Tuesday, February 28, 2012

"Long Live Walter Jameson"


"Long Live Walter Jameson"
Season One, Episode 24
Original Air Date: March 18, 1960

Cast:
Professor Walter Jameson: Kevin McCarthy
Professor Samuel Kittridge: Edgar Stehli
Susanna Kittridge: Dody Heath
Laurette Bowen: Estelle Winwood

Crew:
Writer: Charles Beaumont (original teleplay)
Director: Anton Leader
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: Stock
Makeup: William Tuttle

And Now, Mr. Serling:
"Next week the culprit is Charles Beaumont, the gentleman responsible for a story unlike any you've ever seen. You talk of immortality, the business of being able to live for as long as one wants. Well, next week you'll see Kevin McCarthy at the tail end of a life that's gone on for two thousand years. The play is called, 'Long Live Walter Jameson,' on The Twilight Zone."

Rod Serling's Opening Narration:
"You're looking at act one, scene one of a nightmare, one not restricted to witching hours and dark, rain-swept nights. Professor Walter Jameson, popular beyond words, who talks of the past as if it were the present, who conjures up the dead as if they were alive. In the view of this man, Professor Samuel Kittridge, Walter Jameson has access to knowledge that couldn't come out of a volume of history but rather from a book on black magic; which is to say that this nightmare begins at noon."

Summary: 
                Walter Jameson, a middle-aged professor of history, gives a lecture on the American Civil War. He reads passages from the private journal of Union Officer Hugh Skelton. The journal describes, in great detail, the hatred felt by Union soldiers for the ruthless Union General William T. Sherman, the man who ordered Atlanta burned. Listening to Jameson's lecture is Professor Samuel Kittridge, an elderly man. Kittridge approaches Jameson after the lecture and inquires about Union Officer Hugh Skelton and in what manner Jameson came to possess Skelton's journal. Jameson dodges the question. When Kittridge instead asks to borrow the journal Jameson denies him on the grounds that Kittridge misplaced an earlier borrowed item. Kittridge invites Jameson to dinner at Kittridge's home. Jameson agrees and we learn that Jameson is engaged to Kittridge's daughter, Susanna.
                We meet Susanna as she answers the door when Jameson arrives later that evening. Susanna is young and beautiful, and clearly in love with Jameson. Samuel Kittridge enters and, after some light banter, announces that dinner is ready. After dinner, Kittridge sends Susanna upstairs to continue studying for a PhD. Susanna reluctantly agrees and Kittridge and Jameson sit down to continue a game of chess in the living room.
                We soon learn the cause for apprehension on the part of Kittridge. When the hands of the two men meet, one young and smooth, the other old and wrinkled, Kittridge begins to question Jameson's real age. Kittridge does the math, adding up the time between when Jameson arrived in town and the present, and realizes that the age Jameson claims doesn't add up. Jameson gives another false "true" age and furthermore states that he believes Kittridge's apprehension is that Jameson is too old to marry Susanna. This, Kittridge tells him, is true, in a sense.
                Kittridge fetches a book of the Civil War photographs taken by Matthew Brady. He tells Jameson that his curiosity had been aroused by the story of Union Officer Hugh Skelton. He shows Jameson a photograph of Skelton and the Union Officer is identical in appearance to Walter Jameson, even down to a mole on his face and the ring on his smallest finger. Realizing he cannot lie his way out from under the evidence presented by the photograph, Jameson decides to tell Kittridge the truth. Jameson walks to a sculpted bust of Plato and tells Kittridge that he, Jameson, is old enough to have known Plato personally, making him over two thousand years old!
                Kittridge believes the fantastic tale and clings to the hope that Jameson holds the key to eternal life. Jameson, however, can provide no such key. He tells of being afraid of dying and of visiting an alchemist. The alchemist gave Jameson the gift of immortality, a gift he now knows to be a curse. He tells Kittridge of the horror of watching loved ones grow old and die while he remained young. He tells of never being able to stay in one place for fear of those around him finding out his secret. He also poses the question of whether Kittridge would really want to achieve immortality as an old man with an old man's body. Kittridge, angered and afraid, forbids Jameson to marry his daughter, stating that sparing her the heartbreak of when Jameson must inevitably abandon her is worth Susanna being angry now. But Jameson will not be so easily dismissed. When Susanna is roused by their raised voices and comes downstairs, Jameson tells her to get her things together, they are going away tonight to get married. Susanna is excited and, defiant of her father, runs upstairs to get ready. After an idle threat by Kittridge, Jameson walks across the street to his own home. Unseen by Jameson, an old woman lurks in the shadows of a large tree, spying on Jameson as he walks across the street.
                Inside his home, Jameson sits behind the desk in his office. From the desk drawer he draws a revolver. For a moment suicide crosses his mind but is quickly rejected. He places the gun back in the drawer. Then a voice speaks. It is the voice of the old woman calling the name "Tommy." Jameson is startled and turns on a lamp to illuminate the old woman who had spied on him outside. After taking a good look at Jameson she is satisfied. She tells him that she is Laurette Bowen and that he was her husband, Tommy, when she was a young woman. The old woman is suddenly holding a gun. Jameson begins to plead with the woman. She tells Jameson he is unnatural and that he cannot go on hurting others the way he hurt her. Before Jameson can get another word out, the woman shoots him.  
                Kittridge hears the gunshot and rushes across the street where he encounters the old woman in front of Jameson's house. Kittridge asks what happened but the old woman rushes away down the sidewalk. Inside Jameson's home, Kittridge is confronted with a horrible sight. He finds Jameson in the office. Jameson's death is two thousand years in the making and he rapidly ages before Kittridge's eyes until Jameson is nothing but dust and an empty set of clothes upon the floor. 
                When Susanna rushes into the office, Kittridge attempts to shield her from the sight but dust and empty clothes only leave Susanna confused as Kittridge leads her away.

Rod Serling's Closing Narration:
"Last stop on a long journey, as yet another human being returns to the vast nothingness that is the beginning and into the dust that is always the end."


Commentary:

"Nothing lasts forever. Thank God."
-Walter Jameson

Kevin McCarthy and Edgar Stehli
               "Long Live Walter Jameson" is Charles Beaumont's first original teleplay for The Twilight Zone. Beaumont's friend Richard Matheson preferred to create original material for the show, choosing not to adapt one of his own stories until the third season's "Little Girl Lost." Beaumont, on the other hand, seems to have been more comfortable, at least initially, adapting his own short stories for the series. With "Long Live Walter Jameson," however, Beaumont created perhaps his most powerful script of the first season. Though it is certainly one of the more memorable episodes, it is also notable in that it was the first episode to display the astonishing special makeup effects that veteran makeup artist William Tuttle brought to the series. The makeup department at MGM became as important a member of the production as any other and Tuttle's creations are instantly recognizable moments from the series. Aided by strong performances, "Long Live Walter Jameson" remains a remarkably well-crafted and thought-provoking episode.

                Unlike Beaumont's earlier episode, "Perchance to Dream," "Long Live Walter Jameson" is acted and directed in a very naturalistic manner. There is no frenetic camera work and the stock soundtrack cues are subtle and unobtrusive. The actors, through the unadorned nature of their performances, effectively convey the introduction of a fantastic element into an otherwise rational world, basically the premise for the entire series. 
                One of the more powerful scenes in the episode was later cut from the syndicated version. This is the scene in which Kittridge and Jameson play chess. The scene represents the battle between these two men, one to protect a secret and the other to find it out. It is also important for the hand comparison scene, in which the hands of the two men meet and are seen to be markedly different on account of aging. The entire episode hinges on the mounting tension between these two men. It is entirely dramatic action until the episode's shocking final sequence. Walter Jameson, the man, is presented not so much as a villain but as desperate and adapted to a certain form of survival. Once threatened, he panics and attempts to flee with Susanna. He realizes he has made a mistake and remained too long in one place, too close to one man intelligent enough to discover his secret. 
                There is a second scene, left on the production floor, which actor Kevin McCarthy discusses on a commentary track for the Definitive Edition DVD. McCarthy describes a scene in which Jameson and Susanna are walking along a midway and a man, against Jameson's wishes, takes their picture for an engagement announcement in the local newspaper. Laurette Bowen, the scorned lover from Jameson's past wonderfully played by Estelle Winwood, later mentions viewing the photograph and using it to track Jameson down. It is the second time that a photograph is the cause of Jameson's undoing. 
                "Long Live Walter Jameson" displays the major themes of Charles Beaumont's fiction, especially that of his Twilight Zone output. Though there are exceptions, Beaumont's episodes are mostly concerned with death and dying, often through the perspective of a dream or nightmare. Beaumont's best short stories not adapted for the series, "Miss Gentilbelle," "The Hunger," "A Death in the Country," "Mourning Song," and "Black Country," reflect deeply upon death and the emotional and physical aspects of dying. Among his first three episodes for The Twilight Zone, the theme of death and dying is all-pervasive. "Perchance to Dream" concerns a man afraid to go to sleep for fear that a recurring nightmare will take his life. "Elegy" takes a morbidly humorous approach when three astronauts land on a planet which serves as a unique mortuary for those wishing their preserved bodies to be forever displayed performing their favorite activities. With "Long Live Walter Jameson," Beaumont gives us two men, one old and one eternally young, both afraid of death, and both running out of time. By the end of the episode, Kittridge's dream of defeating death is dispelled by the sight of Walter Jameson's body turned to dust on the floor. Beaumont further explored the themes of death and dying in such notable episodes as season two's "Shadow Play" and season four's "Passage on the Lady Anne," both of which are based on previously published stories. The episode that most resembles "Long Live Walter Jameson," however, is the fifth season's "Queen of the Nile," a virtual rewrite of the material. This episode was ghost-written by Jerry Sohl under Beaumont's name in a period when Beaumont's health began to rapidly decline. It concerns an ageless movie star who manages to remain immortal by the use of an ancient Egyptian scarab ring and occasional human sacrifice. Though much darker in tone, "Queen of the Nile" is not as effective as "Long Live Walter Jameson."
                Makeup artist William Tuttle joined the production of The Twilight Zone as head of the makeup department at Metro Goldwyn Mayer Studios, where The Twilight Zone utilized the studio's vast production resources. Tuttle apprenticed under Jack Dawn at MGM when Dawn was the head of the makeup department. Tuttle worked with Dawn on such films as Tod Browning's Mark of the Vampire (1935) and The Wizard of Oz (1939). Dawn retired in the fall of 1950. Tuttle served as head of the MGM makeup department until 1969, when a change in ownership of the studio directed Tuttle toward teaching at USC and freelancing his makeup skills instead. Tuttle was awarded the first Academy Award ever given to a makeup artist for his work transforming actor Tony Randall into The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao in 1964. The film was scripted by Charles Beaumont from Charles G. Finney's 1935 novel The Circus of Dr. Lao. Tuttle's other makeup creations can be seen in such films as Forbidden Planet (1956), The Time Machine (1960), Young Frankenstein (1974), and The Fury (1978), working on the latter alongside a young Rick Baker, an artist who later amassed more Academy Awards for makeup than any other artist. Tuttle and Baker won Saturn Awards for their work on the film. Some of Tuttle's most memorable makeup creations appeared in episodes of The Twilight Zone, including notable work in "The After Hours" (working with talented sculptor Charles Schram), "Eye of the Beholder," "Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?," "The Dummy," "To Serve Man," "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet," and "The Masks."
                For "Long Live Walter Jameson," Tuttle and cinematographer George T. Clemens used a proven method for black and white film effects when aging actor Kevin McCarthy in a single continuous shot. It is the same method used for the famous transformation scene in 1931's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, starring Fredric March. Clemens worked on that film as an assistant camera operator for cinematographer Karl Struss. For the initial stages of the aging process, Tuttle drew aging lines on Kevin McCarthy's face using red makeup. Photographer George T. Clemens used a red color filter over the camera lens to conceal the makeup on the actor's face. When the red filter was removed and replaced with a green filter, the red makeup turned a very dark hue to reveal the aging lines, giving the effect of McCarthy aging before the viewer's eyes. As stated before, this method works only for black and white photography. Tuttle's primary method as a makeup artist was to create a mold of an actor's likeness, formed in flexible wax with a structural layer of Plaster of Paris, which could be manipulated to fit the needs of the desired effect.  For the deep aging process undergone by Walter Jameson, Tuttle made several molds of different portions of Kevin McCarthy's face, manipulated the features to look aged, and then refitted them upon McCarthy's face with foam adhesive. The effect is convincing and wonderfully done. Tuttle was assisted in this, and in several other technically demanding episodes ("The After Hours," "The Masks," etc.) by talented sculptor and longtime friend Charles Schram, who met Tuttle during their undergraduate days in the USC Art Department in the early 1930s. William Tuttle is the subject of a 1968 MGM short documentary film, King of the Duplicators.

William Tuttle's makeup progression on actor Kevin McCarthy:












                Kevin McCarthy (1914-2010) is likely best-remembered as Dr. Miles Bennell in director Don Siegel's Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), an adaptation of Jack Finney's 1955 novel The Body Snatchers. Earlier in his career, McCarthy received a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award nomination for his role as Biff Loman in the 1951 film version of Arthur Miller's 1949 Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning play, Death of a Salesman. In later years, McCarthy gained memorable roles as a regular in the films of director Joe Dante, including Piranha (1978), The Howling (1981), and Twilight Zone: the Movie (1983), in which he appeared in the film's third segment, Dante's re-imagining of the classic episode "It's a Good Life," based on the 1953 Jerome Bixby story. In a playful move, McCarthy's character is named Walter Jameson in the film. He is repeatedly referred to as "Uncle Walt." Like the character of Walter Jameson, McCarthy had the gift of longevity. He died on September 11, 2010 at the age of 96.
                In a terrible way, "Long Live Walter Jameson" mirrors the unfortunate real-life plight of writer Charles Beaumont. By the spring of 1963, the young writer was displaying aberrant behavior that was initially attributed by friends and family to the effects of increased drinking of alcohol. The truth was much worse. Beaumont was displaying the symptoms of very early onset Alzheimer's Disease or a similar degenerative disease of the brain, such as Pick's Disease. Beaumont displayed signs of acute memory loss, weight loss, trouble in speech and motor skill function, an inability to keep track of time, chronic fatigue, severe headaches, an increase in the physical signs of aging, and, of course, an increasing inability to write new material. He soon found it impossible to finish any work and was therefore unable to sell new material. As author Marc Scott Zicree commented upon in The Twilight Zone Companion (second ed., 1989), Beaumont began to "farm out" his ideas for new episodes of The Twilight Zone to close friends and fellow writers Jerry Sohl and John Tomerlin. These included "The New Exhibit," from season four, "Number Twelve Looks Just Like You," and the classic "Living Doll," both from season five. Beaumont's friend and former fiction editor at Playboy, Ray Russell, was also at this time helping Beaumont complete film scripts for producer/director Roger Corman at American International Pictures, where Beaumont was credited with work on Corman's The Masque of the Red Death (1964), The Premature Burial (1962), The Haunted Palace (1963), and The Intruder (1962), the latter based on Beaumont's 1959 novel of the same name. Beaumont's other screenwriting credits include Burn, Witch, Burn (1962), co-written with Richard Matheson based on Fritz Leiber's 1943 novel Conjure Wife, producer/director George Pal's The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm (1962), and several teleplays for episodic television including work for Wanted: Dead or Alive, One Step Beyond, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Suspense, Have Gun-Will Travel, Route 66, Naked City, and Boris Karloff's Thriller. At the time Beaumont's mysterious disease ended his writing career, he was as the height of his creative powers.
                Beaumont editor and biographer Roger Anker relates, in The Twilight Zone Scripts of Charles Beaumont, Volume One (Gauntlet, 2004), that by early 1964 Beaumont decided to temporarily move from his home in California to the east coast, opting to take a small apartment in Manhattan in which he planned to finish a novel tentatively titled Where No Man Walks. Beaumont's time in Manhattan was disastrous. His novel was never finished and by July Beaumont returned to California and allowed himself to be checked into the UCLA Neuro-Psychiatric Clinic for testing. It was then that the severity of Beaumont's situation became known. UCLA doctors diagnosed Beaumont with Alzheimer's, or possibly Pick's, Disease. 
                Beaumont's condition rapidly worsened. He acted as though films he had seen dozens of times, such as King Kong, were only now being viewed for the first time. After his release from the UCLA medical center, he accidentally set two fires in his home, once setting the drapes on fire with a cigarette, unaware of the danger to his life, until friends and family were able to get him away and put out the flames. Beaumont's meetings with producers and publishers were disasters during this time. He struggled to speak clearly and was forced to speak slowly and deliberately. He would often arrive unshaven and unable to remember and articulate his prepared plans for the meetings. Beaumont would lose control of his emotions, often erupting into anger or tears as his awareness and understanding of what was happening to him would come and go with cruel irregularity. By the end of his terrible ordeal, Beaumont would be unable to perform such basic tasks as dressing and walking. The situation was a nightmare of emotional and financial strain on Beaumont's family, which included four young children.
                By the end Beaumont was largely unaware of what was happening to him. In March of 1965, Beaumont entered the Motion Picture Country Home and Hospital in Woodland Hills, California, where he died on February 21, 1967, aged just 38 years. He reportedly appeared ninety years old when he died. Fortunately, Charles Beaumont left behind exceedingly fine work and his legacy is secure through his contributions to The Twilight Zone.
               
Grade: A


Notes: 
--Anton Leader also directed the third season episode, "The Midnight Sun."
--Writer Charles Beaumont was enamored with the production aspects of The Twilight Zone and was often on-set during the filming of episodes he scripted. Actor Kevin McCarthy recalled meeting Beaumont on the set of "Long Live Walter Jameson." McCarthy remembered that Beaumont was a motor sports enthusiast. Beaumont was, in fact, an amateur racer who owned a sports car and often traveled, along with his friends William F. Nolan and John Tomerlin, to compete in racing tournaments. Beaumont edited, with Nolan, two books on the subject, The Omnibus of Speed: An Introduction to the World of Motor Sport (Putnam's, 1958) and When Engines Roar: Nineteen Action Packed True Stories That Capture All the Daring and Drama of the Greatest Moments in Auto-Racing History (Bantam Pathfinder, 1964). One of Beaumont's finest short stories also concerns auto-racing. Initially titled "The Deadly Will to Win" and first published in the November, 1957 issue of Playboy, it has subsequently been reprinted as "A Death in the Country."
--"Love Live Walter Jameson" was initially submitted under the title "Forever and a Day" but producer Buck Houghton felt this title too ambiguous and wisely suggested a change. Episode titles often changed between the time of submission and the time of filming. Examples include the second season episode "Static," scripted by Charles Beaumont and OCee Ritch from Ritch's story "Tune in Yesterday," and Earl Hamner's third season episode "A Piano in the House," which was originally titled "Won't You Play a Simple Melody?"
--"Long Live Walter Jameson" was the final episode produced before the premier of the pilot episode, "Where Is Everybody?" on October 2, 1959. 
--"Long Live Walter Jameson" was adapted as a Twilight Zone Radio Drama, starring Lou Diamond Phillips.
--JP


Thursday, February 23, 2012

"A World of Difference"


“A World of Difference”
Season One, Episode 23
Original Air Date: March 11, 1960

Cast:
Arthur Curtis/Gerald Raigan: Howard Duff
Nora: Eileen Ryan
Brinkley: David White
Marty Fisher: Frank Maxwell
Sally: Gail Kobe
Sam: Peter Walker
Kelly: William Idelson
Marion Curtis: Susan Dorn

Crew:
Writer: Richard Matheson (original teleplay)
Director: Ted Post
Producer: Buck Houghton
Production Manager: Ralph W. Nelson
Director of Photography: Harkness Smith
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: Van Cleave

And now, Mr. Serling:
“Next week, Mr. Richard Matheson lends us his fine writing talents when we bring you a unique and most arresting story of a movie actor who finds himself on that thin line between what is real and what is a dream.  Mr. Howard Duff stars in ‘A World of Difference,’ which I think you’ll think is a television play of difference, too.  That’s next week, a journey into the Twilight Zone.  Thank you and good night.”

Rod Serling’s Opening Narration:
“You’re looking at a tableau of reality…things of substance, of physical material: a desk, a window, a light.  These things exist and have dimension.  Now this is Arthur Curtis, age thirty-six, who also is real.  He has flesh and blood, muscle and mind.  But in just a moment we will see how thin a line separates that which we assume to be real with that manufactured inside of a mind.”

Summary:
Arthur Curtis is having, what he considers to be, a good morning.  He arrives to work on time and is greeted warmly by his secretary as he makes his way to his office to finish up some last minute paperwork before jetting off to San Francisco with his family for a week-long vacation.  He sits at his desk to make a call but to his dismay the phone doesn’t seem to be working.  He gets up to inquire to his secretary about the situation when a voice behind him yells, “Cut!”  Arthur turns around but instead of seeing the four walls of his office he is staring straight into the eyes of an angry film crew.  And his office is no longer an office but a movie set.  A man walks over to Arthur claiming to be a movie director.  Arthur has never seen this man before but the man acts as if he knows him.  Soon another man approaches Arthur and advises him to “wise up.”  Arthur looks outside at what only moments ago was his office window and sees a man standing there and it is quite clear to him that the skyline in the distance isn’t a skyline at all, but a photographed backdrop.   The director, Marty, and the other man, Sam, keep referring to Arthur as “Gerry.”  Sensing something is wrong Marty tells the crew to go to lunch.  Arthur asks to use the phone and calls his house but is told by the operator that the number isn’t listed.
            Trying to escape his panic, Arthur runs off of the set and out into the street where he is nearly run over by young woman in a convertible.  The woman also seems to think his name is Gerry and she begins to scream at him about alimony payments.  Marty confides in the woman that he thinks Gerry/Arthur is having a nervous breakdown.  She does not believe him and she gets back into her car where Arthur is already at the wheel and they drive away.  Marty goes back inside and tells Sam to call Brinkley to tell him that Gerry Raigan believes he is Arthur Curtis, the character he is playing in the movie.  The young woman claims that she is Arthur’s ex-wife.  Arthur tells her that his name is not Gerry and he is not an actor and has no idea who she is.  He drives to where he thinks his house should be but when he gets there it’s not his house. He sees a little girl playing in the yard and, mistaking her for his daughter, he tries to talk to her.  She screams and runs inside.  Arthur quickly leaves.
            Arthur and the young woman drive to Gerry/Arthur’s house where they meet a man named Brinkley who, apparently, is Arthur’s agent.  The woman, whose name is Nora, storms into the house frantically looking for Gerry/Arthur’s checkbook, which she eventually finds.  Brinkley tells Arthur that he needs to get a grip on himself.  Brinkley and Nora continue to bombard him with questions and accusations until Arthur reaches a point of exhaustion. 
            We next see Arthur lying on a bed trying to make sense of what has happened to him.  Brinkley is sitting nearby.  He tells Gerry/Arthur that he doesn’t need to worry about showing up for work the next day because the studio has shut down production.  The film will not be made.  Arthur realizes that if there is no movie than there is no Arthur Curtis.  He rushes back to the set where the set decorators are in the middle of tearing it down.  He sits down in his chair in front of his desk in his semi-demolished office room and begs the mysterious omniscient force that brought him into this world not to leave him there.
            He opens his eyes.
            He is surrounded by four walls and a phone that works.  His wife calls for him from the doorway.  He rushes to her and throws his arms around her.  Somewhere in the distance he hears the sounds of set decorators.  His secretary hands him the plane tickets for San Francisco and he grabs his wife and rushes out the door.
            Back on the set Brinkley is frantically searching for Gerry/Arthur.  He asks around and everyone says they saw him there only a moment ago but no one saw him leave.  With no sign of Gerry/Arthur anywhere, Brinkley gives up wondering where he could be as the camera closes in on a copy of a script called: The Private World of Arthur Curtis.

Rod Serling’s Closing Narration:
“The modus operandi for the departure from life is usually a pine box of such and such dimensions, and this the ultimate in reality.  But there are other ways for a man to exit from life.  Take the case of Arthur Curtis, age thirty-six.  His departure was along a highway with an exit sign that reads, ‘This Way to Escape.’  Arthur Curtis, en route...to the Twilight Zone.”

Commentary:
“A World of Difference” marks the second original teleplay from Richard Matheson and it more or less sums up the thematic thread that runs through much of his fiction and throughout much of The Twilight Zone.  This episode finds its identity with other highly atmospheric episodes like Serling’s “Mirror Image” or Beaumont’s “Person or Persons Unknown” where the main character is inexplicably placed into a situation that is beyond their comprehension and is one they cannot share with anyone else.  While Matheson is actually an extremely versatile writer who has written many different types of stories in virtually all genres of popular fiction he is probably most associated with stories in which the main character is somehow isolated from the rest of the characters whether its physically isolated like Robert Neville in I am Legend or just emotionally alienated like Arthur Curtis in “A World of Difference.”  What is gripping about Matheson’s stories is that he is an expert at exploiting a character’s emotions.  He knows precisely the right type of character to place in the right situation.  Here he takes a well-to-do family man who lives a routine but happy existence and then he pulls his world out from underneath him.  His simple life is replaced by one full of turmoil in which he is a washed up alcoholic actor with an angry ex-wife.  Matheson has taken everything that seems to be important to Arthur and replaced it with Arthur’s idea of a nightmare.  Matheson also seems to enjoy stories that blur the line between what is real and what is not real.  Every time I show this episode to someone who hasn’t seen it it’s always followed by a debate on what exactly it was that they just saw.  Is Arthur real or is he just a fictional character?  I have always been of the opinion that Matheson structured this episode so as to not reveal which one of the two worlds is authentic.  The rational explanation would lead the viewer to believe that Gerry Raigan is simply suffering a nervous breakdown and believes that he is Arthur Curtis, the character from his latest film.  But since this is the Twilight Zone and the rational answer is not always the right answer, Arthur Curtis could be a flesh and blood human being who has been inexplicably transported to an imaginary world that doesn’t really exist.  Or one could see the two worlds as parallel dimensions that coexist beside one another where Arthur and Gerry are both real people and Arthur has simply crossed over into Gerry’s world, which only has room for one of them.  By telling the story from Author’s point of view Matheson leaves this highly important plot element in the mind of the viewer, which makes this an episode that demands a second viewing before one can form a rational opinion about it.
            A round of applause goes to director Ted Post for this episode.  The scene at the beginning when Arthur first steps into Gerry’s world is one of the most memorable scenes in the entire Twilight Zone canon.  It’s basically a series of very simple but very effective shots that work to give this alternate world a fantastically frightening atmosphere.  The first shot begins when Arthur first steps into his office.  It’s a single uninterrupted shot in which the audience is shown the entire expanse of Arthur’s office but then the camera closes in on Arthur at his desk trying to make the phone call.  He gets up and heads towards the door as the camera follows him and when he hears the director yell “Cut!” the camera abruptly cuts to the film crew staring hatefully at him, standing where only moments before we saw a wall.  To accomplish this the wall had to be removed from the set while the camera is focused on Arthur at his desk.  Another notable shot is of Arthur using the stage phone as a crowd of irate crew members pass slowly around him, glaring intensely at him.  The shock value in these shots immediately places the viewer in Arthur’s shoes and helps to make this world seem increasingly hostile and threatening to our rather docile and unthreatening protagonist.   A nod also goes to Nathan Van Cleave for a fantastically ominous original score, one that would be reused in several later episodes including Season Two’s “Shadow Play,” an episode with an atmosphere similar to this one. 
            After the fireworks of the original scene Post ceases with the atmospheric set tricks and slows the pace of the episode in order to further along the plot of the story.  The episode is now primarily in the hands of Howard Duff and it seems to lose some of its momentum at this point.  I should admit that Duff is not my favorite part of this episode.  His straight-laced persona seems out of place once he crosses over into the alternate reality and a far more erratic performance seems more appropriate.  It should be noted, however, that Richard Matheson was very happy with his performance and Duff’s wife, actress/director/ fellow Twilight Zone alumni Ida Lupino, was so moved by her husband’s performance that she bought a sixteen-millimeter print from MGM for her personal library, so perhaps I am alone in my opinion.  Duff was actually a highly sought-after star during his career which spanned over forty years.  He began in radio with a regular gig as Sam Spade in The Adventures of Sam Spade and then moved into Television with appearances in The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Rod Serling’s Night Gallery, Kung Fu and his own series, Felony Squad.  Today he is probably best known for his role as attorney John Shaunessy in the 1979 film, Kramer vs. Kramer.  Eileen Ryan turns in a great performance as Nora, Gerry Raigan’s highly attractive but immensely frightening ex-wife.  After a rather sporadic career in television, in recent years she has enjoyed an active film career with roles in Anywhere But Here, Magnolia and The Assassination of Richard Nixon.  But she is probably best known today as the mother of Sean, Chris and Michael Penn.  The most recognizable face here, however, is probably that of David White in the role of Brinkley.  A few years later he would become a household name for playing Mr. Tate, Dick York’s irritable boss, on Bewitched.  This episode also features a bit part played by William Idelson, a friend of both Matheson and Charles Beaumont who would later co-write the Season Two episode, “Long Distance Call,” with Beaumont.  He would go on to have quite a successful career as a scriptwriter for television.
            Even though it has some minor flaws, “A World of Difference” is still an immensely enjoyable episode and one that is often undeservedly overlooked.  It comes recommended.

Grade: B

Notes:
--This is the first of four episodes for Ted Post who would also direct “Probe 7, Over and Out,” “Mr. Garrity and the Graves” and “The Fear,” all of which are from Season Five.  Post was already a veteran television director by this time, having been a prolific force during the live dramas of the 1950’s.  In addition to The Twilight Zone, he was a regular fixture on several television landmarks including Gunsmoke, Rawhide, Thriller, The Rifleman, Wagon Train, Combat! and Perry Mason.  His film career includes the classics Magnum Force, Hang ‘Em High and Beneath the Planet of the Apes.
--Howard Duff also appears in an episode of Rod Serling's Night Gallery titled "There Aren't Any More MacBanes."
--This episode was adapted into a Twilight Zone Radio Drama starring Luke Perry (Falcon Picture Group, 2002).


--Brian Durant

Monday, February 13, 2012

"The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street"



Maple Street, before the monsters came.
“The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street"
Season One, Episode 22
Original Air Date: March 4, 1960

Cast:
Steve Brand: Claude Akins
Charlie Farnsworth: Jack Weston
Tommy: Jan Handzlik
Les Goodman: Barry Atwater
Don Martin: Burt Metcalfe
Woman: Amzie Strickland
Mrs. Farnsworth: Lyn Guild
Myra Brand: Anne Barton
Man: Jason Johnson
Sally, Tommy’s Mother: Mary Gregory
Pete Van Horn: Ben Erway
Old Woman: Joan Sudlow
Street Vendor: Robert McCord
Space Alien #1: Sheldon Allman
Space Alien #2: William Walsh

Crew:
Writer: Rod Serling (original teleplay)
Director: Ronald Winston
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: Rene Garriguene

And Now, Mr. Serling:
“Next week on Twilight Zone, we put you on a front porch—summer evening, tree-lined street, typical small town.  And then we pull the rug out from under your feet and we throw a nightmare at you.  Claude Akins, Jack Weston and Barry Atwater are you neighbors just at that moment when ‘The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street.  Don’t chicken out.  Thank you and good night.”

Rod Serling’s Opening Narration:
Maple Street, USA, late summer.  A tree-lined little world of front porch gliders, barbeques, the laughter of children and the bell of an ice-cream vendor.  At the sound of the roar and the flash of light, it will be precisely six forty-three PM…
           “This is Maple Street on a late Saturday afternoon.  Maple Street—in the last calm and reflective moments before the monsters came.”

Summary:

        On a quiet, peaceful Saturday afternoon, the residents of Maple Street are going about their usual routine when an unidentified object streaks across the sky.  Assuming it to be a meteor, they continue on about their business. 
Moments later, some of the residents notice that none of their appliances seem to be working.  The phone lines are out, cars won’t start, and the entire neighborhood seems to be without electricity.  The residents of Maple Street come out of their homes and huddle together to see if they can get to the bottom of the mystery.  They decide that they need to see if it’s like this everywhere.  Pete Van Horn tells everyone that he is going over to the next street to see if they are having the same problem. He sets out on foot and no one sees him again for several hours.  Steve Brand and Charlie Farnsworth decide to walk into town together to see if they can get some answers.  As they are leaving they are stopped by Tommy, a young boy who lives in the neighborhood, and he tells them that the object they saw in the sky was an alien spacecraft, and he thinks the aliens don’t want them to leave Maple Street.  They ask him why he thinks this and he says that its just like a science fiction story he read where aliens came to Earth in a spaceship to take over the planet.  They cut off all of the electricity, phones and automobiles so no one could go anywhere.  A few months before they arrived they sent down scouts that looked just like humans and they lived among humans so they could understand what humans were like.  Steve laughs playfully at the boy and his make-believe story but an uncomfortable mumble spreads across the gathered residents of Maple Street. 
Just then the crowd hears a car engine being cranked.  They walk over to Les Goodman’s house where he is trying unsuccessfully to start his car.  Les steps out of the car and walks away from it.  The car starts on its own.  The crowd becomes suspicious of Les and, under the leadership of Charlie, accuses him of being “different” from everyone else on Maple Street.  One of his neighbors claims that she sometimes catches him in his driveway late at night, just looking up at the stars, as if he were waiting for something or someone.  They suggest that maybe Les Goodman isn’t who he claims to be.  Les tries to defend himself, as does Steve Brand, but the other residents don't want to listen to reason and the crowd grows increasingly more disturbed.

        Several hours later.  It is dark now on Maple Street.  Still no electricity.  Les Goodman’s neighbors have stationed themselves outside of his house, hoping he will eventually give himself away as the alien from Tommy's story.  Steve Brand is still trying to reason with Charlie Farnsworth and the rest of the crowd.  Charlie gets fed up with this and turns an accusatory eye at Steve, claiming that Steve’s wife has mentioned offhandedly of some sort of radio that Steve is secretly building in his basement.  What does this radio do? Charlie asks.  Steve defends himself and attempts to point out that the entire neighborhood is beginning to turn on each other and that sooner or later someone is going to suffer because of it.
Someone in the crowd notices a figure approaching from a distance.  No one is able to determine who it is but Charlie and several others decide that it must be the alien monster.  A shotgun appears in the crowd.  Charlie grabs the gun and shoots the approaching figure; it drops in the street.  The crowd rushes over to the figure and discovers Pete Van Horn lying dead.  Now it’s Charlie who has to defend himself against accusations from Steve that he just murdered an innocent man.  Instead of admitting his guilt he tells his neighbors that the real monster must be Tommy because he was the one who knew what was going to happen.  Then the lights in several homes begin to blink on and off at random.  The entire neighborhood begins accusing each other which leads to them barbarically attacking one another in the street.  Bricks are thrown, shots are fired, and lives are shattered.   The sound of fear rings up and down Maple Street, USA.
On a hilltop not far away, two beings from another world are watching the terrifying events on Maple Street.  They are the source behind the confusion in the neighborhood.  They are on a mission to colonize Earth by letting mankind destroy itself.  To do this, one of them suggests, all they must do is take away human comforts and throw in an element of fear and humans will seek out their natural enemy: themselves.  

Rod Serling’s Closing Narration:
“The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout.  There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices—to be found only in the minds of men.  For the record, prejudices can kill, and suspicion can destroy.  And a thoughtless, frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all of its own for the children and the children yet unborn.  And the pity of it is…that these things cannot be confined…to The Twilight Zone.”

Commentary:

"When the sun came up on the following morning Maple Street was silent. Most of the houses had been burned. There were a few bodies lying on sidewalks and draped over porch railings. But the silence was total."
    -"The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street" by Rod Serling, Stories from the Twilight Zone (1960)

            In interviews, Rod Serling stated that a reason he wanted to create The Twilight Zone was that with science fiction and fantasy he could get away with writing about contemporary social issues without the worry of constant interference from networks and sponsors. There is likely no other episode of the program which better embodies this notion than “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street.”  A swift, solid script from beginning to end, this thinly veiled commentary on McCarthyism and the communist witch-hunts of the 1950’s, and the larger issues which gave birth to these, became an immediate fan favorite and has undergone many adaptations since its original broadcast in 1960. 
In “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street,” Serling touched upon several themes which were used again in later episodes, most notably the senseless, angry mob as representation of the ignorance and prejudice that hides within every person. The transformation of an essentially conventional person or group of people into barbaric examples of human beings is a theme that Serling had already explored in some of his dramatic work during the 1950s and one he revisted in several episodes of The Twilight Zone. These include “The Gift,” a third season episode in which a benevolent alien being disguised as a human comes to a small Mexican village bearing a gift to mankind.  The frightened villagers, having devolved into a senseless, angry mob, mistake the gift as a weapon and decide to kill their visitor and destroy his present.  The gift, it is discovered afterwards, is a cure for cancer.  In “The Shelter,” another third season episode, Serling produced a plot which is similar in many ways to “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street.” "The Shelter" tells the story of a family that is forced to seek protection in their homemade fallout shelter after the radio warning that a nuclear attack is imminent. Their neighbors, none of whom have a fallout shelter, demand to be let inside. But there are only enough supplies for one family. The neighbors eventually resort to beating on the door of the shelter with a battering ram just before it is revealed that the previous threat of nuclear attack was a false alarm. 
This misanthropic view of humanity stands in sharp contrast with Serling's lighter material which possesses an almost childlike sentimentality.  Serling cared deeply about the heroes in his stories and didn’t pass judgment on them no matter how flawed they were. Even with his more archetypal protagonists there is always an underlying thread of compassion woven into the story. Clearly, there was a part of Serling that cared deeply for humanity, and it is this concern for the common individual that makes his work remarkable.  But there is also a darker side to many of Serling's scripts.  Judging from the course of his writing, it appears that as he grew older he grew increasingly bitter about the world and was constantly trying to reconcile these two parts of his personality.  In “Monsters,” these diverging views of humanity are represented by the rational Steve Brand, who is trying to hold the neighborhood together, and the paranoid bully Charlie Farnsworth, who succeeds in inciting suspicion and violence among his neighbors.  Steve Brand can be viewed as a thinly veiled representation of Serling and his voice is Serling’s voice. He is the rational, compassionate part of Serling that wants to see the best in his neighbors, while Charlie is the paranoia and the hatred and the prejudice that ultimately brings about the downfall.  Serling longed for the Norman Rockwell America of episodes like “Walking Distance” and “A Stop at Willoughby,” but at the same time saw through that world and aimed to expose its weaknesses. 

The other prevailing theme in the episode is its allusions to the McCarthyism of the 1950s (characterized by ultra-conservatism, paranoia, and a general fear of the "other"), named for Wisconsin senator Joseph McCarthy (1908-1957) and defined as the practice of making accusations of subversive or treasonous behavior without proper regard for evidence.  Even by 1960 this was still a dangerous subject to tackle directly.  Eight years earlier Arthur Miller set the political and literary worlds on fire with his masterful drama The Crucible (which earned him both a Tony Award and a subpoena to appear in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee).  While The Crucible was almost certainly an influence on “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street" (Serling acknowledged many times that he was an admirer of Miller), Serling was an outspoken critic of McCarthyism for many years and even publicly criticized several national news organizations for supporting the senator. While Miller took a more direct approach, setting his drama during the infamous Salem Witch Trials, Serling tackled the theme in a manner more reminiscent of John W. Campbell’s famous story “Who Goes There?” (1938) in which scientists at an isolated research station discover a shape-shifting alien which challenges their perception of one another. The theme of that story was resonant enough to inspire at least three feature films. Viewers would see this type of theme again on The Twilight Zone in the second season episode “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?,” though staged in a more humorous manner. This type of science fiction story is related to a style of mystery story in which a group of people are gathered in a place (typically a secluded mansion) only to discover that one among them is a murderer. This type of mystery is typified by Agatha Christie's famous novel And Then There Were None (1939). 
Jack Weston and Claude Akins


Although Serling’s script is highly accomplished, the element which makes “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street” such a memorable episode is the performances from its ensemble cast, particularly the two lead roles played by Jack Weston (as Charlie Farnsworth) and Claude Akins (as Steve Brand). Weston was already a recognized fixture on television by 1960 and featured in many of the live studio dramas of the 1950s as well as episodes of The Untouchables, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and Have Gun - Will Travel.  He also held a regular role on the children’s science fiction program Rod Brown of the Rocket Rangers from 1953 to 1954 with fellow Twilight Zone performer Cliff Robertson. In later years he had a successful film career with roles in The Cincinnati Kid, Wait Until Dark, and The Thomas Crown Affair. A versatile character actor, he was known for playing both villains and lighthearted characters, as evidenced in his portrayal here as the volatile Charlie Farnsworth and in his performance as the clueless writer Julius Moomer in the fourth season episode “The Bard.” 
Claude Akins was also a widely recognized actor at the time of "Monsters," having racked up appearances in such landmark films as Rio Bravo, The Defiant Ones, and Inherit the Wind. Given his tall, broad shouldered stature and his gentle southern accent, he was often cast in westerns as the rational voice of reason, much like his role in “Monsters” and in his other Twilight Zone appearance, the third season's “The Little People,” but he was also known for playing rougher characters like the ruthless General Aldo in Battle for the Planet of the Apes.  Casting was definitely a key feature in the episode and the reason the characters work so well is because of the excellent chemistry the actors share on screen. Their personalities seem to either mesh or clash perfectly, which is what makes Maple Street seem like an authentic portrait of small town life. This episode also owes a great deal to Ronald Winston's direction.  This is the first of three episodes that Winston directed for the series. To capture the mob mentality of these characters there are many wide shots of the group huddled close to one another despite the fact that there is a long, empty street surrounding them.  There is one shot in particular where Winston shoots only the legs of the actors, showing the crowd moving together as one unit, one organism, furthering the symbol of the "hive" mentality which drives the mob to violence.

As one of the seminal episodes of The Twilight Zone, “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street” has seen numerous adaptations over the years including a prose version written by Serling for his 1960 book Stories from the Twilight Zone (Bantam), a radio drama starring Frank John Hughes, two comic book adaptations, and a re-imagining for the second Twilight Zone revival series, which aired on UPN in 2003. An interesting aspect of Rod Serling's adaptation of "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street" for Stories from the Twilight Zone is that Serling inserts a coda that was not filmed for the episode. In it, Serling demonstrates the alien menace applying their unique method of destruction on a global scale. Serling writes: "When the sun came up on the following morning Maple Street was silent. Most of the houses had been burned. There were a few bodies lying on sidewalks and draped over porch railings. But the silence was total. There simply was no more life. At four o'clock that afternoon there was no more world, or at least not the kind of world that had greeted that morning. And by Wednesday of the following week, a new set of residents had moved into Maple Street." 
      The UPN adaptation, entitled "The Monsters Are On Maple Street" is a modern day remake set at the time of the start of the war in Iraq. It stars Andrew McCarthy in the lead role as the Steve Brand-type character. The general scenario is still the same only now instead of aliens it's terrorists that the residents of Maple Street fear. Also thrown into the mix is the recent arrival of a peculiar new neighbor that none of the residents of Maple Street have yet seen. So, when the power goes out, instead of turning on each other as they do in Serling’s original script, the neighbors focus all of their paranoia on the mysterious new house at the end of the block. By the end of the episode the residents march to the house brandishing torches and bricks and loaded revolvers and proceed to set the house on fire with the homeowners supposedly still inside. It is revealed that the cause of their paranoia isn’t terrorists at all but the United States military conducting an experiment on the possible behavior of Americans if put under the threat of a terrorist attack. While the premise is believable and the twist effective, the rest of the script falls short of Serling’s original and the cast members, with the exception of McCarthy who turns in a memorable performance, aren't as engaging as the original performers and tend to be little more than stock characters.

Uncredited illustration from a 1968 textbook
"The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street" first appeared in American textbooks in the early 1960s and has been presented in the American classroom in numerous publications since that time. Many of these presentations of Rod Serling's script, or his short story adaptation, included illustrations in which different artists interpreted the madness which unfolded on Maple Street. To see these illustrations, and much more art related to The Twilight Zone, stop by the Vortex Art Gallery. 

            Of the 156 episodes of the series, "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street" is one of the most valuable to the show's cultural identity. There is a quality to the episode that resonates with people. And while the McCarthy era is over, its basic threat is one people are still adamantly concerned with. If there is a flaw in the episode, it is that the paranoia begins a little too early and works itself into a frenzy rather quickly. The half-hour format was one of the most important factors in the show's success but it would have been interesting to see this story fleshed out into one of the hour-long episodes. Still, this does not lessen the effectiveness of the episode and it has become a classic of American television.

Grade: A

Notes:
--Notable adaptations of “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street”
            --1960; adapted into short story form by Rod Serling in his collection, Stories from the Twilight Zone (Bantam).
        ---1979; adapted into comic book form by Horas J. Elias with illustrations by Carl Pfeufer (Skylark Illustrated Books (Bantam)).
--2002; adapted into a Twilight Zone Radio Drama starring Frank John Hughes (Falcon Picture Group).
--2003; adapted into an episode of the UPN revival series of The Twilight Zone by Erin Maher entitled "The Monster Are On Maple Street" starring Andrew McCarthy and Titus Welliver.
--2009; adapted into graphic novel form by Mark Kneece with art by Rich Ellis as part of a series developed by the Savannah College of Arts and Design entitled Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone (Walker Publishing Company).
-The alien uniforms and spaceship are borrowed from Forbidden Planet (1959). So far, this is the third episode which features props or footage from the MGM film and it certainly would not be the last. The last shot of the episode which shows the spaceship in flight is actually a scene from Forbidden Planet.  This same exact scene is at the end of “Third From the Sun.”
--Claude Akins also appears in Season Three’s “The Little People.”
--Jack Weston also appears in Season Four’s “The Bard.”
--Barry Atwater appeared in both the pilot movie of Rod Serling's Night Gallery as well as in the episode "Doll of Death" from the Night Gallery series.
--Amzie Strickland also appeared in the first Twilight Zone revival series episode "But Can She Type?"
--Mary Gregory also appeared in the second season episode "The Lateness of the Hour" and the third season episode "The Shelter," as well as an episode of Rod Serling's Night Gallery titled "The Different Ones."
--Ronald Winston also directed Season One’s “The Big Tall Wish” and Season Five’s “Stopover in a Quiet Town.”


--BD and JP