Director: John Harrison
Writer: David Gerrold
Cast: Joseph Turkel, Brad Cowgill, Cynthia Frost, Anthony Thompkins, John Marzilli, and Paul Sparer
Composer: None (Stock Music)
Air Date: 5/19/1985
A young man named Frank (Brad Cowgill) takes his friend Ernie (Anthony Thompkins) to a magic show featuring the great Kharma (Joseph Turkel)—the only person other than Houdini himself to accomplish the wireless levitation trick. Fearing that such a maneuver could once again result in tragedy, Kharma resorts to a safer and simpler routine than what his prior achievements had led Frank to expect. Having lost all faith in the once legendary magician, Frank resorts to heckling Kharma until his request for a genuine levitation is accepted.
“Levitation” benefits from an unsettling tone, which will undoubtedly appeal to longtime viewers and casual fans alike. Its primitive execution notwithstanding, the twist ending will also satisfy Tales from the Darkside enthusiasts who prefer serious offerings over more tongue-in-cheek episodes.
The cheap, dimly lit surroundings of a worn-down carnival are used in conjunction with an ominous music score, thereby accentuating the supernatural implications of an incident that continues to haunt Kharma after many years. Kharma’s tragic history is made additionally mysterious by Joseph Turkel’s nuanced acting, which reflects the anguish of a man forced to give up his trademark act after accidentally killing his daughter while performing it. The above factors establish a most eerie atmosphere leading into the final scene, in which an “uplifting” twist of fate befalls the obnoxious Frank following his incessant harassment of a former idol.
The performances of Brad Cowgill and Anthony Thompkins are a tad on the weak side—a flaw that becomes especially problematic when Kharma is confronted by a distraught Frank, whose unconvincing manner may prevent audiences from sharing in the disappointment felt by his character.
“Levitation” contains a meaningful lesson on the importance of respecting previous generations and their accomplishments, with a young fool paying the ultimate price for his entitled and unforgiving response to the perceived failings of an elder.
Despite any budgetary shortcomings, “Levitation” should be commended for its effective approach to supernatural horror. Also noteworthy, Turkel’s portrayal of Kharma embodies the subtle torment of a magician whose quality of life remains forever tainted by the most defining aspect of his own craft.
Overall Quality: 8/10
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