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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The story is set in the 1930s approximately. There are five people in a
bar, three guests, the owner, and a barkeeper. One of the guests is an
old, poor man called Mike Malloy. Since he is so old, and always drunk,
the other four think he is going to die soon. They aren't as poor as
Malloy, but they are all in need of money. Then they have the idea of
getting a life insurance for Malloy; of course, they are the ones who
are going to benefit from it. They treat Malloy to as many free drinks
as he wants, hoping he will die very soon. When that doesn't work, they
take him for a walk in the cold and leave him outside, sleeping under a
layer of snow. But he survives that, too, although he was lying there
for about five hours.
How could any human being survive that? And will Malloy also survive their next, even more severe attempts at killing him?
This story is about crime and punishment. The plot is quite simple, but there's a twist at the end that I liked. I liked the actors, too, especially James Cromwell ('L.A. Confidential', 'Star Trek: First Contact'), Geoffrey Lewis ('Every Which Way But Loose') and Douglas Seale (who played Santa Claus in 'Santa '85' (#1.11 of this series)). There's some black humour, for example they mix Malloy's whisky with paraffin, anti-freeze and turpentine and give him a drawing-pin-rat-poison-mustard-sandwich, and the score has some funny music to accompany their attempts at Malloy's life.
I didn't like it as much as some of the other episodes in this series, but it's an enjoyable story in my opinion.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Mike Malloy (Douglas Searle) was a hard drinking derelict. He had
little money on him, and it was the Great Depression, so his cadging
drinks was upsetting to the local speakeasy-cum-bar owner in the Bronx,
Tony Marino (here called Tony Maroni - Al Ruscio). But Tony is in need
of cash to keep his business afloat. Money problems are also bothering
some of his other customers, such as Dan Kreisberg (Geoffrey Lewis) and
Joe Murphy (Joe Pantaliano). About four others start discussing ways of
raising money with Tony (James Cromwell is one, and - although not
listed on this cast - William H. Macy is another) all soon start
thinking about insurance. And then they think of Malloy. They realize
that Mike may be a cadging pest of an alcoholic bum, but he might be
valuable as an insurance risk.
They get an insurance policy or two on the life on Mike. And then they start giving him liquid carte blanche regarding their bootleg booze. He can have all types of drinks, as many as he wants. And possibly after he leaves the bar he'll fall asleep in the cold winter weather and freeze to death, or he'll have a fatal accident. And then they split the policy money.
Well, you know what the poet Robert Burns said to a "wee timorous mousey.": "The best laid plans of mice and men are bound to go agley!" Malloy has a "wooden leg". He can take up huge quantities of booze, drinking everyone under the table. And he will leave the bar three sheets to the wind, but be back for more the next day.
SPOILER COMING UP:
Well, our geniuses decide they have to arrange the accidental demise of Malloy - whether he likes it or not. But each scheme seems to fail. In the end (of the episode) they do manage to cause Malloy to fall off a bridge, but they are seen by policemen, and all are arrested. They all go to trial, are convicted of first degree murder (all blaming each other) and all are executed. The new owner of the bar is talking to a customer at the conclusion, and commenting on the fates of his predecessor and the others. Then he turns to an elderly man in the corner - it's Malloy, back for another drink. The new owner kindly gives the smiling Malloy one!
Now comes the odd part. Michael Malloy was a murder victim in such a real crime (in the Bronx, New York) in 1932. Unfortunately he was murdered - no supernatural activity to save him in real life. But the killers, who did it for insurance, were all caught and executed for the murder. An account of the actual story is found in the Random House, Modern Library Edition of Edmund Pearson's STUDIES IN MURDER from 1938, on pages 297 - 306, with the title "Malloy the Mighty".
This episode was a darkly comic screenplay (which was an easy thing to do - after all the original story is a comedy of criminal frustration). Searle, as Malloy, is properly indestructible and consistently, sweetly cadging his drinks. The gang are as confused a bunch of mugs as one can see outside of a "Bowery Boys" film. It was a good episode, and doubly so as it is the only version of the story ever put on film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The time is 1934 and Prohibition was over. We find ourselves at an
Irish bar somewhere in New York City. The place isn't flourishing, just
several regular drunks showing up, from middle to old age. The old
Irishmen love their whiskey and keep asking for it despite little or no
funds to pay for their drinks.
One of them, Mike Malloy, wonderfully played by Douglas Seale, keeps passing out. Everyone thinks he's a few days from his demise. They get an idea: sign him up for insurance, and when he drinks himself to death, they will all benefit. By "all" I mean the owner, the bartender and two other drunks. All of these guys, by the way, are played by familiar actors.
Anyway, the gist of the story is "greed," of course, which rears its ugly head with the insurance policy and the unbelievable fact that old Malloy won't die. It's incredible because, in the three weeks since the insurance policy was signed, the old "sod" had downed 27 bottles of rye whiskey, 14 bottles of vodka, five bottles of scotch. Numerous times he falls unconscious on the bar room floor, only to awake later and announce "I'm thirsty,"
Mr. Malloy won't die. The four greedy conspirators now are almost broke themselves, and they are getting desperate.The bartender, played by a full head of haired-Joe Pantoliano, has an idea: give him beer. "It's said that if you give an Irishman lager for a full month, he's a dead man."
That idea is ignored but not the one to pour kerosene into the whiskey to kill poor old Mr. Malloy. When that doesn't work, they try antifreeze, turpentine, burying him in the snow, rat poison.......nothing kills him!
Finally, something works....or does it....and does justice prevail? The actors in this episode are such pros that it makes it an interesting show. I have some question about the ending, regarding some credibility issues. Nonetheless, this episode will keep you wondering just what is going to happen to Mr. Malloy.
A group of bar flies are talking about a widow who struck it rich. It
seems that she heard that there was a contract out on her husband and
instead of warning him, she took out a huge insurance policy on him and
struck it rich when he was knocked off! One of them has an idea--find a
worthless person and heavily insure him and then arrange his death so
they can collect on an insurance policy. They pick Mike Malloy (Douglas
Seale--who played Santa a few episodes earlier) and then they'll become
rich, right? All they need to do is keep giving him whiskey and wait
for him to croak! Well, maybe not.
In addition to Seale, the episode stars a bunch of familiar character actors--James Cromwell, Joe Pantiliano, Geoffery Lewis and Royal Dano. It's nice to see these guys and it's a fun episode--in many ways reminiscent of the dark comedy "The Lavender Hill Mob". Well done.
You know very well that when a group of men, down on their luck, decide to take out an insurance policy on an old sot, that things just aren't going to work out. Everyone is suffering during the depression. In the bar are the usual alcoholics plus a priest played by James Cromwell, one of our finest actors. The way the old guy drinks, his days are probably numbered. The key word is probably. When he doesn't die of natural causes or from his excessive drinking of Scotch (which they supply at great expense), they decide to help things along, including the ingesting of anti-freeze, turpentine, and rat poison. The episode has a nice ending which it must have because everything else is so outrageous.
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