Tales of Tomorrow – The Children’s Room (02/29/52)

ttchildroom02Bill suggests to his young son Walt that it is time to go to bed, and that it might be better to go now rather than wait for his “old lady” to say so.  Walt is engrossed in his studies but takes the time to help his old man [1] with a physics problem.

Walt points out that Bill has made a simple mistake in converting, from Fahrenheit to Centigrade [2].  To be honest, this hits close to home — I screwed up that 9/5 vs 5/9 thing on a test in high school and am still bitter about it.

Walt’s old lady Rose enters and indeed orders him off to bed.  Bill smacks him on the butt and tells him to head upstairs.  Walt seems to need no sleep, but his mother insists that he go to bed and not play pup-tent with his textbook; or copy of Spicy Adventure.

Rose is appalled at Walt’s behavior, but Bill defends him as just being a normal boy with an IQ of 240!  Just like me, except for the IQ part.  Rose insists there is something wrong with him.  “Half the time he speaks a language that makes no sense.  He uses words an ordinary person can’t even comprehend.  And those horrible books with the strange markings.”  When Rose asks him what they mean, Walt says she is stupid.

After Rose goes to visit her mother, Bill goes up to Walt’s room.  He is reading one of those books with the strange markings.  Walt shows his father the book and he too can read the odd language.  I don’t know what the text’s symbols are, but I’d hate to try to board an airplane with it [3]. Walt says he got the book from the titular Children’s Room at the library. Bill remembers seeing no such room.

Bill takes the book to the library and is ridiculed for suggesting that it came from there. The librarian says, “Are you trying to tell me that these foolish hieroglyphics are readable!”  He asks for the Children’s Room and is told that there is no such place, but on the bright side, she doesn’t call the police.

There is a neat (for 1952) lighting effect where a wall of the library transforms into an entrance to the Children’s Room.  The librarian instructs Bill to read the book, as he is one of the few adults who can understand it.  The book tells him that he is a “mutation, a superior human being, a deviation from the normal.”  It informs him that such mutants must unite, because aliens are on the way to enslave us.  She says she needs to take Walt and that he can come with them.  Rose isn’t smart enough to join them, though.

ttchildroom13The next week, Rose chews Bill out for going out the last five nights. Last night, she followed him to the library. Maybe he is into the librarian type — like, you know, a librarian.  Bill implores her to understand for just a while longer.  She snaps at Walt for reading books she can’t understand. He replies, “Poor mother, you’re not one of us.  You’re just plain, poor mother.”  Walt tells her he is a superior human being.  Maybe Bill is right — this is a typical teenager.

Bill returns home to find Rose in tears.  When Rose tried to take the book away from Walt, he slapped her.  They go to Walt’s room where Bill tears up the book — i.e., renders it unreadable by tearing out a couple of pages.  Bill says they will go fishing the next day and everything will be A-OK.  Walt seems to agree, but after his parents leave, he gets another volume of the book from the secret place where he hides the swimsuit pages torn from the Sears catalog [4].  Hearing the call of the librarian, he leaves a note and climbs out the window.

This is more ambitious than most of the episodes.  Tales of Tomorrow had already used the concept of evolving humans in The Dark Angel and The Miraculous Serum, but this one was more intense.  It was primarily children involved, they are turned against their parents, there is a clandestine cabal running things, and an alien invasion seems imminent.

Frankly, this last point was ill-conceived as it lends some positive purpose to the events.

ttchildroom06Post-Post:

  • [1] Strange how “old lady” is offensive and disrespectful, but “old man” sounds warm and chummy.
  • [2] Actually the name was officially changed to Celsius in 1948.  Like the Metric system, it just can’t seem to catch-on.
  • [3] I mean like El-Al — there would be no problem in this country.
  • [4] See, this was pre-Playboy.  And Sears was a huge chain of department stores “where America shopped”.  And a catalog was this 3-inch thick paper magazine they would send out with pictures of their products.  And teenage boys . . . yada yada.

The Isle of Monsters – Jane Thomas (1935)

sascoverA row-boat carrying a butchered man washes ashore in Montaba, India.  The man has no ears, no tongue, and his heart has been ripped out of his chest.  Chief Investigator Juan  Anthony somehow recognizes the body as Morris and vows to get to the bottom of this.

Morris had been looking for information on the High Priestess Vishnaw who was thought to be living on the titular Isle del Monstruos.  Anthony reaches into Morris’s loin-cloth and finds a book.  Dude, use a rolled up sock like everyone else!

Morris wrote that he witnessed the horrible Dance of Fertilization.   Doesn’t really sound that horrible.  Unless it was like that time when I woke up one night and saw Tony banging Carmela on the Sopranos. Yeah, that was kind of horrible.

He reads Morris’s description of Vishnaw.  The legendary Indian deity is naturally described as “caucasian . . . flaming red hair.”  Anthony and his sidekick Hack Larson row to the island to get the scoop.

The search gets off to a good start — after the three hours of back-breaking rowing, I mean.  Their boat is suddenly surrounded by naked blonde babes in the water.  The girls with their “firmly molded breasts” make the men’s dingy move like they were motor-boating. They are propelled to the shore.

They continue rowing into a subterranean river where they hear a “groan . . . a low, sobbing sound,” then the sound suddenly stops —  sure sounds like a Fertilization Dance to me.  They see a set of stairs carved into the stone and tie up the boat.  The moaner was a bloody man now laying dead on a raised alter.  The tall blonde High Priestess has cut off his ears and ripped out his heart as “20-30 of her nearly naked disciples” look on with 40-60 bare breasts.  Within seconds, Anthony and Hack are captured.

Anthony awakens and is surrounded by vestal virgins.  He is hailed as the returned Great White God Vishnaw, and is being prepped for a union with the beautiful High Priestess. After having lots of the sex, Anthony understandably dozes off.  Only after he wakes up does he remember, oh yeah, wasn’t there another dude with me?  Yeah, the poor sap I saw dragged into a pit by some long hairy arms.  Anyhoo, wonder where that High Priestess babe got to?

In the darkness, Anthony sees something creeping toward him.  “A huge, hairy body with welts across its shoulders slithered toward the divan.  Two great eyes like balls of fire gleamed evilly from its glistening skull.  It left a slimy trail behind it like some enormous slug emerging from the bowels of the earth.”

As the thing gets between Anthony and the High Priestess’s “firm breasts, slowly rising and falling abdomen . . . the slimly tapering heads and legs,” he jumps on and starts a-wrasslin’.  Once again, he is knocked unconscious.

When he wakes up this time, he is not surrounded by blonde virgins, but six or eight ghastly beasts; well, they’re probably also virgins.  The things are chowing down on the dead man he saw earlier.

Anthony escapes and finds his gun.  He witnesses Hack being brought in as the next sacrifice.  Anthony goes all Travis Bickle and rescues Hack from being de-eared, de-tongued, and de-hearted.  They row away from the island after leaving a massive explosive charge. This story is so old, it was probably C-1. [1]

A fairly mediocre offering from this collection.

Post-Post:

  • [1] The first C-4 was just called C and developed in WWII.
  • First published in August 1935.
  • Also that month:  Will Rogers killed in plane crash.
  • Isle of Lucy

Night Visions – Voices (09/24/02)

nvvoices1Sandra slides into that one-ring circus of horrors, the MRI machine. There is nothing this show can do that’s any more unnerving than that. In fact they should just cancel the series right now!  Oh. [1]

Afterwards, the doctor tests her hearing, but she is still deaf as a post.[2]  It is heart-breaking as the doctor tells her the experimental procedure failed and she will be deaf forever.

She returns to her job as a courtroom artist.  Perez — Lombardo Boyar, who played the most annoying character to ever appear in the eight seasons of 24 [3] — is on trial for a murder he did not commit.  While sketching the trial, Sandra hears a voice in her head saying things like “Sticky blood.  Someone clean his hands.”  During a recess, she is able to determine the voice is coming from Detective Malone who investigated the case.

nvvoices3As Malone takes the stand, she hears “Now they pay . . . I will help you, God.”  As he is questioned about his actions at the scene, Sandra hears him say, “I put the gun in his hand” as he describes a complete different scenario at the crime scene.

She reads his mind that he blames himself for his little brother’s death. She tells him it is not his fault.  He apologizes for assaulting her and she forgives him even gives a little smile.

I trimmed out a lot of words there because I just didn’t care.  It is a fine premise, but it just doesn’t come together.  Sadly, the uni-named, quad-sensed Terrylene as Sandra is a large part of the problem.  Boyar didn’t have much to do, but was his usual caricature of a Mexican.  John Finn — best known to me as Michael Kritschgau on The X-Files — is always interesting, though.

Wish I had something clever to add, but I think that in every post.

nvvoices4Post-Post:

  • [1] This was indeed the final episode of the series.
  • [2] Other “deaf as a” autofills from Google:  Doornail, Doorknob, Haddock.
  • [3] On the other hand, he was excellent in Big Ass Spider — which tragically has been retitled Mega-Spider.  Is this the PC version?  Did too many people with gigantic asses complain?
  • Director Ian Toynton also directed one of Boyar’s episodes of 24.

Night Visions – Patterns (09/24/02)

nvpatterns03Psychiatrist Dr. Critchley (Miguel Ferrer) arrives at his office to find a police officer waiting with a prisoner.  He tells the prisoner Martin (Michael McDowell) he is being held for observation to see if he is a danger to himself or anyone else. Martin smirks and says his being there is a danger to everyone.

Martin was busted for harassing a man that he claimed was sitting on the wrong bench in the park.  Again, he says that posed a risk to everyone.  Critchley asks him about the obsessive folding and unfolding he is doing with a piece of paper, kind of an OCD [1] ritual.

Martin tells a story from his childhood.  If a bird flew on to a telegraph wire and stayed there for more than 10 seconds, nothing bad would happen to his family — other than living in the last neighborhood in America to have telegraph wires.  He did this every day.  He also flipped light switches on and off, spaced books on his shelves perfectly, avoided sidewalk cracks, any kind of ritual to keep his family and the world safe.

The story is utterly predictable as it moves from point A to point A- in a perfectly straight line.  And yet, surprisingly, it has little padding.  Somehow, this simple episode accomplishes what I could not in elementary school — it uses its time wisely.[2]

nvpatterns04Of course Martin’s OCD tics are going to be the glue that keeps the world together.  Of course Critchley is going to be skeptical.  Of course Martin is going to be found to be telling the truth.  And of course Critchley will inherit the burden that he was skeptical of.

However, without watching the episode again — which ain’t gonna happen — I can’t remember a single place it went wrong.

A big chunk of the second half is just Critchley walking round seeing the fabric of society, the laws of physics, and just plain common sense break down.  Some of it is pretty dark — his chirpy nurse becomes crabby and eventually hangs herself.

In the opening scene Critchley walks past a woman sitting in her car seat sideways, with her feet on the ground.  It is completely panned by without comment.  Kudos to the show for having the same woman in the same position later hitting herself in the head repeatedly with a shoe.  Just fun stuff!

The men are not immune.  The security guard is naked and another doctor is urinating in the hallway.

nvpatterns22Some of the effects are just goofy fun.  Signs are spelled backwards, fish fall from the sky.  Firemen show up with flamethrowers instead of waterhoses.  This lacks the added dimension to make it a Fahrenheit 451 homage, but it is pretty amusing that they are streaming fire at a Ford Pinto.  They could have waited 20 minutes and it probably would have gone up by itself.[3]

The episode is aided by the presence of McDowell and Ferrer who are always great.  And by some clever ideas and fun visuals.  Simple, but it gets to its destination without blowing up.  Unlike a Pinto.

Post-Post:

  • [1] Origami Compulsive Disorder.
  • Alternatively, Orange Clockwork Disorder in honor of McDowell.
  • [2] This still bugs me.  What the hell was I not doing?  I even took my own books to class to read during down-time.  OK, maybe it was Mad Magazine, but still.
  • [3] A comic version of the Pinto clip.

The Black 13 – Ellery Watson Calder (1935)

sascoverAfter the last couple of racially-charged stories, I was relieved to see the title referred to a roulette wheel.

Steve King plunks down his last $5 on the titular black 13.  In a million-to-one [1] shot, his number actually hits and the croupier pushes $175 his way.  Another gambler reaches for it and says, “I beg your pardon.  That was my bet.” Fortun-ately she is “a young girl.  And damned attractive” or she would have ended up like Jake Jennings.

Inexplicably, he lets the girl have the loot and strolls out of the casino.  He hears someone come up behind him.  “It was the raven-haired wren who’d cabbaged my thirty-five blue chips.”

She knows King and his tragic story.  He was a pilot who crashed a plane in the desert, killing 3 passengers.  Though he was found to be drunk, she knows that he was set up. After the crash, someone poured gin down his throat while he was unconscious.  If he goes back to the US, the FCC will put him in jail (the FAA being 23 years in the future).  She also knows that his plane was sabotaged.

The girl hands him $175 which is precisely opposite to the transaction that I am used to with women.  She was just trying to get his attention with the cash grab.  She tells King to come to her room at 11 pm.

“She had discarded her evening gown.  She was clad in a diaphanous, flowing negligee. Black crepe it was, and her white body showed through it like a Turk’s dream of paradise.”  She immediately tells him to hide in the closet.  “What kind of shenanigan is this?” he asks.  Who says these stories aren’t educational?  I didn’t even know it was possible to have a single shenanigan.

Another man is coming to her room in 10 minutes.  Her plan is for King to conk him on the head.  They will then haul his body to an airplane which they will take back to El Norte.  King says he’s in enough trouble already and declines.  The girl starts coming on to him.  Looking a gift-ho in the mouth, he wants to know if she thinks he’s cute, or just needs his help.  His solution: “I ripped the negligee all the way open and fondled her breasts.”

She actually just needed his help, so throws him out . . . thus no longer having his help. King is a good egg, though, and circles around behind the building.  Knowing the girl is in trouble, he climbs the fire escape to her window hoping to witness her visitor; and maybe her boobs again.

The man comes in and grabs the girl.  She does not toss him out as she did King.  After producing some secret plans he asked for, she has a secret plan of her own.  She attempts to slip a Mickey into his drink, but he catches her.  As he begins roughing her up, King smashes through the window.  He conks the man on the head, so the original plan is back on track.

As she races to get dressed, King gets glimpse of her “white melons”.  They had been mere “hillocks” 2 pages ago.

On the way to the airport, the girl says there was a government agent on the plane King had crashed.  An organization of international spies coincidentally called Black 13 sabotaged the plane.  After the crash, they swooped in, lifted the secret plans off the agent’s dead body, poured gin down King’s gin-hole [2], and stole 500 packs of peanuts. She finally reveals her name — Yolande Carteret — and says the agent was her brother Ted Carteret!  King collates these facts . . . roulette, black 13, Black 13, government agent, secret plan, sabotage . . . and concludes Yolande Carteret is not married — ha cha cha!

Black 13 intercepts them at the airport and plans to drop them over the desert from 5,000 feet.  There is a double-cross, a fake double-cross, gun fire, a barf-bag, and the other shenanigan.  King is able to save the day.  The spy ring is smashed, his name is cleared, and he gets the girl.  He celebrates by pawing the “creamy white, velvety surface of her swelling  white breasts” like a TSA Agent right there on the tarmac.

Another pretty good outing for what it is.

Post-Post:

  • [1] And, by “million”, I mean thirty-seven.  Odds are 36-to-1 on a French wheel. This story takes place in Mexico, though, so I’m going with the American version. Why is ours 37-to-1?  Donald Trump is right — we get screwed on every deal!
  • [2] i.e. alco-hole.
  • First published in August 1935.
  • Also that month in plane crash news:  Will Rogers dies.
  • Ellery Watson Calder was previously heard from with The Tattooed Blonde.
  • Heh, hehe . . . cabbaged.