Ray Bradbury Theater – The Crowd (07/02/85)

After midnight, Spelliner leaves a party and is driving his white Datsun 280-Z home when a dog runs in front of him.  Not being a bike messanger, he actually swerves to avoid it and flips the car.  He tries to crawl out.  Before the wheels even stop spinning, he is surrounded by people.  And not the kind of people you expect to be out at 2 AM, but a nice cross-section of male & female, young & old, white & off-white.  When the ambulance arrives, the crowd disperses.

A few days later, he is back at work in his neon sign studio.  He and his partner Morgan hear a car wreck and go to the window.  Spelliner pulls out his Casio digital watch and times that it only takes 21 seconds for the crowd to assemble.  They are the same people that flocked to his accident.

Spelliner first tries roaming the streets with a camera hoping to witness an accident.  Luckily, Morgan is able to get his hands on a stack of surveillance tapes [2] and episodes of America’s Wackiest Fatal Car Accidents.  He finds the same group gathering at 11 different accident sites.  There is one man in dark clothes whose face is never visible.

Shop Spelliner’s Gallery for all your Sumo-Wrestler ass art needs.

He shows all this to Morgan, who asks what the connection is.  Spelliner then produces morgue photos of these same people who had been killed in auto-accidents.  His friend suggests he drop it.  Spelliner believes the crowd is former accident victims who try to steal the air of those injured in current accidents.  He wants to meet these killers.

They go out looking for trouble.  They see no accidents, but do see some of the crowd-members individually walking around which kinda undermines the story. Spelliner panics and runs over Morgan, and flips his car again.  Spelliner climbs out of the car.  The crowd has assembled around Morgan lying dead in the street.  He looks around and sees Morgan is now one of the crowd.

There was a great premise here that falls far short of its potential.  Part of the problem is simply the times.  The synths, the hazy cinematography, the goofy clothes, the neon — they just don’t time-travel well.  Some of the fault must also fall on Nick Mancuso’s painfully dull performance as the awkwardly named Spelliner [1] (to be fair, I’m not sure it was ever spoken, but it was tough to type).  Morgan was mostly a non-entity as well.

Credit where it is due. It is a simple shot, but maybe the best in any RBT episode.

And what of the faceless man on the tapes?  Surely that was supposed to be Spelliner or Morgan, but it is just left hanging.  I’m not saying that would have made sense, but it would have tied things up.

Other Stuff:

  • [1] It is slightly more manageable as Spallner in the short story.
  • [2] I guess they are surveillance tapes.  When he hands them to Spelliner, he says something I have been unable to decipher after multiple replays.
  • LOL — Googling the episode, I found a New York Times article that called HBO’s Hitchhiker series “embarrassing”.  Shockingly, they did not blame Donald Trump.

2 thoughts on “Ray Bradbury Theater – The Crowd (07/02/85)

  1. Just watched this story and found your vastly entertaining reviews. Glad you’re only on break until September!
    I didn’t think the styles were TOO jarringly garish so as to date the story, but I do think the music the hero-protagonist was playing whilst making 90-degree turns at 60 MPH might’ve attracted the dead.

  2. Ha ha! That Sumo-Ass wall art unnerved me as well. I kept expecting HIM to appear in the crowd….maybe he was the Faceless guy? Nah, another gander at the screen-shot shows that guy apparently clothed.

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