Thursday, January 12, 2017

"Djinn, No Chaser"

Original Airdate: December 13, 1984

Directed by Shelley Levinson.

Written by Haskell Barkin, Based on the story “Djinn, No Chaser” by Harlan Ellison.

Starring Charles Levin (Danny Squires), Colleen Camp (Connie Squires), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (The Djinn, Jan Bin Jan), Nate Esformes (Mohandus Mukhar).

SYNOPSIS: A day out shopping for Turkish home décor takes an unexpected twist for newlyweds Danny and Connie when they peruse the wares of an Arabian merchant’s tent that has appeared out of nowhere. Connie insists on buying the old rusty lamp that the merchant promises houses a genuine genie, but they soon come to find that the abrasive djinn is only interested in making their lives a living hell. 

CRITIQUE: Cause you know I’m all about dat djinn, bout dat djinn
No chaser
I’m all about dat djinn, bout dat djinn…

Curtailing my career as a successful songwriter for just a moment, our next episode of TFTD finds the program venturing further into the humorous territory that was first put forth by the previous segment, “A Case of the Stubborns.” But whereas Bloch’s story was of a decidedly darker and moribund mind, “Djinn, No Chaser” is clearly in the realm of the zany, patter-filled comedy that one might associate with the classic “screwballs” of the 30s and 40s. But “classic” the episode certainly isn’t.

In all fairness, the segment is perfectly fine, but at times it feels the need to try a little too hard for the laughs. As opposed to “A Case of the Stubborns” where the humor felt of a piece with the story and the characters were colorfully acted, “Djinn” shows its stretch marks from time to time, primarily in the lead performance from Charles Levin. Levin, whose biggest film credits include “Actor in Rehearsal” from ANNIE HALL (1977) and “Television Actor #1” from MANHATTAN (1979), ruthlessly mugs in front of the camera with the apparent philosophy that in spastic facial expressions lies the key to comedy. The fact that he cracks up at his own witticisms only makes the mixture even more unpalatable. Consummate comedienne Camp fares a little better, working mostly as stern foil to the hyperactive Levin, but her role tends to feel overshadowed by her co-star's "hilarious" antics. 

Yeah, that's how we felt too.
The script, adapted by Haskell Barkin (the IMDb credits a "Haskell Smith" as adapter but the episode's actual credits show Barkin's name--nice try, Haskell!), is promising and filled with many of the sarcastic asides that one would expect from a work of Ellison’s. (“Nervously, they approach the tent,” Connie narrates as they enter the shop.) Many of the insults hurled by the characters in the episode are lifted wholesale from Ellison's story, a wise move considering the author's infamous tirades and snappy criticisms. The scene between Levin and Nate Esformes as the mysterious merchant does work pretty well, with each actor leveling blasphemous curses given modern twists at one another as they haggle over the price of the lamp. Ellison’s vitriolic side gets further exercise in the form of the genie’s own rude remarks to his new owners, at one point colorfully referring to Connie as a “charnel house harlot.” (The mind wonders!)

The turn of the screw that the story rests on—an impoverished couple gets the means to make unlimited wishes only for their lives to get exponentially worse because of the genie’s temper tantrum—is indeed a clever one, and the Squires’ misery is smartly shown rather than having the characters laying it all out for us with a “Oh! If only we hadn’t taken it all for granted!” It’s an idea that’s implicitly understood by the viewer, and it’s nice that it goes uncommented on. The tortures the genie wrecks on the household are amusing and, for the most part, are handled creatively in conjunction with the show’s frugal budget. Naturally, the plagues the djinn visits on the Squires in Ellison's original are much more elaborate and abundant, from bloody floods to indoor lightning. In the episode, some of the more grandiose curses (wild animals marauding in the hallway) are only hinted at, and the original story's ending that finds the couple living in luxury in an opulent Connecticut mansion is toned down in the episode to a return to the small (but cleaner) apartment after the djinn has been freed from his lamp.

With such abundant room for drama and fantasy, there are several sequences in the episode, like Danny’s midnight craving for a glass of milk, that go on for inexcusable durations. It not only brings our attention to the fact that it’s merely padding, but in a rapid-fire, neurotic comedy like this it leaves the madcap rhythm dead in the water. It's a shame that the creative team would resort to these kinds of empty tactics with such a winning concept on their hands. The given circumstances of the program (i.e. its quick shooting schedule) could be blamed, but in light of other episodes utilizing their time slots more wisely that excuse doesn’t have much weight.

"Djinn, No Chaser" ends on a wryly silly note (you can almost hear the “Pop Goes the Weasel” theme from the Three Stooges’ shorts at the climax), marking this episode as diverting if only occasionally amusing fluff.

"Djinn, No Chaser" originally appeared in the April 1982 issue of Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone. Interestingly, Ellison would find himself sharing a space in that issue's fiction section with Dan Simmons' first published work "The River Styx Runs Upstream," the winning entry from the magazine's first contest of submissions from unpublished writers. Simmons notes in his introduction to the story from his collection PRAYERS TO BROKEN STONES Ellison's infamous first reaction to receiving the story at a writer's workshop:

"Who is this Simmons? Stand up, wave your hand, show yourself, goddamnit. What egomaniacal monstrosity has the fucking gall, the unmitigated hubris to inflict a story of five thousand fucking words on this workshop? Show yourself, Simmons!"

His outrage was soon placated by the fact that Simmons' story was actually good, and afterward Ellison even offered to submit the story for TZ's contest himself.

"And may all your children need corrective lenses from watching too much TV!"


Rating: 2 Lizzies

Coming Up: Harry Anderson doesn't like getting talked back to in "All A Clone by the Telephone."

Thursday, January 5, 2017

"A Case of the Stubborns"

Original Airdate: December 2, 1984

Directed by Gerald Cotts.

Written by James Houghton, Based on the story “A Case of the Stubborns” by Robert Bloch.

Starring Eddie Bracken (Grandpa Titus Tolliver), Christian Slater (Jody Tolliver), Barbara Eda-Young (Ma Tolliver), Bill McCuthcheon (Dr. Snodgrass), Brent Spiner (Reverend Peabody), Tresa Hughes (Voodoo Woman).

SYNOPSIS: Jody and his mother are just sitting down to a good ol’ country breakfast when Grandpa comes down to join them. Trouble is, he’s just kicked the bucket and he isn’t heeding any advice to the contrary even in the face of rigor mortis. Exhausting every authority in his hick hamlet, Jody tries to see if the local witch woman can find a way to get gramps into the ground.

CRITIQUE: Well jumping Jee-hosophat! If this critter fritter isn’t the darn tootinest example of the blackest humor this side of the Appalachians then you can just paint my fence blue and grab a bus down to Crusty Town. All of this genuine Southern dialect is a colorful means of simply saying that “A Case of the Stubborns,” the series’ first fully-fledged comedic episode, gets high marks from the hangman.

This is hardly surprising when one considers that the segment was based on a story by genre legend Robert “The Man Who Wrote PSYCHO” Bloch, a scribe who was more than familiar with the blood that bounded horror and comedy together. Even though the story was adapted for television by James Houghton (more noted as an actor on such programs as Knots Landing), the final product still has Bloch’s signature all over it. The ornery attitude and old-fashioned smart-assery that Grandpa Titus trades in was a signature of the author’s work. One imagines that if Bloch found himself in Titus’ shoes he’d act in much the same way, if only with a greater use of puns.

Why yes, that is what my nightmares look like. 
Owl-faced Eddie Bracken (THE MIRACLE OF MORGAN'S CREEK) is perfect in the role of Titus. From the minute that he sits down for his breakfast of eggs and biscuits, Bracken gushes with feistiness and frothy impatience, no doubt due to the gases that are trying to escape his moldering form. He gets to deliver some real rippers, from his earth-shattering roar of “WELL IF YA GONNA EXAMINE ME, DANGIT…!” to his snappy retort to the drunk town doctor’s insistence that his signed death certificate will stand up in any court: “And so will I!”

What’s especially effecting about Titus’ character is not just his irascible humor. Bloch and Houghton show us that he is, at heart, a good man, an old-timer who’s willing to fight for his rights—rights that everyone else is trying to explain to him—but who is also willing to accept the fact that he may be wrong. He demonstrates a gentleness that is exemplary of his benign spirit, telling his overwrought daughter and concerned grandson that he’s not looking to cause either of them any undue trouble and only requires solid proof of his deceased state in order to be able to move on. Titus possesses a determination to hold onto his existence even as it literally decays all around him, but underneath it all is the weariness that comes after having lived a full life, whether he knows it or not.

And proof he gets, in the form of a money shot that goes for the big gross-out and is more effective for the fact that not a drop of blood is spilled. After consulting with the town voodoo woman, Jody pours the “magic powder” she gave him into Titus’ napkin. The “powder” is actually just strong black pepper, but when Gramps goes to use the napkin it performs the desired effect just as well. Titus lets loose with a big sneeze and finally having his proof, shuffles his stiff legs up the stairway to heaven. What he saw? His own detached nose, overflowing with green snot strands and wriggling worms. It’s the type of low joke that the trashy juvenile horror stories I read as a kid would have, but damn it all if it doesn’t work.

Are you pickin' up the funky beat that the good Lord is throwin' down, my brother?
The episode has a noteworthy extraterrestrial pedigree: Bill McCuthcheon is on hand as the boozy physician, “fondly” remembered by fans of cult cinema as “Dropo,” the alien beloved by children everywhere from SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS (1964) with Brent Spiner showing up as sermonizing Reverend Peabody (“When the Lord calls you’re sposed to answer.”), more familiar to TV viewers as the android Data on that other syndicated hit, Star Trek: The Next Generation. Barbara Eda-Young, Al Pacino’s gal from SERPICO (1973), and prominent fixture of the stage Tresa Hughes round out the supporting cast, with Eda-Young showing panache as a gangly, overwhelmed comedienne. From here Christian Slater would make his big screen debut in THE LEGEND OF BILLIE JACK (1985); it won’t be the last we see of him, either. Ambrose, the witch woman’s stuffed owl, appears as himself in his only known onscreen credit.

“A Case of the Stubborns” is a sweaty slice of the American Gothic pie and, despite the persistence of flies and cracked, puckered flesh, it never comes close to stinking.

“I reckon there’s no fool like an old fool.” 


Rating: 3 1/2 Lizzies

Coming Up: Charles Levin and Colleen Camp fall into the lamp of the gods in "Djinn, No Chaser."

Thursday, December 29, 2016

"The Word Processor of the Gods"

Original Airdate: November 25, 1984

Directed by Michael Gornick.

Written by Michael McDowell, Based on the story “The Word Processor of the Gods” by Stephen King.

Starring Bruce Davison (Richard Hagstrom), Karen Shallo (Lina Hagstrom), Patrick Piccininni (Seth Hagstrom), William Cain (Tom Nordhoff), Jon Shear (Jonathan), Miranda Beeson (Belinda).

SYNOPSIS: Richard has just received a homemade word processor from his recently deceased nephew Jonathan, the victim of a car accident that also claimed the lives of his mother Belinda and drunkard father. Richard’s wife Lina derides him for his writerly ambitions, and his punk son Seth is too busy wailing on his guitar to pay him any mind. Not the best life, but Richard finds that the machine is here to fix that with whatever command he types on the keyboard.

CRITIQUE: Is there some unwritten rule that stipulates that all ambitious writers must be wed to total jerks? Richard’s wife has a complete lack of faith in her husband’s talents—even though he has published a novel—and sees the whole pursuit as a waste of time. It’s true that the vocation can be a very unfulfilling one, but I can’t help but notice that in almost all of the stories of this type the spouse of the struggling scribe must be the kind of “you’ll-never-really-amount-to-anything” bully that invariably sets up our protagonist for a “Well I’ll show them!” comeback.

For some inexplicable reason, Mr. Nordhoff remembers he left bacon on the stove. 
The cliché is given a further dollop of tired tropes by having Lina be an overweight, shrewish wife who guzzles soda and donuts in between emasculating her sweater-vested hubby and letting the house go to a messy hell of dirty dishes and garbage. Oh, and she plays Bingo. So now the stereotype is officially complete. This is all perfectly serviceable for the story—this is not one of King’s more powerful tales, working more in the simplistic E.C. vein that some of his early work did—but sometimes I just wish someone could turn everything around and maybe show the wife supporting her husband’s goals but growing steadily weary of the financial strain. Something that would show she actually did love him but also had her own personal limits. But I digress.

This is another in a long line of wish-fulfillment stories that the series will present to us, but this is a rare case where our hero doesn’t come to regret his desires and actually gets what he wants, probably because he wears glasses. Poor vision is usually a solid “Get Out of Eternal Judgment” card. An intriguing spin occurs when we discover that Richard had loved the late Belinda and had felt a fatherly kinship with whiz kid nephew Jonathan. It adds some perspective to Richard’s desire and makes his plight more sympathetic to us: he only wanted what was in his reach, but he could never have it.

The episode also realizes one of man’s deepest inherent wishes, to be able to write the book of our lives and dictate an upturn in our fortunes by the mere click of a key or rub of a magic lamp. The rest of the segment operates under the same trajectory of events that we have come to expect from this type of drama: Richard gradually realizes the power of his enchanted totem, here represented by the “Execute” and “Delete” buttons on the keyboard, first experimenting on some random object (a framed picture of his wife) before making a legitimate wish to further glean its power (first for twelve Spanish gold doubloons and then for his son's disppearance) only to hurriedly issue a final plea to restore order as everything goes up in smoke. If you’ve read “The Monkey’s Paw,” you’ve seen this before.

There’s a touch of W. W. Jacobs in a bit where Richard answers the door after he’s zapped Seth into the ether to find a weeping Lina in funeral garb, her running mascara giving her the look of a revenant as she stumbles forward and accuses Richard of killing their son. This is just a fake-out, a nervous vision inspired by Richard’s guilt, but it does distract for a little while with its expressionistic blue lighting that recalls the vibrant hues of CREEPSHOW (1982). The lead-up to Seth’s deletion is also reminiscent of THE BODY SNATCHER (1945) when we hear the guitar’s shrieking cut off after the duct tape-bound machine has carried out its function.

Rock all day. Every day.

McDowell’s adaptation of the material carries over King's tone and content so completely that it almost appears that Gornick simply filmed the story, adding a few small filmic touches that allow it to play out a little better for the aural/visual medium. The faithfulness to King is both for better and worse as some of the author's hinky dialogue gets carried over; at the conclusion Richard asks the revived Jonathan to "delete [the word processor] from our lives." The episode takes the overly-sweet final note of the boys indulging in a cup of hot cocoa like a real family and gives it some emotional resonance with the heavenly image of the radiant Belinda waiting for them, silent but smiling. It’s enough to make you forget the formulaic journey it took for us to get here and ask “Wouldn’t it be nice?”

"The Word Processor of the Gods" originally appeared in the January 1983 issue of Playboy, the magazine for shrimpy writers with fat wives fantasizing of better lives (and hotter women) everywhere. Pair with a cold Budweiser for optimium satisfaction.

“It’s always the wrong people who die, Mr. Hagstrom.”

Rating: 2 1/2 Lizzies

Coming Up: Christian Slater finds his grandpappy is restless in peace in "A Case of the Stubborns."

Thursday, December 22, 2016

"Inside the Closet"

Original Airdate: November 21, 1984

Directed by Tom Savini.

Written by Michael McDowell.

Starring Fritz Weaver (Dr. Fenner), Roberta Weiss (Gail Aynsley).

SYNOPSIS: With exams coming up and a shortage of available room and board, student Gail Aynsley resorts to renting out a humble space from veterinarian Dr. Fenner. He’s a bit of a stiff, and the small closet in the bedroom that always remains locked can’t help but pique the girl’s interest. Far less interesting and more terrifying are the weird scratching noises she hears in the dead of night and the unshakable feeling that something is lurking within the walls of the old house.

CRITIQUE: We can sit here all day and talk about the intelligent commentaries that some of these episodes bring up, but nothing quite stays with you like a nice, solid punch to the gut. We always remember the things that have some kind of emotional attachment to them, whether it be love or sadness or joy. Our minds may crave cerebral caviar, but our guts cry out for the greasy shock and the instant satisfaction it brings. With horror though, that satisfaction is more than likely to come in the form of a cold weight in the pit of the stomach than any sense of warm contentment.  

“Inside the Closet” remains so memorable to fans of the show because it fulfills this hunger. It can be enjoyed without paying any mind to subtext or metaphor or whatever other academic term you want to throw in there but that is not to suggest that it is lacking in any of these areas; we’ll get to that in a minute. The episode functions primarily as a ghost story, a campfire tale, a shudder yarn. Its design is to prey upon our terrors of the dark and the unknown and make us feel uneasy for a little while. When the question of just what is inside the closet is revealed by the shaking beam of a flashlight, all that’s missing is a big, loud “BOO.”

Roberta, I love you even with the eyebrows. Hell, I love you because of the eyebrows.

This entry marks the first script by author Michael McDowell (of such emblematic 80s paperbacks as THE AMULET, COLD MOON OVER BABYLON, and the BLACKWATER series), who would go on to become the most prolific screenwriter for the series with many memorable titles to his credit. Here he plays on that oft-feared mainstay of childhood, the Thing in the Closet. Simple in concept, but oh-so-powerful in execution. All we need be told is that there is a door that is never--under any circumstances--to be opened or even can be opened; the sight of that door yawning wide, the inner darkness full of horrible implication, does the rest.

Tom Savini, renowned for his makeup effects for such genre efforts as DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978) and MANIAC (1980), takes his first stab at directing and shows that he has a steady hand and keen eye for imagery. He frames the characters in some modestly innovative ways that subtly add to the tension between Gail and Fenner, such as when the doctor speaks directly to the camera, the lens slowly dipping down and angling up to give us the impression that we’re looking up at the domineering medico or the slow pan away from Gail as she desperately tries to explain her apprehension, moving further back from her as Fenner derisively shoots her theories down, isolating her.

The episode is really a small masterpiece of camerawork, not even mentioning the suspenseful POV shots that we get as the closet creature scampers across the bedroom and ducks under the bed. This leads to another moment of repressed kinder-horror: the thought that the beastie under the bed will grab you by the foot if you’re foolish enough to dangle it over the edge like a tasty bit of bait. Gail misses out on realizing this phobia, but only just. There’s another nice touch when we see slides of Bosch’s paintings of Hell that Gail is viewing. The snap of one of her mouse traps sounding off in the closet gives her pause and her panting shadow is cast over the two-dimensional tortures. She knows she’s about to come face-to-face with her own denizen of the inferno.

One of the smaller details that I enjoyed and was only able to glean after several viewings was the décor of Fenner’s house. His main foyer and living room are bedecked with stuffed animal heads and skulls, their gleaming ivory fangs pointing us to the eventual reveal of that which slumbers in the crawlspace of the house. McDowell ends the story on a sardonic note that brings it all back to his original premise: as kids we were scared of the closet, but did we ever think that what was inside was another child all along? For the albino, scarlet-eyed biter that snatches Gail away for private playtime is none other than Fenner’s own daughter, the monstrous offspring of his late wife. When we see her cuddle up on her daddy’s leg, it seems like it’s meant to be comforting in an “Aww, the monster wasn’t so bad all along” way. But it’s not. It’s actually very perverse. I’d like to think that McDowell knew that.

This was another aspect of “Inside the Closet” that caught my attention on the last viewing. Fenner describes his wife’s passing from malignant cancer, detailing the futile operations that she underwent in the process. Are we to assume that Lizzie—as the lovely creature is so-called outside the narrative of the actual episode—was mutated as a result of her mother’s tumor-riddled body? And just when was Lizzie born anyway? Could it have been through a post-mortem Caesarian? And is it an accident that Fenner is, of all things, a veterinarian?

It may be a bit of stretch to assume that the doctor had some kind of animalistic coupling, but that’s what I love about McDowell’s story. The questions are still there. We turn them over in our heads as we lie in bed, trying to tell ourselves that the open closet across the room is really nothing to be afraid of.

“There are no rats in this house.” 


Rating: 4 Lizzies (But she's biased)

Coming Up: Bruce Davison is looking for happiness in all the write places in "The Word Processor of the Gods." 

Thursday, December 15, 2016


Original Airdate: November 11, 1984

Directed by Michael Gornick.

Written by Mark Durand, Based on the story "Slippage" by Michael Kube-McDowell.

Starring David Patrick Kelly (Richard Hall), Philip Casnoff (Chris Wood), Kerry Armstrong (Elaine Anderson Hall), Harriet Rogers (Mrs. Hall), David Lipman (Mr. Blake), Ruth Miller (Secretary).

SYNOPSIS: Richard Hall has been feeling pretty rotten lately, but you would too if your employer misplaced your paycheck. Or if you didn’t get an invite to the high school reunion. Or if your wife suddenly got the car registered in her maiden name. Or if everyone generally seemed to be forgetting about you. All of these have happened to Richard and he simply can’t account for it. Not unless it means that he is slowly being wiped from the face of existence. 

CRITIQUE: “Better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all” is a sentiment that you’d have a hard time sympathizing with if you had to watch everything you loved and cared for being systematically removed from your life. To have it happen at the point in your life that Richard Hall has it would be nothing short of cruel and unusual punishment. Richard is at a job where he gets to use his talent but one in which he feels creatively unfulfilled, with a pay rate and working conditions that leave a little to be desired. His relationship with his wife is comfortable if just short of lifeless. His memories of his beloved small hometown are growing smaller with distance.

The darkside has shown us that it is prepared to exact fitting judgment on the leeches and vultures of society, the lazy and the inhibited, but with “Slippage” we see that it is clearly without mercy, pushing men who are already low to the ground even lower until they're grinded into cosmic dust and scattered by nocturnal winds.

Richard’s plight is not dissimilar to those faced by the protagonists of episodes from THE TWILIGHT ZONE such as “And When the Sky Was Opened” and “Person or Persons Unknown.” A line from Kube-McDowell's story sounds like something that could've been lifted directly from Richard Matheson's source tale for the former TZ episode, "Disappearing Act":

"I feel like I'm being followed--like someone is tracking me down the paths I've taken through life and systemastically tearing them up behind me. And getting closer to where I am, all the time. It's as if I've done something terrible, and to punish me they are erasing the traces that I ever existed."

Richard and the others are people who see the carpet being pulled out from under them by God’s invisible hand, and they are rightfully terrified. At one point in the story Richard even wonders if his atheism is to blame for his situation: "I've never believed in God, Chris. Maybe--maybe He's finally decided He resents that." 

Richard seems to exhibit less outward fear than his predecessors, showing a mixture of frustration and confusion at the outset of his situation. He suspects infidelity between his wife and best friend (who lands the professional gig that Richard has been gunning for for some time) when he sees the letter from the DMV. He calls up his old school chum who was the head of the reunion committee and cordially tries to explain to the man’s befuddled wife who he is. When he goes to his elderly mother’s house and speaks to her through the front window only to be told by the woman that she has no son, Richard moves from outright despair (“Please don’t do this to me, mother”) to chuckling sadly to himself and admitting that he must have the wrong house. It’s at this point that we see Richard has begun to accept his ultimate fate, whatever that may be.

David Patrick Kelly, immortalized as a psycho street punk and nightmarish Snake Man for a generation of movie fans, is pleasurably at ease in his comparatively toned-down role here, looking quite comfortable in his flannel shirts and glasses. His calm, unmistakable voice draws us in, explaining in the end to his friend Chris that this existential conundrum he’s found himself in is partly his fault: “Richard Hall cared less and less to connect until he started to slip through the cracks of time.” It was Richard’s growing indifference with his lackluster existence that led to his removal (or reassigning, if you like) from our world. He doesn’t get the chance to go back to his cherished childhood and learn from his mistakes like Gig Young. "Not happy with your life?" ask the Powers That Be. "Then don’t have one."

There’s a note of irony made when Richard’s wife tries to get him to sit down and watch his favorite movie, IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE. Of course it’s a loaded reference, pertaining to Richard’s own inherent desire to get a do-over and one that his spouse blurts out in her anger when she says she wishes he was never born. In Kube-McDowell's original story, Richard draws the parallel himself when he says he feels like the victim of a "new crime":

"You take a guy and ignore him, pretend like he's not there, until he cracks up. I feel like Jimmy Stewart in IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, only there's no guardian angel."

When the haggard and sickly Richard reveals a trio of self-portraits he’s drawn to Chris, one of himself as a baby, adult, and old man, they act as a series of his very own Dickensian spirits, the final picture showing a what-if projection of the Ghost of Christmas Never to Come.

The program further demonstrates its canny use of simple effects to register a sense of the otherworldly. As Richard gives his final statement, the lights gradually dim upon his wasted frame until he is in complete shadow before he disappears altogether. The sequence could just as easily have been done with Richard himself slowly fading away, but the encroaching darkness gives the sequence a more imposing sense of doomed finality that greatly adds to the moment.

Although the final image of a door being blown open by a gust of wind is slightly confusing (are we to assume that Richard is not gone after all and that the story now has no point?), the preceding events still pack a solid punch in its warning to the viewer: Be very thankful for all that you have.

"Slippage" originally appeared in the August 1982 issue of Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone.

Durand's adpatation for DARKSIDE remains very faithful to the original story's content, with only minor changes made to details concerning a favorite restaurant burning to the ground and Richard's disappearance taking place in his friend's car as they drive back to his apartment.

More importantly than that, Durand's script demonstrates more patience with the story's emotional beats, namely Richard's confrontation with his mother and final acceptance of his fate, and a better creative realization of the material (the touch with the three drawings is Durand's), making the televised episode more wholly satisfying as a drama

“Wouldn’t want anyone around here to think you were slipping…”


RATING: 3 Lizzies

Coming Up: Skeletons are the least of Roberta Weiss' troubles in "Inside the Closet."