Stainless Blade (1998)

Posted on October 18, 2020 in 3 Oogies, Idiot Box Reviews, Series: Ghost Stories

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Stainless Blade (1998)
Stainless Blade (1998)

Main cast: James Shelby (Larry Calvin), Virginia Ordalani (Miranda Debert) , Jack Fisher (Vance Delbert), Desiree Velez (Ellen Calvin), and Rip Torn (Narrator)
Director: Joe Wiecha

Stainless Blade is to date the most violent Tales from the Crypt-ish episode of Ghost Stories, in the sense that it involves a magic trick that has the magician plunging a sword into a woman’s chest. Of course there isn’t anything like jets of blood flying everywhere, as this show is still trying to be on the somewhat family friendly side. Oh, and there is a good amount of cleavage barely contained by a pair of bra in one short scene. There is nothing here that crosses the line into grown-up territory, but the episode can catch a few folks unaware, especially folks that watch this show with their young kids.

Vance Delbert was famous for the Mystery of the Stainless Blade, a stage act in which he plunges a sword right through the body of his wife Miranda on stage, only to show off that she is still alive. Adding to the mystique of this act is that it had always been performed only live; no recording of the act exists.

Interestingly, the Delberts vanish from the spotlight during the height of their fame. No one knows what has happened to them.

Well, two years later, the Calvins are about to find out. The husband, Larry, is also a magician that goes by The Amazing Calvin, while his wife Ellen is determined to whip her timid, recovering alcoholic husband into shape and get them to greater heights of success. Ellen wrote a letter to Vance extolling her husband’s talent and what not, hinting that maybe Vance can teach Larry a thing or two. When they receive an invitation by Vance to visit the Delberts’ mansion—appropriately large and spooky-looking, of course—of course they say yes. Vance tells them that he is indeed looking for an apprentice, and Ellen is determined to have him teach Larry the Mystery of the Stainless Blade.

One good thing about this episode is that the cast is composed of actors that can actually act. Desiree Velez has the thankless task of playing the shrewish harridan, but she displays that ability to convey more than two emotions with her face and her delivery of her lines.

In fact, this episode can be unkind to this character. She’s married to a timid man that lacks confidence and has drinking issues—is it that bad that she wants him to become a better magician and get them both better-paying gigs? Of course, the smarter thing to do is to probably divorce that man, but come on, she has ambitions and she wants to make these ambitions come to be. Larry, on the other hand, is just a waffling, indecisive fellow, so it’s far easier to sympathize with her than to think of her as a shrew, which seems to be the desired intention of this episode.

To be fair, it should be pretty obvious early on that the Mystery of the Stainless Blade is not what it appears to be. Larry quickly catches on to that, and wants to flee to the hills, yet Ellen is so blinded by the possibility of learning that trick and becoming rich and famous that she bullies her husband into playing along all the same. The result is appropriately tragic for the both of them. Let’s just say that there is reason why the Delberts stopped performing in public after a while.

At any rate, Stainless Blade is such a wonderful episode to watch, especially after that absolutely wretched previous episode. The only things marring this episode is that it practically gives away the grand revelation long before that scene takes place. In a way, this episode is like a bad card player that spoils his hands even before revealing the cards. Oh, and the awful CGI, par for the course when it comes to Ghost Stories.

While there isn’t much mystery in the end in this episode, it is well-acted and well-paced enough to be a much-needed palate cleanser after the last two episodes.