Ray Bradbury Theater – The Screaming Woman (02/22/86)

Drew Barrymore is in bed screaming.  Unfortunately, this is 1986, not 1996; and she is reading a copy of Tales from the Crypt.

Unlike her real childhood, she apparently has parents in this episode.  Her mother sends 11 year old Drew to get some ice cream.  To avoid a DUI, she takes her bike.  She rides through the standard ET / Poltergeist neighborhood of the type that you won’t be seeing much more of on RBT (i.e. American).

We see her buying ice cream at Baskin-Robbins, which is probably product placement by Dairy Queen.  She is next reading her TFTC inside a construction pipe. This is another shot of the type that you will not be seeing much more of on RBT — well composed and executed.  But what happened to the ice cream?  Oh, the humanity!

She faintly hears a woman screaming and goes into the woods to investigate.  The sound seems to be coming from underground.  Drew is spooked and rushes home.  She runs into the kitchen screaming, “There’s a woman screaming!  A screaming woman!”  Her mother blames it on the pulps she is reading, and the cocaine.  Her father says if she cleans her plate, he will go back with her to check it out.  So either a) he doesn’t believe her, or 2) he does believe her, but is leaving the woman in peril until Drew finishes her supper and has a smoke.

Drew and her father go back to the woods after dinner, but there is no sign or sound of the woman.  Undeterred, she finds a couple of shovels and recruits her dippy friend Chubby, no her chubby friend Dippy, to help.  They go back to the woods.  They start digging, but before they get far, the owner of the land, Mr. Kelly, chases them off.

Drew decides it is probably Mrs. Nesbitt screaming.  Her parents had talked about how much the Nesbitts fight.  They also said it had been quiet lately.  She goes to the Nesbitt’s house and Mr. Nesbitt answers the door. She nervously makes up a story about Mrs. Nesbitt offering to give her the recipe for peach pie.

Mr. Nesbitt asks her to come inside and wait.  Drew not only goes into house of the murder suspect who is swilling scotch, she tells him about the titular screaming woman on Mr. Kelly’s land.  He chuckles nervously and says, “You certainly have a weird imagination.  How about a drink?”  When he goes to the kitchen to get the vodka, she gets scared and runs back to the woods.

Yada yada, Drew goes back home, hums a song Mrs. Nesbitt wrote, and returns to the woods.  That night, her father remembers where he heard that song, then finds her bed is empty.  Mr. Nesbitt attacks her in the woods.  Her father heroically shows up and brains him. The cops start digging.

Sure enough, they find a large wooden crate, larger than a casket.  They open it up, and after a few seconds, fingers appear grasping the side.  Yea!  Drew has saved the day!

Not to nitpick, but that must not have been the first scotch Mr. Nesbitt drank that week:

  1. So he kills his wife; let’s even give him the benefit of the doubt and say it was premeditated.  He built or bought this big-ass crate in preparation.  Didn’t his wife question what it was for?  Maybe that was the trigger — “You spent $300 on a big-ass crate, you idiot?”
  2. After killing her, he hauled this giant crate out to the woods by himself with no one seeing him?  Or when he bought it, did he tell Home Depot [1] to deliver it to the woods?
  3. Why not just wrap her in a carpet or blanket?  That big box would store way too much oxygen.  Scorpio didn’t leave his victim that much air.
  4. Which wouldn’t have been a problem if, ya know, he had not done such a half-assed job of killing her.
  5. Why dump her body on Mr. Kelly’s land?  Seeing how he quickly caught Drew and Dippy, he clearly keeps an eye on it.
  6. And, as I am tired of pointing out every few episodes:  A dumpy middle-aged guy is not going bury a 3 x 3 x 6 box a few feet down without a backhoe.
  7. Most nit-picky of all, there was no sign of fresh digging, or a 3 x 3 x 6 pile of displaced earth.  Maybe he had a second 3 x 3 x 6 crate that he put the dirt into and carried it away on his f***n’ back.

But none of this matters in a good episode; and this was a good episode.  It really doesn’t take much to satisfy me.  Drew Barrymore was not a natural young actress, but she really does light up and energize a scene.  I got the sense that the director knew exactly what to do with her, too.

Further kudos to the director for some good locations and imaginative shots.  Much of this was probably due to higher budgets in RBT’s first season.  Still, I think he transcended what he was given.  Good stuff.

Other Stuff:

  • [1] Or maybe Crate & Barrel, heyyyooooo!
  • The episode is strangely bookended with unnecessary (but not necessarily unwelcome) vignettes.  In the opening, Bradbury does some acting as he leaves his “magician’s workshop” in search of a story.
  • There is a scene at the end in which Drew mentions Mrs. Goodbody and some boys raising giant mushrooms in their cellars.  I take this as a cryptic reference to the future RBT episode Boys! Raise Giant Mushrooms in Your Cellar!  How very Lost-ian to lay the groundwork for a future episode.  Maybe there was supposed to be a Ray Bradbury Expanded Universe.
  • These first season episodes have ranged from OK to pretty good, so I’m not sure why I bailed on the series.  I think it might have had to do with the next episode which I recall as being dreadful.
  • See you in September!

Outer Limits – Josh (03/06/98)

The last time I watched an episode with Kate Vernon, it was so uninteresting that I just ended up just posting sexy pictures of her. This episode is better, unfortunately.

Allison James and her young daughter Sarah are hiking in Gold Mountain National Park, Alaska. [1] After a misstep, Sarah takes a lengthy tumble down the side of the mountain.  Her mother reaches her just seconds before the titular Josh.  She begs him to go for help, but he is suspiciously adamant that her Mom go for help and he stay with the unconscious teenage girl.

Mom goes for help.  Of course, the man has nothing salacious in mind.  Although it is strange that he places each hand in the two areas where the fabric is most worn on the doll in the psychiatrist’s office.  His head and strangely only one of his hands glows as he brings the girl back to consciousness.  Unfortunately, he is caught on camera by some other hikers.

The tape finds its way to reporter Judy Warren of the TV show Hot Pocket Topic.  She and her cameraman Todd go to Josh’s cabin in the mountains.  He claims to run a center in Utah that helps the homeless and the poor, which is probably what I would tell Kate Vernon too.  However, she has done some checking and can find no evidence that he exists, which is probably what she would tell me.  When confronted with the tape of his glowing hand healing the girl, he calmly says it is a fake, and boots her out for clandestinely recording their conversation.

She and Todd see Josh drive off, and seconds later his cabin explodes in the same blue light.  She calls him; he says he is “going home” and begs her to leave him alone.  Judy tells him that he is news and there is nowhere he can run.  One place he can run is out-of-gas.  He is able to fill a jug with water and use his glowy hands — unlike merely resurrecting a human being, this is a two hand job [2] — to turn it into gas.  He doesn’t get far before being cut off by Judy and the Air Force.

The General says satellites detected an EMP two days ago when Josh healed the girl.  Tonight when the cabin exploded, the EMP knocked out the satellites.  The General has him strapped to a gurney.  When they begin torturing him, he explodes into a light show that gives each person a different vision.  When they find out he is some kind of uber-man that might have some answers as to why we are here, or the key to living in peace on earth, the government decides he has to be killed.

Judy is able to rescue Josh and they escape from the secure underground bunker.  Their Scofieldian escape plan is summed up by Judy’s line as they drive away, “I can’t believe how lucky we were getting out of there.”  Josh leads them to a mountain-top where he is taken back home or to Jesus or to a UFO.  That’s about it.

Screenwriting 101 (I’m being sarcastic — the 101 is backwards)

I appreciate that there were no answers given.  Everyone got their few seconds to call him a demon or an an angel, God or Jesus, an alien or just a regular ol’ threat to national security.  Alex McArthur was excellent at making all possibilities believable.  I mean, just crazy-good.

I could watch Kate Vernon all day.  Unfortunately, the script does have her tough reporter character get a little hysterical and needy at the end.  But, hey, if Hiker-Jesus were leading me up a mountain, how cool would I be?

The script was a little talky.  It also was pretty superficial with the reactions to this supernatural being, and discussions of choices, decisions, and free-will.  However, I’m a sucker for this sort of quasi-religious / what-is-he / government cover-up kind of show.  So, more good stuff from The Outer Limits.

Other Stuff:

  • [1] Thank God they placed this in a fictional park rather than scaring off visitors to Denali or Glacier Bay who might think this is a documentary.
  • [2] Heehee, hand job.
  • Judy’s cameraman (Grant Heslov) also posed as a cameraman in True Lies, played TV Crew on MANTIS, and was National Enquirer Photographer in The Birdcage.  Maybe he brings his own camera.
  • Title Analysis:  Just some lazy shit, unworthy of the episode.

The Hitchhiker – Dead Man’s Curve (02/11/86)

Successful romance novelist Claudia Reynolds is going to her 21st high school reunion, so she ought to be 39.  Susan Anspach is 44 . . . f*in’ actors, man.

As she approaches her hometown, local dipshit Lance pulls out onto the highway in his red ’57 Chevy [1] to harrass her.  This is right before the directing credit for foreign dipshit Roger Vadim. [2]  How long was Lance waiting there for her?  Was he also laying in wait last year for the 20th anniversary reunion which ya might think she would have been more likely to attend?  Well, I guess she RSVP’d, but that still must have been a long day just awaitin’ for her to drive by.  He recklessly pulls ahead of her taking the most absurd hairpin turn in the US, speeding toward town.

When Claudia pulls her Mercedes up to the hotel, locals flock around her making a fuss.  Especially insane is her old friend Mavis who is happy as a Pekingese to see her.  She introduces Claudia to her young escort for the weekend — Lance.  She busts him for driving like an idiot.  He offers to “let me make it up to you” and grabs her bag, but she takes it herself.  If she doesn’t have enough problems, her old boyfriend is now the sheriff and he takes her bag upstairs.

The sheriff gets a little handsy and she gets rid of him.  Seconds later, Lance shows up with a bouquet of flowers.  Marion Crane didn’t get hassled this much checking into her hotel.  He cuts his hand opening a window, quotes from one her books, and suddenly she is charmed.  They go out for a drive.

Lance spins his car to a stop and offers Claudia a drink from a flask.  They find an old barn where they can have a roll in the hay, and see scrawled onto the wall “CLAUDIA SUCKS” which must be pretty encouraging to Lance.  They start making out and the jealous sheriff shows up.  Claudia plays the celebrity edition of do-you-know-who-I-am-now? that so endears famous, rich, privileged idiots to middle America.  Nice work making the low-life sheriff sympathetic, Vadim.

They go back to Lance’s place and he has a three-way with Claudia and her body double.  Afterward, as she cleans up, she finds a shrine to her in Lance’s bathroom.  He has pictures and copies of her books.  She realizes he is the son of Beau Bridges (the DVD won’t play and the You Tube sound is terrible so I might not have that exactly right).

Lance: I’ve been alone just like you.  My father went off and died.  My step-father ran off.  My mother . . . well, you don’t want to know.

Claudia:  You’re Beau Bridges’ son aren’t you?

Lance: Very good.  He went around with Susie Brennan a while.  But he couldn’t forget you, the way you ran out on him.  Went and killed himself on a curve.

Claudia:  It wasn’t like that Lance.

Lance:  Problem was, Susie was pregnant, see?  That’s where Tom Otterfield came in.  They got married, the whole bit.  Thought the kid was his.  At least he did until he read some book that hinted it wasn’t.  I wonder where he read a thing like that?

Claudia:  I’m sorry Lance.  I didn’t mean it.

Lance:  You’re not running out on me, Claudia.

I had to transcribe that to make sense of it, but I’m not sure it helped.  I get that Claudia wrote a roman à clef [3] about her small town.  But Lance’s father knocked up Susie while hoping to win back Claudia?  How is that Claudia’s fault?  And Susie lied to Tom about the baby being his?  How is that Claudia’s fault?  Is Lance suggesting his father killed himself?  On that crazy road, that isn’t necessarily true.  Anyway, his death occurred long before the book, so Claudia had nothing at all to do with that either. Didn’t her book have the standard disclaimer about “resemblance to any hayseeds, living or dead is purely coincidental”?  And what does Lance mean about her running out on him?

Lance seems threatening at that moment, but I am confused when he produces a pink dress.  Where did that come from?  They are at Lance’s place.  Did she wear that to the prom with his dad?  If so, cheers if she can still fit in it; but jeers for Lance banging his father’s prom-date.

Despite Lance’s dark turn, he drives her back to her hotel.  She goes up to her room and phones her agent to say she is flying back immediately.  Then she goes down the front stairs where Lance is parked.  Seeing the jealous sheriff at the base of the stairs, she takes the back stairs down and goes to her car to escape.  Wait, there are back stairs?  Then why was she originally going back down the front stairs to cross paths with Lance?

Darn the luck, the sheriff chased Lance away from the front door and Claudia runs into him in the alley.  He forces her into the car.  For some reason he is insistent on taking her to the reunion, maybe for those little triangular cream cheese-sandwiches. [4]  The sheriff sees this and chases them.

Lance again accuses Claudia of killing his father.  Out of the blue, she blurts out the true story.  Her before-he-was-sheriff boyfriend actually killed his father.  They were in a drag race and the sheriff cut him off, forcing him off the road.  Of course, you might as well blame Darwin for a crash while drag-racing on a road with a hair-pin curve.  Along about this time, the sheriff rams Lance’s car.  Yada yada, the sheriff goes flying off the road like the General Lee and explodes.

This seems to be heartbreaking to Lance, but I don’t know why.  He didn’t kill the sheriff, I swear it was in self defense.  He just witnessed the death of the man who killed his father — maybe you don’t drink champagne, but do you cry?  Claudia holds him and gives him a kiss, saying “It’s going to be OK.  Both of us.”  Hunh?  For cryin’ out loud, you’re a writer!

What the hell?  From Claudia’s point-of-view, Lance tried to abduct her for some sick reason.  From Lance’s POV, there is still that matter of her book which outted his real father, driving away his step-father, and sending his mother who-knows-where.  So why are they so kissy-face now?

Well, Susan Anspach looked beautiful as Claudia.  I’ll just leave it at that.

Other Stuff:

  • [1] I might have the make and model wrong, but it was definitely red.
  • [2] Really, how much longer do we have to pretend Barbarella isn’t just dreadful? The photo in the North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun was only Jane Fonda’s second worst picture.
  • [3] Hey Google Voice, it ain’t roman à CLEFF.  Stop being evil and get back to work.
  • [4] WTF aren’t those sold in stores?

Alfred Hitchcock Presents – Dead Weight (11/22/59)

Courtney Masterson is making out with 21 years younger Peg, perhaps as over-compensation for having a girl’s name.  They are at a Lover’s Lane overlooking the city.  Rudy Stickney approaches the car, pointing a flashlight and a gun in their eyes.  He forces them out of the car and nabs Courtney’s purse wallet.  The wallet is loaded with dough, but Rudy isn’t satisfied.

He has Courtney open the trunk and tells him to get in so he can have his way with Peg, perhaps as over-compensation for having to rely on phallic objects to get people to notice him.  When Peg makes a run for it, Courtney knocks Rudy to the ground causing him to drop his gun.  Rudy pulls a knife, but Courtney has his gun.  He forces Rudy into the trunk. Ya know, if the episode ended right here, I would be happy.

Courtney locks Rudy in the trunk, throws his golf clubs in the back seat, and prepares to drive to the police station where he will probably be arrested for kidnapping.  Peg points out that this could generate headlines which might be of interest to his wife.

Courtney drives back to Peg’s apartment.  He had a chance to reveal Rudy to a cop stopped beside him at a light, but did not. He sees Peg to the door, realizing he’s not going to get the kind of junk in the trunk he had anticipated tonight. He drives Rudy back up to Lover’s Lane.  And by the way, this is the biggest f*ing  car I’ve ever seen in my life.

He lets Rudy out of the trunk.  Rudy says he isn’t going to forget this, which is remarkable given the brain damage the carbon monoxide must have caused.  Courtney does the right thing, the fair thing, the honorable thing, the responsible thing, the mature thing, the civil thing, the just thing — he shoots Rudy dead.  At the police station, he says he picked Rudy up hitchhiking and it went bad.  The detective asks a few questions, says he’s a lucky man and sends him home.

This is all excellent, but the episode regresses to the mean pretty quickly.  Luckily, the mean on AHP is still pretty great.  Spoiler:  Courtney’s wife had a PI tailing him who witnessed the whole evening.  He blackmails Courtney to keep his shenanigans secret.  The nerve of his wife having a PI tail her husband; it’s just that kind of distrust that can ruin a marriage.

The ending just doesn’t seem worthy of what preceded it.[1]

Other Stuff:

  • [1] In the light of day, I have no idea what my beef was.  It was a pretty good twist.
  • AHP Deathwatch:  Julie Adams (Peg) is still with us.  She was just in an episode of Lost.
  • Holy crap!  That was 10 years ago?  What have I done with my life!  Also alive: Reita Green, suspiciously credited as Reita.
  • Title Analysis:  A perfect AHP title, just not for this episode — there was no dead weight.

Twilight Zone – The Road Less Travelled (12/18/86)

Six year old Megan McDowell comes downstairs to her parents watching TV.  She says, “Daddy, I’m scared.  There’s a man in my room.”  Actually, I think it would have been more realistic for her to be shrieking, “Daddy, there’s a man in my room!”  The scared part would have been implied.  Show, don’t tell.

Jeff takes her upstairs and shows her there is no man there.  When he clicks off the light, he sees a six year old Vietnamese girl in bed and hears helicopters.  Lights on, back to normal.  He turns the lights off again — which would not have been my next move — and everything is cool.

The next day when Denise brings Megan home from school, Jeff already has the wine flowing.  A kid in his class asked him what he did during Viet Nam.  He answered that he was in school, but did not mention it was in Canada.  He asks, “Why do I feel so guilty?”  Yeah, I wonder . . .

Megan comes downstairs and says the man is back.  Denise takes her in the bathroom to wash her hands. In the mirror, she sees a scruffy bearded man in a Veteran’s Administration wheelchair roll out of sight.  She runs downstairs and meets Jeff. She says, “Did you see him?  Did he come past you?  The man in the wheelchair?”  Jeff steals my thunder by pointing out the man could hardly have wheeled the chair down the stairs past him.  He doesn’t find the man, but does find wheelchair tracks in the plush shag carpeting.

Jeff suddenly flashes back to a past he did not have — he is in a swamp, under fire in Viet Nam. His first instincts are to take off his helmet, throw his rifle aside, and give away their position by screaming like a maniac — so maybe he was right to go to Canada.  He quickly returns to his very patient wife.

He says the man being here is his fault.  “I got drafted, but I chose Canada.  I copped out on Viet Nam.  And now it looks like Viet Nam is catching up with me.”  He thinks maybe the legless man had to go in his place.  Or maybe he died because Jeff wasn’t there.  As he hugs Denise, he flashes back to the war and is making out with a Vietnamese girl, though thankfully not the six year old.  When he snaps back, he does what comes naturally — gets in his car, and drives away.

The next day at work, Denise gets a call from Jeff asking her to come home.  But a few minutes later, Jeff comes to her office looking for her.  Uh-oh.  She arrives home first, finding the man in the wheelchair — a bearded, grizzled, legless doppelganger of Jeff.  Jeff-2 suggests there was a fork around 1971 and they took different paths.

Denise died young in Jeff-2’s timeline.  Ya might think that would be used to validate Jeff-1’s choice, but nothing really is done with it.  Jeff-1 has a random idea that by holding hands, they can exchange memories, giving Jeff-2 some happier ones to cling to.  From there it gets new agey and kumbaya in the way that caused such damage to this TZ reboot.

I appreciate that the episode didn’t come down hard on either side of the draft-dodging question.  It really just addressed the fall-out of each man’s choice without placing blame.  Despite the mushy ending, it was a good journey.

Other Stuff:

  • Title Analysis: More like the Road Not Taken than The Road Less Traveled.  But the both came from the same source.  I mean literally . . . literally literally.
  • But what’s up with the 2 L’s in Travelled?
  • Cliff DeYoung (Jeff) is still on my sh*t-list for his role in detonating that atomic bomb in Valencia.  [UPDATE] Turns out that was Raphael Sbarge.