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Old 07-30-2021, 11:41 AM   #21 (permalink)
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Oh I rank season one at the end all right. More to come soon. Glad someone's reading at last.
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Old 07-30-2021, 12:03 PM   #22 (permalink)
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If you can find it, check out The Twilight Zone companion by Marc Zicree. Some excellent critiques.
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Old 08-03-2021, 10:07 AM   #23 (permalink)
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Title: “What You Need”
Original transmission date: December 25 1959
Written by: Rod Serling, based on Lewis Padgett’s short story
Directed by: Alvin Ganzer
Starring: Steve Cochran as Fred Renard
Ernest Truex as Pedott
Arline Sax as Girl in Bar
Read Morgan as Lefty

Setting: Earth
Timeframe: Present (at the time)
Theme(s): Greed, hubris, prediction of the future, intimidation
Parodied? Not to my knowledge, no
Rating: A



Serling’s opening monologue


You're looking at Mr. Fred Renard, who carries on his shoulder a chip the size of the national debt. This is a sour man, a friendless man, a lonely man, a grasping, compulsive, nervous man. This is a man who has lived thirty-six undistinguished, meaningless, pointless, failure-laden years and who at this moment looks for an escape—any escape, any way, anything, anybody—to get out of the rut. And this little old man is just what Mr. Renard is waiting for.


A little old man enters a bar selling things on a tray. He approaches a young girl, who off-handedly offers to buy some matches from him, but he tells her she doesn't need matches, and produces instead a bottle of cleaning fluid, guaranteed, he says, to remove any stain. He then heads to the bar where a man sits alone, but this man tells him the old guy doesn’t have what he needs. He used to be a baseball pitcher, it seems, till he hurt his arm and now he just comes in and sits at the bar mourning his loss. After thinking about it, the old man hands him a bus ticket to Scranton, Pennsylvania, telling him this is what he needs.

Just then he gets a phone call, a job to coach a junior league team in… Scranton, Pa! Amazed, he asks the old man how he knew, but the little guy just shrugs. Lamenting the fact that the only jacket he has is stained, the ex-pitcher is further astonished when the girl at the table comes up with her stain remover to help, and suddenly romance is in the air. Watching all this, our protagonist accosts the old man outside the bar, demanding to know what it is he needs, but the old guy seems reluctant, afraid of the guy. He’s quite pushy, and rough, and a lot bigger than the old man. After some thought, the old man hands him a pair of scissors. The guy is not impressed, but takes them anyway, and when he goes back to his hotel has good need of them, as his scarf gets caught in the lift doors as he goes up, and he has to cut it off in order to save himself from being choked to death.

Deciding that the old man has something, Renard goes to his rooms and waits for him, telling him he now has a partner, and they’re - read, he’s - going to make lots of money out of this talent the old guy has. When the old man protests Renard will hear none of it, even the warning that the gift must not be squandered; he demands to know what he needs, and is given a pen, which leaks ink onto a newspaper, onto the name of a horse running in a race the next day. Initially angry at being given the leaky old pen, Renard is ecstatic, and goes off to place the bet.

He wins, but it’s not enough for him, and when he tries to work the same trick again on tomorrow’s paper, no dice. The pen no longer leaks. Furious, he goes to find the old man again, who warns him every gift can only be given once. He tells Renard he can’t give him what the guy most needs - peace, serenity, a sense of humour, patience - and Renard demands more, so he gives him a pair of shoes, but these shoes cause him to slip in the wet street and be run over by a car. Should have listened!


Serling’s closing monologue


Street scene, night. Traffic accident. Victim named Fred Renard, gentleman with a sour face to whom contentment came with difficulty. Fred Renard, who took all that was needed—in The Twilight Zone.


The Resolution

Fairly obvious something nasty was going to happen to the nasty Mr. Renard, though when he takes the shoes you’re not too sure. Nevertheless, when he mentions the soles are leather and cause him to slip, it’s easy to guess what’s coming.

The Moral

If someone helps you, be happy and don’t push for more. Some gifts were meant to be bestowed sparingly, and only to those who need them. Don’t try to monetise Fate.

Personal notes


The barman is less than sympathetic to the ex-pitcher, laughing at his misfortune. It’s hardly the accepted thing for barmen to do, is it? Keep the customer happy, commiserate with him if necessary, but don’t mock him!


Questions, and sometimes, Answers

When Renard’s scarf gets caught in the lift doors, why doesn’t he just take it off? That would be the natural thing to do, but he just keeps pulling at it. It’s not like there’s no way to wind it off his neck.

If the little old guy knew Renard was going to kill him, why did he let things progress to the point where he got the shoes? Was it necessary for Renard to choose the manner of his own death? Or did the pedlar hope his tormentor would somehow realise and manage to change his own fate? Was he giving him a chance?

We assume the ex-pitcher and the girl hook up, but it’s never shown. They don’t leave together, or if they do, we don’t see it. Guess we’re just supposed to come to the obvious conclusion?

Themes

Greed and hubris stand large on this episode; not happy that his life has been saved (when he didn’t even know it would be in danger) Renard sees the old man’s ability as a moneymaking scheme, and if he can’t persuade him to take him on as a partner, he’ll threaten him to do so. His hubris becomes his undoing, as he puts on the slippery shoes and brings about his own end.

The theme of predicting the future is nothing new, but the series would use that again and again; the idea of concentrating such a potentially world-shattering power in one so small and inoffensive, and the power being used for the smallest, most personal things, shows perhaps that the old guy realises what damage could be done if his power was used for darker purposes.
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Old 08-03-2021, 10:19 AM   #24 (permalink)
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Title: “The Four of Us Are Dying”
Original transmission date: January 1 1960
Written by: Rod Serling, from the short story by George Clayton Johnson
Directed by: John Brahm
Starring: Harry Townes as Arch Hammer
Ross Martin as Johnny Foster
Phillip Pine as Virgil Sterig
Don Gordon as Andy Marshak
Peter Brocco as Mr. Marshak
Milton Frome as Detective
Beverly Garland as Maggie


Setting: Earth
Timeframe: Present (at the time)
Theme(s): Hubris, dishonesty, greed, crime
Parodied? Not to my knowledge, no
Rating: A


Serling’s opening monologue


His name is Arch Hammer, he's 36 years old. He's been a salesman, a dispatcher, a truck driver, a con man, a bookie, and a part-time bartender. This is a cheap man, a nickel-and-dime man, with a cheapness that goes past the suit and the shirt; a cheapness of mind, a cheapness of taste, a tawdry little shine on the seat of his conscience, and a dark-room squint at a world whose sunlight has never gotten through to him. But Mr. Hammer has a talent, discovered at a very early age. This much he does have. He can make his face change. He can twitch a muscle, move a jaw, concentrate on the cast of his eyes, and he can change his face. He can change it into anything he wants. Mr. Archie Hammer, jack-of-all-trades, has just checked in at three-eighty a night, with two bags, some newspaper clippings, a most odd talent, and a master plan to destroy some lives.


A man able to change his appearance at will (see above) enters a hotel and scopes out a woman playing piano at the bar. He is wearing the face of a dead musician, Johnny Foster. The woman, Maggie, is shocked to see him, believing him dead. They were in love, and now he convinces her to run away with him, which she is all too happy to do. He tells her he staged his own death, to get away from the fame, and that with her he will start a new life. When one of his ex bandmembers recognises him though, he quickly changes his face so as not to have to answer any awkward questions.

Back at his hotel room, he changes his appearance again, this time taking on the face of a dead gangster. Armed with this new identity, he goes to see the partner who double-crossed him, who looks, not surprisingly, as if he has seen a ghost. Chased by the guy’s henchmen after he has taken all the money, Hammer runs down a blind alley, and desperate to change his face again takes inspiration from a poster of a boxer on the wall. The goons, seeing they have the wrong guy, leave.

He then runs into an old man, who turns out to be the father of the man whose face he has just assumed, though of course he doesn’t recognise him. Turns out this guy was a bad one, left his girl, broke his mother’s heart, and the father is angry and bitter. Back at his hotel, and wearing his own face again, he is arrested by a cop, but as they go through the revolving doors he changes back into the boxer, smugly giving the cop the slip. However the father of this man is waiting for him, ready to extract revenge. He shoots him before he can concentrate his power to change, and that’s the end of him.

Serling’s closing monologue

He was Arch Hammer, a cheap little man who just checked in. He was Johnny Foster, who played a trumpet and was loved beyond words. He was Virgil Sterig, with money in his pocket. He was Andy Marshak, who got some of his agony back on a sidewalk in front of a cheap hotel. Hammer, Foster, Sterig, Marshak—and all four of them were dying.

The Resolution

Well handled. Everyone has their past, and Hammer was just unlucky enough to choose to use the identity of one who had used everyone around him - rather like himself - and paid the price.

The Moral

I guess, no matter who you are or where you try to hide, your sins will eventually find you out.

Questions, and sometimes, Answers

This whole story is fraught with one major error: while Hammer can take the appearance of anyone he chooses, how is it that he also gets their voice, along with any inside knowledge they may have had? Sure, he’s read up on the musician Johnny Foster, but the gangster? He knows who his partner was, he knows who the deal was, he knows intimate details of the killing… these are things only the real hood would know, and yet he seems to have them in his mind. Does he, in addition to getting the face, get the memories and thoughts and mannerisms and voice too? Seems unlikely.

Why, when Hammer is shot, does the cop, who was arresting him and is only inside the lobby of the hotel, not come rushing out? He’s surely heard the shot, and he’s a cop after all.

Wasn’t Hammer taking a major risk when impersonating Foster? What if Maggie had asked him to play - one more, you know, for the road?

Themes

You'd have to say cowardice and greed are the two main ones here. Hammer has the ability to change his face (like many Twilight Zone stories, this power is neither explained nor challenged, it simply is - if you want to watch this show, you're going to have to take some things on faith) but instead of using his talent for good he uses it to enrich himself. Witness the confrontation with the girl when he "is" Johnny Foster - he could have just run away with her - she was ready and willing to go. But no, he has to have money, so shakes down a gangster to ensure he can live the high life, and it's the escape from here that precipitates his meeting with a man he has never met, wearing the face of a man he has never been, and leads to his death.

He's a greedy man, somewhat in the same vein as our Mr. Bedeker in "Escape Clause", and indeed the one in the previous episode too, men who want to wring everything they can out of life, even if by so doing they wring all the joy and love and goodness out of it too. It's surely cowardice to - if you have the power - keep changing your face, your identity. Isn't this the purest form of insecurity there is? And what of the people who see him "wearing" this face, like Johnny Foster's bandmate, who believed the trumpeter dead? He doesn't care how the sudden reappearance of Foster affects this guy; he shakes him off angrily. He doesn't figure in his plans.

It's a dishonest way of behaving, abrogating any responsibility whatever. If things go wrong, if you can't face a situation, as Tom Waits once sarcastically wrote, "Change your face, change your life" - which is exactly what Hammer does. But in the end a life of (one must surely assume) petty crime and using other people catch up with him, and he dies because he just chose the wrong face, as Fate laughs in the shadows.

Note: So far, this is the first (I don't know if only but certainly the first) episode in which nowhere, not in the intro nor the outro, does Serling mention the Twilight Zone.
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Old 08-03-2021, 10:26 AM   #25 (permalink)
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Two classics, one after the other...

Title: “Third From the Sun”
Original transmission date: January 8 1960
Written by: Rod Serling, based on the story by Richard Matheson
Directed by: Richard L. Bare
Starring: Fritz Weaver as Will Sturka
Edward Andrews as Carling
Joe Maross as Jerry Riden
Denise Alexander as Jody Sturka
Lori March as Eve Sturka
Jeanne Evans as Ann Riden


Setting: Unknown
Timeframe: Unknown
Theme(s): War, survival, escape
Parodied? Not to my knowledge, no
Rating: A+

Serling's opening monologue

Quitting time at the plant. Time for supper now. Time for families. Time for a cool drink on a porch. Time for the quiet rustle of leaf-laden trees that screen out the moon, and underneath it all, behind the eyes of the men, hanging invisible over the summer night, is a horror without words. For this is the stillness before storm. This is the eve of the end.


End of the world? Two fiercely opposed factions are preparing for war, the first - and most decisive and deadly - strikes being prepared for launch. Will Sturka, one of the factory workers, is increasingly worried about the imminent attack and he can see that his daughter is too, but he tries to make light of it. He has invited his friend Jerry Riden over for a card game, but unbeknownst to his family the two men have another task in mind: the theft of a top-secret craft Riden has been test-flying, with which they hope to escape the doomed planet. Riden and Sturka have to be very careful, as there are spies everywhere, and indeed one is watching his movements. Spurred by what he called “defeatist talk” - simply a comment by Sturka that the coming war is pointless and will serve no end - from earlier outside the factory, another worker, Carling, has his suspicions and is watching the house.

As they make their plans over the card game everything is tense. Sturka has let his wife in on the secret, and Riden’s wife already knows, but the daughter does not as she can’t be trusted to keep it to herself. Riden is telling Sturka about their destination, a planet quite like their own with a similar language and technology, about eighteen million miles distant, when Carling arrives and interrupts the game. Obsequious and smarmy, he looks like a fat little nondescript man, the kind you find out too late works for the Gestapo. Carling tries to find out what’s going on - he knows something is afoot - but the two families keep their nerve. When Sturka gets a call saying he’s needed at work he knows it’s time to run, and so they do.

There’s a scare when Carlin catches them, but they overpower him and make for the craft. Once they make it into space Riden points out the planet they’re heading to, where there are people just like them, where they can be safe. Third planet from the sun. Earth.

Serling’s closing monologue

Behind a tiny ship heading into space is a doomed planet on the verge of suicide. Ahead lies a place called Earth, the third planet from the Sun. And for William Sturka and the men and women with him, it's the eve of the beginning—in the Twilight Zone.


The Resolution

The first time you see it, knocked out. Because the people and indeed the planet mirror so closely our own we all assume it’s Earth they’re escaping from, and it’s a real twist to find that it is in fact an alien planet, and they are fleeing to Earth.

The Moral

Several I guess. Sometimes the safest thing to do is run. Sometimes you can’t stop the madness so don’t try, just leave it behind. Maybe it’s best to know when you’re beaten and take the only alternative open to you. There’s also a clever if slightly heavy-handed moral lesson for us in terms of the Cold War. This episode shows a planet which has tipped over that point into outright war, and will destroy itself. Will we do the same?

Oops!

Although this is from a science fiction story, and written by someone who surely knows his stuff, I wonder if Serling adapted it and used his own measurements, because the distance from the planet the Sturka and Riden families are fleeing from to Earth is said to be eighteen million miles. That would put it closer to Earth than Mars or Venus, and as we know there are no planets between those two and Earth, so where is the planet meant to be?

Iconic?

Not the story, which I don’t recall being used again, but in the spaceship there’s a sound used which would become famous, synonymous with Star Trek, which would air eight years later. Have a listen to it. I feel it may also have been used on the iconic science fiction movie of all iconic science fiction movies, Forbidden Planet.

Themes

Survival being the first, survival in the face of impending nuclear disaster. Also hope, hope that the families can find a new home on this strange planet called Earth. The futility of war - MAD - is addressed too, when Sturka tells a gleefully confident Carling that “they can get us too” or something like that, I’m not going back to check. Basically he’s letting him know that though their side can wreak unimaginable havoc, the other side is capable of doing the same. Finally, there’s a sort of space exploration theme, as for only the second episode we see man in space.

And isn’t that…?





Fritz Weaver (1926 - 2016)

Known for among other things, Creepshow, The X Files, The Martian Chronicles, Law and Order, Star Trek Deep Space 9 and The Streets of San Francisco.





Denise Alexander (1939 - )

Famed for her role as Lesley Webber on the American soap General Hospital.



Personal Notes

It's not important and it doesn't impact on the story, but I must note the names of the two families. Sturka sounds so much like the feared German divebomber used to such terrifying effect in World War II, the Stuka, and this is a war episode at its heart. And I could not resist: the other family is Riden. Riden with Biden? Sorry.


Questions, and sometimes, Answers

Why is Jody, the daughter, the only one kept out of the secret? I understand that as a younger person she might be more likely to say something, or to possibly want a boyfriend to come, a boyfriend who might not be trustworthy and might sell them out, but it’s clear that there is tension as the card game proceeds, and she must wonder what the problem is. Of course, she’s already on edge, like everyone, over the imminent war, but it must feel to her like she’s the only sober one at a drunken party. Would it not have been better to have told her and sworn her to secrecy?

Those clever little touches

Riden has been sketching out their flight plan on a piece of paper, and when Carling arrives he turns it over face down, and pretends he’s using it to keep score how much his friend owes him. As Carling looks at the paper, we can see the reverse, showing the diagram, and it’s quite clever: a tense moment when you think “if he just turns that over they’re done for”. But he doesn’t, and returns it to the table, never realising he had held the evidence of what would be seen as their treachery in his hands.
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Old 08-03-2021, 10:41 AM   #26 (permalink)
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Notes on What you Need: You find out at the end that Pedott (the peddler) had foreseen his own demise at the hands of Renard. He also has the quote of the episode as he informs Renard (about the shoes), "They may not be what you need, but I will tell you, they are what I need." Thus Pedott was setting up Renard's doom. Cool episode.

Notes on the Four Of Us Are Dying: Not much to add here except it is a well above average TZ episode. One note: You may remember Ross Martin (one of the four) as Artemis Gordon on the Wild Wild West. He's also one of my favorite TV character actors, died way too young.

As far as not mentioning the Twilight Zone in the monologues, I think that was fairly common in the first season. Plus you may notice that the opening monologues are off camera in the first season, with one exception which you haven't got to yet.

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Old 08-03-2021, 11:53 AM   #27 (permalink)
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I will have to go back and check, but I'm pretty sure it was a rare episode in the first season, or even the second, that didn't mention the name of the show either in the introduction or at the end. This one stands out to me as having neither, so I think I might be right there, but nerdy research will show.

As for the off-screen thing, yes, I make reference to it at the start of season two that from then on, Serling is seen making the announcements; I even have a new section which details where he is and what he's doing in each episode.

More to come immediately!
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Old 08-03-2021, 11:59 AM   #28 (permalink)
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Title: “I Shot an Arrow Into the Air”
Original transmission date: January 15 1960
Written by: Rod Serling, from the story by Madelon Champion
Directed by: Stuart Rosenberg
Starring: Dewey Martin as Officer Corey
Edward Binns as Colonel Donlin
Ted Otis as Pierson
Harry Bartell as Langford
Leslie Barrett as Brandt


Setting: Earth (sssh!)
Timeframe: Present (at the time)
Theme(s): Survival, greed, selfishness, despair, lost
Parodied? Not to my knowledge, no
Rating: A++



Serling’s opening monologue

Her name is the Arrow 1. She represents four and a half years of planning, preparation, and training, and a thousand years of science, mathematics, and the projected dreams and hopes of not only a nation, but a world. She is the first manned aircraft into space and this is the countdown. The last five seconds before man shot an arrow into the air.

The first spacecraft to leave Earth falls off the radar and control loses contact with it. On a deserted asteroid, the survivors decide to strike out from the remains of the crashed craft, to see where they are and if there is any chance of survival. Corey, one of the crew, resents the fact that his commanding officer is “wasting” water on a dying crewman, but the colonel will not leave him to die. He points out that there’s no chance of rescue, as they had the only spacecraft ever made by man, so there is no way anyone can come after them even if they knew where they were, which they don’t. While Corey fights over the water, the crewman dies. That leaves only three of them.

Nerves are frayed; Corey is being belligerent and insubordinate, perhaps thinking why should he obey a man who represents an authority that is no longer in charge? They’re on an asteroid, not Earth, and unlikely ever to be back under military command again. When Corey returns from patrol without Pearson, the third member of the crew still alive, the colonel forces him to admit that the other man is dead. Though the colonel can’t prove Corey killed Pearson, he insists they go and bring his body back. Corey is reluctant, but his CO forces him. When they get to the spot where Corey says he was though, Pearson is nowhere to be found.

They follow a trail and find him, not dead after all, but he is dying. He points to the top of the mountain, indicating he found something up there, but has not the strength to speak. He sketches out a rough figure - two horizontal lines crossed by a vertical, like a cross. The colonel has no idea what it is, but Corey decides it’s time for him to die and shoots him, continuing on alone up the mountain. When he gets to the top, he sees what it was that Pearson was trying to tell them, what he had found before losing his balance and falling back down the mountain, the icon he sketched.

A telegraph pole.

Turns out they aren’t on an asteroid at all. They’re on Earth. They fell back to Earth and crash-landed in the desert, only a handful of miles from Reno. Nevada.

Serling’s closing monologue


Practical joke perpetrated by Mother Nature and a combination of improbable events. Practical joke wearing the trappings of nightmare, of terror, and desperation. Small, human drama played out in a desert 97 miles from Reno, Nevada, U.S.A., continent of North America, the Earth and, of course, the Twilight Zone.

The Resolution

Perhaps where The Twilight Zone began to come into its own. This is absolutely brilliant. There’s no way you could figure it out, yet when you go backwards, it all makes sense. Why was there an atmosphere if this was supposed to be an asteroid? Why did the control centre lose contact with the ship? Just fantastic, and really puts the two murders (we more or less assume he fought with and left Pearson for dead) into dark, dismal perspective.

The Moral

Perhaps stick together, look after your friends?

Questions, and sometimes, Answers

We know at the end why, but you have to ask the question why the crew didn’t wonder that there was an atmosphere, since asteroids are just big chunks of rock and have no atmosphere?

Themes

Survival again, greed and a determination to be the one left standing even if you have to kill everyone around you. Hubris, and despair in the end when it’s all been for nothing.

Iconic?

No. I don’t recall anyone ever using this idea again. It’s kind of a one-shot deal isn’t it? Once you know, the impact is gone. Still, Wiki maintains it came up again with Planet of the Apes. Meh, I don’t see it myself. Basic idea, yes, but not this actual theme.
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Old 08-03-2021, 12:06 PM   #29 (permalink)
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Title: “The Hitch-Hiker”
Original transmission date: January 22 1960
Written by: Rod Serling, from the play by Lucille Fletcher
Directed by: Alvin Ganzer
Starring: Inger Stevens as Nan Adams
Leonard Strong as The Hitch-Hiker
Adam Williams as Sailor
Russ Bender as Counterman
Lew Gallo as Mechanic
George Mitchell as Gas Station Man
Eleanor Audley as Mrs. Whitney (voice)


Setting: Earth
Timeframe: Present (at the time)
Theme(s): Terror, death, pursuit
Parodied? Not to my knowledge, no
Rating: A++

Serling’s opening monologue

Her name is Nan Adams. She's twenty-seven years old. Her occupation: buyer at a New York department store. At present on vacation, driving cross-country to Los Angeles, California from Manhattan...Minor incident on Highway 11 in Pennsylvania. Perhaps, to be filed away under "accidents you walk away from." But from this moment on, Nan Adams' companion on a trip to California will be terror. Her route: fear. Her destination: quite unknown.

A mechanic fixes up a young girl’s car after it has spun out, marvelling that she’s alive at all. She follows him into town to get a spare tyre, but then gets shivers when she sees a hitch-hiker standing by the side of the road. When she points him out to the mechanic, he can’t see him and when she looks again he is gone. She drives off, but keeps seeing him on the road. Somehow he always seems to be ahead of her. The guy in the cafe she stops at feels it would be unlikely anyone would be hitching on the turnpike.

When he actually approaches her, she drives off in terror, and when her car dies on a level crossing and she almost gets hit by a train, he is there again, thumbing, beckoning her, and she now is convinced he is trying to kill her. When her car runs out of gas in the night she tries to wake up the gas station owner but he’s a prick and won’t come down. Then she meets a sailor on the way back to his ship in San Diego. She asks him to accompany her, saying she will give him a ride back to San Diego (she’s heading to LA anyway) but she has no gas. The sailor bangs on the door and he’s not as easily put off as she was, so the old man has to give them the gas.

They set off, and it’s not long before they come across the hitch-hiker. Nan tries to run him down, but the sailor says he saw nobody, and spooked by her reaction, decides to leave her and strike out on his own. She tries to persuade him to stay but he has had enough, and she is left alone. Reaching a diner she uses a payphone to call home, but is shattered when she is told her mother suffered a nervous breakdown when she heard of the death of her daughter in a road accident.

And now she knows.

The hitch-hiker is Death, and he wants to ride with her because she is dead too.

She never survived the accident, she was killed, and she’s been running from the realisation of her death ever since.

Serling’s closing monologue

Nan Adams, age twenty-seven. She was driving to California; to Los Angeles. She didn't make it. There was a detour... through the Twilight Zone.

The Resolution


Superb. The idea being created that the hitch-hiker is evil, deadly, menacing, is trying to get her to kill herself becomes nothing more than the inevitable realisation and acceptance that she has already died.

The Moral

You can’t outrun death, and when it’s time to go you have no choice.

Questions, and sometimes, Answers


Why was the gas station owner so ornery? Sure, he was annoyed at being woken up, but this is a young woman on her own in the dark in the night with no gas. Surely some form of male chivalry would beat in his heart, if not, the fact that she’s pretty and he could be seen to do a good deed for her would be enough for most old men. Does he not worry that she might be attacked in the night? He can go back to bed and sleep soundly knowing that?

Picking up the sailor is surely a bad move, even in what I guess is the 1960s. The guy is young and strong, and she’s very pretty. He kind of looms over her in the car, and the first time I watched this I thought, that guy is gonna attack her and then the hitch-hiker is going to come up and save her, showing that he wasn’t evil after all. Didn’t happen, but still: giving a ride to a randy sailor in the middle of nowhere, dead of night? Hardly smart, is it?

And if she is dead, how come everyone can see her? The mechanic, the old man at the gas station, the sailor, the guy in the cafe? How can she eat, and drink? How can she drive? How can she use the telephone?

The Times they are a-changin’

Yeah, like I say, wouldn’t happen today. Single girl, very pretty, picking up a single male in the night on her own? Recipe for disaster.

Ten or Less Things I Hate About You

This is a new section in which I'll be detailing, if there are any, the aspects of the episode I didn't care for.

1. The irascibility of the old man, as mentioned in the Questions section - what's his deal? We'll see this later in another episode, proving I guess that for some dried-up old husks of men, even a pretty face can't melt a heart of stone.

2. The somewhat improbable circumstance of a young pretty girl giving a sailor a lift and not getting attacked. I feel this is a little too hard to swallow, keep your dirty thoughts to yourselves please

3. Her desperation to keep him there in the car with her, even going so far as to promise him a date. It's embarrassing.

4. The inconsistencies with her apparently being dead but still in the living world, able to interact with it.
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Old 08-03-2021, 12:18 PM   #30 (permalink)
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Title: “The Fever”
Original transmission date: January 29 1960
Written by: Rod Serling
Directed by: Robert Florey
Starring: Everett Sloane as Franklin Gibbs
Vivi Janiss as Flora Gibbs


Setting: Earth
Timeframe: Present (at the time)
Theme(s): Addiction, obsession, madness, gambling
Parodied? Not to my knowledge, no
Rating: A-



Serling’s opening monologue


Mr. and Mrs. Franklin Gibbs, three days and two nights all expenses paid at a Las Vegas hotel, won by virtue of Mrs. Gibbs's knack with a phrase. But unbeknownst to either Mr. and Mrs. Gibbs is the fact that there's a prize in their package, neither expected nor bargained for. In just a moment, one of them will succumb to an illness worse than any virus can produce. A most inoperative, deadly life-shattering affliction known as the Fever.


A man and woman who have won a competition to spend a few days in Las Vegas argue as the husband, a stuffy Puritan type, disapproves highly of gambling and refuses to lighten up. Suffering her to spend the holiday, he nevertheless refuses to let her gamble. However when a drunk who has lost his shirt on one of the machines forces a coin into his hand and leaves him to play the machine, Franklin wins. Surprised, he determines to take the money he has won back to the hotel room, rather than, as he says these “baboons” would do, shovel it back in and lose it all. As he leaves though, he seems to hear someone call his name…

The voice continues to call him, and soon he can’t sleep. He keeps watching the pile of coins, and eventually decides he can’t keep them, must go back down to the casino and put them all back into the machine, lose them all, get rid of them. He’s soon hooked though of course, and once the coins are gone he starts cashing cheques, trying to win back all the money he has lost. He becomes irritable, irrational, obsessive, standing at the machine till morning, convinced it will eventually pay out. Of course it doesn’t, and when the arm jams as he puts in his last dollar, he loses it and accuses the machine of taunting him, of being alive, of deliberately breaking down so it wouldn't have to pay out. He pushes the machine over, and is escorted from the casino.

Back at the hotel, he keeps hearing the sound of the machine’s voice calling his name, and when he opens the door it’s there, advancing towards him, taunting him, laughing at him. He backs away, away - his wife tries to convince him there is nothing there - but he keeps retreating towards the window until he falls out of it and is killed. As a final insult, or joke, the last dollar he lost, the one that got caught in the machine, rolls out to land beside him.

Serling’s closing monologue

Mr. Franklin Gibbs, visitor to Las Vegas, who lost his money, his reason, and finally his life to an inanimate, metal machine, variously described as a "one-armed bandit", a "slot machine", or, in Mr. Franklin Gibbs' words, a "monster with a will all of its own." For our purposes, we'll stick with the latter definition because we're in the Twilight Zone.

The Resolution

Poetic justice really. The man who rails against gambling becomes so addicted that he loses his reason and ends up falling out of his window to his death. Or, if you prefer, is haunted by a slot machine and forced out the window. Either way, gambling ends up being the death of him.

The Moral

Clearly, gambling is for mugs. Gamblers only play to lose, not to win. Quit while you’re ahead.

Themes

Obsession and addiction play the largest parts in this episode. Once hooked, Franklin cannot stop playing the machine. He tells his wife this is because he has to win back the money he’s so far lost, and as far as it goes, this is true. However, in reality he just can’t stop playing. He’s become a slave to the one-armed bandit, and could not more walk away than he could stop breathing.

Obsession and gambling usually go hand in hand, of course. Gambling is an obsession, an obsession with winning, or trying to win. While Franklin initially puts all the money he has won back into the machine, he can't leave it at that, and has to keep playing. He's now hooked, and the family fortune is being fed to what Homer Simpsons once called Gamblor.

Madness features too, of course: did Franklin go crazy, thinking the machine was coming for him? Well of course he did... didn't he? His wife neither heard nor saw the machine, and you have to wonder how an inanimate machine with no power of propulsion could have somehow made it up to their room, and not only that, then been down on the ground beside the lifeless body of Franklin, to deliver the final insult.

Questions, and sometimes, Answers

On their arrival, the manager of the casino tells the couple they have “unlimited credit” (absolutely would never happen - casino would quickly go broke but that’s what he says). If this is the case, why then does Franklin have to use his own money to gamble? Why, when he goes up to cash his first cheque, does the teller not advise him he has unlimited credit?

Considering how much he hates/hated gambling, why did Franklin go to Las Vegas, the Mecca of the gambler? Why didn’t he let someone else go with his wife? And even if he had to go, did he realistically not expect his wife to want to gamble?

Iconic?

No, this is a one-off episode and I don’t recall anyone else doing it.

Those clever little touches

When the gambling machine is coming for Franklin, seeming to call his name, a slot in its base is curved upwards, and looks like a mouth smiling or grinning. Also, when it “speaks”, you can hear the sound of coins rolling in the sound, a little like in Pink Floyd’s “Money”.

Personal Notes

This was the first of the “funny” Twilight Zone episodes, and while it’s patently ridiculous it is good fun. It’s nice to see Serling could preach on the evils of gambling without getting all high-handed about it, inject a lot of humour into what is essentially a very dark subject for a lot of people.
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