Sunday, July 27, 2014

Tales from the Darkside: The Tear Collector

Anthologies are fond of O. Henry endings, i.e. a big twist, and Tales from the Darkside is no exception. There are plenty of episodes that conclude with a big surprise, usually in the form of some sort of cosmic justice. Unfortunately, "The Tear Collector" proves to be a shaggy dog story. It introduces to an interesting character with a peculiar hobby, but ultimately, the episode never really answers any questions or resolves anything. It just ends.

Prudence (Jessica Harper, looking a lot like Karen Allen) can't stop crying about ... honestly, I don't know. From what I could tell, she has an extreme case of clinical depression that no one around her seems to appreciate, but for some reason, she refuses to seek any help for this, even though she looks like she can't function in a day-to-day society. It just seems like anything will make her sad and cry. One day, after an encounter with a homeless man (played by Eric Bogosian but don't look for him after this scene), Prudence has an encounter with the mysterious Ambrose Cavender (Victor Garbo). He's a collector, and he says he can help her sorrow by collecting her tears.

I fully expected Cavender to be some sort of evil sorcerer or something like that who steals people's souls through their tears, but "The Tear Collector" offers very little in the way of horror or the macabre. Apparently, he just really wants to help people by taking their tears, letting them expel their sorrows in the process. Initially, I was intrigued about why Cavender collects to tears and what his agenda was, but no explanation is forthcoming. The story merely concludes with Prudence dropping the vial of her tears (by accident) and then immediately hitting it off with a taxi driver she meets.

What's going to happen to Cavender?  Is there real power to the tears? How long has he been collecting tears? Who knows? It's implied Cavender might be immortal. He shows Prudence other tear vials, one containing tears from an Aztec emperor looking over the ruins of his empire and another from a Confederate mother who will never see her son again (meanwhile, Prudence just can't stop feeling sad because? I'm reminded of the old joke, "Laugh and the world laughs with you. Cry and I'll give you something to cry about.").

There's an attempt at romantic tragedy. Prudence begins to fall in love with Cavender, the man who is taking away her hurt. In their final session, the only way she is able to cry is when he kisses her. But then when he rejects her afterward because he only wants the tears, she storms off with her tear vial before running into the aforementioned taxi driver. This ending just feels tacked on. If the focus had been more on Cavendner, a man who helps people by accumulating their sorrows and helping them find love that he himself cannot have, the episode might have been a winner. Instead, it feels like the makers didn't know what to do with the premise.

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