Tales from the Darkside Episode 23: The False Prophet

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Technical Specs

Director: Jerry Cotts

Writer: Jule Selbo

Cast: Ronee Blakley, Justin Deas, Ann Hillary, Bill Fiore, and Paul Sparer

Composer: Steve Gruskin

Air Date: 8/4/1985

 

Overview

Hoping to meet her “Sagittarius,” Cassie Pines (Ronee Blakley) follows the advice of an astrology machine known as Prophet Madame X and takes a bus to Texas. While resting at a quiettales-from-the-darkside-the-false-prophet café, Cassie finds herself captivated by Horace X—a masculine version of the Madame X model. Upon encountering a “false prophet” named Heat Jones (Justin Deas), Cassie believes she may have found her Sagittarius; however, Horace X claims otherwise.

“The False Prophet” is a dreadful note on which to end Tales from the Darkside’s inaugural season. Despite attempting to blend dark comedy with an important life lesson, this episode fails miserably on both counts.

 

Pros

None.

 

Cons

Though intentionally quirky, Ronee Blakley’s portrayal of Cassie Pines is never humorous enough to make worthwhile her interactions with a malevolent astrology machine. Also problematic, Blakley’s ditsy acting may prevent audiences from tales-from-the-darkside-the-false-prophetsympathizing with Cassie following her much undeserved fate in the final sequence.

On that note, viewers of a sensitive inclination may question why Cassie—a naïve but ultimately harmless woman—endures a punishment that far outweighs her “crime” of relying upon cryptic nonsense while making decisions that will greatly impact her future. By forgoing justice in favor of a mean-spirited conclusion, “The False Prophet” undermines the moral thesis upon which it operates.

 

Analysis

“The False Prophet” delivers a message about working to obtain one’s goals instead of merely waiting and wishing for circumstances to change—a theme that, as indicated tales-from-the-darkside-the-false-prophetabove, fails to maintain its profound implications due to the cruel ending that follows it.

 

Concluding Comments

A ridiculous episode, “The False Prophet” more closely resembles a second-rate drama sketch than a typical Tales from the Darkside offering. For all but the most enthusiastic of Ronee Blakley fans, this one should be avoided at all costs.

 

Overall Quality: 1/10

 

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The Twilight Zone Episode 37: King Nine Will Not Return

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Technical Specs

Director: Buzz Kulik

Writer: Rod Serling

Cast: Bob Cummings, Gene Lyons, Paul Lambert, and Jenna McMahon

Composer: Fred Steiner

Air Date: 9/30/1960

Production Code: 173-3639

 

Overview

After crashing King Nine—a World War II B-25 Mitchell bomber—in a desert, Captain James Embry (Bob Cummings) awakens in a disoriented, amnesiac state. Unable to locatethe-twilight-zone-king-nine-will-not-return his subordinates, Embry finds himself tormented by hallucinations of missing crewman.

Essentially a remake of “Where Is Everybody?” from season one, “King Nine Will Not Return” examines the harrowing impact of prolonged isolation on the human psyche; but with a twist. Though hampered by a weak conclusion, this episode will appeal to viewers who enjoy The Twilight Zone for its resonating commentary on the human condition.

 

Pros

Despite initially attempting to rationalize the bizarre nature of his predicament, Embry later surmises that he must be either dead or insane when taunted by a mirage of his supposedly the-twilight-zone-king-nine-will-not-returndeceased crew—an unsettling image that prompts a somber but realistic transformation in the main character; specifically, the captain bursts into a fit of deranged, uncontrollable laughter before witnessing his men appear and vanish within a matter of seconds, after which Embry falls to the ground as if defeated by his perceived failings as a military leader. Embry’s slow descent into madness is made credible by the convincing manner with which Bob Cummings portrayed an Air Force captain on the verge of mental collapse, a performance that effectively carries the majority of Rod Serling’s narrative.

 

Cons

the-twilight-zone-king-nine-will-not-returnAs opposed to the aforementioned “Where Is Everybody?,” “King Nine Will Not Return” never bothers to generate tension from the desolate surroundings in which a lone protagonist is forced to dwell. Inner monologues are instead used to convey the paranoia and overwhelming guilt central to Embry’s character; however, an expository approach to suspense-building proves to be a poor substitute for interaction between one man and his environment (e.g. talking to mannequins, pondering the meaning of life while staring into a mirror, etc.).

 

Analysis

In addition to its insightful message regarding the value of companionship in challenging scenarios, “King Nine Will Not Return” explores the horrific ways that survivor syndrome can the-twilight-zone-king-nine-will-not-returnafflict even the most remarkable of men. Note that in spite of having no food and a minimal water supply, Embry primarily concerns himself with locating those under his command rather than returning to safety—a sad testament to the self-imposed torture experienced by many soldiers who, through no fault of their own, avoid making the ultimate sacrifice in battle only to bear the burden of responsibility for fallen comrades upon transitioning to civilian life.

 

Concluding Comments

“King Nine Will Not Return” makes thought-provoking use of a decidedly thin concept. A number of poignant monologues delivered by Cummings will especially intrigue fans of The Twilight Zone, though Serling’s uncharacteristically dull twist ending may fail to satisfy audiences with high expectations.

 

Overall Quality: 7/10

 

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Tales from the Crypt Episode 39: None but the Lonely Heart

0

Technical Specs

Director: Tom Hanks

Writer: Donald Longtooth

Cast: Treat Williams, Frances Sternhagen, Henry Gibson, Tom Hanks, Sugar Ray Leonard, John Kassir, Bibi Osterwald, Clive Rosengren, Edward Penn, Gracia Lee, Don Perry, Constance Pfeiffer, and Louise Fitch

Composer: Jay Ferguson

Air Date: 6/27/1992

 

Overview

With the law hot on his trail, recently widowed Howard Prince (Treat Williams) seduces, marries, and prepares to murder a wealthy old woman named Effie Gluckman (Frances Sternhagen).tales-from-the-crypt-none-but-the-lonely-heart Upon receiving a series of threatening notes sent by an anonymous blackmailer, Howard decides to confront the man that he assumes, albeit wrongly, to be responsible.

“None but the Lonely Heart” makes clever use of a clichéd concept and may therefore appeal to fans of the black comedy genre. Though occasionally mean-spirited (the opening kill scene in particular should evoke sympathy from all but the most callous of viewers), this episode concludes on a note that will satisfy audiences with a compelling sense of justice.

 

Pros

Treat Williams should be commended for embodying the humble charm typical of a successful conman, thereby adding credibility to the notion that an affluent but lonely old woman would, in spite of her initial skepticism, allow herself to become deeply enamored with the prospect of a handsome young suitor (a faux display tales-from-the-crypt-none-but-the-lonely-heartof “impotence” further establishes Howard as a modest individual in the eyes of his intended victim). As if to reinforce his lack of conscience, Howard responds to an accusation of cruelty by convincing himself that he had done each of his now deceased wives a “very big favor” by giving her a final chance to feel loved—a classic case of reverse victimhood made realistic by Williams’ contemptible performance.

 

Cons

(Spoilers beyond this point)

Effectively gruesome though it may be, the twist ending falls somewhat flat given that no reason, supernatural or otherwise, is presented to explain the resurrection of Howard’s multiple wives.

 

Analysis

tales-from-the-crypt-none-but-the-lonely-heartBy confronting a black widower with his zombie ex-lovers, “None but the Lonely Heart” puts an original spin on the gold-digger trope (that being said, many prior Tales from the Crypt offerings had employed a similar premise).

 

Concluding Comments

The directorial debut of Tom Hanks, “None but the Lonely Heart” benefits from a hauntingly memorable climax. For those who enjoy visceral horror with a subtle comedic twist, this one is a must.

 

Overall Quality: 8/10

 

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The Munsters Episode 31: Love Comes to Mockingbird Heights

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Technical Specs

Director: Joseph Pevney

Writers: Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher

Cast: Fred Gwynne, Yvonne De Carlo, Al Lewis, Pat Priest, Butch Patrick, Charles Robinson, Richard Hale, and Duncan McLeod

Composer: Jack Marshall

Air Date: 4/22/1965

 

Overview

After receiving a package of doubloons from Uncle Gilbert (Richard Hale), the Munsters decide to store their new treasure in a bank vault. Complications arise when assistant managerthe-munsters-love-comes-to-mockingbird-heights Alan Benson (Charles Robinson) attempts to elope with Marilyn, after which he would gain access to Uncle Gilbert’s fortune.

“Love Comes to Mockingbird Heights” should be commended for putting a unique spin on Marilyn’s inability to find and keep a romantic partner, a joke that had nearly run its course prior to this point in the series. Also remarkable are Eddie’s insightful conversations with Uncle Gilbert, which at last reveal the many advantages to being the Creature from the Black Lagoon.

 

Pros

Under normal circumstances, sitcom writers would have a difficult time selling the premise of a beautiful, charming young woman being seduced by an average Joe; however, given that Marilyn has a distorted perception of her own attractiveness coupled with naïve opinions about human nature (a Munster family trademark),the-munsters-love-comes-to-mockingbird-heights audiences should easily accept that a man such as Alan could, if devoid of moral inhibitions, manipulate his way into marrying someone of exceptionally high value. It should also be noted that Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher’s employment of the conman trope works quite effectively in conjunction with the Munsters’ kooky shenanigans, especially when Herman and Lily turn the tables on Alan.

 

Cons

None.

 

Analysis

the-munsters-love-comes-to-mockinbird-heightsHerman once again demonstrates a fatherly desire to protect Marilyn, specifically by scaring off a potential suitor whose vile deception would have grave consequences if allowed to continue unabated. Though somewhat unintentional (the line, “everyone looks kind of frightening when they first wake up” is used to explain Alan’s mortified reaction to a slumbering Herman), Herman’s late-night confrontation with Alan serves to reinforce the fact that, contrary to popular belief, the Munsters exemplify more wholesome values (e.g. loyalty) than do the majority of fictitious families.

 

Concluding Comments

By complementing a ridiculous concept with idiotic puns and goofball special effects, “Love Comes to Mockingbird Heights” provides enough good, clean humor for the entire family to enjoy. Additionally worth praising, the Creature from the Black Lagoon makes a delightful “splash” that will appeal to fans of the classic Universal Monster movies which inspired The Munsters.

 

Overall Quality: 10/10

 

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Star Trek Episode 79: Turnabout Intruder

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Technical Specs

Director: Herb Wallerstein

Writer: Arthur H. Singer

Cast: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Sandra Smith, Harry Landers, James Doohan, George Takei, Walter Koenig, Majel Barrett, Barbara Baldavin, David L. Ross, and John Boyer

Composer: Fred Steiner

Air Date: 6/3/1969

Stardate: 5928.5

Production #: 60043-79

 

Overview

While answering a distress call on Camus II, Captain Kirk encounters Janice Lester (Sandra Smith)—an embittered former love interest—and her caretaker, Dr. Coleman (Harry Landers). By meansstar-trek-turnabout-intruder of an alien transference machine, Lester switches her personality with that of Kirk and assumes command of the Enterprise, though not without raising an eyebrow from Spock.

The unofficial series finale, “Turnabout Intruder” provides a disappointing conclusion to the (live-action) television adventures of Kirk and company. Star Trek enthusiasts may nevertheless enjoy this effort given the inspiring manner with which Spock, McCoy, and many others react when their captain’s body is usurped by a deranged imposter.

 

Pros

star-trek-turnabout-intruderSandra Smith should be commended for exercising restraint while portraying her character, an aspect that makes credible any sequences wherein Captain Kirk remains trapped in Janice Lester’s body (the same unfortunately cannot be said of William Shatner, whose idiotic mannerisms hardly convey the subtlety one would expect of a Shakespearean performer). Exceptionally moving are Spock’s intimate exchanges with Lester/Kirk, which reinforce the transcendent quality of Star Trek’s most iconic friendship.

 

Cons

It should be noted that “Turnabout Intruder” serves the purpose of commenting on gender roles as perceived during the late 1960s; however, observant fans may question why a woman would star-trek-turnabout-intruderbe denied captaincy on the basis of her sex alone, especially when considering the egalitarian nature of Gene Roddenberry’s fictional society. If an irrational temperament had instead been specified as the primary reason for Lester’s inability to command a vessel, then this episode might never have received accusations of sexism from (perhaps overly) sensitive viewers. (Also worth mentioning, Starfleet’s discriminatory policy detailed by Lester would seem to contradict the events of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and Star Trek: Voyager, both of which feature female starship captains—albeit many years following the original series’ timeframe).

 

Analysis

star-trek-turnabout-intruderIn addition to its important—if strangely executed—social commentary, “Turnabout Intruder” highlights an impenetrable bond that binds the crew together during and after Enterprise’s five-year mission. Specifically, senior officers Spock, Scotty, McCoy, and later Chekov and Sulu maintain their loyalty to Kirk even when presented with a fantastic tale regarding personality transference, thereby solidifying the family structure upon which all seven main characters base their interactions with one another.

 

Concluding Comments

“Turnabout Intruder” bids a bizarre farewell to one of the greatest and most influential science fiction series ever produced. That being said, a poignant character examination may appeal to Star Trek fans willing to overlook the politically incorrect themes underlying Arthur H. Singer’s narrative.

 

Overall Quality: 7/10

 

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Star Trek Episode 78: All Our Yesterdays

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Technical Specs

Director: Marvin Chomsky

Writer: Jean Lisette Aroeste

Cast: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Mariette Hartley, Ian Wolfe, Kermit Murdock, Ed Bakey, James Doohan, Anna Karen, Al Cavens, Stan Barrett, and Johnny Haymer

Composer: George Duning

Air Date: 3/14/1969

Stardate: 5943.7

Production #: 60043-78

 

Overview

In order to warn the people of Sarpeidon about an imminent supernova, Captain Kirk goes with Spock and McCoy to the planet’s surface; however, all inhabitants have already been evacuated save for an eccentric librarian known as Mr. Atoz (Ian Wolfe). Prompted by a female scream, Kirk enters a time rift generated by thestar-trek-all-our-yesterdays atavachron—a device by which the Sarpeidon residents have escaped into the past—and arrives in a society parallel to Early Modern Europe, whereupon he is arrested and charged with witchcraft. While Kirk compels the Prosecutor (Kermit Murdock)—also from the future—to assist him, Spock and McCoy find themselves stranded in Sarpeidon’s ice age, with only a political prisoner named Zarabeth (Mariette Hartley) to keep them company.

A remarkable character study, “All Our Yesterdays” earns its reputation as one of the greatest Star Trek episodes ever made. Exceptionally worth praising are Spock’s intimate exchanges with Zarabeth, which serve to challenge common perceptions of Leonard Nimoy’s character as a cold, insensitive computer devoid of warmth or personality.

 

Pros

By seamlessly blending two distinct time travel narratives, “All Our Yesterdays” draws attention to the unique problem-solving methods and emotional responses of all three main characters star-trek-all-our-yesterdaysupon being separated from one another (or more accurately, when Spock and McCoy are forced to work apart from Captain Kirk). On one hand, Spock quickly becomes agitated and assumes a defeatist mindset when informed that a return trip to his own time period would be quite impossible—a surprising reaction made credible due to an explanation about the Vulcan species’ barbaric past influencing Spock in a primitive and unpredictable manner. McCoy, in contrast, retains the determination one may expect of a seasoned Starfleet officer and attempts to motivate Spock through any means necessary, including a heated confrontation regarding Zarabeth’s obvious but understandable efforts to manipulate the Vulcan scientist.

star-trek-all-our-yesterdaysThe captain’s predicament will also appeal to Star Trek fans, especially those who admire Kirk’s fascinating solutions to no-win scenarios. Notably, the prospect of execution via stake-burning never deters the Enterprise captain from persuading a conflicted prosecutor to lend a helping hand, specifically by releasing Kirk from jail and leading him to the time portal through which he originally traveled.

 

Cons

None.

 

Analysis

Although a clever plot twist concerning regression to one’s ancestors might explain why an otherwise logical character behaves without inhibition, additional narrative clues indicate that Spock had always harbored powerful feelings despite failing to act on them—a thesis supported by many previous episodes. Prior to star-trek-all-our-yesterdaysthis point in the Star Trek canon, however, Spock’s passionate displays had been attributed almost exclusively to his human heritage and not repressed Vulcan instinct as “All Our Yesterdays” would seem to imply. In light of this revelation, Star Trek fans will surely find ironic the fact that only Dr. McCoy—an “illogical” human if ever there was one—can restore Spock to his former self after Zarabeth’s charm takes hold over him.

 

Concluding Comments

star-trek-all-our-yesterdaysThe penultimate Star Trek episode, “All Our Yesterdays” overshadows the mediocre and occasionally ridiculous content included in season three’s lineup of entries. A romantic subplot involving Spock and Zarabeth in particular will satisfy science fiction fans of a sensitive disposition, whereas Kirk’s impending judgment by the Inquisition reinforces the sense of urgency underlying Jean Lisette Aroeste’s narrative.

 

Overall Quality: 10/10

 

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Star Trek Episode 77: The Savage Curtain

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Technical Specs

Director: Herschel Daugherty

Writers: Gene Roddenberry and Arthur Heinemann

Cast: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Lee Bergere, Barry Atwater, Phillip Pine, James Doohan, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, Walter Koenig, Arell Blanton, Carol Daniels DeMent, Robert Herron, and Nathan Jung

Composer: Fred Steiner

Air Date: 3/7/1969

Stardate: 5906.4

Production #: 60043-77

 

Overview

While investigating life signs originating from the inhospitable planet Excalbia, the Enterprise crew is confronted with an apparition of Captain Kirk’s childhood hero, Abraham Lincoln (Lee Bergere). Searching for answers, Kirk travels with Spock and Lincoln to an Earth-like region of the planet’s surface; star-trek-the-savage-curtainimmediately thereafter, a silicon-based lifeform named Yarnek explains his curiosity with human perceptions of good and evil. To determine which “side” is more powerful, Yarnek pits Kahless the Unforgettable (Robert Herron), Col. Green (Phillip Pine), Zora of Tiburon (Carol Daniels DeMent), and Genghis Khan (Nathan Jung) against Kirk, Spock, Lincoln, and Surak (Barry Atwater) in the ultimate showdown of good versus evil.

An engaging study on moral judgment as it pertains to violent combat, “The Savage Curtain” overshadows the ridiculous concept upon which it was founded. Though many awkwardly choreographed fight sequences are present, a clumsy execution never detracts from the profound thesis that underlies every character motivation in this episode.

 

Pros

By exuding a level of gravitas befitting the United States’ most revered Commander in Chief, Lee Bergere made credible an otherwise cartoonish and one-dimensional conflict. star-trek-the-savage-curtainDespite failing to parallel Lincoln’s imposing stature (the real Lincoln would have towered over Kirk and Spock), Bergere portrayed the 16th President with an elegant but determined quality that, when tested by the dishonorable fighting methods of an opposing force, prompts the Enterprise captain and first officer to remain strong-willed even while compelled to utilize the same underhanded tactics employed by Zora, Kahless, Colonel Green, and Genghis Khan.

 

Cons

star-trek-the-savage-curtainA mustache-twirling villain, Colonel Green lacks sufficient cunning and may therefore struggle to convince viewers of his notorious military conquests. Even when “negotiating” with Captain Kirk, Green never maintains the guile that one would expect of a man who once defeated his adversaries by establishing an intricate web of lies with which to entrap and destroy them.

 

Analysis

Operating on the premise that good and evil can seldom be identified as such, “The Savage Curtain” challenges the notion of a black-and-white reality and will thus appeal to star-trek-the-savage-curtainthose who enjoy Star Trek for its philosophically substantive content. The contrast between Surak and Lincoln in particular demonstrates that practical rather than peaceable measures must occasionally be taken when outmaneuvering one’s enemies, with the Vulcan luminary throwing away his life after ignoring the advice of a more militarily experienced comrade (that being said, audiences who object to war under any circumstances may fail to be moved by Lincoln’s justification for bloody conflict).

 

Concluding Comments

star-trek-the-savage-curtain“The Savage Curtain” makes surprisingly good use of the tag team trope, the scenarios of which are rarely successful when used outside of professional wrestling and comic book fare. Especially commendable, a nuanced commentary on the human condition allows this episode to excel in spite of the hackneyed plot devices contained therein (e.g. rock monsters and historical figures of an illusory construction).

 

Overall Quality: 9/10

 

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Tales from the Darkside Episode 22: Grandma’s Last Wish

0

Technical Specs

Director: Warner Shook

Writer: Jule Selbo

Cast: Jane Connell, Paul Avery, Kate McGregor-Stewart, Kelly Wolf, Greg Itzin, and Paul Sparer

Composer: Tom Pile

Air Date: 6/16/1985

 

Overview

Unwilling to tolerate the oblivious behavior of a deteriorating grandmother (Jane Connell), the Rollins (Paul Avery, Kate McGregor-Stewart, and Kelly Wolf) decide to relocate theirtales-from-the-darkside-grandmas-last-wish elderly nuisance to the Tranquil Gardens retirement home. Fortunately, a final birthday wish allows Grandma to give her young relatives some much needed perspective.

“Grandma’s Last Wish” operates on an amusing premise and benefits from a satisfying resolution. That being said, the role reversal trope falls flat in this instance due to the obnoxious manner with which the Rollins conduct themselves, both before and after assuming Grandma’s frame of reference.

 

Pros

tales-from-the-darkside-grandmas-last-wishIn contrast to her (supposedly) healthy relatives, Grandma bumbles her way through everyday tasks in a manner that will no doubt entertain those who enjoy Tales from the Darkside for its tongue-in-cheek elements. Especially worth noting, Grandma’s “communication barrier” may resonate with anyone whose statements have been misinterpreted by hearing-impaired family members.

 

Cons

It should be noted that for the twist ending to produce a humorous outcome, the Rollins must exhibit loathsome qualities while interacting with one another; however, a certain degree tales-from-the-darkside-grandmas-last-wishof subtlety should have nonetheless been exercised in order to prevent irritating audiences beyond acceptable levels (by communicating exclusively through shouting matches, family members Frank, May, and Greta serve only to offend viewer sensibilities). Even for a dysfunctional family, the Rollins are often presented in too absurd a fashion for the average fan to relate with, let alone understand how any human being could tolerate existing in such a miserable home environment.

 

Analysis

tales-from-the-darkside-grandmas-last-wish“Grandma’s Last Wish” contains a message on demonstrating patience and respect for the elderly, with a callous, self-absorbed family learning a hard lesson about the importance of empathizing with those less fortunate than themselves. (In fairness, Grandma makes no attempt to bridge the cultural divide between herself and Greta, which may have heightened familial tensions prior to the events of this episode.)

 

Concluding Comments

A mediocre installment, “Grandma’s Last Wish” puts a cringe-inducing spin on a potentially clever concept. Grandma’s ridiculous attempts to decipher the requests, commands, and declarations of her children and granddaughter do, however, compensate for the more irksome comedy that permeates nearly every scene.

 

Overall Quality: 5/10

 

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Tales from the Darkside Episode 21: Bigalow’s Last Smoke

0

Technical Specs

Director: Timna Ranon

Writer: Michael McDowell

Cast: Richard Romanus, Sam Anderson, Howard Dayton, Catherine Battistone, and Paul Sparer

Composer: None (Stock Music)

Air Date: 6/9/1985

 

Overview

Upon awakening in a simulacrum of his apartment, chain-smoker Frank Bigalow (Richard Romanus) finds himself tortured by an enhanced smoke alarm when he attempts to light a cigarette. tales-from-the-darkside-bigalows-last-smokeThe man in charge of this sadistic operation, Dr. Synapsis (Sam Anderson), then explains to Frank that he may leave the simulation room only after he quits smoking of his own accord.

By sprinkling a satirical premise with the perfect amount of ‘80s cheese, “Bigalow’s Last Smoke” makes for an enjoyable Tales from the Darkside offering. Though ludicrous at times, this episode maintains a captivating presence due to the complementary performances of Richard Romanus and Sam Anderson.

 

Pros

Having conveyed realistic anger when appropriate, Romanus made credible the premise of a man forced to live through torment until giving up smoking becomes a choice of willpower tales-from-the-darkside-bigalows-last-smokerather than coercion. In one notable sequence, Bigalow eviscerates a giant smoke alarm while screaming at the top of his lungs—an effect that draws attention to the protagonist’s desperate state of mind despite the tongue-in-cheek vibes contained therein.

Also worth mentioning, Anderson provided Dr. Synapsis with a subtle air of taunting condescension so as to additionally infuriate Bigalow after denying him cigarettes. The snide manner embodied by Anderson is most effective whenever Bigalow begins to visibly weaken, during which new temptations are added to provoke infantile reactions from an already disturbed individual.

 

Cons

tales-from-the-darkside-bigalows-last-smokeWhile Romanus’ acting should be commended, little attempt was made to accentuate the claustrophobic tendencies that one would undoubtedly experience after being trapped in a faux apartment for days or weeks on end.

 

Analysis

Though intentionally hyperbolic, “Bigalow’s Last Smoke” delivers a resonating lesson on the importance of conquering one’s vices through self-discipline as opposed to relying on controlled measures implemented by others. Note that for all the restrictions imposed upon Bigalow, the program never forcibly prevents him from smoking; rather, after exposing the main character to irritating stimuli over an extended period, Dr. Synapsis allows Frank to resent and consequently break the addiction that enslaved him for so long.

 

Concluding Comments

Dated special effects notwithstanding, “Bigalow’s Last Smoke” offers an intelligent satire on the extreme lengths to which certain people will go when working to drop a particularly nasty habit. Similarly, a clever twist ending serves to demonstrate the absurdity of forgoing moderation in favor of total abstinence.

 

Overall Quality: 8/10

 

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Tales from the Darkside Episode 20: It All Comes Out in the Wash

0

Technical Specs

Director: Frank De Palma

Writer: Harvey Jacobs

Cast: Vince Edwards, James Hong, Ellen Winthrop, Phil Roth, and Paul Sparer

Composer: None (Stock Music)

Air Date: 5/26/1985

 

Overview

Having received a tip from his friend Sam Larchmont (Phil Roth), shady real estate developer Henry Gropper (Vince Edwards) visits a laundromat owned by Chow Ting (James Hong), tales-from-the-darkside-it-all-comes-out-in-the-washwhose expensive but effective “special service” will purify the conscience of any patron who requests it. Henry decides to hire Chow Ting, but ends up paying a far greater price than he can afford.

“It All Comes Out in the Wash” makes creative use of a shoestring budget. That being said, little of note occurs within the already brief runtime allotted to this episode; therefore, Tales from the Darkside fans who prefer suspenseful offerings over primitive and one-note gags would be wise to look elsewhere.

 

Pros

Vince Edwards should be commended for conveying the paranoia and mental anguish that result from Henry’s guilty conscience, even though his frequent monologues fail to produce a dark comedic effect as intended.

 

Cons

Despite operating on a unique premise, “It All Comes Out in the Wash” never expands on the concept of a Chinese laundryman literally washing away the sins/guilt of a morally corrupttales-from-the-darkside-it-all-comes-out-in-the-wash patron. Rather, nearly the entire episode focuses on Henry’s crooked dealings and subsequent remorse—all of which are conveyed through monotonous dialogue and thus become repetitive over time (the fact that every scene save for the introductory segment takes place in a single office room does little to compensate for a general absence of narrative depth). Perhaps if greater emphasis had been placed upon the antics of Chow Ting instead of Henry’s less amusing conversations, a more entertaining outcome could have ensued.

 

Analysis

After failing to cleanse the “dirty laundry” produced by his callous misdeeds, Henry alone is forced to confront the consequences of his actions. The above resolution indicates that tales-from-the-darkside-it-all-comes-out-in-the-washeach individual must take responsibility for his or her past transgressions; however, viewers may have difficulty deriving any lasting value from the frivolous manner with which this concept is executed.

 

Concluding Comments

An underwhelming episode, “It All Comes Out in the Wash” struggles to maintain tension due to a lack of scenic variety coupled with tedious amounts of expository dialogue. Any attempts at humor also fall flat, with the possible exception of Chow Ting’s “fortunate” twist of fate as detailed in the final sequence.

 

Overall Quality: 4/10

 

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