Friday, November 30, 2012

F13:TS 25: Tales of the Undead



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Episode Recap #10: Tales of the Undead

Original Airdate: January 30 , 1988

Starring:
John D. LeMay as Ryan Dallion
Louise Robey as Micki Foster
Chris Wiggins as Jack Marshak

Guest cast:
Ray Walston as Jay Star
David Hewlett as Cal
Bob Aarrons as Charlie
Michael George as Mrs. Forbes
Jenn Griffin as Linda
David Clement as Carmine
Anthony Bekenn as Mr. Briggs

Written by Paul Monette, Alfred Sole, Bill Taub, Marc Scott Zicree
Directed by Lyndon Chubbuck

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This week, we are in the local comic shop. A young man, Cal, is browsing the racks, then stuffing comics into his jacket. He eyes a mint condition copy of Tales of the Undead #1 in a glass case. At the counter, he brings a few comics to the owner, Charlie Evans, who tells him the comic in the glass is a one-of-a-kind, signed by the creator, Jay Star. They talk about the comic and its hero, Ferrus. The kid, feeling drawn to the comic, says he'd kill for it. Charlie says lots of kids want it, but it is going to sell for $25,000 at auction. He tells Cal to enter the contest to win a different comic.

I think they used a real comic shop, the details were so precise.

Ryan comes in for his weekly visit and wants his comics from Charlie. He tells the man how busy he is at the store and that he reads the comics and then sells them at Curious Goods. The man takes Ryan over to show him the Tales of the Undead comic. Ryan is amazed to see it. Seems Ferrus is his favorite, too. Ryan wants to buy it. Cal tries breaking open the case but Charlie sees him and tries to stop him. The kid breaks the glass and grabs the comic and in his rage, the curse is activated. The comic transforms Cal into the robot Ferrus, who proceeds to toss Charlie down, break a table, push Ryan and escape.

Ryan gets knocked down, again. This time by a comic book hero!

At the store, Ryan, still sore, examines a piece of the robot he took from the comic store. He wishes Jack wasn't away on business. Micki has a hard time believing a comic book character came to life, even though Ryan swears it is true. Ryan tells her it is the plot of the comic, where a kid gets a magic book that changes him into a robot. Micki decides to look in the manifest, but Ryan says he would have noticed if a comic was mentioned inside. Micki finds a listing for a magazine that could be the comic book. She says it was bought by Lewis from a Jacob Staretski, who Ryan doesn't think could be Jay Star, the creator of Ferrus and Tales of the Undead. Micki sees an address listed, so Ryan decides to go see if it is his comic book idol.

Poor Ryan. Let Micki rub that sore shoulder for you.

At the address listed for Staretski, Ryan is told to go away by the maid who works for Mr. Star. Ryan yells to Star, telling him he is a big fan. Star tells Mrs. Forbes to let him in. He sits with Ryan and tells him the lady has taken care of him for years. Ryan is amazed to be sitting with the man, tells him he is the reason Ryan started drawing. He asks for an autograph, of which the man obliges, signing a comic Ryan brought. He asks why Ryan is really there. Ryan comments on the man's award, from 1947. Ryan asks if the man knows anyone who would kill over Ferrus, but the man doesn't know. Mrs. Forbes mentions the comic company that took all the rights to Ferrus and the comic book from Star, who is still bitter over it all. He says he has some original art he saved, for a rainy day, in his basement.

The great Ray Walston.

Star tells Ryan he has seen some strange, supernatural stuff in his lifetime. Ryan asks if he could stand another surprise and tells him that Ferrus has come to life. He explains about the comic book Star sold being cursed and Ferrus appearing and killing Charlie. Jay knew Evans and is surprised to hear of his death. He starts laughing manically when Ryan says he knows the whole thing sounds crazy. So, Ryan leaves. Later, Star gets up, calls for Mrs. Forbes and tells her to get his coat.

Loved the house they used for Star's home.
A great Fall shot, I still think of this when leaves are on the ground.

At the comic store, a young woman is packing things in a box when Star arrives. She tells him they aren't open for business. Jay tells her he knows the terrible news and, holding his pain medication, asks if he could just sit for a moment. Jay, unseen, looks through the contest entry box and find the slip with the name of the kid, Cal Rawitz. He pockets the paper and leaves.

Jay Star has some kind of ESP or something.
Only explanation for this scene.

At Cal's house, Star slips into the kids room and hears the young man on the phone with Carmine DeMatteo, the publisher who rooked Star out of his ownership of the comic. Seems the kid wants money to produce the real Ferrus, but the man hangs up. Star reveals himself to Cal, who wants proof it is him. Star shows him his prescription bottle to prove his claim. The kid is impressed, says he is his greatest fan. Star tells Cal he has something he wants, the cursed comic book. Cal says he can't have it and tells him not to make him do something he doesn't want to do. Star tells him he knows what he did to Charlie and threatens to tell the cops. Cal uses the comic and transforms into Ferrus. But Star is prepared and pulls out his award, which - in the comic book - is the only item that can stop Ferrus. He stabs the robot, who then transforms back into Cal, now dead on the floor. Star leaves with the comic.

Micki is getting addicted to Ryan's comics!
And Ryan is reading the newspaper!

At Curious Goods, Ryan laments being laughed at by his idol. Ryan hoped Jay would have believed in the curse. Micki, having read some of Ryan's comics, still doesn't get the appeal of the book or Ferrus. Ryan explains that things are different as a kid, you can enter a different world where heroes can do anything. And the kid can be the hero. Micki picks it up to give it a second try. As she reads about Ferrus' abilities and powers, Ryan notices the article on Cal's murder.

At Cal's home, the two of them search for clues to who killed Cal and now has the comic. The appear to be at a dead end until Micki finds the note with Carmine DeMatteo's name and address. Ryan says he is the publisher of the comic book.

Meeting with DeMatteo, the two hear about how the kid was a nutty fan and how Star's version of the tale of Ferrus and the company is only one side. DeMatteo's father gave him a fair deal for the rights, the money of which Star lost in a land deal. He tells them 30 years ago, Star tried to write a story where Ferrus was killed off, but he was stopped and the issue was never published. DeMatteo says the unpublished art could turn up at the auction.

Jay Star in Ferrus-comic transition mode.

After Ryan and Micki have left, Jay Star arrives and surprises DeMatteo, who is working on comic art. They exchange bitter pleasantries. Star notices a piece of art that should be in his basement. DeMatteo says he bought it and Star calls him a liar, since he never sold it. DeMatteo offers it to him, but Jay smashes the frame, saying he stole it. Star pulls out the comic and transforms into Ferrus and then proceeds to try and attack DeMatteo, who runs, pulls the alarm and gets into the freight elevator. But before he can move, Ferrus breaks in and attacks and kills him. Ryan and Micki rush back and wait for the elevator to descend. When it does, they are shocked to see Ferrus emerge. He leaves and they chase him.

Outside, cops arrive and order the robot to freeze, but he keeps walking. They open fire on the robot and eventually, he falls. Ryan is shocked that Ferrus the Invincible was killed, Micki tells him this isn't a comic book, this is real life. But Ferrus gets up and takes off, which Micki and Ryan witness.

Do not mess with the police in this town.

At the store, they try and figure out how Ferrus can be stopped. They list all his powers and he appears to be invincible. They need to get the comic book and try to work out some plan. Ryan mentions what DeMatteo said about the comic Jay wrote, where Ferrus was killed. Micki doesn't know where they would find it, but Ryan suggests they go to the source, Jay Star's home.

Mrs. Forbes doesn't want to let Ryan into the house and Star tells her to keep him away. But Ryan yells that he saw Ferrus again, so Star tells her to let him in for a moment. Ryan wants to talk in private and Mrs. Forbes leaves. Star tells Ryan Ferrus is just someone in a costume, but Ryan swears it is Ferrus. Star lies, saying there must be a logical answer. Ryan says he say Ferrus kill DeMatteo. Star is shocked Ryan knows all this. Ryan asks about the issue where he killed off Ferrus and wants to know how they can stop the robot. Star lies, says he threw the issue and art away years ago and knows no way they stop him. He orders Ryan to leave.

In the car, Ryan tells Micki when Star said. She says they should check the auction, maybe the art will appear there. In the house, Star is searching his basement for the art he saved. Mrs. Forbes appears and tells him she sold the secret issue and art of Tales of the Undead. She got a lot of money for it, since he just left it sitting collecting dust. She is amazed he thought she stayed out of the goodness of her heart. She goes to leave, but Star tells her she can stay, he isn't mad. He just asks who she sold the comic to. She tells him the name and that the man was going to sell it at the auction. She apologizes for selling the comic and bends over to clean up the mess Jay made. He pulls out the comic, transforms into Ferrus and kills her.

At the auction the next day, Micki and Ryan meet Briggs, the man running things. They ask about the unpublished Tales of the Undead comic. He says it hasn't arrived yet and when they ask the name of the owner, he says that is confidential. But Micki spots the name on his clipboard when he puts it down. Ryan then finds the address in the Rolodex when the secretary leaves her desk. They leave to find the man, Ted Hailey.

Such an innocent - and expensive - item.
Yet it has to sit in the vault.

Outside Hailey's home, they see a car with its hazard lights flashing. Micki is concerned, so they go over and find a man laying through the smashed windshield, dead. He is laying atop comic art in a folder with his name. Micki looks to see if the comic they want is there, but it doesn't appear to be. Ryan finds some pills that resemble the one's Jay Star takes. They rush off to find the old man.

At Star's home, Ryan and Micki sneak up to the window and see Star tossing the comic art pages into the roaring fireplace. Micki goes and knocks on the door. Star  goes to answer, while Ryan tries to get inside to get the pages. Micki lies that she has something to show Star, so he opens the door. But Ryan breaks the glass and Star hears. He goes back into the living room and tosses more art into the fire, then threatens Ryan with a fireplace poker. Micki comes in and sees the cursed comic and picks it up. While Jay is distracted, Ryan reaches into the fire to grab the art before it burns completely.

Sad Ryan, in comic book form, after having to kill his idol.

Jay threatens Micki and she falls and drops the comic. Jay quickly snatches it up and transforms into Ferrus and approaches Micki. Ryan sees in the artwork that Ferrus was killed with what looks like Jay's comic award, so he grabs it and stabs the robot with it. Ferrus collapses and transforms back into Jay. The old man asks Ryan how it feels to be a hero before dying. Ryan takes the comic out of his hand.

Later, at home, Micki asks Ryan for the next issue of the comic she is reading. She mentions a comic art festival next month, but Ryan says he's had enough of comic books. She stands Jay's award back up and Ryan lays it back down on the table. She apologizes for what happened and then places a framed picture of Jay Star on his nightstand. Ryan talks about how he wanted to be like Jay, an artist. He copied his drawings and asked Micki if he'd like to see them. She jokes that he wants to "show her his etchings." Ryan says he'd rather show Spider-Man art.

Micki wants more comic books, and she wants to cheer up Ryan.

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My thoughts:

Okay, this is a fun episode if you take it as a comic book style story. But some of the plot holes here are glaring.

Take for instance when Jay learns about the cursed comic from Ryan. He goes to the comic shop and automatically knows to look in the contest box for the name of the kid who stole the comic and killed the owner? How does Jay know this and, even stranger, how does he know which slip is the right one? He picks the kid out of all of them and only takes that one. What?

And the kid calls the comic publisher to blackmail him into paying for Ferrus appearances because he can produce the "real" Ferrus. Why did he think the publisher would believe him? The robot character from a comic book is alive? Really, kid?

What justification did the cops have to shoot at the robot, opening a hail of fire and, for all they know, killing the person in "the costume"? They responded to an alarm so mortal, deadly force was needed? And after they fell the robot, they ALL leave to call it in, leaving the apparently wounded or dead person on the ground alone. The robot proceeds to get up and leave with no one watching or following. What? Even Micki and Ryan, who watch the robot leave, choose not to follow? They could have easily followed the slow moving robot and found out who had the comic.

When Micki and Ryan are at the auction and they want the name of the man who has the unpublished art, the guy says that is private information. He then proceeds to place the clipboard with the info down right near them and walk away. Ugh.

Just some really, really glaring plot holes. Not the simple kind one can overlook, these just confound you. To top it off, there are FOUR writers listed for this episode!

But, as I said, if you take it as a comic book story - which is helped by the comic panel drawing transitions when the person wielding the comic transforms into Ferrus - it is easier to swallow. Comics are notorious, at least in the past, for great suspension of belief.

It is awesome having an episode revolve around Ryan's love for comic books. He is so happy and then so sad by way his idol falls. Also nice to see Micki so concerned for Ryan's feelings and even getting into his comic books a bit.

Also great having a guest star at the level of Ray Walston. He was great even if the writing wasn't here.

One thing I did notice was that Ryan had no bedroom. Micki has the room upstairs as her bedroom. When she goes up the stairs at the end here, right at the top of the stairs is the space Ryan uses as a bedroom, but there is no door or anything. Jack has a space in the basement as a bedroom, so him and Ryan gave her the only bedroom and just made do for themselves. Such gentlemen.

Fun episode, if you just check your brain at the door and go along for the ride or want to see some good Ryan and Ryan/Micki moments.

Next week: "Scarecrow"

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