Found-Again Friday: Masters of Horror—Valerie On The Stairs

So I watched neither the classic nor the classically goofy prospect for this week’s F-AF. It seems Netflix has started this proactive “Shipping Today!” feature, which I’m finding very satisfactory—not least because I now have two DVDs more than my plan requires. And so I took another peek at another Tony Todd villain a week earlier than I’d planned.

Why Found-Again? At no time is my “attracted, yet repulsed”  feeling toward horror fare more pronounced than when I watch Showtime’s Masters of Horror series. I’ve seen four of them so far, and these are the only DVDs where I avidly watch the previews, all of which are for other MoH episodes and all of which look fascinating.

Despite all this, I can barely make it through the opening-credits sequence for the show, with its decomposing rat and evilly smiling doll, among other dreadful things. Add a Clive Barker story to the mix, and we’re probably all lucky I watched this the first time.

The Premise: You know that guy in your English class who really wanted to be Raymond Carver, who wouldn’t shut up about it, and by the end of the course you wanted to kick him right in the inspiration? In Valerie on the Stairs, that man is our protagonist.

Rob, an aspiring writer with the requisite drinking and relationship problems, manages to get a rent-free spot at a house full of unpublished authors. No sooner does he sit down to write his first (pretentious) sentence than weird things start happening: there’s a beautiful girl in the walls, and a monster (Tony Todd, the only actor in the world who could have pulled off those demon ears his character has) who relentlessly pursues her. Rob has to turn to his fellow failed authors to find out what the hell—maybe literally—is going on.

Also, someone gets their spine ripped out through their mouth. I mention this because I wish someone had reminded me. Yuck.

The Verdict: This is what Found-Again Friday is all about: the first time I watched this, I found the movie’s end so insufferably twee that I almost couldn’t believe Clive Barker wrote it. And I was wrong: on this second viewing, it’s much easier to see the edge of despair in the ending, even if it does have a wry little twist in it, too. Better than I remembered.


Next time: TCBOM! When villains make me giggle… part 21,396.

Found-Again Friday: The X-Files

Why Found-Again? I still vividly recall watching the first episode of The X-Files while at college. To the left of me was the guy I had a crush on; to the right was the guy who had a crush on me. And in the middle was me, stunned that they had at last made what in my house tended to be referred to as “spook shows” for a major audience. (Instinctively I knew late-night fare like Monsters and Nightmare on Elm Street: the Series didn’t count, though even now I can’t explain why.) For somebody who’d entertained a childhood dream of becoming a paranormal investigator, this was a Big Deal.

The sight of a young David Duchovny in wire-rimmed glasses was a less big deal, but it is the point at which I forgot I was watching the show with other people. Sorry, fellas.

I started watching The X-Files on Netflix again before I heard that Fox might be trying to bring back the show, but this seems like a good time to see how it holds up.

The Premise: Straight-arrow FBI-agent-with-an-MD Dana Scully is assigned to work with Fox “Spooky” Mulder, who specializes in weird unsolved cases known as “X-files.” She’s supposed to bring him back to mundanity, but the actual existence of aliens/vampires/government conspiracies/mutants keeps getting in the way (as does what seems like an endless stream of autopsies. What did Mulder do before he had a doctor on his team?).

I’m probably in the minority of people who loved The X-Files, in that I do not care about short grey aliens even a tiny bit, and for me the conspiracy stuff was starting to get old even before somebody shoots Deep Throat late in season 1. When it was on TV, I tended to skip around a lot, checking in for a monster of the week but leaving the extraterrestrial stuff alone. Netflix streaming has reminded me that the Scully/Mulder bond is a lot of what’s worth watching here—I’m shocked to find myself literally out-loud “Awwww”ing some of the exchanges when the X-files are (temporarily) closed down but they still can’t stay away from each other.

And, of course, all the classics are still there: the vampires, the scary clones, Eugene Tooms, Flukeman.

The Verdict: Many of these are much better than I remembered. And it’s still got some of the best theme music ever.

And just for the heck of it, my favorite goofy ‘Files YouTube video:

Might go well with: I find myself wanting to watch this side by side with EurekaAs for food recommendations, some of the episodes preclude food altogether. Yuck.





Found-Again Friday: Simon & Simon Season 1

I hesitated about this one, because this show’s theme song is one of the most pernicious earworms ever crafted by humans (according to the credits, “humans” in this case would be The Thrasher Brothers; it’s been a while since I wanted to write a College Bowl question quite this badly). If you turned this into a ringtone, you would either rule the hearing world or be killed by an angry mob. Don’t say I didn’t warn you:

Why Found-Again? This, like all the other shows from Matt Houston to Riptide, was on at my house a lot when I was young. Mom had a thing for Gerald McRaney. I…did not.

The Premise: Bickering brothers Rick and A.J. Simon (McRaney and Jameson Parker, respectively) run a little detective agency in San Diego that seems to function as a remora attached to the bigger firm across the street. Rick is the shady one; A.J. is the uptight one who for some reason has a red lining in his blazer. As with its cousin Magnum, P.I., the show’s setting itself is often practically a character.

As I revisit the detective/crime shows of my youth and otherwise, it’s interesting to see how much or how little one knows about the characters’ lives: one of my favorite things about classic Law & Order was teasing out the little details about Lenny Briscoe or McCoy/Kincaid as they were dropped in the middle of the real business of the episode. Simon & Simon takes it to the other extreme and lays on a thick layer of back story: the Simons tease each other about childhood incessantly, their mother makes regular appearances, etc. To return to the Magnum comparison, it’s almost as if someone thought internal monologues would be so much  better if only you had someone to talk to.

The Verdict: Mixed. They won’t be playing it for the damned souls in hell or anything, but you’d have to be pretty bored to seek this out. (If you are, however, full episodes seem to be available on YouTube.)

Might go well with: Tacos. But then again, what doesn’t?



Found-Again Friday: Danger Mouse

This British cartoon about a super-spy rodent didn’t come to my TV until the mid-1980s, by which time I’d already seen my first two James Bond movies (both of them Roger Moores, in case you wondered why I have his autobiography; I was marked at a young age). I’ve often wondered what the show is like for people who saw those things in a more age-appropriate order, since Danger Mouse may be one of the first things I ever recognized as parody.

Why Found-Again? Because even the most puerile grownup—I grant that I may crack a top 500 list in this regard—can only stomach so much punnery at a time, and once the DVDs are in, I refuse to turn them off in the entertainment equivalent of eating the whole bag of chips.

The Premise: The world’s greatest secret agent is a little white mouse with an eyepatch who lives in a mailbox. His assistant is a nervous hamster with glasses and a suit. Together they take on foes natural and un-, including evil toad (but I repeat myself) Baron Silas Greenback and a pre-vegetarianism Count Duckula, saving the world one odd adventure at a time.

For something like this, it might work better if I just list my top 3 episodes, in no particular order:

  • “Who Stole the Bagpipes?”—Dangermouse and his not-very-musical assistant Penfold investigate bagpipe theft…and as the bagpipes in question are wheezy, plaid grazing creatures, it gets a little odd.
  • “The Duel”—Dangermouse enters a contest with supervillain Baron Greenback; if the mouse wins, Greenback promises to give up villainy. Yeah, that’ll happen.
  • “One of Our Stately Homes Is Missing”—in which we learn what DM did before he met Penfold, and about his very unusual piloting ability.

And then there’s the theme song:


The Verdict: Interestingly, the DVDs have made it a little harder for me to rewatch these by restoring them to their original British glory; when I was a kid, some of the transition between episodes was obviated, and Stiletto the hench-crow had a Cockney accent, not Italian. So it’s not quite as I remember it. It is still gloriously silly, though, which is good, because so am I.

Might go well with:  Tea, anything you ate as a giddy eight-year-old.

Next time: In all likelihood, a shorter-than-usual Highlander post.


Found-Again Friday: The Animated Rikki-Tikki-Tavi

When I was a very small child, four things terrified me:

  • Heights;
  • That Looney Tunes cartoon where Tweety gets into the Jekyll-and-Hyde potion;
  • My great-aunt Ruth’s lamp, which looked a bit like this one (or indeed, just about any result you get from Googling “Deco panther lamp”; who knew those things were so ubiquitous?);
  • Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, which was so obviously calculated to scare the bejesus out of children that it turned up on TV every October despite not actually being a Halloween story.

Why Found-Again? I have no idea why I picked up the DVD as an adult, but it may have been some combination of a low price and the desire to finally see the show while not peeking out from beneath a blanket in sheer dread.I’m a grownup now, right? (Discounting the Highlander posts, anyway.)

(In fairness, I wore less eyeliner as a toddler.)
Historical reenactment of my first seven viewings.

The Premise: Doughty mongoose Rikki is adopted by a very British family living in India and defends them from the scariest damn snakes this side of Raiders of the Lost Ark, with the assistance of a pair of birds and a timid muskrat.

Over the years, I’d never realized that Chuck Jones animated Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, and it was surprising to see how cute Rikki is, the occasional red eyes of mongoose bloodlust notwithstanding. The snakes, especially the main cobra villains Nag and Nagaina, are suitably sinister-looking, but aaaagghh those voices; when we first hear Nag speak, I may not have hidden under the blanket this time, but I did make a noise usually reserved for stepping on hairballs with my bare feet.

When the snakes aren’t talking, Orson Welles’ narration keeps things going, lending so much gravitas to the story that sometimes animation effects like Rikki’s super-swishing tail seem out of place. (The scene of Rikki destroying snake eggs by trampling them to death—shown only as shadows— also keeps things somber.) The cartoon ends in a chase scene that had me glued to the screen even after all this time, rooting for what has to be one of the bite-iest heroes in all of fiction.

The Verdict: Everything about this was better than I remembered except the musical numbers; stick to sidekicking, Mr. Bird.

Might Go Well With: Chicken tikka masala, strong tea; definitely not eggs.


Next time: We find out who my least favorite minor character in Highlander is, among other things.

Found-Again Friday: Dynasty

Come with me to another dimension; a dimension not of sight and sound, but of shoulder pads and sweeping hairdos. You are now entering…the Dynasty zone.

The Premise: Oilman Blake Carrington marries his secretary Krystle, who soon finds out that pretty much every rich person in Denver, and especially in the Carrington mansion, is batshit crazy.

Why Found-Again? I am now most of the way into the fourth season, so far down the rabbit hole of rewatching Dynasty that I can’t even remember what inspired me to re-view it. I was seven years old when the show first came on, and all I really remembered about it was that I loved Claudia and Kirby and hated Adam Carrington and Dex Dexter, and that Alexis was always making trouble.

I really have no idea what it says about me that every single one of those things is still true—or that as recently as a week ago I was screaming “Kill him!” at my TV, and for once not at any of the characters in Highlander or Robin of Sherwood, but at Jeff friggin’ Colby. Every single character on this show is his or her own worst enemy most of the time, but it’s absurdly easy to get sucked in and hard to stop caring, even when the show does all the completely inane things we remember from the era of ’80s soap excess: the catfights, the amnesia, the hysterical paralysis.

And then there’s Steven Carrington, who was among the first openly gay characters on television. He is referred to by some of the other characters in terms that will make your jaw drop in the early seasons, but the show never stops portraying him as a real and valuable human being, and it’s interesting to watch the way he develops as part of the show.

There are also things I didn’t remember at all from childhood, some of which are completely nuts—like this from James Farentino’s season 2 turn as psychiatrist Dr. Nick Toscanni, which has to be seen to be believed. It’s his first appearance on the show; Claudia has lost her daughter and attempted suicide, and this is Dr. Nick’s/Dynasty‘s idea of heroic measures (relevant part starts at 3:40 and goes till 6:55; and yes, he drives a DeLorean that looks like an extremely advanced tin can):

I was originally going to try transcribing that. I…don’t think I can.

The Verdict: Hard to tell. It’s very silly, and one gets the impression that Denver is maybe half a mile wide on each side, but I’m definitely hooked.

Next time: Arms and the woman.




Found-Again Friday: the 1980 Goldblum The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

If I’d only known this was available on YouTube, I’d have done this one for Halloween; still, better late than never…

Watch it here!

Why Found-Again? …which might as well be the motto for this particular movie. The last time I saw this, I was a nerdy 12-year-old with a massive crush on The Fly-era Jeff Goldblum. I have a tendency to “collect” movies when an actor comes to my attention, and so I spent my tween years watching (among others)  Into The Night more than any other person who didn’t have family involved in the film. At one point, I could watch Silverado and count down from 10 (Goldblum’s character gets stabbed) to 0 (Goldblum’s character finishes dying … er, spoiler alert?) with consistent accuracy.

If dorkiness ever becomes the most desired trait in a leader, I promise to rule you all with justice and mercy.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow was the only time Goldblum was freely and consistently available on network television at the time, and so it held a special place in my warped little heart. Watching it again, I can see why: he looks good.

The Premise: If we all cast our minds back far enough, we can maybe remember a time when this story was about a schoolmaster, a love triangle, and a headless guy who occasionally chased people in the autumn. This version sticks pretty close, with rival Brom Bones (Dick Butkus—you read that right) and love interest Katrina (Meg Foster) joined by a pretty widow who has her sights set on Brom, a community full of believers in ghosts, a previous schoolmaster who may or may not be (un)dead, and an owl who lives in the schoolhouse for no discernible reason*.

Did I mention it’s not even set around Halloween?

By the standards of 1980, this might have been considered a fairly crazy adaptation of the Irving story; in the intervening years, of course,  Tim Burton and Len Wiseman have taken the story out, gotten it loaded on absinthe, and tied tinsel around its naughty bits, so to 2014 eyes this seems like traditional fare.

The Verdict: It’s cheesy and silly, of course, but rather sweet—sort of Jane Austen with ghosts and Dick Butkus and just a touch of Farmer Boy from the Little House books.

Might go well with: mulled cider, Ichabod and Mr. Toad, and the SNL Jeopardy! skit with David Duchovny as Jeff Goldblum, because all the mannerisms are already there in this movie.


*The owl is supposed to be a reincarnated Native American, which is still no reason to hang around a school full of kids who can’t conjugate worth a damn.

Next time: I continue picking at Highlander, possibly with musical interludes.



Found-Again Friday: the Hart to Hart TV Series

It’s no exaggeration to say that culturally, I was raised on mystery: the first grownup TV show I remember being around was Baretta (which went off the air when I was 4), and by age 8 I had a special dispensation to stay up late for Remington Steele. I whiled away my childhood reading time with Nancy Drew and The Three Investigators and irritated my peers by quoting extensively from The Hardy Boys’ Detective Handbook, which was the pride of my book collection for an embarrassing length of time.

Why Found-Again? In light of all this, it’s surprising that I’ve only watched Hart to Hart, the husband-and-wife detective series, a few times. The first time was in real time, when I was a little kid and a couple of millionaires might as well run around punching people and solving mysteries as not, so long as they had an adorable dog to keep them company. The second time was in 2008, when it was on the newly developed Hulu site, and it turns out that watching the show at 1 in the morning is a lot like watching it as a child: stove bombs? Why not? Dognapping? Bien sûr! This is my third time.

The Premise: Robert Wagner plays millionaire-with-spare-time Jonathan Hart, who apparently made his fortune on “two transistors and a dream,” if I remember the quote correctly. With his beautiful wife Jennifer (Stefanie Powers), who is nominally an ex-reporter but hardly does anything journalistic in the course of the show, they solve mysteries that usually involve a chase, a corpse, and the realization that yet another person in their social circle is a killer. (The Harts could possibly stand to make different friends.)

Add to the main pair the rough-around-the-edges servant Max (Lionel Stander, whose opening voice-over may be the most memorable thing about the show) and pup Freeway, and what you have is a recipe for some harmless fun.

The Verdict: All this notwithstanding, Hart to Hart is far goofier than I remembered—there is a dog-food mind-control plot in the second season!— and I don’t know if there will be a fourth viewing. Know what you’re getting into if you decide to watch this series.

Might go well with: The Love Boat, pink wines, cheese.


Next time: If I’m ambitious, Pumpkinhead for Halloween; if not, well, the tag is called  “Oh Good Lord More Highlander” for a reason.