Welcome to the Friday The 13th The Series rewatch. Each day throughout October, we’ll watch one episode of the seminal 1987 television series and tackle the highs, the lows and Micki’s hair (of course). Now step into Curious Goods and peruse our cursed antiques, won’t you?
S01E010: “Tales Of The Undead”
Wikipedia Plot Summary: Ryan (John D. LeMay) witnesses an attack by a character from his favorite comic book. To learn more, Ryan tracks down the comic’s creator, a bitter man named Jay Star (Ray Walston) with a vendetta against his former business partners.
- Director: Lyndon Chubbuck makes his Friday debut
- Writer: Bill Taub (“The Inheritance” and “Hellowe’en“) & Marc Scott Zicree (“Doctor Jack“) are credited for the teleplay
- Famous Guest Star: Prolific actor Walston (Picket Fences) and Canada star David Hewlett (Cube; Stargate: Atlantis) appear
Cursed Antique of the Week: A comic that allows its possessor to become an invincible robot, Feris
Setting: The Star Mansion
Best Death: Mrs. Forbes (Michele George) is smashed against a wall and a squib in her back explodes? Lol. The fake blood is not exactly correctly positioned so when she bangs her head it shoots up her back and it’s quite amusing
Quirkiest Add-On: This is the first Jack/Chris Wiggins-free episode of the series
Character Bits: Ryan more or less admits that he was bullied and beaten up as a child
Corny Finish Line: See the incest section below
80s Fashion Closet: Micki’s jewelry is out of control in this episode: she’s got a giant ugly circle broach that she wears on her comically-oversized shit brown trenchcoat for most of the episode. Then in the final scene she wears a band above the elbow, which looks like something Elizabeth Taylor would wear on the set of Cleopatra. Throw in Micki’s matronly seafoam green gown in the opening scene and we don’t even need to critique her ridiculous hair for laughs!
Kissing Cousins Incest Watch: The pair make it nearly all the way through the episode…and then some weird smooth saxophone comes on when they talk about etchings in the final scene. Micki even adopts a provocative pin-up pose for her dialogue: “What is that a line? Wanna come upstairs and see my etchings?” Throw in a fourth wall wink about Spiderman #1 from Ryan and this ending is all kinds of barfy innuendo.
While I have issues with both Cal (Hewlett)’s motivation and Star’s murder list prioritization, both guest stars acquit themselves well. Obviously I could have done with more of Hewlett, who barely appears before Star murders him, but like last episode this has more to do with my appreciation for the actor Hewlett will become rather than the role of Cal itself.
Walston, on the other hand, is excellent (as always). Star isn’t the most challenging role for the veteran actor as the villainous old man doesn’t have a ton of nuance, but Walston is deeply dedicated. He convincingly sells Star’s anguish and rage, with a smidge of entitlement peeking out underneath. The episode certainly would have been less watchable without an actor of his gravitas in the role.
The other element that works are the comic interstitials that mark the transition from human to robot. Modeled like the panels of a comic book, these animated stills are a great way to cover up for a limited production budget and, more importantly, tie in perfectly with the episode’s cursed object. Plus the artwork is just fun to look at.
What Doesn’t Work…
After back to back episodes that address the series’ lingering continuity issues, we’re firmly back into procedural “case of the week” territory, with nary a mention of Jack’s absence or any kind of lingering issues about Lloyd’s departure. This is more of an observation than a true criticism at this point, since it is clear that continuity between episodes is apt to be an ongoing issue throughout the rest of the series.
Focusing on the case at hand, the plotting isn’t the strongest and really could have used a pick me up. The obvious inspiration for Jay Star’s vendetta against Fearless Inc and Carmine (David Clement) is Stan Lee vs Steve Ditko’s very public battle over Marvel (the man you’ve likely never heard of is the loser, BTW). Star’s contention that Carmine and Fearless Inc stole everything from him should be the main crux of the episode, but “Tales Of The Undead” kills Carmine off surprisingly early (and off-screen to boot!) which more or less eliminates the main source of conflict with a lot of episode still to go.
As bitchy as caretaker Mrs. Forbes is, we barely know her and we don’t know Ted Hailey, the man she sold the unpublished comic to who is discovered dead on his car hood, at all. This makes their deaths completely shrug worthy. Perhaps we can blame the motley crew of writers on this episode (2 story credits & 2 teleplay credits) for the less than stellar script?
One other complaint: while I hate to belabour the effects on a Canadian television series, Feris the robot looks really cheap and cumbersome. I don’t mind the use of slow motion when it attacks it works in conjunction with the animated sequences to replicate the experience of reading comic book, but the physical design of the suit is clunky. The lack of polish really takes you out of the viewing experience.
Stream of Consciousness Musings
- When comic book clerk Charlie asks Ryan how Micki is working out by, Ryan replies: “What can you expect? She’s a…” A what, Ryan — you big misogynist
- My favourite aspect of Micki’s matronly seafoam dress is the fact that it has a turtleneck component <shudder>
- The treatment of comics — Micki calling them tripe before eventually coming around — is pretty typical of the 80s
- Does Mrs. Forbes give off an Annie Wilkes vibe to anyone else?
- You know that Star is a nutter when he laughs hysterically at Ryan’s suggestion that Feris has come alive. That’s not the reaction of a sane person
- Star is a much better investigator than the Curious Good employees: he manages to track Cal down using the contest box with little to no problem
- Proof of Walston’s command of the character: when Cal asks for proof of ID, Star snarls at him “Will a prescription do?” It is kinda amazing
- When Micki challenges the value of comics, Ryan counters with a telling story about how they offer beaten kids a fantasy wherein they are the heroes who can’t be abused
- I like that Carmine exists literally to provide the exposition on his 30 year battle with Star and then die. He’s so perfunctory!
- Carmine’s escape plan is a bit misguided: he pulls the fire alarm, which typically grounds elevators, but he then immediately climbs into one, gets trapped and dies. It’s nonsensical
- Good to see the cops involved since they almost never appear (in spite the proliferation of murders on this show). Naturally they shoot Feris and then are never seen again, even though the robot resurrects itself almost immediately afterwards
- Actual copy from my notes: “What the fuck is that broach?!” Oh Micki — never change
- I’m unclear why Mrs. Forbes sold the pages to Hailey so that he can sell them at an auction. Why include a middleman (who is never even seen alive)? Hailey’s inclusion feels like an artificial way to increase the body count, which is just so unnecessary
- The climax of the episode once again finds Micki in danger, though the addition of the comic sequences do help to shake things up. Did you notice that Micki’s hair is significantly less voluminous and Ryan is quite a bit more handsome in animated form?
- I can’t help but read Star’s final words about Ryan’s hero status a little dismissively. It’s almost as if Star is saying “oh sure, way to kill an old man, kid” Lol
See you back here tomorrow for Friday The 13th The Series episode eleven: “Scarecrow” which sees the return of director William Fruet!