S.1 Ep. 3: "I'll Give You a Million" (1984)

Author: Brett Gallman
Submitted by: Brett Gallman   Date : 2020-09-28 23:45

Written by: Mark Durand, John Harrison, David Spiel
Directed by: John Harrison
Starring: Keenan Wynn, George Petrie, and Bradley Fisher

Reviewed by: Brett Gallman (@brettgallman)

The third episode of Tales from the Darkside wastes little time in having a little fun with the typical EC/Amicus formula that so often finds the worst of humanity meeting with a much-deserved, often delightfully grisly comeuppance. Time and time again, weíve seen this play out, so much so that the anthology format is synonymous with these demented parables. It comes as no surprise that Darkside would follow suit early and often, and ďIíll Give You a MillionĒ literally doubles down on the theme.

In this tale, we have two crusty old curmudgeons, Duncan Williams and Jack Blaine (Keenan Wynn & George Petrie), who have amassed immense fortunes. The pair of millionaires apparently spend their time making high-stakes wagers and breaking each otherís balls over their respective fortunes. Itís clear from their conversations that each man has skeletons in their closets that were instrumental in their affluence. In fact, itís insinuated that Jack may have even killed off folks on his rise to the top. Clearly bored of their usual fun and games, Duncan offers Jack a million dollars in exchange for his soul, a contract that comes with specific terms of agreement. Jack initially scoffs at the notion but soon agrees, putting the two on a path with a reckoning that will claim both of their souls.

ďIíll Give You a MillionĒ is familiar but just offbeat enough that it feels a little playful. Itís obvious that both Duncan and Jack are shady figures, but it seems like the latter is especially so. You know itís not going to end well for him even before Duncan makes his unconventional offer. Whatís especially fun is that Duncan never makes it clear exactly what his intentions are: he insists heís only trying to make a theological point by essentially forcing Jack to admit he does have a soul, a notion he thinks is nonsense. But you sense that maybe heís up to something, and the chemistry between the two makes this material sing. Despite the episodeís short window of time, Wynn and Petrie deftly establish the dynamic of two men who are less old friends and more like begrudging acquaintances, each of them always trying to get one up on the other. For all intents and purposes, it seems like Duncan is devising some kind of scheme to ensnare Jack.

But it turns out to be a bit of misdirection when the last third of the tale takes a delightfully macabre, supernatural turn. Duncan--who seems to have devised some kind of plan with the various clauses in his contract--discovers that itís all for naught when Jackís health takes a turn for the worse, causing the bizarre arrangement to backfire. It turns out thereís someone else in the market for souls who comes calling as the episode culminates with a fluorescent flourish of undead ghouls and a devious plot twist. When the dust settles, ďIíll Give You a MillionĒ ends in the most satisfying way possible: with both of these unrepentant rich fucks headed to the grave, both of them outwitted by death and the devil himself. Thereís no bargaining with those two.

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