Tales from the Crypt, Season 2, Episode 11, "Judy, You're Not Yourself Today"
Many years ago, when I still wrote for The A.V Club and could reasonably be said to work professionally in pop culture media, I had the surreal honor of being flown to Brazil for an all-expense paid trip to cover a perversely movie-light film festival (there were literally a handful of movies being shown) as a guest of the Minister of Culture.
It was an opportunity that I could not pass up. Even now, years later, I can’t quite wrap my head around the fact that it actually happened, and isn’t some weird dream or delusion I had. I don’t like to humblebrag but I have had mental breakdowns on three different continents, one of them being in Brazil during that film festival, when on paper everything in my life looked great—multiple books with major publishers in the works, hotshot, high profile job with a rapidly growing company—but inside I was falling apart.
That whole trip in Brazil, I veritably vibrated with anxiety and Depression. I dreaded the future and was terrified by the present. The great things in my life felt like millstones around my neck, dragging me down and making my life impossible. I drank in the morning. I drank in the afternoon and early afternoon and whenever someone shoved a drink in my hand, which happened roughly thirty times a day. It was mainly a drinking tour with a few motion pictures thrown in for variety.
Then there were the field trips. We were supposed to visit the Amazon, but it got too wet and they were worried about liability and insurance issues if one of us got bonked in the head with a falling projectile and perished. I’d seldom, if ever in my whole curious existence been so surrounded by wonders yet incapable of appreciating any of the glory and color and electricity of life happening all around me.
What does any of that have to do with the Tales from the Crypt episode “Judy, You’re Not Yourself Anymore?” That is an excellent question. I will be the first to concede that that’s an unusually self-indulgent detour even for a self-indulgent feature on a self-indulgent website named after myself.
One of the highlights of my trip to Brazil involved flying over a rubber plant in a helicopter with Children of a Lesser God director Rhanda Haines and Haines, dear reader, is the director of “Judy, You’re Not Yourself Today.” I’m not gonna lie: I was scared shitless to fly in a helicopter. Those things are scary. But I remember very vividly thinking, “I need to fly in a helicopter with the director of Children of a Lesser God, if only so that I will then be able to say that I’ve flown in a helicopter with the director of Children of a Lesser God.”
Haines brings a gothic, exaggerated cartoon sensibility to “Judy, You’re Not Yourself Today”, the tale of an obnoxious couple who luxuriate in their own insufferable eccentricities. Donald (Brian Kerwin) gallivants about his home brandishing rifles and firearms of various sorts, looking for all the world like an overgrown prep school of version of Elmer Fudd.
Judy (Carol Kane), the wife, meanwhile, sometimes chooses to speak with an English accent as an affectation and is as vain as her husband is unhealthily obsessed with exercising his right to bear arms. Separately and together they are terrible people whose terribleness mostly just affects each other and the strangers unfortunate enough to wander into their odd orbit.
One afternoon a sly old witch (Frances Bay) posing as a door to door cosmetic saleswoman makes a connection with Judy by appealing to her narcissism and fear of aging and its good buddy, death.
Sounding distractingly like Al Pacino during the finest moment in Heat (you know the one), the Witch (Frances Bay) taunts Judy, “Gotta great ass, honey! I’ll like it even better when it’s mine!” before switching bodies with her and heading out to enjoy her newfound youth and beauty.
Kane is, of course, a lovely woman but it’s a testament to what an amazing and singular and unique and irreplaceable figure she is that her striking, big-eyed, silent movie-style beauty is considered less important than her quirkiness and vulnerability and comic chops and exhilarating air of free-floating eccentricity.
She brings those qualities to her body-hopping performance here, of course, but it is unusual to see Kane play a character whose defining characteristic seems to be her youth and beauty and also, if the witch is to be believed, great ass, rather than her strange magnetism.
The plot of “Judy, Not Yourself Today” gets pretty convoluted and complicated as the Witch uses her witchy magic to switch bodies with the aid of a creepy piece of jewelry. The over-driven score and cartoonish angles, including at least one use of what I like to call the “David Lee Roth music video filter” give the proceedings an ersatz Coen Brothers sensibility that also hearkens back to the Warner Brothers cartoons that inspired Raising Arizona.
My one-time helicopter co-passenger’s direction is aggressive and stylized even by the exceedingly lenient standards of the series, leading to one of those “funny” episodes that, despite their kooky charms, are to be tolerated rather than celebrated because the show is seldom less funny than when it’s going this aggressively for yucks.
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