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Old 12-01-2021, 09:42 AM   #81 (permalink)
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Hey, Trolls. Check out this video. This guy reviewed the entire first season. He's pretty good.

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Old 12-05-2021, 10:16 AM   #82 (permalink)
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“Why don’t they work properly? Offhand, I’d say it’s because you don’t treat them properly.”

Title: “A Thing About Machines”
Original transmission date: October 28 1960
Written by: Rod Serling
Directed by: David Orrick McDearmon
Starring: Richard Haydn as Bartlett Finchley
Barbara Stuart as Edith Rogers
Barney Phillips as TV Repairman

Setting: Earth
Timeframe: Present (at the time)
Theme(s): Fear of technology, paranoia, chauvinism, slavery, revenge, class
Parodied? Not to my knowledge, no
Rating: B

Serling’s opening monologue

This is Mr. Bartlett Finchley, age forty-eight, a practicing sophisticate who writes very special and very precious things for gourmet magazines and the like. He's a bachelor and a recluse with few friends, only devotees and adherents to the cause of tart sophistry. He has no interests save whatever current annoyances he can put his mind to. He has no purpose to his life except the formulation of day-to-day opportunities to vent his wrath on mechanical contrivances of an age he abhors. In short, Mr. Bartlett Finchley is a malcontent, born either too late or too early in the century, and who, in just a moment, will enter a realm where muscles and the will to fight back are not limited to human beings. Next stop for Mr. Bartlett Finchley - The Twilight Zone.


A rather snooty businessman who seems to think everyone is beneath him is having trouble with his electrical appliances. Well, you would, wouldn’t you, if when something didn’t work you threw it down the stairs, as he did with his radio, or put your foot through it, as was the fate of the innocent television? It seems Mr. Bartlett Finchley has at best a fractious relationship with machinery, and I think I can see already how this is going to go, but we’ll wait and let it play itself out. The repairman he calls in - not by any means his first visit here - seems baffled how the electronics all keep failing on the man, and tells Finchley that he suspects that the rich snob is not treating his appliances well. Not surprisingly, this does not go down well with Finchley, who dismisses him as he would a servant.

Once he’s gone though, Finchley’s arrogant facade breaks down, and it’s clear he’s quite worried, even frightened. When the clock goes off, chiming incessantly, he actually talks to it, threatens it, till he dashes it to the floor and smashes it to bits. When his long-suffering secretary quits under his constant haranguing and sarcasm, he changes again; it seems he is actually afraid to be in the house alone, and tries to convince her to stay. He confesses he believes there is something going on: his TV comes on during the night without his intervention, his radio the same, and his car, he says, deliberately rammed the garage when he was parking it in the driveway. His natural poor manner and snappish temper and intolerance though is such that, while the secretary has begun to feel worried about, even sorry for him, his insults and anger drive her from the house, with the fervent wish expressed that if there is a battle between man and machine, she hopes he loses!

As soon as she’s gone, the typewriter she was working on starts up on its own, and when he reads what it’s typed it says GET OUT OF HERE FINCHLEY. Then the TV comes on and a woman dancing the flamenco repeats the advice given by the typewriter. Retreating to his bedroom, he endeavours to scare up some company, just so he doesn't have to be alone, but he’s not, as has already been made quite clear, the nicest of people and nobody wants to know. In a fury, he pulls the telephone out of the wall and throws it on the ground, believing it too is against him. When he goes into the bathroom his electric razor seems to come alive, and he runs from it, to hear the voice coming out of the (disconnected) telephone, advising him to get out of the house.

Hearing a police siren, he hurries outside to be told that his car has rolled down from the driveway into the street and nearly knocked a child over. Unimpressed, he snarls at the rubberneckers to get off his property. Later, awaking from a drunken stupor, he hears the clock, which is no longer intact, chiming, and then everything starts at once, and as he runs from the house his car starts up by itself and chases him till it knocks him into a swimming pool, where he drowns.

As the paramedics put his body in the ambulance, the same cop that warned him about his car rolling says Finchley had sunk to the bottom and didn’t float up, which he thought was odd, as he hadn’t been weighted down. Paramedic thinks he died of a heart attack and drowned.


Serling’s closing monologue

Yes, it could just be. It could just be that Mr. Bartlett Finchley succumbed from a heart attack and a set of delusions. It could just be that he was tormented by an imagination as sharp as his wit and as pointed as his dislikes. But as perceived by those attending, this is one explanation that has left the premises with the deceased. Look for it filed under 'M' for Machines - in The Twilight Zone.

The Resolution

As expected. Finchley, who hates and distrusts and mistreats machines, is finally killed, either by them or by his own paranoia.

The Moral

Who knows? Be good to your computer?

Themes

Madness and paranoia force Finchley to believe he is the target of a conspiracy among the electrical items in his house, and he is a man who has no love for technology. Clearly, he’s been born a century too late, and would have been happier in the days of the colonies. Or would he? He’s such a thoroughly nasty man that maybe, had he lived in the nineteenth instead of the twentieth century, he might be railing against steam engines and cannon. Magic of a sort may be at work here, or it may just be Finchley’s deranged mind, and there’s a definite sense of revenge for the maltreated machines, also perhaps a nod to slavery. Finchley hates his machines but still presses them into his service, so this could be a case of the slaves revolting against their masters - or is that too cerebral? Misogyny here too, as Finchley calls his secretary empty-headed, and that old chestnut, class division, Finchley believing himself a cut above everyone else. Finally there’s fear of course, and a sense of loneliness borne out of that fear, the need to share the company of another human being so as to (hopefully) shut the machines up, or if not that, have the companion bear witness to the fact that he is in fact sane and these things are happening.

Oops!

There’s a logical fallacy here, or a contradiction in terms, whichever you prefer. When Finchley says he will one day write his memoirs, and that the repairman will take up a whole chapter, entitled “The most forgettable person I ever knew”, how could someone entirely forgettable be so important as to warrant a full chapter? By its very definition he would not be forgettable, but the very opposite.

And isn’t that…?

Richard Haydn (1905 - 1985)

Best known to our generation probably for his role in The Sound of Music as Max Detweiler, a small part in Young Frankenstein, a major role in Mutiny on the Bounty and the voice of the caterpillar in Disney’s Alice in Wonderland. I note with interest, given my allusions to slavery, that he was in fact once the overseer of a banana plantation in Jamaica, so while not quite a slave owner it does link him with slavery. Slightly interestingly too, with the proposed cause of death at the end of this episode being a heart attack, this is actually how he died.


Barney Phillips (1913 - 1982)

Best remembered as Sergeant Ed Jacobs on Dragnet and as Judge Buford Potts on The Dukes of Hazzard, we’ve met Phillips before, in the season one episode “The Purple Testament”, and so far, he stands as the one who has had the most Twilight Zone appearances, with two more to come, making four in all. He also guested in the usual shows of the era - Gunsmoke, Have Gun Will Travel, Hawaii Five-0, Columbo etc.


Henry Beckman (1921 - 2008)

Genre credits include a recurring role in the old Flash Gordon serial and the X-Files, as well as films such as Marnie and Silver Streak.

Those clever little touches

I don’t know if it’s intended, but when Finchley dials the telephone in his bedroom a lamp beside it, in response to the action of dialling, moves its shade, which makes it look as if it’s alive. Of course it’s only physics, but given that Finchley believes all the machines are against him (and while of course a desk lamp is not quite a machine, it does have to be plugged in to work, so might qualify on that basis) it could be regarded as a little spooky.

The Times they are a Changin’

Finchley moans that a replacement headlight cost him 150 dollars. Given the time we’re talking about here, where only in the last episode Jackie Rhoades could rent a hotel room - a shitty one, but still a room - for four dollars, you would have to imagine this is a very expensive car indeed that Finchley owns! Even now, I doubt a headlight on its own costs that much.

Parallels

The only one I can think of here is “The Fever”, where Franklin thought the one-armed bandit was alive and coming to get him.

Sussed?

Yeah, though I did wonder if the advice was a warning, that maybe the house was about to burn down and they were telling him to get out in concern for his safety. Not really likely though, him being such a bastard and all.

The WTF Factor

Really low. Struggles to get a 2, and that’s being generous.
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Old 12-06-2021, 07:21 AM   #83 (permalink)
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Okay, so I'll review four

King Nine Will Not Return: Pretty average Zone in my opinion. Robert Cummings' one man act is maybe a little over the top. He also had a reputation for not being particularly well-liked in his day. The story itself is interesting though and I think it works fairly well as a psychological piece. Rating: B

The Man in the Bottle: This is one that can be easy to hate. The performances are good and I'm always a sucker for devilish (in this case, a semi-evil genie) characters. Still, I, like others, wonder why Castle gets four wishes as opposed to the usual three. And, yeah, we know the guy is Hitler- and it's the end of the war- Duh! Still have to admit liking the episode though. Rating: B

Nervous Man in a Four Dollar Room: Another one man act for the most part. Also, one of the best. Joe Mantell nails it with both his nervous "is somebody going to hurt me" persona and his more confident mirror image. You can't help but root for the man inside and cheer when he ultimately wins out. William D. Gordon does a good turn as the slimy George as well. Rating: A-

A Thing About Machines: I always enjoy watching this episode. certainly not the best TZ by any means and not even among my favorites. But you can't help but get a kick out of Finchley being told to get out by the woman on the TV screen and being attacked by an electric razor and the car that ultimately kills him. Again, is this a psychological piece about a snob gone bonkers, or are we really going into the supernatural? A fun piece. Rating: B+

Okay that's it for now.
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Old 07-20-2022, 02:43 PM   #84 (permalink)
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“Wherever there was sin, wherever there was strife, wherever there was corruption, persecution, there he was.”

Title: “The Howling Man”
Original transmission date: November 4 1960
Written by: Charles Beaumont
Directed by: Douglas Heyes
Starring: H.M. Wynant as David Ellington
John Carradine as Brother Jerome
Robin Hughes as The Howling Man
Frederic Ledebur as Brother Christopherus
Ezelle Poule as Housekeeper


Setting: Earth
Timeframe: 1925
Theme(s): Paranoia, despair, evil, faith, trust, hubris.
Parodied? Not to my knowledge, no
Rating: A++

Serling's opening monologue

The prostrate form of Mr. David Ellington, scholar, seeker of truth and, regrettably, finder of truth. A man who will shortly arise from his exhaustion to confront a problem that has tormented mankind since the beginning of time. A man who knocked on a door seeking sanctuary and found, instead, the outer edges of The Twilight Zone.

It’s a dark and stormy night (what do you want from me? It is!) and a haggard man addresses the camera, telling the story of how, one, well, dark and stormy night, he was on a walking trip when he got lost in a storm and found his way to an old house. As the scene changes we see the man staggering up to the door in the howling wind and driving rain; the house turns out to be a hermitage, and though the man who opens the door does not initially want to let him in, he does relent and allows him inside. He hears an unearthly howling, but the hermit insists it was just the wind. He asks for shelter - and maybe some food - but the head hermit will not have it, and decrees he must leave. As he tries to, though, he falls unconscious to the ground.

When he awakes he is in a room, and discovers another man who appears to be in a cell. This man tells Ellington the head hermit, Father Jerome, is mad - they’re all mad. Jerome attacked him and had him taken to this place for being in love with the woman who spurned his, Father Jerome’s, advances. Speaking to him later, Jerome tries to convince his unwelcome visitor there is no man in a cell, and says he does not understand. Ellington threatens to go to the police, and worried that their hermitage will be investigated, Jerome tells him the truth.

It turns out, of course, that there is a perfectly simple explanation for why Jerome told him there was no man in the cell. It’s not a man he spoke to, it’s the devil. Oh, well that’s all right then. I’ll just be on my - wait. What now? Yup. The devil. Satan. Prince of Darkness. The Big Horny himself. Jerome tells him that as long as the devil is imprisoned, the great horrors that could befall the world will be held at bay. He uses the fact that there has been five years of peace - following the end of World War I - to illustrate and prove this point. When Ellington asks how he could possibly imprison the devil, he holds up his staff (ooer) and tells him it is the power that keeps the dark one where he is, the Staff of Truth, the one barrier he cannot cross.

Ellington makes a very poor job of pretending he believes Jerome, promising to keep his secret, but we all know where this is headed. And sure enough, he lets the devil out of his cage and off he pops to set up the next world war. Realising he’s been duped, and that Father Jerome was not after all off his trolley - was in fact, so firmly anchored to it that not even the steepest hills in San Francisco would have dislodged him, had he been riding over them - he spends the rest of his life trying to track the devil down and re-imprison him.

And he does. Glory be to baby Jesus, he does the impossible and somehow not only finds Old Nick but cages him too, behind the maximum security of, um, a hall door. Ah, but fastened with the Staff of Truth, which he’s got somehow, presumably from Jerome. But then, history repeats itself and his maid lets the devil out - despite being told not to, I mean, who would do such a… oh. Right. Anyway, on the whole merry show goes, because as the old saying goes, you can take the devil to water but you can’t keep him in a cage. Or something.

Serling's closing monologue

Ancient folk saying: "You can catch the Devil, but you can't hold him long." Ask Brother Jerome. Ask David Ellington. They know, and they'll go on knowing to the end of their days and beyond — in the Twilight Zone.

Oh yeah, that’s the one. Minus the Twilight Zone reference.

The Resolution

Very good, though it’s telegraphed about halfway through. When someone says don’t push the button, you know we want to push it, and who really believes the devil is real anyway? To quote Al Pacino in The Devil’s Advocate, his greatest work was convincing the world he didn’t exist.

The Moral

There are more things in Heaven, Hell and Earth...

Themes

Paranoia is something that is very often dealt with in the Twilight Zone, and let’s be totally honest, when you come across a houseful of hermits (I thought hermits by definition lived alone? Is there like a guild of Hermits or something?) and their boss says he has trapped the devil, you’re not exactly going to nod and say pass the mead, now are you? So paranoia grows as Ellington believes that these guys are up to no good, have taken a guy prisoner for no good reason (and without any authority to do so) and wonders if he’ll be next. Faith of course is a driving force in this episode. If you truly believe in the devil, and the holiness of the hermits (whose religious affiliation, it must be pointed out, is never explained - they’re not priests or monks. Just because you live alone(ish) doesn’t make you some sort of holy warrior) then maybe you can take at face value what they say. But it’s going to stretch your faith to accept that the devil himself (pleased to meet you, hope you guessed his name) is stuck in a cage in a dark lonely house in Europe.

Trust I guess is another. Faith aside, if Ellington trusted Jerome was telling the truth maybe he would have been easier able to believe his story. Despair then, as he realises he has been used and tricked into setting the devil free, and despair too, from the hermits, as well as determination, on his part anyway, to recapture the devil. And of course, the devil and his first-letter-removed descriptor also figure heavily. Let’s throw in hubris too, as that too has a part to play here.

And isn't that...?

H.M.Wynant (1927 - )

Really I’m only mentioning him as he appears to be the first star or guest we’ve come across who is still living. He does have TV credits, but nothing more than the usual shows and films, however he did star in a movie called Dark and Stormy Night, which, considering how this episode opens… yeah, I’ll move on. Who else we got?



John Carradine (1906 - 1988)

Ooh! John Carradine! One of the Carradine dynasty of acting talent which includes David of Kung-Fu fame and also Robert and Keith. It would take more space than I’m willing to devote to list all John Carradine’s roles, but suffice to say he worked with both the greats John Ford and Cecil B. De Mille, and starred in a ton of movies, so numerous that Wiki has to break them up by decade! A lot of Dracula/vampire movies, a lot of horror, and he also guested on his son’s show Kung-Fu a few times. He even had a role in one called - wait for it - The Howling.

Questions, and sometimes, Answers

If the devil wants people to believe he’s not who he is, why does he howl like a loon? It’s not exactly subtle, is it?

I thought the so-called Staff of Truth was the one Father Jerome held (evidenced by his brandishing it, Gandalf-like, and saying “the Staff of Truth!” Thought that was clear enough)? If so, and if it was the relic holding Satan prisoner, how was Ellington able to let him go so easily? Yes, it might seem the bolt was made from this Staff of Truth too, but that wasn’t stated.

And I have to say it again: how can you be a hermit and live with other people? Isn’t the whole idea of being a hermit to live alone?

Those clever little touches

The hermitage is apparently in a town called Schwarzhof, which loosely translates to “black court” or “dark court”. Oooh!

Sussed?

No, not at all. When I heard the howling and Father Jerome told Ellington it was no man he had spoken to, I assumed we were talking werewolves.

The WTF Factor

Very high, must be a 9 easily.

Useless factoid

This is the fifth episode (over two seasons) written by Charles Beaumont, tying with Richard Matheson as the most prolific author of episodes after Serling. It’s also the first episode of season two which is not written by Serling.

Personal Notes

Written in 1960, there’s a certain tragedy about the narrative here, where Beaumont through Ellington notes the wars that have succeeded World War I - the Second World War, the Korean War - unaware, at that time, that the war which would rob America both of its international reputation and the trust of its youth, and the flower of its young men, was only around the corner. Sadly, this planet doesn't seem to go too long without at least one war breaking out. And I doubt it has much to do with the devil either.

There’s a note in the writeup on this which says the door was supposed to have been secured by a cross, but that the network feared a backlash from religious groups, so it was changed to the Staff of Truth. I don’t understand why. A cross, the powerful symbol of Jesus, used to hold back the devil? Surely that’s acceptable to Christians? Would it be the fact that the cross didn’t hold him back, that it was removed? Or were the studio just getting spooked too easily? It’s not like this was the first episode with the devil in it, although admittedly it is the first one in which the devil is treated seriously, not as a trickster or joker. Meh. Christians.
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Old 07-20-2022, 03:03 PM   #85 (permalink)
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Well, it's about time you came back. Nice to see you have time in between your other 203 projects

Howling Man happens to be my all time favorite episode by the way.
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Old 07-23-2022, 02:41 PM   #86 (permalink)
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“I want to be like everybody else. Please doctor, please help me.”

Title: “Eye of the Beholder”
Original transmission date: November 11 1960
Written by: Rod Serling
Directed by: Douglas Heyes

Starring: Maxine Stuart
Donna Douglas
William D. Gordon
Jennifer Howard
Edson Stroll

Setting: Earth
Timeframe: Present (at the time)
Theme(s): Isolation, being different, fear, conformity, beauty, totalitarianism
Parodied? Not to my knowledge, no
Rating: A++

Serling's opening monologue

Suspended in time and space for a moment, your introduction to Miss Janet Tyler, who lives in a very private world of darkness. A universe whose dimensions are the size, thickness, length of the swath of bandages that cover her face. In a moment we will go back into this room, and also in a moment we will look under those bandages. Keeping in mind of course that we are not to be surprised by what we see, because this isn't just a hospital, and this patient 307 is not just a woman. This happens to be the Twilight Zone, and Miss Janet Tyler, with you, is about to enter it.

A woman lies in a hospital bed, her face entirely covered by bandages. Apparently she’s been through an operation to correct some terrible disfigurement, but the nurse who attends her will not be drawn on when the bandages can come off, or whether or not the operation has been a success. Talking to a fellow nurse later, the one who attended the patient laments over how horrible her face is, oozes sympathy but also a definite repugnance at the idea, and gratitude that she is not in her place. We now learn that this is the patient, Janet Tyler’s eleventh attempt to have the doctors correct her facial flaws, and nothing has worked. Frankly, the doctors think there is nothing to be done. Janet recalls the horror of being stared at, run from in the street, treated as a monster, and all she wants is to be normal, but this seems beyond the current abilities of medical science.

The doctor advises her - as she already knows - that she has now reached the maximum allowable operations. After this, there can be no further attempts. She fears it won’t work - why would it, when she’s already gone through ten failures? Her options, in the event she remains as she is, untreatable, seem to be few. She may be invited (read, forced) to move into an “area where others of your kind congregate” (read, ghetto). She starts to rail against the state, asking who made the rule that those who are different can’t live among “normal” people? It isn’t right, she screams, and demands the bandages be removed. As she is getting hysterical, the doctor agrees.

Later, the doctor confides to the nurse that he feels sorry for Miss Tyler, that he at least can see beyond the wreckage that is her face, to the soul beneath, and he growls in agreement with her earlier, that it’s not fair. The nurse shushes him fearfully, warning him he is saying things that are tantamount to treason. The state is never wrong, and must not be questioned. He sighs and says he knows she’s right, but he just feels so sorry for the woman. At the nurses’ station, a transmission from the leader is broadcast, in which he speaks about the “glory of conformity”.

Back in the ward, the doctor tries to prepare Miss Tyler for what they both know is likely to be yet another disappointment, and the final one too. She promises she will remain calm. But when the bandages come off and there is no change she freaks out. Dashing off before they can sedate her, she runs through the hospital as people watch her in revulsion and pity - this perfectly beautiful woman, not a blemish on her skin! So unlike all of them, with their twisted, pig-like faces so correctly and normally warped and contorted into almost animalistic looks. Above, on the monitor, the glorious leader goes on about rooting out the cancer in society, all that is different, all that is abnormal, all that does not conform to the state’s ideal of beauty.

She eventually ends up running back into the doctor, who introduces her to a man, a man just like her, another “aberration”, who will bring her to the “village” where “their kind” must live. He tells her it’s a fine place, and everyone there is just like her, and in a very short time she will realise how nice it is there, and how she can live a full and happy life there. As they leave, Miss Tyler asks the man, Walter Smith, why they are as they are, and he has no answer, but tells her it doesn’t matter. In the village, she will not be seen as a freak, but loved and included. The doctor, who has done all he can for her, sheds a tear as they depart, knowing there was no other way.


Serling's closing monologue

Now the questions that come to mind: "Where is this place and when is it?" "What kind of world where ugliness is the norm and beauty the deviation from that norm?" You want an answer? The answer is it doesn't make any difference, because the old saying happens to be true. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, in this year or a hundred years hence. On this planet or wherever there is human life – perhaps out amongst the stars – beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Lesson to be learned in the Twilight Zone.

The Resolution

Absolutely tremendous. Not only does it encapsulate the title in a nutshell, but it asks some very hard questions, especially for the sixties, such as what is normal and why are we so repelled from those who are not what we see as normal?

The Moral

It’s in the title. It is the title. It’s one hundred percent perfect.

Themes

Perspectives is the first that comes to mind, though whether you could call that a theme I don’t know. Conformity is certainly one, especially enforced, state conformity - those who do not fit the expected standard are sequestered away in “villages”, a chilling echo perhaps from not so long ago? Isolation hangs heavy over this episode, with Janet spending almost the entire thing swathed in bandages, visited only by her doctor and the odd nurse, not even allowed to go outside. Fear, too: fear of what will happen to her if this, her last chance, fails? Sympathy and pity, though only really from the doctor and technically from one nurse, though whether it’s more a cruel kind of pity, a “poor cow” sort of idea, I’m not sure.

There is definitely a theme of totalitarianism running through this episode; I’m sure it’s no coincidence that the “leader” looks and acts like a Nazi, and the idea that everyone is forced to conform, that (presumably) “undesirables” must be reported and dealt with, and that even daring to question, privately, the wisdom of the law is to invite charges of treason all speak to a society deeply oppressed by the ruling class. At the beginning, hope - that this procedure will finally work - and at the end, when all seems lost , hope returns as Smith tells her she will be cherished and loved at “the village” (and The Prisoner wasn’t even written at this stage!). There’s even the idea of exterminating, as they put it, Janet for her “disfigurement”, a fate she actually begs for.

Can beauty be considered a theme? Given the title it's no real surprise that beauty, or one idea of it, drives this episode, but a beauty which, to us, is totally warped and wrong. This also speaks to how normality is perceived: if everyone is ugly, is anyone ugly? If everyone is cruel, is anyone cruel? Is the right, or accepted thing only that which the majority agrees with and sees as being the true path, or indeed that which they are told is so? Can reality be shaped by those in power, so that those under them blindly believe everything they're told. As someone once asked, is there, in truth, no beauty?

And isn't that...?



Maxine Stuart (1918 - 2013)

In a long and distinguished career on TV and in films she had roles in Private Benjamin opposite Goldie Hawn, The Prisoner of Second Avenue opposite Jack Lemmon, and TV shows such as The Asphalt Jungle, The Outer Limits, Trapper John MD, NYPD Blue, Chicago Hope and The Wonder Years, for which she was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award.



Donna Douglas (1932 - 2015)

Best known for her role as Ellie May in The Beverly Hillbillies for nine years, and on screen she worked with Rock Hudson, Doris Day, Dean Martin and Shirley McLaine, as well as the King himself, Elvis. When The Beverly Hillbillies finally ended she changed careers, becoming a gospel and country singer, and an author, and filed lawsuits against Disney for plagiarising her novel for the movie Sister Act (a case she lost, for who takes on Disney and wins? And yet she was offered a million dollars - which she perhaps foolishly turned down - to settle out of court, so they must not have been quite as confident as you would think) and another against Mattel, for using her likeness with one of their dolls without her permission. Details of that one are confidential, apparently.

William D. Gordon, who played George in “Nervous Man in a Four Dollar Room”, and whom we didn’t mention as his credits are more in the writing sphere than acting, and so nobody would be expected to know him, features here again as the doctor.



Jennifer Howard (1925 - 1993)

If famous for nothing else, she deserves mention as the second wife of Samuel Goldwyn, mogul boss of MGM Films.



Edson Stroll (1929 - 2011)

Another who worked with Elvis, this time on GI Blues, and also The Three Stooges on two of their movies.

Those clever little touches

I love the way this is shot. The camerawork is terribly clever, used in such a way that until the big reveal you see no faces. Janet of course is bandaged up, but through a mixture of non-head shots, shadows on walls, shots of backs and top-down views no other faces are seen at all until Janet’s bandages come off, making the shock that much more potent.

Sussed?

Absolutely not. The first time I saw this I was blown away by the reveal.

The WTF Factor

A top level 10 here.

Personal Notes

I take my hat off to Maxine Stewart, who spent the entire episode with her face covered in bandages, and even when they were removed it was another woman - Donna Douglas - who was revealed as the face of Janet Tyler. Quite an actress, who can perform under - presumably - hot studio lights with all that on her face, and still give a powerhouse performance. I think I’d be right in saying this is the first episode to do something that would become a staple of the series, which is to look at ordinary things from a very different perspective, the idea of looking through the microscope from the point of view of the cell rather than the scientist, of not taking anything for granted and turning accepted norms upside down.
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Old 07-31-2022, 10:15 AM   #87 (permalink)
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“It’s just a napkin holder in a little cafe in Ridgeville Ohio.”

Title: “Nick of Time”
Original transmission date: November 18 1960
Written by: Richard Matheson
Directed by: Richard L. Bare
Starring: William Shatner
Patricia Breslin
Stafford Repp
Guy Wilkerson
Walter Reed


Setting: Earth
Timeframe: Present (at the time)
Theme(s): Obsession, Fear, Control, Precognition, Gambling
Parodied? Not to my knowledge, no
Rating: A+

Serling's opening monologue

The hand belongs to Mr. Don S. Carter, male member of a honeymoon team on route across the Ohio countryside to New York City. In one moment, they will be subjected to a gift most humans never receive in a lifetime. For one penny, they will be able to look into the future. The time is now, the place is a little diner in Ridgeview, Ohio, and what this young couple doesn't realize is that this town happens to lie on the outskirts of the Twilight Zone.

A newlywed couple’s car has broken down and had to be towed to the garage, and while they wait for a part the mechanic says he needs to order, and for word of the man’s promotion at the office to come through, they head for some lunch in a nearby cafe. While there they see a fortune-telling machine and the man, Don Carter, decides to try it out, asking if he has got the promotion. When the answer is in the affirmative, he calls his office and this is confirmed: he has been promoted. Happily, he and his new wife return to the table, where he asks more questions of the “mystic seer”, the answers to which seem to indicate that he and his wife may be in danger.

Getting a little obsessed with it now, he asks more pertinent questions, while his wife begins to wonder if he is taking the whole thing too seriously, then as it goes on begins to get a little scared. Don stays till almost the allotted time he believes the seer warned him of, then they leave. The wife gently berates Don about his belief in superstition, then a truck nearly runs them over. Glancing at the clock, Don sees it’s three o’clock, the time the seer warned him to remain in the cafe until.

Convinced the thing can tell the future, Don brings his wife back to the cafe, where he asks the seer about his car, and when it seems to tell him that is has already been repaired, his wife is sceptical, even scornful, telling her husband he’s assigning meaning to random answers printed on cards that could refer to anything. But then the mechanic arrives at the cafe to confirm the part was available, and so the car is now ready. With, as he sees it, vindication of his belief, Don starts asking the machine more and more questions, till his wife goes to walk out, telling him he is letting the machine control his life, letting his faith in superstition and luck rule him, making him the seer’s slave.

Don realises she’s right. He is his own man, and no machine is going to predict, or indeed, forge his future for him and his wife. He will make his own path in life, and he turns his back on the machine, repressing a little shudder as the couple leave. As they do, another couple enter, looking haggard, and approach the machine almost submissively, asking if they can leave the town. Receiving an answer that does not give them hope, they ask is there any way out, and it’s clear they have gone down the path Don was in danger of treading, allowing superstition and doubt and belief in fate to direct, control and eventually dictate their lives.

Serling's closing monologue

Counterbalance in the little town of Ridgeview, Ohio. Two people permanently enslaved by the tyranny of fear and superstition, facing the future with a kind of helpless dread. Two others facing the future with confidence — having escaped one of the darker places of the Twilight Zone.

The Resolution

Right up to the end, nah, pretty weak. But then the last minute turns it around, and you can see how Don might have ended up. Pretty masterful really.

The Moral

You make your own luck, and life isn’t decided by the roll of the dice.

Themes

You probably couldn’t say gambling, as this is only pennies, but still, in another very real way it is: Don is gambling, or about to gamble, his future, his marriage, his very life on the responses he gets from the tin box with the devil’s head on top. If you carry the gambling theme further, then the couple at the end are like people who have bet it all, and lost, and are now trapped in an endless cycle as they try to break even again. Superstition of course plays the major role here, as Don believes the machine can tell the future. It’s not made clear whether or not it can, but the replies he gets are pretty generic, and without the questions he asks to frame them they could mean anything. Don’s superstitious nature is shown early in the episode, as he avoids walking either side of a lamppost with his wife (never heard that one but I imagine it’s a variant of “step on a crack, break your mother’s back”).

Control would be a theme too - is the machine controlling Don’s reactions to the answers he gets? Is his wife trying to control him, all but forbidding him to use the seer? Fear is here too, as she worries he’s taking it all too seriously, and a sense of being trapped, more literal for the other couple. Fortune-telling and the future, a well-used trope in fantasy and science fiction, is of course at the heart of this as well. And then there's that old chestnut, obsession. Don is in very real danger of becoming so obsessed with the machine that he will allow it to dictate his actions, and we can see at the end how this has become very much a reality for the other couple, who are basically living in their own self-created hell of doubt, dread and despair.

And isn't that...?

William Shatner (1931 - )

Oh I’m not even going to bother. If you don’t know Captain Kirk, then what the hell are you doing reading this? Shatner appears in later episodes too, as well as in the movie, when he reprises his role in “Terror at 30,000 ft”

Stafford Repp (1918 - 1974)

Best known for playing the role of Police Chief Clancy Wiggum, sorry O’Hara, on the Batman TV series of the sixties,


Questions, and sometimes, Answers

A ton of them, but I ain’t got that many pennies!

Those clever little touches

Not really clever as such, but I like the sentiment expressed by the sign in the garage: “I have not been told is no excuse - know by observing, thinking, studying, doing.” Words of wisdom that hold true even today.

Sussed?

No. I had no idea what way this was going to go.

The WTF Factor

Was going to be very low, but with the last scene I’ve upped this to a 7.

Personal Notes

It’s interesting how Shatner’s character notes that his wife is lucky he is addicted to superstition instead of alcohol, given his later problems with the latter, and the tragic death of one of his wives.

This is the first episode of season two written by Richard Matheson, so now he’s caught up with Charles Beaumont and they’re level again. Go on ya good thing ya!

The fact that the “mystic seer” has a devil’s grinning head on a spring does I think add some menace to it, as otherwise it’s just a tin box. Had it been a clown’s head then maybe… no, clowns are much worse than devils, aren’t they? Well, a pig’s head maybe. The way it bounces up and down (Shatner taps it each time he asks a question) as if nodding, perhaps giving permission for a question to be asked, is quite effective too. I wonder that - were these things real, and even in the episode, given the feared reaction of religious groups in “The Howling Man” which led to the change - people in a cafe (or watching this) would allow such a devilish icon to be on their table while they ate? Anyone know if these things were real?
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Old 08-06-2022, 08:38 PM   #88 (permalink)
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“Everything built to perfection, father: everything designed for a perfect life.”

Title: “The Lateness of the Hour”
Original transmission date: December 2 1960
Written by: Rod Serling
Directed by: Jack Smight
Starring: Inger Stevens as Jana
John Hoyt as Dr. Loren
Irene Tedrow as Mrs. Loren

Setting: Earth
Timeframe: Present (at the time)
Theme(s): Loneliness, fear, isolation, paranoia, robotics, control, hubris
Parodied? Not to my knowledge, no
Rating: B

Serling's opening monologue

The residence of Dr. William Loren, which is in reality a menagerie for machines. We're about to discover that sometimes the product of man's talent and genius can walk amongst us untouched by the normal ravages of time. These are Dr. Loren's robots, built to functional as well as artistic perfection. But in a moment Dr. William Loren, wife and daughter will discover that perfection is relative, that even robots have to be paid for, and very shortly will be shown exactly what is the bill.

Another dark and stormy night. A woman looks out at the rain, then brings a photo album to her mother, asking questions about people in it. Shown a picture of the maid (who is currently giving her mother a neck massage) she remarks that the woman in the photo looks no older than the maid does now. She seems ill at ease, but her parents are quite relaxed. The daughter, Jana, seems troubled, even annoyed at how perfect the house is, commenting on how the windows let in the exact amount of light required, how the ceilings are acoustically perfect, how the temperature is set to the optimum for comfort.

Her irritation increases as she asks plaintively why they have to do everything the same every day - eat at the same time, in the same place, never going out, never doing anything new, but her concerns are gently rebuffed by her father. This only sends her into higher frenzies of frustration, as she asks why they can’t go out, why they must spend all their time endlessly wasting away in this dark, mouldering house, why silent servants see to her and her parents’ every whim, and finally she loses it and throws one, Nelda, the one who was giving her mother a massage, down the stairs.

But Nelda does not break her neck, or scream, or sustain any injury, and Jana’s father reminds his daughter that these are not real people, that he built them, and they are indestructible. The house is served by a staff of robots, but Jana worries that her parents are becoming so dependent on them that the robots are starting to control them, instead of serving them. She says that soon, her parents won’t be able to take care of themselves and will be at the mercy of these automatons. Her father assures her that she is here for her safety and security, but she is going slowly mad cooped up in what she terms, seemingly accurately, a mausoleum.

Jana finally gives her parents an ultimatum: destroy the robots or she will leave the house. Her father begs her not to go, but when he sees she will not change her mind, that it’s her or the robotic servants, he promises, with a heavy heart, to grant her wish. He orders the robots to go down to his workshop and wait there. They argue, but cannot disobey and when Jana finds they’re all gone she’s delighted, making plans for a real life. Her parents, however, seem upset, and there’s a secret they have to impart to her. She’s a robot too. They built her as they had no children, gave her the memories of her childhood, but she realises she can’t feel pain, or love (though she can feel anger: weird). In the end, the father reprograms her as his wife’s new maid. Should have kept her mouth shut, I guess!

Serling's closing monologue

Let this be the postscript — Should you be worn out by the rigors of competing in a very competitive world, if you're distraught from having to share your existence with the noises and neuroses of the twentieth century, if you crave serenity but want it full time and with no strings attached, get yourself a workroom in the basement, and then drop a note to Dr. and Mrs. William Loren. They're a childless couple who made comfort a life's work, and maybe there are a few do-it-yourself pamphlets still available... in the Twilight Zone.

The Resolution

It’s pretty much telegraphed isn’t it? Other than the parents actually being robots too I don’t see how else this could have ended. Meh.

The Moral

Shut up and listen to yer dad

Themes

Robotics again, only the third I think, and the first in the second season, with of course entirely unbelievable androids completely indistinguishable from real humans. Of course, we’re not told what time this is in, but with respected movies like Forbidden Planet using Robby the Robot as the template for what was seen as possible in the field of robotics, like the awful “The Mighty Casey”, this one’s hard to believe. Loneliness and isolation are dealt with here too, as Jana feels like she’s suffocating in the big house with just her parents and these robots, and everything so regulated. Fear, paranoia and the loss of control, as she tells her parents they are so dependent on the robot servants that the roles have all but been reversed, and finally hubris too, as Jana’s mouth gets her into a whole lot of trouble.

And isn't that...?

Inger Stevens (1934 - 1970)

In a slice of that “truth is stranger than fiction”, Stevens’s mother ran away from the family at an early age and her father left her in the care of a maid; interesting as the main focus of this episode is Nelda the maid, who seems a little lippy and sarcastic for a servant, even a robot one. Stevens starred alongside some true Hollywood giants, including Clint Eastwood, Dean Martin, Harry Belafonte, Bing Crosy, Robert Mitchum and Henry Fonda. Her death was ruled a suicide, poisoned by barbiturates.

She was also Nan Adams in the season one episode “The Hitch-Hiker”.


John Hoyt (1904 - 1991)

If the cast list of this episode doesn’t quite read like a roll call of Hollywood royalty, these people certainly rubbed shoulders with them. Hoyt was in the classic historical movies Cleopatra (therefore acting with Taylor, Burton, McDowell, Landau and Harrison) and Spartacus, sharing a film set with Kirk Douglas, Sir Laurence Olivier, Tony Curtis, Jean Simmons and Charles Laughton, and, um, Flesh Gordon. Yeah. Moving on, he was also the original doctor on the Enterprise in the pilot “The Cage”, quickly dropped for DeForest Kelley’s Leonard “Bones” McCoy, and he had a funny side (not displayed in Star Trek) as a stand-up comedian. He had a part in another classic science fiction movie, When Worlds Collide, and also played in the classic movie that saw, as it were, the birth of rock and roll, Blackboard Jungle. One of his last roles was in Desperately Seeking Susan, alongside Madonna.

Side note: one of his earlier movies was called Attack of the Puppet People, which, with a little stretching of the meaning, you could apply to robots, especially robot servants, for after all, are they much more than puppets? Jana describes them as toys, or at least the house as a toyhouse. He was also in Curse of the Undead, and again, that might apply to robots too, not to mention The Company She Keeps, which could describe Jana.

Questions, and sometimes, Answers

If they wanted to give Jana the best life they could, and keep her as happy as possible, why did the parents insist on sticking to such a rigid schedule? Would it have killed them to, as Jana says, have dinner ten minutes early or late, or let her go out, even if only to the garden? Were they really becoming little more than robots themselves, without knowing it? And while we’re at it, if they ate dinner as a family how did Jana eat? Did Dr. Loren design her so perfectly that she was able to consume food, or at least think she was doing so? Or did he put in some subroutine or something so that she didn’t realise she wasn’t eating?

If he was such a genius and could reprogramme her, why didn’t Loren just erase her memory of discovering she was a robot and let her continue on as his daughter? Was it because he and his wife knew that she knew, and then things could never be the same?

I have no idea where the title comes from. If anyone knows, please enlighten me. My theories are that a) it opens in the evening, and that’s when she discovers she’s a robot or b) it might refer to the “autumn of your life”, referencing the parents. Neither seem that likely though, and I’m thinking it may be a quote from something?

Sussed?

Oh yeah, after about five minutes. When it was obvious the parents weren’t vampires or some long-lived, immortal beings I knew where this was going. For the time, I’m sure it was shocking and ground-breaking, but now, with all we’ve seen and read, a little easy to predict.

The WTF Factor

Given that I was just waiting for the payoff, pretty much zero really.

Personal Notes

Dammit I wish Americans would stop saying ro-buts. It’s ro-bott, you fools! Even Serling says it, although to be fair the characters don’t. Why the confusion? It’s spelled with an o, folks, not a u.

Also, the almost sexual noises Mrs. Loren makes when getting her neck massages are extremely disturbing, given that she’s so old. I have no idea why Serling thought they needed to be included; they don’t add anything to the storyline and seem very much out of place.

I’ll check back, but I feel this may be the first opening monologue in which Serling does not use the words “the Twilight Zone” at all (though there are in the closing one).
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Old 08-06-2022, 08:40 PM   #89 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Trollheart View Post

Personal Notes

Dammit I wish Americans would stop saying ro-buts. It’s ro-bott, you fools! Even Serling says it, although to be fair the characters don’t. Why the confusion? It’s spelled with an o, folks, not a u.
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