Alfred Hitchcock Presents – Coyote Moon (10/18/59)

Julie is stuffing the failing Sentinel Mesa Times newspaper into her shoe to compensate for a hole in her soul sole when a disguised VW Bus rolls into the Desert Hawk Service Station.

Things increasingly rare in 2017: Phone-booth, Real Boobs, Newspaper, General Store . . .

The Professor has rescued a baby coyote that was hit on the road while it was installing a giant Acme spring. The proprietor laughs at the thought of rescuing the animal. “Mister, we pay a bounty on coyotes in this part of the state!”  Inexplicably the Professor does not ask how much.

The gas-jockey says they are the most useless animal God created [insert political reference of your choice here; any answer will be correct].  The Professor says without coyotes, within a year they would be overrun with a plague of squirrels and rabbits; and presumably road runners. [1]

Julie hits him up for a lift to Sentinel Mesa.  The service station owner calls a vet, but the vet refuses to come work on a coyote.  When he comes back to tell the Professor, they find the coyote has ingeniously escaped from the cardboard box he was kept in.

On the way to Sentinel Mesa, Julie spots a man sleeping under a tree by the side of the road.  She yells, “Pops!” and tells the professor to pull over.  Pops jumps in the car and helps himself to the Professor’s cigarettes, and lighter.  The Professor is next railroaded into picking up Julie’s brother Harry, who is kind of a thug.

The rest of the episode is very, er, episodic.  That is not to demean the episode — far from it.  This is a fun episode which is well-performed and looks great.  It just gets tedious to document every scene; for you, I mean.

Throughout the episode, the Professor is constantly taken advantage of and scammed.  Edgar Buchanan is perfect as Pops.  He has an old-timer, country-bumpkin charm to him that masks what a snake he is.  You really want to like him.  Collin Wilcox Paxton as Julie is a paradox.  She seems to be a terrible actress, but she might have out-smarted me.  She comes off as such a sexy, feral maniac that you can’t help but like her.  Maybe Harry was adopted.

They descend on the Professor like a swarm of three locusts.  When they are done with him, they quickly ditch him by the side of the road and jump into a passing truck with their next victim.  The Professor isn’t done with them, though.

Not pictured: The Professor.

Excellent.  I rate it a full moon.

Other Stuff:

  • [1] Actually, the coyote did not do much to suppress the road-runner population. But then, running down the road was his idea of having fun, so maybe there weren’t going to be a lot of little road-runners anyway.
  • AHP Deathwatch:  No survivors.
  • Title Analysis:  Meh.  I guess the family was predatory like a coyote.  Not sure what the moon has to do with it.

Twilight Zone – Aqua Vita (10/04/86)

Composition 101: Do not put a woman wearing stripes in front of a louvered door.

Christie Copperfield is a big-shot news anchor reader driving her red Mercedes home after a gruel-ing 30 minutes of delivering press releases and spoon-fed spin from politicians. She spots her picture on the side of a bus and smiles at her own awesomeness. [1] BTW, the director gives his credit a classy shot just below her ANCHOR 5 license plate as she pulls away.

She opens her front door and sees what to me would be the most hellish scene in the TZ canon — a surprise party.  She struggles to blow out the 3.333 dozen candles.  That night in bed with her husband Marc, Christie confesses she is worried about what being 40 will do to her ratings.[2]  Her husband jokingly assures her, “You’ve still got at least 5 good years on your warranty, then I can trade you in for a couple of 20 year-olds.”  Maybe the twist will be that he is an alien, because there was not enough booze at that party to make a human guy say that to his wife.  All is well, though, and they plan a long weekend in Santa Barbara at the Shakespeare Festival . . . yeah, one lonnng f***in’ weekend.

The next day at work, Christie shares the make-up room with young reporterette Shauna.  She tells Shauna it is no fun to be turning 40.  Shauna shows Christie her drivers license which says she was born in 1938, making her 48 (the actress is 29).  Christie asks how that is possible, and Shauna produces a silver flask.  Christie says she can’t drink before the show, but Shauna assures her it is just water.  She declines.

Just seconds before Christie goes on the air, the producer tells her that news-bunny Shauna will be filling in for her while she’s on vacation.  So maybe he and her husband crashed here in the same spaceship.  While she is on the air, the news director tells the producer that Christie’s ratings are down, and that Christie is “old news”.

After the broadcast, Christie and Shauna go see Marc at his photo-graphy studio.  His current gig is shooting scantily-clad, athletic young women exercising.  Shauna helpfully says, “Remember when you had a body like that?”  She hands Christie a card for her miracle water, Aqua Vita.

The next day, the Aqua Vita man installs a cooler in Christie’s kitchen.  He has a big toothy smile and is dressed in a white shirt, bow tie, and hat like a 1950s Texaco Man.  When he tells her “it’s no charge for the first one, missy” she asks how old he is.  He stares into the camera and says ominously, “Don’t ask.”

The next morning, she is noticeably younger to herself and her husband, but not the viewer.  It was probably fine when it aired, but the You Tubes are pretty fuzzy and the DVDs are worse.  I’ll take their word for it.  Before they head out to Santa Barbara, she takes one last swig of water.  For some reason there is a sinister musical cue as the camera zooms in on the key that keeps out unauthorized drinkers.  The water tank, I could understand, but the key?

The next morning at the hotel, Christie looks at herself in the mirror and looks so bad I can even see it on You Tube.  She looks terrible — bags under her eyes, lines on her face, and generally run-down, like by a bus.  Thank God she is wearing a towel.  She puts on a scarf and big Jackie O sunglasses and tells Marc they have to go home NOW.

As soon as she gets home, she runs to the water cooler.  Despite the earlier shot of the key, the water is fine.  In fact, because of a continuity error, there is actually more water in the tank than when she left.  The water works immediately and she takes off the scarf and glasses to reveal her younger self.

Back at work, things are going great — her ratings are up and she is getting offers from other stations.  Shauna asks Christie to return the favor by lending her a few thousand bucks.  Christie understands when her next delivery of Aqua Vita comes with a price tag of $5,000.

That night, Christie gets up to get a glass of the magic water.  This somehow escalates to an argument.  Marc says, “I’ll be staying at the studio if you need anything!” and takes off.  For some reason — but not that reason —  he is next seen knocking on Shauna’s door.  She refuses to let him in, but the Aqua Vita man is making a late-night delivery.  For the price of this stuff, you’d think he could hire some help.  When she opens the door, Marc sees she has aged worse than [                ][3] and her hair has gone white.

Back casa de Christie, she drop a glass of the water and shrieks.  She panics and tries to sponge the water off the floor and disgustingly squeeze it into the broken glass.  OK, I get that it is $5,000 a tank, but that’s a pretty big tank.  We’re looking at about $20 of water on the floor; not enough to drink brown water out of a broken glass.

Marc returns and stops her.  When he sees her face, she has aged again.  She tells him the whole story.  He tells her she has to stop, but she says, “Look at me, Marc!  I’m old!”  Cyrano tells her, “No, you only look old.”  He tells her not to worry about her career — she is “a journalist, a writer, not just a face.”  Dude, stop digging!

She is worried about them as a couple.  She worries that strangers will see them and think Marc is a gigolo, or that she will be mistaken as his mother.  Without saying a word, Marc drinks a glass of Aqua Vita.  Wait — there was water in the tank this whole time?  Why does she still look old?  Why was she practically licking it off the floor?

The next scene is them as an elderly couple.  Well, as the Aqua Vita man explained they only look old.  They can still go have wild sex . . . whoa, did they think this through?  I hate to say it, but it is kind of sweet until Charles Aidman’s insipid narration ruins the moment.

While I would have liked a darker tone, it was a good episode.  At least the score was tolerable this time. Mimi Kennedy was a strange choice to play Christie.  She is not unattractive and is always good in comedic roles.  However, her character would definitely not have been successful just based on her looks; she must have actually had talent.  Maybe a more traditionally beautiful actress would have been a better choice.  This was 10 years before Fox News — where did all the info-babes work then?

Classic TZ Connection #1:  In The Long Morrow, an astronaut allows himself to age 40 years during a trip to match his sweetie’s natural aging on earth.  However, she put herself in suspended animation and dumps the old man when he returns.

Classic TZ Connection #2:  In The Trade-Ins, people can be transformed into their much younger selves for $5,000.  An elderly couple can only afford one procedure.  After agonizing over the choice, the old man — who is in terrible pain — gets transformed. Seeing the effect this has on them as a couple, he has them reverse the process and make him a suffering old man again.

Wow, dudes are always getting the shaft in the Twilight Zone.

Other Stuff:

  • [1] She also sees an old couple crossing the road.  I get the connection to the end of the episode, but it is pointless.  There is no irony, no foreshadowing, she will not give it another thought, and it is not her time-travelling future self.  Just a big obese NOTHING is done with it.
  • [2] In a radical departure for TV, the actor’s age is actually 2 years younger than the character.  In this case, I think there was no agenda — they wanted her to face a milestone birthday, and the actress they wanted was close enough.
  • [3] Hmmmmm, I hate to mention anyone specifically.
  • Title Analysis: Simple, efficient, unique — water of life.
  • Other segment:  What Are Friends For?  I doubt this was intentional, but the other segment in this episode also dealt with aging.  Fred Savage becomes friends with the imaginary friend his father Tom Skerritt had as a boy.
  • They still make Aqua Velva?  Who knew?

Chicago Confetti – William Rollins, Jr. (1932)

Coleman Fuller shows up in the office of detective Percy Warren.  His rich uncle Henry Fuller was bumped off and he doesn’t trust the police to get the killer.  He admits he found Warren by going to the Yellow Pages and backing up through the private dicks. Not only does he not seem to appreciate the insult to Warren, but that was also a shot out of nowhere against Nero Wolfe and V.I. Warshawski.  On the other hand, given that this was 1932, I guess we should just be thankful he didn’t find Charlie Chan in the Yellow Pages.

They meet up again at the office of Fuller’s lawyer Bond, Harley Bond.  Bond says if he had known Fuller was in need of some private dicking, he would have recommended a bigger agency.  Although, it sounds like Warren is getting dicked around pretty good as it is.

Bond says the fee for finding the killer has been set at $10,000 [1] by Carl Fuller, Coleman’s uncle.  Henry Fuller croaked and left $20M to his siblings, but excluded his bother John, and John’s son Coleman.  That’s a pretty good motive right there.[2]

To begin his investigation, Warren goes to see the Fuller’s valet Jobson.  After a pleasant chat, the valet hurries out to an appointment which the author seems to imply means he’s going to a prostitute.  Left alone, Warren asks the switchboard boy if he’d like to make a quick 10 bucks.

“I guess a 10 spot wouldn’t look bad to you, hah?”

He eyed me funny.  “Well . . .”

“Don’t worry.  Nothing like that, buddy.”

So what did the switchboard boy think Warren had in mind for $165 in 2017 dollars? This author has a one-track mind.  The dough was to allow Warren to take over the switchboard.  He takes a call from Jobson asking for Miss Kelly.  Jobson tells her to have an unnamed man meet him in room 311.  Warren traces the call to the Stopover Inn, hangout of the Lewis Gang.

Warren checks in to the Stopover and gets room 317.  He tiptoes down the hall to listen at the door of 311.  He hears two men talking briefly before the cops show up — well, one cop and the lawyer Bond.  A passing truck prevents him from hearing much.  The the cop, Bond and Jobson leave the hotel.  Warren sneaks on the ledge over to 311 to find the other man, but Miss Kelly catches him.  She spotted the other man and his description sounds like Spike Lewis of the Lewis Gang.

Warren goes back to Jobson’s building.  He calls up to warn Jobson about the Lewis Gang, but the call is cut short by a gunshot.  Warren goes upstairs and finds Jobson dead, but someone placed the phone back on the hook.  Warren looks around the valet’s home.  The first three rooms are bedrooms, then he goes to the bathroom, dining room and kitchen. Note to self:  Look into lucrative field of valeting.

Blah blah, for reasons I’m not even sure of, the rest of the story bored me to death.  At the end, after the lawyer Bond is naturally revealed as vile, opportunistic, immoral, but also a murderer, Warren and Coleman come together.

“And I suppose you know what a low-life like me wants to do when he’s come into a juicy bit of money.”

“Exactly,” he murmured.  He reached in his pocket and pulled out a full pint flask, and after I took a good pull at it, he finished it off himself.  “That,” he said, “is just about enough to last us until we reach the nearest speak.”

I looked him over again; and I liked his looks.

“Exactly,” I said.

I hope he kept the key to room 317; sounds like he’s going to need it.

Post-Post:

  • [1] Holy crap — that’s $165,000 in 2017 dollars!
  • [2] Actually, it’s a terrible motive.  Why kill the guy if there is a chance you might end up back in the will someday?  Maybe he’ll need a kidney.
  • First published in the March 1932 issue of Black Mask.  Also that month: fore-seeing digital cameras will destroy his company in 75 years, Kodak founder George Eastman preemptively kills himself.
  • Title Analysis:  So bullets are confetti?  Kind of dopey.

Science Fiction Theatre – Negative Man (09/10/55)

At the generically named Research Center for Advanced Studies [1], we see the most advanced thinking machine ever constructed — blinking light and knob technology made great strides in the 1950’s.  People from all over the country submit questions to the machine like “WTF are we doing in Korea?”  Host Truman Bradley tells us that, like a human being, a computer can have a nervous breakdown, a bug not worked out until the HAL 9001.

Professor Spaulding is feeding a formula into the computer which would take 30 mathematicians 6 months to solve.  The real achievement is that he seems to be feeding it from a chalkboard.  A typewriter is clacking away like a player piano with the keys pressing, but I’m not clear what the source of the data is.  The computer should be able to derive the answer in 3 minutes, but has performance anxiety and blows up in just a few seconds.  The other scientists find non-professor Vic Murphy unconscious.

They figure Murphy took 90,000 volts.  The doctor thought he was dead, but only because he had “no pulse [and] respiratory function had ceased”.  Turns out he was only mostly fried — sautéed really — and bounces back quickly.  In no time, he has re-tightened his necktie. His boss tells him to take the rest of the day off.  On his way out, Vic notices an error in the complex problem the computer was working on.  He pulls a Good Will Hunting and corrects it on the chalkboard (actually a Better Will Hunting because Matt Damon is not involved).

He stops by the pharmacy to pick up whatever you take for being electro-cuted and flat-lining for a couple of minutes.  He sees a hot blonde in the phone booth and asks Pete the soda-jerk [2] who she is.  Pete is busy adding up the day’s receipts, but says she lives in the apartment above him.  Vic amazes him by adding the columns of figures instantaneously.  With his new super-hearing, he can hear Sally’s boyfriend Frank being mean on the phone.

When Pete says he can’t hear the conversation, Vic grabs Pete’s noggin in a way too familiar way.  Vic asks for just a glass of water.  The woman comes out out the phone booth and also asks for just a glass of water.  Well, at least Pete won’t have to update those sales figures.

Vic and Pete go up to Pete’s apartment.  Vic can hear Sally crying in the apartment above.  Pete says, “C’mon Vic, these are very quiet apartments.  I can’t even hear her walking around up there.  And I’ve listened.”  Vic hears Frank up there too.  Then he hears Frank slap her, although, I’m not sure how he knew it wasn’t Sally belting him.  Vic dashes out of Pete’s apartment.  He spots the stairs, then looks the other way down the hall, then back at the stairs.  He shrewdly determines that the best route upstairs is up the stairs.  That was kind of a weird beat; didn’t he just come up the stairs to Pete’s 2nd floor apartment?

Vic barges in and tosses Frank out.  Sally gets mad at Vic.  After all, this is 1955 and she is unmarried at 29.  When Vic reels off the things Frank did to her, she gets even madder, calling him a Peeping Tom.  She tosses Vic out.  He is upset, hearing her still crying inside.  Pete says, “Spend the night with me, Vic . . . you’ll feel better in the morning.”

The next day, Vic goes to Dr. Stern at Leland University “to get an answer to his dilemma.”  Although, I don’t think dilemma means what the writer thinks it means.  Miraculously, Vic catches him during office hours. Had he arrived 15 minutes later, he would have missed him; or 15 min-utes earlier.  The professor suggests he would be better off seeing a psychiatrist.  Then Vic is able to tell him the conversation on a call he receives.

Sensing a textbook deal which could con debt-ridden students out of a cool $125 per head, Stern gives Vic a series of tests.  Vic looks at a Rorschach picture and not only interprets it, he has analyzed it down into six separate components with circles and arrows when it is clearly just a man having sex with a chicken.  Playing with blocks displays his remarkable mechanical aptitude, or maybe they were just taking a break. He then completes a 3-4 hour IQ test in just 53 minutes, and tests out at 197.

For some reason, he is still hanging out with Pete; and still wearing the same suit and striped tie.  Pete is impressed by the the high IQ resulting from Vic’s electrocution and asks if he would be a genius if he stuck his finger in a light socket.  Asked and answered, counselor.  Vic says there will be more tests tomorrow.  Suddenly, Vic appears alarmed.  He can hear gas escaping in Sally’s apartment.  They run up and rescue Sally who is passed out on the floor.

After more tests, Dr. Stern comes up with a theory.  He proposes that the blast from the computer caused a surplus of electrons in Vic, making him negatively charged — the theory of static electricity, at least according to SFT.  That negative charge caused his senses to heighten.  Unfortunately, more testing reveals that Vic has lost his super-powers and must go back to holding a glass up to women’s walls to listen in.  Dr. Stern falls back on the old “10% of the brain” trope that still just won’t go away.  He says that even though Vic is back to normal, he proved what is possible.

Back in the pharmacy, Sally meets up with Vic.  She thanks him for saving her life.  Vic tells her that his brush with death has inspired him to “swing the pendulum” the other way, to go back to school, to enter the bustling field of medical research. He encourages her to do the same. Of course, his brush with death was the result of a lab accident which endow-ed him with super-powers; and hers was a failed suicide attempt resulting from soul-crushing depression and a overwhelming sense of loneliness, hopelessness, and despair.  But I’m sure they’ll be fine.

Despite being a complete man-child caricature, Pete did amuse me a couple of times. He was not enough to save the episode, however.  Criticism has a short menu on this show: Negative.

Other Stuff:

  • [1] To be fair, DARPA isn’t much better.  However it does make me long for the days before tortured acronyms like USA PATRIOT Act, VOICE, and SHIELD.
  • [2] The soda-jerk was played by former Little Rascal Alfalfa.  It would have been nice to have a Buckwheat cameo at the lunch-counter, but . . . you know.
  • [2] Apparently, long ago, pharmacies often had a soda fountain.  This began in the 1800’s when you could put drugs such as cocaine into the drinks.  In the early 1900’s, they became a soda & ice cream replacements for bars closed during Prohibition.
  • IMDb calls this episode The Negative Man.
  • Particle Man.