I guess this is the new thing . . .
Taking the month of April off to think of a caption . . .
I guess this is the new thing . . .
Taking the month of April off to think of a caption . . .
The episode opens with carefully composed shots of a priest killing himself. The shots call attention to themselves, but in a good way. They don’t take you out of the story, but they do let you know the director isn’t just a point-and-shoot guy — hey, it’s TV’s Carl Schenkel, director of the great Homebodies.
Tom Skerritt is playing the role he was born to play — Tom Skerritt. The mustached, stoic, competent, weary everyman / manlyman he is portraying this time is Detective Frank Sheen. He goes to the scene of the crime — an abandoned convent — but no one answers his knocks. As he looks for another way in, a POV shot from inside the house begins shaking, a plastic tarp over the window melts and reveals Sheen standing in the snow below through the hole. Way to go, Carl! 
He finds a way in and sees a nun sitting alone surrounded by a hundred candles. He knocks on the glass door of the chapel, but she does not respond. We do see that, like most TV nuns, she is a beautiful young woman. He goes to the church to get a key and is a complete dick to the priest.
The priest tells him the house is infested by demons. Years ago “a young nun desecrated the blessed sacrament by committing suicide on the holy altar.” After hearing sounds of howling and banging on walls, and finding excrement smeared on the walls, the convent was shut down.
After that blatant bit of exposition, Sheen returns to the convent with the key. He sees the young nun. She says she was a novice here. The dialogue is a little dry, but it is intriguingly shot. Schenkel shoots her very close so that the entire frame is her cowl tented over her lovely face like she is peeking up from under the sheets. If that was the intent, more kudos to Carl; if not, I really need to get some help. She says she knows Sheen is a cop “by the bulge . . . of your gun.” She tells him to watch out for the demon and walks away.
Sheen walks upstairs and finds the usual haunted house stuff — shaking, noises, being pushed down by an invisible demon. He goes back to Father Exposition  for more info. He tells Sheen there is no nun there, the convent has been closed since 1910.
He goes back — whew — to the convent, drinking from a liquor bottle he got from a diner. Hitting the hooch in the room where the suicide occurred, he has a B&W flashback to an argument with his ex-wife and ex-daughter. He lost his temper and smacked his daughter. She ran out onto a fire escape and fell to her death.
Back in the abandoned convent, he hears a noise — his ex-wife Linda walks in. Well, he seems to see Linda, but we see the young nun. She says she doesn’t care about her new husband’s big house or big car — she mercifully ends the big list there. She tells Sheen she wants him back.
Meanwhile, Father Exposition finds an old newspaper about the novice who committed suicide at the convent. The headline says February 19, 1912, but he said the convent had been abandoned since 1910. Of course, the newspaper banner also says February 19th was a Thursday when it was actually a Monday, so it is clearly fake news. The picture is of the nun.  Even though this provides no useful information that he did not already know, he speeds out to the convent to see Sheen. Spoiler: Sheen shoots him.
Sheen and Linda/Nun have just made out. From behind, he says he loves her (no, I mean
orally verbally). She turns around and says, “I love you too, Daddy.” He screams his daughter’s name. The police find him in a corner blankly clicking empty chamber after empty chamber into his mouth. The cops just let him click away, but how do they know he isn’t just Russian-Rouletting his way to the money-shot?
This is another one you don’t want to think about too much. It is always complicated when a character sees someone different than the audience. They were wise to cast an actress that had a small birthmark on her nose. Even at that, I was not positive who I was seeing at least one time. I believe it was the same actress at all times in the convent scenes.  It was just jarring then that he screams his daughter’s name when we have a close-up of the woman we met as the nun. Yeah, that was the jarring aspect.
We are never told what the first priest did that caused the nun/demon to drive him to suicide, but I think we can all make up our own story. Also, another pair of hands give him the pistol he uses to kill himself. I guess we can assume that was the nun/demon. I suppose a priest was not as likely to be packing his own heat as a cop.
So maybe a little over-written with the jumping back and forth between the priest and the convent; and a little under-written on the characters and story. This is a case where cell-phones would have actually improved a story. Still, Schenkel keeps things moving along and gives us some good visuals.
With this episode, AHP puts the grave in accent grave.
Unfortunately, it is an acute accent. That’s not all that goes wrong here. This might be the most deadly dull episode so far. This is surprising as it features Robert Morse. He might be obnoxious and a terrible actor, but he ain’t dull.
Bill Fleming and his young friend Phil enter the hunting lodge and hang up their jackets, revealing their manly-man plaid flannel shirts. They order a couple of Bourbon Sours. After a strangely jarring edit, Phil tells Bill he was pretty talkative last night after a few too many Glenlivet Glen Rosses. It was just the usual AHP guy-talk; you know, about killing a man.
Bill remembers talking about his cheating wife who “makes up to every man she meets except her husband” whatever that means. Part of the problem might be that when they got married, she was “a cute, freewheeling little 22 year old cupcake” and Bill was fifty. She is currently fooling around with Bill’s former friend Baxter. That actor is only four years younger than Bill so she definitely has a type.
Seeing an epee on the wall of the lodge, Phil asks Bill if he ever considered challenging Baxter to a dual. They talk and talk (and talk), the two men sitting at the table, until the 12-minute mark. This could get tedious under any circumstances, but Paul Douglas as Bill is just deadly-dull. Even though it is a fine performance, it is just mind-numbingly flat. I completely buy him as a former boxer, and as a lumber business millionaire, though — he’s even got the flannel. I bet that’s what attracted his young wife; no, not the flannel, the thing before that.
When Bill returns home from his hunting trip, Baxter and Laura are lounging around having drinks. They make no effort to disguise what they were doing. Bill takes a couple of swords off the wall and tosses one to Baxter. Bill takes a few jabs at Baxter who reluctantly picks up the other sword. In the midst of this tedium, I have to give AHP kudos for the duel.
Bill has no experience with the weapon, and Baxter is only a swordsman in the Urban Dictionary meaning of the word. This is not the standard TV match where they then expertly cross swords up then down, up then down, then slide the blades down to the hilt as they gaze love-hatingly into each other’s eyes. They clumsily clash swords a few times — more Episode 1 than Episode 6. Mostly it is Bill chasing Baxter as he runs through the house. He nicks Baxter a couple of times, then finally just runs him through.
Bill goes to the Police Station and tells them he killed a man. It is only now, as Bill spills his guts, that we learn Baxter’s first name is Phil. Hmmmm. On the witness stand, he describes how it was a fair match. Sure, being a former heavyweight champ, he could have punched Baxter out any time. But he figures Baxter could have then sued him in that case. He sees this as a fair fight which Baxter lost.
He is found not-guilty, but immediately after the trial is called into the judge’s chambers. The judge says since Bill was the beneficiary of “the liberal provisions of the civil code in reference to duels” he must enforce another provision in that statute. If you slay a person in a duel, you must provide for the widow and children of the person — and Baxter had a son. Despite being found not-guilty, Bill is ordered to treat the poor 28 year old orphan as if he were a child. Say, this is a liberal provision. The judge orders Bill to pay out $100,000 plus a monthly allowance of $1,000 per month for life. 
His lawyer protests that it is too much, but Bill disagrees. He says, “To be rid of Baxter . . . it’s cheap at half the price” which makes no sense. He goes back to his house and finds his wife in her usual position of brazenly lounging around, swilling booze with another man. Surprise — it is his old pal Phil . . . Phillip Baxter Junior! The smirking punk asks Bill, “Since I’m going to be your guest for the next 50 years, would you mind if I called you ‘Dad’?”
None of this would have mattered much if not for the talky opening and Paul Douglas’s lethargic acting. I must admit, though, Robert Morse was not quite as hammy as he would become, and he elevated the episode to an “OK”.
Jeck Henries is changing a tire on a dirt road in Loma. The most interesting thing we will get out of him is that someone took the trouble to make up the name Jeck for a character that will disappear in less than 2 minutes. His similarly over-monikered neighbor Wiley Whitlow suddenly appears. Wiley whispers something in Jeck’s ear and Jeck suddenly starts screaming. It is a good opening, but the effect is blunted because it’s just not a very good scream. Is it fear, is it pain, is it a scream of insanity?
The government sends Edward Sayers (William Peterson, CSI: Twilight Zone) to investigate. He is met by Amanda Strickland. She had called her senator, but apparently only ponied up a big enough campaign contribution for one investigator to be sent out despite 25 people being effected, including her father. She takes Sayers to see him at the local
nut mental hut health facility. After some creepy chit-chat, old man Strickland begins screaming his head off.
Then they go to the Hotchkiss house. She had stopped by to see Mr. Strickland earlier that day. The elderly woman serves them fresh bread and tea. All is fine until she tries to stab them.
Sayers goes to work in the high school science lab. He has deter-mined that the craziness is not caused by anything breathed or consumed. Amanda has an idea that it is a contagious disease and describes the connections that caused it to spread. I hope it isn’t sexually transmitted because every resident in this town seems to be 80 years old.
Sayers calls his boss in Washington, DC to see if they can set up a quarantine to contain the lunatics so they don’t do any more damage. Sadly, his boss refuses to build a fence around DC, but promises to send troops to Loma.
Amanda has found hayseed-zero in Andrew Potts who is appropriately-monikered as she describes him a “local crackpot.” He has gone crazy, but his brother Jeffrey — a professor of Far Eastern studies — still lives in town. Sayers finds him at home. With a degree in Far Eastern studies in this farm community, where else would he be during the day? He says on his last trip to The Orient, he learned “the meaning of everything. Man’s purpose and destiny. Life after death. God. Devil. Existence. Everything.” He leans in to whisper it to Sayers, but he recoils. No matter, Jeffrey is going to broadcast the secret over the radio. He brains Sayers with a vase and heads for the radio station.
Sayers races back to Amanda’s house. As Jeffrey is about to give away the big secret, he rushes into her house yelling, “Turn off the radio!” even though he hypocritically left the radio in the Jeep on.
She whispers in his ear and he looks into the camera. Over an exterior shot of the house, we hear his scream.
The randomly triggered violence reminded me of The Crazies and The Happening. The mind-blowing revelation reminded me of Monty Python’s Killer Joke. The whisper reminded me of Scarlett Johannson. That’s OK, I like all of them. I don’t even remember The Happening being as bad as everyone claims.
This is just the kind of story I like, and kudos to TZ for choosing the dark side once in a while. However, a couple of things were problematic. The screams were just not well-done at all. A recurring problem is Charles Aidman’s narration. It is becoming just as much of a buzz-kill as the scores. TZ made a great choice having Sayers look directly at the camera after the whisper, however, the lackluster scream followed by Aidman’s raspy avuncular voice just drained the menace from the ending.
Still, there was a lot to like.
Phillip Marlowe is minding his own beeswax, having a beer in a bar conveniently located within staggering distance of his apartment. Business is as lite as the beer if lite beer had been invented, with only one other customer in the bar. The drunken man has a pile of dimes in front of him and is pounding back shots of rye like there is no tomorrow, which there technically never is.
Another man walks into a bar. He asks the bartender, “Seen a lady in here, buddy? Tall, pretty, brown hair, in a print bolero jacket over a blue silk crepe dress, wearing a wide-brimmed straw hat with a velvet band?” The drunk whips out a .22, shoots the man twice, and says “So long, Waldo” before the man has a chance to further detail the woman’s make-up, kicks, and knack for accessorizing. He turns the gun on Marlowe and the bartender, moves toward the door, plays Where’s Waldo’s Car and drives off in it.
Marlowe goes back to his apartment. When the elevator doors open on the 4th floor, he sees a girl dressed just as Waldo had described. He suggests she slip out of that hat and jacket and into his apartment to avoid the cops. While he is mixing some drinks, she pulls out a gun. Turns out Waldo
is was a man named Joseph Coates who also lives lived in Marlowe’s building. While they are talking, Marlowe is able to hear the elevator and then footsteps in the hall which makes me wonder why this building is so popular.
The man who killed Waldo / Coates points the same .22 in Marlowe’s face. The dame comes up behind him and pokes a gun in his ribs. Marlowe gives him a knee in the cajones. She leaves and Marlowe calls the cops. He talks Detective Copernik into taking credit for taking the man down.
The dame reconnects with Marlowe and spills names like a third hot toddy. She is Lola, the wife of Frank Barsaly. She helpfully gives Marlowe her address and does that weird old timey thing where she gives the last 5 digits of her phone number. Frank was out of town a lot so she started keeping time with Stan Phillips. For polishing his fob, he gave her a pearl necklace worth $15,000, although it felt like a million to him. After Stan died in a plane crash, she hooked up with their chauffeur Waldo. When Frank returned, he booted Waldo out, but Waldo stole the necklace and held it hostage for the low, low price of $5,000.
Lola asks Marlowe to search Waldo’s apartment, where she had been heading the night they met. He doesn’t find the necklace, but does find a choker — a dead man hanged in the apartment. He doesn’t mention this to Lola; he just sends her off. He also doesn’t mention the keys he found in the corpse’s pocket which fit a Packard downstairs.
The keys have the name and address of a Eugenie Kolchenko on the case, so Marlowe drives the car to that address. The Russki offers a ten-spot for his valet service before a man joins them in the living room. He had hired the dead man to retrieve a briefcase Waldo had stolen. That man is dun-dun-dun Frank Barsaly. Marlowe will keep his part secret for a cool $500.
When Marlowe arrives back home, Detectives Copernik and Ybarra are waiting for him inside. Since this was written before the Bill of Rights, the detectives searched his place and found the bolero jacket and hat. Since it was written after Prohibition, they also helped themselves to Marlowe’s hooch. Marlowe knows he’s busted for not telling the cops about the girl. He spills his guts figuratively, but Copernik wants to spill them literally. Ybarra turns out to be an honest or, at least, reasonable cop. They agree not to haul Marlowe in if they get credit for cracking the case. Ybarra even lets him keep the pearls they recovered from Waldo’s car — they were $100 fakes anyway.
Marlowe meets Lola. Sadly, she and Frank are separating. If these two crazy kids who are accepting $100k gifts from other men, banging the chauffeur, sending a hit-man to make collections, and shacking up with a Commie can’t make it work what chance do any of us have?
There is a bit with a second string of pearls and a package that I guess I will never understand. I suppose her jacket and hat are in the box, but why the drama? He gives her a super-cheap knock-off of her pearls and chucks the original into the sea, pearl by pearl.
Despite being baffled by the ending, a great story. There is no reason for my mediocre writing to attempt to describe Chandler’s excellent writing. The prose is warm and thick, the characterizations are life-like, and the hats, my God, the hats!