Tales from the Crypt – Creep Course (10/11/93)

tftccreepcourse02Jeffrey Jones is teaching an Egyptology class in which Anthony Michael Hall is enrolled; sadly for Jones, this is several years after Hall’s John Hughes phase.

Today, Jones is discussing Pharaoh Ramseth aka “the mummy who wouldn’t die.”  Seems he was obsessed with a maiden named Nefra.  Sadly, he croaked before he could act on his desires so the moniker is not technically accurate.  And, being Pharaoh, what was holding him up? Couldn’t he have any maiden he wanted?  Or goat?  What happened to jus primae noctis?  He emerges from his tomb on each anniversary of this death to search for Nefra.  Rigor mortis is nature’s Viagra.

tftccreepcourse04To protect themselves, each year the locals delivered to Ramseth’s tomb a human sacrifice.  When Ramseth was disappointed that each year’s offering was not Nefra, he would go berserk and kill each girl. Ya know, Nefra really could have taken one for the team and volunteered.  Bitch.

Fascinating as this story is, student Anthony Michael Hall is more interested in his football playbook.  Nerdy-girl Casey Siemaszko is also distracted — by Hall.  As Hall has been sentenced to a purgatory, doomed to play each role in The Breakfast Club forever [1], he is now “the jock.”  As such, he is a bonehead and seeks out Nina to tutor him.

She is thrilled at the attention and meets him in the library.  Perhaps inspired by being in a building he had never visited before, Hall comes up with an alternative to studying.  He tells Nina to ask Jones if she can visit his collection of Egyptian artifacts.  While she is distracting Jones, Hall will make a copy of the mid-term exam.  He backs her up against the card catalog and gets her decimal system all dewy, removes her glasses and asks her to go to a party.  So she is putty in his hands — silly, silly putty.

tftccreepcourse08She arrives at Jones’ homes and he leads her down to the basement, which might have actually been scary if she were a young boy.  He shows off a full burial tomb.  By shows off, I mean tosses her inside and closes the door.  Turns out Hall and Jones are in cahoots. When the door is shut, Jones blows the shofar when he could have gotten away with just tipping him $5.00 for the ride. This awakens a mummy inside.

Jones didn’t mention he had ol’ Ramseth stored in his basement.  Suspiciously, he didn’t mention if there was anyone in his crawlspace either.  Nina is a smarty, though, as evidenced by her glasses.  When Ramseth tries to strangle her, she grabs a head-dress and pretends to be Nefra, his blonde, spectacled, pasty white, English-speaking Egyptian crush.

Jones pours Hall a snifter of brandy having no more regard for 21 year old age limits than for 18 year old age limits.  Hall decides to change the terms of their deal, but wisely, Jones had drugged his snifter.  In the basement, he stuffs Hall into a sarcophagus.  As he mops his brow, he hears the tomb’s door open, and we get the classic Jeffrey Jones / Ed Rooney “oh shit” stare which is always hilarious, unless it is through a camera viewfinder.

He enters the tomb and sees Ramseth standing erect, heh heh. Possibly because Nina has donned a suit similar to Princess Leia’s golden slave bikini.  Ramseth gets jealous of Jones and begins choking him, then pulls his brains out through his nose.

The ending is a complete botch. Nina is arrested for her class project which involves the mummified Jones and Hall.  First, this is a smart chick, why would she implicate herself in the murders?  Second, the two stiffs are unrecognizable despite being unwrapped, due to their contorted faces, but who else would they be?  Neither one appears to have a mustache as Jones had.

And a little sign says that Stella got an A+.  Well, she was the nerdy-girl, an A+ is probably routine for her.  But since Jones is dead, who assigned the grade?

Jones is always a hoot, and I’m a sucker for a good mummy story (which, ironically, the original The Mummy was not).  I was also entranced by Nina Siemaszko.  She played a great nerdy girl and consistently lit up the screen.  I’m not usually a fan of the cleft chin, and have really learned to hate them after watching Henry Rollins.  But she made it work.

tftccreepcourse15Post-Post:

  • [1] Tragically, I am not familiar enough with Mr. Hall’s oeuvre to know if this is true, but I liked the idea.
  • Title Analysis:  Junk.  OK, there is a college course involved, but what the hell is “creep course”?  That is not a common phrase or even close to any I can think of.
  • Jeffrey Jones and Anthony Michael Hall were both in Edward Scissorhands.  If Winona Ryder were here, they would have a hat-trick.  But I’d keep an eye on the hat.
  • The only directing credit by Jeffrey Boam.  Sadly, he only lived to be 53 but in a five year span, he managed to write 2 Lethal Weapons, an Indiana Jones, the Witches of Eastwick, The Lost Boys, Funny Farm, and Innerspace.
  • A few years earlier, he wrote the screenplay for The Dead Zone.  Hall would later star in a series based on the same book.

Tales of Tomorrow – Flight Overdue (03/28/52)

ttflightoverdue03When a jet plane disappeared in thin air, what was the explanation?

An announcer tells us this is the story of a great aviatrix [1], Paula Martin.  So imagine my surprise when she disappears, and the headline reads “Paula Bennett Lost at Sea.” IMDb plays it safe just calling the character Paula. [2]

Paula’s husband Donald is working the short wave trying to find his wife.  He believes some mysterious indecipherable transmissions might hold a clue.  We are told he never gave up searching for his wife. Presumably he did take off a couple of days to marry his 2nd wife Deidre.

Donald gets a call from an old friend, Sam Rutgers who says he will be over in 15 minutes.  Deidre makes good use of this time by nagging him over his obsession with discovering what happened to Paula.

ttflightoverdue05Donald flashes back to when he and Paula were first married.  Paula is posing for photographers after winning her second Bendix Trophy. Donald suggests that now that she has won her 2nd trophy, she can “stop proving things” she can marry him and iron his shirts.

She counters that she still has a lot of unfinished business up there. She could never be happy if she gave up flying.  They married and she continued flying.  Then she began disappearing for weeks at a time, apparently filming stock footage.  She was also frequently in the company of a mysterious man.

Donald is just as jealous as his future wife, although not over a corpse.  He suspects the man might have a wiley post and confronts Paula about her disappearances.  She says she has “never allowed anyone to lock me in a hangar and she’s not going to start now.” Nobody puts Baby in the Cessna!  On a trip across the Pacific, she disappears.

ttflightoverdue07Back in the present, Rutgers shows up to talk to Donald and Diedre.  He also asks their maid Anna to stay because “she was closer to Paula than anyone,” which suggests that their marriage was a plane-wreck even before she took off.

Rutgers says he was just given the go-ahead today to explain what happened to Paula. The government recruited Paula, as the country’s leading woman flyer.  She went to an obscure island 2,300 miles out of San Francisco which housed a rocket base.  The government wants her to be part of the crew to test the stresses of space on a woman’s body.

Rutgers tells her it will be extremely dangerous, and she replies, “That wonderful new world, from millions of miles away, pulls at me across all that space as if it had me by the hands.”  As the rocket is only going to the moon, which is just 240,000 miles away, the millions of miles make no sense.

He continues telling Donald, Deidre and Anna how they watched the rocket take off perfectly through giant telescopes, going into outer space until it became a tiny speck. Sadly, the government has determined that Paula died when the ship crashed into the moon.  But it wasn’t her fault, she blew the horn.

Don, who has spent 4 years searching for clues to Paula’s fate, announces that she is glad she’s gone because he’s finally free.

Kind of a disappointing outing.  There really wasn’t much science-fiction in this episode. We get talk of a rocket only at the very end; the rest is mostly melodrama.  It was not helped by the casting.  Donald’s current wife is, frankly, a little scary.  Paula was also no beauty, but at least had a cool butch haircut and was believable in her part (i.e. a woman some man would actually have married).

Post-Post:

  • [1] Possibly the greatest word in the English language.
  • [2] The name-change is somewhat plausible as her husband’s last name is Bennett. So maybe she kept her maiden name as her professional moniker [3].  Still, why would the newspaper use her non-professional name?  Just sloppy.  Also, was she lost at sea or in thin air?
  • [3] Possibly the 2nd greatest word in the English language.
  • I had heard Veronica Lake’s name before and thought she was a glamorous babe from the 1940’s.  But no.  Well, she was from the 1940’s.
  • At one point, the actor portraying Donald accidentally calls his maid Anna by his first wife’s name.  That’s kind of amusing, but it also makes you appreciate that they were doing this live and didn’t have their eyes tharned on cue cards like most of the cast of SNL.
  • In the next scene, Paula calls the maid Emma — OK, maybe an occasional glance at a cue card would be OK; or showing up sober to rehearsal.
  • I’m not entirely sure, but it also sounded like Rutgers called Anna Hannah.
  • Anna, Hannah bo Banna Bonana fanna fo Paula Fee fy mo Memma Emma!

Night Visions – Renovation (07/12/01)

nvrenovation1The Millers look at a house that could charitably be called a fixer-upper and honestly be called a tearer-downer. They take their baby with them as the realtor opens the house. It is strange that once Keith sets the baby’s carrier on the floor, he is completely ignored.  In fact, I must have blinked and missed him being carried into the house — until I rewound 30 seconds, I actually thought it was a ghost-baby they couldn’t see.

The realtor is required by TV-law to tell them that a murder occurred there 30 years ago. Keith says that is OK if it saves them $100,000.  Seeing this house, he must be expecting the seller to pay him $75,000 to take it off his hands.

Flash-forward to the Millers living in the house.  Keith comes home from the hardware store which Arriane takes as bad news, as she thought he was at an Alcoholic’s Anonymous meeting.  He awakens that night hearing shouts from the night of the murder.  Like any responsible parent, he pulls a loaded pistol out of the nightstand to investigate.

nvrenovation5As he begins the titular renovation, a door slams and he hears a more voices from the night of the murder.  Arriane comes in and suggests the “christen” every room in the house. She suggests starting in the dining room, which is indeed suggestive.  I wonder if the writers intended that.

As they start making out, we see the murderer in the background and Keith gets a chill and leaps up.  He gets crap from Arriane who suggests that he see a therapist.  That night, after dreaming of M&Ms, he awakens to see the murderer enter their bedroom.  He watches the man grab a bottle of hooch from the closet and finish it off.  He tells Keith,  “Get some more!” and tosses the bottle against the wall.

When Arriane comes home from work the next day wearing a suit that would have seemed very 70s in the 80s.  She finds that Keith has pried the padlock off the basement.  You might think they would have checked out the basement before buying the place.  Next week, take a look at the backyard — I hear good things.

nvrenovation7She finds the baby’s crib in the basement and comes back up to find a different crib in the baby’s room; also an empty whiskey bottle.  Keith, holding groceries in one arm and their son in the other, seems a little tipsy.  He then takes a belt right in front of his wife.  When she starts to nag him, be punches her out at the urging of the murderer.

As Keith is talking to their baby, Arriane emerges from hiding in the bathroom and does two very unlikely things.  1) she plans to get away and leave her baby there, and 2) when Keith asks where she is going, she gives the least believable answer possible: “Looks like you might need some more whiskey so I thought I’d run out and get you some.” He’s crazy and a drunk, not stupid and drunk.  She might as well have said she was going out to buy him some brass knuckles.

As Keith’s actions are paralleling the night of the murder 30 years ago, he takes a pistol out of the sock drawer.  Christ, is there a drawer in this house that doesn’t contain a gun?  BANG — he shoots her in front of the baby just as his predecessor did.

nvrenovation2This was a fairly standard tale until the ending.  It really looked like they were going to go for something truly shocking.  Then it looked like they were going to settle for something somewhat shocking.  Then it was clear they were going to completely puss out.  Then we close on a shot that is supposed to be . . . profound? A revelation?

No-Neck Rollins: “They say you can’t go home again.  But haunted by the ghost of his past, Keith Miller couldn’t go anywhere else.”  Wait, what?  Is Butt-Chin saying that the baby who witnessed the murder 30 years ago grew up to be Keith?  Was there the slightest freaking clue to this in the actual story?  How then did this baby with the blonde hair grow up to be the black-haired Keith?

After close review, there actually is evidence for this twist, but you really have to work for it — the M&M dream turns out to be memories of colored balls in a baby’s toy.  That same toy is seen in the crib which was moved up from the basement. They botched this in a couple of ways, though.  First, the toy is half-hidden under a blanket.  Second, it was never established that the toy belonged to the original baby.

nvrenovation8This twist might be even more botched than I give it credit for. Arriane finds a white toy rabbit in the basement crib.  It is never established which baby this toy belonged to, however, new baby was seen in the company of a brown bear.  So if the rabbit belonged to original baby, why was that still in the basement while original baby’s ball-toy was upstairs?  Arriane carries the rabbit back upstairs as if it belongs there, so maybe it does belong to new baby.

And while we’re at it, they could have done a better job with the crib.  I do give them credit for making the original crib a dark color and the new one white.  However, they seem to have made this episode for NSA cryptographers.  We get to see literally about 3 inches of railing during the original murder.

But the hair thing really bothers me.  And if the original murderer was Keith’s father, wouldn’t he have recognized him during the hallucinations?  Granted, he was a toddler at the time of the murder, but wouldn’t he have seen pictures?  Or known this was the house he had lived in?  He was young, but he remembered the colored balls (which inexplicably whack him in the face in his dream).

So maybe it wasn’t him as a baby.

Although, having both men be drunks was probably intended to suggest a family history of alcoholism.  I’m thinking of suggesting it right now.

So maybe it was him as a baby.

I really have no idea.

Post-Post:

  • Title Analysis:  Hunh?  OK, Keith was renovating the house, but that didn’t really impact the story.  I guess it was his personality also being renovated.  Just seems like more of a stretch than they could make work in 30 minutes.
  • I was running out of gas at about the 300 word mark, then heard Tattoo-Boy’s closing.  Maybe I should start listening to the Cryptkeeper’s segments.  Nah.

Night Visions – Dead Air (07/12/01)

nvdeadairWe’re immediately on thin ice:  strike one, Henry Rollins.  Strike two, a story about a disc jockey.  DJ stories just never work for me because they always feature programs no sane person would ever listen to the in the free market — like NPR [1].

At least the episode is not pretending this guy is a saint.  Within a minute he has cut off a caller and insulted the station janitor’s wife.  Not that the truth would have been much of a defense, but she actually is kind of cute in a nerd-girl way.  Nadine doesn’t need this crap and she does a quick pivot back out into the rain.

Tom Fallor is working the graveyard shift at KLED.  His gig is to listen to callers’ scary stories and offer his evaluation.  Like anyone cares what this dope thinks of other people’s creative endeavors . . . two . . .three . . . four . . .

His next call is from Laura who is telling her story, but stops to take delivery of a pizza. Coincidentally, a pizza man shows up at the station with a pre-paid-pie from Tasty Mon Pizza. If they offer ganj as a topping, this could be an even better weed/munchies time-management combo than pot brownies.

nvdeadair03He slips his hand in the box and pulls out a slice.  Laura calls back and tells him there is a huge dead rat on the pizza she just received.  He mocks her, but is appalled to find his own pizza also contains a huge dead rat; and anchovies.

Laura continues her call and really creeps Fallor out.  He puts on a little 5th Dimension and grabs his coffee. Unfortunately, he takes his coffee like he takes his plague — black.  OK, that doesn’t quite make sense — I mean he finds another dead rat in his conveniently rat-sized travel cup.  But really, he had it coming — who drinks coffee with pizza?

Fallor decides the rats are the work of the janitor whose gal he insulted.  The janitor proves him wrong by being found hanging by his neck.  He also finds the janitor’s girlfriend with a plastic bag over her head.  He finds that the exterior door is blocked by a car.  I might find this a little more menacing if he had tried calling the police.  Or if he wasn’t working in a place that could broadcast a 50,000 watt 9-1-1 call to thousands of people.

I’m no Don Draper, but wouldn’t it be a better sign for the business if it faced out instead of in?

The killer shows up, and I’m not sure it makes much sense.  It is hard to fairly judge this one because the YouTube video is of such low quality.  Much like Curtains, I don’t know how much better this would have been with a decent print.  My gut feeling is that with a clear picture, this would have been pretty good.  The plot doesn’t stand up to much scrutiny, but as an exercise in suspense it works fine.  Even though DJs are notoriously bad characters, Lou Diamond Philips makes the most of what he is given to work with.

It is only a slight act of faith to say this is the best of the series so far.

Post-Post:

  • [1] I last listened to NPR in 2012.  Just twice, and both times within minutes, they implied Mitt Romney was racist.  It really is a shame — much like the New York Times, NPR is excellent in many ways but so full of intolerance and bias that they are repulsive.  I’ll say this for the New York Times, though — they don’t take my money at the point of a gun.
  • I assume the station call letters KLED were mean to suggest KILLED.  There actually is a KLED in Gillette Wyoming, but it began 11 years after this episode.
  • Henry Rollins closing statement:  “For all you pains in the asses out there. Remember you can only irritate so many people before you piss off the wrong one.” Ooooh, TV-cursing makes you seem so edgy!

Alfred Hitchcock Presents – The Impromptu Murder (06/22/58)

Sometimes I kind of feel that way about Alfred Hitchcock Presents — a guy commits a murder and accidentally incriminates himself.  The end.  Episode S3E38, for example.

ahpimpromptu02It is set in 1916, but could be anytime; it is set in England, but could be anywhere; the lead actor is an American, but could have been any nationality; the thief / killer was a lawyer . . . actually, that seems about right.

Solicitor Henry Daw (Hume Cronyn) who is also the Mayor-elect, gets a visit from Miss Wilkinson whom he has not seen in 9 years.  Miss Wilkinson tells Daw’s sister that she must be proud that he was just elected Mayor.  She says she is a little worried about taking on the role of Mayoress.  That’s another trend in AHP — men who are freakishly close to their sister.

Miss W tells Daw that she wishes to withdraw her investments from his management. She has an opportunity to double her money in 6 months due to a business proposition from a Nigerien Prince.  No wait, it’s her brother — it’s AHP, of course his sister is going to be his partner.  Business partner.

Sadly, Daw has spent Miss W’sahpimpromptu03 investment on 18 year old hookers, 20 year old scotch, and wasted the rest (coincidentally, that joke is also from 1916).

The next time we see Daw, he is digging one of those perfect graves that any slob seems to be able to dig on TV.  To AHP’s credit, at least he does break a sweat.  That might be because he dug it while wearing a vest and necktie.  Also the back-breaking digging.

That night, he strangles Miss W, which we witness as shadows on the wall.  He throws her over his shoulder like Jessica Tandy and takes her to the waiting grave.  Daw’s sister is awakened by him going down the stairs, but there is no indication that she witnesses any shenanigans.  Maybe she was just jealous.

ahpimpromptu04After he places Miss W in the grave (off-camera), we see that he has covered her with an exposed cement slab that doesn’t look at all out-of-place is this marshy area alongside the river.  As he is walking away, he seems to realize that he has forgotten something.  He puts a few shovel-fulls of dirt in a bucket, walks to the river, and dumps the dirt in the water.  To be honest, it took me a while to realize we just saw the first iteration of him getting rid of the dirt that Miss W’s body displaced.

To create the illusion that Miss W left on her own, Daw dresses up like a widowed Mulsim Invisible Woman going to work as a beekeeper near a Haz-Mat Facility in the Antarctic with fabric covering every inch of his body, including a scarf around his face. He then takes a carriage to the train station and heads toward Miss W’s home.

ahpimpromptu08During the dedication of a war memorial, a body is spotted floating down the river.  The police believe it could be Miss W and call Daw to identify the body.  Through a merry mix-up, Daw believes he has been caught in a lie and confesses to the murder — only to find that if he had kept his yap shut for 2 more minutes he would have gotten away with it.

Despite feeling a little familiar, another fine outing.  Hume Cronyn, especially, was very good, but then he was a highly regarded actor until he was 112 [1].  I also enjoyed the locations used.  When AHP starts with a title card establishing a non-US location, I always start out with a little dread, but this worked out nicely with great interiors and exteriors.

Post-Post:

  • [1] I see upon further research, he was only 91 when he died.
  • AHP Deathwatch:  David Frankham (“Holsom”) is still alive.  I’m not sure who his character was, and I’m not going back.
  • Title Analysis: Not exactly impromptu.  The murder was planned at least  several hours in advance.  Daw did the all-important prep-work of site-location, digging the hole, creating an intricate alibi, and procuring boots, a shovel and a bucket.
  • Words ending in U — more than you would think.