Tales From the Crypt – Maniac at Large (08/19/92)

tftcmaniacatlarge03You can’t get a title more promising than that, but sadly the episode does not meet expectations; and I would argue only the word “at” is accurate.

Some gangstas are hanging out at the library, as gangstas are wont to do, terrorizing an old man and stealing his newspaper after jabbing a knife through it.  To be fair, there was a Nike coupon on the back.

Librarian Pritchard bravely confronts them and has security man Grady escort them out. After all, everyone knows public libraries are for smelly homeless people to hang out in, not gangstas.

This is witnessed by the meek new librarian Margaret who is given the task of cleaning up the gangsta’s vandalism.  Beneath the newspaper, she finds that one of the little angels left a switchblade which she slips into her pocket.  No one sees her except 1980’s singing star Adam Ant, who is no goody two shoes.

tftcmaniacatlarge04Despite there being a Maniac at Large as both the newspaper headline and episode title informs us, Pritchard has scheduled a late night inventory count.  Actually, Pritchard is treated about as if she were an ogre of a boss, but she seems pretty reasonable to me, so maybe I’m the ogre.

Adam Ant give Margaret a scare as he is hanging around past closing time.  He wants to checkout a reference book, but Margaret tells him it must stay.  He ominously says that if the police read this book, they might be able to catch the killer. Plus he’s British!  Just like a certain “the Ripper” I recall, hmmmmm?  He predicts the next victim will be a woman.  And speculates that the killer is set off by fear of living in the city.

tftcmaniacatlarge06Pritchard give Margaret some items to take to the basement where she sees the shadow of a knife repeatedly stabbing someone or something.  She runs upstairs to have Grady take a look.  He goes down but finds nothing.

She tells Pritchard who just happens to be talking to a police detective.  In the basement, they find an art book of nekkid ladies that has been slashed up.  The detective says he could pick up the ganagstas but “probably couldn’t make the charge stick”; unlike the pages in the book of nekkid ladies. Still no idea who it was as the gangstas were long gone, and Grady and Pritchard were upstairs.

tftcmaniacatlarge07Serial killer buff Adam Ant is trotted out again with some scary talk.  After he leaves, Margaret sees the newspaper headline again and starts to freak out.  A man with a deformed face bangs on the door menacingly, but Pritchard later explains he is a regular, just trying to return a book. And this guy was trying to return the hell out of it, banging on the door, waving the book, pressing his face to the window.  Perhaps he as unaware of the Book Drop earlier observed behind Grady’s desk.

Pritchard invites Margaret upstairs for a chat.  In Pritchard’s office, Margaret accuses her of killing Grady, and accuses her of “wanting to kill me.”  Pritchard tries to calm her down, but Margaret grabs the switchblade left behind by both the gangstas and the detective and plunges it repeatedly into her boss.  Echoing Adam Ant’s prediction, she rants “I knew you were after me, just like all the others!  But I’m not afraid anymore!  I showed you!”

tftcmaniacatlarge08Grady picks that moment to show up again and sees Pritchard stabbed to death.  Margaret is staring out the window, and says “I guess I’ll have to resign, but I liked it here.”  On the bright side, there is a higher position available for her promotion; stabbed to death being the only way to vacate a civil service position.

She wistfully continues that “the city makes me nervous.  So much crime.  I don’t like being afraid all the time.”  While she is giving the monologue, there is no indication what Grady is doing.

A guy with John Frankenheimer’s resume knows what he’s doing, but there were problems here.  Grady’s disappearance in the final scene, for example.  Blythe Danner did a fine job, but wasn’t really used well.  I’m an old fashioned guy — she was really hot back then, but we barely got a clear well-lit shot of her smiling and looking pretty.

Pritchard was regarded as a bitch, but really was just trying to run the library efficiently, and was pretty conscientious for a civil servant; I never considered her a suspect.  And who was doing that stabbing in the basement?  I suspect it was just a paranoid delusion by Margaret, but being the only such hallucination gave it too much credibility.

However, the set was great.  Maybe not a great library, but a great set — I really liked all the stairs, and levels, and railings.  And the performances were all good.  Adam Ant was over the top, but that is de rigueur in a good TFTC episode.  Blythe Danner just seemed beautiful and classy as always. Even while murdering her boss, she seemed classier and more relatable than her daughter Gwyneth Paltrow.


  • Title Analysis: I didn’t consider Margaret to be a “maniac” in the classic raging asylum dweller sense.  And she wasn’t “at large” — she was at work in the library for the whole episode.  Technically, I guess it was true, but not as brutal as I had expected.
  • Almost 20 years earlier, Grady (Clarence Williams III) was in a show whose concept still amuses me.  It was a serious police show where 3 hippies worked under cover (or am I thinking of 21 Jump Street?).  The best part is the cool name the 50 year old suits with long sideburns at the network gave it to really reel in the teens:  The Mod Squad.  Of course, the Porno-Industrial-Complex did the obvious and released The Bod Squad.
  • Or maybe not.  I could swear I remember seeing it on a drive-in marquee, but I can find no evidence of it,  I don’t think I’m confusing with this one.
  • The third of Mae Wood’s lifetime screenwriting credits, all on this show.
  • The classy beautiful Blythe Danner:  I’d like to book her . . . no, that doesn’t work. I’d like to make her decimal system dewy. . . no, too disrespectful.  I got nothing, but then I’m writing this in a craft brewhouse within walking distance of my front door, so I’m lucky to be forming complete. Sentences.

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