“Archaeologist Arthur Hartley is accused of stealing expensive artifacts from a museum, is warned of a curse that befalls those who touch the artifacts, but won’t be stopped in his quest for wealth.” Or on the back of the vhs box, it reads “a chilling tale of an archeologist who enrages the ancient Egyptian gods – and pays a frightful price!”
If you watch horror enough, you already know the answer: no, he doesn’t listen. I’m going to do a quick recap on the first episode of season four’s Tales from the Darkside.
As far as I know, I haven’t been able to find the series on streaming that’s readily available. The series, Monsters, is available through IMDB tv but if you want to watch Darkside, you’ll have to pay. Now, I have two volumes on vhs (3 and 6) and each tape has 5 episodes total. I rolled dice and we landed on 6 + 4 = 10. The last episode was Beetles.
Beetles is the story of a very greedy Egyptologist (or archaeologist) who has been smuggling artifacts and other art pieces from the museum and he pays the price for it. The plot is very simple, predictable for today’s horror consumption, we know where the plot goes and that’s a bit of a knock on enjoying it. I’ve probably seen this episode 2-3 times prior to today and paid it no mind but today I did notice a few things.
Our protagonist but also antagonist, Arthur Hartley (Rod McCary) isn’t a likeable man. We’re not rooting for him and I always say that full disliking of a character is achieved by how the writing and the acting is portrayed and McCary does a great job of making you hate him. Hartley thinks he knows everything, nothing will touch or harm him and he won’t suffer the consequences. A white man in power.
They think they are untouchable.
As someone who has worked in museums as an intern, volunteer and also has a certificate in Museum Studies and associates in Fine Arts, it’s kinda hard to believe that Hartley could get away with stealing and taking items without no one noticing. That’s the unbelievable part in this whole episode, haha. Like how did NO EMPLOYEE of any kind not notice?
He is someone who doesn’t have the utmost respect for these artifacts and it shows in the episode and again, it’s to show the type of person he really is. He is abusing his position and power and when you are disrespecting or disregarding sacred objects of any sort, you are playing with fire. Things I didn’t understand as a student or as I went through my museum journey, be very wary of things you’ll be around “touching”, etc. Hartley is accused of these things which we know are true.
Our secondary character, a man named Hammid Bey (Sirri Murad) comes on screen only 3 times as a “keeper” of the said curse. He knows more than Hartley, tries to save him and warn him but he might have a sinister role for him to “summon” beetles.
Oh that’s what happens. Hartley, finds hidden jewels and jewelry that has been hidden on a wrapped mummy and he disrespects her and steals from her and then the curse is released: beetles are “appearing” in his bed, in his teacup, the jewelry goes missing and then reappears, it’s like his mind is playing tricks on him but it’s the curse released. And also, Bey is playing some kind of wind instrument like a pied piper, awakening the curse further.
I wonder if Bey is a huge nod to Ardeth Bey (character from The Mummy, 1932 and the 1999 film respectively).
It’s no surprise that Hartley doesn’t make it, a victim of the curse and it is well rewarded.
Where the episode fails is the predictability but also it’s not memorable. I might not remember episode titles well but I can remember the creature from “The Cutty Black Sow” or “Inside My Closet” or fan favorite “The Circus”. Beetles seems like a throwaway episode, one of the weakest from the volume 6 vhs tape.
Along with Beetles, the other episodes are Baker’s Dozen, Let the Games Begin which I don’t think is great either, The Unhappy Medium, and Black Widows.
Beetles stars Ron McCary, Sirri Murad, Donald MacKechnie and Colm Meaney. It was written by Robert Bloch as a short story and directed by Frank de Palma and out of 5 stars, I would give Beetles a 3.5.