Saturday, January 17, 2015

TV Terrors: Tales From The Darkside - The Milkman Cometh

It's been a long time since I've reviewed any television episodes.  As a matter of fact the last time was July 12, 2013 when I reviewed The Twilight Zone's classic episode The Invaders!  I think it's time I give some love to the terror tube, considering how much vintage horror/sci-fi/fantasy TV I've been watching lately!  So tonight we're going to take a look at one of it's less talked about episodes:  The Milkman Cometh.  I haven't seen this particular episode probably since it first aired back in the 80's, so it was really quite fun to view it with a fresh pair of eyes.  It was especially fun, as always to see actors that you're familiar with in shows like this. 

The episode revolves around The Cooley Family.  There's the father, Garry (Robert Forster), mother, Ruth (Shannon Wilcox) and son, Sandy (Chad Allen).  One night as Ruth is ironing and Garry is working on his newest ad pitch (apparently he's in marketing), Sandy comes home and asks if he can have a birthday present early because he seems to have lost his watch.  When Ruth replies that he will just have to wait and try looking for his watch, Sandy replies that he'll just ask The Milkman.

 Confused (naturally) Ruth asks him what The Milkman has to do with anything.  Sandy goes on to inform his parents that all over the neighborhood, people are asking The Milkman for things by leaving notes for him in their milk boxes the night before delivery.  Sure enough Ruth scoffs at the idea.  Garry tells his son that he'll buy him a new watch the next day if he still hasn't found it.

Later that night, we see Gary writing a note to The Milkman and putting it out in the milk delivery box.  In the morning, sure as lactose intolerant go-go dancing midgets love chocolate, Sandy has a new watch!  As the episode continues on, we learn that most of the men in the neighborhood are aware of The Milkman's gift giving.  Friends of the family Howard and Edna are over for dinner one night and Howard starts to spill the beans about it.  Garry sends the women to the kitchen and starts to reprimand Howard, until he finds out that Edna knows the deal.  Apparently, Howard has been asking for a new car every week for about two months and the old "I won it in a contest" excuse was running a bit thin.

Everything seems to be going swell for the Cooley's.  Garry's got money coming in (from The Milkman) as well as a ton of great ideas for his novel.  He and Ruth are even expecting the baby girl that they've always wanted.  Ruth is getting a bit suspicious of her husband however and starts to question him about The Milkman.  Garry's been drinking more lately and is a lot more on edge.  One day as he's working on his novel, Howard comes to visit and tells him that Edna is dead.  She died in a car wreck while driving one of his newly won cars. 

I won't spoil the whole thing for you, and will leave off the plot synopsis there.  There's a fun twist to the whole thing and while it's a bit of a slow burn episode, it does have a fun kick at the end that makes it all worth it. 

As I mentioned before, it was fun to see some actors that I recognized.  First of all, there's Robert Forster, whom you may know from a good many different films and shows.  He's been shows like Banyan, Jake & The Fatman and of course Police Story as well as films like Jackie Brown, SuperNova & Me, Myself & Irene!  Even if after looking through these six examples he's not ringing a bell, once you see him you'll go "OH YEAH!  THAT GUY!".

Chad Allen was a popular child star in the 80's, appearing in the show Webster as one of Webster's friends, though I'm sure most people will recognize him more from his roles in St. Elsewhere and Our House.  Though if you're reading this then you're like me and you know him best as Sherman in TerrorVision!  Hell yeah!

Though this was a "slower" episode so to speak, it still had that fantastic Tales from the Darkside vibe that most of the shows carried with them.  To be perfectly honest, this almost felt like it early Stephen King at times, though this episode was penned by Charles L. Grant and Donald Wollner.  Mr. Grant having been a former president and trustee of the Horror Writers that's gotta count for something!

This episode was directed by John Strysik.  Mr. Strysik has not directed a lot of other shows or films, but what he has directed is quite notable:  Six episodes of Tales from the Darkside, one episode of Monsters, three episodes of Land of the Lost as well as several other features.  Most interestingly, a short film in 1980 based on H.P. Lovecraft's The Music of Erich Zann, which I am now on a quest to find and watch!

The Milkman Cometh first aired on January 25, 1987 and is Episode #13 on Season 3. 

*Due to some technical difficulties, I do not have any screen captures of my own right now, so I was at the mercy of the internet to find some screen caps.  Please do forgive me this one time.  I will go back and reinsert my own screencaps at the closest convenience! 

Friday, January 9, 2015

The Disappearance of Flight 412 - UFO Shadow Ops

The Disappearance of Flight 412
D: Jud Taylor
W: George Simpson & Neal R. Burger

S: Glenn Ford, Bradford Dillman & David Soul
Not Rated - Approx 72 Min.
Cine Films/Cinemobile Productions

 - If One Tenth Of 1% Of UFO Sightings Are Real, Flight 412 Found It...

Alternate Titles:
Az eltűnt járat rejtélye - (Mystery of the Missing Flight) Hungary

"You want me to keep quiet?  Then give me an order.  I WANT AN ORDER!"
                                                                         - Capt. Roy Bishop

Aliens.  UFO's.  If you've read Midnight Cinephile for any length of time you know that I have a love/hate relationship with them.  Actually it's more of a fascination/terror kind of thing.  On one hand the thought that we could be alone in the universe is a deeply depressing thought.  What a waste of space....literally.  In an ever expanding universe that is, quite frankly, bigger than any of us realize, it's a deeply troubling thought that there is no one else out there.  From what we can see in our little drop of water in the ocean of space, it's a beautiful place full of wonder and beauty.  What good is all that wonder and beauty if there is no one there to appreciate it.

Everyone drinks coffee while they're watching radar!  

See those three blips in the upper left?  Thems UFO'S!

On the flip side of the coin is the utterly terrifying notion that we are NOT alone.  That there are other planets out there with life completely unlike our own.  That really boils down to the basics, doesn't it?  We fear the unknown.  We fear what we cannot and do not understand.  Are they friendly?  Are they hostile?  I guess we'll never know that until we get full disclosure on the subject.

That brings me to another aspect of the whole alien/UFO enigma:  Goverment Cover-Ups.  Area 51.  Roswell.  MiB,  The Battle of Los Angeles in 1942.  Eisenhower's 1954 Extraterrestrial Meeting.  There are so many more incidents that are now infamous, yet we still do not know the truth about them.  Is the government concealing and covering up the truth about aliens?  Why?  Is it to protect us or are there more sinister motivations at play?

"I can't believe what I'm hearing!"

This is a typical scene.  Lots of phone calls and people standing around.
I could go on all day long about aliens, UFO's, government conspiracies and the such, but you didn't come here for that.  You came here to hear about a little made for TV flick called The Disappearance of Flight 412.

The film starts us off with a photograph of a UFO.  The narrator informs us that people have been viewing and photographing UFO's for years.  Thousands of people all testifying to seeing these bizarre craft in our skies.  Some turn out to be hoaxes....but if even one out of all the thousands of reports turns out to be real.....that is still one very real UFO.

"So, the jet's just disappeared, eh?  I saw David Copperfield do that trick before..."

This is Trottman.  He's a dick.

The film takes an almost documentary style approach.  We are introduced to Colonel Pete Moore who is heading up the Whitney Radar Test Group.  They've been experiencing some technical difficulties lately and so he sends a crew of four men, led by Captain Roy Bishop out on a test flight mission.  Flight 412 detects three anomalous blips on their radar and two fighter jets are scrambled to intercept.  The jets vanish right before the crew's eyes. So technically, it's really not the vanishing of Flight 412....but that's neither here nor there.

After the jets vanish, Flight 412 is ordered to land by a top secret military controlled organization who are basically a shadow op that is trying to keep a lid on UFO activity.  The crew lands and they are split into twos and  detained in separate rooms.  Digger Control is housed in a dilapidated complex, which struck me as pretty strange.  Sure, it looks nondescript from the outside and you certainly wouldn't guess that there's a shadow op going on there....but this place is literally falling apart at the seems.  It looks like it's been abandoned for 30 years before they moved in.  Very odd.

Colonel Moore is being kept out of the loop on the status of his men and so along with Major Dunning, he seeks out the operation and goes to get his men back.  We learn that Digger Control is run by a Lt. Col. Trottman.  Apparently no one except the grunts wear any kind of uniforms on this base...they're all decked out in 70's-tastic plaid and sunglasses.  At night.  Inside a broken down building.  Bunch of weirdos.

Colonel Moore and Major Dunning to the rescue!

After sitting around Digger Control for 18 hours, it's time to head home.

Anywhoo, as the Colonel and Major are kept waiting, Trottman and his team continue their "debriefing" of the crew of Flight 412.  Essentially breaking them down little by little, making them question their own integrity and such.  You know....typical shadow op stuff.  Jerks.  At one point Captain Bishop tries to make a break for the aircraft to radio the Colonel but gets caught and sent back to his room.  Close but no cigar, buddy.

What's especially interesting about the film is the fact that other than the photograph of the UFO shown at the beginning of the film (which is just a random photo and not one of the craft that Flight 412 encountered) we never see and extraterrestrial aircraft.  All we see are three blips on the radar screen, but you know....that's enough.  They still manage to soak tension out of the whole sequence.  After the jet fighters vanish and Flight 412 lands, it becomes more of a shadow op thriller.

Not one single solitary drop of blood.

Negative, good buddy.

Nuh-uh.  Unless you wanna count the radar blips, which represent UFO's which may or may not be piloted by beings from another planet.

This is not, I repeat NOT and action flick.  While it's not explicitly based off of any particular real life incident, you can find similar happens all over the place if you do a little research into UFO's.  There have been many accounts of airplane pilots reporting strange objects in the sky.  Personally, I found the whole film to be fascinating.  If you're serious about UFO films then you may very well enjoy it as well.  This is more of a rainy afternoon movie than a late night romp.

Flight 412 encounters something unexplained.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Crater Lake Monster - Plesiosaur Pandemonium

The Crater Lake Monster
D: William R. Stromberg
W: William R. Stromberg &Richard Cardella 

S: Richard Cardella, Glen Roberts & Mark Siegel 
Rated PG - Approx 85 Min.
Crown International Pictures

 - A beast more frightening than your most terrifying nightmare!

Alternate Titles:
Το τέρας της λίμνης (The Monster of the Lake)  Greece

" shoes hurt."
                                 - Mitch

For as long as man has been around, there have been stories of monsters.  Stories of large hairy beasts that bridge the link between man and ape.  Stories of giant Thunderbirds who could swoop out of the sky and steal animals and children.  And of course, the stories of lake monsters.  Perhaps the most famous lake monster is of course, Nessie (better known as The Loch Ness Monster).  Many people think that Nessie is a modern myth, but in fact sightings date back as far as the 6th Century.

Woah!  Cavemen killed the dinosaurs?!

That there is a meteorite.  

I mention this because as The Crater Lake Monster begins we join a scientific team who have discovered a cave painting depicting cavemen fighting a dinosaur.  Unfortunately as they are examining the ancient cave art, a meteorite lands in Crater Lake which causes the cave to become unstable and collapse.  Luckily our scientific friends get out in time.  Unluckily, the meteorite has awakened something in the lake.  I don't think it's really a spoiler to let the dino out of the bag and just tell you up front it's a plesiosaurus......just like Nessie!

The film follows the monster on the loose formula to the T.  A few suspicious disappearances followed by the later discovery of the corpses.  A few reports of a monster running rampant are disbelieved by the sheriff until he himself runs smack dab into it.  There are some fantastic moments of cinematic cheddar, such as the conversation Sheriff Hanson and Doc Calkins have on a boat while divers are searching for the meteorite.  The dialog is straight out of a 50's monster flick with lines such as "After what I saw in that cave, the scientific community will have to change many of it's theories!" and other such vague and scientifically nonsensical bits.  The acting fits the dialog like a glove as well.
Sheriff Hanson

Best cheesy dialog in the whole film
There's also the comic relief duo Artie and Mitch...a couple of local yokels who rent boats on Crater Lake.  They're your classic Abbott & Costello or Laurel & Hardy duo....though neither one of them is really the straight man.  They're both a pair of bumbling idiots, but I found them quite endearing.

And then there's the monster.  Most of the time we get a nicely animated stop motion creature, while the close-ups of it's head us a giant puppet head.....again lending itself quite nicely to the 50's monster vibe.  The creature is not "over shown" nor is it hidden until the very end of the film....this is one of the few films that I think really gets the monster ratio right.

Artie & Mitch:  Hillbilly Yucksters.  

He just wanted to HEAD out onto the lake.  Get it?  GET IT?  

There's not a ton of blood, but the blood we get is of the Cherry Kool-Aid variety.  Very watery and a funky bright red color.  We do get a pretty nifty severed head too, which was sort of surprising considering the film's PG rating!

Nope.  Sorry boys.  Monsters killin' people is gonna have to suffice on this one.

One big-ass fresh water Plesiosaur!

That's enough to make your sphincter tighten!

Final Thoughts:
I really had a lot of fun with this one.  It's a great flick for a rainy or a (I'm my case) snowy afternoon.  Nice cup of hot chocolate and perhaps a donut.  It's a heck of a lot of fun.  If you like monster flicks then give it a shot.

The Sheriff takes on the monster in a tractor!