The Ray Bradbury Theater 2.11 – There Was an Old Woman

Tonight, another of the Granada-made Ray Bradbury Theater installments, and unlike the last one, this was incredibly entertaining and creepy. Well, our son’s been in the phase where nothing gets under his skin anymore, but at least he agreed that it was entertaining. This was just a fine, fine half hour of television. Like the previous installment, it assembled a very good cast, led and dominated by Mary Morris, who passed away a few months after this aired, but also featuring Ronald Lacey and Roy Kinnear. Oddly enough, this was not the first time that Kinnear played a funeral director. He played one in The Avengers as well, twenty years previously!

So this one looks like it’s going to head down a pretty obvious path: an old lady who doesn’t want to die unwittingly allowing Death into her house. I wondered how in the world they were going to sustain that for half an hour – The Twilight Zone got away with it, but that was a long, long time before this – and the answer is simple: they don’t. Death and his minions leave, and take her body with her. Now she has to get it back.

Incidentally, I can’t think of a finer illustration of how small Mary Morris was in her final year than to show you how Ronald Lacey loomed over her.

I let my love of horror lie for such a long time but have been rediscovering some of the classics and some long-forgotten gems recently. The problem, for me, is that something went badly, badly wrong with horror somewhere between Halloween and Friday the 13th, and the genre became dominated by slasher movies where the audience roots for the protagonists to die. I certainly enjoy a macabre murder or ten, but at the end of the movie, I want as many people to survive Count Dracula as possible. I really like the thrill of something incredibly creepy and unpredictable happening. I don’t need gore or dismemberments, so the vast majority of horror made in the last forty years doesn’t really appeal. Morris’s not-dead phantom threatening all the staff of the funeral home with some chilling revenge if she isn’t reunited with her body? That is right in my wheelhouse. Shame the kid didn’t find it as creepy as I did, but I’m glad that he enjoyed it all the same.