Ray Bradbury Theater – The Dead Man (09/26/92)

bradbury02As Michael Corleone said, “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!

I was so happy to be through several episodes on the final fifth disc, and now the Bradbury Industrial Complex has randomly pushed me back to disc 4 for this episode. Sorry.

Miss Weldon (Louise Fletcher) is taking a bus to her new hometown when it almost hits one of the local bumpkins, nearly turning him into a speedbumpkin.  Some time later, the haggard man, Odd Martin, takes off his hat, places it on his chest and slowly lays flat in the gutter in front of the grocery store.

The police try to rouse him.  The sheriff and barber nudge him with their shoes, but he doesn’t move. They get some of the other rubes to lay him out on the sidewalk so, at least, he doesn’t take up a revenue producing metered space.

That night, Miss Weldon sees Odd Martin aimlessly shuffling down the street.  When she encounters him the next day, she tries to engage him in conversation about the kitten he is carrying to be drowned.  He claims to have been drowned once himself.  Yeeeeah, she offers to adopt the kitten.

The next day, the barber tells Miss Weldon the story of how a flood destroyed Martin’s farm 20 years ago.  He was missing for a while too.  Then he came walking out of the waters, claiming to have drowned, insisting that he was dead.  Again that night, she sees him shuffling like the living dead.

The routine continues with the townspeople lifting him out of the gutter the next morning, apparently a daily routine.  Miss Weldon wakes him up to give him some cologne “It helps keep you cool.”  I thought it was to take the stink off.

That night Miss Weldon asks Martin to walk her home.  Along the way she admires a dress in a store window.  Martin asks why she has taken an interest in him.  She says, “Because you are quiet.  And not loud and mean like the men at the barber shop.  I’ve had to fight for a scrap of respect there, but still they look right through me.  I’m like a window with no glass, not even a reflection.  I’m lonely.”rbtdeadman17

She tells Martin he should stop telling everyone he’s dead.  She says he’s “just half dead from the absence of a good woman.  What else could it be?”  You know, I’m not feeling so good myself.

He buys her the dress she admired in the window and brings it to her apartment.  He asks her to marry him.  The next day he strolls into the barbershop for a haircut and a shave.  Says he bought a small place for them just outside of town.

A neighbor boy sees them walking away that night, Odd in his suit and Miss Weldon in her new dress.  They go through a gate, and walk through a graveyard, and into a small mausoleum.  They enter and the crypt door slides shut.

rbtdeadman08Miss Weldon has spent a sheltered life taking care of an old mother who finally died, but casting Louise Fletcher was a mistake.  She plays it well, but she is too attractive to believe she would really have to lower her standards to a guy who sleeps in the gutter.

And even if she was half dead, as Odd was, due to loneliness — didn’t they have each other now?  Why the trip to the crypt which surely signified them both dying.  Were they both giving up just when they had found someone?  And where did he get the money to buy the dress?

Too many things just make no sense- — I rate this DOA.  It is well-performed, and well-directed, it just makes no sense.

Post-Post:

  • What small town barber has a woman manicuring all of the men getting haircuts?
  • And isn’t Korean?
  • In the short story, the men all give Odd Martin a bath in the back of the barber shop.  I think this was wisely trimmed from the screenplay.  Although it might explain why Miss Weldon couldn’t find a man in this town — they’re all getting manicures and bathing other men.
  • And why was he going to drown the kitten?  That wasn’t in the short story.
  • Otherwise, it is a pretty faithful adaptation except that Miss Weldon in the short story is not new in town — making it all the more unbelievable one of these dandies hadn’t ever hit on her; even if it were only for a beard — in a barber shop — oh the irony!

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