Director: John Harrison
Writer: John Harrison
Cast: Larry Manetti, Charles Knapp, Kate Charleson, Tony Montesian, Michael Freeman, Catherine Battistone, and Paul Sparer
Composer: Ken Lauber
Air Date: 2/2/1986
Desperate to promote his novels, author Junior P. Harmon (Larry Manetti) responds to an ad from Alex Kellaway (Charles Knapp)—an eccentric, morbidly obese agent. Though initially pleased with Kellaway’s offer, Junior soon discovers that a lucrative writing career will be more difficult, and bizarre, than he had assumed.
A clever satire on the publishing industry, “Printer’s Devil” will appeal to struggling writers everywhere. That being said, the primary trope employed by John Harrison (e.g. animal sacrifice played for laughs) will no doubt offend those of a delicate disposition.
Having exemplified the qualities of a devilish figure, the late Charles Knapp should be commended for his performance. Especially worth mentioning is that Alex Kellaway frequently stuffs himself with food and lounges in bed while conducting business, thereby humorously contrasting any physical limitations with his occult power over others.
When prompted by his new agent, Junior slaughters a variety of exotic animals—a technique that, according to Alex Kellaway, works to improve the “magic” of a writer’s craft. In a serious setting, the animal sacrifice theme could realistically disturb even the most extreme of horror buffs; however, by complementing Junior’s implied cruelty with a satirical and sometimes overtly comedic tone, “Printer’s Devil” makes for an utterly tasteless viewing experience. Furthermore, Junior is never punished for committing crimes of a grotesque nature—an aspect that may unsettle Tales from the Darkside enthusiasts with a compelling sense of justice.
Despite the addition of a cruel narrative device, “Printer’s Devil” contains an effective tongue-in-cheek commentary on the lengths to which dedicated writers will go in order to sell a manuscript—including, though not limited to, “sacrificing” artistic vision to create a commercially viable product.
“Printer’s Devil” is an uneven Tales from the Darkside entry. While Junior’s character transition may amuse audiences of a morbid inclination, sensitive fans will likely wish to avoid this episode for reasons outlined earlier.
Overall Quality: 5/10
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