Amazing Stories

One of the reasons I tend to not watch much television is because it seems that as soon as I get attached to a show it gets cancelled. Now this could be a self fulfilling prophecy because I don't watch a show until I've heard how good it is for years and by the time I turn it on it's nearing the end of its shelf life. But be that as it may, I have tried plenty of new shows only to have them yanked out from under me just as I've finally figured out what day they're on. One of these shows was a short-lived, utterly fabulous series called Steven Spielberg Presents Amazing Stories, gone for twenty years but now, thanks to the wonders of modern technology and greed, suddenly available on DVD.

Amazing Stories was a terrific show for a lot of reasons, name brand talented actors (Christopher Lloyd), high production values (in case you've forgotten, production values are how a film looks; Titanic had high production values, Blair Witch had very low production values,) excellent writers (Mick Garris won an Edgar for The Amazing Falworth), fantastic directors (Martin Scorsese anyone?) and strong production support from Spielberg's team, with Spielberg writing and/or directing several of the stories. Each episode looked like a twenty minute feature film and, in fact, you can currently find several of the episodes on cable for free, on demand, listed as Amazing Stories The Movie. My cable provider is listing Amazing Stories The Movie, III, III and IV. Yes, they've made some kind of weird glitch and uploaded three twice and two not at all. I'm hoping they fix that next week when they put up the new stories.

Interestingly, they're running episodes from both the first season and the second so if you've already purchased season one and was disappointed because Family Dog wasn't on it, you'll want to catch it on demand on cable. Family Dog is a beloved animated story about a little dog with an enormous head that lives with an awful suburban family. Brother is a violent psychopath in the making, sister is a screaming whiner who likes to dress up the dog in her doll's clothes, mom is overworked and under appreciated and is making everyone else suffer for her troubles while dad is a loudmouthed jerk. Things are bad enough for the poor little dog but when burglars break in and steal everything and dad takes the dog to attack dog training camp, his life becomes much scarier and much more interesting.

My very favorite story from the series is called Mummy Daddy. It's the story of Harold, played by Tom Harrison, an actor who is almost finished filming a horror story based on local legend when he gets the message that his wife has gone into labor. Still dressed in the mummy costume he wears for his part in the film, unable to speak properly and wearing splints that make him hop/hobble instead of walk, he leaps into a car to race to the hospital to be with his wife. Unfortunately for him the car runs out of gas and he runs into a bunch of frightened country folk who think lynching is the best solution. This episode is wickedly funny with excellent acting, writing and directing. It's long been one of my very favorite episodes of any television show, ever. Fans of Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein will be particularly delighted by one scene that is an homage to that film.

The Mission is a riveting story starring Kevin Costner (who actually acts for a change) and Kiefer Sutherland. Costner is the pilot of a WWII bomber setting out on its 24th mission (a familiar number for Sutherland fans) and Sutherland is the best friend of the belly gunner, a young man about to become a father who is also a brilliant illustrator and the crew's good luck charm. Unfortunately for him, the belly gunner's luck doesn't extend to himself and when he shoots down a Nazi airplane a large piece of the plane lands on him, fusing him into the belly and knocking out the landing gear, one of their engines and a great deal of their fuel. With just enough fuel to limp home, the pilot and crew have only a few minutes to figure out how to save the gunner from being crushed when the plane lands. This is a beautifully crafted story with tremendous tension. It starts out slowly but the suspense builds until it has almost as much weight as the plane.

One-Sentence Review

We're blessed once again with a "one-sentence" review coming from columnist, Paul Muolo, author of What We're Hearing. He reviews 'The Illusionist' (Just released on DVD) and says, " Hell hath no fury like an illusionist (Uber magician) who wants his childhood sweetheart back. Set in the early 1900s in Vienna is a this romantic thriller starring Edward Norton as the illusionist Eisenheim, and Paul Giamatti as the police chief doing the dirty work for Crown Prince Leopold who likes his drink and is one paranoid Royal. Is it believable? Well... Is it a fun watch? Yes." Have you got a one-sentence review? Send it in to me and I'll run the most interesting ones. You can reach me at feedback@qualitytimeweekly.com.