Tuesday, February 28, 2012

"Long Live Walter Jameson"

Kevin McCarthy as the immortally doomed 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
Makeup: William Tuttle
Director of Photography: George T. Clemens
Music: Stock

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 Narrarion:
"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 at a distinguished university, gives a lecture on the American Civil War to a packed classroom. He reads passages from the private war journal of Union officer Hugh Skelton. The journal describes, in great detail and from a very personal viewpoint, the hatred felt by Union soldiers for the ruthless Union officer General William T. Sherman, the man that ordered the burning of Atlanta. Sitting in the back of the classroom and listening to Jameson's lecture is the elderly Professor Samuel Kittridge. He wears a look on his face that is part astonishment and part deep curiosity. After the class has been dismissed, Kittridge approaches Jameson and asks about the Union officer Hugh Skelton and how Jameson managed to come by Skelton's war journal. Jameson dodges the question and when Kittridge instead asks to borrow the journal Jameson denies him the priveledge on the grounds that Kittridge is absent minded and has misplaced a previously borrowed item. Kittridge relents and asks Jameson to join him for dinner at his, Kittridge's, house. 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 at the Kittridge home later that evening. Susanna is young, not yet thrity, and beautiful, and clearly in love with Jameson. Samuel Kittridge enters the room and, after some light chatter, announces that dinner is ready. After dinner, the elder Kittridge sends Susanna upstairs to continue her study for a PhD. Susanna reluctantly agrees and Kittridge and Jameson sit down to continue a previously begun game of chess in the living room.
                It is here that we learn the cause for the apparent apprehension on the part of Samuel Kittridge. When the hands of the two men meet, one young, one old and wrinkled, Kittridge begins to question Jameson while they continue their symbolic game of chess. The questions all pertain to Jameson's age. When Kittridge does the math, adding up the time from which Jameson arrived at the university until now, the age that Jameson gives him doesn't add up. Jameson admits his "real" age and believes that Kittridge's apprehension is that Jameson is too old to marry Kittridge's young daughter. This, Kittridge tells him, is true, in a very specific sense.
                Kittridge fetches a book of the Civil War photographs taken by famed photographer Matthew Brady. He tells Jameson that his curiosity had been roused 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 pinky. Observing that he cannot lie his way out from behind the evidence presented by the photograph, Jameson decides to tell Kittridge the truth about himself. Jameson walks over 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 a tale of being, like Kittridge, terribly afraid of dying and of visiting an alchemist a very long time ago. This alchemist gave to Jameson the gift of immortality, a gift he knows now to be a curse. He tells Kittridge of the horror of watching your loved ones grow old and die while you never age. He tells about never being able to stay in one place for fear of those around you finding out your 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 and problems. Kittridge, angered and afraid, forbids Jameson to marry his daughter, stating that sparing her the heartbreak of the future, when Jameson must inevitably abandon her, is worth Susanna being angry now. On this issue, Jameson does not relent. When Susanna is roused by their rising voices and comes downstairs, Jameson tells her to get her things together, that 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. Unbeknownst to Jameson, we see a very old woman hiding 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, lit only the lamp on the desk. From the desk drawer he draws a revolver and, for a moment, the contemplation of suicide crosses his expressive face but he does not go through with it. He places the gun back in the drawer. Then, a voice speaks, the voice of a very old woman calling out the name "Tommy." Jameson is startled and turns the lamp forward to illuminate the same old woman that had been spying on him outside. The old woman gets up and turns on the overhead light. After taking a good look at Jameson she is satisfied. She tells him that she is Laurette Bowen and that he was her husband, named Tommy, a long time ago. Jameson tries to play off the uncomfortable situation but to no avail. The old woman is suddenly holding a gun in her hand. Jameson, startled, stands up and begins to plead with the woman. The old woman tells Jameson that his immortal condition is unnatural and that he cannot go on hurting others the way he hurt her in the past. Before Jameson can get another word out, the old woman shoots him. Jameson falls back into his office chair.
                Kittridge hears the gunshot and rushes outside and across the street where he meets the old woman walking quickly away from Jameson's house. Kittridge stops her and asks what happened but the old woman simply rushes past him and on down the sidewalk. Inside the house, Kittridge is confronted with a horrible sight. He finds Jameson in his office, shot, bleeding, and dying. Jameson's death is two thousand years in the making and he ages rapidly right before Kittridge's eyes until Jameson is nothing but dust on the floor amid a empty set of clothes.
                When Susanna also rushes into the office, Kittridge attempts to shield her from the sight but by this point there is only dust and empty clothes left to see. Susanna is confused and afraid and 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."

Kevin McCarthy and Edgar Stehli
Commentary:
                It is interesting to note that "Long Live Walter Jameson" is Charles Beaumont's first original teleplay for The Twilight Zone. While his friend and fellow Zone scribe Richard Matheson preferred to work mostly on creating original material for the show, choosing not to craft a teleplay based on his own short stories until the third season's "Little Girl Lost," Beaumont seems to have been more comfortable adapting his own short stories into script form. With "Long Live Walter Jameson," however, Beaumont escewed any previously published material and created his most haunting and effective script of the first season. Though it is certainly one of the more remarkable and memorable episodes, it is also landmark in that it was the first episode to effectively display the astonishing effects that veteran makeup artist William Tuttle would bring to the show. Tuttle would become as important a member of the production crew as any when his creations began to gain recognition as indelible and instantly recognizable moments in The Twilight Zone's history. Along with very strong performances on the parts of Kevin McCarthy, Edgar Stehli, and Estelle Winwood, "Long Live Walter Jameson" is a classic episode that displays all of the inherent qualities and thematic strengths of The Twilight Zone.

                Unlike an earlier Charles Beaumont episode, "Perchance to Dream," "Long Live Walter Jameson" is directed and acted in a very straight manner. There is no frenetic camera work and the stock soundtrack is very unassuming and very subtle. The actors themselves, through the unwavering straight-foward nature of their performances, lend credence to the grounding of a fantastic element in the believable reality of the fictional construct. Though The Twilight Zone would rarely be subtle in its fantastic elements, the episodes were always attempts to ground that fantasy in a very recognizable reality. It was therefore of utmost importance to have strong performances and competant production to prevent the episodes from delving into a laughable state. Every aspect had to be accounted for and perhaps William Tuttle's work on the rapid aging process that is Walter Jameson's death was the most important, for if the production of that scene looked in any way cartoonish it would destroy the viewer's all-important willing suspension of disbelief and the whole illusion would be shattered.
                One of the more powerful and symbolic scenes in the episode was inexplicably cut out of The Twilight Zone's syndication package, presumably for reasons of time restraint brought on by the increased presence of commercial interruption. This is the scene in which the two professors, Kittridge and Jameson, play a game of chess. The scene is important symbolically as it is indicative of the battle between these two men, one to protect a secret and the other to find that secret out. It is also important for the hand comparison scene, a brief scene in which the hands of the two men meet and are seen to starkly contrast on account of the effects that aging has had on both men. It is a subtly metaphorical scene in an episode full of them and it is played very straight and, as a result, exectuted extremely well. The entire episode actually hinges on the mounting of tension maintained between these two men, exchanged almost exclusively through dialogue, which in itself serves as dramatic action until the culmative action that climaxes the episode. Jameson, even once his secret is out, does not so much present the viewer as an out-and-out villain as much as a man desperate and very much adapted to a certain form of survival. Once threatened, he panics and attempts to flee with the latest object of his affection, even though at this point he certainly realizes that he has made a terrible mistake and remained too long in one place, too close to one man intelligent enough to discover his secret. In certain respects, the final action of the scene, however powerful it is, is somewhat of a anticlimatic moment because the tension upon which the drama has been hanging has already broken. The inevitable results are surprising more in horrific effect that in a quality of unexpectedness.
                There is a second cut scene which actor Kevin McCarthy discusses on the commentary for the DVD release of the first season. McCarthy describes a scene in which Jameson and Susanna Kittridge are walking along a midway and a man, against Jameson's wishes, takes their picture for an engagement announcement in the local newspaper. the character Laurette Bowen (Estelle Winwood), a scorned lover from Jameson's past, mentions viewing such a photograph and gives that for the reason she has managed to track Jameson down. It is the second time in the episode that a photograph is the cause for Jameson's undoing and the viewer wonders why a man intent on keeping his immortal life a secret would ever submit to having his photograph taken in the first place. 
                "Long Live Walter Jameson" displays all of the major themes of writer Charles Beaumont's fiction and especially that of his Twilight Zone output. Though there are exceptions, most notably season four's "Miniature," Beaumont's episodes are heavily concerned with the effects of death and dying in a very direct manner. Short stories like "The Hunger," "A Death in the Country," "Mourning Song," and "Black Country" (all of which can be found in the collection Charles Beaumont: Selected Stories (Dark Harvest, 1988) as The Howling Man (Tor, 1992) feature reflections on the specter of 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 to dying when three astronauts crash land on a planet that serves as a mortuary for the deceased wishing their preserved bodies to be displayed performing their favorite activites. With "Long Live Walter Jameson," Beaumont presents us with two men, one old and one immortally young, both afraid of death, and both running out of time. By the end of the episode, Kittridge's dream of defeating death is horribly crushed by his own old age and the sight of Walter Jameson's death as a bodily transformation into dust on the floor. Beaumont would further explore 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 material. The episode that most resembles "Long Live Walter Jameson," however, is the fifth season's "Queen of the Nile." This episode was co-plotted with writer Jerry Sohl after Beaumont's health began to decline. It concerns an apparently ageless movie star that manages to remain immortal by the use of an Egyptian scarab ring and occasional human sacrifice. Though much darker in tone yet not as effectively executed as "Long Live Walter Jameson," "Queen of the Nile" mirrors the former episodes in many ways.
                Makeup artist William Tuttle joined the production crew on The Twilight Zone as the reigning head of the makeup department at Metro Goldwyn Mayer studios. He was apprenticed under Jack Dawn at 20th Century Fox before following Dawn to MGM when, in 1934, Dawn was given the position as head of the makeup department. After Jack Dawn retired, Tuttle served as head of the MGM makeup department for over twenty years. Tuttle was a prodigious talent and earned the first ever Academy Award given to a makeup artist for his work transforming the appearance of Tony Randall in 1964's The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao. 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 The Wizard of Oz (uncredited) (1939), Forbidden Planet (1956), The Time Machine (1960), and Young Frankenstein (1974). Some of his most memorable and renowed makeup creations appeared in episodes of The Twilight Zone, including notable work in "The Howling Man," "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 used a proven method for black and white film effects when aging actor Kevin McCarthy in a single continous shot. It is the same method used for the famous transformation scene in 1932's Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde, starring Fredric March in an Academy Award winning role. For the initial stages of the aging process, Tuttle drew lines on Kevin McCarthy's face in both red and green colors. Photographer George Clemens used red and green filters to conceal and then 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 filming. Tuttle's main method as a makeup artist was to make molds 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. William Tuttle is the subject of a 1968 MGM short film titled King of the Duplicators.


                Actor Kevin McCarthy, Walter Jameson in the episode, is likely most recognizable to modern viewers as the lead in director Don Siegal's 1956 adaptation of Jack Finney's 1955 novel The Body Snatchers, filmed as Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Along with Howard Hawk's The Thing From Another World (1951)(based on John W. Campbell's 1938 novella "Who Goes There?") and producer George Pal's and director Byron Haskin's production of H.G. Wells's 1898 novel The  War of the Worlds (1953), Invasion of the Body Snatchers is one of the finest science-fiction films of that decade, a decade densely populated with filmed offerings of science-fiction. Earlier in his career, McCarthy  made his mark as a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award nominee 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 would gain memorable roles as a regular in the films of director Joe Dante, including Prianha (1978), The Howling (1981), and Twilight Zone: the Movie (1983), in which he appeared in the third segment, Joe Dante's reimagining of the classic Zone episode, "It's a Good Life," itself an adaptation of the Jerome Bixby's 1953 short story of the same name. Like the character of Walter Jameson, McCarthy had the gift of longevity on his side. He died on September 11, 2010 at the age of 96.
Beaumont, early 1960s
                On a sad note, one cannot help but compare the effects of Walter Jameson's final demise, the rapid and intense aging process acheived by makeup artist William Tuttle, to the real-life plight of writer Charles Beaumont. By mid-1963, the young writer was displaying abberant behavior that was initially attributed by his friends and family to the effects of his increasing intake of alcohol. The truth of the matter was much more serious. Beaumont was displaying the symptoms of a very early onset of Alzheimer's Disease or a similar degenerative disease of the brain. Though he did his best to hide the affliction, Beaumont displayed outward signs of acute memory loss, weight loss, trouble in speech and motor skill function, an inability to keep track of time, chronic fatigue, devastating headaches, an alarming increase in the signs of aging, and a frustrating inability to write to his own satisfaction. He found it increasingly difficult to finish any written work and, with money from the royalties of his previous books running out, he was unable to sell much, if any, new material. As author Marc Scott Zicree first reported in his The Twilight Zone Companion (Bantam, 1982, revised Silman James, 1992), Beaumont was forced to "farm out" his ideas for new episodes of The Twilight Zone to his close friends and fellow writers Jerry Sohl and John Tomerlin. These included the episodes "The New Exhibit," from season four, "Number Twelve Looks Just Like You," and the now-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 would be credited with scripting what is perhaps that studio's finest Poe-film The Masque of the Red Death (1964), as well as The Premature Burial (1962) starring Ray Milland and Hazel Court, The Haunted Palace (1963) starring Vincent Price and based on H.P. Lovecraft's short novel The Case of Charles Dexter Ward (written in 1927 but not published until 1941), and The Intruder(1962), aka Shame, based on Beaumont's 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 (this screenplay has subsequently been printed in editor Christopher Conlon's tribute anthology to Richard Matheson He Is Legend (Gauntlet 2009)), 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 Thriller. It is clear that at the time Beaumont's mysterious disease began to negatively effect his writing career, he was as the height of his creative powers.
                As documented by Beaumont editor and biographer Roger Anker in The Twilight Zone Scripts of Charles Beaumont, Volume One (Gauntlet, 2004) , by early 1964 Beaumont decided to temporarily move from his home in southern California to the east coast, opting to take a small apartment in Manhattan in which he planned to finish a novel titled Where No Man Walks. Beaumont's time in Manhattan was a disaster. 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 was fully realized. By the time of his release in August of that year, his friends and family realized that Beaumont's drinking was a reaction to, and not a cause of, his problem, which UCLA doctors diagnosed as Alzheimer's, or possibly Pick's, Disease. It has also been suggested that Beaumont's mental and physical degeneration may have occurred from acute lead poisoning contracted through his heavy use of Bromo-Seltzer, which was distrubuted in lead-lined cannisters, which the young writer consumed in large quantities in an attempt to deal with chronic headaches. Whatever the true cause of Beaumont's terrible condition, it would not be much longer before the complete breakdown of Beaumont's functional awareness and cognative ability, not to mention his ability to continue his prolific creative output.
                The stories related by Beaumont's close friends are terribly sad stories of a young man's brillant mind being slowly and irreparably erased. Beaumont acted as though films he had seen dozens of times, King Kong for example, he was only now viewing for the first time. After his release from the UCLA medical center, he accidentally set two fires in his own home, once setting the drapes on fire with a cigarette and then simply sitting there, 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 disastrous during this time. He struggled mightily to speak and had to speak very slowly and diliberately. 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 shocking 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 the Beaumont family, which included four young children.
                In the end, as expressed by Beaumont's close friend, author William F. Nolan, the saving grace of the disease was that Beaumont was 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, at age thirty-eight. He was described as appearing to be ninety years old when he died. Like the fictional horror of Walter Jameson, the very real truth was that Charles Beaumont wasted away mentally and physically, depriving readers and viewers of one of the greatest literary fantasists of the latter part of the 20th century, as well as a family of a husband and father, and friends of an inspiration and mentor. Fortunately for us, Charles Beaumont left behind exceedingly fine work and his legacy undoubtedly lies in his contributions to The Twilight Zone.
               
Grade: A

Notes:
--Anton Leader also directed the popular third season episode, "The Midnight Sun."
--Writer Charles Beaumont was enamored with the production aspect of the episodes of The Twilight Zone and was often on set during the filming of episodes he had scripted. Actor Kevin McCarthy recalls meeting Beaumont on the set of "Long Live Walter Jameson." McCarthy particularly remembers 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 also edited, along with William F. 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." The short story can be found in Beaumont's collections Night Ride and Other Journeys (Bantam, 1960), The Magic Man and other Science-Fantasy Stories (Fawcett Crest, 1965), and in the posthumously published career retrospective Charles Beaumont: Selected Stories (Dark Harvest, 1988).
--"Long Live Walter Jameson" was remade as a Twilight Zone Radio Drama, starring Lou Diamond Phillips, which can be heard here: Twilight Zone Radio
--Jordan Prejean



Thursday, February 23, 2012

"A World of Difference"

Arthur Curtis (Howard Duff) steps into the turbulent world of Gerry Raigan
“A World of Difference”
Season One, Episode 23
Original airdate: 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
Director of Photography: Harkness Smith
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.
--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"


“The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street"
Season One, Episode 22
Original airdate: 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
Space Alien #1: Sheldon Allman
Space Alien #2: William Walsh

Crew:
Writer: Rod Serling (original teleplay)
Director: Ronald Winston
Producer: Buck Houghton
Director of Photography: George T. Clemens
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 begin to 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 of any kind.  All of the residents come out of their houses 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’re 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 amongst humans so they could understand what humans were like.  Steve laughs playfully at the na├»ve teenager and his obviously make-believe story but an uncomfortable mumble rumbles across the crowd of onlookers. 
Just then the crowd hears a car engine being cranked.  They walk over to Les Goodman’s house where he is trying to start his car to no avail.  Les steps out of the car and walks away from it.  The car immediately 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 is waiting for something or someone.  They suggest that maybe Les Goodman isn’t who he claims to be (in other words, he’s the alien).  Les tries to defend himself as does Steve Brand who soon becomes Maple Street’s rational voice of reason.  Ultimately, this serves no purpose and the crowd grows increasingly more suspicious.
         Several hours later.  It’s dark now on Maple Street.  Still no power.  Les Goodman’s neighbors have stationed themselves outside of his house, hoping he will eventually give himself away as the alien so they can prove themselves right.  Steve Brand is still trying to reason with Charlie Farnsworth and the rest of the crowd.  Charlie gets fed up with this and then 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.
Just then someone in the crowd notices a figure approaching from a distance.  No one is quite able to determine who it is but it is decided amongst Charlie and several others that it must be the alien monster.  Out of nowhere a shotgun appears from the crowd.  Charlie grabs the gun and shoots the approaching figure; it drops dead in the street.  The crowd rushes over to the figure and discovers Pete Van Horn lying dead before them.  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 of the homes begin to blink 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 out 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 unfold.  They are the apparent source behind the confusion in the neighborhood.  They are on a mission to colonize Earth by letting man destroy one another.  To do this, one of them suggests, all they must do is take away man’s comfort zone and throw in an element of fear and man will simply seek out his greatest enemy: himself.  They climb back into their spaceship and fly away, presumably to their next destination.

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.”


The Monsters gather on Maple Street
Commentary:
            Rod Serling said that the reason he wanted to make The Twilight Zone is because with science fiction and fantasy he knew he could get away with robots and Martians saying things that people could not.  There is probably not another episode of this program that embodies this creed more than “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street.”  A swift, solid script from beginning to end, this thinly veiled analysis of McCarthyism and the communist blacklists of the 1950’s became an immediate fan favorite and has undergone many adaptations since its original broadcast in 1960. 
In “Monsters” Serling touched upon several themes that would be used again in later episodes, most notably the senseless, angry mob as a blatant representation of man’s ignorance.  This 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 1950’s and one he would reuse in several episodes of The Twilight Zone including Season Three’s “The Gift,” in which a benevolent alien being disguised in human form comes to a small Mexican village bearing a gift to mankind.  The frightened villagers, now 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 actually a cure for cancer.  In “The Shelter,” another Season Three episode, Serling produces a plot that is eerily similar to “Monsters,” though not nearly as engaging, in which a family is forced to seek protection in their homemade fallout shelter after the announcement that a nuclear apocalypse is imminent.  Their neighbors, none of whom have such a shelter, demand to be let inside.  But there are only enough supplies for one family.  Eventually their neighbors devolve into (believe it or not) a senseless angry mob and begin beating on the door of the shelter with a battering ram before it is revealed that the previous threat of nuclear annihilation was simply a mistake.  This misanthropic view of humanity stands in sharp contrast to his lighter material which has almost a childlike sentimentality.  Serling seemed to care 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’s this concern for the common individual that makes his work remarkable.  But there was also a darker side.  Judging from his writing, it would appear that as he got older he grew increasingly bitter about the world and was constantly trying to reconcile these two parts of his personality.  In “Monsters” both sides are represented by the rational Steve Brand, who is trying to hold the neighborhood together, and the outspokenly irrational Charlie Farnsworth, who succeeds in dividing it in half.  Steve Brand is but a thinly veiled representation of Serling and his voice is Serling’s voice.  He is the liberal-minded part of Serling that wants to see the best in neighbors, while Charlie is the downfall that society ultimately succumbs to.  It seems apparent that Serling longed for the Norman Rockwell America of episodes like “Walking Distance” and “A Stop at Willoughby,” but at the same time he saw through that world and instead sought to expose its weaknesses. 
The other prevailing theme in this episode is its not-so-subtle allusion to the McCarthy era of the 1950’s, which even by 1960 was still a dangerous subject to tackle so directly.  Eight years earlier Arthur Miller set the political and literary worlds on fire with his masterpiece, 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 “Monsters,” as Serling acknowledged many times that he was an admirer of Miller, Serling had been an outspoken critic of McCarthyism for many years and had even criticized several national news organizations for supporting the senator.  While Miller takes more of a direct approach to the allusion, with fantasy Serling was free to script it more like a story reminiscent of John W. Campbell’s “Who Goes There?”  Viewers would see this type of theme again in Season Two’s “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?”
Jack Weston and Claude Akins
Although Serling’s script is a solid one, the thing that makes “Monsters” such a memorable episode for me is the amazing performances from its ensemble cast, particularly in the two leading roles played by Jack Weston and Claude Akins.  Weston was already a recognizable fixture in television by 1960 and had been featured in many of the live studio dramas of the 1950’s as well as episodes of The Untouchables, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and Have Gun-Will Travel.  He also had a regular role on a children’s science fiction show called Rod Brown of the Rocket Rangers from 1953 to 1954 with fellow Twilight Zone alumni Cliff Robertson.  In later years he would have 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 is evidenced in his portrayal here as the volatile Charlie Farnsworth and in his hilarious performance as the incessantly clueless Julius Moomer in Season Four’s “The Bard.”  Claude Akins was also a widely recognized actor at the time 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, Season Three’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 this episode and the reason the characters work as well as they do is because of the excellent chemistry the actors share on screen.  Their personalities seem to either mesh or clash perfectly with one another, which is what makes Maple Street seem like an authentic portrait of small town life.  This episode also owes a great deal to its direction from Ron Winston.  This is the first of three episodes that Winston would direct.  To capture the mob mentality of these characters there are many wide shots of the group who are always huddled close to one another despite the fact that there is long, empty street surrounding them.  There is one shot in particular where Winston shoots only the legs of actors, moving together as one.
As one of the seminal episodes in The Twilight Zone catalog, “The Monster are Due on Maple Street” has seen numerous adaptations over the years including a prose version written by Serling, a radio drama starring Frank John Hughes, a modern day comic book adaptation and a half-hour remake for the second Twilight Zone revival series which aired on UPN in 2003.  This last adaptation, entitled "The Monsterr Are On Maple Street" was a modern day remake set at 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’s revealed, of course, that the cause of their paranoia isn’t terrorists at all but is in fact 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 decent performance in almost anything, aren't as engaging as the original performers and tend to be little more than stock characters.
            Of the 156 episodes of this program I would say that "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street" is probably one of the most recognizable in popular culture.  There is a quality to this episode that resonates with people.  And while the McCarthy era is long gone, its basic threat is one people still seem adamantly concerned with.  My qualm with this episode, though it is of minor importance, is the fact that the paranoia begins a little too early and works itself into a frenzy rather quickly.  As I have said before, the half-hour format was one of the most important factors in the show's success but I will say, it would have been interesting to see this story fleshed out into one of the hour-long episodes.  But again, this is only a minor complaint and does not lessen the effectiveness of this episode which, thankfully, has become a classic of American television.

Grade: B

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).
--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).


Graphic novel adaptation by Mark Kneece and Rich Ellis
-The alien uniforms and spaceship are borrowed from Forbidden Planet (1956).  So far, this is the third episode which features props or footage leftover from the MGM blockbuster 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.”
--Ron Winston also directed Season One’s “The Big Tall Wish” and Season Five’s “Stopover in a Quiet Town.”

--Brian Durant