It’s a glorious Saturday. The weather is cooler than usual, the coffee tastes better than usual and the internet is faster than usual. All-in-all, it’s an unusual day for the better. So I am going to enjoy it and head to the pool, then East to my buddy’s place so I can get mad love from his awesome 3-year-old and watch horrible VHS from the 1980’s until the wee hours of the morning.
But I am not going to abandon my freakish duty and not post. Oh no, I will share some older Halloween-ish posts from seasons gone by. Enjoy and I will be around the Twitter-sphere if you want to drop me a line. It’s an all day party here!
This story is a testament to how much simpler life was back when I was a kid. I had almost completely forgotten about this story until recently when I was talking to Kristen and low and behold, it just popped in there! The brain never ceases to amaze me because this memory has been stored for over twenty years only to randomly fallout like a picture used as a bookmark falling from a Garfield comic. (Because we all have read these in the 80’s) It comes at a good time too because this blog was turning into rubbish with mindless beer reviews and beef jerky. That’s no way to go through life, son.
Saturday nights for a certain period of my life were a special time. For whatever reason, from 7:00 to let’s say 10 or 11:00, my parents hosted a few couples from church for a bible discussion party. Well, I assume that’s what it was though I can’t be sure because my evenings were far better, which you will find out soon. After their bible yap, everyone would mingle and share the desserts each couple brought. I was allowed downstairs for that. Until then I was confined to the parents room with the TV, books of sharks, and whatever else a young seven-year old needed to pass the time. But at 9:00 my attention was devoted to a very special program that sometimes proved to be regretful whether it was later on at night from fears of what lurks under the bed or….well…keep reading.
I didn’t have cable until high school so with five channels (not including PBS because that was like watching school) and four channels on the smaller rotating dial, the selection was limited. But on Saturday nights there was quite the programing on Atlanta 46! The most memorable, of course, was “Tales From the Darkside”. For those not familiar, get out. I kid! I kid! It was a thirty minute program that featured two stories of macabre and strange tales usually starring some middle of the road actor from the time. Not all the shows were great but to a seven-year old, each one was a masterpiece.
One fateful Saturday afternoon my Dad informed me that a couple would be bringing their kids to the bible party and I would have to share my Saturday night of B-rated TV. While I was a little disappointed because as an only child I am a spoiled little dick, I had no say in the matter and began looking for the bright side. I mean, it could be fun.
It wasn’t at all. I knew it the second they arrived as I watched them pull into the driveway. These kids were melvins who brought their own pillows. They brought their own pillows for Christ sake! I sighed and walked limp-armed back to the parents room across the hall, head hung low and waited to hear people walk up the stairs. But instead Mom called for me to greet the un-welcomed guests and walk them to my Saturday sanctuary where no parental guidance was required.
I must have look like a pill giving a limp handshake to…Whats-his-face (let’s call him Jimmy for lack of memory) and his little sister, Rebecca.
Rebecca would be a problem for me.
With their idiotic board games and pillows in hand, we trudged upstairs to ruin my night. I offered to leave them in my room to do their will upon my collection of GI Joe and Legos, but that only appealed to Jimmy; the one kid I thought wouldn’t mind a night of twisted tales of grown up gore. Rebecca was stuck to my side like a rock in tire tread. Looking back as an adult it was pretty cute but to a kid that waited all week to hear the intro to “Tales From The Darkside”, it was an un-welcomed advance and there was no way to give these home schooled kids the slip.
Throughout the evening I tried to be entertaining and cordial. Jimmy wasn’t too bad, partly because he had Castle Greyskull to play house with and could care less about the world around him. Rebecca, however, sat hip-to-hip with me on the floor, eyes fixed on the TV as we watched “Small Wonder” and I nervously counted down the program schedule until “Tales From The Darkside” aired. Only one more “feel-good” show to go!
Dad brought us popcorn and cokes and asked if I was being a good host to which I responded “yeahyeah” without breaking gaze from the TV. He left to rejoin the adults and I could hardly wait because now was the time I had waited for patiently and even though I had to share this moment with these two weirdos, it was happening.
The intro alone distracted Jimmy from battling the forces of Cobra as he joined his sister and me on the floor, soon to witness the macabre and scary tales this glorious show had to offer. And brother, this one was a doozy! It was the first episode and pilot for the show that George Romero himself wrote and produced. The episode was called “Trick or Treat” and had demons, witches, pirate zombies and Satan himself all wrapped into a half an hour. Let’s break it down, shall we?
After the magical introduction we begin the story with a typical Scrooge-like character, Mr. Haggles, played by Bernard Hughes (one of my all time favorite actors). He is having his books balanced by a couple of accountants and we begin to learn what a cheap miser he really is, charging one of them .04 cents for another cup of coffee. But we also learn he has a twisted side too as he scares the two accountants into a bowel evacuation by an animatronic…thing that he uses on children during his favorite “SEASON”, Halloween.
That’s right. Mr. Haggles says what I have always believe and that is Halloween is a season, not a day. Anyway, he goes on to explain how every year he tempts the children in the valley to find the IOU’s of their parents that he holds liens on, hidden somewhere in his house, and if they find them all debt is forgiven. But no one ever has because of the terrifying tricks he has set up around his home.
We see during the afternoon of Halloween the bind he has on the parents as they are so deep in debt to Mr. Haggles that they even have to buy costumes for their children on credit in his general store. He taunts them into sending their children to the Hell house with the chance to have their debts forgiven.
Much like Romero’s style, there is a deep cultural issue hidden behind a cheeky horror story. We see how desperate people in financial distress can be and in some cases, putting their children in harm’s way to get out of their situation. I’m not going as far as saying prostitution but…kind of?
Oh Jimmy, find the IOU’s and get those much need braces or don’t find them and get a beating. The odds aren’t good since Mr. Haggles has a house full of spooky sounds and animatronic ghoulish surprises in store. Jimmy comes close but just couldn’t take the torture of Mr. Haggle’s taunts.
As Jimmy runs out of the house his father picks him up in a nurturing way and walks home defeated. Mr. Haggles laughs at the terrified kid but there is a moment when he has his bubble burst when Mr. Muldoon isn’t angry but rather a caring father. You can almost hear Mr. Haggles sigh a “humbug”. Who is next?
Another potential victim rings his doorbell and from his Wizard of Oz type control room, he looks to see who it is. Another kid? A parent coming to whoop an old man’s ass? Not quite!
In every story when a greedy person meets their fate, there seems to always be this third-party who’s entire being is for punishing the sinner. By far, this is my favorite punishment. He looks into the peephole only to see one of the scariest witches as she cackles a “trick or treat”. He opens the door to shoo away this prankster only to come to the realization that this is a real witch. She flies through the house on her broom and magically finds the hidden IOU’s and blows them in his face. Frantically, Mr. Haggles jumps to catch them all completely overlooking that he HAS A FUCKING WITCH IN HIS DEN and runs through the house shouting “my money!”.
In each room he is met with these type of creatures, who are not animatronic, but real and all over his cash. He is in disbelief that a pirate-zombie is sitting on his check deposits and scurries to salvage the flying cash. Which leads him to….
Ah, Satan himself. The Devil reverses the taunting and repeats “you’re getting warmer” and Mr. Haggles crawls his way down a bright red corridor which is made of what appears to be bubble wrap. While the set design looks to be a mediocre haunted garage that can be found in any suburb on Halloween night, it is a little creepy. Mr. Haggles crawls his way, chasing his blowing cash, to what is perceived to be Hell. Good riddance.
But what about all the poor people who were in debt to Mr. Haggles?
Well, the witch gave it all to Billy. The End.
As we finished this tale of awesome, I came out of my “Tales From The Darkside” trance to the world around me. Only Jimmy was sitting next to me but where was Rebecca? Apparently during the Hell scene she ran from the room and down to the bible study in tears telling her parents that I forced her to watch ‘R’ rated devil shows. Before I could evaluate the situation I heard the familiar sound of my Mom’s fast paced stair climbing gape. There was nowhere to hide. Jimmy looked at me and said, “You’re in a lot of trouble”. Fuck you, Jimmy, you home-schooled melvin.
The credits were still rolling while Mom and her parents breached the door and she yanked me from the floor so fast there was a tiny pop from a sound barrier break. I was escorted to my room by the elbow and Jimmy was taken downstairs to join his traumatized sister and would be given cookies and cake until their parents decided to leave. I cursed them all from my bed having daydreams much like Ralphy from The Christmas Story, thinking how sorry they would be if I was blind or have an affliction that required sympathy. But I wouldn’t give them the satisfaction.
By the next week when bible study came around, the melvins did not join me. I was thankful for this but my Saturday nights had to be spent without TV. But was it worth it?
Man, it has been a while since I have written a “Where Did You Go” post. So, as I sit at the work station for Wake Forrest Medical School waiting for them to redo their entire database I think I will use this time to be productive. Let me pay homage to the ones who birthed some of the cinemas greatest characters. And by moms, I mean the ones I care about and probably no one else does.
Lane Meyer’s mom in the movie, Better Off Dead, is about as amazing of a character as you can get. Her complete absence from reality, alternative homemaking skills and her unrelenting sweetness makes her so enjoyable to watch I just wish she could have had more of a dominating role in the film. Let’s see…she wanted to cutback the grease of bacon so she boiled it, dressed as a reindeer on Christmas morning, bought Lane a stack of TV dinners for his Christmas present, improvised a recipe that was wet from the rain and cooked something to life, and invited the neighbors to dinner to welcome the new French foreign exchange student to America by making French food. You know…”fronch fries, fronch bread, fronch dressing..”? Simply amazing. She was perfectly balanced dumb, ignorant, crazy and sweet. She’s like the buddy’s mom in high school who you could get to buy you beer but never did because the thought of hurting her feelings was not worth the fun. I love her.
Played by actress Kim Darby, she has had a long career dating back to the 60’s and has been in many TV shows like Murder She Wrote (shocker) the 1970’s classic Fantasy Island and films to include a major role in True Grit with John Wayne and was Debra Strode in the hilarious Halloween: Curse of Michael Myers. She has been nominated for an Emmy and a few Golden Globes in her time and has had a long career teaching acting at UCLA. Currently she resides in LA and was married to James Stacy who was the bartender in the evil Disney movie Something Wicked This Way Comes. All in all, I know her best as that wack-a-do Mrs. Meyer who played an amazing role as mother to Lane and Badger Meyer, in Better Off Dead and that is why she is top of this list.
Oh boy Nancy’s mom, Marge Thompson, from the 1984 Nightmare On Elm Street was an inflatable dartboard when it came to being a parent but when it came to handling a child molester, she was got shit done. This chick lit the dude on fire and took his glove as a souvenir. It almost worked too had he not, you know, come back in the dreams of kids and killed them in their sleep. Doh!
The reason she is on this list is because of her complete naiveté and her love of all things vodka. Even when her daughter woke up from a nightmare in a hospital and produced the hat of Freddy Krueger, she was still in denial! Also she taught us the hazards of smoking in bed:
And doors can be used creatively.
The woman who played this drunken, twice killed, and living in denial mother is the great Ronee Blakely who almost won an Academy Award for her role in the movie Nashville, loosely based on the story of Loretta Lynne. She had been in a few films and TV shows through the 1970’s to 90’s but besides Nightmare to Elm Street, I only really care that she was in the Tales From The Darkside episode, “The False Prophet”, appeared in the forgettable 1987 Return to Salem’s Lot and sang back up vocals to Bob Dylan’s song “Hurricane”. Other than that, she will always be the lady who funneled vodka and sort of killed Freddy Krueger.
Diane Freeling from the movie Poltergeist is probably my favorite movie mom for a couple of reasons. One, she is just cool and hip. She seems like the mom who brings cupcakes to Carolann’s classroom, buy’s Robbie the cool sneakers that all the kids are wearing, makes sure Dana has condoms before she goes on a date because we all know she was pretty loose in the movie and remember to keep cold Coor’s beers in the fridge with tightly rolled joints for when Steve gets home from a hard day of work. Two, I love the way she didn’t lose her shit like I would have when this happened:
I would have “Hiesman-ed” over Carolann on my way out the door.
Diane Freeling was played by the beautiful JoBeth Williams and she is no stranger to brilliant acting. She made her debut just a couple of months before Poltergeist with Dustin Haufman in Kramer v Kramer and went on to do a number of big films like The Big Chill, Poltergeist II, and the Tim Allen abortion known as Jungle 2 Jungle. (Never trust a film, music group or insurance company with a number representing a preposition) Also she was most famous in the late 1970’s and early 80’s as her soap career as Brandy in the show Guiding Light. And know you know. Oh! And when I was looking up info on JoBeth the first site that came up was from Wikifeet; a whole site dedicated to celebrity feet photos.
We are going to end this one on a high note, folks! Good ol’ Doris from the movie we all love, Night of the Comet. She is the cliché mom we all hate. It’s obvious that she isn’t the birth mother to the two girls in the movie because she plays the role of a wicked stepmother to the T! Married to their dad who is a Green Beret on deployment to Honduras, she is throwing a comet party and letting every guy in the neighborhood get a free ride (if you know what I mean). Well, the youngest smart-ass girl gets a little pissed off when she sees her stepmom flirting with the neighbor, Chuck, and lets loose with one of the greatest lines in cinema history: “Jesus, Doris. You were born with an asshole you don’t need Chuck.” That line resulted in this series of events.
The lesson? Don’t slap in a punching contest. But don’t worry, Doris gets turned into Tang right after this scene.
Doris was brilliantly played by Sharon Farell and what a ride this lady had! She has been in Hollywood acting since 1959 and has been on such shows as My Three Sons, Matlock, THE VERY FIRST EPISODE OF ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS, Freddy’s Nightmares and Emergency. Her movie roles were pretty extensive too but besides Night of the Comet the only other one I really care about is It’s Alive where she played the mother to Satan. Which, if this was another blog that would have taken the cake for her movie-mother roles. But not this one so go suck one!
Starting out this year’s season of all things macabre, I figured I will write a review or a recap, if you will, of three shows that I distinctly remember getting a case of the heebs over. (heebs- feeling the need to shower after witnessing an event that did not make one physically dirty) I used to love staying up past the surgeon general’s recommended bedtime and filling those late hours with nonsensical television until either there was a disapproving knock at the bedroom door from what I am sure was tattling flicker of luminescence leaking under the said door or Rhonda Sheer’s bubbly personality of USA’s “Up All Night” was replaced by a commercial for a turkey-jerky dehydrator. But of all the nonsensical TV that gave me an allergy to books, there are a couple shows that still manages to stick with me, especially as we creep towards September and October. Let us take a look at a few, shall we?
Tales From the Crypt was a staple of my teen years and while most of the shows were a HBO platform for many actors to get their feet wet directing without any real reprisals from a critic committee because let’s face it, horror isn’t a critic’s forte, it did produce some of the best casted and fun TV still today and every so often this show would hit a home run in the creep department.
The episode “The New Arrival” starring David Warner and Zelda Rubenstein was a really dark, claustrophobic, disturbing and down right pee-pants oppressing story that left you wanting nothing more than to never chew grape gum or trust anyone shorter than 4 feet.*pours coffee on the floor out of respect for the late Zelda*
David Warner plays a corrupt and arrogant child psychologist that preys on over protective mothers who spoil children with behavioral issues only to boost his failing radio channel. So in his plan to save his ratings he decides to air a live session at a fan’s house who calls his station. Little does he know that it is Zelda Rubenstein calling him with a case that is most likely not in any text-book or case study he has read before.
When he gets to the house of the caller to begin his radio show he sees how controlling Zelda is and the problematic child is running a terror through the house and is very illusive. Right from the beginning the audience can feel that something is far from routine about this behavioral case. From the screams of the child to the walls caked in grape bubble gum, this reeks of “get the hell out of the house”. And then we meet the kid.
Where does one even begin to state the things wrong here? Ok, I am not going to go through the entire episode because I’ll post the climactic part below and it would seem redundant for you to watch what I just wrote about so I will just express my feelings.
This episode touched on a few nightmare nerves of mine. The fact that all the creepy shit happens during the afternoon is a big one. Some people have a certain witching hour and mine was always 4 o’clock. I think it is the way the sun is dimming or the fact that 90% of all horror movies happen at night so when bad stuff happens when Judge Judy is on TV, I just don’t feel right about it. The wallpaper in the house also made me itch. The house had a very dark feeling about it and the wallpaper from the 1940’s didn’t help.
I know those two creeps aren’t creepy to most others but that is what I hung on to. Call me weird but…okay, call me weird. Please watch this. You will see why this episode stands out the most.
Tales From the Darkside was an amazing show that was pretty corny in retrospect but an absolute humdinger when it came to adolescent entertainment of the 1980’s. When I think about Saturday nights as a nine-year-old the theme to Tales From the Darkside is usually the anthem. Back then these 20 minute stories would cause me to sink deep in the covers, never wanting to peer out the window for fear there would be another set of peepers peering back. I lucked out watching this show in an era when kids would be scared over something that makes five-year-olds today laugh.
Of the hundreds of tales, I think the early episode called “Case of the Stubborns” was not just my favorite but also the most unsettling. Along with an amazing cast like a very young Christian Slater, Eddie Backren, Bill McCutcheon and Barbera Eda-Young, this famous story is about an old man who is too set in his ways to realize he died. When every one begs and pleads for him to come to terms with his own mortality he merely scoffs at their insensate nagging all the while….decomposing. It really is awesome.
After Slater’s character seeks advice from the neighborhood witch he returns home to try once more to lay his already deceased grandfather to rest. Only with a sneeze that blew off Grandpa Titus’s nose did he finally realize that perhaps, he was actually dead.
There are so many reasons to love this episode and while I wish it was an original story from the show, it is not. I remember reading “A Case of the Stubborns” as a child growing up in the south. It’s just nice to know Hollywood didn’t muck it up. I will say, the first scene when Grandpa Titus walks down stairs, I would have put my breakfast down my pants because it was going to end up there anyway.
Who wants to be disturbed? I do! I do! Well, for the final segment of the first real kick off of the 10 week count down, I present to you a gift; these three Tim Currys. In another Tales From the Crypt episode, “Death of Some Salesman”, Tim plays all but one role and is even given an Emmy for his performance.
Ed Bagely Jr plays a corrupt traveling salesman who preys on naive customers thinking they are buying what really is an imaginary cemetery plot. He does pretty well too until he happens upon the home of Ma, Pa and Winona Bracket, all played by the infamous Tim Curry. He thinks he knows who they are but he has no idea what they do. They collect salesmen. (As a sales person myself, this speaks to me more now that in it did back in the day)
I love this episode for so many reasons I can’t even narrow it down to just three. All I know is that Tim Curry manages to do what he does best and that is make you squirm. Especially the god-awful sex scene between Winona-Tim and Ed Bagely. Man, that must have been an awkward shoot! Enjoy this magnificent clip!
There was a shorter clip of just the weird sex scene that I was going to post but the guy who made it was videotaping it from his TV with severe asthma. A tad distracting.
Well I hope you enjoyed these three classics in B Television. Whether you can identify with them or not they really are fun. And if you are going to destroy your vision, waste your life or rot your brain, shouldn’t it be a little fun?
Here we are, turned all the way up to eleven. Tell me where that line comes from and I will give you 400 gorka gabbas. If you don’t know what those are they are my own currency that I plan on flooding into the economy. So you will be ahead of the game! What was I talking about?
We will start off with the bread winner for the Tanner family in one of my favorite shows of the 80’s, ALF. Max Wright played Willie Tanner, a meek social worker that is constantly pushed to the edge by an ADD alien named ALF. I always tuned in on Monday nights, sitting in my GI Joe’s (themed PJs) nervously waiting the moment when Willie snapped and back-handed Kate or hammer punch Benji in the nose. Of course it never happened and Willie kept his cool, even when Alf dug a pool in the backyard garden.
Max hasn’t been in the TV or film circuit in the past 10 years. Partly because of his diagnosis with lymphoma and his run in with a few mailboxes resulting in a DUI arrest. On the lymphoma he has been in remission but the duey, I’m afraid Max plead guilty. Dag, yo. He has been in many TV episodes throughout the 80’s like Tales From The Darkside, WKRP in Cincinnati, MASH, and even was in the first couple episodes of Friends as the Central Perk’s manager. But ALF was his only real main role for TV. As far as his other acting roles he has been in such movies as Soul Man, Grumpier Old Men and The Sting II. His live theater acts like Broadway actually led to a Tony for IVANHO. Who knew Willie would win a Tony?
Max currently resides in California with his wife, Linda and their two kids Ben and Daisy. I suppose he is doing well and waiting, like the rest of us, for an ALF comeback. But that can’t happen until ALF puts down the pipe and sticks with his rehab.
You think that cookie looks like Anne Ramsey? Fuck’n eh, it does! But really, I think it looks more like this below from Big Trouble In Little China. Either way, you can’t eat something that cool.
So yeah, Anne Ramsey was an icon in the film industry. At least the film industry that interests me. Her most memorable roles to me were The Goonies, Mamma Fratelli and Throw Mamma From The Train. Can you believe she was nominated for an Oscar for that? Too bad she past away from throat cancer before the nominations were rewarded. Regardless her list of roles were plenty and in all reality she didn’t start her film career until late in life.
I remember being a little scared of her as a kid. I think it was the gruff appearance and her “after stroke” way of talking. To this day my friends and I quote “Quiet, you lashey poop!”. That was from Throw Mamma From The Train.
She was married to the actor Logan Ramsey but her career really took off after his death. She has been in a number of great films like Scrooged, Any Which Way You Can and National Lampoon’s Class Reunion to name a few. But to me her most memorable role and sadly her last was a cranky old lady in ALF. Strange how that ties in. RIP Anne.
Alison Parker. Who is Alison Parker, you ask? That is a good question because unless you have seen the 1977 movie, The Sentinel, you wouldn’t have a clue. I have researched quiet a bit and came up with very little. And I find that strange because her only role is a staring one and she shares it with many famous actors and actresses like Christopher Walken, Chris Sarandon, Ava Gardner, Eli Wallach, Tom Berenger, Jeff Goldblum, Richard Dryfuss, and many more. Where did she go? But I guess that’s my job to know, huh?
I think I need to keep these next two in character. Above is Ben Gardner in the movie Jaws. Actually he is a real fisherman that inspired Shaw’s character Quint, but that’s neither here nor there. Ben has an on going role in the movie but is rarely seen. Known as the local fisherman he pokes fun of the visiting frenzy of fisherman stating “…they’ll wish their mothers had never met their fathers when they start slamming into those rocks…” and other such witty jaunts. But there is one thing that puzzles me. How did he die?
See? Did Jaws just eat one eye? Did he trip and stick it on something sharp? Did Jaws spit his head back in the boat? Who knows? I smell fowl play.
Much like Ben “Headintheboat” Gardner, Ben Trammer of Halloween one and two has an ongoing but rarely seen role too. In the first Halloween Ben and Laurie had a thing. Well, as much as two shy nerds do, anyway. But poor Ben made the mistake of being a William Shatner fan much like Mike Myers was and dressed just like him on that night. What are the odds? To good in my mind. In any case, Ben is seen above fleeing Loomis who is having an episode only to be hit, crushed, exploded and burned to death by….a deputy of the law.
I didn’t really have a question about Ben but I do find it very uncreative of the screen writers to dress Ben up as a blond Michael Myers. I mean, did Ben off a tow truck driver too? Meh, I am thinking too hard about this again. S knows what I mean.