Tales from the Darkside episode 10: “Djinn, No Chaser”

Based on a Harlan Ellison story, directed by Shelley Levinson and written by Haskell Barkin, this episode has Danny Squires (Charles Levin) in a lunatic wing explaining how his wife Connie (Coleen Camp) had bought an old lamp that brought a djinn (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) into their lives. Nothing good has happened since that day.

Sadly, this episode is one of the sillier episodes and not in the best of ways. It’s wacky humor with a payoff that is an even bigger groaner. It’s as if all the issues of Danny in a straihtjacket don’t matter because of how easily everything comes together at the end.

Look, they can’t all be winners on Tales from the Darkside.

Tales from the Darkside episode 9: “A Case of the Stubborns”

What’s worse than a death in the family? How about a death that won’t go away?

Jodie (Christian Slater!) and his mother (Barbara Eda-Young) were upset when Grandpa Titus (Eddie Bracken, Roy Walley from National Lampoon’s Vacation) died, but now that he’s up and about and rotting, well things are even more horrifying because the old man may be just too stubborn to stay dead. Not even Dr. Snodgrass (Bill McCutcheon, Droppo from Santa Claus Conquers the Martians) and Reverend Peabody (Brent Spiner) can convince him that he’s not living any longer.

Reverend Peabody tells Grandpa that once his body is in the grave, his soul will be free to go to Heaven. The old man replies that if Heaven is so great, the holy man should go there himself, which causes Peabody to condemn him.

It finally takes Jodie — and a pepper from a voodoo woman played by Tresa Hughes — to convince Grandpa that he’s not of this world any longer. It’s sad, but it takes love to say goodbye.

This episode was directed by Gerald Cotts and written by James Houghton from a Robert Bloch story. Slater would return for Tales from the Darkside: The Movie.

Tales from the Darkside episode 8: “The Word Processor of the Gods”

Based on the story by Stephen King and adapted by Michael McDowell (BeetlejuiceThe Nightmare Before Christmas), this Michael Gornick-directed episode has Bruce Davison as Richard Hagstrom, a man who has just inherited an upgraded computer from his nephew Jonathan. This computer is quite unique, as it has the power to grant wishes.

Richard’s life is rough. He has no real love for his wife Lina or son Seth Robert. The love of his life, Belinda, is married to his brother Robert, an alcoholic. And I should say was married, as Robert has driven their car off a cliff and killed everyone, including Jonathan, one of the few people who Richard likes.

This is one of the better Tales from the Darkside stories, a near-perfect adaption of King’s story on a small budget. Somehow, Richard is able to take this gift and use it to find a happy ending, something that rarely — if ever — happens with wishes.

Arnold Week: The Jayne Mansfield Story (1980)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This was originally on the site on August 15, 2020. Happy birthday all week Arnold. You are loved, almost as much as Jayne. 

Dick Lowry has worked in made-for-TV movies for some time, working on many projects with Kenny Rogers (The GamblerThe Coward of the County) and connected movies like In the Line of Duty and Jessie Stone, as well as the Project ALF TV movie reunion and Archie: To Riverdale and Back Again.

Based on the Martha Saxton book Jayne Mansfield and the American Fifties, this is — at best — a fictionalized accounting of her life. John Wilson’s book The Official Razzie Movie Guide as one of The 100 Most Enjoyably Bad Movies Ever Made.

Arnold Schwarzenegger — four years before The Terminator — plays Mansfield’s second husband Mickey Hargitay, who is telling a reporter the story of her life. Mansfield is played by Loni Anderson, who is perhaps the worst person — outside of bust line — to play her. She just seems wrong, from how she approaches the role to look. Maybe she identified with Jayne, seeing as how she started as a sex symbol and struggled to get her intelligence across. I’m not really sure, but it just doesn’t work.

Ray Buktenica plays her manager Bob Garrett. Buktenica was best known as Benny Goodwin, the rollerskating toll-booth working boyfriend of Brenda Morgenstern on Rhoda. Also in the cast are Kathleen Lloyd (who memorably is killed by The Car as it flies through her kitchen window) as Carol Sue Peters and G. D. Spradlin, who mostly plays cops in movies, as Gerald Conway.

Jayne Marie Mansfield is played by Laura Jacoby, who beyond being in Rad is also Scott Jacoby’s sister. The younger version of the character was played by Deirdre Hoffman, Anderson’s daughter.

If you look close enough, Lewis Arquette — the man whose loins gave the world Rosanna, Patricia, Alexis, Richmond and David — shows up as a publicity man.

There were no fact checkers in 1980. After all, how can you explain a movie that purports to tell the life story of Mansfield report that she was 36 when she died when the truth is that she was 34? Or that Jayne is shown making Las Vegas Hillbillys which is supposed to be a Western, which it is not, much less the fact that it was made two years after she and Mickey were actually divorced, yet they are married here? Shouldn’t that be The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw? And while we’re on the matter of facts, how great is it when Jayne is getting a new convertible sometime in the mid-1950s, you can clearly see a 1980 Honda Civic roll by?

Much like how Jayne is dying to play the lead in The Jean Harlow Story, Valerie Perrine wanted this role. Surely she would have done better than imitating the worst vocal tics of Mansfield and none of the brains behind the glamour. Also, of all people to narrate this movie, Arnold in 1980 would not be the person I’d pick.

You can watch this on YouTube.

Arnold Week: Happy Anniversary and Goodbye (1974)

Norma and Malcolm Michaels (Lucille Ball and Art Carney) are a middle-aged married couple who seperate after years of arguing and their daughter’s new marriage. However, once they are single again, they miss the comfort they had with one another.

Directed by Jack Donahue (Babes In Toyland, sixty-nine episodes of Chico and the Man, Ball’s Her’s Lucy show as well as her Lucy Gets Lucky and Lucy Moves to NBC specials) and written by Arthur Julian (whose TV writing credits include shows like Hogan’s HeroesMaudeGimme A Break! and Amen) and Arnie Rosen (a writer on The Carol Burnett Show), this was one of Lucille Ball’s TV movie specials. It was the first time in decades that Ball didn’t play her sitcom Lucy character and even had streas of gray in her hair.

This is very much Lucy’s show, as her personal hairstylist Irma Kusely styled her wigs and she brought back Here’s Lucy (1968) propmaster Kenneth L. Westcott, costumer Renita Reachii, production manager William Magginetti and script supervisor Dorothy Aldworth.

Norma ends up going to Vegas with her friend Fay (Nanette Fabray) and their dates Ed (Don Porter) and Doug (Rhodes Reason) while Malcolm gets hooked up with younger women thanks to his friend Greg (Peter Marshall).

The real reason I watched this was to see Arnold Schwarzenegger between Hercules In New York and Pumping Iron. He’s much more comfortable speaking and has some decent comic timing. I’m certain playing off Lucy had to be intimidating, but Arnold is great. He’s also monstrous, as he’s bigger here than he would ever be in any of his movies.

In my quest to watch every Arnold movie, I will go anywhere. Even a made for TV live special.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Tales from the Darkside episode 7: “Inside the Closet”

“Inside the Closet” is one of the more famous episodes of Tales from the Darkside as it’s the first thing that was directed by Tom Savini. While writer Michael McDowell died at the too-young age of 49, he left behind scripts to films like BeetlejuiceThe Nightmare Before Christmas and Thinner.

It’s a very simple story: Gail (Roberta Weiss) needs a room so she can keep studying in college and ends up finding one from Dr. Fenner (Fritz Weaver), a professor whose daughter is away at college and wife has just died. Or so he says…

In 22-minutes, with two actors and sets, as well as little to no budget, Savini transforms the basic into one of the most frightening — and sweet, oddly — tales in this series. I’ve seen Lizzie up close and in person and it’s just as eerie in real life.

I’d rather not spoil too much, other than to say that Gail is not alone in the house and all of her fears are very, very real.

Tales from the Darkside episode 6: “Slippage”

Michael Gornick, who directed this episode, ran camera on The Amusement Park and Knightriders, is the voice of Barry the talk show host in Martin, was the DP of that movie as well as Dawn of the DeadCreepshow and Day of the Dead and went on to direct episodes of this show, Monsters and took over from George Romero for Creepshow 2.

In this installment, he’s working from a script by Mark Durand and Michael Kube-McDowell to tell the story of Rich Hall (David Patrick Kelly, Jerry Horne from Twin Peaks), is a commercial artist who begins to fade away. The company he just interviewed with doesn’t remember him, his wife Elaine (Kerry Armstrong) doesn’t even have his name on their car and even his mother no longer knows who he is.

These things could all happen at once and it’d be fine, but the succession by which they’re happening means that something supernatural is behind this.

The idea that you could disappear — not physically, but literally go away — is one of the most frightening things ever considered on this show. Some of the episodes get silly, some just have a rubber suit monster, but this one understands how to terrify you with a nearly real concept.

MILL CREEK BLU RAY RELEASE: Up All Night (2011-2012)

Emily Spivey worked at Saturday Night Live from 2001-2010 and developed this series based on her life when she went back to working after having her son, working late nights making comedy and coming home to raise a family.

Lasting two seasons on NBC, Up All Night stars Christina Applegate as Reagan Brinkley, a producer for the Ava show and Will Arnett as stay at home dad Chris. Maya Rudolph is Ava Alexander, the host of the show who Regan works for. The show reverses the typical sitcom dynamic by having the father as the one who is level-headed while the wife is obsessed with work.

NBC wanted major changes for the third season, switching the format to the traditional multi-camera sitcom and having Applegate, Arnett and Rudolph all playing actors who star in a fictional show-within-the-show called Up All Night. Spivey and Applegate left the show and it was canceled and not due to low ratings.

It’s great to have all of these in one set, as I missed this show when it first aired and really enjoyed it.

You can get the entire series on blu ray at Deep Discount.

Tales from the Dark Side episode 5: “Mookie and Pookie”

Justine Bateman (Family Ties) stars as Susan “Pookie” Anderson, the twin sister of Kevin “Mookie” (Ron Asher). Sadly, Mookie has a terminal disease yet he is able to place his mind into his beloved computer, something their parents Harold (George Sims, who ran camera on Cassavetes’ films Faces and Love Streams) and Ruth (Tippi Hedren!) can’t seem to understand.

This episode was directed by Timna Ranon, who did two other episodes of this show and was on second unit for God’s Gun. It was written by Marc Fields and Dan Kleinman, who wrote the only post-apocalyptic movie starring Mescach Taylor, Ultra Warrior.

It’s a pretty simple concept and perhaps not the darkest of all episodes, but consider this one a palate cleanser.

Watch the series: Lake Placid

Sometimes, having OCD and ADD and who knows what else leads me down some strange paths. This time, it was to go all-in on Lake Placid. A note: The Lake Placid vs. Anaconda movie and Lake Placid: Legacy will be covered soon enough.

Lake Placid (1999): Not many eco-horror movies have the pedigree of Steve Miner directing and David E. Kelly writing them. Maybe it’s just that I’ve watched so many cable sequels and low budget cash-ins this week, but man — this is an actual movie! This line will make more sense by the time this article is done, as man did these movies take a dive when it comes to quality.

A SCUBA diving death in Aroostook County, Maine leads to an entire team investigating the cause. Sheriff Hank Keough (Brendan Gleason), wildlife officer Jack Wells (Bill Pullman), American Museum of Natural History paleontologist Kelly Scott (Bridget Fonda) and mythology professor Hector Cyr (Oliver Platt) soon discover that there’s a giant crocodile in the lakes, fed by kindly old Mrs. Delores Bickerman (Betty White).

The Stan Winston-created gator looks great, a moose head is gorily removed from the lake and White’s character is fun. There are also several references to Alligator, which I endorse because it’s the best of all croc or gator on the loose movies.

Lake Placid 2 (2007): Sheriff James Riley is now on the case of the gators and if you know your made for SyFy movies, you know that he has to be played by one-time Duke of Hazzard John Schneider. Instead of Betty White feeding gators, you get her sister Sadie, played by Cloris Leachman (they were both on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, so at least the casting has some meta quality). Instead of Steve Miner and David E. Kelly, we have David Flores directing and Howie Miller and Todd Hurvitz writing.

It is, as they say, a major step backward.

I was going to ask where a cop would get a grenade launcher and then I remembered that in my hometown of 7,436 people the police all have AR15s, ballistic armor and a battle armored SWAT vehicle. So this isn’t all that far-fetched, I guess.

In case you wondered, yes, a small dog is menaced by the gator.

Lake Placid 3 (2010): Sadie Bickerman has died and left her home to her nephew Nathan (Colin Ferguson from Eureka), who plans on fixing it up with his wife Susan (Yancy Butler) and their son Connor, who inherits the Bickerman family trait of feeding gators and making them into human masticating killing machines.

In this movie, an entire family of gators bites down on peeping toms and skinny dippers, keeping the cable movie from showing too much gore or too much skin. It also has a literal home invasion via crocodile years before Crawl.

Director Griff Furst — Stephen’s son — has been in nearly ninety movies and also directed Swamp SharkAlligator Alley and Trailer Park Shark. Writer David Reed is now a writer and a producer of The Boys.

The end of this movie directly ties into the fourth movie.

Lake Placid: The Final Chapter (2010): David E. Kelly, which wrote the original Lake Placid, gave this movie 4.5 out of 5 stars and said, “Is this the last one really? The ending doesn’t make me think so. I am glad to see Robert Englund in this and some of the cast from the previous movie! The effects are still lame as second and third, but the story is good.”

David Reed was back as the writer and sequel king Don Michael Paul (Kindergarten Cop 2, Jarhead 2: Field of FireSniper: LegacyTremors 5: BloodlinesSniper: Ghost ShooterTremors: A Cold Day in HellDeath Race: Beyond AnarchyThe Scorpion King: Book of SoulsJarhead: Law of ReturnBulletproof 2 and Tremors: Shrieker Island) was new to the series, making what was claimed to be the last film in the series. Come on, people.

After the events of Lake Placid 3, Reba (Yancy Butler) is still alive and she starts this off by killing the last remaining crocodile in the supermarket. Now an EPA agent, she returns to Black Lake a year later to work with sheriff Theresa Giove (Elisabeth Röhm). And in every Lake Placid there must be a Bickerman and this time it’s Jimmy, played by Robert Englund.

Butler is pretty great in this, the crocodile is somehow twenty feet long and a whole bus full of kids gets menaced.

There’s an opportunity to make the Lake Placid movies high trash, yet no one ever seems to go for it. You know there will be more, so that’s my challenge to croc creatives: go wild.