all?  Isn’t “Stay Thirsty” telling people to not drink their beer?  Their “Most Interesting Man in the World” is about as interesting as a Rothko painting.
  • Hulu sucks.


Twilight Zone S4 – In His Image (01/03/63)

tzinhisimage02At 4:30 am, Alan Talbot strolls out of his hotel.  It is a great location because he walks to the subway, goes down to the platform, and it is still 4:30.  He starts feeling woozy and hears electrical sounds.  The only other person in the station — a crazy cat lady with no cats — starts preaching to him, so he throws her in the path of the oncoming train.  It must be the Express, because it ain’t stopping.

His gal-pal Jessica is in her apartment when Alan comes to the door.  After a little goofy repartee about being a Junior Woodchuck, she invites him in.  He is astounded to learn he is 45 minutes late.  He was supposed to be there at 5:00 a.m. to take Jessica to meet his Aunt Mildred for the first time.  After a lengthy 4-day courtship, they are going to get married.

tzinhisimage03They arrive in Alan’s hometown of Coeurville and he begins pointing out the landmarks to Jessica.  He has only been away from home for a week, but his memory is a little spotty.  He doesn’t recognize some buildings, remembers a restaurant where there never has been one, goes to the wrong house expecting his aunt, and points out an empty field where he remembers his office being.

He goes to find his parents . . . at the cemetery.  In their plots he discovers a tombstone for Walter and Mary Ryder.  On the way back of town, Alan jumps out of the car and sends Jessica away for her own protection as the electronic noises overwhelm his brain.  Having second thoughts, he runs out into the road where he is hit by another car. The accident leaves a gash on his arm, exposing electronic circuitry.

tzinhisimage06Looking through a phonebook (a very thick object made of dead trees and containing phone numbers), he finds the name and address of Walter Ryder Jr.  At the Ryder house — as in every show I’ve posted about — Alan feels free to let himself in and explore the house.  He is surprised by Ryder who turns on the lights.  He is surprised again as Ryder looks exactly like him.  Ryder tells him, “You’re a machine, Alan!” — words he longed to hear from Jessica.

Ryder tells Alan how he dreamed as a kid of “building the perfect artificial man, not a robot, a duplicate human being.  Why he chose himself as the template rather than Marilyn Monroe or some other 60’s babe is a topic for discussion.  Sadly, Alan blew a gasket, attacked Ryder with a pair of scissors and fled the house a week ago.

tzinhisimage05Ryder takes him downstairs to his “birthplace” in the basement.  He shows Alan a couple of other spare Alans that were factory rejects.

Ryder is kind of a loser, but he does come up with a pretty good plan.  Someone with Alan’s face shows up at Jessica’s apartment.

There is a sly humor to the episode which is a sure sign Serling didn’t write it.  Some of it is slightly absurdist as when Alan points out the empty field where he works.  George Grizzard is quite good at delivering scenes like that, although he doesn’t get a lot of support from Gail Kobe as Jessica.  She comes off as a little desperate, and I don’t mean her character.

Poltergeist (2015)

Absolute shit.  Not even worth forming thoughts into paragraphs or grabbing pics . . .

  • 1982 version: adorable family.  2015 version: immediately unlikable.
  • Welcome to the new breed of filmmakers:  characters must be unlikable, a purely visual medium must be corrupted with sepia tones or bleached out color, and plot must be looked at as a cheap trope.
  • As the 1982 Freelings, Craig T. Nelson was great as a dad working hard for his family — protective, a little distracted by work but with a regular-joe sense of humor.  Sorry to be crude, but JoBeth Williams was one of the first MILFs even before it was a word.  She had great chemistry with her husband, and put her life on the line (literally a rope line) for her kids.  As the 2014 Bowens: I have never liked Sam Rockwell, and have no idea who the mother is.
  • The older daughter Kendra (porn-star name) is upset that they are moving near huge powerlines.  The title is then shown as a shadow on the grass near the powerlines. There is absolutely no reason to accentuate the powerlines; they are in a couple of later shots but play no further role.  The audience has seen the original and knows they have nothing to do with the story, and the Bowens never mention them later.
  • And it was a complete botch at it’s fundamental purpose of merely presenting the title; I didn’t even notice the letters the first time around.
  • Whereas Carol Anne Freeling was a radient blonde in the original, signifying her innocence and the light the demons wanted to attain, Madison (porn-star name) Bowen is a brunette.  And sorry to say, nowhere near as cute.  Even in the commercials, this was a hint the filmmakers had no idea what they were doing.
  • They are driving to their new house in a neighborhood reminiscent of the one in the original — very well manicured.  But this one is very gloomy from the outset. Unlike the original which was sunny, had kids playing outside, cool remote control cars zipping around, a drunk on a bike getting safety barred in the nugs . . . this one is just blah.  It’s like having Nicholson being  crazy from his first scene in The Shining — there’s no where for the movie to go; no counterpoint to the darkness to follow.
  • The real estate agent shows them through the house.  The staircase, a curvy iconic centerpiece of the original house is an absolute architectural nothing here.
  • The Bowens are both unemployed and short on cash, so naturally they are buying a house.
  • The clown in the original was just a goofy toy.  The clown here looks dirty and menacing.  Again, the filmmakers lack the most basic understanding of what made the original work.
  • One night, the son Griffin (if porn-dudes have names, this seems like one) sees Madison in front of the TV with her hands on the screen. Sweet Jesus did they screw this up.  Everyone knows the iconic “They’re here” line from the original.  Here we get an incredibly underwhelming “They’re coming.”  This is egregious on 2 levels (3 if you count that it made me use the word egregious).
  • A few seconds later as I was still marveling at the incompetence of the script, Madison then delivers the “They’re here” line with less emotion than Joe Friday.  I was stunned twice by their ineptitude in delivering the line once.  It is so perfectly screwed up that I have to think they were trying for something.  Maybe they expected people to react to the slightly askew “They’re coming” just so they could then dazzle them with the real zinger “They’re here.”  Set-up . . . Spike!  Except, there was zero zing in the delivery, and most people were probably still stunned by the awfulness of “They’re coming.”  Maybe I’m making too much of this, but it was the most famous line in the original and they just pissed it away.
  • Kendra is a bitch, but so was the daughter in the original as I recall.
  • Griffin digs a hole in the front yard and finds something I can’t identify.  It seems to be a big deal, but it is never mentioned again.
  • Dad has his credit cards refused at the hardware store.  In the car, his frustration boils over and he punches the steering wheel.  Then we get the weirdest shot.  He looks in the side mirror.  He looks away.  He does a double-take back to the mirror.  He scrunches his brow.  We get his POV of the reflection in the mirror.  For the life of me, I can’t figure out WTF this is about.  We see a sign for the mall, which is naturally reversed in the mirror, but there is no REDRUM action.
  • Griffin goes upstairs.  A baseball rolls down the hall and bumps against his closed bedroom door.  OK, not the most original (The Changling, The Shining, Tales From the Crypt, etc) but a classic horror trope, and I always like it.
  • Griffin sets down a box of comic books and picks up the ball.  He goes to Madison’s room to see if she rolled the ball. When he turns around, his comic books are stacked six feet tall like a house of cards.  Jesus Christ did they blow this homage also.  This is a callback to the chairs being stacked on the kitchen table in the original.  The critical difference is that the chairs were on the floor, then stacked, in one continuous panning camera shot.  Here, there are multiple cuts and 20 seconds in between.  Also, you can actually stack chairs; comic books lack the structural integrity to build even the most modest one-story ranch-house-of-cards.  This is especially true when, as we see, the foundation is the spine of one comic resting on the floor as an inverted pyramid.
  • For some reason, after Dad has his credit cards refused he goes on a shopping spree buying his bitchy daughter a new iPhone, pizza for dinner, a Drone with a camera for Griffin, and fancy earrings for Mom.
  • They are an iPhone, not an Android family.
  • Sensible Mom says the phone is going to be returned, but bitchy Kendra says she is going to put a passcode on the phone so they can’t get to it.  Nice try sunshine, but how does that stop them from taking it back to the store?  And WTF says “passcode”? Is that the Apple word for password?
  • Mom & Dad go to a dinner party.  The group informs them that their community was built on top of a graveyard.  Really, what adults would give a shit about that? In this world, however, it is the reason the house was cheap, it is kept secret by the realtor, and one of the guests refuses to go to the neighborhood because it “gives her the willies.”
  • OK, pretty good joke about the new neighborhood the cemetery was moved to.
  • Kendra is texting on her phone.  Are we supposed to be able to read it?  Did the filmmakers forget that many more people will see this at home than saw it on a big screen?  The text is large enough so it seems like they intend us to see it, but too small to actually see.
  • Kendra sees some sort of zombie in the basement.  That is just completely out of character for both this movie and the original.
  • We see the clown attack Griffin whereas it was much more effective when the unseen clown dragged Robbie under the bed in 1982.
  • There is a killer tree in this one just as in the original.  I’m a little on the fence here. Neither version’s effects were great.  This one was amusing though as it showed Griffin dangling from the top of the tree as his parents arrived home.  On the other hand, in the original, the tree tried to eat Robbie.  So fun to be had in both versions.
  • Madison shows up in the TV just like Carol Anne did.  Dad is immediately on board with the idea that she’s in the TV; no need to call the cops about his missing daughter.  Bear in mind, that the Freelings had witnessed supernatural activity first-hand in the original by this point.  The Bowens, however, have zero reason to think it is anything other than a serial killer.
  • The Bowens go to the parapsychology department of the local college just as the Freelings did.  Again, a team of ghostbusters come to the house.  Dad thinks that Madison was pulled through a portal in the closet even though there is no reason for his to suspect the closet of being anything sinister.
  • In the original, one of the team talks about shooting a film of a toy car rolling across the floor over the space of several hours.  Here, a similar story is told about a piano bench doing the same thing.  Now, what is the point of changing it from a car to a piano bench?  A car is supposed to move, just not by itself.  That incongruity adds to the tension.  A piano bench moving breaks that link to reality.
  • As the same dude goes to sit down, a poltergeist pulls the chair out from under him and flings it against the wall as he falls on his ass.  OK, good gag — botched once again as we don’t even get a good shot of him falling.
  • Then, despite having just witnessed actual supernatural activity, he suggests to a 7 year old kid that maybe his father is faking all this for the money.
  • In the original, one of the team memorably hallucinates clawing his face off.  Here, the equivalent scene is watered down as Dad thinks he he sees blood coming out of his eyes and vomits black shit in the sink.  And do we even get to see it?  No, we see his reflection the chrome faucet.
  • The biggest scare so far is when I thought the ghostbuster was going to drill his finger.
  • It just seems like Mrs. Freeling was a lot more upset at losing her daughter than Mrs. Bowen (but then, Carol Anne was far cuter).  Strangely in the scene where Ma & Pa Bowen speak to Madison through the TV, the actors seem afraid to commit to the material, maybe a little embarrassed.
  • Whereas the original had Tangina the midget ghostbuster, this one calls in the host of a paranormal reality show.  This is actually an interesting idea, and was foreshadowed by Kendra watching his show in an earlier scene (which was also nice as she was caught Skyping with a friends just as Dana had been caught on the phone in 1982).
  • Kendra is giggly and says “This house is not clean.”  OK, that’s a callback to Tangina’s line in the original, but why is it here?  Kendra says it, then give a self-satisfied little snort at her own cleverness.  Did she see the original?  Are they living in a world where Poltergeist was a movie?[1]
  • The host-guy (Jared Harris, because I guess Lin Shaye finally took a f*ing week off) calmly suggests that maybe when this community was built, they didn’t move the bodies, they just moved the headstones.  Compare this to the original where Dad is yelling the accusation at his boss, or when Mom figures it out as she is faced with the reality of a dozen muddy skeletons attacking her in a half-dug pool, and a casket exploding through her front lawn.
  • For some reason, Harris has a giant safety pin on his coat lapel.  I mean like 4 inches long.
  • They wisely put a mattress under the ceiling portal in the living room.  Maybe they did see the original Poltergeist.
  • In this version, Griffin goes into the other dimension to save Madison completely squandering the mother-daughter relationship, mother protecting her young, and rebirth elements of the original.  This is just some lazy shit.
  • Griffin and Madison are in the other dimension surrounded by demons, skeletons, ghosts, lightning and they might as well be in Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood for all the emotion they exhibit.  You can’t blame the kids for this.  It is just pure incompetence in the casting and direction.
  • Once everybody is back through the portal, they load up the car.  The poltergeists flip the car and ram it through the wall into the Bowen’s living room.  Rather than exciting or scary, it’s mostly just silly.  The house begins falling apart.
  • They crawl into their other car — a Cooper, the perfect car for a family of five.  As they drive away, we see the house destroying itself, but it is not nearly as interesting as the way the original house folded into itself into the vanishing point. Although, just what happened to the people who lived behind them?
  • The Bowen’s leave their community speeding along the street which is covered in more flying paper than the end of Die Hard.  Seriously, WTF did all this paper come from?  This was a house, not Nakatomi Plaza.
  • Annnnnnd we pan to the powerlines again for no reason.
  • There is a coda where a real estate agent shows them a house.  She mentions the closet space and the trees, which sends Bowens fleeing.  Apparently they are searching for a house with no closets and no trees.  The Freelings only had to live with no TV.  That is sounding better and better.
  • And the score sucks too.

Immediately before this, I had watched Ash vs Evil Dead, which was excellent.  It is shocking that Sam Raimi is listed as a producer on Poltergeist.  He must have just been whoring his name out because he is better than this garbage.

Jared Harris is always a pro, and the lady ghostbuster was OK.  The acting falls off sharply after that.  Sam Rockwell is always annoying, the mother was a non-entity, Kendra was pointlessly bitchy and the younger kids were just miscast or misdirected.

All of them seemed fairly stoic in the face of a hellmouth.  I just didn’t get the sense that the Bowens were all that scared or concerned.  Even though the older daughter was missing for most of the original, the blood-curdling scream, “What is happening!” cannot be forgotten.  Name one thing from this movie that will last until after you go to the refrigerator.


  • [1] OK, this was Harris’ catch-phrase on his TV show.
  • Longest post ever.  For this.