Tales from the Darkside Episode 109: A Case of the Stubborns.

This episode opens with the tragedy already having occurred – a mother and son (Christian Slater!)-

Are dressed in their Sunday best, ready for the funeral of their father-in-law and grandfather, respectively. It seems that Grandpa isn’t quite ready for the funeral, though – he heads down the stairs, eager for breakfast. Obviously he hasn’t checked a mirror yet, or he’d have noticed the over-the-top pancake makeup that’s coating his face so as to better prepare his sallow, colourless visage for the viewing.

Mother and Son don’t know exactly how to deal with the situation – trying to figure out if Grandpa is a ‘haint’, since the previous night he was declared dead by the local doctor. Grandpa just won’t hear of it, however, and stalks out of the house. Mother goes to fetch the doctor, hoping that her father-in-law will listen to someone with a little more sense.

Grandpa won’t be convinced, however, despite the flies that are buzzing all about his head, trying to get a bite of his rotting flesh. Grandpa provably has no pulse or breath, but he won’t believe that he’s died, even when confronted with his own death certificate.

No, he sticks around, smelling up the house with his rotting body, making the mother and son more desperate than ever to find a way to convince him that he has, in fact, died. Their next attempt – bring over the local reverend, one Brent Spiner!

Wow, this makeup is pretty darn good for 80s television, isn’t it? The gradual degradation under pancake makeup look is developing nicely.

So, anyhow, Reverend Brent takes his shot, hoping that a more spiritual tactic might be persuasive. Brent strongly pitches the idea of an eternal rest, and while Grandpa admits that this might well be comforting, without solid evidence of his passing he sees no reason to let his soul drift off. His stubbornness drives Brent to the bottle, then off his property, leaving the family with no hope of relief other than prayer. So, basically, no hope of relief.

It’s so bad that Christian’s ready to try something crazy – he’s going to check with the local voodoo woman, who ought to know something about zombies!

After first threatening to feed Christian to a stuffed owl, she offers her assistance, since she was good friends with Grandpa in the distant past. She assures Christian that she’s got a method of helping him, but the show cuts away before revealing what it is, so as to better entertain us with its sudden reveal at the end, I’m guessing.

Back at home things are getting desperate – the board of health is going to quarantine the house if they don’t turn over the body, which they can’t do because he won’t admit that he’s dead! Christian reveals what he got from the voodoo lady, a pouch of black pepper. Mother doesn’t understand how that’s going to help, but Christian remains confident that the voodoo lady wouldn’t lead them astray. So Christian covers Grandpa’s napkin in pepper and waits for him to arrive at the table.

When he does, we discover that, yeah, a lot of care went into this week’s makeup job-

I don’t care about the plausibility of his appearance given that he’s only been dead for a day. That’s great makeup.

As dinner drags on, Grandpa uses his napkin, and the pepper has the desired effect. It leads him to sneeze, which makes his nose fly right off, which finally convinces him that yes, he is, in fact, dead. He heads upstairs and finally lays down to die, and the episode ends. Not before giving us a glimpse inside the napkin, however… (if you’re squeamish, don’t look at the next picture. Seriously.)

Ick. I know this was syndicated show, and played very late at night in its original run, but wow, is that too disgusting for television. I’ve really got to give a huge amount of credit to ‘Ed French’, who was responsible for Grandpa’s makeup. Great job, guy.

I’ve got to say, I’m a little surprised to see a full-on comedy episode of this show. I’m only familiar with it from the compilation tapes I rented back in the 90s (which is why I have no idea what season the episode I’m looking for is from), which tended to focus on the scarier (in theory) episodes. Although I seem to remember a Darrin McGavin one that was just heartwarming. Although that might have been a Twilight Zone.

Anyhoo, the point is that while I completely expected the occasional low-key slightly creepy episode (your ‘Mookie and Pookie’, or ‘The Odds’) I wasn’t anticipating to laugh at an episode of Tales from the Darkside in anything but a derisive fashion. I’ve got to say, though, the shocking disgust of the severed nose really got me. So, again, bravo, TFTD.


Unknown said...

I've been looking for info on this episode since I saw it on tales from the darkside in the 80's. Thanks!

Unknown said...

Me too!

CheLo said...

I refer to this episode frequently with my family! But makes a point about stubbornness and a will to live!

Anonymous said...

Kudos to you for this synopsis. I had forgotten the name of this show, but remember the important parts of the episode, but apparently not Brent Spinner and Slater. Lol