The Treasure of Alpheus Winterborn (TV)
SCORE: 1 Star
Let's talk about a 45 minute waste of my time called The Treasure of Alpheus Winterborn. Those who enjoyed the Bellairs novel will find little of value here. First of all, the plot has been stripped, gouged and changed so that one wonders why they bothered with the source material at all. Instead of focusing on Hugo Philpotts as the villain, the script tries to throw us off track by adding "bonus" suspects.
The TV show falls into a lazy pattern very early. Anthony Monday (our hero) searches for clues. Anthony is stalked by a bad "someone." We don't know who it is because this is the kind of show where we only see the stalkers shoes and lower legs. Each time we see the "ominous" shoes, the soundtrack chimes in with a two chord bass riff that becomes amusing after the fourth or fifth time. First we see the shoes, then the bass riff. Shoes...bass riff.
All of the clues left by Mr. Winterborn in the novel are different in the TV production. I have no idea why. The "new" clues aren't any more tantalizing. Even the slogan on the front of the library has been changed. Bellairs' clue was "Believe Only Half of What You Read." I don't remember exactly what the "new" clue was, but it was something subtle like "Look on the Roof You Idiot."
The ending can't really be described as anti-climatic since there isn't really anything climactic happening. As Anthony is hanging from the leg of the reindeer he begins pounding on the metal to attract attention. In the book, the sound was like that of a great bell. In the TV show, the sound effects are so lame that it's impossible to believe anyone standing at the base of the library with a "whisper 2000" would hear the dull clanging. When Anthony opens the Reindeer, it looks like maybe forty gold coins spill out. Quite a change from the lost Ark of the Covenant to forty gold coins.
Film critic Roger Ebert has a rule about criticizing actors. He rarely does it. I don't know why. If directors, producers and screenwriters are fair game, why not actors? That being said, there are a lot of horrible actors in The Treasure of Alpheus Winterborn. Don't ask me to name them; the tape I had is sans credits, and you can't find anything about these hacks on the internet. The third time the lady who played Mrs. Eells opened her mouth I wanted to punch her in the throat to stop her shrill cackling. The guy who plays Mr. Philpotts is a great villain because you hate him so much as an actor. The boy who plays Anthony manages to make it through the show without being overtly annoying. He reminded me of a young Mark Hamill. I say this with great trepidation for fear there might be a John Bellairs/Star Wars cross-over fan club. Let me save you some time and assure you Anthony is not really Mark Hamill.
So, what should you do if someone presents you with a copy of The Treasure of Alpheus Winterborn? Here are five ways to enjoy your new movie:
1) Melt the cassette and inhale the fumes.
2) Tape your favorite program over the movie and laugh maniacally as you destroy all evidence of The Treasure of Alpheus Winterborn from your collection.
3) Drive to Arizona and toss it into the Grand Canyon. Watch it sail majestically until it smashes into tiny pieces on the jagged rocks below. Tying a small explosive to the tape is optional.
4) Go on a fishing tour. Mix the tape in with the "chum" and feed it to a ravenous Great White Shark.
5) Find that witch who hosts The Weakest Link. Tie her to a chair, force her eyelids open and role the video. Blow cigar smoke in her face and scream, "Who's the weakest link now, huh?"