Wednesday, September 28, 2011

"Perchance To Dream"

Edward Hall (Richard Conte) and his nightmare girl Maya (Suzanne Lloyd)

“Perchance to Dream”
Season One, Episode 9
Original Air Date: November 27, 1959
Cast:
Edward Hall: Richard Conte
Dr. Eliot Rathmann: John Larch
Maya the Catgirl/Miss Thomas: Suzanne Lloyd
Crew:
Writer: Charles Beaumont (adapted from his short story)
Director: Robert Florey
Producer: Buck Houghton
Production Manager: Ralph W. Nelson
Director of Photography: George T. Clemens
Art Direction: George W. Davis and William Ferrari
Set Decoration: Rudy Butler and Henry Grace
Assistant Director: Edward Denault
Casting: Mildred Gusse
Editor: Joseph Gluck
Sound: Franklin Milton and Philip Mitchell
Music:  Nathan Van Cleve  
And Now, Mr. Serling:
"Next week we enlisted the considerable literary talents of Mr. Charles Beaumont and invite you to join us in a strange and shocking dream. Our story is called 'Perchance to Dream' and stars Richard Conte. I hope you'll be able to join next week's excursion into the Twilight Zone. Thank you and good night."
Rod Serling's Opening Narration:
"Twelve O'Clock noon. An ordinary scene, an ordinary city. Lunch time for thousands of ordinary people. To most of them, this hour will be a rest, a pleasant break in the day's routine. To most, but not all. To Edward Hall time is an enemy, and the hour to come is a matter of life and death."
Summary:

                Edward Hall has been keeping himself awake for four days and four nights. Diagnosed at a young age with a degenerative heart condition, he is afraid to fall asleep for fear that the climax of a nightmare, which has manifested itself sequentially over the course of two nights, will provide shock enough to stop his heart and kill him. He seeks the help of a psychiatrist, Dr. Eliot Rathmann, to whom he tells his story. Walking into Rathmann's office, Hall nearly collapses on his feet. Rathmann urges Hall to lie down but, after only a moment on the psychiatrist's couch, Hall jumps up, needing to pace the room to stay awake. 
                Hall opens a window. Fearing his patient may be suicidal, Rathmann moves Hall away and closes the window. This strikes Hall as funny because, as he tells the doctor, he wishes to live and that is his problem. Hall explains that he is prone to an over-active imagination, able to convince himself of things that he knows, intellectually, are not true but still feeling the repercussions of his imaginative exploits. His imagination dwells on dark and morbid subjects. Reading of a woman victimized by a man hiding in the backseat of her car, Hall imagines such a murderer hiding in the back of his car, causing him to wreck on Laurel Canyon. Luckily, he made it out alive. 
                Hall continues by documenting his recurring nightmare. It involves finding himself in a frighteningly off-kilter amusement park where he is drawn to a deadly and alluring stage performer named Maya the Catgirl. In his dream, Hall runs from the stage as Maya performs her seductive dance only to find, moments later, that Maya has followed him, determined to hang on Hall's arm and have him take her around the amusement park. 
                Pulling Hall into a twistedly terrifying funhouse, Maya seems to take sadistic pleausure in Hall's rising panic and, though Hall is fully aware that he is dreaming,  he explains again and again that his heart cannot take shock or high excitement. 
                Compelled by Maya against his better judgment to board a roller coaster, Hall panics as the ride rises higher and gains speed. He screams that he can't take it anymore and must get out. Maya, laughing, urges Hall to jump from the roller coaster. This is the moment from which Hall last awoke. 
                In Rathmann's office, he tells the doctor that were he to sleep again he would find himself back on that roller coaster, sure that Maya would push him from the ride as it rose to its highest point. On the other hand, were he to stay awake much longer, the strain would be too much for his heart and that would kill him. As Hall puts it: "Heads you win, tails I lose." 
                His story told, Hall decides that Dr. Rathmann can do nothing more for him and, against the doctor's advice, leaves the office. In the waiting area he sees Dr. Rathmann's receptionist. It's Maya the Catgirl! Shocked and stunned, Hall retreats back into the doctor's office. After telling the doctor that his receptionist is Hall's would-be murderer, Hall runs across the room and leaps through a window to plummet several stories down to his death. 
                We then see Hall lying peacefully on the psycharatrist's couch, eyes closed. Dr. Rathmann takes  Hall's wrist in his hand to feel for his pulse and gets nothing. He calls his receptionist, Miss Thomas, into the office and she is, in fact, the very image of Maya.  Rathmann tells her that Hall came in, laid down and, in two seconds, was asleep, only to let out one final scream and die from a probable heart attack.  As the doctor ironically says: "At least he died peacefully"!
Rod Serling's Closing Narration:
"They say a dream takes only a second or so and yet in that second a man can live a lifetime. He can suffer and die and who's to say which is the greater reality,the one we know or the one in dreams, between heaven, the sky, the earth, in the Twilight Zone."
Commentary:

                 Charles Beaumont is credited with more episodes (22) of The Twilight Zone than any other writer except series creator Rod Serling (92). Almost every episode he wrote was of high quality and a few are outright classics. His first offering is among his best. It is an adaptation of his short story published in the October, 1958 issue of Playboy. As Rod Serling was writing scripts tackling varied subjects and attempting to find a consistent thematic identity for the first season, Beaumont arrived on the series as a fully formed professional writer with a penchant for dark fantasy subjects, a distinctive style, and his own thematic concerns. For Beaumont, the idea of dreams and nightmares, the functionality of illusion and imagination, were utmost concerns in his fictional output. Although he had previous television writing credits to his name, Beaumont was encouraged by Rod Serling, the story editor and creative heart of the show, to adapt the previously published short story exactly, not to change or cater to the perceived confines of the television medium. As Beaumont put in "The Seeing I," a column of television commentary he wrote for the December, 1959 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction:

"Serling told me to dramatize it but to make no changes. He advised me to forget everything I'd learned about television taboos. They didn't exist on The Twilight Zone." 

                Beaumont supplied a tightly written, thematically rich script, car crashes, roller coasters, and all. "It was filmed exactly as written," Beaumont wrote. "I know because I was on the set, watching, unable to believe that any of it was truly happening. I'd done over thirty teleplays and seen them spoiled by the hundred-handed companies. But it was happening. An author was seeing his work treated with respect."

                "Perchance to Dream" was a production blessed with all the right people in all the right places. Complementing Beaumont's tersely written psychological horror story were a group of dramatists perfectly suited to bringing the writer's vision to life. The small cast included three excellent performers, with Richard Conte giving an especially nerve-racking performance as the doomed Edward Hall. Twilight Zone regular John Larch (who also appeared in "Dust" and "It's a Good Life") brings his usual subtle acting style to bear upon an often stereotyped character and lend the manic story an air of calm and intelligent. Canadian actress Suzanne Lloyd perfectly captures the duality of Maya the Catgirl, that of the alluring and the frightening.  
               Director Robert Florey was no stranger to the tropes of surrealistic horror, having co-scripted Universal Studio's 1931 production of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, directed by James Whale (initially slated for Florey to direct), as well as having adapted and directed Edgar Allan Poe's Murders in the Rue Morgue starring Bela Lugosi the following year.  Florey is also known for directing the 1946 film The Beast With Five Fingers in which Peter Lorre is terrorized by a disembodied hand. The film was based on a short story by W.H. Harvey. Florey does a marvelous job on "Perchance to Dream," lending the episode's hallucinatory set design and dream-like action and imagery a verisimilitude that manages to keep the viewer's attention hooked along the line of the episode's breakneck pacing. As Beaumont wrote, Florey "rooted out the meaning of certain lines, frequently surprising me with symbols and shadings I'd neither planned nor suspected. The set was truly impressionistic, recalling the days of "Caligari" and "Liliom." Florey was highly influenced by German Expressionism and it shows in all of his film work. Florey's other exceptional foray into television terror came on February 26, 1962 when he directed a second season episode of Boris Karloff's Thriller titled "The Incredible Doktor Markesan," which featured Karloff in the grisly title role and is considered among the finest episodes of that series.
                An exceptional contributor to the episode is George T. Clemens, the remarkably talented cinematographer for this episode as well as the majority of the episodes in the show's run, for which he was given an Emmy Award. "Perchance to Dream" must have offered its own particular challenges as the episode takes place mostly within a dream context and had to be conveyed, by subjective camera, as a frighteningly unstable environment. The dream sequences at the amusement park are, quite simply, some of the finest filmed sequences among episodes of the series.
                "Perchance to Dream" marked the beginning of Charles Beaumont's contributions to the show and was soon followed by the debut of two other highly important writers to the show, Richard Matheson with "Third from the Sun" and "And When the Sky Was Opened" (the latter freely adapted by Serling from Matheson's story "Disappearing Act"), and George Clayton Johnson with "The Four of Us Are Dying" (Also adapted by Serling from Johnson's story "All of Us Are Dying"). 
                "Perchance to Dream" is an episode that bears re-watching every so often for it has a unique ability to refresh itself with each new viewing and frequently lends itself to new insights and new interpretations. It is one of what can be considered Beaumont's Dream Trilogy, which, along with the second season episode "Shadow Play" and the third season episode "Person or Persons Unknown," explores the various dramatic possibilities of dreams and nightmares, which were borderline obsessive thematic concerns for Beaumont. 
                High points of the episode include the roller coaster sequence, a dizzying and terror-filled moment highlighted by Maya's frantic laugh track, the clashing juxtaposition of the roller coaster to the surrealist background, and Van Cleve's jarring and otherworldly music, which paints the entire scene a hallucinatory hue which thoroughly disorients the viewer. When viewing the episode again, notice that when Hall first enters Rathmann's office and Rathmann helps him to lie down, the camera focuses in close on Hall's face; his eyes are closed. The lighting gradually diminishes and the music filters out to a fading quiet until all is nearly darkness and silence. Then, suddenly, the music swells and the lighting blooms brightly and Hall jumps up from the couch. Knowing the ending of the episode, one presumes that the moment the lights and music go down and to an almost fadeout, that's the moment Hall has died. It is that moment we come back to at the end. Really well done. Florey managed to subtly reveal a lot of sub-textual shading and symbolism in Charles Beaumont's script.
                Perhaps the most important aspect which Beaumont brought to the series was a penchant for dark fantasy, borderline horror stories, almost always psychological in nature, which explored the darker aspect of the human mind and the subjectivity of perceived reality. Whereas Serling was largely working within the confines of recognizable fantasy tropes (robots, time travel, deals-with-the-Devil, etc.) Beaumont arrived with a serious and unique blending of the fantasy and psychological horror story. "Perchance to Dream" is one of the finest examples of Beaumont's unique imaginative process.  

Grade: B
Grateful acknowledgement to: "The Seeing I" by Charles Beaumont, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, December, 1959. 

Notes:
-The source material, Beaumont's orignal short story, can be found in the November 1958 issue of Playboy magazine, in the author's collections Night Ride and Other Journeys (Bantam, 1960) and The Magic Man (Fawcett, 1965), as well as in the retrospective volume Charles Beaumont: Selected Stories (Dark Harvest, 1988) (aka The Howling Man (Tor, 1992)) and  Twilight Zone: the Original Stories (Greenberg, Matheson, Waugh, eds. Mif, 1985).
-John Larch, playing the role of Dr. Eliot Rathmann, would be featured in two more episodes of the show, season two's "Dust" and season three's "It's a Good Life".

-The astute viewer will notice that the line "We've been expecting you, Mr. Hall" is spoken by Miss Thomas, Dr. Rathmann's receptionist, at the beginning of the episode and is also later spoken by Maya within Hall's dream while they are going through the funhouse at the amusement park, cluing us in on her dual role in the episode.

-Director of "Perchance to Dream," Robert Florey, also directed season one's "The Fever" and season five's "The Long Morrow."

-Writer of the episode, Charles Beaumont, noted, in an editoral for The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, the episode's likeness, mostly in set design and construction, to German Expressionist cinema, especially that of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, another film greatly concerned with the contrast between dreaming and waking states.

-Writer William F. Nolan, a close friend of Charles Beaumont, has related the story of Beaumont's innate fear of amusement parks and, in particular, roller coasters. The story goes that the duo, on a whim, entered an amusement park funhouse one afternoon. Once inside the dark and disorienting structure, Beaumont began to convince Nolan that the ticket taker, a rough-looking young man in a leather jacket, had followed them in with the intention of killing them both with a switchblade knife Beaumont claims to have seen the young man brandishing at the ticket booth. Working themselves into an imaginative frenzy, the duo rushed through the funhouse only to discover that the young ticket taker had not moved from where they had last seen him. These experiences were not, according to Nolan, uncommon for Beaumont or those in his company, for the writer often allowed his imagination to get carried away, much like Edward Hall in "Perchance to Dream."

-"Perchance to Dream" was adapted as a Twilight Zone Radio Drama by Beaumont protege Dennis Etchison, starring Fred Willard. 
--Jordan Prejean

"Time Enough At Last"


Burgess Meredith as the unfortunate bookworm Henry Bemis
“Time Enough At Last”
Season One, Episode 8
Original Air Date: November 20, 1959
Cast:
Henry Bemis: Burgess Meredith
Helen Bemis: Jaqueline deWit
Mr. Carsville: Vaughn Taylor
Mrs. Chester: Lela Bliss
Crew:
Writer: Rod Serling (Based on the short story by Lynn Venable, first published in If: Worlds of Science Fiction, January 1953)
Director: John Brahm
Producer: Buck Houghton
Production Manager: Ralph W. Nelson
Director of Photography: George T. Clemens
Art Direction: George W. Davis and William Ferrari
Set Decoration: Rudy Butler and Henry Grace
Assistant Director: Edward Denault
Casting: Mildred Gusse
Editor: Bill Mosher
Sound: Franklin Milton and Jean Valentino 
Music: Leith Stevens
And now, Mr. Serling: 
         "Next week a distinguished actor lends us his talents as Mr. Burgess Meredith stars in 'Time Enough At Last,' the story of man who seeks salvation in the rubble of a ruined world. We hope you'll share this very strange experience with us. Thank you and good night."
Rod Serling's Opening Narration: 
                "Witness Mr. Henry Bemis, a charter member in the fraternity of dreamers, a bookish little man whose passion is the printed page, but who is conspired against by a bank president and a wife and a world full of tongue-cluckers and the unrelenting hands of a clock. But in just a moment Mr. Bemis will enter a world without bank presidents or wives or clocks or anything else. He'll have a world all to himself, without anyone."
Summary: 
                Bank teller Henry Bemis is a bespeckled, bookish, little middle-aged man that can never find time during his day to do what he so loves to: read. He attempts to read at his job and winds up neglecting customers and making mistakes, bringing his reading habit to the unwanted attention of the bank manager. At home, his wife refuses to give him a moment of peace for reading or, frankly, anything else she doesn't deem fit for her husband to do. She is a sadistic, over-bearing woman who resorts to finding the books that Bemis has hidden in their home and proceeding to gratuitously mark over the text in black ink on each page. She then places them back where Bemis last left them in order to gloat when her husband comes along and finds the nasty surprise. 
                At work, Bemis has devised a curious habit that allows him some time to read in the middle of his day. On his lunch break, he takes his bagged lunch down into the bank vault where he closes himself inside to sit, eat, and read his book in the solitude and quiet. 
                One day, when Bemis is in the vault, reading, he sees the glass on his watch face break and then feels the ground and walls shake terribly, knocking his glasses from his face. "The Bomb" has been dropped. Emerging from the bank vault, shaken, Bemis, at first, cannot see anything, for he is blind without his glasses. Find them and putting them on, he finds the world around him in shambles. 
                Stumbling through this wasteland, Bemis finds a newspaper prophesizing the event and realizes what has happened. He panics, terrified of being the last man on Earth, and runs through the rubble of what was his hometown calling out for somebody, anybody. But there is nobody there. Bemis is, as far as he can tell, the last man alive. Time goes by and, though he knows he won't starve, Bemis contemplates suicide as an escape from the unbearable lonliness of his situation.
Rod Serling's Middle Narration:
                "Seconds, minutes, hours. They crawl by on hands and knees for Mr. Henry Bemis, who looks for a spark in the ashes of a dead world: A telephone connected to nothingness; a neighborhood bar, a movie, a baseball diamond, a hardware store, the mailbox at what was once his house and is now rubbl. They lie at his feet as battered monuments to what was but is no more. Mr. Henry Bemis on an eight hour tour of a graveyard."  
                Then Bemis sees it, the public library. It is in ruins and the books, mountains of books, have spilled out into the street. Joy overcomes him and he fights his way to the steps of the library, relishing the books. He takes the time to organize the books by the months of the calendar. Suicide has left his mind, for he has the companionship of all his favorite authors and all their greatest works with him now. He has all the time in the world to read and nothing to stop him, no job at the bank and no cruel wife, either. Bemis reaches down for a book lying near his feet on the stone steps. His glasses slide off his face and come down on the stone steps, breaking the glass out of the frames. Blind without his glasses and unable to read, Bemis hold up the usesless frames and cries out in a moment of terrible pathos. "But there was time now. It's not fair!" He is now to be thrown back in the darkness of his lonliness.
Rod Serling's Closing Narration: 

                "The best laid plans of mice and men, and Henry Bemis, the small man in the glasses who wanted nothing but time. Henry Bemis, now just a part of a smashed landscape, just a piece of the rubble, just a fragment of what man has deeded to himself. Mr. Henry Bemis. . . in the Twilight Zone."
Commentary:

                "Time Enough at Last" is, without question, one the most fondly remembered episodes in the show's entire run. It is a solid, entertaining, and certainly enduring episode but was not a sign of the type of seriousness of intent the series would achieve with the later masterpieces from the second and third seasons, despite the fact that it broaches the very serious issue of nuclear war. It does signal the fact that Rod Serling, and the other series writers, was going to approach serious social issues, such as the Cold War anxieties of Americans, even in context of a humorous episode like "Time Enough at Last." The episode sticks in the memory due to the cleverness of its plot, it's unforgettable twist ending, and the memorable performance of Twilight Zone regular Burgess Meredith.
              Despite lacking in areas of complexity and psychological depth which distinguished many of the other classic episodes of the series, "Time Enough at Last" is an effective bit of tragedy with moments of real pathos, but perhaps an episode too reliant upon its cruel twist ending. 
                It has found an enduring niche among fans of the show because it is painted in broad strokes. Every character in the show is a cartoon character and performed in an over-the-top manner, from Henry's bully of a wife ("Heeennnnrryyyy") to his overbearing boss. Even Henry is a cartoon character, more a type than a distinctive personality. A lesser actor than Burgess Meredith would have fumbled the role but Meredith lifts it up beyond its basic value on the page, adding idiosyncratic touches such as a stutter of speech. These broad characters and the broad performances from the principle actors give the episode the feeling of a standard late 1950's situational comedy, something that is reinforced by the light flourishes from the music of Leith Stevens.
               Burgess Meredith appeared in a total of four episodes and "Time Enough at Last" is his best known performance from the series. It can be argued that season two's "The Obsolete Man" is actually Meredith's best performance for the series, though he never turned in a bad one. In "Time Enough at Last," he is memorable as the incredibly weak and unfortunate Henry Bemis, and he plays this type of role extraordinarily well. So much so that his performance in this episode undoubtedly secured his later role in "Mr. Dingle, the Strong," in which he plays a similar type of unfortunate character that is the beneficiary/victim of extraordinary powers. 
      The character of Henry Bemis is a veiled stand-in for Lynn Venable, the author of the original short story upon which the episode is based. Venable was inspired to write the story by her real-life struggle to find time to read along with a fear of breaking her reading glasses. Venable's full first name is Marilyn but she chose to submit her stories as "Lynn" in order to remain gender neutral to magazine editors. She was represented for a time by the literary agent and science fiction fan and collector Forrest J. Ackerman. 
           One of the greatest strengths of the episode is the production design. The "after the bomb" look is an incredibly effective design on the part of the production crew, even though it is an unlikely look for the destruction from a nuclear bomb. What it more resembles is the destruction caused by an earthquake. The effects of earthquakes were well known and documented by 1959 whereas the effects of nuclear bombs were still being explored, with many of the results being hidden away from most Americans or distributed as lies and misinformation.   
             However unlikely a set in terms of a realistic depiction of the fallout from a bomb, it is very devastating in its bleakness. The stunning visuals were designed by Art Directors George W. Davis and William Ferrari.
             "Time Enough at Last" is a seminal episode in the show's history and is especially important for the show's endurance in the cultural landscape, as its plot is recognized even by those that have not seen the show. It is a highly watchable episode and one of the shining points in the first season.

Grade: B

Notes:
-Burgess Meredith is also featured in the second season episodes "The Obsolete Man" and "Mr. Dingle, the Strong," as well as the fourth season episode "Printer's Devil." He appeared in two episodes of Rod Serling's Night Gallery, "The Little Black Bag" and "Finnegan's Flight."
-Actor Vaughn Taylor also appears in the third season episodes "Still Valley" and "I Sing the Body Electric," as well as the fourth season episode "The Incredible World of Horace Ford" and the fifth season episode "The Self-Improvement of Salvadore Ross."
-"Time Enought at Last" was adapted into a Twilight Zone Radio Drama by Dennis Etchison, starring Tim Kazurinsky. 
--JP

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

"The Lonely"


“The Lonely”
Season One, Episode 7
Original Air Date: November 13, 1959

Cast:
James A. Corry: Jack Warden
Alicia: Jean Marsh
Captain Allenby: John Dehner
Adams: Ted Knight
Carstairs: James Turley

Crew:
Writer: Rod Serling (original teleplay)
Director: Jack Smight
Producer: Buck Houghton
Production Manager: Ralph W. Nelson
Director of Photography: George T. Clemens
Art Direction: George W. Davis and William Ferrari
Set Decoration: Rudy Butler and Henry Grace
Assistant Director: Edward Denault
Casting: Mildred Gusse
Editor: Joseph Gluck
Sound: Franklin Milton and Jean Valentino
Music: Bernard Herrmann

And now, Mr. Serling:
“One of next week’s stars is alongside me now.  She’ll appear in a tale called ‘The Lonely.’  It is a story that takes place on [Woman’s Voice] an asteroid and it’s a most intriguing premise.  [Serling] It sounds it.  Next week on the Twilight Zone, Jack Warden, John Dehner and Jean Marsh appear in a bizarre tale of a man and ... a woman?  I don’t understand it either.  Thank you and goodnight.”

Rod Serling’s Opening Narration:
“Witness if you will a dungeon, made out of mountains, salt flats and sand that stretch to infinity.  The dungeon has an inmate: James A. Corry.  And this is his residence: a metal shack.  An old touring car that squats in the sun and goes nowhere, for there is nowhere to go.  For the record, let it be known that James A. Corry is a convicted criminal placed in solitary confinement.  Confinement in this stretches as far as the eye can see, because this particular dungeon is on an asteroid nine million miles from the Earth.  Now witness if you will a man’s mind and body shriveling in the sun...a man dying of loneliness.”

Summary:
         Many years in the future, in the middle of a stark, unforgiving desert on an asteroid millions of miles away from Earth, convicted felon James A. Corry is serving a fifty year sentence for murdering a fellow human being.  His accommodations here consist of a one-room metal shack that slumps under a blazing desert sun.  He has few material possessions: an old car that doesn’t run, a journal to keep track of his time, some books to help fight his boredom.  He has no companionship here of any kind.  His punishment is loneliness.  His only contact with others is with a group of astronauts that stop once every three months to drop off supplies.  Captain Allenby and his men are a reminder to Corry that he isn’t completely alone and he looks forward to their visits like a child waiting for Christmas. Allenby is sympathetic to Corry’s situation.  He believes Corry’s claim that he killed in self defense and not in cold blood.  He considers it a difficult task to have to witness a man’s misery.  The two men in Allenby’s crew don’t share his compassion, particularly a man named Adams, who takes every opportunity he can find to berate the convicted criminal.
Corry awakens one morning to the sound of Allenby’s ship landing on the asteroid.  Overcome with excitement, he jumps immediately out of bed and begins to prepare for company.  Allenby tells Corry that they have a layover of only fifteen minutes and they don’t have time to visit.  Desperate for social interaction, Corry begs them to stay longer.  Allenby tells Corry that, in addition to the normal supplies, he has brought with him a gift to Corry, a token of his sympathy for the man.  He asks only that Corry not open it until after he and his men have left.  Touched by the kind gesture, Corry thanks Allenby and the men leave.  As asked, Corry waits until the space crew is gone and then opens his gift. 
Inside the box is what appears to be a woman.  It looks, speaks, feels, and moves just like a woman would.  Only it’s not a woman, it’s an android; a machine.  The android, whose name is Alicia, explains to Corry that she functions just as a real person would.  She is capable of all physical and emotional sensations susceptible to humans.  Hurt, and probably disturbed by this all too genuine imitation of human life, Corry rejects his gift and goes on about his business.  But he can’t ignore the loneliness that eats away at him like a cancer.  He eventually finds his salvation in Alicia and inevitably falls in love her.
Some time later, Allenby and his men return with good news: Corry has been granted a pardon and is free to return to Earth.  He is to leave with Allenby and his men immediately.  Due to weight limitations, Allenby’s ship only has room for Corry.  Corry tells the men that he isn’t leaving without Alicia.  The captain has forgotten all about the android and now realizes that he has made a terrible mistake by bringing it here.  With no other choice, he destroys the machine in front of Corry by shooting it in the face and then the men board the ship to go back home.

Rod Serlings Closing Narration:
“On a microscopic piece of sand that floats through space is a fragment of a man’s life.  Left to rust is the place he lived in and the machines he used.  Without use, they will disintegrate from the wind and the sand and the years that act upon them; all of Mr. Corry’s machines—including the one made in his image, kept alive by love, but now obsolete...in the Twilight Zone.”

Commentary:

"'Banishment' is what they called his punishment. Banishment. Half a lifetime on an asteroid, visited four times a year by a supply ship which stayed, on the average, twelve minutes between landing and taking off. The arrival of the spaceship was like a breath of sanity, a recharging of the mind so that it could function during the next three months."
                               -"The Lonely," More Stories from the Twilight Zone

           I find that I like this episode more and more with time.  I wouldn’t call it one of my favorites, but I enjoy it.  It’s not so much the actors that do it for me, although they all turn in convincing performances, or the direction of Jack Smight, who also does an adequate job, but it’s Serling’s script that is probably the best thing about this episode.  It’s a good, solid script that holds from beginning to end, and it leaves the audience to form their own opinion rather then forcing an opinion upon them, as Serling is sometimes guilty of doing.  This was the first episode of the show to be produced after the initial pilot, and chances are that it was written around the same time as the idea here is quite similar.  As I’ve said already, Serling would return to the theme of isolation numerous times throughout the show’s run, as well as in his other work.
Unlike “Where is Everybody?” this episode focuses more on the individual than the fantastic.  It’s a portrait of one man’s struggle with isolation.  Because Corry has a voiceover where he reads excerpts from his journal it allowed Serling to tell the audience things in the voice of the main character rather than having to illustrate them using dialogue or plot.  This approach can sometimes be a tricky one, but Serling doesn’t overdo it and it actually works quite nicely.  I think it’s because of this that the point of this story doesn’t feel as overbearing as it does in the pilot episode.  There is no scene in “The Lonely” where any of the characters have to explain why isolation is bad; it’s just assumed. 

Jack Warden and Jean Marsh
Serling’s intention here, I think, is a study of individual willpower.  Corry survives because he allows his mind to believe certain things in order to do so.  He has crossed the point of simply having to tell himself to hang on to his sanity and now has to let his mind drift into the realm of delusion, if only a temporary delusion.  When he first meets Alicia he rejects her because she isn’t a real person, only an imitation of one, and from Corry’s point of view, a mockery of one.  But later in the story, he allows himself to be consumed by the fantasy, not because he is madly in love with an android, but because he needs something tangible to relate to so that he will not lose his sanity completely (which in itself can be seen as a form of insanity—that’s the great Kafkaesque quality of this episode).  When Allenby shoots Alicia in the face at the end of the episode, revealing nothing more than jumbled nest of short-circuiting wires, Corry is immediately reminded of how close he came to losing his grasp of reality.
           This is the first of two Twilight Zone appearances from prolific character actor Jack Warden.  After years on the stage and a few bit roles in early films Warden began appearing regularly on television, mostly in the live dramas of the time including a highly received adaptation of Robert E. Sherwood's The Petrified Forest for Producer's Showcase in 1955 where he starred alongside Henry Fonda, Lauren Bacall, Jack Klugman and Humprey Bogart (one of Bogie's last performances).  His big break came in 1957 when he was cast as the impatient Juror # 7 in 12 Angry Men.  From 1967 - 69 he starred as Lt. Mike Haines in the ABC police drama N.Y.P.D. Other notable film include All the President's Men (1976), Heaven Can Wait (1978), And Justice for All (1979), Used Cars (1980), Problem Child (1990), Bulletts Over Broadway (1995) and Bulworth (1998).  Warden died in 2006 at the age of 85.
The setting of this episode almost functions as its own character.  It was shot mostly on location in Death Valley National Park, a place that would serve as the landsape for many episodes that take place on a foreign planet.  The empty, lifeless desert provides the viewer with an overwhelming sense of solitude.  It’s an ocean of nothing as far as the eye can see.  Allenby and his men may be a reminder to Corry that there’s still hope, but when they leave all he is left with is an empty desert.  And no matter where he goes forever is staring him in the face from every direction.
The downside of this episode, for me, is simply that it drags too much in the middle.  But this is a minor flaw to an otherwise enjoyable episode, one which comes recommended.

Grade: B

Notes:
--John Dehner also stars in the third season episode “The Jungle” and the fifth season episode “Mr. Garrity and the Graves.”
--Jack Warden also appeared in the unfortunate first season episode "The Mighty Casey." Warden also appeared in Rod Serling's "Noon on Doomsday," a original drama for The United States Steel Hour based on the murder of Emmett Till. It was a script famously changed and censored by the show's sponsor, something Serling sought to escape by creating The Twilight Zone. "Noon on Doomsday" also featured performances from future Zone actors Albert Salmi, Everett Sloane, and Philip Abbott. 
--Jean Marsh recorded a reading of Rod Serling's prose adaptation of "The Lonely" for Harper Audio in 1993. 
--"The Lonely" was adapted into a short story by Serling in More Stories from the Twilight Zone (Bantam, 1961).  It was also turned into a Twilight Zone Radio Drama starring Mike Starr (Falcon Picture Group, 2002).

--Brian Durant

Saturday, September 24, 2011

"Escape Clause"

Walter Bedeker (David Wayne) saying the long goodbye.

“Escape Clause”
Season One, Episode 6
Original Air Date: November 6, 1959
Cast:
Walter Bedeker: David Wayne
Mr. Cadwallader: Thomas Gomez
Ethel Bedeker: Virginia Christine
Doctor: Raymond Bailey
Cooper: Wendell Holmes
Jack: Dick Wilson
Steve: Joe Flynn
Guard: Nesden Booth
Crew:
Writer: Rod Serling (original teleplay)
Director: Mitchell Leisen
Producer: Buck Houghton
Production Manager: Ralph W. Nelson
Director of Photography: George T. Clemens
Art Direction: George W. Davis and William Ferrari
Assistant Director: Edward Denault
Casting: Mildred Gusse
Editor: Bill Mosher
Sound: Franklin Milton and Jean Valentino
Music: Stock
Rod Serling's Opening Narration:
                "You're about to meet a hypochondriac. Witness Mr. Walter Bedeker, age forty-four, afraid of the following: death, disease, other people, germs, drafts, and everything else. He has one interest in life and that's Walter Bedeke; one preoccupation, the life and well being of Walter Bedeker; one abiding concern about society, that if Walter Bedeker should die, how will it survive without him?"
Summary:
                Walter Bedeker is an extreme hypochondriac who refuses to leave the comfort of his bed for fear of aggravating or contracting any number of imagined illnesses. His rude manner and the impossibility of satisfying Bedeker displeases his doctor and over-burdens his over-accomadating wife. When Bedeker muses aloud his displeasure at having to suffer sickly through such a short life as a mortal human is allowed, a man appears in his bedroom. The man is fat and dapper, introducing himself as a man of many names but suggesting that Bedeker call him Mr. Cadwallader. He is, in short, the Devil. 
                Cadwallader offers Bedeker a life of immortality free of sickness. All Bedeker need do is sign the contract that has appeared in Cadwallader's hand and Bedeker can live forever with nothing able to physically harm him. At first apprehensive about having to give up the ususal price for such dealings with the devil, his soul, Bedeker reasons that living forever means he beats the devil, for he must die if Cadwallder is to get his soul. Bedeker signs the contract and Cadwallder, before parting, informs him of an escape clause in the contract. Should Bedeker ever grow tired of living forever, all he need do is call upon Cadwallder and Bedeker will be freed from his contractual obligation of immortality. Contract signed, sealed, and delivered, Cadwallader departs and Bedeker begins his life immortal. 
                It is not long after, however, that Bedeker grows tired of his newfound invulnerability. He finds no thrill in life if nothing can harm him. He jumps in front of a bus and drinks poison to no ill effects. Finally, resorting to extremes, Bedeker decides to jump off the roof of his apartment building. His wife, in attempting to stop him, falls to her death. Though he didn't truly kill her, Bedeker sees this as an opportunity to try the electric chair, something that he believes might just be the thrill he's been looking for. He confesses to his wife's murder and is easily found guilty at his trial. The twist in the tale, however, is that Bedeker is not sentenced to death but rather to life imprisonment. For an immortal man, this means an eternity behind bars. 
                Cadwallader appears, offering Bedeker that escape clause in the contract. Bedeker reluctantly agrees and is taken away.
Rod Serling Closing Narration:
            "There is a saying, 'Every man is put on Earth condemned to die, time and method of execution unknown.' Perhaps this is as it should be. Case in point Walter Bedeker, lately deceased, a little man with such a yen to live. Beaten by the devil, by his own boredom, and the by the scheme of things in this, the Twilight Zone."
Commentary: 

"Walter Bedeker was forty-four years old. He was afraid of the following: death, disease, other people, germs, drafts and everything else. He had one interest in life, and that was Walter Bedeker; one preoccupation, the life and well being of Walter Bedeker; one abiding concern about society, if Walter Bedeker should die, how would it survive without him. In short, he was a gnome-faced little man who clutched at disease the way most people hunger for security."
                      -"Escape Clause," Stories from the Twilight Zone 

                "Escape Clause" doesn't have much by which to recommend it. During the first season of production the series simply did not know what type of show it wanted to be other than something under the broad umbrella of science fiction and fantasy. Nearly every type of story under this general label was attempted during the first season, from ghost stories to stories of space exploration to stories of time travel and so on.  
                "Deal with the Devil" stories had already been thoroughly explored in popular culture by the time of this episode's broadcast. By the late 1950s, a television viewer was more likely to see the story motif in the form of a spoof on a situational comedy than in the form of serious drama, which is presumably why Serling chose to wrap the story around moments of broad comedy. It is interesting to note that this would be far from the last time the series would attempt this type of story. The most successful treatments of the theme is Charles Beaumont's second season masterpiece, "The Howling Man." Beaumont also tried the story type in the first season with "A Nice Place to Visit." As late as the fourth season both Serling and Beaumont were still trying the story on for size with "Of Late I Think of Cliffordville" and "Printer's Devil," respectably. 
              Rod Serling almost certainly hoped to capitalize on the public's taste for tales of this type, or at least use the worn-out story concept to produce a quick script. That being said, even among tales of this type the episode doesn't satisfy. The one redeeming aspect of it, if there is one, is Thomas Gomez in the role of Mr. Cadwallader. Gomez was a unique casting choice for the role and defied the traditional image of the Devil as attractive and refined with his unusual appearance and quite creepy performance. 
               Martin Grams, in his book The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic (OTR, 2008), notes that Serling most likely took the idea from an episode of the horror radio show Inner Sanctum Mystery, though, as stated before, tales of this type were old hat by the time this episode aired. Serling's story closely resembles an Inner Sanctum Mystery episode that aired on February 12, 1946, entitled "Elixir Number Four." Serling was pushing himself at the typewriter to provide his contractually required eighty percent of the first season episodes and "Escape Clause" was most likely a quick filler script to give him time to shape his more resonant first season efforts, such as "Walking Distance" and "The Lonely." In all, "Escape Clause" is a rather forgettable episode which still retains the high level of production value that characterized the tenure of producer Buck Houghton, something which is evidently lacking from several episodes in seasons four and five, after Houghton left the series. As a half hour entertainment it's not bad but it lacks a unique concept or even a unique spin on an established concept and therefore feels a little empty and unsatisfying.
              Rod Serling chose to adapt the episode into prose for his 1960 book Stories from the Twilight Zone (Bantam) and it comes off as one of the dullest stories in that otherwise excellent volume. Typically, Serling's adaptations highlight his talent for comedy which do not always come off well in the filmed episodes. "Escape Clause," however, remains uninteresting and unfunny in prose form. 
Grade: D
Notes:
-Director Mitchell Leisen directed two additional first season episodes, "The Sixteen Millimeter Shrine" and "People Are Alike All Over."
-David Wayne also appeared in an episode of Rod Serling's Night Gallery titled "The Diary."
-Joe Flynn also appeared in an episode of Rod Serling's Night Gallery titled "The Funeral." 
-Look for the signature of Mr. Cadwallader on a plague in the basement portion of the Walt Disney World ride Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.
-"Escape Clause" was adapted into a Twilight Zone Radio Drama by Dennis Etchison, starring Mike Starr. 
-Rod Serling adapted his teleplay into a short story for Stories from the Twilight Zone (Bantam Books, 1960). 
-"Escape Clause" was adapted into comic book form for the 1979 book Stories from the Twilight Zone (Bantam; a Skylark Illustrated Book) by Rod Serling, stories adapted by Horace J. Elias and illustrated by Carl Pfeufer.
--Jordan Prejean