Thursday, October 31, 2019

THRILLER Thursday: A WIG FOR MISS DEVORE

SEASON 2: A WIG FOR MISS DEVORE

The spider web fills the screen, it's Boris Karloff's THRILLER!



Season: 2, Episode: 19.
Airdate: January 29, 1962.
Director: John Brahm.
Writer: Donald S. Sanford based on the story by August Derleth.
Cast: Patricia Barry, John Baragrey, John Fiedler, Herbert Rudley, Linda Watkins, Pamela Searle.
Music: Morton Stevens - though it's really Jerry Goldsmith's score for GUILLOTINE.
Cinematography: Benjamin Kline.
Producer: William Frye.




Boris Karloff’s Introduction: “Well, that was a gruesome surprise even for a hangman. A stunningly beautiful courtesan is dropped into the pit, and a moment later, her executions discover a withered hand, claw-like, clutching a wig. Well, of course the noose usually does have a disastrous effect upon the human body, but nothing like this. (Picks up wig) How strange. I should think it must have something to do with this wig. There is something weird and frightening about it. Look my friends, look! It’s only clothe and hair. Lustrous red hair to be sure, but hardly very mysterious. At least, that’s what the characters in tonight’s story thought. Unfortunately for them. My I introduce Sheila Devore, played by Patricia Barry. George Machik, played by John Baragrey. Herbert Bleake, played by John Fiedler. Arabella Foote, played by Linda Watkins. And Max Quinke, played by Herbert Rudley. We call our story A Wig For Miss Devore, and naturally I refer to this particular wig. Now my friends, you know all about the magic that the sorcerers of the silver screen put on film for your entertainment. Well tonight, as sure as my name is Boris Karloff, you will learn that sorcery can be performed without celluloid. Behind the cameras, and perhaps even in your own livingroom.”



Synopsis: In mid-1700s England, a beautiful young woman is escorted to the gallows. No crowd of onlookers, no official doctor to pronounce the death, this execution will be in private - because this woman has been accused and convicted of witchcraft. Part of that witchcraft charge against Meg Payton (Pamela Searle) includes the murder of six men. The Man whose job is to remove the corpse after the hanging wants Payton to remove her wig - even if they were to execute the King himself, he would have to remove his wig. She refuses, and the Hangman allows her to keep it - she won’t be needing in a couple of minutes. As the Hangman prepares to pu the noose around her neck, she says: “Your hands are trembling, let me help you,” and slides the noose around her own neck. As the Hangman prepares to pull the lver, she says, “Meg Payton does not die here.” Then, the trap door opens and she does the long drops with the hard stop. Dead. The Man goes down to collect the body... and screams! The wig has fallen off, and Meg Payton has become a withered old monster.



1962 Los Angeles: Blonde Bombshell way past her pull date Miss Sheila Devore (think Marilyn Monroe if she had made it to her mid-forties - but she died 7 months after this episode aired) thinks that she has found the perfect screenplay for her comeback - the epic biography of witch Meg Payton who was hung 200 years earlier. Her loyal assistant, Herbert Bleake (the always great John Fiedler who gets a mention in our entry for “Yours Truly Jack The Ripper”) tries to talk her out of it - it’s an expensive period piece. Maybe she should look through all of the scripts one more time, just to be sure? It’s obvious that Bleake is secretly in love with her... but too shy and mousy to say so. Bleake used to be a studio production accountant who worked on all of her films. As her assistant, he knows that she’s too old for the role and the studio would never spend that kind of money on a movie starring her - his job is to always protect her. But she *insists* on doing the witch script, and for authenticity (and publicity) wants to use the actual wig that Meg Payton wore. Studio Chief Max Quinke has been regularly sending her flowers and begging for her to come back to work since she retired... Bleake says he will go to the studio and set up the deal.

Studio chief Max Quinke (Herbert Rudley) says no way! How old is she? It’s alluded to that Quinke had an affair with her... when she was younger. Bleake says Quinke has been sending her flowers regularly since she retired begging her to come back, and this script is her comeback. Quinke hasn’t been sending her flowers all of those years - Bleake has. You see, as production accountant, Bleake knows that when big star Devore and producer Quinke and director George Machik formed a production company together and made all of Devore’s biggest hits, they had him do some “Hollywood bookkeeping” so that Quinke and Machik could steal all of the profits from 32 of her films. Millions. So it would be to Quinke’s advantage to greenlight Devore’s comeback instead of deal with the police and IRS and probably end up in prison.

And that is how film deals are made.



The Comeback: On the set, director George Machik (handsome John Baragrey) warns the crew to behave when Miss Devore comes on set - she has been retired for a long time, and this is her comeback, and she may have... aged.

But when Devore comes out, dressed in the costumes and Payton’s actual red wig, she’s young and hot! She looks 25 years old! And she acts the hell out of her scene - she’s still got it! Watching from the side-lines is Hedda Hopper inspired gossip reporter Arabella Foote (Linda Watkins), who can’t believe this is the middle aged Miss Devore. Devore has been in seclusion since her retirement, but she must have had a bunch of face lifts to look this good. Foote is the villainess of the story - trying to find the secret of Devore’s good looks. She’s in the background of almost every scene.

After the day’s shooting, director Machik hits on Devore - they had an affair when she was younger as well. Maybe they could go out to dinner tonight? Devore says she can’t - there’s a party at studio chief Max Quinke’s mansion in Hollywood. Machik wasn’t invited to the party? Machik tells her that Quinke stole from her - skimmed the profits on 32 of her films. Though Machik knew about this, he was afraid to go up against the powerful producer. Maybe Devore should ditch Quinke’s party and go to dinner with Machik?

Devore arrives at Max Quinke’s marvelous mansion for the party... and she is the only guest! Quinke wants to rekindle old flames. His mansion has an indoor fountain, and he puts on music so that they can dance around the fountain. Quinke asks her why she is still wearing the wig after the day’s filming is over. Has she gone method? He’d love to see her beautiful blonde hair....



Meanwhile, assistant Bleake knocks on the door of the mansion, which is opened by a butler. Bleake has a letter that he must give to Miss Devore - very important that she read it. The butler turns him away - he’s not going to interrupt his boss when he’s trying to score.

Quinke keeps asking Devore to take off the red wig... and he gets his wish. Quinke screams in horror! She tells him she knows about skimming the profits from the 32 movies, then pushes him back... into the fountain... where he hits his head and drowns.

We never see Devore’s face without the wig - but the arm that pushes Quinke was withered and old, as if the energy keeping Devore looking young was sucking years off her life. Devore puts the wig back on... just as director Machik shows at the mansion.

Devore tells him that she and Quinke were dancing and he tripped and hit his head on the fountain. Machik says that she shouldn’t be involved because Quinke stole all of that money from her - that can be misconstrued as a motive. Also, that they need a way to keep Machik from being forced to testify against her if it ever comes to that... hey, why don’t we get married? A wife can’t be forced to testify against her husband. She agrees.



Last Day Of Production: They film the last scene of the movie, as Devore playing witch Payton is lead to the gallows, and tells the Hangman, “Your hands are trembling, let me help you,” and puts the noose around her neck. I love how we go back to the opening scene of the episode, here. After filming the scene, it’s a wrap - and the party begins!

Bleake shows at her dressing room with the letter, and she tells him that she doesn’t want to read it. When he keeps pushing, she breaks his heart by saying that she never really cared about him. He was just someone who did things for her. He leaves, practically in tears.

Gossip columnist Foote follows Bleake to a bar, and gets him drunk. A shoulder to cry on. He shows her the letter from the museum where they got the wig, claiming that it is cursed - and the previous owners murdered men who did them wrong. Foote leaves so fast Bleake’s head almost hits the bar when she pulls her shoulder away.

In director Machik’s luxurious penthouse apartment, the newlywed couple discuss their future together on the balcony overlooking the city of Los Angeles at night. Now that the film has wrapped, he wants her to take off that silly wig. She tells him she knows that he was part of embezzling profits from those 32 films, and now that they are married, she can’t testify against him on embezzlement charges. He tries to talk his way out of it, he’s good at that... but she takes off the wig. We don’t see her face, but we see his. He screams in horror and steps away from her - over the balcony railing and all the way down to the street. SPLAT! Now she has inherited all of the money he embezzled.

THE LEGEND OF MEG PAYTON is a huge hit - lines circling around the block. Devore is a big star again, sought after by every producer at every studio.

In her dressing room, a burley security guard catches ex-assistant Bleake trying to break in. She tells the security guard to let him in, and Bleake tells her about the cursed wig. He doesn’t care that she broke his heart, he just wants to help her. He truly cares about her. But she doesn’t want his help - she has everything she wants. “After a while, the wig grows on you.”

At The Wrap Party For The Next Film, Devore is twisting the night away with a much younger man. Gossip columnist Foote and a Photographer watch from the sidelines, and she explains her plan to him: she is going to enter Devore’s dressing room and confront her with the letter from the museum about the cursed wig. At a certain point, the photographer bursts into the dressing room and takes a picture of Devore without the wig...



In the dressing room, Foote confronts Devore with the letter. The wig has dark, demonic powers. Foote accuses Devore of murdering the two men, and who knows how many others, to get to where she is now. “A frowsy old bag puts on a wig and overnight mind you, becomes a ravishing beauty.” Foote manages to grab Devore’s wig and rip it off her head. Devore screams. The photographer breaks in and snaps a picture. Devore runs out of the room with a towel over her head - hiding her face. Leaving the wig on the floor.

Bleake (and everyone else) chases Devore through the studio lot between sound stages. She turns and one point, sees Bleake behind her, and tells him, “Don’t let them see me!” Bleake tries to help her get away, but she trips and falls and is surrounded by everyone else. They turn the lights on her - exposing her withered, ugly face. She looks at least 100 years old. She screams and dies in Bleake’s arms... and he still loves her.

In the dressing room, a plain-jane Maid sees the wig on the floor and snatches it up. When no one is looking she puts it on and looks at herself in the mirror - a hot young woman looks back at her. The end.



Review: An episode that takes on the issues of Ageism, sexism, and #MeToo... in 1962?

After getting off to a rocky start - I sure hope that Pamela Searle was the producer’s girlfriend and that she wasn’t chosen for her acting abilities - this turns into a great episode that combines elements of Grand Guignol and Hollywood (a marriage made in heaven, or maybe hell). This episode is fun, and skewers movies from Hollywood bookkeeping to more serious subjects like women being aged out of the business while older men are promoted. We’ll get to the serious subjects in a moment, because I think that’s what makes this one topical today.



But first, an appreciation for Patricia Barry, who only has 145 credits and was working up until 2014 - two years before her death at 93 years old. Her first film credit is in 1946 (she only made 6 films that year) and she’s in freakin’ SEA OF LOVE, one of my favorite films. She’s in a couple of other episodes of THRILLER, but this is an amazing performance. She plays both versions of Devore, and they are completely different people with completely different looks. She was 40 years old when she made this episode - basically the older Miss Devore - but perfectly played the young hot Miss Devore. Here’s the thing about those 145 credits on IMDB - her three episodes of THRILLER count as 1... and this episode alone is like playing two roles. She seemed to be one of those great dependable actors that you could hire for 6 films in the same year and she did her best work in all 6. Once TV became popular, she was doing multiple episodes on multiple shows within the same year - so she was dependable and professional. This episode made me want to binge watch a whole bunch of movies and TV stuff that she was in, just to see all of the different characters she played - because even if all of those 1946 movies were playing the love interest, I’ll bet they were different people. Her work here is great, and there could not be an episode without someone of this talent playing Devore.

There is a whole subgenre of horror movies about people who have been taken advantage of by others getting their revenge through some sort of supernatural method that they seemingly can not control. From Oliver Stone’s THE HAND (where Michael Caine’s hand lost in a freak accident tracks down those who wronged him) to CHRISTINE (which may have introduced the self driving car) and lots of other movies feature the Dr. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE tale with a supernatural item like Miss Devore’s wig. Spielberg did a similar episode - though nuttier - on his AMAZING STORIES show in the 1980s called HELL TOUPEE and written by a couple of 12 year olds (seriously) about a hairpiece that gets revenge for the meek fellow who wears it. DEVORE does a great job of taking a powerless person and giving them the power that they need... at a price.



Okay, time to talk about that powerless person - and why this episode resonates sixty years later. Back in 1962, this was an episode about Hollywood (and the world’s) seeing women as second class citizens and how agism in Hollywood only matters if you are female. No one wants to hire Devore because she’s old... but they regularly hire male actors who are even older. When you watch a movie today and the male lead is over sixty and the female lead is half that age, something is wrong. Why do older actors get to keep working and older actresses become unemployed? Take your favorite movie from the 1980s - is the male lead still starring in movies? Is the female lead? It’s strange that Stallone still gets to play ROCKY and RAMBO, but how many 73 year old actresses are starring in movies? Sharon Stone is my age, in great shape, and still working... in small supporting roles (she steals the show in DISASTER ARTIST). Why isn’t she *starring* in big movies like (over a decade older) Stallone is? Hollywood has an ageism/sexism problem... and this episode of THRILLER is all about that. Devore is over the hill and un-hireable in her 40s. It always amazes me when an issue like this is explored on a TV series in the 1960s and is still with us today. Is nobody paying attention?

The other issue this episode explores that is still with us today is #MeToo - and maybe it ties in to the ageism/sexism thing... and that bad taste joke I made about the actress who played the witch being someone’s girlfriend. The two powerful men in this episode each had a previous relationship with Devore when she was a young, hot, actress. Though this episode never mentions casting room couches, both men had no problem sleeping with Devore when she was young... but now neither wants to touch her... until they see her in the wig. Then, they are all over her. Both men not only make passes at her, they seem to feel like it’s part of their job description to sleep with the talent. They are powerful men, and that gives them the right to make these advances. Compare those characters with Bleake her assistant - who is in love with her and even has power (the knowledge of the embezzling) but never pushes Devore into any sort of relationship. The moment Devore shows up at producer Quinke’s mansion and she is the only guest, that’s a #MeToo moment. He has lied to her with only one intention. Again, here’s a 60 year old TV episode that focuses on an issue that is still with us today. How many years have there been jokes about the casting room couch? We knew that was wrong all of those years - that’s at the core of those jokes, yet did nothing about it. Being a leacher was never a good thing. The plot of this story has these powerful men taking advantage of a woman - by ripping her off, but also by trying to control her, and by using their power to sleep with her. Yeah, this is a revenge story, so she goes along with their seduction to kill them, but the minute both the producer and director see that she is still hot - they are all over her. Assistant Bleake is kind of the “control” in this experiment - he never stops helping her. Even at the end, he is the one protecting her while all of the others *want* to out her as a disfigured old hag.

If you think older movies and older TV shows didn’t get “political”, it’s just because you were too young to notice... and maybe have a Warner Brothers movies deficiency.

But aside from exploring a couple of issues that I’m sorry to say are still with us today, this is a FUN episode.

It grows on you.

Next time, another horror tale - this one about a killer scarecrow.

- Bill

Buy The DVD!

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Film Courage Plus: Take This Job And Shove It!

FILM COURAGE did a series of interviews with me at the end of 2014, and then again at the end of 2015, around 36 segments total. That's almost a year's worth of material! So why not add a new craft article and make it a weekly blog entry? All I have to do is write that new article, right?

Take This Job And Shove It:

What’s interesting to me about this clip is that the first question is about when you should quit your day job, but evolved into a story about my early career... and the troubled path TREACHEROUS took to get to the screen. What do they have in common? I had no idea at the time of the interview, but looking back on it I’ve realized that the TREACHEROUS story is a perfect example of how being a professional screenwriter is often not a dependable source of income. That’s one of the problems with any creative occupation - no regular paychecks.

Screenwriting is freelance - which means that you are the boss. Which means that you pay yourself. Which means that you need to find the jobs so that you can pay yourself. You will be an independent businessperson. Though you may fantasize about an Agent or Manager handling the business side, that is only a fantasy. Most of the deals you get will come from your hard work... and they will get their 10%. You are the only one who cares about your career, so you will need to get out there and find jobs.

One of the questions that new writers frequently ask is: when should I move to Los Angeles?

I thought for the longest time that I wouldn’t have to move to Los Angeles at all. My first script deal, back when I was 21 years old, was writing a comedy martial arts film NINJA BUSTERS for a guy from my hometown community college and it was made in Oakland, CA - the nearest big city to where I grew up - and even starred the World Champion Oakland Raiders. Cool! I believed that I could have a career in my hometown, and NINJA BUSTERS was the first in a three script deal with the guy who produced and directed it, Paul Kyriazi. Paul had made a few successful kung fu movies for the drive in circuit and set up a company that would make more drive in films. After writing NINJA BUSTERS I wrote the next two scripts... and then NINJA BUSTERS hit some financial snags and there would not be two more films. The weird part was that there was enough publicity surrounding the film that I found a couple more local jobs - one of the producers on NINJA BUSTERS had an idea for a movie, and a real estate guy my girlfriend at the time knew had a bunch of vacant properties he thought we could use as film locations. So even after NINJA BUSTERS hit a snag, there were two more deals to be had in the Oakland area. And then there was nothing. I was the big fish in the small pond and had eaten up all of the fish food. I spent ten years working in a warehouse...

And during that time I optioned a script to a company in Beverly Hills and eventually sold another script to a company at Paramount... and that is when I moved.

Looking back on it: I wish I had moved right after NINJA BUSTERS hit the snag, because I could have forklift jousted in Los Angeles as easily as I did in my home town. I was working for Safeway Grocery, and they had stores and warehouses in Los Angeles. Could have easily moved here much earlier instead of driving down once a year for American Film Market. One of the benefits of living in Los Angeles is that you bump into people in line at the grocery store and can easily go to a bunch of meetings. I had an agent for a while still living in my home town and had no idea how terrible he was until I optioned that script to the producer in Beverly Hills and saw his 8x8 windowless office above a motorcycle repair shop in the slums. I would have been a lot more proactive had I known that he was doing nothing for me. I was probably the oldest dude to sell a script to Roger Corman - and had I moved to Los Angeles earlier I probably would have written a stack of scripts for him in my 20s!

WHEN TO MOVE?

One of the questions people often ask is when they should move to Los Angeles - before they make their first sale or after? That’s a very good question and everything depends on what you have established where you live now. I moved after my first sale and once I got here wished I had moved earlier - all of those Corman scripts I could have written. All of those connections I could have made. And I probably never would have signed with that terrible agent!

But it is likely that you will move here at some point.

Los Angeles is where the business is located. All of the studios are here, all of the production companies are here, all of those meetings you will need to go to are here. Though there are other places in the USA where films are frequently produced and you can make connections there, those films are made by companies in Los Angeles. New York doesn’t seem to be doing much these days - Miramax is closed and most of the New York City companies dried up when the indie film business evolved into guys and gals in their backyards with digital cameras a decade ago.

I have friends who live out of town and come here a couple of times a year for a couple of weeks to do wall-to-wall meetings so that they can maintain their career out of town. The rest they do by phone or Skype. That is a possibility, especially if you have a family and a house and a life set up elsewhere.

If you are single? Why not be single here? Yeah, it’s so expensive you’ll probably be living in some terrible apartment with room mates, but when you are single and young it’s an adventure! And there are places you can live within driving distance of Los Angeles that are affordable if you are looking for a house and no roommates.

If you have a good job in your hometown, that can be an issue... but do they have a branch office or store or whatever in Los Angeles? Can you transfer? Keep the good job, just do it in Los Angeles? If not, then you might want to keep the good job. One of the problems with trying to re-establish yourself in a new city is that all of the “ground work” takes time. I got my job at Safeway Grocery because I bumped into a store manager at a business we both frequented, and his son knew my brother. That sort of thing is a lot more difficult when your brother lives in your hometown and that store manager’s son lives in Los Angeles. So if you have a good job, you may want to move after the sale... or not at all.

You don’t want to get into a position where you are stressed about money and can’t write. That defeats the purpose!

WHEN I QUIT MY JOB

After selling COURTING DEATH - a series of flights to Los Angeles - I put in my 2 weeks notice, and I think I ended up working even longer. I was a good employee. And that’s a factor that some people miss - if you are a crappy employee at your day job, how do you think you’ll do when you are the boss of your own one person company and have to make deadlines and show up to meetings on time and all of the other things you may have hated about the day job? I was always a hard working employee, always the guy who would take an extra shift if need be, always the guy that the other employees got along with. Always on time. All of the things that make you a good employee at your day job are the same factors that will make you successful as a screenwriter. If you are not the very best employee at your day job, the person they can trust to show up on time and get the work done without mistakes, you will never be ready to quit your day job and write full time... because how will you (as boss) get you (as employee) to do better? You have already proven yourself a terrible employee - why would you hire yourself? I was the great employee then, and a pretty good employee now. So when I quit my day job, they threw a big party for me.

I moved to Los Angeles to begin this adventure in screenwriting... which is still going! I haven't had to fire myself yet!

Good luck and keep writing!

- Bill



Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Trailer Tuesday: THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES

THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES (1971)

Starring: Vincent Price, Joseph Cotten, Hugh Griffith, Terry Thomas.
Written by: James Whiton, William Goldstein.
Directed by: Robert Fuest.
Produced by: Sam Arkoff and James H. Nicholson (American International Pictures)




This one which is certainly the strangest horror movie due to the musical numbers. Yes, musical numbers. Sometimes with dancing. In a horror movie.

Okay, it may not be as weird as what you are imagining now, because these are not big Busby Berkeley dance numbers with corpses or slasher victims dancing in formation - it’s just Vincent Price’s serial killer dude dancing with his lovely assistant or just playing a song on his organ while his band of life size mechanical musicians play along. All kinds of good old tunes from the 1920s. Between the murders. Yes, that *is* still weird.

The great thing about those mechanical musicians is that it perfectly sets the stage for Phibes serial killings - which are often have a “automated” component and use contraptions and Rube Goldberg-like devices that kill people bby some form of remote control. Which makes this fun. And that’s the tone, here - fun murders. Fun scares. Just plain fun... and maybe the predecessor of the movie SEVEN.



1920s London: Dressed in a black hooded cape, Dr. Phibes (Vincent Price) plays the organ in his own private concert hall, then grabs his baton and conducts his life size wind up band, The Clockwork Wizards, as they play. A door opens in the concert hall and his beautiful assistant Vulnavia (Virginia North) steps out and dances with Phibes... then dances down to the garage beneath the concert hall. Phibes lowers a black shrouded bird cage through a portal in the floor, and Vulnavia straps the cage onto the back of a beautiful vintage automobile and climbs inside, where she is joined by Phibes and they drive away into the night.



In his bedroom Dr. Dunwoody (Edward Burnham) turns off the light to sleep. The skylight of his bedroom opens and that black shrouded bird cage is lowered in to the room. The black shroud is removed with a string, then the cage is raised back out of the room: empty. The skylight closes.

Dr. Dunwoody hears a noise and awakens... sees something fluttering in his room. What could it be? A vampire bat! No, a dozen vampire bats! One lands on his bed and crawls up to his neck and...

Back home, Phibes enters the concert hall and sits at his organ, playing as the platform the organ is on descends to his bed chambers.

Dr. Dunwoody’s butler brings breakfast in the morning, “Good morning, sir.” But when he uncovers the breakfast a bat lands on the eggs and sausages. WTF? Where did that bat come from? He looks up and sees the dozen bats hanging upside down throughout the room... and Dunwoody’s bloody yet bloodless corpse on the bed.

In a room with nine wax statues, Phibes puts a gold chain with a symbol on its amulet around the neck of the one that looks like Dunwoody... then sets it afire.

Police at the scene of Dunwoody’s death. Inspector Trout (Peter Jeffrey) and Inspector Tom Schenley (Norman Jones) discuss the completely weird case, and a previous strange case where another surgeon died - he was stung to death by hundreds of bees in his library until his entire body was covered with boils. Could there be a connection?

In his bedroom, Phibes dresses, putting on his clothes, his ears, his nose, his hair... WTF? The great thing about this film is that there is no massive information dump at the beginning where you are told everything, instead *everything* is mysterious and you get one little clue at a time. So we don’t know what happened to Phibes or even what he looks like before he puts on his face... we just know that he does put on his face. And at this point of the story, he has not spoken a word. Phibes at his organ and plays... and it ascends into the concert hall.



At a Masquerade Party, Phibes wears a bird mask and one of those gold chains as Dr. Hargreaves (Alex Scott) chats with him. Hargreaves hasn’t brought a mask - he seems to have been given the only invitation to omit that detail, but Phibes has brought along a spare - a toad mask that fits over the entire head. As Phibes clamps it on, a ratchet operated by a hidden clockworks begins to slowly move on the mask. Hargreaves enjoys the party for a while, until the mask begins to tighten... and he falls to the floor surrounded by guests with blood spewing out the frog’s mouth and eye holes. They are shocked.

Phibes puts a gold chain around the wax figure that looks like Hargreaves and sets it ablaze.

In his office at Scotland Yard, Inspector Trout tells the Chief that they have a rash of doctor’s deaths - strange. The Chief wants him to keep this from the press: Bats, Bees, Frogs? The papers would run all kinds of wild stories. The Chief believes that the three doctor’s deaths are not connected - “There’s some very strange people practicing medicine these days.”



None stranger than Dr. Longstreet (Terry Thomas), who begins watching erotic videos of a woman dancing with a snakes as soon as his housekeeper Miss Frawley has left. His projector goes on the fritz, and when he looks up from fixing it... the beautiful Vulnavia (Dr. Phibes’ Assistant) is in the room. She sits him in a chairs and ties his arms to the arm rests with silken cords. Longstreet is no doubt thinking this will turn into 50 Shades Of Gray, when gray faced Phibes enters the room... and shoves a needle into his arm. A needle attached to a pint jar. Longstreet attempts to fight - clutching at the gold chain with the symbol medallion around Phibes’ neck and tearing it off... as his blood drains. And Vulnavia plays the violin. Soon 8 pint bottles are filled.

Inspector Tom has what might be a clue to this string of strange doctor deaths: at some point in time each of the doctors worked with a Dr. Visalius...



Inspector Trout arrives at Dr. Visalius’ (Joseph Cotton) house and finds him playing with an electric train while his teenaged son watches. “Do the names, Hargreaves, Thornton, and Dunwoody mean anything to you, sir?” Dr. Visalius knew all three, he had a conversation with Thornton only a few days ago. The phone rings, and it’s for Inspector Trout. After taking the call, Trout asks Visalius if he knew a Dr. Longstreet. “Knew?”

Yes, past tense.

At the crime scene - Inspector Trout interviews Longstreet’s housekeeper Miss Frawley, who heard violin playing in the street last night. It seemed strange at the time, but was beautiful music. She has never seen the necklace with the strange symbol on its amulet before, “It’s not mine and it’s certainly not his.”

Meanwhile, as Phibes prepares to use a blowtorch on Longstreet’s wax figure he realizes he has lost the necklace. His perfect crimes have accidentally left behind a clue. He hesitates for a moment... then torches the wax bust of Longstreet.

Trout interviews jeweler Goldsmith (John Laurie) who made the necklace with the strange amulet, who says it is one of a set of ten. Each had a different symbol. They were made for a lady. She paid in cash - now way to trace it, and she gave no name or address. A tall attractive young lady who didn’t speak much, but was fashionable. Goldsmith says he doesn’t know what the mark means, but he believes that it’s Hebrew.

Trout interviews a Rabbi (Hugh Griffith) who identifies the mark as the symbol for “Blood”... one of the Ten Curses visited upon the Pharaohs before Exodus. The Rabbi gives Trout (and us) a brief lesson in these Ten Curses: Boils, Bats, Frogs, Blood, Rats, Hail, Beasts, Locusts, Death Of The First Born, and then Darkness. Hey, something to look forward to!

Dr. Phibes plugs an electrical cable into a jack on the side of his neck and the other end of the cable is plugged into an old Victrola on a wheeled stand. Then he looks at a photo of his dead wife and tells her he will get revenge for her death. 9 people killed her and 9 shall die! His voice comes out the Victrola speaker - tinny and strange. So, Phibes not only has to put on his face before he goes out for the night, the only way he can speak is through this speaker. What the hell happened to him?

Dr. Vesalius has compiled a list of all of his recent surgeries for Inspector Trout: 1,200! Out of those, there are 37 cases where he worked with any two of the 4 victims... out of those there are 12 where he worked with 3 of the 4 dead... but only 1 where he worked with all 4. Victoria Regina Phibes. They were too late and she died. They called her husband, Dr. Anton Phibes, and he raced back... but his car drove off a cliff and he died. Burned to death. Only his ashes were recovered at the crash site. So it must be some other madman who is doing this... but who? Trout says he will provide police protection for the final five.

Phibes old automobile pulls up next to a country lake and parks, Vulnavia steps out and pops the hood, looking distraught, just as Dr. Hedgepath (David Hutcheson) drives by. He has his chauffeur pull over to see if the lady needs some help. The Chauffeur gets out, goes to the car and asks the attractive young lady if there is some problem with her car. That’s when Phibes kills the chauffeur, then carries a mechanical contraption to Dr. Hedgepath’s car. Vulnavia puts a music box with a dancer on the seat next to Dr. Hedgepath, who smiles at her, until she closes the door. Phibes puts his mechanical contraption between the front seats in the chauffeur’s section and...

Inspector Tom reports to Trout: Everyone of the remaining potential victims have police protection except one - Dr. Kitaj, who seems to be out of the country. He flies his own plane, so it is difficult to know where he is at any time. After Dr. Phibes’ death, his bank accounts were transferred from Switzerland to an account in London, then the account was liquidated and taken as cash by an attractive young woman. Very odd.



Crime scene - Trout and Tom at Dr. Hedgepath’s car parked near the lake... A police officer found the dead chauffeur, but the man he was driving is still in the car. The officer did not even open the door - to preserve evidence, of course. Trout goes to the car and the windows are completely frozen over. Um, it’s spring. It’s about as sunny as a day in the English countryside gets. How can the windows be *frozen*? He tries to open the door - it’s frozen shut! He finally gets it open and see Hedgepath *frozen solid* in the back seat! The curse of hail *inside the car*!

Dr. Vesalius follows up on his own clue he came across while talking to his teenaged son - Dr. Phibes was a famous organist, and the local sheet music salesman Mr. Darrow (John Laurie) knew him... and claims that he is *still* a customer, even after his death. What? How is that possible?

Trout and Vesalius go to Mr. & Mrs. Phibes crypt. Inside, two coffins. One has fresh roses on top. They open Anton Phibes’ coffin and inside find... a box with ashes. Trout says all that this proves is that *someone* was incinerated in that accident, but not necessarily Dr. Anton Phibes. Maybe his chauffeur? They open Mrs. Phibes coffin and... it’s empty!

Dr. Phibes and Vulnavia drive to an airfield owned by the London Aeroplane Club, where Dr. Kitaj (Peter Gilmore) hops in his airplane and goes through the steps involved in starting up a biplane. Meanwhile Inspector Tom races in his car to warn Dr. Kitaj that he is in danger. Kitaj get the plane going and taxis down the field... Tom chasing in his car. But Dr. Kitaj takes off...

On a hill near the airfield Phibes watches the plane take off through a telescope as Vulnavia plays the violin.



In the plane, Dr. Kitaj is attacked by a hundred hungry rats! They bite him all over... and he loses control of the plane. It crashes. Which allows Tom to finally catch up with it.

Phibes dances with Vulnavia in celebration. He drinks a glass of champagne... through a hole in the other side of his neck. What the hell is under Phibes’ face when he takes it off at night?

Inspectors Trout and Tom hustle Dr. Whitcombe (Maurice Kaufmann) off to a safehouse in the country where they can protect him 24/7. Whitcombe says he needs to return to London in a few days to tend to his patients. They assure him it will only take a few days to figure out who this killer is and capture him. As they prepare to leave Dr. Whitcombe’s building, a brass unicorn statue blasts through the doors and pierces him - screwing his body to the entry hall wall behind him. Trout and Tom must twist Whitcombe’s body around to unscrew it from the wall. The Curse Of Beasts.



Dr. Phibes puts the golden necklace with the amulet on the wax bust of Whitcome and sets it on fire. Then plays his organ and looks at photographs of his dead wife projected on the wall in a slide show. Within 24 hours his work will be finished.

Inspector Trout tells the chief that the brass unicorn was *fired from a catapult* into Dr. Whitcombe. Marvelous shot. Trout gets dressed down for not solving this case, and always showing up to prevent the next victim’s death moments after it has already occurred. His timing is terrible. Trout thinks he’s getting closer to preventing a murder, since they were actually with this last victim when he was killed.

Phibes has a wheelbarrow full of *brussell sprouts* and dumps them into a cauldron attached to what seems to be a still... and begins distilling green goop.

Inspector Trout has the hospital where soon-to-be-victim #8 Nurse Allen (Susan Travers) is working surrounded by police. Police cars. Policemen. Plain clothes officers. Undercover officers. There is no way in or out of the hospital, except maybe by balloon. Dr. Vesalius is also in the hospital, and he tries to calm down Nurse Allen who doesn’t want all of the police officers meddling in her life. The two get onto an elevator where an orderly with a cart stands in the corner... but we recognize him as Phibes. Vesalius explains to Nurse Allen that a man is trying to kill her and all of these police are just here for her protection.



Phibes rolls his cart into a room, unrolls a lifesize drawing of a naked woman on a bed onto the floor and positions it exactly where a bed would be if this room were furnished. Pulls out a drill and drills through the drawing’s head into the floor... through the ceiling of the room below where Nurse Allen sleeps. He carefully dribbles his brussell sprout syrup through the hole and onto her face as she sleeps... then unleashes a jar of *massive* locust through the hole. The locust go for the brussell sprout syrup on her face and...

Inspector Trout and Dr. Vesalius sit in the hospital - the two last potential victims are in the same place and under extreme police protection. Nothing to worry about. They discuss the remaining causes of death - locust, darkness, and death of the first born sons - and Dr. Vesalius says his older brother passed away years ago, so no chance of first born sons being his fate... and then Inspector Trout yells for police cars to speed to Dr. Vesalius’ house and make sure his teenage son is protected. They never thought of that! Vesalius goes with Inspector Tom to his house to make sure is son is okay.

Phibes puts the last of the locusts through the hole by hand, then looks through the hole at Nurse Allen...

When Inspector Tom and Dr. Vesalius get to his house, they discover the back door has been forced open and his son is gone. Inspector Tom races back to the hospital to tell Trout.



Inspector Trout tells Tom they’ve obviously been guarding the wrong potential victim, so they will give one final check on Nurse Allen and then go to Vesalius’ house and process it for clues. The police officer posted at the Nurse’s quarters is still there - no one has come in or out. They knock on the door, no answer. They open the door... and inside find Nurse Allen *covered in locusts* which have *eaten away her face*!

Phibes burns the wax bust of Nurse Allen.

Inspector Trout tells Dr. Vesalius they’re doing everything they can to find his son. The phone rings and when Vesalius picks it up - organ music. Then Phibes strange electronic voice says: “Nine killed her. Nine shall die. Eight have died, soon to be nine. Nine eternities in doom! The organ plays until midnight, the large house in Muldeen Square, come alone.” Vesalius wants to go alone, Trout insists that he come along. Vesalius says he must make a phone call first, then knocks out Trout with the phone and leaves.



Dr. Vesalius pulls up at the large house and rings the bell. Vulnavia answers the door, and leads him to Phibes. “I have killed 9 times in my life, Vesalius, how many deaths can be attributed to you?” Hey, Surgeons don’t murder people, they just make mistakes. It’s different... unless the mistake killed someone you love. Vesalius demands to see his son, pleads to see his son. Phibes says he will see his son - in a way that may bring back memories. Through the glass floor of the ballroom Vesalius sees his son on an operating table below!

Trout wakes up, takes a drink to give him courage, and heads to Phibes’ house.

Phibes tells Vesalius that his son’s neck is locked onto the operating table, and the key has been inserted into his son’s body next to his heart. There is an X-Ray showing this. To free his son he must perform an operation and remove the key. One slip and he will kill his own son! Oh, and there’s a ticking clock - there is a Rube Goldberg device that will release acid onto his son’s head in exactly 6 minutes. Starting... Now! Dr. Vesalius puts on his gloves and gets to work!



Phibes tells Vulnavia to destroy all of the evidence then turns to Dr. Vesalius and explains that Phibes’ wife lived only 6 minutes on the operating table, so his son has only six minutes. Phibes removes his *face* to show Dr. Vesalius what was left of him after he was burned in that car accident - basically just a skull! Yikes!

Trout and several policemen arrive at Phibes’ house.

With 30 seconds left, Dr. Veslaius removes the key from next to his son’s heart and quickly unlocks the padlock and moves his son out of the path of the acid drop as it drips down... onto Vulnavia!



Phibes is putting his face back on as Trout and the other police search the house for him. Then Trout spots the organ rising from the depths. They try to figure out how it can be lowered, as downstairs Phibes moves to his bed... where his dead (and embalmed) wife lays. He lays next to her, hooks up his arm to an IV that replaces his blood with embalming fluid and presses a button which brings the canopy down over the bed - darkness and the 10th death. By the time Trout and the police get there, no sign of Phibes. The end.

Or is it? The problem with killing your serial killer at the end is that if your film is a big hit like PHIBES was, they will want a sequel, right? So tomorrow we’ll look at that sequel which co-stars the great Robert Quarry (COUNT YORGA) who was also in one of my films as well as Peter Cushing... and which may be the predecessor of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK!!!!

- Bill



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Friday, October 25, 2019

Fridays With Hitchcock: Hitch 20: Banquo's Chair (s3e3)

Season 4 is coming soon!

This is a great new documentary series called HITCH 20 that I am a "guest expert" on. The series looks at the 20 TV episodes directed by Hitchcock and here is the third episode of the third season, which looks at the terror of the unseen in Hitchcock's work.





off!

HITCHCOCK: MASTERING SUSPENSE


LEARN SUSPENSE FROM THE MASTER!

Alfred Hitchcock, who directed 52 movies, was known as the “Master Of Suspense”; but what exactly is suspense and how can *we* master it? How does suspense work? How can *we* create “Hitchcockian” suspense scenes in our screenplays, novels, stories and films?

This book uses seventeen of Hitchcock’s films to show the difference between suspense and surprise, how to use “focus objects” to create suspense, the 20 iconic suspense scenes and situations, how plot twists work, using secrets for suspense, how to use Dread (the cousin of suspense) in horror stories, and dozens of other amazing storytelling lessons. From classics like “Strangers On A Train” and “The Birds” and “Vertigo” and “To Catch A Thief” to older films from the British period like “The 39 Steps” and “The Man Who Knew Too Much” to his hits from the silent era like “The Lodger” (about Jack The Ripper), we’ll look at all of the techniques to create suspense!

Films Included: NOTORIOUS, SABOTAGE, STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, THE 39 STEPS, REBECCA, TO CATCH A THIEF, FRENZY, FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT, THE LODGER, THE BIRDS, TORN CURTAIN, SABOTEUR, VERTIGO, THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (1934), THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (1955), SUSPICION, and NUMBER SEVENTEEN. 17 Great Films!

Only 125,000 words!

May Price: $3.99 --- June Price: $5.99

Click here for more info!

OTHER COUNTRIES:

UK Folks Click Here.

German Folks Click Here.

French Folks Click Here.

Espania Folks Click Here.

Canadian Folks Click Here.



- Bill

Of course, my first book on Hitchcock...




HITCHCOCK: EXPERIMENTS IN TERROR



Click here for more info!

HITCHCOCK DID IT FIRST!

We all know that Alfred Hitchcock was the Master Of Suspense, but did you know he was the most *experimental* filmmaker in history?

Contained Thrillers like “Buried”? Serial Protagonists like “Place Beyond The Pines”? Multiple Connecting Stories like “Pulp Fiction”? Same Story Multiple Times like “Run, Lola, Run”? This book focuses on 18 of Hitchcock’s 53 films with wild cinema and story experiments which paved the way for modern films. Almost one hundred different experiments that you may think are recent cinema or story inventions... but some date back to Hitchcock’s *silent* films! We’ll examine these experiments and how they work. Great for film makers, screenwriters, film fans, producers and directors.

Films Examined: “Rear Window”, “Psycho”, “Family Plot”, “Topaz”, “Rope”, “The Wrong Man”, “Easy Virtue”, “Lifeboat”, “Bon Voyage”, “Aventure Malgache”, “Elstree Calling”, “Dial M for Murder”, “Stage Fright”, “Champagne”, “Spellbound”, “I Confess”, and “The Trouble with Harry”, with glances at “Vertigo” and several others.

Professional screenwriter William C. Martell takes you into the world of The Master Of Suspense and shows you the daring experiments that changed cinema. Over 77,000 words.

UK Folks Click Here.

German Folks Click Here.

French Folks Click Here.

Espania Folks Click Here.

Canadian Folks Click Here.

Bill

Thursday, October 24, 2019

THRILLER Thursday: THE STORM

NEW! SEASON 2: THE STORM

The spider web fills the screen, it's Boris Karloff's THRILLER!



Season: 2, Episode: 18.
Airdate: January 22, 1962.

Director: Hershell Daugherty Writer: William D. Gordon, based on a story by MacIntoch Malmar.
Cast: Nancy Kelly, David McLean, James Griffith, Jean Carroll.
Music: Morton Stevens.
Cinematography: John F. Warren.
Producer: William Frye.



Boris Karloff’s Introduction: “George Herbert, rector of Bemerton once wrote, ‘By all means tale some time to be alone. Salute thyself. See what thy soul doth wear.’ One wonders if it is possible ever to heed that advice. Does the condition of safe solitude exist? Here, for example, we have a wide still space about us, and a curtain of heavy weather descended to cut off the rest of the world. Yes, we have the illusion of solitude. But here too are some witnesses who will attest that the illusion is grotesquely false: Janet Wilson whose character is portrayed by Nancy Kelly, Ben Wilson to be played by David McLean, and Ed Brandes played by James Griffith. And... dear ,em I think I’ve forgotten someone - of course, it’s Baba. (He picks up the black cat.) Baba who perpetuates the name of the Egyptian philosopher of the 18th Dynasty, 1600 BC. It’s a pity, wouldn’t you say, that Baba was the only witness to a murder? And such a brutal one. The victim so young, so beautiful, so helpless. The killer safe - free to roam the stormy night, perhaps to kill again. And again. As for little Baba, I suspect that only he knows the secret of solitude without danger. But the others? Seclusion will become the cradle of panic. The storm, from which the story derives its title from, has many ingredients: wind, rain, wickedness, terror. But I needn’t tell you anymore - you’ll be there to see it explode in all its glory.”



Synopsis: A storm rages. Outside a large country home - miles away from the next house - a black cat watches as a Man chases a Woman. We see neither’s face. The man catches the woman near a fence and strikes her... killing her... and she falls to the ground. Her limp arm tangled in a fence. We see that she is wearing a distinctive diamond ring.

There is a killer on the loose in the storm.

Janet Willsom (Nancy Kelly) pulls up in front of that large country home in a taxi cab driven by creepy Ed Brandes (James Griffith - more quirky than creepy) who warns her that the storm will be getting worse, there will be flooding and road closures, so maybe he should take her to the hotel in town. She says that she has been away, and just wants to get home. He offers to carry her bags inside...



Once inside, the cat (Baba) greets her... and Brandes the taxi driver continues to come on to her like a super lonely guy. You feel sorry for him. He offers to take the suitcases to the bedroom, he asks if she has anything alcoholic to drink, he asks if she wants him to spend the night to keep her safe. Janet tells him that she is expecting her husband any minute, pays him and gets him to leave.

Now she is alone in the house during the storm. Just her and the cat.

Lightning. Thunder. Wind. Rain.

The house is cold, so she turns on the furnace... but it isn’t working. Cold, So she puts on a jacket. Bundled up. She starts a fire in the fireplace, and goes to the phone to call her husband. This is a rural area, and every call goes through an operator, who Janet talks to for a while. The gossip line. She gets some information on the storm - which is getting worse - as the operator tries to connect to her husband Ben (David McLean). No answer at the office, he must already be headed home. Driving in this weather. Janet was going to warn him that she came home a day early after tending to a sick sister.

She hangs up the phone and we get an exposition filled flashback of her and Ben’s relationship. Even though both are middle aged, they have only been married a couple of years. They found each other late in life, and Ben swept her off her feet. This is the first of a couple of exposition dump flashbacks, and one major thing that it does is put a face on the offscreen husband.

The flashback ends when the power flickers... then goes out. Suddenly there is a loud banging from outside and the cat shoots across the room.

Janet looks out the window and discovers the noise is the cellar door banging open and closed. She grabs her raincoat and goes outside to secure it. Weird that it wasn’t latched closed.

Back inside the house, the power goes out. Darkness.



She grabs her coat and a flashlight, goes back outside and opens the cellar door, descending into the darkness. The cellar is creepy (but the spider webs never come into contact with the actress). She goes to the fuse box and checks the fuses - all are good. This is a downed power line somewhere. She goes back into the house, securing the cellar doors behind her. Grabs candles and hopes that Ben comes home soon.

The fire has died down, and when she stokes it with newspapers from a bin, she finds a letter addressed to her husband, and we get another flashback - this time to explain that in the past her husband kept getting letters from some woman named Agnes that he claimed was his cousin. Ben doesn’t open the letters in front of Janet and refuses to talk about them. All of this seems suspicious as hell in a brief flashback, but for some reason Janet just accepts it. We aren’t even at the first commercial and I already know who the killer and the victim are in this story.



She puts the cat outside, and then notices that the cellar window is open. It’s as if the cellar is beckoning to her. She grabs the flashlight and raincoat and goes down to close and lock the cellar window... and discovers a dead woman in a trunk! And the dead woman is wearing that distinctive diamond ring!

She races back inside the house and tries to call the police, but the storm has fouled up the phone lines - she can hear the operator but the operator can’t hear her.

She hears someone outside! She runs out to the garage, goes to the hook on the wall where the keys to the old pick up truck should be... but they are gone! She gets into the pick up, and the keys are in the ignition. She starts it up and drives away from the house, but a tree branch blocks the road. When she tries to get around it, she gets stuck in the mud. She runs back to the house, closes and locks the door, then notices an icepick on the kitchen table (earlier she had told the taxi driver that neither she nor her husband drinks, so what the heck is the ice pick for?). She grabs the ice pick to use as a weapon, and searches the house... finding the cat inside and wet shoe prints on the floor. Someone else is in the house!



The front door rattles. She goes up to the door, ice pick ready, and unlocks the door... daring the killer to come in. This does not seem like a safe thing to do, nor a sensible thing to do.

A man enters and when she tries to stab him with the ice pick, he grabs her... it’s Ben, her husband. She tells him about the dead woman in the cellar and he doesn’t believe her. He takes her down into the cellar to show her that it’s all her imagination... and there is no dead woman in the trunk. She imagined it all.

Back inside the house, she still wants to phone the police, and he talks her out of it. She mentions the letter that she found, but it isn’t where she put it. Ben says that he noticed it when he came in and put it in his pocket. When he pulls it out, that distinctive diamond ring comes with it, and falls on the floor. Ben is the killer!

Janet runs, Ben chases. She runs to the pick up truck, and we get a “cavalcade of bodies” scene when she pulls a tarp from the back and there is the dead woman! She screams, then keeps running. Ben stops chasing her for some reason, the end. Kind of a weird ending - it’s as if they ran out of film or time, so Ben just stops chasing her.



Review: This episode predates the classic Hitchcock Hour AN UNLOCKED WINDOW by a couple of years, and shows how the same idea can be a great episode and a bland one. This is the bland one. The one that keeps making mis-steps at the script stage.

Right from the beginning we get odd choices in the story. If the Taxi Driver is supposed to be our potential killer, he certainly doesn’t act like it. Though casting was a huge mistake here, James Griiffith seems like the guy at the top of the list when you look up “Taxi Drivers” in the casting directory, when the role really needs someone seriously creepy and strange; the real problem is the dialogue isn’t creepy and strange enough. He seems like a lonely guy hitting on a woman alone, instead of a potential murderer. This is where you want “two way dialogue” that has both a conversational meaning and a deeply disturbing meaning. Things that can be taken two ways. But you also want just straight out crazy stuff. If the Taxi Driver had talked about the dangers of the storm and how he once saw a new litter of puppies drown in a house basement... his house’s basement when he was a child... and he just watched them from the stairway... that would have made this guy a potential killer. He needed to be a serious threat that she must get out of her house... and then we fear that he might be waiting in the cellar for her. But he’s a lonely guy with lonely guy talk... pathetic instead of a threat.



Once he’s gone, it’s just Janet and the cat for most of the story - and it seems as if they have padded out the story instead of tried to create actual suspense and dread. Various noises keep sending her into the cellar... but because we have no idea that there is the body of a dead woman down there, it really doesn’t matter. Unlike the Hitchcock episode where we know that there is an escaped lunatic killer on the loose in the storm, here we have no constant warning that something bad might happen. Once we have negated the Taxi Driver as a threat, we just have the storm and that opening teaser where a woman is killed. Now, if that teaser had shown the killer taking the body into the cellar, where he maybe is waiting out the storm, that might have made those pointless trips to the cellar to latch a window more suspenseful... but minus a threat in the cellar, it’s just a woman in the dark securing a window - no big deal. And a huge chunk of this episode is her securing windows and being afraid of owls. They must have thought the storm was enough to be afraid of - but a storm is just rain, and it washes off.



The other issue with the script are these dead flashbacks designed to give us information that the exposition dumps on the phone with the operator didn’t cover. I’m sure in the story that this was adapted from, she sees the letter addressed to her husband and remembers their conversations about the letters... but instead of finding a way to *adapt* this scene to a visual dramatic medium, the script just does what the story does. It comes off as boring *and* an obvious exposition plant for the Husband Is The Killer Twist (which kills the twist). Instead, I would have had her read the letter and discover that her husband has a crazy admirer who is threatening to come to the house - making this mystery woman another possible killer in the storm.



If they had also made the mystery woman a threat, they could have had all sorts of fun with wet or muddy footprints in the house... a woman’s shoes... and now she tries to match her shoes to the prints. It would have given her something active to do, and built up the suspense.

It’s as if every time there is a chance to make the episode work, the script does the opposite of what it should have done.

Instead of racheting up the suspense and dread with actual things that are potential threats - things that are legitimate fears - if comes up with a bunch of excuses that just pad out the story until we get to the twist ending. This is where “poking the tiger” is important in a screenplay or story - whatever the actual physical threat is, it needs to be regularly shown in the story in order to remind the audience that it is there. Once we have that unlocked window in the Hitchcock episode, things begin to happen in the house that remind us of the crazy killer... and tell us that the killer is IN THE HOUSE. Not a potential threat, but an actual threat. Here, that noise outside is just an owl.



One of the other things that doesn’t work is that cat - which seems to exist only for scenes where she put the cat outside and then somehow the cat is inside. I didn’t even nothing this until she mentions it outloud close to the end. Was I supposed to be keeping track of the cat this whole time?

The end is also a complete let down. It seems like they just ran out of time or film and ended it with the husband in the storm. He could still have chassed and killed her. A better ending would have been to have a police car roll up (the operator had them do a check) or even the creepy Taxi Driver return because he stole something personal from the house and decided to return it an apologize. Something to actually resolve the conflict of the killer husband. But nope.

Next week we go to Hollywood for the story of a washed up old sexpot who gets one last chance at stardom... with a little help from a witch.

- Bill

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Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Film Courage Plus: How To Be Productive

FILM COURAGE did a series of interviews with me at the end of 2014, and then again at the end of 2015. There were 36 (or more) segments total. That's almost a year's worth of material! So why not add a new craft article and make it a weekly blog entry? All I have to do is write that new article, right?



HOW TO BE PRODUCTIVE
Writers write.

Sounds simple, right?

The problem is that it’s not about writing that one great screenplay that changes everything, it’s about writing for a living. Writing screenplay after screenplay after screenplay. Being a professional writer means writing every day (like any other job), writing on a deadline, writing screenplay after screenplay after screenplay. If you are looking for a Manager or Agent, they represent *writers* not screenplays. Once they send your screenplay out into the world and nobody buys it, it is a “busted spec” - a dead script. And that means you need to have another script to send out into the world, then another, then another, then another... until you sell a screenplay or land an assignment. Heck, to get that Agent or Manager you need to keep sending out query after query (each for a new screenplay) to Managers and Agents on your target list until they read one that makes them sign you. This probably sounds like a lot of work... and it is.

So, how do you do that? How do you keep writing screenplays until you land an Agent or Manager and then keep writing screenplays for them until you land a paying gig, and then keep landing paying gigs for the rest of your life?

That’s a very good question.

Complicated by, you know, life. You have a mortgage or rent to pay. You have a family. You have a job that eats up a minimum of 40 hours or your week (add in commute time and those extra hours you worked and all of the other parts of real life). How do you find any time at all to write all of those screenplays, and how do you find the will to stick with it? You barely have time to relax after work, let alone crank out screenplays. Well, here’s a ten point plan to help you get something done...

1) Don't depend on inspiration - it's a trap! At the end of the day, it's always going to be you and the blank page. So you have to figure out how to get yourself motivated. It's always going to be from the inside instead of the outside. You can’t depend on anyone else - motivation is *your* job. This is a business where, when they love your work and buy your work, the first thing they do is tell you everything they hate about it and want changed right away... instead of how much they like what you've written. So looking for or depending on external motivations aren't going to help you in the long run - you have to figure out how to keep writing through the crap that life hands out.

2) Set aside a specific time every day to write - can be as little as 15 minutes, but that is the time that anyone who bothers you gets punched in the face as hard as you can. There are plenty of success stories about people who wrote on their lunch hours or wrote on their commute to work (though most of those involve people who take a train or subway - if you drive to work, probably best not to have the laptop open). Find a half hour or an hour every day that is just for writing - and make sure everyone who might bother you understands that it’s your writing time and you *will* punch them in the face as hard as you can if they bother you.

3) If all you do in that 15 minutes (or half hour or hour) is just stare at the blank screen, it's a win...

4) But you'd rather write, right?

5) So be prepared to write! Outline your screenplay. A step outline is easiest - just bullet point scene-by-scene. The great part about an outline is that you can play around with it and solve all your story problems while it's just a page or two of outline... instead of 110 pages of screenplay. Less writing for the garbage can.

I think of screenwriting as “creative steps”, because that’s how things are done professionally. When you land an assignment, they don’t just cut you a check and send you off to write the screenplay, there are “steps”. In fact, it’s called a “Step Deal”. You do one step at a time, and are paid for each step. There are “reading periods” where the producer (or their intern) reads each step and then gives you notes and tells you what they want you to do in the next step. One of those steps is always a *Treatment* - a scene-by-scene version of the screenplay. Since you are going to have to work that way as a professional screenwriter anyway, might as well train yourself now. Work in creative steps. My first creative step is to get the overall story under control. I write an outline, and then rework the outline until the story part of the script works. That gives me a roadmap that gets me from the beginning to the end by the very best possible route. Now to the next creative step which is writing each of those scenes in my bullet point outline - and I know that Mary and John break up... but *how* do they break up? The outline may give me the basics of what happens, but not *how* it happens or any of the hundreds of possible details about how that scene plays out. That’s the fun part of the next creative step - once you have the outline, you still have all kinds of fun things to figure out during the “writing step”.

6) The other great thing about an outline is that it breaks your story down into bite sized pieces which are easier to write. You don't have to write a whole screenplay, just this one scene. A scene is about 2 pages, so you can knock that out in a day or two... but if it takes you a week, you are still making progress. Some scenes are easy, some are more difficult. What matters is that you make a little progress every day.

And that is the key to getting things done. You can become overwhelmed at having to write a 110 page screenplay (or a 100,000 word novel), and that may lead to you “choking” and writing nothing at all. But a scene? A couple of pages? Heck, even if you only write half of that scene - *one* page a day - you can handle that, right? And all of those pages add up. Slow and steady wins the race, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and any other cliches you can come up with - all true.

7) If you end up with only 15 minutes a day, it may make sense to outline the scene itself. This also works if you ever get stuck (and you will). Just start by writing down all of the things the scene needs to do for the story. Then figure out the most interesting ways those things can happen. Then figure out the most interesting order for those things to happen. Now you have a scene that is broken down int bite-sized pieces. If you only have 15 minutes, you can write one of those little pieces, right? Or at least part of one of those pieces. The key is to make progress every day, even if it's just a little progress. In the Film Courage clip I talk about how I wrote 3 screenplays a year while working a full time job by just writing one page a day. Hey, there are days when I was on a roll and wrote more than one page a day, but my goal was to write one page on *bad days* (and you will have plenty of those, every writer does).

8) "Nothing succeeds like success!" That may not make much sense, but if you write half a page, a quarter of a page, a sentence - you are making progress, and that will make you feel good and keep you "self-inspired" to write the next day. Momentum is everything, and if you write a page every day it becomes easier to write that page (or half a page or quarter of a page or sentence) as time goes on. You build up momentum. Today’s writing leads to tomorrow’s writing.

But sooner or later something will happen and you will miss a couple of days and all of that momentum will be lost. It will be hard as heck to get it rolling again - but that is what you have to do. If you fall off the horse, the best thing to do is get back on and ride again, and all of those cliches - which are also true. The next thing on our little list will help you to get back on the horse or dust yourself off or whatever cliche you have selected that best illustrates this...

9) Most important thing: Your Doorway Into The Story. Make sure your screenplay is personal. A piece of you. That way you won't want to abandon it. It would be like abandoning your arm or leg or head. "What right does my head have to call itself me?" I write action and thrillers and horror - and even if it is an assignment, my first step is to find that piece of me in the story. Most of my screenplays are just cheap therapy - and I either begin with the personal emotional conflict I want to work though in fiction form or I search for it and find it within whatever story idea I've come up with (or assignment I have accepted). We look at this in the Ideas Blue Book.

There are times when I've been offered paid writing jobs and turned them down because I couldn't find my story within their story. Better to wait until something comes along that I can find a "doorway" into than write something that I don't give a crap about. Here's one of my script tips about finding that doorway on a script of mine that got filmed *twice*: Writing BLACK THUNDER - Sibling rivalry is something I completely understand. I am not the favorite son. I'm the guy who has to work harder just to get noticed, and that's an issue I'm still working through... so I pitched a story dealing with that subject and ended up getting paid to write the screenplay.

Everything I've written has a "personal core" that keeps me from abandoning it, because it may be about fighter pilots and explosions - but it is still really about me. There will come a time when writing your screenplay that you want to abandon it. You hate it. You want to write something else instead. Don’t give in to this! There are people who have a dozen half written screenplays and not a single one that’s *finished*. You can’t do anything with a half written screenplay (okay, you can train puppies and line birdcages). So you want to get all the way to FADE OUT with your script! The best way to do that is have a personal connection to the story so that it’s difficult to let go of. Find your “doorway” into the story - that thing that makes it *part of you*. That not only makes it more difficult to abandon when the going gets rough, it also makes it a better story.

10) Now just write a little bit every day, and the pages add up. I used to write 1 hour a day before work, but really all I required myself to write was one page a day. That's it. One page. And 1 page times 365 days is 3 rough draft screenplays a year. Look, if you write a third of a page a day in 15 minutes, that a screenplay a year - and that puts you ahead of most people who would rather talk about writing than actually write every day and get progressively better and eventually sell something or land an assignment and have a handful of credits on IMDB that represents about a tenth of what they've been paid to do (only about 10% of stuff you sell or are hired to write ever makes it to the screen). (Which is another reason why you have to keep turning out new screenplays - when one project gets shelved you need a new screenplay to keep your *career momentum* going!)

When you are being productive, it helps keep you productive. Momentum. When you lose momentum, you need to push yourself to start moving again. It's not easy at first, but when you start rolling at 5mph it's much easier to roll to 10mph and keep increasing speed than it is from a cold start. Starting's a bitch!

And this may be what you are facing now - so just push yourself a little at first (even force yourself) and it gets easier. Forced writing can be rewritten, smoothed out, improved. But you can’t rewrite what isn’t written. So write! One Writers Block Breaker is to just write nonsense that doesn't matter to get started. That gets things rolling. Then just keep it rolling. Not easy... but possible. All of this is building good habits of regular writing, which comes in handy when you have a career and deadlines and need to write a certain number of pages a day to turn in your assignment on time.

Good luck, and keep writing!

- Bill



NEXT WEEK: THRILLER Thursday Season 2 - an episode directed by the awesome Ida Lupino!

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Trailer Tuesday: FROM A WHISPER TO A SCREAM

FROM A WHISPER TO SCREAM (1987)
Aka THE OFFSPRING

Starring: Vincent Price, Clu Gulager, Susan Tyrell, Cameron Mitchell, Lawrence Tierney, Terry Kiser (WEEKEND AT BERNIES), Rosalin Cash (OMEGA MAN) and many others - great cast!
Written by: C. Courtney Joyner, Darin Scott, Jeff Burr.
Directed by: Jeff Burr
Produced by: Bill Burr & Darin Scott




When you read a biography of Vincent Price, they always say he came out of retirement to do two films, WHALES OF AUGUST and EDWARD SCISSORHANDS... but they never mention this film! The actual return from retirement movie. Oh, and made by a whole bunch of people I know. Directed by my friend Jeff Burr, produced by my friend Darin Scott, written by my friend C. Courtney Joyner (plus Darin and Jeff), and even some of the cast members are people I know. Met these folks at a series of Fangoria conventions I went to when I was still living in the Bay Area... and at AFM (maybe the year they were selling the film as THE OFFSPRING - I had a long conversation with Bill Burr on one of the balconies as we looked down at the “Lobby Rats”). Since the film was 1986, and that was my first year ever at AFM, these guys may have been the first people I met in Los Angeles! I saw the film at AFM, which means I probably saw it before it was released by MGM under the new title the next year.



Katherine White (Martine Beswick) is being executed in a Tennessee prison, as the Warden (Lawrence Tierney, pre-RESEVOIR DOGS “comeback”), the death is not instantaneous nor pleasant. Reporter Beth Chandler (Susan Tyrrell) watches in horror...

Oldfield, Tennessee: a spooky old house that is a combination town Library, town bureau of records, and residence - where the White family lived. Beth knocks on the door, finds it open, ventures inside to discover Mr. Julian White (Vincent Price) in the library section. He was the uncle of the executed woman. Beth wants the full story - Katherine killed her first man at age 7 and continued her killing spree until she was caught at 32. Why? What could have caused her to kill at 7? White says his niece’s execution will not end the problem - Oldfield is serial killer central, many a killer has called this place home. A cursed town. White tells the stories of some of the residents like...



Stanley Burnside (Clu Gulager), who wakes up screaming after dreaming of his dead and bloody wife. A quiet small town man. Lonely. He watches a pretty girl, Grace (Megan McFarland), at en employee barbeque for the meat packing company he works for. That night his sister Ellen (Miriam Bird-Nethery) is suffering from a fever and he has to bathe her in ice water, washing down her naked old body. This is more horrifying than that execution - as the wrinkled old sister is digging having her brother touch her naked flesh.

At work he shyly flirts with Grace, who gives him the cold shoulder.

One night, he calls her to ask her out on a date... and she refuses at first... then relents. Sister Ellen is jealous that he’s got a date.



At some cheap family chain restaurant they have an awkward meal together... afterwards on the drive back, she pretty much shoots him down big time. He forces a kiss on her, and she insists he take her home. When she keeps shooting him down, he strangles her to death... the tail light of the car blinking as they struggle. He dumps her on the side of the road and drives away.

Next day at work the Foreman announces that a fellow employee was killed the night before. There will be a funeral in a couple of days and they will be given time off to attend. A coworker notices that Stanley has scratches on the side of his face.



Night. The funeral home. Someone breaks a basement window and crawls inside... Stanley making a late night visit. Grace is laid out in a coffin for tomorrow’s funeral, surrounded by flowers. Stanley brings champagne, tells the corpse they can’ let something like this get in the way of their romance. Oh, yeah - it’s going there. Stanley kisses her corpse, then undresses both of them and gets busy...

Nine months later...



He comes home from work to find his sister wanting a bath... and wearing a ton of make up. Um, what’s up with that? Stanley breaks up the ice with an ice pick and pours some in the tub. His sister keeps talking on and on and on... and finally Stanley just pushes her head under the water and tries to drown her. That doesn’t work, and he grabs for the ice pick., ends up getting her robe belt - that works just fine to strangle her. She ends up dead and naked in the tub of ice water.

Meanwhile, at Grace’s grave, something crawls out of the dirt! Crawls across a field to Stanley’s house.

Stanley hears noises in the house - a broken window in the kitchen. A tree branch? No, something messy on the floor - dirt and slime. And there’s something crawling around in his house - like the totem dude in TRILOGY OF TERROR. Now it’s Stanley versus this little crawling thing! He reaches under he couch for it and it bites his hand! He grabs a knife to defend himself as it terrorizes him - what the hell is it? It skitters upstairs. When he follows, he finds his sister’s naked corpse at the base of the stairs! He climbs the stairs carefully, knife ready... when that *thing* trips him at the top of the staircase. Stanley tumbles all the way down... into the arms of his dead sister. He looks up to see what that thing is... and it’s a dead baby. A dead baby that keeps saying, “Daddy!” Then the baby comes down to attack him!



Back to Mr. White who tells the next story... that happened over 30 years ago.

Jesse Hardwick (Terry Kiser) lives in a crappy trailer and has the ultimate in relationship problems - his girlfriend says she’s leaving, and that she’s tipped off the McCoy Brothers that he was cheating them... and they are on their way.

Just the, the McCoy Brothers show up - guns drawn - and Jesse blasts through the wall of the house trailer and runs. But he can’t outrun a bullet, and one of the McCoy Brothers shoots him and leaves his body on the side of the road. But Jesse isn’t quite dead, and drags himself to the river where he has his boat stashed and then passes out in the boat. The boat drifts down the river... until someone pulls it ashore.

Jesse wakes up in an old shack filled with some really weird stuff. The old man who owns the shack, Felder Evans (Harry Ceasar) comes home and tells Jesse he’s been asleep for days. Gives him some soup. That night, old man Felder is practicing voodoo on the back porch and Jesse overhears.



The next day, Jesse asks Felder some prying personal questions and can’t get any straight answers. How old is Felder? How long has he been living here? Felder just talks about carving wooden buffalo while standing in the middle of a herd. No herds of buffalo for decades. How old is this guy? When Felder leaves, Jesse ransacks the shack - looking for valuables. Finds a hidden trunk filled with “valuables” - some antique guns, a book of voodoo spells, a scrap book with clipping about Felder that go back over *two centuries*. What? How is that possible?

Felder comes home and Jesse asks him how a man gets to be 200 years old. Is it that voodoo? Jesse demands to know how it’s done. If you could live that long, you could become rich! Jesse wants to take voodoo lessons...



Three weeks later, Jesse is frustrated. He’s a guy who is looking for a get rich quick scheme and this voodoo thing is a lot of work. Jesse has seen Felder drink from a little vial - is that his secret to eternal life? He knocks out Felder, puts him on the boat, and takes him out on the swamp. Threatens to throw him overboard if Felder doesn’t tell where the vial of magic water is. Felder doesn’t tell, and Jesse screws up yet again and accidentally shoves him all the way out of the boat. Felder sinks into the swamp. Jesse can’t see his body anywhere. Crap!

At Felder’s shack, Jesse is tearing the place apart looking for the vial - can’t find it. When Felder - covered in swamp mud - blasts through the door and slams him in the head with the boat paddle!

Jesse wakes up tied to the dock. Felder tells him when he first dragged Jesse and that boat in, Jesse was already dead. Felder used that potion from the vial on him to bring him back to life - so Jesse has just been trying to steal something that he already had. “You can’t die. I gave you enough that you’ll last another 70 years or more.” Felder pours kerosine on Jesse’s chest. Then chops off one of Jesse’s arms and sets him on fire and...



Two kids find a *moving* sack on the side of the road, call the police.

Hospital: The doctor says it is impossible for this... man... to be alive in his condition. But he is. And then we see what is left of Jesse - burned torso and head and... yech! Felder’s voice echoes, “You’ll last another 70 years or more.”

Back to Mr. White and Beth, who still isn't convinced it is the *town* that is evil. All of these bad things happening in the same place is just a coincidence. Mr. White tells her the Librarian who was here 40 years ago killed two people and buried them under this very floor (what that Mr. White?) then he tells her a story from his childhood - when the carnival came to town, bringing along the sideshow. And he remember Amarrillis Caulfield....



1933: The Carnival - crowded - pretty small town girl Amarrillis (Didi Lanier) walks along the midway until she comes to the sideshows, and enters the tent for Arden The Amazing (Ron Brooks) - who eats nails and screws and broken glass and razor blades and other things not on the standard food pyramid. After the performance she waits for Arden, and kisses him. Small town girl attractive to “sophisticated” carny. As they kiss, fellow carny Leonard (Gordon Paddison) watches them. Arden tells her he has a poker game with the guys, so she’s gotta go. She doesn’t want to leave... and makes him a deal - she’ll leave tonight if he meets her for a necking party at the graveyard after tomorrow’s shows have finished. He agrees and tells her to leave, “You don’t know how dangerous it is here if she finds you.” Amarrillis wants to know “Who’s she?” but Arden tells her to just leave.



Arden plays poker with the other carnies... when SnakeWoman (Rosalind Cash) steps from the darkness and wants to know who’s the girl she saw Arden with. Arden asks *who* saw him, SnakeWoman or Leonard? Leonard sneaks up behind Arden and blows on his neck. Tiny Tinker (Angelo Rossitto) says that SnakeWoman has no control over their personal lives, and she threatens him with the police... Tinker relents. SnakeWoman says that she protects all of them from the police in exchange for their talents - maybe in the case of the freak “No Face” (Barney Burman) she gave him his talent (by removing parts of his face). “This is my carnival. I own everything in it. Even you,” she says to Arden. “I own the tears you weep and the blood you shed.” Arden splits.

Amarrillis goes to the graveyard to put flowers on Father’s grave, when Arden arrives. Arden says he can’t stay long, she needs to forget about him. She says since she first saw his act she wanted to marry him, or just be with him. He tells her he’s a freak. She puts his hand on her breast and gets her freak on. They make out on her father’s grave, and begin undressing each other. But when he puts his hands “down there” she screams and bleeds - is it supposed to hurt like that? He takes his hand out of her panties - and screws and nails that he’s eaten in the past have erupted from his finger tips. He screams and staggers back to the carnival, where SnakeWoman is there to meet him. “Welcome home, glass eater.” SnakeWoman is a voodoo priestess - whose tent is filled with snakes. She makes his bleeding stop... and tells him to forget the girl. She makes the glass and nails he has eaten poke through his insides! Tells him to love that girl and know what pain really is.



When Arden returns to his tent, Amarrillis is waiting for him - she begs him to leave with her. He decides that might not be a bad idea. But on the way to her car they are discovered by Leonard - who has a gun. When he threatens to kill Arden, Tiny Tinker comes out of the shadows and stabs Leonard in the back. As Leonard lays dying he tears open his shirt, exposing a third eye on his chest, and says “I can still see you!”

Arden and Amarrillis drive off together.

In a roadside motel, they once again try to make whoopi... then he begins screaming in pain as all of the nails and screws and glass and razors he has eaten over the years *burst* from his body! Blood sprays everywhere - drenching Amarrillis - and piercing her body again and again!



Back to the side show, where they have a new attraction: Amarrillis The Human Pincushion. She has holes in her body that you can see through!

Mr. White finishes the story, and Beth is coming around... she is starting to believe that Oldfield might just be an evil town. “Oldfield’s history is written in human blood, on pages of human skin.” All the way back to when the town was founded during the Civil War. He shows her a series of Civil War photos, and one comes to life before our eyes for the last story...

Four Confederate Soldiers, lead by Sgt. Gallen (Cameron Mitchell) have been separated from their division, and come across a group of Union Soldiers - also separated from their division. The Union soldiers haven’t seen them yet, so Gallen orders his men to fire on them. Everyone fires except Pike... whose man is getting away. Gallen grabs Pike’s rifle and kills the running survivor. Gallen has them loot the bodies. They find documents on the dead Union soldiers - the war is over, and has been for a month. Gallen thinks there’s still some raping and looting left to do. Pike says if the war is over, he’s going home... and walks away. Gallen shoots him in the back, killing him.



Gallen and the two other soldiers (Bullock and McBride) go looking for a house where they can rape and loot, when they’re fired upon... and captured. They’re taken in a wagon to an old house named Oldfield with a bunch of children in the yard. Some of the children have been mutilated in the war - missing limbs or eyes or parts of their face. A little boy in a Union Army uniform, Andrew (Tommy Nowell), comes out of the house and tells Gallen that he is their prisoner now. Gallen can’t take this little boy seriously. Bullock (Tim Wingard) tells them their just a bunch of kids... and gets stabbed in the balls with a knife. Suddenly Gallen is taking this seriously. He tries to convince the boy that the war is over... but little Andrew does not believe them. Andrew takes the three Confederate soldiers into the house and warns them that the Magistrate will decide their fate. The Magistrate taught them everything they know - how to fight.

Soldier Bullock who was stabbed in the balls? They don’t expect him to last the night, so they’ll prepare a game for him. The other soldier, McBride (Leon Edwards), is in a different room, so he won’t be able to conspire with Gallen to escape.



A little girl with only one leg and only one eye, Amanda (Ashli Bare), brings Gallen dinner. He tries to talk her into letting him go when the ball rings - the Magistrate is calling a meeting. She leaves.

Andrew tells Amanda that he has a surprise for her, and takes her into the room where they have McBride. The Confederate soldier is now strapped to a table. Andrew tells Amanda to take off her eye patch... and then he inserts one of McBride’s eyes into her socket. McBride screams - and we see that his eye has been cut out.

When Amanda brings his next meal, Gallen convinces her to untie him... he’s adopt her and be her daddy. She untie him... Then he gives her a full on kiss... which is just wrong. She fights him. And he kills her and escapes... to find the kids playing a game in the front yard.

Pinata with meat hooks and the body of dead soldier Bullock. You know, for kids!



Gallen gets the hell out of there - running through the woods at top speed. Until he runs into Pike, who wasn’t killed by Gallen’s shot in the back. Pike knocks Gallen to the ground. Gallen says - you have to help me get away, those kids are going to kill me!

And Andrew has discovered Amanda’s body and the kids *are* chasing through the woods to find Gallen. But Andrew doesn’t help Gallen... he turns him over to the kids.



Gallen wakes up in the Magistrate’s Room. Andrew tells him they don’t murder people, they take them before the Magistrate and the Magistrate passes sentence. Then Andrew pulls aside a curtain so that Gallen can see the Magistrate: a Frankenstein’s monster made of the body parts of these kid’s parents... who were murdered in the war.

And the sentence for Gallen? Barbecue. They cook him up and eat him.

And that’s where the town of Oldfield came from - those cannibal kids.



Mr. White tells Beth that Poe and Lovecraft’s monsters where inventions of their imaginations, but here in Oldfield they walk the streets. Beth asks how Mr. White managed to survive this town, and he answers: “How do you know that I did?” Beth reaches into her purse and touches the handle of her knife... Mr. White smiles and tells her that he managed to just remain an observer of the parade of violence, but his niece Katherine became part of the parade. Beth says that she reported on Katherine’s murders, then after the arrest became Katherine’s pen pall while she was in prison... and learned all about this town and how Katherine was brought up... by Mr. White. And now she’s here to deliver Katherine’s parting gift to the man who raised her - pulls out her knife and stabs Mr. White, who dies saying: “Welcome to Oldfield.”

One of the final credits on the film: “When In Tennessee Visit Oldfield”!

- Bill

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