As we close in on October 31, AiPT! will be reviewing and recommending various pieces of underappreciated scary media–books, comics, movies, and television–to help keep you terrified and entertained all the way up to Halloween.
Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone is the undisputed king of horror/science fiction television anthology series. Though there have been other shows in the genre, few have had the same cultural impact. The Ray Bradbury Theater, which aired from 1985-1992 was one such show. All episodes of the show were written by Bradbury and many were based on stories he had written.
The Skeleton: “The Skeleton” was a short story published in Bradbury’s 1955 collection The October Country. The story centers on Bert Harris, a hypochondriac who has been feeling chronic bone pain. Bert visits his doctor who has grown tired of Bert’s constant visits and kicks him out of his office. After seeing M. Munigant, a mysterious bone specialist, Bert becomes convinced that his skeleton is trying to take over his life. Eventually, Bert calls upon M. Munigant’s help again. The specialist is eager to help, but not in the way the Bert expects or wants.
“The Skeleton” is a story about self-destructive obsession. The viewer learns from the beginning that Bert lives in constant fear of sickness and death. Once he begins to fear his skeleton is another being, Bert can no longer eat. He begins to grow weak and sees his skeleton whenever he looks at his reflection. Bert can no longer live his life normally and his marriage begins to fall apart. The episode ends with the culmination of a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Eugene Levy stars as Bert Harris and may be the weakest link in the episode. The problem is not so much in Levy’s performance but in Levy himself. While “The Skeleton” is a light-hearted episode, Levy is required to play a more somber part than he normally would. In the more serious scenes that include Levy it is hard to tell if the audience is supposed to be laughing or scared. This is mostly due to the casting. The episode is sprinkled with silly characters and witty rejoinders-including some by Levy-so when a part calls for solemn emotion it can be confusing for the viewer. This does not affect the episode overall, but definitely hurts those scenes.
“The Skeleton” is an enjoyable episode of The Ray Bradbury Theater. It is a relatable story that is easy to watch. Eugene Levy is definitely miscast, but plays the part of a neurotic man well. The viewer’s interest is kept through the entire episode. If finding the time to read the original story is problematic, this episode serves as an adequate substitute.