Alfred Hitchcock Presents – Out There: Darkness (01/25/59)

ahpoutthere09Bette Davis, cinema’s biggest mystery to anyone under 75, is talking to her little frou-frou dog.[1] And I mean really talking, like asking its opinion of her hat.  She is a little sad as this is her anniversary.  It has been 15 years since her husband died in the war; or went into hiding.

Davis is going out tonight to play Bridge with a dull couple [2]. Vanessa the dog will be going out with her “boyfriend” according to Davis. The boyfriend — well-groomed Doorman Eddie — rings the bell.  As soon as Vanessa sees Eddie, she barks and runs to him.  He is very anxious to get his $5 dog-walking fee in advance.

A few days later Eddie arrives unannounced on his day off.  This time he is unshaven in a ratty jacket and asks for more money.  His needs it for his girl who has been in a sanitarium for a year with lung problems.  She refuses his request for $50, instead giving him a lecture on budgeting.

ahpoutthere21The next night as she is ignominiously forced to walk her own dog, Vanessa leads her down a dark alley.  Dark alley in the 1950s meaning well-lit and clean with a couple of tidy cans.  She is attacked from behind by a man in a hat. Repeat, suspect is hatted.

Later in her apartment she tells the police she lost her wedding ring as well as $180.  That’s a wad of money — $1,500 in 2016 dollars — so she must be either pretty well-off or was looking for Joe Buck [3]. She describes the attacker — tall, rough cheap jacket material.  Vanessa didn’t bark at first, almost as if she knew the man. She goes down to the station to identify a suspect. She says it is not him.

The next day, Eddie is back at work, shaven and in uniform.  Davis tells him she was robbed, but all she cares about is the ring.  They have a conversation about whether the thief would return the ring for $500.  Eddie says he doesn’t think that plan will work, and Davis dismisses him.  This a tricky role to play as Eddie needs to appear only plausibly guilty.

ahpoutthere30Sgt Kirby shows up as Eddie is leaving.  Davis tells him about Eddie asking for $50 the day before.  She is a little upset that Eddie did not take her $500 offer.  She says she can still feel his jacket as he choked her. Eddie protests that he did not take her ring.  She IDs Eddie as the thief.

A year after she sends Eddie to the big house, Sgt Kirby stops by.  He tells her Eddie never had her ring.  It was found at the home of the suspect she let go.  When Kirby reminds her that she sent an innocent man to jail, she protests, “Well if I made a mistake, it was an honest one.  After all you are the detective.  It’s up to you to check these things!”

She continues, “He had no alibi at the trial.  A jury found him guilty.”  Kirby reminds her that it was based on her identification.  He says he will feel better when Eddie is released.

ahpoutthere36

World’s first money shot

She asks for the ring, but Kirby says they will need it as evidence until Eddie is free.  She says she hopes it isn’t weeks and weeks. Kirby suggests that Eddie is probably thinking the same thing. Bravo.

Eddie gets his old job back.  One day, Davis is taking Vanessa out when she sees him in the elevator — awkward!  She tells him she spoke to the manager about him being rehired — so I guess he should be grateful.  And that it wasn’t easy testifying against him — so I guess he should feel sorry for her.  And that Vanessa has missed him — so I guess he should feel guilty about being out of town.  Still attempting to ease her conscience, she gives Eddie the $500 she had offered a year earlier.

Davis:  Oh by the way, how is your fiancee?

Eddie:  She died while I was in prison.

That wipes the oblivious smile off her face.  Some time later, after walking Vanessa, she is strangled in her apartment.  This time it is Eddie.  He spills the Benjamins over her body in what might have been the cinema’s first money shot, and is back in jail quicker than Tobias Beecher.

Davis was hard to figure out in this one.  Clearly she felt some guilt at sending Eddie to the slammer, but it certainly didn’t consume her.  I think it was more a matter of him being merely a doorman.  She didn’t look down on him, and was always nice to him, but she knew there was an understood, unspoken distance between them.  When he asked for money that unspoken pact was breached.  That said, she didn’t purposely send him away.  She was just able to conceive that a mere doorman might have done this.

Her decision was partially based on Vanessa not initially barking, but only when she was attacked — therefore, she believed the attacker to be someone she knew.  This is laughably false as the dog gives a bark at Eddie every time she sees him — except the time he killed her.  I think this is more of a production goof than any maliciousness on Davis’ part.

Davis is a little over the top as the crazy cat lady — OK, it’s a poodle, but that is soooo close. And James Congdon is a little stiff as Eddie.  It could have been given a little more energy, but it was a decent episode.

Post-Post:

  • [1] Seriously, what were people thinking back then?  If Charlize Theron went back in time would the people’s heads explode at her beauty?  Would they even recognize it?
  • [2] Contract Bridge sounds dull.  Contact Bridge, now you’ve got something.  Play a thousand hands of Bridge and . . .
  • [3] The prostitute, not the sports announcer.
  • AHP Deathwatch:  James Congdon, born in 1921 still hanging in there!  He is the father of Amanda Congdon who I vaguely remember as hosting Rocketboom ten years ago on YouTube.  It appears to no longer exist, and the website is dark.
  • Title Analysis:   Pretty murky.  What’s with the colon (which sometimes appears as a hyphen)?  It is almost as bad as the Star Trek reboot titles.

Sky Goddess – Clive Trent (1937)

sascoverNeale, the American, called himself The Tumbleweed because, like tumbleweeds of his native west, he was forever rolling.

Like the tumbleweeds on The Outer Limits, this one is sentient.  He wants a wife, kids and a home . . . he didn’t want to roll.

He currently holds the cushy post of Acting Deputy Commissioner[1] for Allaha the White Queen of Amatonga in Rhodesia.  Since Robert Mugabe was only 13 years old, it might have still still been a nice place to live.

The White Queen is the son of an English Commander who apparently did not believe in the Brexit, because he sired over a hundred children.  They were of “all shades and coloring” but she was the only one white enough to be queen.  She grew up to marry “the coal-black Chief of the Amatonga”.  The Chief was killed by a lion when “learning to hunt with a rifle instead of a spear”, so  Allaha ascended to the throne.  Later, after her stomach calmed down, she ascended to power.

Back in the present, Allaha and Neale receive word that Lady Diana Sutwell and Fred Blake crashed flying into Capetown.  “Three-score of blacks with spears and loin-cloths” are dispatched to find the white woman . . . and the dude, if he happens to be there.  Before they even have the chance for a single man to be killed by lions — did the Chief’s death teach them nothing? — Blake and Lady Di stumble into camp on their own.  Quickly, her body language is nagging Neale to death:

No brassiere restrained [her breasts].  They stood out, firm little mounds pressing against that shirt of hers as if she was saying “Yes I am a woman.  Now what the hell are you going to do about it?”

Hips alone that would drive a man crazy.  She stood smiling at Neale as if she was saying, “What the hell?  I’m a woman, yes.  What does that mean to you?”

Despite having bedded Allaha the night before, Neale tells Lady Di — the daughter of a duke — that he loves her and wants to marry her despite his lowly station in life.  He knows this is as unlikely as a chauffeur marrying the Lord’s daughter.  He tells her straight-out, though, that he wants to have the sex with her.  She declines, saying that she is content to wait for Mr. Right.

Uber-respecter of women Neale leaves to find the other white meat, Allaha.  Unable to locate her, he circles back to the house.  He overhears Diana telling his assistant Roscoe that of course she and Blake were more than just travel-buddies.  She then disses Neale, saying she prefers a man who lives life to the fullest like Blake.  She and Roscoe then begin making out.  What?

Neale orders Roscoe back to his post.  Blake enters and seems to have no problem with either Roscoe or Neale banging his girl.  Worried of an attack by the natives, Neale prepares by picking up Diana’s clothes.  He says, “I’ll give these back to you before we leave.  Till then you’re going to be just a human female creature, and you’re going about without clothes like any female of the animal species.”  

The natives, led by Allaha, attack the house.  The four white bullet-chuckers easily dispatch the natives attacking the house with spears.  Blake suggests that maybe Diana — who fought while still naked — might get her clothes back.  Diana says, “Hell I don’t want them!” just to torture Neale.  Yeah, that’ll show him.  I mean literally show him.

The natives return to the house and set it on fire — which really should have been Plan A.  The gang is rescued by the Rhodesian police.  After all the stereotypes and racial epithets that I have skipped over, there is this surprisingly progressive passage:

Through the bush came a troop of hard-bitten Rhodesian police troopers firing with carbines from their saddles driving the natives into the depths of the scrub, tramping them down, imposing on them the terror that the white man exercises on the native everywhere in the world.

Only Neale and Diana survive the siege.  That night he goes to her tent.  She says, “You fought so gallantly and I had thought you were just a weakling.  I couldn’t love you when you came to me with your life story instead of dominating me.”

They agree that they hate each, so naturally start making out.  The next day Lady Diana heads back to Buluwayo, hopefully not tailed by paparazzi.

Meh.  But it does deserve special recognition for most gratuitous use of nudity in a story.

Post-post:

  • [1] Or Deputy Acting Commissioner according to his boss.
  • She really is referred to as Lady Di in the story.
  • First published in March 1937.

Twilight Zone – Kentucky Rye (10/11/85)

tzkentuckyrye01Bob Spindler has just closed some sort of big deal that is not important enough to describe to the viewers.  It was big enough to score him a commission of $1,500.  That’s still only $3k today.  A nice payday, but not life-changing — unless you’re Bob Spindler.

He squanders it on buying round after round at the local bar rather than judiciously investing it in 20 year old dancers in the VIP Room.  Or maybe a new jacket — the Murray Hamilton Collection would be a step-up.  He calls his wife and promises he will have just one more before heading for home. He continues to get so loaded that even free drinks aren’t enough to keep his co-workers at the same table with him.

Kudos for them trying to get his keys, but maybe they should have tried a little harder. On the way home, he has a near-miss with an on-coming car and a near-hit with some trees.  Although, in literal terms, it was the other way around.  Neither he nor his jacket is seriously injured.  He blames the other driver, creating instant empathy with viewers everywhere.  Turns out he has fortuitously crashed right in front of the titular Kentucky Rye bar.

tzkentuckyrye14From this point forward, good structure would dictate that everything happens for a reason, leading to an logical conclusion. Unless the desired result was confusion, this was not the case.

He goes into the bar and his wound from the crash is magically healed, he beats the local undefeated champ at arm-wrestling, the bartender calls for drinks on the house, and the bar is on sale for only $1,600 with insanely low APR.  Spindler goes behind the bar and announces another round on the house.  He opens up the taps and fills two pitchers with mostly suds.[1]  He tries to bargain the owner down, but he stubbornly stays at $1,600.

Here’s where I am lost.  Knowing what is coming, I can say there is no reason he should own the bar.  Even if I concede that he must own it and thus it is available at a fire (of Hell) sale price, why is it made just out-of-reach at $100 more than his Commission? And didn’t he blow a chunk of that on booze for his co-workers anyway?

tzkentuckyrye17A stranger bathed in angelic light like Warren Beatty[2] offers to put up the remaining $100.  Spindler buys himself a bar!  He drunkenly tours his new kingdom.  The customers suddenly become motionless or very slow — why wouldn’t it be one or the other?  Spindler passes out and awakens in a busted-ass, dusty abandoned building — the bar he bought last night.  So I guess beer-goggles work on real estate too.

Out of the window he sees his car being hooked up to a wrecker.  The man who put up the $100 appears and says he is the driver Spindler ran off the road last night.  Outside, he sees the man being covered with a sheet and loaded into a hearse as his wife grieves.  Oddly, the wife was in the bar last night even though she is still alive.  And who were all those other customers?  Spindler sees his own body being loaded up and screams from the boarded-up building.

So what was the point of his victim putting up the $100?  The bartender laughs maniacally and says, “It’s yours!  It’s all yours!”  So is he stuck in the bar forever?  Is that his hell — an alcoholic stuck in a bar?  What difference does it make if he owns it? And what does that really mean, that he owns it?  Surely some living guy actually has the title and pays the taxes.

tzkentuckyrye21In the big picture, he did bad.  He is consigned to eternity in this abandoned bar where he will be eternally tormented by the sunny reality he can only see through slits in the shuttered windows.  I’m totally on board with that; I’m just not sure why we needed more dead ends than Sim City.

Despite my bitching, I still rate it 80 Proof.

Post-Post:

  • [1] This might be the real reason he goes to hell.  It is fun watching the background extras dutifully try to pour it into glasses, though.
  • [2] Uber obscure.  I saw Warren Beatty on Larry King’s CNN show once eons ago. Thinking it would make him appear like a young stud again, he had the crew bathe him in an amber light which succeeded only in making him look pathetic; but still better than me.
  • Bob Spindler is played by Jeffrey DeMunn from the watchable season of The Walking Dead.  OK, it got good again after they left the farm.  But, for the love of God, let it be Rick that Nagen brained in the season 6 finale.
  • TZ Legacy:  A Nice Place to Visit also had a man end up in hospitable surroundings who ended up with a manically-laughing minion of Satan.
  • Skipped Segment:  Children’s Zoo.  OK for a short, one-note film, but not really what I’m here for.
  • IMDb and YouTube.

Twilight Zone – Healer (10/11/85)

tzhealer10Jackie (Eric Bogosian) is not much of a burglar.  He has just scaled a rope a) in front of a museum on the side facing the street, and b) left the rope dangling behind him.  Maybe that jerk can climb a rope, but I’m smarter. Whoa, gym class flashback.

Jackie — the default name for low-life TV crooks — seems to be looking for something specific.  For reasons unknown and unexplained, he settles on a rock generically-labelled Religious Talisman.  He grabs the rock, but sets off the alarm.  He is shot by a security guard with a similar aptitude for his job, because Jackie still manages to escape out the window and down the rope after being shot.  To be fair, though, the guard arrived in less time than it took Jackie to run to the window.

Jackie is curled up in pain, still clutching the rock when it begins to glow.  A moment later, he pulls up his shirt to reveal his wound has healed.  Back at his apartment, he hears a commotion and discoverers his hairy neighbor neighbor Harry has dropped dead.  Jackie runs home to get the stone.  When he returns, he keeps the stone hidden in his hand as he pretends to heal Harry by the laying on of hands.

Harry later tells Jackie that he had a near-death experience.  He left his body, could see the neighbors, saw the usual bright light.  Jackie has stupidly revealed the rock to him. Harry says, “That baby is going to be our ticket to fame and fortune.”  So suddenly it’s OUR ticket?

tzhealer11In the next scene, after some unspecified period of time, Jackie is in a white suit on a stage.  He has wisely started going by the name Brother John — a faith healer just like the ones on TV; except legitimate.  He is kneeling before a girl in a wheelchair and asks for her to be healed.  The young actress seems like she couldn’t care less. She does at least give a smile when BroJo yanks her out of the chair and she is able to walk.

After he leaves the stage, Harry takes to a podium to ask people to send whatever they can spare so their work can continue.  As theft and misusing sacred powers go, this ain’t really all that bad.  The dope who hid this rock away in a museum is the real criminal.  I’m sure it was put there by top men.  Top Men.

BroJo is actually happy to be helping people whereas Harry is all about the “Love Offerings”.  He wants to expand the program to 90 minutes to help more people, but Harry complains that will eat into their profits.  As he is removing his make-up, BroJo sees a man behind him in the mirror.

tzhealer15Pop Quiz:  Is it a Cop, a Construction Worker, an Indian, a Cowboy, a Soldier, or a Biker?  This is Hollywood — of course, it is the mystical Indian because all Indians have magic powers.  Or, in this case, Mexicans playing Indians as is the actor Joaquin Martinez.[1] He has come to get the Healing Stone which is sacred to his people.  BroJo is ready to return the stone, but Harry refuses.  The Indian, tells him that after this choice, his path might not be pleasant.

BroJo gets a visit from a gangster he worked for 11 years ago.  He has lung cancer and wants BroJo to cure him.  He agrees to cure the mobster for $2 million.  When he tries, though, the rock does not work.  He is worried about the rock not working for that night’s show, so they grab a deaf kid from the audience and bring him backstage.

Like the girl, the young actor shows no emotion at all at the prospect of being cured. BroJo palms the stone and lays on them hands.  Nothing.  The boy’s hearing does not return, but the Indian does.  He says the rock only works for those who heal unselfishly. And it seems to take the power back retroactively — BroJo collapses with his old bullet wound. He hands the rock to the boy and shows him how to heal the wound.  Then he takes the rock back and cures the boy’s deafness.  He then laterals the rock to the Indian, who runs it in for a touchdown.[2]

tzhealer25BroJo walks away from the church. He has a renewed sense of caring for people which will last until his Mafioso pal puts another bullet in his gut for not curing him.

Post-Post:

  • [1] Maybe I was too hasty on the Indian thing.  It’s hard to say for sure what they were going for or if they were purposely sending mixed signals.  He did not have a ponytail or braided hair like most Hollywood Indians, and he wore a sarape.  On the other hand, he was wearing beads which you don’t usually see on a Hollywood Mexican.
  • The actor is not much help.  He was born in Mexico City, but his last five roles were Chief, Enrique, Xela, Running Bear and Geronimo.
  • Wikipedia  and Wikia call him a “Native American man”, so it must be true.
  • [2] Thus exhausting my knowledge of sports.
  • Available on YouTube.

River of Fire – Ken Cooper (1937)

sascoverA Spicy Adventure story set largely in the bayou which goes a whole five lines before mentioning “barbaric voodoo!”

Dr. Bob Carson is asked if he is willing to be assigned by the government to Okochee Bayou, said to be “a fester of filth and disease.”  The doctor thinks of “Pasteur . . . Lister . . . Walter Reed.”  Although he might have actually been thinking of Reed’s namesake when he heard about the filth and disease.  Dr. Carson not only accepts the assignment, he intends to take his wife Enid with him.

As their guide rows the Carsons across the bayou, they are chilled by the eerie calls of owls and bullfrogs.  “Some folks say dey’s duh spirits ub duh dead,” he says, channeling Buckwheat.  With those comforting words, he drops them at their new shack.  He leaves, but says he’ll be back in a week . . . if they are still there.  Bwa-ha-ha-ha!

They are surprised to be welcomed by Boll Eddinger.  Maybe surprised because he is described as a giant; or maybe because he is inexplicably wearing a sombrero in the Louisiana swamp.  He says he is happy to have a local doctor again.  A lot of the local “white trash” have been dying lately.  The local custom is to burn the bodies and eat the ashes so that the deceased’s soul stays alive in them, and on the carpet.

He says the locals don’t much cotton to that big-city medicine.  “Last week a girl ran a sliver through her hand.  They didn’t wait to see what come of it.  They just chopped the hand off.”  After Boll leaves, Bob assures his wife, “In a month, we’ll have them eating out of our hand.”  You know, if they don’t get a sliver.

Unbeknownst to the Carsons, after Boll leaves they are still not alone.  “Neither of them saw the face at the window.  It was thin, sallow and heavily bearded.  Dark malevolent eyes peered out from under scraggly unkempt brows.  The yellow green tusks of root rotted teeth hung viciously over a twisted lower lip.  It was the face of a maniac.”  But not so maniacal that he didn’t check out Enid’s boobs as she fooled around with Bob.

The next night, “a barefoot girl in a filthy rag of a cotton dress” knocks at the door.  She is nonetheless beautiful and seems to be wearing nothing else.  Bob goes with her to check on her sick father.  After Bob is gone, the hideous face is again checking Enid out.  This time she sees it and screams.  He opens the door and tells her, white-coated tongue a-wagging, that folks in these parts don’t like strangers and they’d best be shipping back to where they came from.  Enid replies with the punchline from an old Ronald Reagan joke:  But we’re from the government, and we’re to help!

He snaps that they don’t want no help and that they have ways making people leave.  He is joined by a “shuffling, gray-haired hag.”  She begins chanting a curse that terrorizes Enid to the point she imagines a devilish beast attacking her and ripping her clothes off.

Meanwhile, Bob is following the girl.  “A twig had caught in the girl’s dress bodice, ripped it down the front.  It had fallen from her shoulders.  Her youthfully firm breasts were bare.”  Being a doctor, Bob’s first concern is for the bruises revealed on the girl’s bare back.  She says her father beat her.  Bob realizes that she was sent to lure him from the shack, leaving Enid alone.

He races back to the shack and kills his wife’s attackers, but the real action comes when he and Enid try to escape by boat.  The locals begin attacking them.  They throw cans of oil into the water, setting the swamp on fire.  As the old boat is beginning to burn, Bob and Enid dive out and swim under water to the shore.  Not familiar with the old going-under-water trick, or bathing in general, the locals suddenly hail them as heroes.

Points for the setting and going the extra nautical mile for the ending.  But these stories are getting to be a bit of a slog.

Post-Post:

  • First published:  March 1937.
  • I fell into a burning river of fire.