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Horror-Wood Blog-a-Thon: Night Gallery

Rod Serling is a name many associate with The Twilight Zone. A classic anthology series that dives into the psychological aspect of human kind through science fiction. It made a lasting impact that spans generation after generation with timeless messages and the ability to sneak pass taboo subjects one would never suspect to see. After Twilight Zone‘s run, Serling was itching for another series that would act as an extended successor to his famed sci-fi series. The result was something spine-tingling, but also mismatched and tied with a campy ribbon.

Night_Gallery_Rod_Serling1Night Gallery was a compromise between network and producer control to the point it feels similar to the famed Twilight Zone, but different. Here, the tone of the stories go for more dark fantasy targeting the supernatural and occult. Unfortunately, it never became the series Serling hoped for considering the clashes between the show’s intended psychological tone and Producer Jack Laird wanting to go in a different, lighter direction. There is still enjoyment to be had as a third of the scripts were written by Serling himself and some segments are worth checking out. While none had the timeless feel or haunting flavor of the Zone, Night Gallery offered a good bulk of variety.

Each episode, with the exception of season 3, are an hour-long and each segment varies in length. Some range between 10 to 20 minutes long while wrapped around with 2 to 5 minute comic “blackout” sketches. With the advent of DVD, we have the ability to jump around the see these segments on their own or perform a mini-marathon of the ones we are more curious in.

For those who want a better idea of what Serling’s true vision of the show could have been, it’s best to turn to the full-length TV movie which served as a pilot. The feature length episode harvested three stories which echoed a lot of Serling’s trademarks from the ghoulish concept to the haunting twist ending. The general consensus is that only the first two segments are good, while the last one is really weak. To which I say, they are very right.

nightgallery03The first one titled “The Cemetery” stars Roddy McDowall as a greedy relative that subtly murders his uncle for the estate. However, a certain painting of the house shows a cemetery nearby. Every time the relative passes by, the image keeps changing. Sometimes, it shows a coffin rising up from the grave while other times it shows a corpse walking to the house. The performances in this one are really good as McDowall starts to question his own sanity and it builds to a great double twist.

night-gallery-season-1-0-eyes-joan-crawfordA good start is followed-up with “Eyes” which has Joan Crawford as a shrewd millionaire that is blind and longs to see again. She goes as far to blackmail a doctor to perform an illegal procedure to restore her sight. Not a strong segment, but Joan’s performance as the heartless lady and a lot of the technical work makes this one stand out. Many fans remember it more for being the debut of Steven Spielberg’s directing career. Every shot is just pure eye-candy and handled very well from the lighting and even the build-up when the woman’s sight is restored. And what she gets in the end is so well-deserved, that it must be seen to be believed.

Night Gallery Escape RouteLastly, “The Escape Route” is probably the weakest one to conclude on. A Nazi fugitive is on the run to escape from his brutal past. He engages in some paintings which are used as a literal open window. Somehow, he has the ability to enter one without any given explanation. His sights are set on a painting that allows him to boat down a calm river, but he ends up on a different path. It’s a very paper thing concept that doesn’t go anywhere and it feels underwhelming compared to the previous segments. Nothing is established about this “transportation” power and there’s not much to support it either.

While the TV movie has its share of moments, the series itself is worth a nice binge watch as well. With the clash of different tones, some stories work and others don’t. Sometimes they offer a good shock while others feel like a watered down Charles Addams cartoon. Each one still offer a nice range of variety and some replay value here and there. To give a rough idea of the different macabre Night Gallery has to offer, here is a short list of the episodes I personally recommend seeing:

vlcsnap-2015-06-17-19h47m17s585The Dead Man – A hypnotist has the ability to make a young man look sick with a simple trick. He attempts to use a certain incantation to make it look like he’s dead, but is unable to bring him out of the trance. It also doesn’t help there is an affair going on between the hypnotist and his partner’s girlfriend hinting a possible revenge, until you learn the magic man might not have used the right cue…

night-gallery-season-1-2-the-little-black-bagLittle Black Bag – Burgess Meredith plays a drunk hobo that used to work as a doctor, but is slumming the streets with his money hungry friend (Chill Wills). They come across a black bag from the future that has medical equipment far more advanced than anything in the modern era. The doctor wants to use it for good while his friend prefers to exploit the advance medical kit for fast cash. It’s a great argument over what is best for the greater good and what’s best for your own needs.
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Certain Shadows on the Wall – A brother is haunted by the shadow of his dead sibling who is cast upon the wall. Every time he tries to paint it over, it remains unchanged. A nice twist on the “Tell-Tale Heart” story with some great build up.

 

 

night-gallery-season-1-6-theyre-tearing-down-tim-rileys-barThey’re Tearing Down Tim Riley’s Bar – Clocking in at over 40 mins, this is the longest Night Gallery segment, but also the most sentimental of the bunch. Written by Rod Serling, a plastic sales director endures his twenty fifth anniversary of employment with sorrow. Meanwhile, a local bar, he used to attend, is being torn down as ghosts start to form every time the guy passes by. It serves as an open window to what this guy’s life was like as he wishes to revisit the past and do things different. Themes like this have been explored in “better” Twilight Zone episodes like “Walking Distance.” However, this is an exception for the bittersweet ending and some great character moments between our protagonist and the modern world he is not accustomed to.

ngearthquake01The Boy Who Predicted Earthquakes – A young Clint Howard plays a boy who has a own TV show where he gets to correctly predict the future. His powers are unlimited as he can address things from upcoming natural disasters to missing people being discovered. But what happens when you get an apocalyptic vision and don’t know how to address it to the world? As far as child acting goes, Clint does a great job playing the charming, yet innocent feel of his character. He knows how dangerous his powers can be and is left with the hard choice of know how to deliver the worst of bad news knowing how consequential it will be.

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Phantom of What Opera? – One of the shorter segments that’s worth seeing just for Leslie Nielsen’s performance as the Phantom of the Opera. His appearance in the series pre-dates his first comedic performance in Airplane! so you can see it first here. Not much else to say except its a short but funny recommendation.

 
Night Gallery 2-3 Flip Side SatanThe Flip Side of Satan – Arte Johnson takes on a one man performance as a disk jockey assigned to a station in the middle of nowhere. He’s given records to play that contain organ music and strange sounds without any indication of who the listeners are. It’s hinted he had an affair with his agent’s wife and contains an ego so inflated to the point he hangs onto his radio legacy dearly. But as it turns out, there’s something stranger afoot when the radio station won’t let him leave…
night-gallery-season-2-5-silent-snow-secret-snow-300x224Silent Snow, Secret Snow – Narrated by Orson Wells, this is one of the most unique adaptations of Conrad Akin’s story about a kid’s fight to keep his imagination alive. He can’t focus in school and feels distant from his family every day. All he can think about is snow and daydreams it constantly. Not one of the easiest stories to adapt, but they nail it perfectly here.

 
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A Question of Fear – Leslie Nelisen takes on a serious role as a man who claims he’s cured of fear. This is taken into a bet where he has to spend the night in a haunted house and faces all sorts of strange events. I won’t say anything else about this one, except that for everything that happens, there is a logical reasoning to its occurance. The double twist at the end will really leave you speechless.

 
night-gallery-season-2-7-brenda-300x223Brenda – One of the most bizarre “Beauty and the Beast” stories about a quirky girl that befriends a monster. The creature looks like a shaggy Snuffleupagus crossed with Swamp Thing, but we feel some kind of a connection between these two. On first watch, I was bewildered by the off tone delivery.  After much thought, I’ve come to see it as a nice metaphor for growing up and entering adulthood. It’s not a good segment by any means and it can get weird, but it ends on a charming note that’s enough to recommend.

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Hell’s Bells – A short but amusing segment were John Astin (original Gomez Addams) plays a hippie who gets in a car crash and is sent to Hell. While in the waiting room, he anticipates the usual fire and brimstone, but is in for a shock to learn not everyone’s view of the dark place is really the same…

night-gallery-season-2-11-pickmans-model-monster-hp-lovecraft-300x224Pickman’s Model – A great adaptation of the H.P Lovecraft story where an artist creates ghoulish paintings of a monster in each of them. A student of his art class grows fond of his macabre style and tries to know him better. This one is notable for the Emmy-nominated special effects as the creature seen here is actually made from the same molds as those used for the Creature from the Black Lagoon costume. A true hair-raiser about the dangerous value of life imitating art.
coolairyo3Cool Air – Another perfect adaptation of an H.P. Lovecraft classic. A scientist has found the secret to extend life beyond death, but has a certain problem. The man has a certain condition where he has to be contained in a room that needs to be below 50 degrees freezing. A woman takes fancy of him, despite the cold temperature, and you really feel the chemistry between these two. It makes this segment’s ending all the more tragic when you see the most gruesome reveal on why he’s encased himself from the world outside. It’s beautifully shot, brilliantly acted and concludes in a very bone-chilling manner. My absolute favorite of the series.

night-gallery-season-2-21-the-sins-of-the-father-richard-thomas-300x224The Sins of the Fathers – In one of the most unsettling of the Night Gallery stories, a bunch of peasants in the Middle Ages seeks for someone to be a “sin-eater” for their funeral. Basically, they make a huge feast, in representation of the dead one’s sins, and said “sin-eater” has to consume all the food in front of the dead corpse. It all boils down to a hungry teenager who is unsure how to act it out, seeing he is new to the “business.” And personally, I will just leave it at that. The overall experience of watching this one is really uncomfortable knowing how much famine and plague existed during this time period. And yet, everyone sacrifices what tasty goods they have for this one ritual they entrust their belief in. There’s also a gut wrenching twist at the end which I dare won’t give away that adds to the lesson there are some fates worse than death we are bound to in life. Surprisingly, the cast and crew go out of their way to create such a shocker, even right down to using a lot of money for the sets and costumes. In the end, it’s well worth it. Only recommended for those with a literal strong stomach.

ngcaterpillar31The Caterpillar – A British man wants to escape his boring life, but finds it more dull than before while staying in a Southeast Asian country. He schemes to get a neighbor he lives with murdered, so the “widow” he lusts can be his. Arrangements are made to get a killer earwig placed in his rival’s ear, but unfortunately, the deadly insect ends up with the wrong person. I won’t say who gets the thing, but this segment is a true testament that what scares us are the things we don’t see. There is never an image of what this “caterpillar” looks like, but a great description and tons of gruesome make up work convince us how much pain the victim is going through. This one will make you think twice about the bed bugs at night.

All in all, Night Gallery is imperfect at times. But when it knows to deliver, it really can. What really depends on a good series is a great writing team and creative ideas. I can’t say everything about this anthology series was A+ material, but it knows when to be entertaining. Give this series a watch and judge for yourself.

Horror-Wood Blog-a-Thon: Munster, Go Home!

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Welcome to a fresh new year with your personal Halloween movie guide! This year, we intend to look at some cult favorites that span from the odd, bizarre and trashy. And what better place to start, but with a childhood favorite…

munster-go-home-1966-519-800x1200The Munsters is a television show I grew up with. The concept about a bunch of monsters living as the ideal mundane family is nothing too new, but leads to some funny ideas. It’s ironic to note this series aired concurrently the same time as The Addams Family and how the two differed in their comedic styles. While Addams Family was to the witty word play of the Marx Brothers, the Munsters were more grounded in Stooges slapstick. With a continuing fan base, you would think a big-budgeted movie adaptation would happen at some point today. Surprisingly enough, there was one theatrical feature which arrived not too long after the show’s end.

Munster, Go Home! is the closest thing to a perfect representation of the TV series in every way. 90% of the original cast reprise their roles (which the exception of Debbie Watson filling for Marilyn), four of the writers from the show created the script and the feature tries to stick close to the original goofy spirit of the series. When creating a big screen adaptation, you have the option to stick close to the source and repeat certain things or go drastic and move in new direction. Munster, Go Home! tries to go beyond the limits of it’s charming black and white sitcom, but at times plays itself a little too safe.

munster-go-home-5-600x323The plot is so easy to follow that you don’t need to be a fortunate teller to figure out the “twists.” The Munsters inherit an English manor overseas and decide to live there once the patriarch Herman is given the title “Lord.” Already, this setup sounds ideal for an episode of the TV show, but it gives the chance for our characters to move out of the suburbs. We are treated to some scenes on their trip to England accompanied with Herman getting sea sick, their son Eddie getting adjusted to the new crawl space he sleeps in and Grandpa facing a dilemma after he transforms into a wolf by accident. This very much sets up the way things are paced in this movie. So much stuff is thrown in that it serves as more of a vignette instead of a narrative.

While that goes on, their inheritance starts to cause a riff with other greedy British cousins who are after the fortune and family title. As excepted, they scheme their way to reclaim the estate by any means necessary. This would be fine if it wasn’t for one problem; the British Munster relatives are normal people and not monsters. I know the series had a running gag with average citizens would view the Munsters as raging monsters, but this presents a missed opportunity. Why not have the British cousins be other monsters? It was customary in the series to have other ‘Munsters’ appear like the Wolfman and even, at one point, the Creature from the Black Lagoon. It extends the joke to how the Munsters are related to the Universal Studio Monsters, which makes the “in-joke” more humorous to fans.

munster-go-home-2Still, for a trade up, the Cousins are played by English comedians  like Terry-Thomas (It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and the voice of Sir Hiss in Disney’s Robin Hood) and Hermione Gingold (1962’s The Music Man). They do a  good job being entertaining, but I don’t recall anything interesting about them. It’s funny to see their characters lament like a bunch of big kids over how they are loosing their fortune to a bunch of outsiders. But outside of their schemes and a money counterfeit plan, I can’t recall anything interesting happening with them. They are your average stock villains and nothing more.

On the bright side, the actors and actress reprising the Munster family have a lot of fun. You can tell they love the characters each one perform giving as much respect to which they portrayed in the TV series. Of course, these are characters that don’t have a complex narrative and are simply defined. You have the goofy father, the mother who acts like a referee, the grandfather with the zany solutions and the next of kin who are nice folks. Everyone works together and easily slips into their TV counterparts without much fault.

What holds the movie together is the Munsters and their ‘fish out of water’ comedy throughout. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. The idea of a family made of monsters (Frankenstein monster is the father, the mother and grandfather are vampires, the son is a werewolf while the eldest daughter is the normal one) is a unique concept. To see this strange batch do mundane sitcom storytelling is what gave the show its charm. In the attempt of keeping the running time long, new material is scarce seeing almost every single joke and plot is recycled from the show.

Munster-Go-Home-1966-4However,  we do get to see the make-up job in Technicolor and newcomers, unaware of the series, will be able to adjust with the goofy tone. Die hard fans will be disappointed to notice a lot of recycled material from the show ranging from the Grandpa turning into a wolf, the English cousins dressing up as ghosts to scare the Munsters out (which was done in one episode with some thieves) and so forth. The only reused element I feel is welcomed revolves around a country side race wtih the Drag-u-la. A drag racing car shaped like a coffin that gets a lot of fast millage. This recycled element can be excused, because it was a famous trademark from the series. Everything else is very debatable for fans on the quality of “freshness.”

It should be noted a lot of the “recycling” was done, because this movie was made with only one soul purpose in mind; to sell the show to international audiences. This is something not entirely new. The Monty Python group did the same thing with And Now For Something Completely Different to gain American audience interest. Unfortunately, I don’t think this idea worked entirely. Munster, Go Home! wasn’t a smash hit at the domestic box office and it didn’t make much sense considering the Munsters series debuted a little after the film’s theatrical run. I don’t mind the idea of having a Munsters movie, but this was clearly done with the intention to sell for foreign audiences. Something clearly seen considering the use of famed English celebrities hired on to gain recognition.

Munster, Go Home! is not a bad movie, but it’s nothing special either. The correct term would have to be harmless. This is just harmless fun meant for entertainment and nothing else. I admit, there are moments between Fred Gwynne (Herman Munster) and Al Lewis (Grandpa)  that are funny and a running gag with Marilyn romancing a local is sort of cute. On the surface, this is an adaptation that probably would have worked better as a one-hour TV special or a standard episode of the series. It’s not terrible by any means and can serve as an introduction for those new to the show. Die hard fans might be disappointed to see this is a rerun of sorts stitched together and opt to have the entire series better recommended. Personally, I’d take this over the painfully unfunny Munsters’ Revenge (1981) and an adequate sequel series called The Munsters Today. I do feel the original 1960s series is superior in comparison, but it’s nice to see they tried something even if it didn’t work all the way.

A Look Back at the “Crypt”: Season 2

513uNPyJahL._SY300_If season one was a test, then Season Two of “Tales from the Crypt” sealed the deal with what to expect. The original six episodes made up for a near perfect season with well-directed and well-adapted tales based from the original EC Comics. Now, it was time to expand that and here is where this batch of episodes come in. Clocking in at 18 episodes, it might as well be considered the best season out of all of them. The rank of good episodes are much higher here and the amount of celebrities they obtained go through the roof.

tales-from-the-crypt-season-2-crypt-keeper-tales-from-the-crypt-comic-bookHighlights include an episode directed by Arnold Schwarzenegger who actually does a great job, some well-written gems by horror cult faves Fred Dekker and Tom Holland, some great Crypt Keeper moments and all within a very recurring theme-ish season. I’ll talk about that last part later but it seems they really tested how far they can balance the camp with the horror. This is evident in the opening and closing Crypt Keeper segments which veer towards dark comedy and less creepy. Midway, John Kassir’s voice on the character became more higher pitched resulting in a more enjoyable yet obviously comical performance. While cracking one-liners, this decaying host never loses a laugh but there is something missing about the dark menace from the first season.

Anyway, we got 18 episodes this season and it probably doesn’t get any better. The only nitpick I do have is how much it begins to repeat itself a little by the end. Most of the episodes surround on themes of broken marriages, villains getting their comeuppance, zombies and conjoint Siamese twins. Then again, a lot of the original comics used these elements so it was very common. I’m not saying this makes season two bad but it does get slightly fatigued. Here’s the break down:

2x01-Dead-Right-tales-from-the-crypt-11982338-720-540Dead Right – Demi Moore plays a gold-digger who meets up with a fortune teller who says she will inherit a large sum of money from the next man who loves her. This “Mr. Right” happens to be a grease ball with a gluttonous appetite as she reluctantly marries him. Jeffrey Tambor plays the disgusting man and the make-up job is surprisingly good.  You feel somewhat sympathetic despite his grotesque nature. He just wants to live a normal life even if it is unhealthy. Demi’s performance is good too as she eagerly wonders how her prediction will come true. But as we all know, there’s a fine print to everything as the fortune teller is never wrong.

tumblr_mgjsdvKVKc1qefwfno1_500The Switch – William Hickey is an elderly bachelor who wants to woo a young woman (Kelly Preston) but the problem is that she gets really picky. So he sees a mad doctor who plans to help him switch body parts with a younger man who is willing to go through the operation for money. Its a simple idea that has an ethical yet strong moral about beauty and looks. As the senior goes from switching an old chest to arms and eventually legs, it all builds to a great pay off that is well deserved. Surprisingly, Arnold Schwarzenegger directed this one and even gets a cameo in the opening segment. He does a really good job behind the camera and shows he is enjoyable as an actor and professional as a filmmaker. It makes me wonder why he never considered jumping behind the camera again…

450px-Tales_cutting_cards_(2)Cutting Cards – This is a favorite among fans with a simple premise that builds and builds. Two gamblers (Lance Henriksen and Kevin Tighe) go against each other but are bent on seeing the other lose. What starts as a dice game escalates to Russian Roulette and eventually a poker game where they get to lob another’s fingers off. This episode works well with the gamblers because of how devoted they are to winning and seeing the other fail. They push the limits to every single ability in a delightfully dark yet funny episode.

Episode 10 Pic 2Til Death – A wealthy land owner (D. W. Moffett) tries to woo a rich woman. He consults a voodoo priestess who gives him a potion with a deadly warning. The potion works but when he uses too many drops, the man finds himself in a dilemma worse than death. The only problem I have is how can this guy trust a witch doctor when he’s trying to capitalize on her land. There’s a hinting romance they previously had and it sort of pays off in the end. On the other hand, you you think this guy would know better when consulting with his enemies. The real highlight is the last eight minutes which make up for the episode’s faults and the use of red and blues in the cinematography giving its classic comic book tone.

grossThree’s a Crowd – Here’s a gem that nobody talks about that much. A couple is down on their luck as their marriage hits a rocky turn. They get invited to a vacation in a cabin by their former best man but the husband (Gavan O’Herlihy) suspects his wife is having an affair. Its a simple premise but the intense atmopshere and the ending really make this one memorable. As the spouse starts to loose his mind, we wonder just what his wife is hiding despite his crazed nature. Again, this episode is worth checking out just for the twist at the end. I won’t ruin it but it really hits you hard. In fact, its probably the darkest twist in the entire series to date.

tales-from-the-crypt-the-thing-from-the-graveThe Thing from the Grave – Here’s another simple premise story that surprisingly works. Kyle Secor is a photographer that falls in love with a supermodel (Teri Hatcher) who has problems with her overprotected boyfriend. Once the boyfriend catches on, he murders the photographer and tries to punish his cheating lover. Without giving away the ending,  he soon learns that even love can survive after death. This episode was written and directed by Fred Dekker (Night of the Creeps, Monster Squad) and is a slight departure from his normal cult horror work. He really taps into the campy nature of the comic while delivering an eerie yet light episode of undying love. Its well shot, tightly edited and truly delivers.

2x07-The-Sacrifice-tales-from-the-crypt-12074430-720-540The Sacrifice – Sometimes a simple premise can’t be strong enough or not well executed. This is an example of that. An insurance agent plans to kill off an obnoxious client and make off with the cash with his wife. However, it gets difficult when someone shows up with evidence of the murder as the two come close to cracking on whether to fess up or keep their mouth shut. This is a pretty forgettable one with a decent twist but it doesn’t feel that interesting. I wish I could put my finger on why but the only thing I can suggest is that not every simple-minded story will be translatable to the small screen.

tftcforcryin05-e1409703852577For Cryin’ Out Loud – Here’s another classic that gets often overlooked. Lee Arenberg plays a rock promoter that plans to make off with the ticket money. But things get complex when a small voice in his ear thinks otherwise of his evil deeds. The biggest highlight that saves this episode is Sam Kinison lending his screaming voice as the unseen conscious. While I’m not a big fan of Kinison’s work, I will admit his signature screaming personality works here as he forces the con man to tell the truth. This is signified further in one of my favorite moments near the end when the man constantly slams his head into a speaker while his conscious yells “Confess!” Also, keep an eye out for Iggy Pop’s cameo.

2x09-Four-Sided-Triangle-tales-from-the-crypt-12113925-720-540Four-Sided Triangle – A young farmhand (Patricia Arquette) deals with the abuse of her employers who are a middle aged couple. When the husband attempts to take advantage of her, she suffers a head injury and somehow she thinks the scarecrow is alive. More than that, she thinks the scarecrow is her lover. Its a weird one that is executed in an ok manner. There’s nothing really surprising or “must-see.” But at least its a decent watch. I guess the reveal of the scarecrow is interesting but the rest of the episode just feels standard to me.

dummy2The Ventriloquist’s Dummy – Now here is an all-time classic. Directed by Richard Donner but written by Frank Darabont (director of The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption), a young ventriloquist (played by the hilarious Bobcat Goldthwait) seeks out his childhood hero (Don Rickles) to improve his craft. Unfortunately, his idol has  a dark secret. This is a minor spoiler but it must be addressed. Its revealed that the dummy the man’s hero used was really his tiny Siamese twin brother who is connected to the right hand. The whole episode along with the dialogue feels like one big stand-up act knowing when to bring in the comedy during the darkest moments. It doesn’t take itself seriously and plays it up for laughs. The design of the brother is good too looking like it came from make-up by Rob Bottin (The Howling, John Carpenter’s The Thing, Legend). Its another highlight that knows when to deliver with fun performances and cheesy yet enjoyable effects.

105575Judy, Your Not Yourself Today – An elderly cosmetic saleswomen (Frances Bay) visits the home of a wife (Carol Kane) who likes to live life at a safe distance. The saleswomen turns out to be a witch that switches bodies with her thanks to a magic necklace as the husband (Brian Kerwin) tries to intervene and get his wife back. But just when you think the story couldn’t go further, it goes in a very interesting direction that is predicable but handled well. Not a bad episode and there are some clever angles it takes. I just wish the first half was stronger as a final 15 minutes leading to a tragic but decent end.

fitting2Fitting Punishment – For those with weak stomachs, don’t watch this episode. I say this because the plot revolves around a funeral home director (Moses Gunn) who cuts corners so bad that its really revolting to watch. From cheap ways to process a dead corpse to even using regular tap water instead of embalming fluid, the entire tone is very unsettling and might disturb easy. He soon becomes the legal guardian of his teenage nephew and makes an apprentice out of him. It doesn’t help that this guy is so deep into his cheapness that he abuses his nephew due to the mean spirited nature of his mind. And that’s just scraping the surface. Even the Crypt Keeper gets really disgusted by his actions so much that he has to address it without a gag. Again if you get easily disturbed, this one I say you can skip. The only near saving grace is the “just deserts” punishment this guy gets but that’s really about it.

tftckorman01Korman’s Kalamity – I admit, the premise to this one is interesting but the execution gets way too silly and over the top. An artist working for Tales from the Crypt comics (at least give some credit for the meta nature seeing the show was based from EC Comics) has a hard time doing some cover art. But it changes when his nagging wife won’t stop complaining about their failed love life which somehow causes what ever he draws to come to life. First off, why keep something a twist when we already know what it is? They try to cover it up with another explanation to what makes the inspiration work but it feels tagged on. Also, the concept alone is way too self-aware and meta. Its not bad but it feels really weird when your show already is meant to be light and fun. Here, it gets way too goofy. And as fun as the concept sounds, its full of plot holes. When Korman makes the monsters and after they do their violent way, where do they go? After their big moment, they just disappear and never get heard from again. I guess they really wanted to make an all-out comedic episode but it gets way too silly. And thank goodness the last five episodes save the season…

Enoch_and_MiranaLower Berth – In a special “Tales from the Crib,” a traveling freakshow inquires a 4,000 year-old mummy to their act which draws in a huge crowd. This new element also catches the eye of a two-faced sideshow who falls in love with the Ancient queen. When I first saw this back in college, it was my all-time favorite. But upon re-watching it, there isn’t much charm. Fred Dekker returns to write this episode and as always, he knows when to channel the fun horror. He knows its a ridiculous premise but manages to make it enjoyable from the execution in the dialogue. It almost feels like I’m looking at an old-fashioned penny dreadful and it doesn’t take itself seriously. Another fun episode with a really surprisingly twist. If only the effects on the two-faced man where better and some of the story didn’t feel too Elephant Man.

tftcmutewitness13Mute Witness to Murder – Here’s another one that’s worth checking out. A wife sees a murder across from her home and goes into deep shock. Her lose of speaking has her husband call upon a doctor who just happens to be the killer she saw. In hopes she will be quiet forever, the mad man has her sanctioned in his asylum while her husband tries to figure out why she went quiet. A simple idea done right. There’s so much riding on this episode from the wife fighting to speak again to the husband trying to put the pieces together. But the most interesting character is the doctor himself who really channels Hannibal Lector and taps into people’s minds. He’s probably one of the best and most dangerous antagonists in Tales from the Crypt history. The way he gets defeated is a little lame on paper but it works well to its advantage. Its an on-the-edge thriller that is worth seeing.

televisionterrorTelevision Terror – Here’s another weak on as a tabloid new host (Morton Downey, Jr.) does a live telecast inside a house haunted by the ghost of a woman who axed off seven husbands. At first its all for the ratings, but then things get serious when strange occurrences happen that make our emcee freak and ratings soar. This episode almost works in a pre-Blair Witch way but after so much slow build up, things get worn out. And when it finally starts to get good, it goes the cliched route instead of being creative and interesting as an army of ghouls go after our phony star and tagged on is a strange twist where an executive has a personal vendetta. Only one word describes this one; a mess.

downloadMy Brother’s Keeper – Two Siamese twins (Timothy Stack and Jonathan Stark) have a hard time trying to get along due to one small problem. Their are joint to the hip and find themselves stuck together. Where ever one twin goes, the other has to follow. But as it turns out, there is a possible operation that could finally set them apart but the good twin doesn’t want to be apart from his brother. So here are the problems. First, they never address if an organ is being shared so how can a simply operation like that be so risky? Also, why would the good twin want to have his bad brother around when he keeps making the goodie’s life a miserable wreck? Those are the only things problematic but everything else is solid. In fact, the feuding between the two is the really entertaining thing about this episode. Its an epic sibling rivalry that must be seen to be believed.

secret2The Secret – Opening with a humorous segment with the Crypt Keeper lamenting the absence of a twist in Oliver Twist (“And I had such Great Expectations,” he jokingly says), we get an orphan who gets taken in by a new set of parents who are rich and treat him with the best. However, they harbor a dark secret. And if can’t see what the twist is, then you might enjoy the direction this one goes into. Its a decent finale that doesn’t end on a lame note with plenty of decent scenes with the kid interacting with his folks and even the butler (Larry Drake) is a good character too. Its a watchable entry that is sure to entertain.

The DVD: A step up from the Season One DVD but still falls short. I give props for more effort but with a lack of the usual bonuses (audio commentary), the only reason to get the DVD is for the episodes and a few goodies here and there. Not to say you are left empty handed, but you wish more care was placed in. All the menus (with the exception of the special features) are hosted by the Crypt Keeper which is a nice treat. Its a shame they used a cheap puppet instead of dusting off the old one. I guess the previous set was meant to be a continuation as they hint a “bo-tox injection.” On the other hand, its nice to hear John Kassir cracking ghoulish jokes and puns as you make a selection.

1130735426Included are two featurettes which are good but both have their pros and cons. The “Shockumentry” gives a behind the scenes look at season two and a little retrospective on the show as well. Its nice to see interviews with Joel Silver talking about the impact of the show and we even get a nice interview from John Kassier talking about how he earned the role. Drawback? The Crypt Keeper hosts it and tries to give a meta retrospect to it. It would be nice to get a decent “straight-forward” look at the making of the show without a jokey gimmick. But I can’t say I was disappointed. This 14 minute piece is still fun to check out.

Tales_from_the_Crypt_Radio_ShowThe other featurette is a look at the short-lived radio drama for the Sci-Fi Channel’s Seeing Ear Theater which aired in 2000 for only eight episodes. Even stranger is how this DVD came out five years after its cancellation and has an entire behind the scenes video dedicated to it. On the other hand, its nice to see Tim Curry recording his performance and how the special effect guys do the live recording. But its a weird promo piece for something that is not being broadcast anymore. I also managed to listen to one of the episodes myself and honestly, I think the idea is there but the stories just didn’t retain the campy spirit. I guess they were going for horror more and it shows with disturbing themes like child abuse.

Speaking of disturbing, I am still wrapping my head around how the opening intros are cut from every episode. It makes no sense. Instead of using them as an opening to the menu, now they are completely gone. Unless this was a mastering error, this mystery really bothers me leaving all the episodes feeling incomplete.

But does it diminish the enjoyment of Season Two? No, there are some really good episodes here. It gets a little redundant mid-way and weak but manages to save itself by the tail end (literally.) With repeating themes of conjoint siblings and zombies, this season should have been called the “Ghoul and Siamese Season.” Even the weakest episodes had at least something to offer even when it didn’t work. Overall, I’d say this is up there with season one but perhaps a bit more lighter. If you were put off by the darker shade of the first season, I’m positive you will have a lot of fun with this one.

BEST: Tough call but I’m going to say it’s between Mute Witness to Murder and Three’s a Crowd for taking simple ideas and really making something great out of them. Also, Cutting Cards and The Ventriloquist’s Dummy are a lot of fun to watch.

WORST: While The Sacrifice and Television Terror had weak/messy execution, Korman’s Kalamity wins this one for a silly yet workable idea that just gets dumb as the minutes toll.

A Look Back at the “Crypt”: Season 1

t59929ycw5tThere is no other horror anthology I can think of that is self-aware while brooding as The Twilight Zone. Ok, so “Tales from the Crypt” wasn’t meant to be sophisticated but it was pure fun. Based off the EC Comics, each story dealt with some scandal or even dipped into the supernatural. Running themes included but not limited to broken marriages, living corpses, cheating thieves, villains getting their due and even Siamese twins. These sound silly when reading them but these tales aren’t meant to be taken seriously. Much like Grimm fairy tales, the stories are done in an over-exaggerated manner but it adds to the dark comedy and has morals that are simple while not beating over the head. So what makes this show still hold a ghoulish place in our hearts?

For starters, we can’t thank HBO enough for airing this series. One can only imagine what the restriction of network censorship could do as every drop of blood and sex is displayed but with flair. Instead of rolling in gore, the violent effects are pushed in a more comedic route and only feel dramatically executed when need to be. On top of that, its rare to have five big names in Hollywood (Richard Donner, Robert Zemeckis, David Giler, Walter Hill and Joel Silver) produce a series like this. They know the show is not about the horror but just the fun of intense cliches. One such example comes during And All Through the House when the main character is locked in a closet while a deranged psychopath tries to break in the house. It gets more funny when the lunatic is dressed in a Santa outfit and the protagonist’s young daughter sees this man and tries to help him. You just relish the tight editing and comic book nature of this scene from dialogue to the way its being shot.

Tales From the Crypt-2Of course what is an anthology series without a host? Dug up from the original EC comics is the fiendish emcee himself, the Crypt Keeper brought to life by an amazing anamatronic puppet and iconic shriek pitch voice by John Kassir. Its funny seeing the original comics didn’t have the Crypt Keeper as the center host as other figures joined in to host terrifying tales like the Vault Keeper and the Old Witch. An element that would later be used in a season for an ABC Saturday Morning cartoon spin-off that played opposite to the mature nature of HBO’s infamous series. Like the comics, Crypt cracks bad puns but never to the point it gets irritating (at least not till later seasons.) Its funny as on the pages, he was more human compared to the corpse he appears on the show. It still bookends the series with comedic jabs that help the viewer not take the terror too seriously.

Where to begin but of course the first season. Like many series, Tales from the Crypt had a rough start with some hiccups. But with six episodes, the season overall holds up with some strong starters. In fact, the tone is far more darker compared to later episodes. The Crypt Keeper tells jokes with a menacing snear leaving viewers with an uncomfortable chuckle. This is a far different take from the more cartoony personality that would later grow out of the years. But even macabre acts ranging from self-electrocution to welding weapons for a joke would be carried through the years.

As said, this is the shortest season and arguable the best one. There is rarely a bad episode despite some feeling slightly flat. I have no idea what was the motive in picking these stories to adapt but choosing storylines from outside the Tales from the Crypt comics was a wise idea. It brings more EC in the mix as grimm tales from the Vault of Horror to Shock SuspenStories are used to a great advantage. This presents an open opportunity for variety and it doesn’t skip a heartbeat. Here is a brief break down of each one:

EnCRYPTed-03-coffinDig That Cat…He’s Real Gone – Obviously the pilot from its rough Crypt Keeper segment, a carnival performer played by Joe Pantoliano gets buried alive in part of a daredevil act. While laying in the ground feet below, he recounts how he went from a homeless man to a carny success as a doctor performs an experiment with a cat giving him nine lives. As a result, he wastes his extra lives on stunts that clearly kill him but thankfully revive him. The way the story is told from first perspective narrative is a clever choice giving an almost noir feel to the episode. Director Richard Donner is tight on the editing and uses it to an artistic degree labeling the chaotic nature of the sideshow life and filmed with many wide angles to give an otherworldly feel. The matter of its filming almost like our character is in a strange deception of Hell and enjoys every minute of it. The moral is a good one too. Warning us to appreciate every minute of out lives and not waste a single life over it. Its subtle with a very eerie ending that wraps it nicely together.

tales-from-the-crypt-season-1-2-and-all-through-the-houseAnd All Through the House – Robert Zemeckis directs this simple tale about a wife who murders her husband for insurance money but is trapped by a deranged psychopath dressed in a Santa outfit. It doesn’t get anymore simple than that. What works is the ethical situation the wife is placed in and how intense it gets. She wants to call the cops because of the killer but made the dumb decision to leave the body of her spouse out in the snow. And as much as she wants to hide the evidence, the unfortunate lady has to fend for not only her life but even her young daughter from the manic killer. Its rare I enjoy a horror story set at Christmas but seeing its more set during the holiday then set a horror story ON the holiday, it doesn’t disturb me as much. Its a well-paced entry that almost comes close to being the best of the series.

tftc1The Man Who Was Death – William Sadler plays an executioner that shows us a world he believes the best justice is better served with electricity to the brain of a criminal. Unfortunately, the death penalty gets abolished leaving him laid off. As a result, he goes around killing innocent criminals by his own bigoted hands. The strongest element is the way the story is told. Again, its all a first perspective narrative but you really find a delight with Sadler’s personality. His depiction of how sick and twisted the world is in his view is enjoyable enough. It digs into the psychology of what goes into the mind of killer for the justice peace.

hqdefaultOnly Sin Deep – Lea Thompson plays a self centered prostitute who pawns her own beauty just to meet up with a rich, handsome bachelor. Yes, you heard me right. The catch is that the pawnbroker believes in the magic of voodoo as the gold digger pays the price in a way so tragic that I can’t spoil it. This is another solid episode that underlines how neglect one is of there life. Here we have a woman who had it all and looses it. Thompson is also great as the young girl who literally lives life in the fast line and suffers for it.

1x05-Lover-Come-Hack-to-Me-tales-from-the-crypt-7750475-720-480Lover Come Hack to Me – This is one that some fan give a tough rap on and I can see why. A newly wed couple come across an abandoned home and spend the night there. It sounds like something out of The Rocky Horror Picture Show but its hinted that the wife’s past it not all that’s cracked up to be. Despite some nice direction by Tom Holland with decent chemistry between Amande Plummer and Stephen Shellen, the story is very much the biggest problem. Its played out too safe and predictable. While I do admire the look of the aged mansion they spend the night in, this is a case where the supernatural is diluted and played to be more down to earth. That’s fine seeing some later episodes do that well but here it doesn’t with a slow paced tale. Not bad but probably skippable.

Collection-Completed-3Collection Completed – M. Emmet Walsh is an uptight elder who gets retired and forced to relax the rest of his life. It also doesn’t help that his wife (Audra Lindley)is hording all sorts of animals from basic pets to even fish. Well, this crazy obsession of hers drives him so mad that he decides to use her pets for a hobby of his own. I won’t spoil too much but if you really love animals, you might have a hard time watching the last ten minutes. For me, I really didn’t care much for this one. We are giving a set of unlikable characters and some imagery near the end that really pushes the limits. While its not too gory, the idea alone of the man’s hobby will really leave viewers uncomfortable. I guess the idea is that the older you are, the crazier your brain gets. However, this doesn’t pay off well as the episode ends on an image so laughable its too silly for its own good. Some fans might dig this one but I just think its too over the top and mean for my taste.

The DVD – Something I should address for collectors that this DVD alone is worth getting for the episodes but there comes with some nitpicks. For some reason, the opening introduction of the series starts before the main menu and its the only time this great element is present. Every episode jumps into it without the opening which is a shame seeing an iconic and beautiful into is oddly cut. I have no idea why they made this choice but at least the special features make up for this.

You get an introduction from the Crypt Keeper but strangely kept under warps (literally.) John Kassir lends a voice and at least the humor is the same. There’s a short epilogue to this where you see his new face (kind of) but its placed on as an Easter Egg for some reason.

For a well-renowned show, you think it would get such great care and treatment. It does in a sense but the small offerings leave you wishing for more. Spread over two discs, you get all the episodes on one while the remaining bonus features are on the second disc. Bit disappointing to evenly spread such minor material over a two DVD set but at least the bulk of the material makes up for it.

The main reason to own this DVD is the one hour documentary “Tales from the Crypt: From Comic Books to Television.” This covers a lot of ground on the creation of EC Comics, its creator Wiliam Gaines, the controversy at the time and the legacy it still holds. Its a very engaging documentary that packs a lot of behind the scenes information and history that never leaves a dull moment. Even interviews with children writter R. L. Stein and famed director John Carpenter chine in with how much of an impact that comes made. Fans of the comic and tv show will want to give this one a watch.

There’s also a short featurette on the history of season one told by the Crypt Keeper but its mainly stock footage from the host segments dubbed over. Its meant for fun rather than a serious look into the show. Its a shame because a whole lot more is left to be desired like audio commentaries. But the bulk of what we get is enough to pick this one up.

Overall, this is a much different tone compared to what would later come in the seasons to come and is worth checking out. The episodes alone are well-written enough to at least give a good watch. While it was a start, the darkness would carry over into later episodes and seasons trying to manage the scares and the laughs. While its not perfect, Season One comes really close.

 

BEST – Dig That Cat…He’s Real Gone for its unique direction and solid script writing.

WORST – Collection Completed for unlikable characters and pushing the creep factor too much

Rental Corner: The mystery to “Twin Peaks'” sucess

The infamous Red Room scene from Twin Peaks. One of many strange yet fascinating highlights in the series.

The infamous Red Room scene from Twin Peaks. One of many strange yet fascinating highlights in the series.

David Lynch has always been an interesting director. His films are well-noted for creating weird and unsettling versions of our own reality be it 1880’s London in The Elephant Man or the nice suburban town with a gritty secret in Blue Velvet. But never did I think his twisted and surreal nature would transition well to television with a cult TV show him and his collaborator Mark Frost worked on called “Twin Peaks.” The series lasted for only 30 episodes and over a span of two seasons. But regardless of how short-lived it became, the series has made a lasting impact among viewers and fans who enjoy its strange and other worldly tone. And I’m surprised to say I’m part of the crowd that loves a good mystery and its a shame this ended too early as I would have loved to see just how far it could go.

I will try to keep everything under a spoiler free minimum but I can’t guarantee much seeing some elements need to be explained. Most notably the huge change in tone during its second season. But even during the first seven episodes, a bizarre supernatural tone was already hinted at with the concept of dreams and ideal police methods. So I will try to keep certain things under wraps but I can’t say everything will be kept a mystery from you.

The show takes off big during the first 20 minutes of its pilot as the body of a young teenager named Laura Palmer is discovered and suddenly, the whole town is shaken up over the death of one girl that curiously meant so much to many people. This is the strongest moment of the pilot as it not only establishes characters like Laura’s parents and a few friends that knew her, but I was surprised to see how David Lynch was able to capture the emotion and feeling when a small community gets tragic news like this. Moments like where the principal of her school announcing her death to the faculty and Laura’s parents, Leland and Sarah, reacting to the unfortunate news is executed so well you can feel the amount of trauma and shock as one person at a time is saddened to hear this news.

Its not long till someone has to be brought in to figure out who killed her as FBI agent Dale Cooper (Lynch film vetren Kyle MacLachlan) arrives to investigate the case. In his first scene alone, we immediately start to like him. The hip 1960’s attitude he carries, his big but yet lovable ego, the fact that he shows concern for another’s care and safety, the fact he documents actions into a tape recorder for someone named “Diane,” his open mind to the possible directions of suspects and clues, that slick back hair and so forth. Easily, he is the glue that holds the show together. As he moves from one clue to the next, Cooper gets so invested in trying to solve the crime that we too feel his excitement. Whenever he discovers a weapon or even a piece of paper linked to the killer, you can’t help but share the same amount of feeling he has knowing Cooper is one step closer.

Aside from Cooper, Twin Peaks carries a heavy amount of amazing characters that it would be difficult to go down the line and talk about each one. Of course, each character has a quirk they live by but the unique thing is how it all gets changed during the show’s run. A good example is Ben Horne who owns a hotel suite where Laura worked at. Ben’s story-line is very unique considering the multitude of changes his characters goes through in the course of the show. He goes from acting like a conglomerate that is close to Micheal Esiner but then gets set-up and has a Howard Hughes-style break down and then tries to act nicer and take part in doing things like saving the environment even if it all blows up in his face. You start to appreciate the comeuppance he gets but then you start to see a humane side in him. In a way, his story arch has an Ebeneezer Scrooge vibe with the difference being you get see the negative reactions of his “good deeds.”

Other inhabitants of this laid back but strange place include a cast of high school teenagers that almost feel like characters from American Graffiti if developed by soap opera writers. On paper, it sounds like the average melodrama one find in things like All My Children or General Hospital but yet the beauty of it all is how well-developed these people are and you can almost relate to these kids. Audrey is the snoop/activist, James is the biker with a heart of gold, Bobby is the man you love to hate with his crazy schemes blowing up in his face and so forth. In a way, they feel like left-overs from a 1960’s melodrama but in some way it feels like a satire of the typical cliches. Yes, the show goes that route with the love triangle and even they pull a “who’s the father to my baby” plot line. But what makes these enjoyable is how much you enjoy and care for these characters. Your curious to see what direction their choice will go into wither it be predictable or surprising.

And that’s the key word here; surprising. During the show’s run, we get a slow revelation that the nice little town is not as charming as we think. Most notable are wide range of plots that go from the attempted destruction of the saw mill to a psychiatrist trying to get over his obsession with the late Laura Palmer seeing she was a recurring client. You don’t know what direction the show will go into and every cliffhanger keeps you wanting to progress on. I can’t think of a time when I saw an episode and wished it would end. You get so invested in this odd world and its people, that you want to know more about them and less of Laura’s killer.

In fact, the original intention of the series was to leave out who killed Laura and just let it slide into the background. It would have been an interesting idea had the ABC executives request the reveal during the second season. I can’t say I was disappointed when they made the revelation but I will admit, its a very shocking and disturbing reveal that will leave you breathless. After solving that case, once can imagine how hard it was to live up to the Laura Palmer story line. They tried in the second season but I feel mixed about it. For a good three to four episodes, we get nothing but filler that feels like desperation to hold the viewer’s attention. There are some nice concepts like an older women getting amnesia and thinking she’s a high school cheerleader. But then there’s stuff like Cooper getting docked down for multiple violations, a secretary that is trying to figure whose the father to her unborn child, an elderly man that accuses his late brother’s wife for killing him during making love (which caused a heart attack seeing the two were in this senior years) but they just go nowhere.

The only thing that does work is an old nemesis of Cooper’s that appears halfway in season two that is like if Sherlock Holmes’ Moriarty but plays his plans like a chess game. Its clever and well-developed but at this point, I feel the damage has been done. It was hard to try and follow up what made the first season so good and it shows. I can’t say the second season is skippable seeing I did enjoy some plot lines and ideas while doing some clever character changes. Even a lot of the town becomes more curious when you start to dig into its supernatural roots. But I can’t say its a satisfying season seeing it does have its flaws. Like I said, some storylines feel like they are going in a certain direction but they will either end in a weak way, get entirely abandoned or just go nowhere like I said. But even when Twin Peaks was showing its lumps, it still held together.

A good example is the final episode where we start to really question just what kind of town is this. Is it one that exists in reality or is there something more to it? I wish I could go in-depth but I fear it would ruin it. The final 20 minutes leads to a nail-biting climax as Cooper questions a form of reality he enters that I personally think is one of the best I’ve seen, even for a strange series likes this. And I’m sure many will be left asking for more by the end and wishing there was a third season. And that was the genius of Twin Peaks. It kept you coming back for more even when it ended on either a climatic note or an intense turning point. Its the series that left you wanting to know more about these people and they place they are in rather than the conflict they are attached to and I believe that is where David Lynch and Mark Frost’s show was at its high point. It knew at the right time when to give answers and when to leave us hanging. Though I’m sure many will be bothered by how the show ends…but that is why a movie exists….yet that is another story for another time.

Rental Corner: Young Indy’s First Uneven Adventure

Before the Ark, Indy was a kid! Go figure

Before the Ark, Indy was a kid! Go figure

In 1992, George Lucas produced a TV series that filled in the “missing gaps” of Indiana Jones’ life after much questioning from his crew about what did that famed adventurer do in his youth. The result was The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles whose soul purpose was to not just present what Indiana Jones did growing up but also educate at the same time. In all honesty, I feel this is a good concept seeing the role Harrison Ford made so famous have his origins revealed while learning about the decade or time period. It was a big gamble for ABC and while it was a not a huge hit, the “Chronicles” of Indy’s life never made a big impact.

As a result, 44 one-hour episodes were re-edited into 22 films that were syndicated about on television and made available to DVD a while back on three massive volumes. Right away, I know I shouldn’t be reviewing one of these seeing its only two episodes stitched together to make a 90 minute feature length flick but curiosity got the best of me and I had to say something about this. Its more than just reviewing a “telefilm” (where TV episodes are edited “seamlessly” together) but just to describe how this method doesn’t work in my opinion.

Re-titled “The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones,” the “Chronicles” are now a long story that follows Indy’s childhood all the way to how far it can into his teenage years. The reason for this reediting was to show the chronology in Indiana’s progression and show the history of the character. That I can understand but the idea of re-editing the episodes into one movie still doesn’t work. “My First Adventure” is a good example as it takes the first portion of the pilot “Curse of the Jackle” and pairs it with an unused episode titled “Tangiers, 1908” (as the show was canceled material for other episodes were left unaired or even unused.)

In the first half of “First Adventure,” we briefly see Indy in his New Jersey home having fun with his unnamed friends and learning things from his own surroundings. And considering the amount of technology experiments he performs from homemade hot-air balloons to railroad track ships, it makes me wonder why we didn’t get this as an entire episode. Then the Jones family moves about the world as his dad decides to do some expeditions and give some lectures on the way (to be fair, Lloyd Owen’s portrayal matches that close or if not on track with Sean Connery.)

First stop is in Egypt where young Indy gets the chance to see a real mummy in its tomb and at first, it starts to have the feel of an adventure like the first films where a bit of treasure is missing, suspicion of a curse comes underway and even the way Indy thinks is akin to his older counterpart but sadly that is underused. Unfortunately, the story itself feels unfinished as the resolution of the missing Jackal headpiece that starts this whole tirade  never gets found. I heard originally the “Curse of the Jackle” pilot aired as a two-hour event and perhaps, its better to view it in that context seeing how confused I felt thinking this plot element would carry over into the next story.

Tangiers, Morocco takes up the second half as this surprisingly was an unaired episode used here for chronological purposes but after the confusion of leaving one story unresolved, it doesn’t feel like much is accomplished by the end credits seeing one mystery is left opened. The other part deals with Indy befriending a slave named Omar who learns in return the hardships of such a low life. In the tradition of rich kid meets the voice of poverty, this is not that bad of an idea and at least it goes somewhere. Indy and Omar later run about the Tangiers marketplace where they are kidnapped and tossed right into the slave trade as tensions rise during an auction where young Indy realizes that being a servant is not a cup of tea.

I can’t fault this one too much for its unresolved first half but I was so invested in the mystery and mythos that I really wanted it to have a proper conclusion. The Tangiers story is not bad as I have a soft spot for these kind of tales where the rich gets to see a new view of the world and learn its not all a perfect world and at least it has a conclusion. I liked the chemistry between Indy and Omar as it felt close to that of Johnny Quest and Hadji but more in the view of leaning each other’s goals and seeing life views from their own perspective.

But at the end of the day, I want to watch the actually TV series not for reasons of preservation but to see how it all differs from the edited down films and the missing resolution of “Curse of the Jackal.” Even cut from these movies is George Hall introducing the series as a 93 year old Indiana Jones with an eye patch who gives set up to each episode and story. Unfortunately from what I researched, some of the unaired episodes didn’t have the old Indy introductions which might explain why they bunched them into their own separate flicks.

But looking at the series on its own terms, I think kids and teenagers will enjoy the adventure aspect and gain something in return while older audiences will respect the pulp fiction/action feel in the dialogue and characters. I didn’t even get to mention how for a series shot on 16mm film this looks beautiful even with the on-location stuff giving that extra push for a matinee serial feel. Unfortunately, Indy’s first adventure didn’t feel like a grand start and while I do respect how much it doesn’t dumb itself down for its audience, I still feel like more could have been done. Or at least let us see what these episodes looked like in its original context before the re-editing. I can’t say I didn’t enjoy this one seeing how engaged I was but I do hope later episodes (or films in this case) don’t feel this off balanced.