Saturday, April 4, 2015

Tales from the Darkside: The Impressionist

Here's another episode that would have fit better on Amazing Stories. Chuck McCann plays Spiffy Remo, a nightclub impressionist recruited by the government to communicate with an alien. Apparently, the alien, which scientists have dubbed Hoffgosh, responds better to those who mimic its gestures and movements and lashes out at those who aren't so good at it. OK, well, no one ever said these Tales from the Darkside episodes had to be plausible.

To be fair, "The Impressionist" is more of a comedy, and the idea that when an alien does show up we won't know how to communicate with it is certainly one that lends itself to all sorts of story possibilities, comedic or otherwise. I suppose bringing in a guy who mimics Laurel and Hardy to talk to an alien is not the worst idea the government ever had.

The problem with "The Impressionist" is how little screen time is devoted to Remo and the alien interacting. Those encounters should have been the heart of the episode, but more time is devoted to the scientists explaining to Remo why they need him because the alien holds the secret to nuclear fusion and needs to leave the planet soon because it isn't adapting well, and I just didn't care for all that stuff.

Even the encounters between Remo and the alien don't add up to much. Basically, we're watching Chuck McCann match movement with an actor in a cheap alien mask and silver jumpsuit. A more inventive episode would have been able to convey the mutual feelings of distrust that grows into a connection that becomes a friendship.

To be fair, the episode has one great shot: when Remo first enters the interrogation room to confront Hoffgosh, the camera is perched up from a high corner, almost like a surveillance camera, looking down on both figures as the human nervously approaches the alien, which has its back to us so we can't see its face. Even when the pair do move around, the frame highlights how vulnerable Remo is and how weird the alien is.

The ending is kind of touching, with Remo reuniting with Hoffgosh and joining him on his spaceship, the nightclub crowd no longer holding the same sway it once did for him. If their relationship had been better supported, it could have been really touching.

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