The eight-episode three-disc set of Nightmares & Dreamscapes, based on short stories by Stephen King, had had a stated goal of upraising the quality of television horror.
Occasionally through these one-hour films one catches moments when the effort to do something better than the norm (the norm being kitsch comedy horror or sleezy horror or both), but there was frankly nobody on board the project with an honest to gosh vision.
Perhaps one episode was honestly done competently (Battleground) & perhaps three more were nicely cast though not otherwise successful (Umney's Last Case, The Road Virus Heads North & The Fifth Quarter), the rest abominably cast as well as poorly written & executed with at best a slick mediocrity.
The same source material, Stephen King short stories, could've been phenomenal if there had been some modern equivlent of Rod Serling overseeing the project to insure the visual & actorly & narrative content & structure were everything they could be. But whatever faults King's stories possess are heightened by poor adaptation, so that even the few well cast episodes, like Umney's Last Case, don't really make a lot of sense.
There are two episodes on Disc 3 of the dvd set. And it's almost possible to predict the entire episode Autopsy Room Four just from the title, given that it's a horror story set in an autopsy room, so what are the chances that it's about an autopsy done on someone conscious & aware of what's happening to him
Plus it stars Richard "John Boy Walton" Thomas. The combination of predictability & the presence John Boy makes it seem burdensome even to be watching this one, though nice at least that John Boy was the victim.
So yeah, the bodies sent to be autopsied are alive. They can't move or speak but from within their paralyzed state they are conscious & aware of everything happening to them. I really wanted to be wowed out of my low expectations, but with non-stop narration & the flashbacks to playing, ick, golf, it was actually worse than I'd feared.
I stuck it out, boring though it was, hoping for an ending that was neither of the two possibilities. But no. It would take a circus freak with a yard-long thumb to give this one a big enough thumbs-down.
Second on the disc & last for the whole series is You Know They Got a Hell of a Band. Right off the title implies a rock band in heaven featuring Brian Jones, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, & Janis Joplin. They don't select all I had predicted but they definitely adhere to the obvious.
I crossed my fingers that this last story would turn out to be more than the bad pun that seemed all too likely. And after Autopsy Room Four I was absolutely convinced nothing could be worse than that & it'd have to be uphill from there. Alas for feeble hope.
The occasionally interesting Steven Weber & the actively repellant Kim Delaney are the stars, driving down a highway to nowhere, in You Know They Got a Hell of a Band. Clark (Weber) refuses to admit they're lost as he continues driving the back road until the yellow lines stop, there's only gravel, then the road ends far beyond cell phone service.
So naturally they keep going without even a road. His wife (Delaney) is this whole while being haunted by two elderly ghosts & sees weird movement in the woods. She's otherwise just a boring kvetch, not that anyone can fully blame her for kvetching at this turd of a husband.
Finally the road opens & it seems they'll be okay. A sign welcomes the travellers to Rock 'n' Roll Heaven, two miles ahead. They soon enter a Norman Rockwellian town indeed called Rock 'n' Roll Heaven. The crabbing wife knows it's somehow sinister, but her husband is dumb as a tick.
It's the little town that time forgot, except totally unfriendly to the young couple. The town combines 1950s malt shop culture with late 1960s/early '70s peace-love hippies whose peace & love is a little askew.
The waitress in the diner is is supposed to be Janis Joplin herself, but the casting couldn't be worse if this were a junior highschool play.
The cook if Rick Nelson. Jimi's there. And Buddy Holly. And Roy Orbison. All badly cast, & if this ridiculous story had had a chance at being cool, the casting would've had to have been much, much, much more carefully selected.
And apparently the producers knew this episodes success hinged on that casting. Hard as it is to believe, the producers at the time of filming bragged they looked worldwide for the best cast to play dead rockers, as there's not a single impersonator who captures anything whatsoever even close to who they're supposed to be.
Worst of the lot are the Jimi & Elvis impersonators, but they all suck. That Rock n Roll Heaven is actually Rock n Roll Hell should delight the right wingers who knew all along it was the devil's music. Janis vomits maggots. Buddy's face bleeds, or oozes something, none of it ever makes a lick of sense. So, an especially sucky end to a series that more often falls on its face that succeeds. Too darned bad.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl