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"Tales from the Darkside" Do Not Open This Box (1988)

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Tales from the Darkside: Don't Open the Box

6/10
Author: Scarecrow-88 from United States
20 December 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

William LeMassena is a "junk mechanic" who desperately wants to invent something from used parts that could be useful. His grating, nagging wife, played by Eileen Heckart, who never has a good word or comment to say about him, feels her life hitched to him has been unsubstantial and worthless. I can only imagine he has had to endure this gradual decades-long emasculation. Well, perhaps a wrongful delivery—this box that actually reads "Don't Open the Box"—could actually lead to a positive outcome for Will. Richard B Hull, a recognized character actor with that face you just know you have seen before, is the postman who needs the box returned to him. Well, Heckart sees this as a chance to feed a void of avarice never satisfied in her marriage to Will, so she exploits her possession of the box through, "well, it is missing but we'll find it soon". In this lie (Heckart hides the box and Will reluctantly goes along), Heckart negotiates valuables in exchange for the eventual find of the box, while Mr. Postman is patiently waiting for what belongs to him. Heckart has jewelry, her living room replenished, and fancy duds (well, they're lime…but to her they are fancy) while Mr. Postman expects what is his to be returned. Well, a contract will be introduced and the box is to be given back…but what if the box's instructions weren't kept? An eager Heckart, when the box first arrived (believing something valuable might be in it), had opened in, not finding anything much to her disgust…oh, but she let something free that must be repaid.

The episode could be viewed as a showcase for Heckart as the most unlikable, annoying, obnoxious, contemptible drag…she does what she is supposed to do. We aren't supposed to like her so that the twist involved would be fulfilling and gratifying. Years of verbal abuse towards a man that just wanted to be in the basement and work on spare parts, hoping to invent something that might matter…Heckart gets under the skin, and so when that invention comes it is to her detriment, the victim usurps the abuser. Hull couldn't look less sinister yet he is presented as someone that will get what belongs to him. I think the twist, in its conception (the box is opened by someone that wouldn't listen to reason and is certain to suffer for it), is predictable, but the actual way it does play out was rather clever. It does let Will get rid of a source of misery and continue doing what pleasing him. Mr. Postman, going the route of that possible Devil persona, refusing to allow another soul to *get away* announces who he really is, but I figure viewers who watched this show religiously or regularly could figure out he wasn't just a mailman working for UPS.

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Enjoyable episode

8/10
Author: Woodyanders (Woodyanders@aol.com) from The Last New Jersey Drive-In on the Left
20 November 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Henpecked and mild-mannered inventor Charles Pennywell (a solid and likable performance by William Le Massena) and his overbearing nag of a wife Rose (sharply played to the deliciously shrewish hilt by Eileen Hacket) receive a mysterious box in the mail that they are explicitly told not to open. But can they resist the urge to not do exactly that?

Director Jodie Foster keeps the engrossing story moving along at a snappy pace and maintains a charming lighthearted tone throughout. The smart script by Bob Balaban and Franco Amurri makes a spot-on stinging point about the dangers of being overly vain, greedy, and selfish, with the incredibly irritating character of Rose getting her just harsh desserts at the satisfying end. Underrated character actor Richard B. Schull makes the most out of his colorful role as a friendly postman. The crisp cinematography by Steven Ross provides a pleasing polished look. A neat show.

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6 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

A classic episode.

10/10
Author: Tommy Nelson from Long Beach, California
3 August 2006

Directed by Jodie Foster.

Rose and Charles are an old unhappy couple. Rose always wants more. She's always complaining about what the neighbor has and why she doesn't have it. That is, until a box is accidentally delivered to them saying, "DO NOT OPEN THIS BOX". The Postman soon comes by wanting this box, so Rose hides it. The Postman, expecting the box gives her anything she desires, while Charles just wants to give him his box back. When he finally receives the box, he realizes that it's been opened and it needs to be refilled. This was just a really nice episode, with great direction by Jodie Foster. It's dark, but not too dark, and it works really well as a Darkside episode! Can be found on VHS volume 1.

My rating: Perfect episode. 22 mins. TV PG

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0 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Hammy acting spoils an average story

2/10
Author: Leofwine_draca from United Kingdom
14 March 2015

DO NOT OPEN THIS BOX is the first episode I've watched of the 1980s horror series, TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE, and it's hardly inspiring stuff. The story goes that an elderly couple find a mysterious box, only to have a postman come calling who claims that the box belongs to him. The only problem is, they're already opened it.

The script was written in the style of a classic Stephen King short story, but that's the only decent thing about this. The characters are way over the top and actually made me physically nauseous in places, particularly combined with the over the top acting - particularly of the old woman. The only notable thing is that this was directed by Jodie Foster, but I'm sure it's one she prefers to leave off the CV.

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1 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Another average Tales from the Darkside episode.

5/10
Author: Paul Andrews (poolandrews@hotmail.com) from UK
15 June 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Tales from the Darkside: Do Not Open This Box starts as inventor Charlie Pennywell (William LeMassena) finds a mysterious small wooden box with the words 'Do Not Open This Box' written on the lid. Charlie's nagging wife Ruth (Eileen Heckart) can't help but prise the box open & look inside, much to her disappointment the box is empty. Then a delivery person (Richad B. Shull) knocks on their door & claims the box was sent to them in error, sensing she can blackmail the guy Ruth suggests that they might have the box if they are compensated in an appropriate way. However the box has an unusual function, a function that Ruth will wish she had never found out...

Episode 15 from season 4 this Tales from the Darkside story originally aired in the US during May 1988 & was curiously the directorial debut of double Oscar winning actress Jodie Foster, quite how she got the gig of directing Do Not Open This Box & why she even wanted to direct it is probably more interesting & intriguing than the actual episode itself. The script by Franco Amurri & Bob Balaban is another one of those strange offbeat Tales from the Darkside stories which seemingly has no point or purpose & really doesn't make a whole lot of sense, even at only twenty odd minutes Do Not Open This Box feels padded with the first ten minutes comprising of nothing more than Ruth nagging Charlie. Of course the most interesting idea in Do Not Open This Box is the box with 'Do Not Open This Box' written on it, the very fact that it has don not open this box written on it would automatically make you want to open it although unfortunately that rather slim concept doesn't make for a particularly entertaining twenty minutes of television.

Like most Tales from the Darkside episodes Do Not Open This Box takes place in one single simple location, Charlie's basement. The episode is well made but unremarkable with no special effects, no scares, no suspense, no real intrigue & an odd plot that doesn't really go anywhere of any real significance. The cast are alright.

Do Not Open This Box is another distinctly average Tales from the Darkside episode that I think tries to have a moral message but it doesn't come across that great & the story really isn't that good either.

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