Director: John Harrison
Writers: Mark Durand and David Spiel
Cast: Keenan Wynn, George O. Petrie, Michael Freeman, Brad Fisher, Catherine Battistone, and Paul Sparer
Composer: None (Stock Music)
Air Date: 10/7/1984
Hoping to cheat his longtime acquaintance, businessman Duncan Williams (Keenan Wynn) offers Jack Blaine (George O. Petrie)—a staunch atheist—one million dollars for his immortal soul. When Jack dies of liver failure, Duncan is given the opportunity to collect an item of great value; but not as he had originally intended.
“I’ll Give You a Million” benefits from a chilling and memorable climactic sequence, thereby compensating for the predictable premise upon which it operates. Audiences of a serious inclination may, however, be wise to avoid this episode for its unrealistic approach to character development.
Though a tad clichéd, a variety of traditional horror devices (e.g. thunder, flickering light bulbs, and ghoulish zombie make-up) work to build and maintain suspense during Duncan’s ghostly encounter with a reanimated Jack.
When twirling his metaphorical mustache (i.e. relishing any evil deeds committed in the name of business), the character of Duncan comes across as a one-dimensional antagonist. The jovial manner exemplified by Keenan Wynn—an otherwise talented character actor—further accentuates the cartoonish nature of Duncan, who chuckles his way through murder stories as if competing for villain of the year.
Also problematic is a twist ending that features the Devil himself, who provides an expository and therefore tedious explanation merely to justify his presence in Duncan’s home—a cringe-worthy addition to an ominous final scene.
By delivering a dark twist on the concept first employed in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (i.e. the spirit of a former businessman returning from the grave to haunt his miserly companion), “I’ll Give You a Million” may appeal to enthusiasts of the horror genre. Nevertheless, it should be noted that Mark Durand’s narrative forgoes a redemption arc in favor of malevolent themes—a creative choice that, while effective from a technical standpoint, may offend viewers in search of an uplifting take on Dickens’ novel.
A corny but enjoyable Tales from the Darkside entry, “I’ll Give You a Million” puts a clever spin on the Jacob Marley/Ebenezer Scrooge trope. Fans of supernatural horror are thus advised to view this episode.
Overall Quality: 6/10
If you enjoyed this post, please enter your email address in the subscription box to stay tuned for more updates.