Horror On TV: Twilight Zone 5.19 “Night Call”


In this poignantly haunting episode of the Twilight Zone, Gladys Cooper plays a lonely widow who starts to receive mysterious phone calls from a stranger.

This episode was written by Richard Matheson (and based on his short story Long Distance  Call) and it was directed by Jacques Tourneur.  Tourneur is probably best known for directing moody horror films like Cat People and Curse of the Demon and he brings a similar atmosphere to Night Call.

Night Call originally aired on February 7, 1964.

Horror On The Lens: Manos: The Hands of Fate (dir by Harold P. Warren)


torgo

I, Zombie, yesterday’s film, was pretty dark.  So, for today, let’s lighten things up with a horror film from 1966 that some people consider to be one of the worst films ever made.

I am, of course, talking about Manos: The Hands of Fate.

Manos deals with an angry middle-aged man named Michael (played by the film’s director-writer-producer, Harold P. Warren) who, after driving for an eternity through west Texas, ends up stopping off at a motel.  At the motel, he meets an odd fellow named Torgo (John Reynolds, who sadly committed suicide immediately after filming Manos).  Torgo works for a mysterious figure that he calls “The Master” and it quickly becomes obvious that the Master wants to add Michael’s wife and daughter to his harem.  Most people would probably react to all of this by just getting in their car and driving somewhere else.  However, Michael is kind of stubbon and stupid…

As I mentioned at the start of this review, Manos has a reputation for being one of the worst films ever made.  This may be true but it’s also compulsively watchable.  This is one of those films that is so extremely (and, often times, unintentionally) strange that you simply cannot look away.

One final word in defense of Manos.  Manos was written, directed, and produced by a fertilizer salesman from my great home state of Texas.  The cast was made up of community theater veterans.  Next to nobody involved with Manos ever made another film.  And yet, Manos will be remembered long after you’ve forgotten the title of the last film made by Michael Bay.  You can keep your boring, well-made films because there will always be a place in my heart for Manos: The Hands of Fate.

(Add to that, the film’s title translates to Hands: The Hands of Fate and who can’t appreciate that?)

T.V. Review: Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – Season 1- Episode 2 (“0-8-4”)


imgres

Having started off well, Marvel’s Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s second episode hoped to keep the show’s momentum going. While it manages to keep everything moving, it kind of feels a little too familiar to anyone who’s watched Whedon’s work. It’s not a terrible thing, but this might not bode well for the series overall in the long run. At the rate the show is going to make references to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, they could conceivably run out of them by episode 6 or 7.  Then again, they can always add to the MCU by way of elements in the comics themselves.The second potential problem is that the show could end up feeling like Thor, with S.H.I.E.L.D. playing the clean up team after the big superheroes. It may have worked in that film, but for the length of a series, I can’t say for certain it’ll work. Then again, they can always add to the MCU by way of elements in the comics themselves. Look at Smallville. That got stretched out to 10 seasons. We’ll have to see.

The episode opens up with an explosion on board the S.H.I.E.L.D. plane that sends at least one person flying out into the open sky. We then move back some 16 hours before the event, with the team on it’s way to Peru to discover the source of the 0-8-4 reported in the Pilot. An 0-8-4 is an Object of Unknown Origin, the last of which was Mjolnir in Kenneth Branaugh’s Thor. I thought that was a cool connection to make there.

We find Skye getting herself settled in, joining the team. The scientist pair of Leo Fitz and Jemma Simmons are happy to have her aboard, but Ward is skeptical over bringing her along. The most he says to her when she arrives is to suggest she read the manual but Coulson points out that having hacked S.H.I.E.L.D. twice, they could definitely use her services. Ward and May go on to complain that there are only really 2 people on the team who are combat ready. Since Fitz and Simmons aren’t likely to use weapons, so there’s not much they can bring to the table in Ward’s and May’s eyes. Coulson disagrees and goes with keeping Skye. With Skye being new, she won’t think the way the rest of the team does – Ward’s words. Here we find the theme of the episode: Teamwork. This episode is basically written to show how the team can mesh under certain circumstances. I’ll admit that I liked the theme, but I really had a problem with the way Ward was in this. Granted, he was drugged and forced to be cooperative in the previous episode, so Skye is aware that he’s attracted to her, but this episode felt like that didn’t happen. It’s a classic “Mal won’t be with Inara because she’s a Companion, despite having feelings for her, and thus has to berate her for what she does” situation from Firefly.

While in Peru, the team stumbles on an Incan Temple. Inside, they find the artifact, which appears to be partially encased in a stone wall. In examining the object, they find it appears to have been in the rock for about 1500 years, but the craftsmanship of if it is German in design. This was something of a hiccup for me, considering what we find out later in the episode. I’ll get to that later. Agents Ward and May have a small discussion about her background and a legend known as “The Cavalry”, where May saw some type of serious action in Bahrain. She dismisses most of it, but before Ward can get May to say more, a small fight breaks out.  The fight leads to The attackers are revealed as the Policia Militar de Peru, lead by Camilla Reyes (Leonor Varela, from Blade II), who has a history with Coulson. As Coulson and Camilla get re-acquainted, Skye and Ward get into a mini argument over Skye’s association with Rising Tide. Being someone who throws himself into the thick of things, Ward has issues with the safety Skye has making her reports from her van. Again, more of the “I hate you, I think” banter. It’s cute in some ways.

Shortly after the introduction, there’s an attack that has everyone rushing to pack up and go. With Fitz-Simmons and Skye stuck at the entrance of the temple, one nice scene has Ward using a stun device similar to the one Simon Tam had in Serenity that knocks most of the guards out. There’s an additional moment where Fitz-Simmons and Skye are nearly shot, but May uses the team’s armored SUV to cover them. It all shows that the team really isn’t battle ready, but everyone manages to get back to the plane and escape. The team also manages to take along Camilla and some of her men on board. It’s here that Fitz mentions that the device was probably part of the Red Skull weaponry using Tesseract energy from the 1940’s. So…how does something made in the 1940’s get carbon dated as being in the rock of an Incan Temple for over 1500 years? Unless there’s some kind of time travel element we don’t know about in a future episode, that could be a mistake on the writers part?

In flight, Coulson apologizes to May over throwing her into a combat situation. She has nothing to say on the matter, though we clearly know she can handle herself just fine. Fitz-Simmons continues their analysis of the Tesseract/Hydra Artifact in the lab. They discover the energy output of it is potentially huge, and were lucky their drones didn’t accidentally cause it to go off. Again, Ward notes the team wasn’t ready, and he could have easily handled it all if he worked alone. This causes Fitz-Simmons to argue they are just as important to the team as anyone. Coulson arrives on scene and points out that each of them have qualities that are useful for the team and tells them to just make it work. Everyone goes their separate ways on the plane.

Throughout the episode, Skye is having a tough time finding her place in the team. In just about every scene she’s in, she tries to assist but finds herself either pushed aside or feeling out of place. Acting as the character we see everything through (as newbies to S.H.I.E.L.D., she’s a lot like Winifred Burkle in Angel trying to find out way after being rescued from Pylea. She has a talk with Ward over their perspectives with problems. Skye sees the beauty of multiple people being able to bring part of a solution like a puzzle piece, while Ward has always seen himself as the whole solution. They agree on their differences and bond a little over a drink when Ward notices the other members of Camilla’s group haven’t touched the drinks they’ve had.

Camilla makes a move on Coulson, who catches her intentions and reveals that he sees what she’d need to do to take over the plane. It’s here that the Militia starts attacking. Ward takes out a few of them, holding his own as well as Coulson does with Camilla. May is taken out of the equation with sleeping gas and the scientists are captured. Coulson stands down is taken hostage with the rest of the team.

Tied in a room, Coulson is kept alive because he needs to keep the lines of communication open. Camilla tells him that he went from a large group of combat ready people to a crew of five in a big plane, liking it all to a mid-life crisis of sorts (“An After-life thing” Coulson mentions). In Camilla’s eyes, the team exists to give Coulson a sense of relevance – they need him for guidance, it makes him important. He counters by saying that they don’t really need him, they need time…and a common enemy, which Camilla just provided. I liked that, actually. It reminded me of the turning point in the Avengers where the team finally began to work together.

As a group, the rest of the team are contained, trying to figure out a way to get out. Ward realizes that Skye’s idea of each one of them being part of the solution can help in this. With May’s assistance – The Calvary coming to the rescue – they manage to get out, subdue a few of the guards and use one of the drone devices to active the Artifact. The Artifact blasts a hole in the plane, causing the distraction to give them all the upper hand.

So the first half of this episode was okay, but the second half requires one to suspend a bit of logic. As an action sequence, the in air shootout and explosion on board the plane falls in line with something similar to Executive Decision with Kurt Russell or maybe even Goldfinger. Theoretically, I’m thinking that most of the people on the plane should have found themselves sucked through the hole unless the altitude was low. However, this is tv, and I guess that for the sake of the story, we’ll just overlook it.

We have this fight going on, and Coulson manages to secure Camilla so that she doesn’t fly off. Tethered together with cables, Fitz-Simmons gets a hold of the device and Skye is hit with a copy of the pamphlet that Ward gave her earlier. A quick glance at it and she unhooks herself from the group, opening a raft in the plane which is drawn to and effectively plugs the hole. She saves Ward in the process and finding something – something big – to do. Not the most believable of situations by a long shot, but it was fun.

With everything back to normal, the team celebrates their coming together by watching a rocket take off. When asked by Coulson about who decided to blow the hole in the plane, they all take responsibility for it. Skye receives a text from Rising Tide, asking her whether she’s in on their next plan. Looking around the rest of the group, she texts back that she’s in, showing that though things worked out here, she’s not entirely sure she belongs there.

The cameos in the last episode featured Ron Glass and Cobie Smulders. This time, Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury returns for a funny debrief scene that for me was the best part of the entire episode. He yells at Coulson for needing only 6 days before causing so much damage to the plane. Coulson states that the team acted with Authority, to which the common line comes up, “Talking to me about Authority”. I found that to be a great touch and a good scene overall. I think it also hits home to what scares me a little about the show on a whole. Part of me wants more of those cameos, but I’m hoping that the rest of the show gives me enough so that I won’t feel like I’m relying on them to make it all feel like something special.

And that’s the episode in a nutshell.

I’d like to take a moment to both apologize for the delay here in getting this out. I had to watch the episode a total of 8 times just to keep up and hold on to everything I was seeing, something very different for me compared to watching movies. I give all the kudos in the world, and bow like an Ewok to the rest of the Shattered Lens crew for their ability to get TV reviews out there. That is not easy stuff.