Friday, March 23, 2012

Freddy's Angry Inch

Who knew?

I've just started watching 1980s anthology relic Freddy's Nightmares, the television series based on Wes Craven's A Nightmare on Elm Street. It ran for 44 episodes between 1988 and 1990 with its first episode airing some two months after the theatrical premiere of A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (a personal favourite of the Elm Street cannon). My knowledge of the series is limited to knowing that it exists and remembering one specific episode - a quick check of IMDb's episode guide informs me it is episode 3 of season 1, the next in my viewing schedule! - but I was young when it aired and I don't recall being allowed to watch it with my brother at some god forsaken time of the evening so it's going to be fun to watch it, especially with my knowledge of the entire franchise behind me. I had to use less than legal methods to acquire Freddy's Nightmares, but given the show has never received a DVD release I don't think I will be losing any sleep over it.

The show is, to be rather succinct about it, just a bunch of nightmare scenarios extended to 40 minutes. The first episode, directed by Tobe Hooper of all people, was actually rather good in the way it showed the creation of Freddy Krueger; his release from prison on a technicality, his subsequent murder and eventual ability to kill people in their sleep. It was actually a good episode if you can get past the bad acting, especially since it positioned Freddy a truly evil villain once again, and not the wise-crackin' stand-up comedian of the later films. After that, from what I can tell, it's just unconnected dream tales involving pretty teenagers getting themselves into nasty situations and then Freddy Krueger himself pops up from time to time to make a really bad pun. I think in episode two, the first episode of the series that actually utilises this storytelling device, he appears on screen for little more than 20 seconds. Quick cash for Mr England, I suppose.

Still, the real surprise came in the second episode. Entitled "It's a Miserable Life", it sees a young fast food restaurant attendant working the late shift and being plagued by visions of a motorbike riding gunman who's out to get him. Halfway through the episode - it's hard to believe this show was allotted an hour in the television schedule, especially since its gimmick would have worked better in 30-minute blocks - the focus shifts to the boy's girlfriend who has been rushed to hospital and has nightmares of escalating intensity. The episode itself is okay, if lacking in any real imagination like many of the films.

Alas, it's most memorable aspect is the actor who plays the fast food attendant, forced to work the very literal graveyard shift. The actor's name? Why it's John Cameron Mitchell, of course! Yes, the very man who would go on to write the book for and star in Hedwig and the Angry Inch as well somehow get ShortBus on the screen and direct the adaptation of Rabbit Hole has a guest role on a Freddy Krueger Anthology series from 1988! I saw the name flash on screen and thought it surely wasn't the actual John Cameron Mitchell that we all know and (I presume) love, but lo and behold when his bright-eyed innocent mug looked up for the first time there was no mistaking. Of course, a look at this IMDb profile afterwards shows that he worked on MacGyver, The Equalizer, a made-for-TV sequel to The Stepford Wives, and even The New Twilight Zone, the original of which the Krueger series was clearly heavily influenced by.

Plus, he's cute so that helps!

Still, funny seeing him run around in his fast food uniform and hat as he has nightmares in 1988 prime time. A look at some of the other episode listings tells me I have appearances by Lori Petty, Mariska Hargitay, Sheri Appleby, Kyle "Coach Taylor" Chandler, George Lazenby, Eva LaRue, Timothy Bottoms, Bill Mosely, and someone called Brad Pitt. So they will be fun, even if the show proves to truly be a relic of its time with little quality. If little else, at least the opening credits are great!

As a matter of fact, I remember that theme intro much more than I do anything else about the series. Will certainly be interesting ("interesting") to see how much of this program I do remember from my days of staying up late when I wasn't supposed to after episode of Warwick Moss on Extraordinary (I feel like Freddy's Nightmares aired in repeats around the same time as this since I highly doubt even the most liberal of parent would allow a three-year-old to watch a show about Freddy Krueger, surely!)

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