Ray Bradbury Theater – Marionettes, Inc. (05/21/85)

Annoying preface:  

I started this blog because I spent $9 on a box set of this series, and bailed after one season. Determined to get my money’s worth, I needed something to force me to watch every remaining episode.  I started with the first episode I had not seen, Season 2’s The Fruit at the Bottom of the Bowl.  With the unexpected deletion of Science Fiction Theatre from You Tube for copyright and presumably humanitarian reasons, I have opted to complete the coverage of RBT. [1]

Annoying commentary:

John Braling (the insufferable James Coco) is trying to eat breakfast, but his pestering wife won’t shut the hell up.  Like one of those Alfred Hitchcock Presents wives, she just goes on and on (i.e. asks for it).  To be fair, all of her yapping is about making him a nice breakfast and getting him out the door dressed warmly for work.  Also like AHP, she tempts fate by asking, “What would you do without me?”

Surely you can’t be serious.

When Braling starts up his computer at work, it seems to have been hijacked by Marionettes, Inc.  Misc personal information scrolls up the screen.  He later picks up a newspaper [2] at the newsstand and there is a Marionettes, Inc business card attached.  At lunch, the waiter brings his bill and there is a Marionettes, Inc. card attached.  He demonstrates a 1985 laptop at a client’s office and the Marionettes Inc. logo comes up again with his personal information.  Most embarrassing: it states his favorite show is Wheel of Fortune.

He goes to a bar where he sees a friend and demonstrates the computer’s strange behavior.  He decides to pay a visit to Marionettes, Inc.  I’m not sure how he found the building since there was no address on the cards.  After wandering down numerous dark hallways, he enters a dark office that is sparsely decorated with only a desk, a couch and Leslie Nielsen.  What?  This is some major star-power compared to the later RBT episodes.

Nielsen asks Braling if he is happy.  He tells Braling he is “a sad man rushing to the edge of the cliff, toward his own destruction.”  He offers Baling a chance to be happy.  In another office, he shows Braling an exact duplicate of himself, amazingly even wearing the same tie.  Neilsen suggests the robot could stay home with Mrs. Braling while he did whatever he wanted to do.  And all this for the low, low price of every penny in his bank account.  Braling calls it madness and leaves.

However, in the next scene, he drags his friend Crane to his house where Braling also appears to be sitting on the couch with his wife.  Braling explains he is ecstatic with his new freedom.  He keeps the Marionette in the basement and switches places with it as needed.  He is having a grand old time “going to movies, bowling, all the things I’ve wanted to do.”

Crane suggests “wine, women and song”.  Braling admits he hadn’t thought about girls.  How exactly would the Marionette help him?  He’s still James Coco; and also now has no money.  Maybe he would have been better off investing in the 1985 Kelly LeBrock Marionette.

Crane is so impressed he decides to get a Marionette of himself.  Crane goes home and grabs his bank book — his balance is $0.00.  He puts his ear to his wife’s chest and hears a clanking robot heart.  When the B-plot is better than the main story, there is a problem.

Still watching through his living room window, Braling sees his Marionette give his wife a gift of some lingerie.  He sneaks into the basement, opens the Marionette’s box, and presses the remote which causes his double to come to the basement.  He asks, “What am I supposed to do now that you’ve got her all riled up?”  The Marionette goes on at length about what an ingrate Braling his.  His wife only wanted to make him happy.  So he stuffs Braling in the Marionette box and goes back upstairs to take Braling’s place.

This story was previously filmed as an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. [3]  This episode is light years better than the later seasons of RBT.  It has more than one recognizable face, and shows some skill in the direction.  This is from the first season, before RBT fled the country like a celebrity on November 9th (oh, you’re still here?). It was directed by the ubiquitous Paul Lynch (Prom Night, Ray Bradbury Theater, The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits).  Also, yesterday’s TZ.

However, it still is not as good as the AHP version.  Both versions suffer from having too much story for a 30 minute episode.  This version also suffers from having too much James Coco for a 30 minute episode.

Other Stuff:

  • [1] I will probably also circle around on Alfred Hitchcock Presents once I’m staring down the barrel of those hour-long episodes.
  • [1] Also, still haven’t gotten my $9 worth.
  • [2] The newspaper also blows the whistle on this being a Canadian production — the headline references the CBC.
  • [3] The character there had an extra I in his name — Brailing.  However, there was a non-I Braling in RBT’s The Coffin.

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