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The Twilight Zone: Season 1, Part I (E01-E09)


bomberpunk

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[#051] "There is a seventh dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area we call the Twilight Zone." -Rod Serling

 

this is a long one. bookmark it and take it to the bathroom with you. i have been watching a lot of Pluto TV recently, mostly at night to wind down. There are dedicated channels to some of my favorite shows including Mission: Impossible, TMNT, and Forensic Files. I found that there is a Twilight Zone channel for the original series. Last week I discovered that Pluto TV has an entire on-demand section, and the first two seasons of TTZ is showcased there. I started at the beginning and recently completed 9 of 36 episodes from season one. 

 

As I started doing with Alfred Hitchcock Presents a few blog entries ago, here are my brief reviews of each episode below, following by an episode ranking of these nine stories. Fitting for my 51st blog, we enter Rod Serling's genius.

 

All nine episodes aired in October & November of 1959.

 

Episode 1 - "Where Is Everybody?"

A man finds himself all alone in a town with no other signs of life. He first enters a diner, then a police station, and then a candy shoppe. During the episode, he is slowly losing his mind and feels like he's being watched. However, there are no other characters in the episode until the very end when we find that he's actually in an isolation booth under some military experiment to determine if he is fit to fulfill the role of an astronaut who would be going to the moon by himself. Based on how it ends, he allegedly passes the test even though he was hallucinating. While a very entertaining first episode, there are much better stories to come. This one features Earl Holliman, who at the time of this writing is still alive at 93 years old. Seems that his biggest film credit is a character in a movie called Rainmaker (1956), beating out Elvis Presley for that role.

 

Episode 2 - "One For The Angels"

On the sidewalk of a busy neighborhood is an old man named Lou Bookman with an open briefcase atop a stool, selling random things such as men's ties and robot toys. He's not much of a salesman to adults but the neighborhood kids flock to him and he's obviously a very nice old man who has a way with exciting the little ones with his animated personality and free gifts. A suited man introduced himself as Death to Lou and explains that tonight at midnight it will be his time to go. After going back and forth, Lou realizes he is the real deal and asks for an extension to his predetermined fate because he's never made his big pitch to someone, and that he could surely come up with a huge one that Lou describes as "one for the angels". Death, seemingly reluctant, agrees to this one bucket list wish. Lou then mocks Death stating that he's just retired, so the big pitch will never come therefore he keeps on living. Death concedes to such loophole but explains that someone else will just have to take his place. The next day, one of his regular neighborhood kids is struck by a vehicle, as Death chose her. Lou pleads with Death, but he is informed that is he taking her soul at midnight. He pleads some more and eventually makes a pitch that is indeed one for the angels, essentially signing his own death certificate in regard to the original deal. Lou walks off with Death, just prior to him learning that he's going to be going to heaven. Lou is played by Isiah Edwin Leopold, better known as Ed Wynn. This guy was in a ton of stuff, including the voice of the Mad Hatter in Disney's Alice in Wonderland, and Kris Kringle in Miracle on 34th Street. He died of cancer in 1966 at 79 years old. His grave marker reads "Dear God, Thanks". Death was played by Murray Hamilton, who died of cancer in 1986 at 63 years old. He was also in a ton of stuff, including the Jaws movies as Mayor Larry Vaugn and on the tv sitcom Mama's Family as Uncle Roy Harper.

 

Episode 3 - "Mr. Denton on Doomsday"

I actually watched this episode first out of these 9, because it was on the dedicated TTZ channel, and it was prior to me discovering the on-demand feature.

There's a town drunk by the name of Al Denton, and naturally the opening scene takes place at a bar, or maybe just outside the bar as I recall. A bunch of guys are messing with him, dangling booze in front of his face demanding him to sing. The kinda-obvious leader of this group of bullies looked very familiar to me, and within seconds I realized it was the same guy from the Mission: Impossible tv series! Back to the story, the bullies eventually leave Denton alone and he finds himself talking to a salesman who is perched against his wagon. His name is Fate, as shown on the wagon's sign. I don't remember what the tradeoff was, but Denton was given the ability to never miss with a gun. All he had to do was drink the potion given to him. And drink that potion he did. He made fools of the bullies and hung up his hat so to speak, since the respect of the townsfolk returned almost instantly after said standoff. Denton was aware that word would travel and the best gunslingers from other parts of the world would come challenge him. Eventually a showdown takes place at the same bar, but not before crossing paths with Fate again and getting another potion. Inside the bar is a younger guy, almost a kid. Denton takes a swig of the potion and looks over at the rival, seeing an empty potion bottle in his hand. Both gunslingers draw their guns and blast each other in the hand, forever ruining their future as gunmen and at the same time saving them from future gunbattle. The story ends with Fate riding out of the town. This was a great story because the viewers are shown a lot of character growth within Al Denton. Well-written, well-executed, and well-acted. Denton was played by Dan Duryea, who acted from 1934 all the way until the year of his death in 1968. Duryea also succumbed to cancer. He was 61. God damn it's a clean sweep for cancer so far. The previously mentioned actor from Mission: Impossible is Martin Landau. This guy might be my favorite actor from this era. He was also in both seasons of Space: 1999 and a ton of other stuff (including co-star Barbara Bain, they later married). He died in 2017 at the age of 89 due to heart complications.

 

Episode 4 - "The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine"

This one is about a former movie star who is no longer in her prime and is stuck in the past. She keeps herself locked up in a large dark room watching her old movies on 16mm film. She thinks she's still friends with people who have either moved on or have passed away. She comes off as a total bitch and for that reason I didn't really care about how miserable and sad her situation is. Eventually her former acting partner comes to visit to try to pull her head out of the clouds. The episode ends satisfyingly because there is no resolve. The former acting partner just watches her delusional ass exit the room to entertain all her guests at the huge house party that isn't happening. Episode 4 is the weakest in this group for me, but that says nothing about the starring actress. Ida Lupino plays the has-been actress absolutely well, and the fact that she can make a character so annoying within the limits of one episode shows how great she was. Lupino died of a stroke in 1995 at 77 years old. She returned to The Twilight Zone in 1964 to direct an episode called "The Masks", but she's acted in and directed many other things from 1957 to 1977.

 

Episode 5 - "Walking Distance"

This episode is one of the best in this bunch, and I'll explain why after the synopsis. This is the story of a 35-year old (who looks 50) named Martin. He stops at a service station and you immediately get the idea that he's kind of a douchebag in how he interacts with the attendant working. He realizes that his hometown is in walking distance, so he walks down the road and find that everything looks exactly as it did back when he was child. It amazed and bewildered him. He almost immediately snaps out of his businessman-douche persona while memories of people and places come flooding in. He eventually finds himself, literally himself, but as a child. He tried to speak to young Martin but of course the kid is scared away. He goes up to the front door of his childhood home and knocks. Martin's parents come out and he his excited to see them. Dad is confused and mom is scared, which then turns Dad's defenses on and demands that he leaves now. In doing so, Martin finds his younger self riding in circles on the town park's carousel. In an attempt to talk to the boy, the scenario unfolds as a chase scene and young Martin is accidentally injured, which in turn inflicts sudden pain in older Martin's leg. Young Martin is carried away, leaving older Martin to sit on the curb and sulk. Shortly after, Dad pops up with a better understanding, as Martin accidentally dropped his wallet on the porch. There are dollar bills with dates that haven't occurred yet, and the driver's license shedding some light as well. Dad tells older Martin that the kid will be alright, he'll just have a limp. He also tells him to go, that this time and place belongs to young Martin. Agreeing, older Martin limps down the road and finds the service station again. By interacting with the past, Martin gave himself a permanent leg injury. I thoroughly enjoyed this one, and the main reason why is because every now and then I think about time travel and what I would do or say to my past-tense parents to convince them that the 40-something standing in front of them is their kid. I would have acted just like Martin did. I would have stated facts only I would know, and they would most likely react just like Martin's parents reacted. My mom would be teary-eyed in fear, my dad would tell me to GTFO of there. I think about this scenario often. I'm not sure why. Maybe I'm remembering something from the future... Byron Elsworth Barr, also known as Gig Young, played the role of Martin. He was 64 died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound (presumably just after murdering his wife) in 1978.

 

Episode 6 - ""Escape Clause"

This is another good one. It's about a germophobe named Walter who thinks both his doctor and his wife are trying to kill him. Neither is true. A fat guy in business attire pops up in Walter's bedroom and offers him immortality for the very small price of his soul. Walter is at first skeptical but then jumps at the opportunity. The chunk of the episode shows Walter going out and putting himself into inescapable death situations. Each time he, he returns home unscathed. After a dozen or so of these incidents, the thrill of it all has worn off. He finally explains to his wife of the deal he made with the devil, and of course she's not buying it. So he tells her he's going to go up to the roof and jump off to prove it. Naturally she thinks he's losing his mind and begs & pleads, trying to physically hold him back away from the ledge. She loses her footing and plummets to her death. Walter phones the police and without remorse tells them he just murdered his wife. Instead of getting the electric chair as he had hoped, he was sentenced to life in prison without parole. Realizing that Walter would be stuck in prison for all eternity, the fat devil man pops up once again to remind Walter of the escape clause that is part of their bargain. As Walter nods in agreement, he drops to the floor of his prison cell and dies of a heart attack. Another soul for the devil! Walter was played by actor David Wayne who died of cancer in 1995, aged 81. His career spanned from 1940 to 1987. He also played Dr. Charles Dutton in The Andromeda Strain (1971). Thomas Gomez, who played the devil, died after a 3-week coma in 1971 at age 65. Gomez appears in another TTZ episode called "Dust" (1961).

 

Episode 7 - "The Lonely"

The future is now. It's the year 2046 and criminals are no longer sent to prison. Hell no, they're sent to live alone on asteroids in outer space. Every 4 months, food and other survival supplies are dropped off. Our main character "inmate" Cory is desperate for some companionship and urges the main delivery guy (there were three total, and one was a jackass) to play cards or chess with him. Cory is informed that he will never get the pardon he is always asking for, as murder cases are no longer reviewed. In Cory's case, it was an act of self-defense, and the main delivery guy believes that he is innocent but the sentence is out of his hands. With that, a giant crate is left with Cory with instructions not to open it until their rocketship takes them off of the asteroid until the next delivery in four years. Cory opens the box and inside is a gorgeous woman. Except she's a robot. After initially going back and forth on whether to accept her or not, Cory makes her cry. He realizes she's highly advanced and can display human emotion and recall memories just like a real person. Over the course of the next several months Cory forgets that she is just a robot and has the time of his life with her, falling in love and all. An unexpected early return of the delivery rocketship puts Cory in a predicament. He can finally leave the asteroid to return back to Earth, however, he would have to leave behind his robotic ladyfriend, as there is room for one more person. Cory pleads that she must return with him, and suddenly on of the men pull out a handgun and shoots her in the face, completely blowing off all signs of human-like qualities and exposing circuits, wires, and gears. The robot repeats his name "Cory" over and over until she "dies". All men, including Cory, board the rocketship to conclude the episode. Based on the 2022 price of fuel and the supply shortage of machine parts, there's no way this that much money would be spent on an interstellar criminal program. But the same can't be said for the lifelike robotic sex dolls that are either in development or already on the market. Good choice, science experts. Good choice. Jack Warden plays Cory. He died of heart & kidney failure in 2006 at 85 years old. His career is a whopping five decades, 1950-2000. He played the recurring role of Big Ben in all three Problem Child movies among many other things. Jean Marsh is currently 88 years old at the time of this writing. She played the very beautiful robotic woman. She also played roles in The Eagle Has Landed and Willow among a handful of other film credits.

 

Episode 8 - "Time Enough At Last"

As I start writing this one out, I'm trying to determine if this is my favorite episode of the bunch or not. I'll figure that out by the time I get down to the ranking at the bottom of this blog..

Our main character is a thin older gentleman with very thick eyeglasses. Henry Bemis a bank teller and is obsessed with reading. Hiding a book in his lap during a transaction with a customer at the window, he shortchanges the lady, and she gets a little irate. Henry's boss calls him into his office, to explain he's got one more chance to get rid of his reading material or he's fired. Later that evening, Henry is in his living room and digs under the easychair's seat cushion for a book of poetry he has hidden from his wife, who like his boss, hates the fact that he reads so much. Upon opening the book he finds that she took a marker to every single page, crossing out every single word in the now-useless book. Henry's wife grabs the book out of his hand and destroys it right in front of him. Fastforward to the next day at work, Henry takes his bag lunch and assorted reading material downstairs and locks himself inside the vault. After noticing the front page headline about an atomic bomb, there's a loud boom and the scene shakes and he's knocked unconscious. When Henry comes to, he opens the vault and files nothing but rubble and smoke. There is no sign of life. He exits the bank and finds himself alone amongst miles and miles of empty destruction, realizing that being in the vault saved him. Henry's house is destroyed, wife obviously obliterated. He stumbles upon remains of a grocery store, with tons of canned food intact and ready for consumption. That's one problem solved, but ultimately the loneliness sets in. Henry finds a revolver and just as he is about to end his own life, he notices a large sign in the distance that says "library". He goes over to the area and finds books. Tons and tons of books. He's ecstatic. He's joyous. He organizes the books in dozens of stacks, planning out which month and which year he'll tackle each stack, After everything is organized, he bends forward to grab the very first book of his very first stack, and in the process he stumbles. His glasses fall off of his face and the lenses shatter upon hitting the concrete. The episode ends with Henry in tears, surrounded by the one true love of his life, with all the time in the world to enjoy it, with no vision to do so. This is a perfect story/script with a fantastically tragic outcome. It works as a Twilight Zone episode, it could have worked as an Alfred Hitchcock episode, or several other sci-fi/thriller shows. Burgess Meredith played the role of Henry. He died in 1997 at age 89. For me personally, Meredith is best known for his role as the Penguin in over 20 episodes of the original Batman tv series as well as the full-length original Batman film.

 

Episode 9 - "Perchance to Dream"

Okay, this one was wild and great way to end the first 1/4 of Season 1. Our main character Edward has a condition where when he falls asleep, his previous dream continues. In this ongoing slumber saga, there's a woman named Maya who is trying to kill him. Edward believes that she will be successful in the next segment of the dream so he does what he can to stay awake. This is putting too much strain on his heart as he has now been awake for several days straight and fighting off his tiredness. He goes to his doctor, even though he believes nothing can be done to help him. The doc helps him over to the couch where he drifts off to sleep, and indeed the next chapter of the dream begins to unfold, at a carnival. He meets Maya as a dancer, and she convinces him to go into the funhouse. None of the features of the funhouse are enough to startle him enough to cause heart failure, so she flirts him onto the rollercoaster. He is not enjoying the ride one bit, and Edward manages to shake off the dream and wake up, getting up from the couch and telling the doctor that he's leaving. He exits the office into the reception in the area, and this is when Edward notices that the receptionist looks just like Maya from the dream sequences. He sprints back into the office and dives through the window, falling to his death. Edward is played by Richard Conti, who died of a heart attack & stroke two-punch combo in 1975, aged 65. Conti is best known for his portrayal of Don Barzini in The Godfather (1972). The receptionist/Maya was played by Suzanne Lloyd, who is 89 years old at the time of this writing. She took on small roles such as this one, from 1959 to 1967, with one recurring role in the Zorro tv series.

 

 

A quick ranking of these nine episodes from best to worst, including solid story (no loopholes and a working twist, when applicable) and acting. This was much harder to do than when I did the Alfred Hitchcock episodes 1-10, because there is really no bad story here, all of the acting was decent at worst, and really, i would tie 2 episodes for first place and 5 episodes for second place for their strengths and delivery.


Best ---> Episode 8: "Time Enough At Last"
---------> Episode 5: "Walking Distance"
---------> Episode 2: "One For The Angels"
---------> Episode 6: "Escape Clause"
---------> Episode 9: "Perchance to Dream"
---------> Episode 3: "Mr. Denton on Doomsday"
---------> Episode 7: "The Lonely"
---------> Episode 1: "Where Is Everybody?"
Worst -> Episode 4: "The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine"

 

That was a lot of typing. I am not looking forward to writing about the next batch (episodes 10 thru 18), especially since i rarely get a single comment on my posts. 

On top of that, I'm two episodes into Space: 1999 ...

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