Tuesday, August 28, 2018

No More Mr. Nice Guy (1988) (TV)

... aka: Freddy's Nightmares: A Nightmare on Elm Street - The Series: No More Mr. Nice Guy
... aka: Freddy's Nightmares: No More Mr. Nice Guy
... aka: Freddy's Nightmares - The Series: No More Mr. Nice Guy

Directed by:
Tobe Hooper

After A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS (1987) broke box office records for independent productions only to have those records shattered a year later by A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4: THE DREAM MASTER (1988), Freddy Mania had clearly reached its zenith by 1988. The facially-scared dream invader frequently hosted his own TV specials, appeared in music videos and was a regular talk show guest and there were action figures, toys, video games, t-shirts, books, posters, masks, model kits, magazines, comic books, dishes, pins, key chains, trading cards, Halloween costumes, albums of Freddy music... You name it and there was probably one you could get with Freddy's burnt mug on it. It's still amazingly weird to me how beloved and mainstream Freddy managed to get considering he was, ya know, a child murderer.

So it only goes without saying that Mr. Krueger's massive popularity would also spawn a syndicated TV series. The fourth Elm Street film was barely out of theaters by the time Freddy's Nightmares debuted on October 9, 1988. Robert Englund would serve as host and Freddy would sometimes, though not usually, figure directly into the stories themselves. There were 44 episodes in total over two seasons. As far as I know, Wes Craven had no direct involvement with the New Line TV-produced / Lorimar-distributed series, but they did manage to rope in another big genre name to direct this debut episode: Tobe Hooper. Hooper's career was decidedly not going well at this stage as he was fresh off the big-budget Cannon flops Lifeforce (1985) and Invaders from Mars (1986) and the belated, critically lambasted Texas Chainsaw sequel.

Visualizing much of what the film series only hinted at, No More Mr. Nice Guy is essentially an origin story. We start at the Springwood Courthouse as Freddy's trial is underway and the court is watching a slide show of all of the children, aged 4 to 8, the "alleged unholy aberration" has been accused of butchering. However, none of the evidence ends up meaning squat as Freddy was apprehended during an illegal arrest where he wasn't read his Miranda rights by arresting officer Lt. Timothy Blocker (Ian Patrick Williams). And so, even with all of the evidence in the world proving him guilty and two almost-victims in the room to testify that he tried to kill them, Freddy is unleashed back into the world. Even funnier, in lieu of the standard orange jumpsuit Freddy is wearing his trademark red-and-green striped sweater and holding his fedora in his handcuffed hands during the trial!

The case is personal for Lt. Blocker as he'd already spent two years hunting Krueger and his teen twin daughters; Lisa (Gry Park) and Merit (Hili Park), almost became victims themselves. Understandably, Tim's wife Sarah (Anne E. Curry) is pissed off and his girls are now terrified Freddy's going to come after them again. Prosecutor Michael Deeks (William Frankfather) and enraged parents meet outside of the courthouse after the verdict and decide to take matters into their own hands if need be. And it need be! Freddy immediately runs off to his hideout, a power plant boiler room, where his razor glove awaits and he plots a "little party" to celebrate his freedom once night falls. Considering how it's common knowledge where Freddy was hiding as the suburban lynch mob go right there at nightfall, I'm not sure how a killer's primary murder weapon, victim's clothing and other evidence was just left there by police, but... OK, well, I'll just stop thinking so much here.

While Lt. Blocker is at the station, Freddy stops by his house to kill the guard posted there and then terrorize his wife and daughters. One of the girls, Lisa, seems to have psychic abilities and pleads "You can't kill Freddy! You'll only make it worse!" Still, her father and the lynch mob finally corner Freddy is the boiler room and, because his daughter's lives are threatened, Blocker agrees to kill Freddy right then and there. He's covered with gasoline and set ablaze while laughing and shouting things like "You think you is gonna get rid of me?!" and "I am forever!" Turns out he's right and he's soon back as the nightmare slasher we all know and (some of us) love and promising that "Springwood's nightmares are just beginning!"

Since his little act of vigilantism, Lt. Blocker hasn't been able to sleep well. He keeps having Freddy nightmares and wakes up with slash marks on his face. His daughter Merit, who's been mute since she was almost killed, suddenly starts singing the "One, two, Freddy's coming for you..." song. He receives a creepy letter at work that spontaneously goes up in flames and is almost run off the road by Freddy's ice cream truck (?!) And then those who helped torch Freddy start turning up dead. Well, at least one of them does. Blocker has his deputy Gene (Porky's series star Mark Herrier) put Freddy's remains in the trunk of a junked car and weld it shut, but the body disappears. Or does it? Though Blocker stops being able to tell the difference between dreams and reality, Freddy finally shows up with an interesting new dental tool to finally put him out of his misery.

Pretty much anyone could have guessed that a significant budget downgrade and TV limitations wouldn't bode too well for the whole Elm Street formula. The film series is heavily dependent on special effects because they deal with the unpredictability of nightmares. Those sequences with Freddy doing what he does needed to be as vivid, bizarre, crazy and reality-bending as possible. They needed to be good enough to at least partially cover for some bad acting, poor plotting and corny / silly dialogue. And all of those increasingly more elaborate fx that were highlights of the series cost a decent amount of money. 

This episode is basically what happens when you make a Freddy movie with no fx budget. You're mostly just left with the bad acting, the average plot and the corny dialogue ("Freddy's hoooome!"). They do what they can with colorful lighting to try to give this a dreamy feel, and there's one amusing Freddy moment at the end in the dentist's office, but it's not really enough. Still, if you're a die hard series fan, you'll want to see this simply for the origin story. It's kind of interesting to compare what goes on here with the bits of info given out in the films. Also interesting that this episode had its own follow-up within the TV series titled "Sister's Keeper," which was directed by Ken Wiederhorn, was the seventh episode of Season 1 and featured the surviving members of the Blocker's family.

While Wes Craven wasn't really involved with this series, the phrase "No More Mr. Nice Guy" was plastered all over his next release, Shocker (1989). It was the film's tag line, on most of the posters, a part of the actual title in some countries, the name of the theme song (a cover of the 1973 Alice Cooper hit of the same name by Megadeth) and the name of the soundtrack album. Weird.

In the U.S., this and only four other episodes were released to home video (one episode per tape) in 1991 by Warner. The other episode releases were "Freddy's Tricks and Treats" (S1E4), "Lucky Stiff" (S2E6), "Dreams That Kill" (S2E11) and "It's My Party and You'll Die If I Want You To" (S2E12). However, in the UK, Japan and several other countries, most of the first season episodes were released. In 2003, Warner issued a 3-episode DVD release in the UK titled Freddy's Nightmares: Volume 1, which contained the first three episodes (this, "It's a Miserable Life" and "Killer Instinct"). Poor sales of that canceled future releases, though the series still airs occasionally, most notably on the Chiller Network starting in 2007 and the El Rey Network starting in 2015.

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