Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The Phil Silvers Show – Bilko’s Vampire (TV Episode) – review

title screenDirected by: Charles Friedman & Nat Hiken

First aired: 1958

Contains spoilers

I have said many, many times that vampires get everywhere and here they are in The Phil Silver’s Show. Of course, we don’t get a real vampire – this is an episode where someone thinks they’re a vampire.

Sgt Ernie Bilko (Phil Silvers) is playing poker when two of the table, Sgt Ritzik (Joe E Walsh) and Sgt Grover (Jimmy Little), have to leave – they say for a hot date they have lined up. The game breaks up, to Bilko’s chagrin, as Ritzik is so bad at poker he is the reason the other players are there. Barbella (Harvey Lembeck) has the idea that Bilko should tell Ritzik to get back in the game or they’ll tell his wife, Emma (Beatrice Pons), about the date.

watching horror moviesActually there is no hot date, rather a TV channel has a movie slot called Shriek Theatre and the two men are watching the vampire movie that’s on. Emma is less than impressed that he prefers the horror movie to being in bed with his wife and Bilko walks into a domestic, assumes the affair has been found out but quickly gets up to speed. He abortively tries to get the show taken off the air and ends up accepting that he will lose the worst player from his poker games at 11 each night.

Bilko gets an ideaThe next night, however, Shriek theatre is on from 9. They remember that Ritzik becomes obsessed – when he watched Westerns he thought he was a cowboy. Bilko has a plan. He visits Ritzik – who has garlic at the window – and mentions a book by a professor from Transylvania in Hungary (sic). He alleges that the book says a man can become a vampire without being bitten, a kind of osmosis from watching vampire movies – but Ritzik will be alright as he is not from Dracula’s hometown (knowing, we assume, that his grandparents actually were). The lore (as well as the geography) is all over the place – being as much werewolf standard as vampire standard. Bilkop declares that there is only way to prevent the change – stop watching the films.

Colonel Hall's dilemaThe next night Ritzik refuses to play as he is convinced he is a vampire and doesn’t want to hurt his friends. Bilko tells him to have a blood test; if it isn’t bat’s blood they caught it in time and he isn’t a vampire. However, after he leaves, Bilko notices that a Hollywood studio are looking for a new actor to play Dracula. Ritzik would be perfect and so they go to a taxidermist, get some bat’s blood and swap the samples. The next day medical officer Captain Masters (Nelson Masters) is befuddled to find the sample of Ritzik’s blood tests as bat’s blood and base commander Colonel Hall (Paul Ford) is concerned at what he will tell his superiors.

Count RitzikBilko offers to take Ritzik to a Hollywood clinic – by this, of course, he means the studio. He sells the idea of Count Ritzik – a real vampire – to the movie executives who are rather excited and sign Ritzik (and agree Bilko’s exorbitant retainer as Ritzik’s keeper). Ritzik now, for all the world, looks like Bela Lugosi – but he is not happy. Bilko’s conscience gets the better of him and the contract gets torn up.

Phil Silvers was always a joy to watch and the Phil Silvers Show is a genuinely funny comedy show. The lore in this was all over the place, so as a vampire geek I found myself a little bewildered by some of the concepts – it was clearly not changing lore for any reason other than either bad research or simply to make the gag work. That said it was still a joy. 6.5 out of 10.

The episode imdb page is here.

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