Tales From the Crypt – Forever Ambergris (10/02/93)

tftcforeverambergriss01Title Analysis: This section floats to the top because I have no idea where they got this from.  Ambergris is french for grey amber. Which adds just another layer of confusion as it is a waxy substance that is secreted by the intestines of sperm-whales and does not look or smell like amber.  It does, however, rate its own chapter in Moby Dick. Forever Amber is a novel about a 17th century ho’ who sleeps her way to the top and several other positions.  This episode is not set in the 17th century, contains no one named Amber, and no whales; although, there is some sperm (thankfully not seen due to admirable restraint of Cinemaxian proportions).

Award-winning photographer Dalton (Roger Daltrey) and his sidekick Ike (Steve Buscemi) are on a plane back home from their latest war-zone assignment.  Dalton knows that he has lost the eye of the Tigris[1] and that his assistant is now the superior artiste (or at least, snapper of self-immolation and severed-limb porn).  Ike invites his mentor back to his house to meet his girlfriend Bobbi (Lysette Anthony).

tftcforeverambergriss07Dalton arrives at the door and is greeted by the beautiful Bobbi, giving him just one more reason to resent Ike.  I guess because he drank a glass of wine at dinner, Dalton sleeps on the couch.  He gets up in the middle of the night, as a 50-year old guy is wont to do, and catches a peek at Ike and Bobbi having the sex.  She catches him in the mirror, but doesn’t seem to hold a grudge as she comes out later to share a doob’ with him.

Dalton and Ike get an assignment in another war zone.  A little ambition from Ike combined with a little manipulation by Dalton result in Ike going alone to a more dangerous village where people are being hacked into little pieces.  Dalton goes with some tough-as-nails mercenaries to a less dangerous zone.  We know they are tough because they smoke and drop f-bombs.  So, tough and cool!  Seriously, has a leather jacket ever looked good on anyone?  Dalton doesn’t mention that one of the mercs told him this village was contaminated with poison gas.

tftcforeverambergriss14That night, they regroup at camp.  Not only did Ike survive, but he got some great shots, just fueling Dalton’s resentment.  Dalton is awakened by Ike’s screams as he is covered in blood and puking.  To his credit, Dalton isn’t immediately cheered up by this.  But give him a few seconds and he sees his opportunity to get rid of Ike and claim his work for his own.  He allows Ike to further deteriorate into a foul-smelling goo to the point where his eyeball slides out.

’round the breakfast campfire, one of the mercs tells charming story of a pal in Nam who had his nose eaten off by bugs.  The next morning the soldier “beat the bushes and every bug he would find, he would cut open to find little bits to put his nose back together.”  But at least he didn’t smell.  Heyoooooo!

tftcforeverambergriss18Dalton stumbles into the breakfast nook looking like The Incredible Melting Man.  Dalton mows him down with the merc’s M16.  Could be contagious, you know.

Back in the states, Dalton pays a condolence call on Bobbi.  Wearing a little black mourning dress, she tells Dalton about a letter she received from one of the mercs saying that Dalton had stolen Ike’s pictures and murdered him.  She claims not to believe it — they light up another bone and jump in the sack.  We all grieve in our own way.  We get some all too rare nudity in this episode when Bobbi shows her squeezebox.

Bobbi reveals that the weed they just smoked was sent by Ike from the village he went to, so they are infected.  She starts to disintegrate into a slimy bloody mess on top of Dalton.  He tosses her off and runs about 3 feet to the bathroom.  Somehow in the space of 3 feet, his nose has been chewed off.

tftcforeverambergriss25Overall, an enjoyable outing if you don’t think about it too much, and why would ya?  The scenery was simple, but effective whether it was the hold of a cargo plane or just out in the woods.  Daltrey is not a bad actor either.  But some of the story elements . . .

Who doesn’t love Steve Buscemi?  He’s always great and as commanding or scary or hilarious as a scene requires.  However, you have a guy who is going to decompose and become a hideous shuffling zombie.  This is like the complaint about Nicholson in The Shining — he was crazy from frame one, and Buscemi . . . well he didn’t have as far to fall as, say, Brad Pitt would have.  Sure Ike was smart and had great character and personality, but the episode isn’t about him becoming an asshole.

The nose thing was just out of left field.  The campfire conversation was kind of a non-sequiter about an incident on the other side of the world.  How did it become part of this story?  And the nose was eaten off by bugs, but Ike’s problem was caused by a chemical weapon.

And the soldier was cutting open bugs hoping to reassemble the nose?  That would be some pretty small bits.  Maybe it was an act of desperation like trying to lift the car off an accident victim?  It’s just so absurd that it calls attention to itself.

Dalton sees Bobbi is a bloody mess (not the in British way), so he leaps from the bed still having a nose, goes to the adjacent bathroom and sees his noseless reflection in the mirror.  Those are some fast-ass invisible bugs.  I wonder if this is a mistake as a few shots just before he de-beds seem to purposely avoid showing his face.  And did he not feel anything before it literally fell off?  Pain, a sneeze, anything?

Finally, alas poor Bobbi.  Her death was completely avoidable.   She could have baked the dope in brownies and then claimed to be on a diet, for example.  I guess she couldn’t stand to live without Ike.


  • Title Analysis II:  Plus, ambergris is just an ugly word — ugly to look at and ugly to hear (actually, it’s kind of fun to speak).  I was going to say it is harder to listen to than Russian Opera, but apparently Russian Opera exists and is well-regarded — the world’s most annoying art-form sung with the world’s most grating accent.  There’s a reason the world admires your silent chess, gymnastics and ballet, comrades.
  • [1] Tigris is the only other word I can think of that ends with gris.
  • Yet another TFTC cover that is fine artistically but is contradicted by the story.
  • Weed, dope, pot . . . there is no word for marijuana that doesn’t make you sound like a narc.  Doob’ comes closest, I think.

Tales of Tomorrow – Blunder (08/10/51)

The episode starts out with scenes of actual refugees displaced in WWII-ravaged Europe, wandering aimlessly, digging through garbage cans for food, sleeping in ruins.  I thought this was a pretty cavalier appropriation of reality for a hokey 1950’s sci-fi show.  Then the announcer revealed that this was an ad for CARE.[1]

In a primitive installation in the Arctic, Carl Evenson and his amazingly good sport of a wife are anxiously awaiting 9 pm when his life’s work will be put to the test.  He assures her that his Bismuth Fission experiment — a real thing, by the way — has only a 1 in 100 chance of triggering planetary Armageddon (although, on the bright side, at least Ben Affleck is not part of this one).

Evenson gets a call from some people who think maybe the odds might be a little too dicey just to supply Scandinavia with electricity.  Back in London, a couple of scientists are discussing newly declassified information that the experiment will set off an oxygen reaction, setting the entire planet on fire.   A colleague at an unnamed university in Princeton NJ  places the odds as only 1 in 200 . . . but the opposite way — a .5% chance that Evenson will NOT destroy the world.

Scientists all over the world try to reach Evenson to tell him the experiment will blow up in everyone’s face.  A faux-POW, if you will [2].  He refuses to take their calls.

A couple of them get together and fly to Scandinavia to try to reach him via his former co-workers.  When this doesn’t work, they fly to Antarctica.  As the episode begins just a few minutes before 9 pm according to the literally old clock on the literal wall, getting there by 9 pm was quite a feat of aviation; and driving to the airport.  Evenson might have better served science by checking out that airplane.

Finally it is 9 pm — why did they have to twiddle their thumbs to wait for that particular time?  Evenson walks over to a gigantic switch like the on/off switch I always hope to find under the hood of my car when it fails to proceed.  Then he presses down a plunger like the ones Bugs Bunny always uses to blow up Yosemite Sam (making him the first rabbit anti-yosemite) [3].

totblunder09Cut to stock footage of an A-bomb mushroom cloud . . . and unintended laughter.  So massive is this blast that it is felt immediately in New Jersey.  I’ll say this for Tales of Tomorrow — it takes no prisoners. Two episodes, and two times earth has been destroyed.

So, it’s kinda like Fail-Safe only without the great performances and suspense.  Evenson’s motivations aren’t even clear.  It is so cheap and well-intentioned, though, that I have to like it.


  • [1] The episode aired only 6 years after WWII, and 3 years into the Marshall Plan.  I didn’t know that the plan was also offered to the Soviets.  They refused the hand-out from our government and strongly suggested their allies do the same.  I have new-found respect for the Soviets; even higher than when Ukrainian girls started appearing on the internet.  Sure, they are Commies, but still morally superior to some banks and car companies I could name.
  • [2] Son of a bitch!  Another example of how it is bloody impossible to come up with something new.
  • [3] Son of a son of a bitch!  At least life before Google let you feel original even if it wasn’t true.
  • Antarctica was literally named for being the er, polar opposite of the Arctic Ocean. The Arctic was named for a bear.  Antarctica should have been named for the penguin.
  • Available on YouTube.

Ray Bradbury Theater – Some Live Like Lazarus (10/24/92)

cover02aka The One So Bad It Took Me 2 Months to Post It (hereafter known as TOSBITM2MTPI).  I watched this episode late one night, and the idea of even fast-forwarding through it to refresh my memory and get some pictures was about as appealing as having my two front teeth knocked out.  Again.

We open up with an artsy feel, for no particular reason, with a handheld tracking shot approaching the porch of a small hotel.  We pass some lawn furniture, with one chair on its side.  Again, to no purpose that I can figure.

On the porch, the camera is addressed directly by Anna (60-year old, as the credits say), “Oh, there you are.  You want to hear about the murder, don’t you?”  It is never revealed who this person is.  Is it me, the viewer? Usually someone who rates a POV shot is actually somewhat important to the story.

As she continues talking, Roger (60-year old, as the credits say) pulls his car into the driveway.  At this point, she is in the present talking in the past tense about things that have not happened yet.  Which would have been OK — her voice-over carrying into the past — had they not cut back to her on the porch, mashing up the time periods.

She thinks back to when she first met Roger when they were 10 years old — 50 years ago.  We know this because the errant chair is now upright and ass-ready.  They are, however, the same chairs; so that was a damn fine investment.

Roger’s mother already has trouble walking and needs someone to steady her.  Either she was old before her time, or she lived to be 120 — no helpful age-labels for her character.  In fact, with an assist by some cagey camerwork, she is played by the same actress in every time period.  Actually, how does this old woman have a 10 year old son anyway?

We see them meeting again at 12, and again at 18 and so on.  Through the years, they grow older but never really change from their 10 year old selves.  Roger is consistently beaten down and dominated by his mother.  Year after year, Anna keeps hoping he’ll break free, and prays for the old woman to die.  This goes on, not just through few years, but for half a century.  Because women love wimpy men, and men love women who wish for their mother’s death.  This must be another Martian Chronicles adaptation because no earthlings I know think like that.

Finally, Roger attempts suicide at 22 to escape both of these crazy women.  Anna marries a co-worker.  38 years pass before they meet again.  Anna’s husband and Roger’s mother have both died.  He is finally free, but Anna tells him to go see the world before they hook up.


  • Title Analysis:  Lazarus.  I get it.  What I don’t get is is the “some live like” part.
  • Originally published in Playboy with the even more vague title “Very Late in the Evening” (1960).  Was this really what Playboy readers wanted?  The story of a momma’s boy and the 60-year old woman he finally almost hooks-up with?
  • Anna is a shuttlecocktease.
  • Bloody hell!  Is there anything that hasn’t already been thought of?

Alfred Hitchcock Presents – Fatal Figures (04/20/58)

ahpfatalfigures01Netflix recently lost all except the first AHP season and I was forced to crawl to Hulu.  Amazingly, the episodes did not require membership.  Not truly amazing because they do have commercials, but amazing because Hulu does not make you pay for them on top of getting stuck with commercials.

But having done one thing which did not piss off its customers (yes, enduring ads makes me a “paying customer”), Hulu clearly had to regress back to it’s mean.  I just noticed that certain episodes are missing from its queue.  I assume they are not available to subscribers either because the icons do not appear at all.

Today’s episode would have been, probably the most famous episode of the series, Lamb to the Slaughter by Raold Dahl.  But no.  Instead we flashforward one episode to a an episode starring a very irritating John McGiver, but with an admirably dark ending for 1958.

ahpfatalfigures02Bookkeeper Harold Goames (McGiver) is whining to his sister, who he lives with, about the sameness of his life.  Every day, for thirteen years, the same job, the same suits.  They receive an almanac in the mail and George is devastated to realize the sum value of his contribution to humanity is to be 1 of the 172 million citizens of the country (this is back when we had a border).

That night he looks through the almanac and finds some other statistics that pep him up. His voiceover reads that the US labor force is 121 million, and he is happy that he is a slightly more significant man in that figure.  Strangely, when he speaks the figure he says, “One of those 60 million is Harold Goames.”  Why the number is different seems to be an editing error because he then reads out loud out loud, “male labor force only 60 million.”

Determined to improve his standing in the 172 million, he sees that there were 226,000 auto thefts that year. ahpfatalfigures04 We see him get into a car which is not his and easily steal it.  Did cars not require a key back then?

Realizing that he is still basically a big zero, he sees that there were only 63,000 robberies last year.  A brutha’s life could start having some meaning in this smaller figure — so he robs a drugstore.  This must have gotten him pumped because he forgets about the Chinese Checkers game that he and his live-in sister have played every Sunday night for 13 years.

How about 45 years old guys who live with their sister in what seems to be a marital — but to be fair, non-sexual — relationship.  She doesn’t seem to work, but cooks his meals and washes his laundry like a dutiful 1950’s wife.  That is probably a pretty small sliver of the population.  In that tiny figure, he is royalty!  No,wait, I mean a loser.

ahpfatalfigures05Thinking he can be an even bigger cog in the wheel, he sees that there were only 7,000 murders last year — so he kills his sister.  Well, she had become a bit of a nag creepily accusing him of philandering and “having another woman.”  Much to his chagrin, the murder is ruled accidental, foiling his attempt to be one of the few, the elite 7,000.  So he confesses to poisoning her.

He explains his theory to the police detective and seems happy with his new role in society.  He is positively chirpy as he goes upstairs to get his coat so they can be off to jail.  He takes out the almanac one last time and sees a really select breed — there were 16,000 suicides.  He takes out the pistol he used in the great drugstore heist, the camera pans away, and there is the sound of thunder.

I like the very dark climax, but he was already 1 in 7,000 so why would he throw that distinction away to be a mere 1 in 16,000?  It’s almost like he was crazy.

A good episode if you can stand Harold’s incessant whining.  The real mystery is why his sister did not kill Harold first.

For a more thorough, better written recap, and background on the production, head over to bare-bones ezine.


  • AHP Deathatch:  No survivors.  His sister gave it a good try, hanging on until this year when she died at 98 . . . cause of death unknown.
  • Hulu sucks

Night Gallery – Special Features

nightgallery03As Michael Corleone said, “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!

I really did the post-mortem on this series in an earlier post due to a mix-up.  Then I slogged through a few more episodes and thought I finally finished. Now I find there are actually 2 full segments in the Special Features.

Giving them all the respect they deserve:

Die Now, Pay Later – A 13 minute segment which never aired as it never fit into the jigsaw puzzle of irregularly-timed segments; to the series’ benefit.  Grandpa Walton (Will Geer) and Slim Pickens (Mr. Taggart) have a yak-fest interrupted only, but repeatedly, by close-ups of a black cat.

I know what they were going for at the end, but the random cruelty of it just doesn’t work. The only positive note is the completely sexist presentation of Picken’s wife on the phone — yapping away like a chipmunk or Charlie Brown’s teacher on coke.

Little Girl Lost — A 23 minute segment that was aired in an edited form in the episode with The Caterpillar.  I opted out of posting on it at the time out of deference to The Twilight Zone episode by the same name.  It’s a decent enough segment for this series, but it still bugs me that they appropriated the name of a classic TZ episode.

And some filler:

Witches Feast — A 5 minute sketch which could have benefited by trimming out 4 to 5 minutes.  Even if the ending had a shred of of merit, the annoying cackling of the witches kill the spirit.

Room for One Less — 55 seconds including Serling’s into.  And still not worth the time. It could have earned a smirk, but the design of the monster and the staging are terrible.

Thus endeth The Night Gallery.