Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Man-Eating House

Further proving that I do strange things when left to my own devices, I have been tinkering with a website this past week, at points when I haven’t had any other immediate things to get written. I was inspired by a friend creating a website to talk about the workings of an intricate role-play game she’s involved in, and I started a website to sort out the workings of the timelines I have going in my Perry stories.

It’s mostly for my own entertainment and usage, since I have different stories on and on, but if anyone else gets a kick out of it, I’d be pleased. I also talk about the various oneshot episode characters who play important roles in the stories and discuss some of the background information behind the stories. I try for the most part to give information that I haven’t recorded here. When I get further along with it, I plan to talk about the main characters as well, and the things that happen to them throughout the stories.

I’m not ready to officially announce the link yet, but I probably shall soon. Meanwhile, since I forgot to set the website to Private while I tinker with it, it is floating around cyberspace if anyone randomly wants to search for it.

I have topics figured out for every blog post this month, except today’s. And I was kind of hoping to tie it into a Halloween theme (although I don’t yet know how I’ll do the same thing with the tribute next week). So I decided to fall back on something I said I might occasionally do—spotlight characters or guest-spots that some of the cast has been involved with.

I came up with the idea of talking a bit about William Talman’s character in the episode of The Wild Wild West called The Night of the Man-Eating House. Now that is truly an eerie and unique haunted house excursion. The spirit haunting the house seems to be directly connected to the house, so much so that the house itself feels alive. When it traps the characters inside, and they try to damage it to get out, mournful and pained cries fill the air. Arte sums it up as, every time they hurt the house, she cries.

William plays a small-town sheriff traveling with Jim West and Artemus Gordon as they try to return an escaped Federal prisoner to prison. Most of the episode is a nightmare Arte is having, but there really is a freaky house, seemingly just like he dreamed about. They run into it in the waking world at the end of the episode, leaving things wide-open for a continuation. Hopefully, things wouldn’t go exactly the same as in the dream, since Arte would surely remember the details and try to prevent it from playing out the same way.

Assuming the sheriff’s personality is the same in Arte’s dream as in real-life (and that’s backed up by them having exactly the same conversation in both the dream and reality when they find the house), he is very skeptical. I could not help but be reminded of Hamilton just a little as he expresses disbelief over the house being haunted and even able to be hurt. My favorite line in the episode is his, as he incredulously exclaims to Arte, “Hurt the house?! What kind of nonsense talk is that?!”

Unlike Hamilton, however, the sheriff isn’t as cultured and doesn’t always use proper grammar. When the house first seals them all in, he says, “Them shutters! They’re slammin’ themselves shut!”

It’s always a bit surreal to hear an actor use a speech pattern he rarely uses, and I’m not sure it’s entirely believable from William, since his characters usually have a better command of the English language, but it’s very interesting. And William does make the character very believable in other ways. His expressions as the house continues to act up are classic. An example:

Also unlike Hamilton, the sheriff comes across as a bit absent-minded and possibly trigger-happy. He has to be reminded more than once to bring the lantern and shine it around, and when weird things happen in the house, his first instinct seems to be to shoot. He tries to shoot a mysterious orb that comes in the front door and floats in the entryway, which results in the doors to the living room slamming shut. When Jim and Arte manage to get them open, the chandelier falls and nearly kills Arte, and the prisoner escapes.

The sheriff gives chase, firing warning shots towards the ceiling, but the ghost of the house, the prisoner’s mother, has no intention of allowing him to catch up. He meets a very mysterious and disturbing end off-screen. When Jim and Arte find him moments later, Jim exclaims that every ounce of blood has been drained from his body. And unseen by them at this point, their elderly prisoner is now a young man.

The transformation is explained later as some sort of power over time that the ghost has in the house. Whether the sheriff’s life force was also part of the process is not revealed.

His death greatly disturbs both Jim and Arte. In the morning they talk about the sheriff lying dead upstairs, sounding very sobered and affected, and then go up to look around now that it’s light. They find that his body is suddenly gone. The antagonist gives no explanation and no further mention is made of it.

I suspected the escapade was a dream due to the distortion of the screen when Arte fell asleep near the beginning, and it’s probably about the only time I’ve been happy for that twist. Usually a dream ending is a cop-out, a deus ex machina, an easy way out of a problem. But I was thrilled to see the sheriff alive and well the next day, when Arte woke up. And I stubbornly insist that when they find the house in real-life, Arte will remember more of his dream and he and Jim will manage to keep the sheriff alive.

(Curiously enough, I learned that the episode was supposed to not be a dream, but CBS was running scared and did not want a supernatural thing airing so early in the evening, so they had to change it to a dream. Good grief, how times have changed. Not always for the better, considering some of the stuff that airs early in the evening these days, but CBS being so worried about this episode still seems amusing and laughable.)

I started a story continuing the episode’s events, but I haven’t got very far in it. I did give the sheriff a name; I decided to call him Sheriff Whitney, after William’s middle name.

It’s sad to realize that the Wild Wild West guest-spot was one of William’s last. And unlike most of his characters, the sheriff has a mustache, making me wonder if it’s the same one he had in The Ballad of Josie, his final film.

My Halloween story this year involves a very dangerous and disturbing house. While it doesn’t cry, it does seal the Perry characters inside, and I christened the tale The Case of the Man-Eating HouseI also have a few scattered references to the Wild Wild West episode, including, of course, Hamilton being skeptical (or rather, wanting to be) and scoffing at the nonsense of the house itself locking them inside.

No comments:

Post a Comment