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?
S01E06: “The Great Montarro”
Wikipedia Plot Summary: In order to find out who is using a set of deadly magician boxes, Jack (Chris Wiggins) enters a magic competition under his old alias, “Mad Marshak”.
- Director: Richard Friedman, who previously worked on Tales From The Darkside and later filmed several episodes of Baywatch Nights (blech)
- Writer: Durnford King, who penned the second episode “The Poison Pen“
- Famous Guest Star: Graeme Campbell, who worked extensively in Canadian television and in animated TV such as Rupert and The Adventures of Tintin
Cursed Antique of the Week: The Houdin Box, which look like a coffin and works a bit like the Vanishing Cabinet in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by transferring injury to a person somewhere else
Setting: The “closed set” of a magician contest
Best Death: Wannabe magician Tommy (Jefferson Mappin) is killed during the Bed of Nails practice run
Quirkiest Add-On: “Miranda”is revealed to be Robert (Martin Neufeld)’s cross-dressing alter-ego attempt to sneak into the contest, which hardly seemed necessary since he apparently had the talent to get into the Top 5…
Character Bits: Nothing really. We already knew from “Hellowe’en” that Jack practiced magic so the only new character development is the surprise is when Micki (Louise Robey) is so comfortable in the lime light as a magician’s assistant
80s Fashion Closet: Micki’s hair seems bigger and fluffier than usual, but I will focus my attention on her magician’s assistant outfit. It comes complete with a cane for pointing, a gaudy giant crystal broach, planet-sized globe earrings and a feathery hairpiece. Hilariously she winds up wearing the costume for the latter half of the episode while everyone else remains in their street clothes.
Kissing Cousins Incest Watch: The bitching and sniping is kept mostly to a minimum right up until the end of the episode when Ryan (John D. LeMay) is wrapped up in the straight jacket and chains. Aside from that they mostly act like normal people!
“The Great Montarro” is not my favourite episode of the series (in fact it currently ranks at the bottom), so I don’t have a lot to work with here.
If there is one bright spot, it is undoubtedly when Tommy covertly takes Jack’s place during the Bed of Nails act and fails to escape the chains in time, resulting in an suitably bloody death. Is the death a bait and switch since we thought this was Jack? Sure, but Tommy’s reveal works as a nice inversion of the “protagonist in danger” trope that the series has been leaning on.
As for other positives: this is a stretch, but maybe the location? More than other episodes in the series, there’s consistently something interesting happening in the background as the other performers work on their acts in outrageous costumes.
What Doesn’t Work…
Sadly the second episode from writer Durnford King suffers from many of the same flaws of his first, namely poor pacing and a lack of engaging characters. “The Great Montarro” first slight and more than a bit bland; there’s a discernible lack of joie de vivre in the proceedings, which is impressive because how do you make a magic contest boring?!
First off, the Houdin Box is a dull as dish water cursed object. Not only does it lack the bizarre personality of something like the Cupid Quiver or the Swapper’s Ivy Teacup, it doesn’t even kill in an interesting fashion. Without a face or a more intriguing hook, it’s basically just a stone monolith with a coloured crystal on top.
Second, Lyla (Lesleh Donaldson)’s killer reveal only works if you don’t pay attention during her initial conversation with Micki. Lyla admits that she’s been on the road with her father (Campbell) since she was sixteen, but she apparently has no idea how the “Coffin of Blood” works? That’s obviously a clue that she’s lying about the trick, if not outright responsible for the whole thing.
Third (and most importantly), the Friday the 13th writers can’t continue to threaten our main trio with death every episode. It’s simply not believable that any of the three of them are in any danger, so putting Micki into a literal death trap at the climax guarantees a lack of tension. At least in “Hellowe’en” the death was a fun conveyor belt of death (still not believable that they would die, but fun!) This climax has zero tension and suffers for it.
Also: why the hell do all of these characters have such generic names?! This episode features characters named Tommy, Robert, Tony and Monte. Can someone please provide Durnford King a phonebook so that he can diversify his character names?
Stream of Consciousness Musings
- It’s unclear, but does Fahteem The Magnificent (aka Harvey The Sleazeball) sexually assault his first victim before killing her in the box? If so, double ick
- Reusing the impaling death with Fahteem so soon after the girl’s in the opening scene really mutes the impact the second time around
- Ryan is consistently proven to be a dunce by this series. Case in point: his sarcastic, albeit innocuous, joke that “Being a magician is a dangerous job” is immediately proven true when a bunch of magicians are murdered
- Micki and Ryan essentially wear the same jacket when they interrogate Robert and I was LIVING for it
- Robert’s blackmail scheme against Lyla and Montarro is one plot twist too many and — more problematically — it doesn’t add much to the proceedings. It’s similar to the press scenes in “The Poison Pen” which seem to be there primarily to fill out an underwhelming A-plot
- My favourite moment of the episode is when Jack pricks his finger on the blades for the Coffin of Blood act…except that they are SO OBVIOUSLY styrofoam. I appreciate that it’s not easy to make convincing props on a dime store budget, but oof those look faaaaake!
- It almost appears as if Jack and Ryan use a weird colour coding strategy to free Micki from the Houdin Box in the climax. The lighting goes from red to green (no obvious symbolism there) before the door opens, although I’m unsure if Jack’s broken bottle twisted the crystal or simply refracted light
- The high camp moment of the episode: that shot of Lyla screaming after her father’s death
See you back here tomorrow for Friday The 13th The Series episode seven: “Doctor Jack”