This episode immediately struck fear in my heart as I got a Three’s a Crowd vibe from the music.
Insurance salesman James Reed boards an elevator with a hot babe. He makes an effort at small talk but doesn’t get far, thus by TV rules guaranteeing she is married to the man he is going to see. He is meeting client Sebastian Fleming in his penthouse. Reed figures a $9 million policy will cover his home and contents which include about half a flock of parrots.
Fielding is an boorish, obnoxious dick, and expects a kickback of 30% of Reed’s commission on the policy. Reed agrees rather than lose it all to a competitor. As they are shaking hands, the woman walks in. She turns out to be Gloria Fielding, clearly in it for the money or a lost bet.
The next day, she comes to visit Reed on his houseboat. He and Gloria end up in the sack and he suggests they might get rid of Mr. Fielding to be together.
That night at Fleming’s penthouse, he suggests they have a glass of champagne to celebrate. Never has an insurance policy been treated with such festivity — well, the payout, maybe. Reed throws the obnoxious Fleming off the balcony, which does make me feel a little more festive.
Mrs. Fleming learns that her husband had planned to take out a $10 million life insurance policy, but had not signed the papers. She and Reed are actually happy about this as it takes away an obvious motive for the murder — because the penthouse which was just established to be worth $9M and his other holdings would certainly not have been a motive.
Then Michael Ironside comes calling, which is never a good sign. Gloria is not happy to see him and tells him to get the hell out. He has been obsessed with her and bought a condo right across the street to keep an eye on her. He also happens to be Reed’s boss who gave him the lead on Fleming, and has pictures of Reed throwing Fleming over the balcony.
He doesn’t want money, he wants to time-share Gloria, taking her from dusk to dawn. Reed, being a poor negotiator, gets the 12 hours a day she runs her yap. Ironside moves in immediately, taking her that night. In the mornings, she stumbles back to Reed. This goes on for three months.
Soon, she finds Reed on his houseboat where he has overdosed. He wrote a confession letter clearing Gloria. She burns the letter, strolls down the dock, and gets into a car with Ironside. They are clearly a happy couple who planned this whole thing. She tells Ironside she burned Jim’s confession and he says, “Now no one will ever know he was murdered.” Well yes, with the letter the authorities would have known Fielding was murdered . . . but it would have implicated Reed — wouldn’t that have been beneficial?
Cut to one of Fielding’s parrots squawking, “Hello, Jim. Help me, Gloria.” If this is supposed to indicate they will not get away with the murder, it fails. 1) The squawk implicates Reed, and sounds like Fleming was calling to Gloria for help — whether he fell or was pushed off the balcony can’t be determined, 2) The parrot could have picked up this phrase any time in the past 3 months. It could have been Reed saying, “Gloria, help me open this can of tuna, 3) Birds can’t testify in court — see landmark People v. Toucan-Sam.
This is a strange episode for Tales from the Crypt. It really would have worked better as an Alfred Hitchcock Presents. There is no supernatural element. No one comes back from the dead. The performances are good, and even the bit with the birds works if you don’t think about it — although it would have really helped the entire episode if this 5-second bit had been shot and scripted better. The directing was a little leaden, though, and the score was just deadly. The melodramatic wailing saxophone does not have a good track record in this series. What this really needed was a non-director’s cut.
- This is Richard Greenberg’s only TV directing credit. It wasn’t bad, but it didn’t really fit the tone of the series.
- Not a lot of star-power here except for Michael Ironside. The star of the episode is the poor-man’s Puddy, David Kilner from Inside. Despite a couple of mediocre showcases, I can imagine him being great in the right role.
- Reed overdoses on Pentobarbital, a drug used in executions. When the manufacturer heard of this, they were shocked, shocked! They decided not to sell the drug for use in executions. Boy, those pharmaceutical companies are just swell!