I thought maybe we were back in the USA given the subject matter of this one. Sadly, no. And that is really too bad since it it features a uniquely American art form, and is personally relevant to Ray Bradbury.
Young Terwilliger brings a demo reel of his stop-motion animation to nasty, brutish film producer Mr. Clarence for review. In case we did not know Clarence was a jerk, he is given a huge squarish protrusion above his left eye. Cuz different people is evil. Clarence likes the demo, but grudgingly offers Terwilliger only $2,000 to do the special effects for his next film.
I am tempted to say his is the kind of film destined to be included in a collection of 20 for $5. Sadly, none of those 20 has yet shown the skill and dedication required for stop-motion animation. But, to be fair, I haven’t gotten to Gingerdead Man 3 yet.
Terwilliger accepts the contract and we watch him designing the dinosaur models. We get small insights into the process, such as how the artists use peanut shells to impress texture into the clay skin of the models. Also, that artists like peanuts. The filming commences and we see a little of the painstaking work required to move the models 1/16th of an inch for each shot.
Despite the work Terwilliger puts in, and how much Clarence’s lawyer praises the effects, Clarence rolls out of the shadows to berate them both and claim ownership of the models. He also demands constant changes to the bodies, more spikes, bigger teeth, angry eyes, claws like razors. Clarence demands that the dinosaur be a monster!
Clarence is finally satisfied at the screening when he sees a dinosaur that is a true monster. Terwilliger is a little fearful of his response, since the monster was clearly based on Clarence. I guess there’s not much you can do to make a dinosaur look like a man, but giving it a huge knot over its left eye was a pretty clear shot across Clarence’s brow.
Leaving the screening, Clarence realizes the dinosaur was based on him and screams for Terwilliger — for God’s sake, let’s just call him T! Clarence catches up to T in the studio and fires him, threatening a lawsuit. The lawyer tells Clarence that the film was actually a tribute to him, hero of the motion picture industry. The dinosaur represents the lonely, cunning, strong producer, all thunder and lightning, never appreciated.
Clarence, literally a blockhead, is vain enough to buy this load of crap. He generously offers, “You’re both still on the payroll, but just until the preview.” This is especially generous to the lawyer who pointed out earlier, that he had not been on the payroll for months.
At Le Cinema that night, the house is filled completely with hot French teenage girls, illustrating once again that I went into the wrong business. After the movie, the girls swarm Clarence for autographs. T is baffled by this response until he discovers that the girls are a Scout Troop recruited by the lawyer through his niece.
Clarence is reveling in the adulation, and the lawyer tells T, “Looks like we both still have jobs.” This despite the fact that the lawyer had no job, and T was just a contract worker for that one film. T points out that this time it is the lawyer who has created the monster.
Although, surrounding this bitter, lonely, middle-aged man with adoring underage French girls for the first time in his life might just be entrapment.
- This episode and the short story are considered to be an homage to Ray Harryhausen, king of stop motion animation and friend of Bradbury since their teens. A great overview of his work can be seen here.
- No mention of Harryhausen, but a good article here on the group of young men in southern California who shaped sci-fi and horror during the 50s and 60s.
- Out of 65 episodes in this series, this one is rated #64 by users on IMDb. That seems harsh. It’s no masterpiece, but there is a little fun to be had here. And God knows the bar is pretty low for this series.
- Are there really this many open fires in the streets of France?