Tales From the Crypt – Forever Ambergris (10/02/93)

tftcforeverambergriss01Title Analysis: This section floats to the top because I have no idea where they got this from.  Ambergris is french for grey amber. Which adds just another layer of confusion as it is a waxy substance that is secreted by the intestines of sperm-whales and does not look or smell like amber.  It does, however, rate its own chapter in Moby Dick. Forever Amber is a novel about a 17th century ho’ who sleeps her way to the top and several other positions.  This episode is not set in the 17th century, contains no one named Amber, and no whales; although, there is some sperm (thankfully not seen due to admirable restraint of Cinemaxian proportions).

Award-winning photographer Dalton (Roger Daltrey) and his sidekick Ike (Steve Buscemi) are on a plane back home from their latest war-zone assignment.  Dalton knows that he has lost the eye of the Tigris[1] and that his assistant is now the superior artiste (or at least, snapper of self-immolation and severed-limb porn).  Ike invites his mentor back to his house to meet his girlfriend Bobbi (Lysette Anthony).

tftcforeverambergriss07Dalton arrives at the door and is greeted by the beautiful Bobbi, giving him just one more reason to resent Ike.  I guess because he drank a glass of wine at dinner, Dalton sleeps on the couch.  He gets up in the middle of the night, as a 50-year old guy is wont to do, and catches a peek at Ike and Bobbi having the sex.  She catches him in the mirror, but doesn’t seem to hold a grudge as she comes out later to share a doob’ with him.

Dalton and Ike get an assignment in another war zone.  A little ambition from Ike combined with a little manipulation by Dalton result in Ike going alone to a more dangerous village where people are being hacked into little pieces.  Dalton goes with some tough-as-nails mercenaries to a less dangerous zone.  We know they are tough because they smoke and drop f-bombs.  So, tough and cool!  Seriously, has a leather jacket ever looked good on anyone?  Dalton doesn’t mention that one of the mercs told him this village was contaminated with poison gas.

tftcforeverambergriss14That night, they regroup at camp.  Not only did Ike survive, but he got some great shots, just fueling Dalton’s resentment.  Dalton is awakened by Ike’s screams as he is covered in blood and puking.  To his credit, Dalton isn’t immediately cheered up by this.  But give him a few seconds and he sees his opportunity to get rid of Ike and claim his work for his own.  He allows Ike to further deteriorate into a foul-smelling goo to the point where his eyeball slides out.

’round the breakfast campfire, one of the mercs tells charming story of a pal in Nam who had his nose eaten off by bugs.  The next morning the soldier “beat the bushes and every bug he would find, he would cut open to find little bits to put his nose back together.”  But at least he didn’t smell.  Heyoooooo!

tftcforeverambergriss18Dalton stumbles into the breakfast nook looking like The Incredible Melting Man.  Dalton mows him down with the merc’s M16.  Could be contagious, you know.

Back in the states, Dalton pays a condolence call on Bobbi.  Wearing a little black mourning dress, she tells Dalton about a letter she received from one of the mercs saying that Dalton had stolen Ike’s pictures and murdered him.  She claims not to believe it — they light up another bone and jump in the sack.  We all grieve in our own way.  We get some all too rare nudity in this episode when Bobbi shows her squeezebox.

Bobbi reveals that the weed they just smoked was sent by Ike from the village he went to, so they are infected.  She starts to disintegrate into a slimy bloody mess on top of Dalton.  He tosses her off and runs about 3 feet to the bathroom.  Somehow in the space of 3 feet, his nose has been chewed off.

tftcforeverambergriss25Overall, an enjoyable outing if you don’t think about it too much, and why would ya?  The scenery was simple, but effective whether it was the hold of a cargo plane or just out in the woods.  Daltrey is not a bad actor either.  But some of the story elements . . .

Who doesn’t love Steve Buscemi?  He’s always great and as commanding or scary or hilarious as a scene requires.  However, you have a guy who is going to decompose and become a hideous shuffling zombie.  This is like the complaint about Nicholson in The Shining — he was crazy from frame one, and Buscemi . . . well he didn’t have as far to fall as, say, Brad Pitt would have.  Sure Ike was smart and had great character and personality, but the episode isn’t about him becoming an asshole.

The nose thing was just out of left field.  The campfire conversation was kind of a non-sequiter about an incident on the other side of the world.  How did it become part of this story?  And the nose was eaten off by bugs, but Ike’s problem was caused by a chemical weapon.

And the soldier was cutting open bugs hoping to reassemble the nose?  That would be some pretty small bits.  Maybe it was an act of desperation like trying to lift the car off an accident victim?  It’s just so absurd that it calls attention to itself.

Dalton sees Bobbi is a bloody mess (not the in British way), so he leaps from the bed still having a nose, goes to the adjacent bathroom and sees his noseless reflection in the mirror.  Those are some fast-ass invisible bugs.  I wonder if this is a mistake as a few shots just before he de-beds seem to purposely avoid showing his face.  And did he not feel anything before it literally fell off?  Pain, a sneeze, anything?

Finally, alas poor Bobbi.  Her death was completely avoidable.   She could have baked the dope in brownies and then claimed to be on a diet, for example.  I guess she couldn’t stand to live without Ike.


  • Title Analysis II:  Plus, ambergris is just an ugly word — ugly to look at and ugly to hear (actually, it’s kind of fun to speak).  I was going to say it is harder to listen to than Russian Opera, but apparently Russian Opera exists and is well-regarded — the world’s most annoying art-form sung with the world’s most grating accent.  There’s a reason the world admires your silent chess, gymnastics and ballet, comrades.
  • [1] Tigris is the only other word I can think of that ends with gris.
  • Yet another TFTC cover that is fine artistically but is contradicted by the story.
  • Weed, dope, pot . . . there is no word for marijuana that doesn’t make you sound like a narc.  Doob’ comes closest, I think.

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