The Washington Post
October 26, 1985

Ghoul Crazy on NBC; 'Amazing Stories' Takes a Zany Turn

By Tom Shales, Washington Post Staff Writer

Picture a man in a mummy suit making a horror movie on location in a swamp.  He gets a call that his wife has given birth to their first child in a nearby town and, not wanting to take the time to remove his costume and makeup, borrows a car and heads for the hospital.  Then he runs out of gas.  In a mummy costume.  In a swamp.

If the possibilities sound at least faintly amusing, the results border on uproarious Sunday night (at 8 on Channel 4) when the plot, and the mummy, begin unraveling on Steven Spielberg's "Amazing Stories," the much-heralded NBC anthology series that, for a change, hits a beguiling and inviting stride.  "Mummy, Daddy," written by Earl Pomerantz and directed by William Dear, demonstrates again that the best hope for the series is in lighter, sillier, whimsical tales rather than mining Spielberg's excessively ample sentimental streak.

"Mummy, Daddy" marks a change in policy for the production and the network, which up to this point had declined to screen episodes of the series in advance, fearing tattletale critics would give away plot surprises, or something.  The surprises so far in the series have been predominantly gloomy ones.  A change of heart by Spielberg and company regarding advance screenings may have something to do with the fact that ratings for the series so far have been unspectacular, which tends to make the series' lavish production budget look reckless.  Also, there's the imminent arrival of the November Nielsen "sweeps," when ratings count more than at other times, to take into account.

Procedural matters aside, it is a pleasure to report in advance that "Mummy, Daddy" is a zingy screwball comedy, light and nimble and not plush-ponderous, like other installments of the series.  Next week's more serious episode, "The Mission," directed by Spielberg, falls far short of its aspirations in the awe-striking, spine-tingling department, whereas the previously most successful "Amazing" was a funny comedy about an obnoxious teen-ager who was magnetized by a passing meteor.  Message to Spielberg: Funnyness is preferable to amazingness.

We don't want to give too much about "Mummy, Daddy" away now, but it should be safe to reveal that Bronson Pinchot, of "Beverly Hills Cop," appears rather briefly as the director of the horror movie, a role that might be gently spoofing Spielberg himself -- or is that allowed?  "This is a crucial scene!" he exclaims auteuristically at one point.  "It's a magic moment!  Where's my fog?"  Later, phoning the hospital in search of his star, he is hung up upon when he says, "Hello. We're looking for a mummy that answers to the name of Harold."

In the course of the movie-mummy's odyssey, he encounters a real mummy, as well as a cousin of the famous blind hermit from "Bride of Frankenstein."  This one, finding a mummy at his front door, politely offers, "Let me take your wrap."  Certainly nothing else on television Sunday night will be dangling more pure fun in front of a viewer's eyes than this endearingly goofy half-hour.