Question of Fear
A physical wreck after one night in a haunted house bets a man “incapable of fear” he can’t do it. He agrees, he has been a professional soldier all his life in many wars, the Foreign Legion and latterly as a mercenary.
Laughter fills the house, a green glowing head, the windows are bricked, candles go out when lit. He shoots at a green glowing figure in uniform (khaki and Sam Browne belt). Drops of blood, a cellar door that locks behind him, a broken step, the figure at a piano mechanically pressing keys. It turns toward him with a shock of white hair, its outstretched hands burst into flame. He cuts the cord that operates this automaton. Another apparition, another cord, and so to bed, laughing.
Semicircular steel bars leap across his body, confining him, a shiny blade descends from the ceiling and sways toward his throat. He calls out that even if he’s killed, he wins the bet, he’s not afraid. The items retreat, he falls asleep.
A TV monitor in the kitchen has Dr. Mazi speaking to him next morning, who made the bet. Dr. Mazi’s hair is no longer gray, he seems fit enough. His father died at Tobruk, a concert pianist forced into Mussolini’s army and ordered to destroy papers in the retreat, the fearless soldier lit gasoline on his hands, the son swore revenge.
Electronics is an “amusing” pastime, Dr. Mazi’s field is biochemistry. He and a colleague have converted a human enzyme to that of an annelid, bones soften, his colleague is in the cellar but owing to his corpulence, more like a slug than an earthworm. The soldier is bidden to go and look, while he slept he was injected. Now he notices a slime trail on the floor six inches wide, leading to the cellar. He draws his pistol. “You still lose, Mazi.” His hand shakes slightly, he kills himself.
“No, you lose,” says Dr. Mazi. “There is nothing in the cellar.”
The part for Leslie Nielsen is among his specialties, a bluff man with more or less of intelligence, grains of remembrance filter into his consciousness. Fritz Weaver also has a specialty here, the tormented tormentor, played in three stages from crippled ruin to man of science to a great, wide face of ironic detachment filling the screen.
His pair of crutches with their arm clips prepare the conclusion adapted from Roosevelt.
A Matter of Semantics
Evening at a Red Cross blood bank. A candy-striper brings in the day’s last client, who introduces himself as Count Dracula and looks the part as well (his address is a post office box in Transylvania). “It isn’t often we receive such a distinguished foreign visitor,” the nurse tells him. “Should I call you Your Highness?” He demurs, “Your Eminence will suffice,” eyeing the refrigerator to one side, marked Plasma.
“One pint won’t do,” he says in reply to her proposal, “better make it three.” No no, that’s impossible. Again the famished look.
“Young lady,” says the Count, “this is a blood bank?” She assents. “Well then,” he continues, “I wish to apply for a loan.” His mouth opens wide, showing two fangs.
The principle of vampirism is thus explained in rudimentary, straightforward terms.
Sapinsley’s rendering of Lovecraft is a conversion to the pictorial. Louise Sorel plays a turn-of-the-century art student in a conservatory for young ladies, Bradford Dillman is the painter Richard Upton Pickman, than whom “Boston never had a greater”.
He paints what he sees, as Gahan Wilson said, in his mind’s eye or in his soul. Ghoul Preparing to Die is his latest, though he has a new series not yet shown, which he describes volubly as “so horrible they would turn a man to stone,” an “eldritch race” half-men, half-beasts, slimy as the walls of hell, “wretched mutations” that surface at night “to commit unspeakable acts and breed their filthy spawn”, and that according to legend shall “one day ravish the earth like a noxious plague”. A subject, he says, worthy of Bosch, Breughel and Poe.
This is extremely well directed by Laird. He dollies into a painting of the view from the artist’s studio (an “outlook not particularly cheery”) and loses focus to dissolve on the real view and back out. The student finds Pickman’s studio from the painting, and is attacked by a ferocious ghoul like the one in the wintry landscape she had seen. It carries her fainting form over canvases and tubes of paint and is fought by Pickman, who dies in the attempt and is carried off in turn.
Seventy-five years later, an artist rents the studio and looks for the paintings, which are perhaps in a bricked-over cistern on the bottom floor (Laird shows the ghoul inside).
How to Cure the Common
Two men in nineteenth-century wear approach a coffin in the cellar of a castle by the sea. Two others watch as a stake is placed at the heart of Count Dracula, fang visible. Richard Deacon in long sideburns prepares to strike the heavy mallet-blow, but pauses to ask the man next to him, “are you sure?”
Johnny Brown, holding the stake, looks at him from under his hat and answers, “well, it couldn’t hurt!”
Men of science and daring, ready to act on the knowledge of a lifetime, but still with that momentary hesitation, “silent, upon a peak in Darien.”
Room for One Less
Exterior of skyscrapers on a fine day, blue sky. An elevator operator packs his passengers in, it’s a tight fit, but there’s space enough for the sudden apparition of an impossibly ugly creature from some other universe, remotely like a human being and wearing something like a black cape.
The elevator operator turns his head, notices the new arrival and is unfazed. He simply jerks his thumb over his shoulder to indicate a sign which prohibits “occupancy by more than 10 persons”. The creature looks at him and says, “quite”, then raises a finger at one of the occupants, who vanishes instantaneously.
This blackout sketch, of extremely brief duration, opens with an establishing shot of a high castle by day seen from a distance, built on a cliff overlooking the ocean. Waves crash against the shore.
The man and the girl are descending the staircase of the castle’s cellars or vault. She is extremely happy to be there, this is going to be a big day in her life, it’s a great moment for mankind. “I’m going to be the first person in history to photograph a genuine vampire.” They approach a raised coffin, the vampire is nowhere in sight.
She expresses her surprise and disappointment. “Oh, but he is here,” says the man, striking a pose and saying, “cheese”.