Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Tales from the Darkside: Printer's Devil

Man, Tales from the Darkside sure had a lot of stories about people selling their souls to the Devil. Are the writers trying to tell us something?

"Printer's Devil" (which was also the title of a Twilight Zone episode) finds a struggling writer (Larry Manetti) taking on a new agent (Charles Knapp) who assures him black magic and animal sacrifice are the keys to literary success. Kellaway, the agent, provides Junior, the writer, with plenty of furry critters for these rituals (none are seen being killed), but when Junior decides he doesn't need the Satanic touch anymore (mainly because his girlfriend can't stand having all the animals around), he finds it hard to sustain the new found success. No points for surmising who he must eventually sacrifice.

Over-used narrative aside, "Printer's Devil" is a decent example of the formula. Junior actually gets to be more than a one-dimensional asshole who deserves his just desserts. He goes from desperate and broke to cocky and assured to forlorn, defeated, and doomed.

The episode also has fun mixing the arcane (black magic) with the mundane (it would be annoying to have to keep all these animals around until it was time to kill them). Even the final moment, when Junior prepares to drive a knife into his girlfriend's throat as she unknowingly leans back into his embrace, is well shot because the build up and suggestion of the impending act are effective.

Knapp is kind of too goofy looking to project menace. In an interesting touch, he's always eating and jovial, no matter the circumstances, but I kept waiting for him to drop the friendly facade and to reveal something truly dark.

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