S.4 Ep.10 Maniac at Large Part 1
Tags: Maniac at Large
Added: 3 years ago
[scene opens with the Cryptkeeper sitting in a chair, with his back to the camera]
CRYPTKEEPER: City life got you down, kiddies? Looking for a home on the "derange?"
[he turns out (revealing that he's dressed like a real estate agent) and speaks directly to the camera]
CRYPTKEEPER: Well, look no further, because I've got exactly what you want! It's a charming "tomb with a view" ... Think of it as your own "little house on the scary!"
[he laughs, then acts as if the audience is responding to him]
CRYPTKEEPER: You're not interested? What's the matter? Afraid you can't get a "morgue-gage?" Oh well, that's exactly how the woman in tonight's tortured tale feels ... She's upset because there's a killer loose in her neighborhood, in a putrid property I call "Maniac At Large."
[cut to the inside of a public library, with the camera focused on a mural entitled "Knowledge Is Power", before it pans around the various patrons and stops on an old man reading a newspaper (with headlines like "Maniac At Large" and "Serial Killer Strikes Again, 7th Victim Found in Park") ... until a young tough stabs through it with his switchblade, then takes the paper while smiling]
PUNK 1: You through with the paper, old man?
[the frightened man stammer and nods]
PUNK 1: Thought so ...
[he walks over to a table with his fellow hoodlums, as an elderly female librarian (who had been pushing a bookcart) stares at them]
PUNK 1: Hey, check this out! Another stiff in the park!
PUNK 2: Hey, cool!
[she looks over at the male security guard]
MRS. PRITCHARD: Grady!
[she marches over to the gang, as a young female librarian standing behind the front desk looks on]
MRS. PRITCHARD: What's going on here?
[she pulls away the paper, to reveal that one of them has carved "EC Homies" into the surface of the wooden table]
MRS. PRITCHARD: You're defacing public property ... Rub that out, right now!
[one of them whispers into another one's ear]
MRS. PRITCHARD: What was that?
PUNK 2: [smiling] No eraser ...
[the security guard hands her an eraser, as she whispers at them through clenched teeth]
MRS. PRITCHARD: How dare you behave in here like you do in school? Grady, escort these boys out of the library ... They may return when they're ready to act like civilized youngsters!
[the hoodlums merely snicker at her]
PUNK 1: Yeah Grady, take us out!
[he grabs one of them by the arm, so they all run for the exit (nearly knocking over the young librarian as they hoot and holler)]
MRS. PRITCHARD: Margaret, would you please attend to that?
[the head librarian hands her an eraser and begins rubbing out the graffitti, when she looks over and notices the headline on the paper ... as she moves the paper, she finds the switchblade underneath, and carefully folds it closed before quickly pocketing it (at this point she notices a male patron nearby watching her and smiling)]
[cut to Margaret standing at the front desk, when an old homeless woman wanders in singing "Old MacDonald Had a Farm", causing Grady to get up from his desk]
GRADY: Bessy ... Bessy!
[as the bag lady walks behind the desk and stares at Margeret, Grady takes her and gently leads her back outside]
GRADY: Come on, Bessy ... Here we go. Outside now.
MARGARET: What a sad life ...
GRADY: Yeah, and dangerous, with that killer walking around the streets. I tried to get Misses Pritchard to let the street people stay in here until they get that guy ... You know how far that got!
MARGARET: [whispers] You don't like Misses Pritchard much, do you?
GRADY: I don't care for the way she treats people ... She's always bossin' everybody around, like she's so damn high and mighty!
MARGARET: Well, she is a little ... abrupt.
GRADY: Yeah well, you only been here two weeks. You know, it does get worse ... I mean, you really don't wanna work late tonight, now do ya?! I mean, considerin' what's been goin' down in the neighborhood!
[Margaret shakes her head in confusion, as Pritchard appears from her office on the upper level and eavesdrops]
MARGARET: Wait, work tonight? No no, Misses Pritchard didn't say anything about that to me.
GRADY: [whispers] Y'see?! She's already got authorization for overtime for both of us! I heard her, on the phone!
MRS. PRITCHARD: Chat chat chat! You two are as bad as the children ... Margaret, could I see you for a moment in my office?
[cut to inside Pritchard's office, as she stares through a window at the "Knowledge Is Power" mural]
MRS. PRITCHARD: I have to look at that mural each morning to remind myself that I work in a library ... not a sewer. You should've seen Park Lane twenty years ago, people used to dress up to come in here. Now, we have to hire security guards to protect the books from the people.
[she motions for Margaret to sit down]
MRS. PRITCHARD: You really shouldn't distract Grady, dear. He has a somewhat limited attention span as it is. You encouraging his companionship doesn't help matters.
MARGARET: Well, I wasn't encouraging him, we were just ... talking about working late tonight. I didn't know about that.
MRS. PRITCHARD: Yes, it must've slipped my mind ... Well, I need you to help me with the inventory for the city book sale this weekend.
[she hands her a large brown folder, but Margaret doesn't move]
MRS. PRITCHARD: Is there someone that you need to call? You never mentioned your family, do you need to call home?
[she suddenly gets very nervous]
MARGARET: No! Uh, I mean, that's alright. I'll stay.
MRS. PRITCHARD: Oh ... Well, good.
[she takes the folder]
MRS. PRITCHARD: I'll order in sandwiches. We can have a picnic!
[Margaret gets up to leave]
MRS. PRITCHARD: Oh, and Margaret ... Do try to keep your voice down. Library manners don't come naturally to all of us. Just remember, if you want to talk, you're welcome to come in here and talk. But out there, we must be little mice.
[she nods, then exits the office (right before letting out a sigh of anger to herself)]
[cut to later in the night, as the library is cloaked in darkness]
MRS. PRITCHARD: Grady, didn't I ask you to reset the timer lights? It's dark out ...
GRADY: I'm gettin' to it ...
[Margaret carries a stack of books up onto a ladder and begins reshelving them, when the male patron from before (the one who saw her pocket the switchblade) approaches and startles her]
MARGARET: Oh, you startled me!
[he holds up a book entitled "Alone With the Devil"]
PIPKIN: Can this be checked out? There's no card in it.
[Margaret drops one of her books]
MARGARET: Reference books are for library use only. Would you give that one to me?
[he picks it up and hands it to her]
MARGARET: Thank you.
PIPKIN: Shame, really. Such a fascinating book. If the police were to read it, they might understand what kind of man their serial killer is ... Well, that's what they think he is. A serial killer, but he's not. No, serial killers are hunters looking for a particular kind of victim. Not our killer. His victims have got nothing in common, apart from the fact they're all men. That's pure coincidence, really.
[she gives him a funny look, then continues shelving]
PIPKIN: I have a theory about his next victim. Interested? You ought to be, 'cause the next one's gonna be a woman.
[she quickly climbs down the ladder and tries to sort some catalog cards at a nearby desk, but the man follows her]
PIPKIN: I mean, what sets him off? That's what I keep thinking about. I mean, it could be the city that does it. Y'know, livin' in such close quarters, with so many strangers. People ya hate, all of them wanting to hurt you before you hurt them. We're like rabbits in a warren. They panic when they're frightened, they get all frenzied, and y'know what they do then? They eat each other!
[she drops her cards in alarm, as Misses Pritchard walks up behind them]
MARGARET: [whispers] I can't talk now.
PIPKIN: Oh, I ... I quite understand.
[he turns and leaves]
[Margaret confronts Misses Pritchard about feeling unsafe in the library]
MARGARET: Misses Pritchard, there's one more problem. Now, I don't wanna get Grady into trouble or anything, but he has been ... drinking! It just seems to me, with everything that's been happening in the past few days, that we oughta have a real security officer.
MRS. PRITCHARD: I have tried to replace Grady, but he is a civil servant. It's almost impossible. So, I've pretty much decided to deal with him in another way.
[she checks her wristwatch]
MRS. PRITCHARD: Oh goodness, look at the time.
MARGARET: But what're we going to do? We need protection--
MRS. PRITCHARD: You are over-reacting, dear. This serial killer business sells a lot of newspapers.
MARGARET: Aren't you afraid?
MRS. PRITCHARD: I think that everybody in this world gets what he or she deserves. If you put out fear and negativity, that's what comes back to call on you.
[she picks up a nearby microphone and speaks into the intercom system]
MRS. PRITCHARD: The library is closing in ten minutes ...
[Misses Pritchard has gone out for sandwiches, leaving Margaret to lock up herself, when she notices Pipkin is still sitting at a desk]
MARGARET: Oh! Sir, the library's closed!
PIPKIN: Already? I had no idea! I've made such progress today ... Y'know, murderers are so fascinating when you get to know them. Can I show you something?
[he takes the book "Murder Guide to London" and opens it to a black and white photo of an older man]
PIPKIN: John Reginald Halliday Christie. Doesn't look like a killer, does he? But he was ...
PIPKIN: And a necrophiliac to boot ... Not like our man. Whatever our man looks like.
[he adjusts his glasses and puts on his trenchcoat]
PIPKIN: I mean, for all we know, our killer could be some dapper little man in an old trenchcoat and who wears little round glasses.
PIPKIN: Then one day, he snaps and goes berserk ... Yeah, I can see our man working himself up into quite a little frenzy. That's what you have to do to kill with a knife, y'know? Like our man always does.
[she quickly grabs a stack of books and tries to leave, but he follows]
PIPKIN: I mean, it's harder than you think to slash a man's throat. You gotta get close, close enough to feel their breath on your hand. Close enough to look into their eyes and see the blood spurt out--
MARGARET: Please! Stop ...
PIPKIN: Oh, I'm sorry, I-I didn't mean to upset you.
MARGARET: I, I do need to close up. I have other work to do tonight.
PIPKIN: Oh, you're working late by yourself?
MARGARET: Yes ... No! I mean, Misses Pritchard is working late also.
PIPKIN: Oh, I thought she went out.
MARGARET: She's coming right back.
PIPKIN: Would you like me to stay until she returns?
MARGARET: No! I mean, uh, we have a security guard.
PIPKIN: Oh, I thought I saw him leave ... Y'know, it wouldn't be very smart with all this unpleasantness in the park. Y'know, the murder last night took place just about this time. Some poor homeless person, wandering all alone, asks the wrong stranger for some change and--
[he makes a slashing motion across his throat, startling Margaret]
MARGARET: You really must go, it's after hours!
[he turns to leave, but then pops up at the front desk holding a book]
PIPKIN: Oh! Um, I forgot to check this book out. Um, could you leave it somewhere handy so I can get it when I come back?
MARGARET: Come back?
MARGARET: Oh! Tomorrow ... Till tomorrow.
[she puts the back behind the desk]
PIPKIN: I've really enjoyed talking to you ...
[he turns and leaves]
PIPKIN: [from off camera] I'm not going anyplace after all ...
[she looks up from the desk, then cut to Pipkin standing in front of the exit]
PIPKIN: Locked in.
[she laughs, then goes over to the door with her key]
MARGARET: Oh! I'm sorry, I forgot ... Goodnight.
PIPKIN: Goodnight. Be careful now.
[he walks out, and Margaret locks the door behind him]
[a homeless man is pounding on the door asking Margaret to let him in, so she goes to the phone and tries to call for help, but the line is dead ... then the lights go out, when Margaret hears someone trying to force their way in through the emergency exit]
[when she goes to try and barricade the door, she accidentally trips the alarm, and covers her ears at the noise]
MARGARET: Ahh! Stop it!
[the alarm stops, and she hears someone pounding on the front door again]
MRS. PRITCHARD: [from off camera] Margaret? Margaret!
[she runs over and unlocks the door]
MARGARET: Oh thank god, you're back!
MRS. PRITCHARD: What in the world is going on around here?
MARGARET: He was first at the front door, then he was at the back! It was that crazy man, that ... that maniac! He wanted me to open the door for him, but of course I wouldn't do that! He was huge, he was all hunched over!
MRS. PRITCHARD: Oh, that's Mister Garvin. I let him in after nine, he works late ... Poor man, he has some kind of bone disorder.
[she bends down and picks up a couple of books on the floor]
MRS. PRITCHARD: Y'see? He was just dropping off some books ... Calm yourself, dear. I am sure that there is no one out there.
MARGARET: No, he is out there. I know that he is. I tried to use the telephone, but that maniac cut the wires!
MRS. PRITCHARD: I turned the phone off.
[Margaret gives her a harried look, absent-mindedly pulling at her hair]
MRS. PRITCHARD: The switch is underneath, I'll show you.
MARGARET: You cut the phone off? On purpose?
MRS. PRITCHARD: It's so distracting, and ... Well, we are closed, after all.
[Margaret closes her eyes, trying to clear her head]
MRS. PRITCHARD: Come on upstairs, dear. I wanna talk to you.
[cut to inside Pritchard's office]
MRS. PRITCHARD: I know you're upset about these murders, but I can assure you, you're quite safe here. The newspapers have built up this "maniac" character. He did this, he did that, what nonsense! What if it isn't a man? It could just as easily be a woman.
MRS. PRITCHARD: That'd surprise everyone, wouldn't it?
[she motions for Margaret to sit down, but she's still on edge]
MARGARET: Where's Grady?
MRS. PRITCHARD: Hm?
MARGARET: You sent him away, didn't you? Maybe ... Maybe you killed him.
MRS. PRITCHARD: What?
MARGARET: Yeah, you hated him ... You hate everyone. You said yourself, people get what they deserve. And you think he deserved to die!
MRS. PRITCHARD: You think I'm the murderer?
MARGARET: Now you wanna kill me!
[she gets up and tries to leave, but Pritchard grabs her]
MRS. PRITCHARD: Oh, this is ridiculous, calm down!
MARGARET: Don't touch me! Don't touch me!
[she grabs Pritchard and throws her against the desk]
MRS. PRITCHARD: What're you doing?!
[Margaret grabs her by the neck and starts choking her]
MRS. PRITCHARD: Let go of me!
[Margaret throws her down into the chair, then takes out the switchblade and stabs her]
MARGARET: I knew you were after me! Just like all the others!
[as Pritchard screams, Margaret stabs her again and again]
MARGARET: Like all the others ... but I'm not afraid anymore! I showed you!
[Pritchard falls silent, as Margaret slowly walks towards the window]
GRADY: [from off camera] Miss Pritchard? I was checking the back doors when I heard the alarm ...
[he opens the door to discover the gruesome scene, while Margaret calmly stares out the window at the mural]
MARGARET: Well, I guess I hafta resign. Move on again ...
MARGARET: I liked it here, but this city made me nervous. Y'know, so much crime. I don't like being afraid all the time.
[she laughs again]
MARGARET: I'm sorry about giving such short notice.
[she turns to Pritchard's corpse and smiles]
MARGARET: I hope you won't think too badly of me ...
[cut back to the Cryptkeeper]
CRYPTKEEPER: Well kiddies, I guess that's "knife in the big city" for you ...
CRYPTKEEPER: Boy, do I feel sorry for Margaret ... Looks like it's just one dead end job after another!
CRYPTKEEPER: You'll be happy to know that I made a sale ... The "ne-ghost-iations" were fierce, but after I threw in a couple of acres, the rest was easy!
CRYPTKEEPER: There goes the "neigh-boo-hood!"
Tales from the Crypt, sometimes titled HBO's Tales from the Crypt, is an American horror anthology television series that ran from 1989 to 1996 on the premium cable channel HBO. The title is based on the 1950s EC Comics series of the same name and most of the content originated in that comic or the four other EC Comics of the time (Haunt of Fear, Vault of Horror, Crime SuspenStories, and Shock SuspenStories). The show was produced by HBO with uncredited association by The Geffen Film Company and Warner Bros. Television (all part of a production consortium officially called Tales from the Crypt Holdings).
Season 4 Episode 10
"Maniac at Large"
Director: John Frankenheimer
Writer(s): Mae Woods
Original Airdate: August 19, 1992 (HBO)
Source: Crime SuspenStories #27
A shy, timid librarian (Blythe Danner) becomes obsessed with a serial killer and believes that she is his next victim. Also stars Adam Ant, Obba Babatunde and Salome Jens.
Tales from the Crypt
Maniac At Large
Season 4, Episode 10, Aired Aug 19, 1992
A shy library clerk is obsessed with a serial killer fearing that she will be the next victim.
Blythe Danner ... Margaret
Salome Jens ... Mrs. Pritchard
Clarence Williams III ... Grady
Adam Ant ... Pipkin
EC Comic Connections:
* Story adapted from Crime SuspenStories #27, Feb-Mar 1955. Art by George Evans. This was the final issue of Crime SuspenStories.
* The punks in the intro carve "EC Homies" in the table. This is possibly a reference/tribute to EC Comics, publisher of the Tales from the Crypt comic books.
WHAT IS IT?
A mousy librarian is left alone in a big spooky library with only reports of a serial killer and her overactive imagination to keep her company.
While Robert Zemeckis would appear one last time in Season 6 (mostly to play around more with special effects and techniques he'd developed for Forrest Gump), this episode marks the last time Crypt would have a truly big name director who wasn't already involved with the show. And what a name! John Frankenheimer, more known for classic thrillers like The Manchurian Candidate and Black Sunday, isn't exactly the first person you'd think to direct a show like this, but it turned out to be a great fit anyway. The episode was written by Mae Woods, who wrote Walter Hill's previous two episodes. Makes me wonder if this was originally supposed to be a Hill episode. It stars Blythe Danner (The Prince of Tides, Meet the Parents), Clarence Williams III (The Mod Squad, Tales From the Hood), and Adam Ant (If you don't already know who he is, just buy Kings of The Wild Frontier right now and thank me later).
HOW IS IT?
One of the things that keeps Crypt interesting is the parade of familar silver-screen faces, behind and in front of the camera, being brought down to the lowly world of cable television. After covering 50+ episodes it's become clear that great film director does not always equal great television director. That's why we can have lackluster episodes from brilliant filmmakers Walter Hill and William Friedkin and brilliant episodes from TV directors like David Burton Morris. But the best results come from those who have done both; those who can adapt to the fast paced high pressure world of television while still maintaining an artistic vision. This is definitely true of John Frankenheimer, who cut his teeth on anthology shows like Danger, Climax!, and Playhouse 90 long before he went into films like The Birdman of Alcatraz and Seven Days in May. And it boy does it show. While the star-power and limited sets indicate this wasn't a big-budget episode, Frankenheimer makes the best of it with fantastic lighting, tracking shots, and all sorts of other stylistic techniques you wouldn't think possible on a show like this, and it really makes the episode sing.
In a single glorious tracking shot (opening on a mural depicting the library as the last bastion of goodness in a dark and twisted world) we're introduced to the world of the episode and the characters that inhabit it. We see the cavernous library main hall, with the light cascading through its large arched windows rendering it creepy even during the day. We see the creepy nerd Pipkin (Adam Ant) contently going through stacks of reference books on serial killers (much to the dismay of a nearby priest). We see the security guard Grady, seemingly viewing every patron with equal amounts of boredom and disdain. We see an old man reading about the most recent victim claimed by a serial killer. We see a HILARIOUS (more on them later) bunch of hoodlums stealing his paper, and we see head librarian Mrs. Pritchard's (Salome Jens) blood boil as she witnesses it, calling Grady to deal with them. In the background, we can even barely see the meek and mousy librarian Margaret (Blythe Danner), clearly anxious about Mrs. Pritchard's anger. It may seem like I'm spending a lot of time on this brief introduction, but short films (particularly genre short films) are all about economy storytelling and in the opening 2 minutes John Frankenheimer has already established location, scenario, all the characters and how they relate to each other. The rest of the episode works because of this.
As Margaret is cleaning up after the vandalous delinquents, even pocketing a switchblade they left behind, she sees the newspaper headline loudly proclaiming "MANIAC AT LARGE", setting her even more on edge than usual. Not that she needed the help; there's no shortage of anxiety-triggers in this spooky old library. There's the creepy patrons (including a homeless woman singing "Old McDonald" in a childlike whisper), there's the fact that she has to work late that night to inventory the library (apparently by herself?), and, of course, there's Mrs. Pritchard. Mrs. Pritchard is your essential headmistress type, harsh, stern and condescending, but there's a distinct early-90's "fear of juvenille deliquents" flavor to it as well, that had a resurgence with the rise of gang violence in the 80's and 90's. But she's nothing compared to Pipkin, who bothers Margaret as she's stocking books. Adam Ant plays Pipkin as an Aspergers-type, with an obsession with serial-killer minutea and too socially retarded to realize how much all of it is upsetting Margaret. He's also set-up as a clear suspect for the killer, but this episode is less about any story than it is about ratcheting up the tension on our poor lead, so it doesn't really go anywhere with it. Either way, Adam Ant proves himself an extremely capable actor, relishing his upsetting monologues.
If the first wave of tension climaxes with Pipkin's creepy serial killer rants, the second comes shortly after when Margaret sees the shadows of a man stabbing something in the basement. She freaks out and calls Grady to check it out, but he decides to use their time alone in the basement to drink from his secret whiskey stash and come onto her. Again, she's not safe anywhere or with anyone. Even when she calls down a detective, already there investigating the theft of some typewriters, all he finds is a cut-up book of nude photography. Which is still pretty creepy, when you think about it. Either way, Mrs. Pritchard mostly ignores Margaret's concerns and complaints about Grady, telling her that it's almost impossible to fire a civil servant but that she's decided "another way to deal with Grady", making her killer suspect number three, after Pipkin and Grady. She goes out, to pick up some sandwiches, leaving Margaret alone in the library with Pipkin, who was accidentally locked in when the library closed. He gives another creepy monologue (laying it on extra thick, going as far to describe the killer to be physically identical to himself) before finally leaving.
Then a homeless man, played by cult actor Irwin Keyes (you may not know the name, but you definitely know the face) starts pounding on the door yelling for help. Margaret overreacts, of course, screaming and running to call the police. But the phone lines are cut! And then the power is cut! And then the backdoor starts to shake, as if someone is trying to force themselves in! And then the fire alarm goes off! It's a pretty fun sequence that manages, through the tension already set up, to be ridiculous without feeling too much like a Naked Gun movie. Then, as suddenly as it began, it all stops and Mrs. Pritchard is at the front door trying to get in. Margaret lets her in and breathlessly tries to warn her about the killer outside, but Pritchard is having none of it. Then SHE begins to lay it on thick, admitting that she cut the phone lines (because "they're so distracting, and we're closed anyway") and proposing the theory that the killer may not be a man at all, but a woman.
Margaret accuses Mrs. Pritchard of being the murderer and before Pritchard can get a chance to defend herself, they get into a struggle what ends with Margaret stabbing her to death with the deliquent's switchblade, screaming "I'M NOT AFRAID ANYMORE!" Grady comes in to witness the aftermath as Margaret, having finally cracked, dreamily stands by the office window, giving a strange monologue about she doesn't like living by the city so she has to give her resignation. As far as endings go, it's a little unsatisfying. With all the talk about the serial killer, the great and spooky library set, and the significant tension already established, there was definitely a better climactic set-piece to be had than two old women grappling in an office. Even the stabbing of Mrs. Pritchard is disappointingly tame and bloodless. But it at least makes sense, which puts it one over most Crypt endings.
DOES IT HATE WOMEN?
The fact that women are overwhelmingly play the hapless frightened victim in horror films is of course sexist, but you certainly can't say that's Crypt's fault. This episode's pretty safe.
ALSO WORTH NOTING:
* That gang of hoodlums really is hysterical, like a checklist of ridiculous 90's deliquent cliches. Backwards caps? Check. Of vaguely Asian ethnic origin? Check. Walkmen? Check. Gets their kicks from reading news articles about murder? Ok, that's not a cliche but it's a big check. The best part, though, is their name they carved into the table: The EC Homies. I couldn't make this shit up.
* This episode also features a pretty good score (for once!) by Rocky composer Bill Conti.