Monday, April 30, 2018

"In His Image"


“In His Image”
Season Four, Episode 103
Original Air Date: January 3, 1963

Cast:
Alan Talbot/Water Ryder, Jr.: George Grizzard
Jessica Connelly: Gail Kobe
Old Woman: Katharine Squire
Man: Wallace Rooney
Driver: George Petrie
Sheriff: James Seay
Hotel Clerk: Jamie Forster
Girl: Sherry Granato
Grizzard’s double: Joseph Sargent

Crew:
Writer: Charles Beaumont (based on his story “The Man Who Made Himself”)
Director: Perry Lafferty
Producer: Herbert Hirschman
Director of Photography: George T. Clemens
Production Manager: Ralph W. Nelson
Art Direction: George W. Davis & William Ferrari
Editor: Edward Curtiss
Set Decoration: Henry Grace & Edward M. Parker
Assistant to the Producer: John Conwell
Assistant Director: John Bloss
Sound: Franklin Milton & Bill Edmondson
Music: stock
Serling’s Wardrobe: Eagle Clothes
Filmed at MGM Studios

Rod Serling’s Opening Narration:

“What you have just witnessed could be the end of a particularly terrifying nightmare. It isn’t. It’s the beginning. Although Alan Talbot doesn’t know it, he’s about to enter a strange new world, too incredible to be real, too real to be a dream. It’s called – The Twilight Zone.” 


Summary:
            Alan Talbot is accosted by a religious fanatic in the form of an old woman while waiting for a subway train in the early morning hours. They are alone on the platform. Alan has lately been plagued by discordant sounds inside his head which strike without provocation or warning. As the train enters the station Alan again hears the strange sounds and is irresistibly compelled to push the old woman down onto the tracks. He runs from the scene after committing this terrible act.
            Alan next arrives at his girlfriend's house. Her name is Jessica Connelly and together they are taking a trip to Alan's hometown, Coeurville, so that Alan can introduce Jess to his friends and family. Alan has been in New York City for only a few days and in that time has met and began courting Jess. Alan seems to retain no knowledge of pushing the old woman in front of the train. 
            Alan points out the familiar landmarks of his hometown as they drive by, except things do not always match his memory. The university he works for is not there, buildings have changed or been replaced, and his friends and family have either died or never existed at all. Worse still, there is no record of an Alan Talbot ever residing in Coeurville.
Jess becomes concerned about Alan’s mental state but truly loves him and so tries to help him get to the bottom of this mystery. Alan leads her to the cemetery to visit his parent’s graves. Instead, he finds headstones for a Mr. and Mrs. Walter Ryder, people he does not know.
Later that night, as Jess drives them down the highway, Alan suddenly become ill, strange sounds again whirling within his head. Jess pulls the car over and Alan runs off into the dense undergrowth. He leans against a tree and picks up a large rock. He calls out to Jess, compelled to kill her. At the last moment Alan manages to control his deadly urge and tells Jess to run away. She leaves him there.
Alan runs to the road and is nearly hit by a passing motorist. The motorist stops to help Alan and there, in the light from the headlamp, Alan examines a wound suffered while dodging the vehicle. It is a small slit in his forearm which he opens to expose wires and circuits beneath the skin.  
            Alan locates Walter Ryder, Jr. in the phonebook and goes to his home in the middle of the night. There he finds a man who looks exactly like himself. Walter Ryder, Jr. tells Alan an incredible story. Walter is an inventor and Alan is his invention, a synthetic man built in an attempt to create a perfect version of himself. There was a problem, however, a glitch in the framework which manifests itself as an unpredictable homicidal urge. Days before, Alan tried to kill Walter with a pair of scissors.
            Alan disbelieves. Walter takes him down into a basement laboratory to display the apparatus which was used to create Alan. Alan asks if he can be repaired. When Walter says he cannot, Alan tells him about Jess. Suddenly, the deadly urge again overcomes Alan and he attacks Walter.
            Later, there is a knock on Jess’s door. She opens to find Walter, whom she believes to be Alan. Walter has survived Alan’s attack and has come to continue where Alan left off. They begin their courtship anew, cleansed of the danger which previously lay between them.
            In a final shot we see Alan lying dead on the floor of the laboratory. Despite the violence of the scene around him, his face is set in an expression of peaceful parting.

Rod Serling’s Closing Narration:
“In a way it can be said that Walter Ryder succeeded in his life’s ambition, even though the man he created was, after all, himself. There may be easier ways to self-improvement but sometimes it happens that the shortest distance between two points is a crooked line through – The Twilight Zone.”

Commentary:

“Pete Nolan knew everything about his past life up to the present, but the trouble was he couldn’t find anybody to verify his existence!”
            -original publication tagline for “The Man Who Made Himself”
Original magazine illustration
by W.E. Terry

            In one sense, “In His Image” provides a comparative view of Charles Beaumont’s principal concerns as a fiction writer: the pliable nature of reality, the disorder of perception, and our over-reliance upon memory as the basis of self-identity. Beaumont’s contributions to The Twilight Zone are filled with characters whose senses deceive them and whose memories prove faulty, from the unfortunate astronauts in “Elegy” to the unwary traveler who encounters “The Howling Man” to the man who wakes up as an non-entity in “Person or Persons Unknown.” In Beaumont’s fictional constructs, however, the world around us is confusing not only because we fail to properly perceive it but because it actively changes its nature to harass or destroy us. For Beaumont there is another, often more malevolent, layer to individual existence.
The romantic poet, artist, and philosopher William Blake, in his influential work The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790-93), suggests that the five senses of human perception are inlets to the soul and a path to natural truth. It is the nature of perception which writers have relentlessly confronted in the decades since Blake printed his masterwork, but Blake’s metaphysical view of human perception has proven far too restrictive for subsequent generations, particularly in the years after psychology and related behavioral studies became a codified scientific field.
For Charles Beaumont, writing one hundred and sixty years after Blake, the only truth derived from our senses is that our senses alone cannot lead us to truth. These are unreliable, malformed tools we use to perceive something astonishingly complex and our senses are constantly under the degrading effect of outside forces. “In His Image” features a protagonist assaulted with a barrage of disturbances concerning sight and sound, those tools most essential for committing experience to memory. Alan’s homicidal episodes occur when he is disoriented or irritated, accompanied by bursts of jarring noise suggestive of phonophobia, an aversion to loud noise which can cause acute stress and panic in one who suffers from the condition. Walter Ryder, Jr. later characterizes this condition as Alan's lack of inhibition, though we can all sympathize with Alan's annoyance at being accosted by a cloying religious zealot even if very few of us would push the woman in front of an oncoming train.
Charles Beaumont faced many challenges in his short life, from an abusive, transient childhood to the devastating illness which robbed him first of his creative ability and then of his life. "In His Image" presents a form of tragic irony in its story concerning a man who finds the solid foundations of his memory suddenly contorted into ever-increasing unreliability. In 1963 Beaumont began his own tumultuous path down the slippery slope of forgetfulness, a real-life situation not entirely dissimilar to that experienced by Alan Talbot in “In His Image.”
Beaumont’s condition initially disguised itself as the effects of an ever-increasing workload. Beaumont rarely turned down a professional writing assignment and by 1963 he was drowning in deadlines for film and television scripts, essays, stories, and book publications. In the midst of this professional chaos was Beaumont’s increasingly full home life. 1963 saw the birth of Beaumont’s fourth child. Beaumont sought respite in alcohol and one of the few changes Beaumont made in transitioning the story “The Man Who Made Himself” into the television episode “In His Image” is the addition of the shadow of alcoholism. Jess asks to stop for a drink before meeting Alan’s Aunt Mildred. Walter Ryder, Jr. is a drunk, whose alcoholism has dulled his drive to capitalize on his natural intellectual gifts beyond the obsessive desire to create another self.
By the spring of 1963 the effect of the early-onset Alzheimer’s which eventually took Beaumont’s life began to manifest itself. Friends Jerry Sohl, John Tomerlin, OCee Ritch, and William F. Nolan stepped in to complete Beaumont’s writing assignments, including four Twilight Zone episodes, but rarely received credit for their efforts. This was largely by design. Beaumont’s friends wanted the money from the assignments to go completely to Beaumont’s family. By year’s end Beaumont’s writing career was effectively over. The summer of 1964 brought the terrible diagnosis which stated that in some strange, Twilight Zone manner, Beaumont, a youthful man in his thirties, was suffering from a fatal, degenerative mental disease which remains uncannily rare for someone so young. An even crueler twist is that the disease manifested itself at the height of Beaumont's creative powers. The fourth season of Twilight Zone may well be Beaumont’s strongest. Unlike Rod Serling and, to a lesser degree, Richard Matheson, the hour-long format seems to have magnified Beaumont’s strengths as a writer, evident in such episodes as “Miniature,” “Printer’s Devil,” and “Passage on the Lady Anne.”

In another sense, “In His Image” is highly derivative, the culmination of ideas and images previously presented on the series in “The After Hours,” “A World of Difference,” “The Lateness of the Hour,” “Five Characters in Search of an Exit,” and the aforementioned “Person or Persons Unknown.” What elevates “In His Image” above the derivative nature of its plot and theme is the convincing love story at its center and the excellent dual performance from George Grizzard, here portraying a very different character from his comedic turn in the first season episode “The Chaser.” Both of these elements are greatly assisted by the presence of Gale Kobe as Jessica Connelly. Kobe is a familiar face to regular viewers of the series, having previously appeared in the thematically similar episode “A World of Difference” and soon to appear in the fifth season episode “The Self-Improvement of Salvadore Ross.” Kobe (1932-2013) was born Gabriella Joyce Kobe in Hamtramck, Michigan and trained in acting and dance at UCLA, after which she entered television, gracing dozens of shows with guest appearances throughout the 1950s and 1960s, mostly westerns and detective dramas but occasionally genre programs such as Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Outer Limits. Kobe discovered a second career in the industry when she moved into a producer’s chair in the 1970s, overseeing production on an array of daytime dramas including Guiding Light and The Bold and the Beautiful. “In His Image” offers Kobe her strongest role on the series and she and Grizzard display the finest onscreen chemistry since William Shatner and Patricia Breslin in “Nick of Time.”
The episode is also graced with excellent photography from George T. Clemens, an effective use of stock music cues, and subtle visual effects, including the nearly invisible insertion of future film director Joseph Sargent as George Grizzard’s double. Perry Lafferty was behind the camera for “In His Image” and his work on the episode set a precedence for quality which unfortunately would not be sustained throughout the fourth season. Lafferty was born in 1918 in Davenport, Iowa and initially trained as a pianist at the Yale School of Music before moving into radio production and direction in the 1940s. Lafferty directed a handful of television episodes but is better known in the industry as a producer and network executive. In 1965 CBS promoted Lafferty to the head of their West Coast production unit. Lafferty directed two additional Twilight Zone episodes, “The Thirty Fathom Grave” and “Valley of the Shadow,” both of which immediately followed “In His Image” in broadcast order. He died in Los Angeles in 2005.

The tale of the artificial person (or the person created by artificial means) is a staple of science fiction older than the genre itself, stretching in time from the Golem of Jewish folklore to the increasingly self-aware beings which populate Westworld. The most interesting subset of this story type is that which uses the artificial person to explore questions of identity, existence, perception, memory, and the ways in which these fundamental, yet abstract, aspects of an individual can be changed or altered by near and outlying factors.
As science fiction in America dragged itself out of the pulps writers began to incorporate aspects of mainstream literature to explore themes of the genre. The 1950s, a decade gaining favor in critical circles as the true Golden Age of the genre, saw an uptick in the production of the artificial person story type as writers gradually turned the science fictional lens inward to the mind and self. By the time Beaumont came to write “The Man Who Made Himself” in 1957, he was preceded in his effort by such writers as Ray Bradbury, whose 1949 story “Marionettes, Inc.” allowed henpecked husbands to create duplicate versions of themselves at a fatal price, Clifford D. Simak, whose 1951 tale “Goodnight, Mr. James” (aka “The Duplicate Man”) described a future society in which wealthy citizens created duplicate versions of themselves to perform undesirable tasks, and Philip K. Dick, whose 1953 story “Impostor” featured a protagonist very much like Alan Talbot, an artificial man who does not know his true nature and, owing to Dick’s penchant for political thrillers, harbors within his artificial body a weapon of mass destruction. All of these stories have seen dramatic adaptation, Bradbury’s on radio’s Dimension X and on television’s Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Ray Bradbury Theater. Simak’s appeared as an episode of The Outer Limits and Dick’s as a 2001 feature film. Dick returned to the themes found in his story for his most famous work, the 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sleep?, filmed by Ridley Scott in 1982 as Blade Runner.
Other examples of this story type abound in and out of the science fiction genre. Beaumont’s own 1953 story “Last Rites” covers much of the same ground despite a fundamental inversion to the theme of the tale. “Last Rites” concerns an artificial man who has found religion and, on his deathbed, calls upon a priest to administer last rites. The story is primarily concerned with forms of the soul and the afterlife but clearly demonstrates that Beaumont was concerned at an earlier date with the themes of “In His Image.” Like the prior story, Beaumont imbues “In His Image” with overtones of spiritual faith. Unlike “Last Rites,” however, Beaumont here presents religion as antagonistic, the symbolism of which (a religious pamphlet) twice triggers Alan’s homicidal outbursts, including what is likely the most shocking opening sequence of the series. There is also the rather obvious choice of the title “In His Image,” taken from Genesis 1:27, the Christian tale of the creation of the human race. “The Howling Man” is another Beaumont episode with obvious religious overtones, though one dealing with the broader sociological question of good and evil.
 The tale of the artificial person is a story type intimately related to the tale of the doppelgänger, the uncanny other which can manifests itself equally as an internal or external being. The most famous treatment of the doppelgänger in English is Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886), a work which has been endlessly adapted since its original publication and is directly alluded to in “In His Image.” Stevenson was preoccupied with the theme and his similar 1885 tale “Markheim” was in some ways a trial run for the more complex and satisfying Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The Twilight Zone approached similar material with the underrated first season episode “Mirror Image” and to a lesser degree with episodes such as “Long Live Walter Jameson” and “Number Twelve Looks Just Like You,” the latter two episodes derived from Beaumont’s story material.  
Another essential tale to which “In His Image” alludes is Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein, in which a young medical student constructs a man from the parts of cadavers and imbues the creature with life through an ambiguous means generally interpreted to be electricity. Like the young Victor Frankenstein, Alan Talbot declares his early and ongoing obsession with the creation of artificial life. For Alan, however, it is not so much about playing God as it is about creating a perfect version of himself, someone with none of his insecurities, fears, or weaknesses. The fatal flaw in his design, and one with which Dr. Jekyll could certainly relate, is that his perfect self also possesses none of his inhibitions, those learned behaviors developed in our formative years which prevent us from acting upon our baser, more violent instincts. The relationship between “In His Image” and Frankenstein was duly noted by contemporary critics and, unfortunately, resulted in many of these critics writing the episode off as a weak derivation.

Beaumont typically remained very faithful to his own stories when adapting the material for The Twilight Zone and “In His Image” is no exception*. The entire course of events is mirrored almost exactly from the short story and Beaumont lifts large portions of dialogue as well. The changes imposed by Beaumont are those to be expected when adapting from a medium which is primarily interior to one which is primarily exterior. The most notable change is in the title, which Beaumont alludes back to in Rod Serling’s outgoing narration, and in the names of the principal characters. Alan Talbot is Peter Nolan in the story. Nolan, of course, is for William F. Nolan, one of Beaumont’s closest friends who also served as the inspiration for the protagonist Charley Parkes in Beaumont's later episode “Miniature.” Jessica Connelly is Jessica Lang in the story. Again, Beaumont chose the name of an acquaintance, this time the celebrated German expatriate film director Fritz Lang. Beaumont first met Lang when the teenage Beaumont traveled from his home in Everett, Washington to Los Angeles to interview Lang for Beaumont’s amateur fanzine Utopia. The two became friendly and Lang later helped to get Beaumont signed to an acting contract at Universal, though nothing resulted from Beaumont’s attempts at professional acting. Beaumont long intended to write a biography of Lang but the project never came to fruition. Finally, Walter Ryder, Jr. is Walter Cummings, Jr. in the story.
Another change is the way in which Alan/Peter discovers his true nature. In the episode he is nearly hit by a car and suffers an injury to his arm. In the story he angrily punches a tree until the skin breaks across his knuckles. Also altered is the way in which the reader realizes it is Walter and not Alan/Peter who arrives at Jess’s door to conclude the tale. When Walter is attacked in the story, it is his face which is scarred, not his chest. Thus, the reader realizes that the man who arrives at Jess’s door to end the tale is Walter when Jess calls attention to the scar on his face. The episode does provide a nice, if brief, bit of suspense when the audience is unsure whether Alan or Walter has survived the laboratory fight.

“In His Image” begins the fourth season with a very strong effort which operates at a high level in nearly every aspect of production. Though “In His Image” generally does not suffer the pacing issues which plagued the hour-long fourth season episodes, there are some minor pacing problems, particularly in transitioning from Alan’s discovery of his true nature to his encounter at Walter’s home. Some of the production design leaves more to be desired as well. Walter’s basement laboratory is highly stereotypical and William Tuttle’s makeup designs for the aborted attempts which lie upon the laboratory slabs have not aged well. These are small problems, however, and hardly detract from the overall artistry of “In His Image.” This one comes recommended, especially for viewers wary to engage in the hour-long episodes.

Grade: B

Grateful acknowledgement is made to William F. Nolan for information found in The Work of Charles Beaumont: An Annotated Bibliography (revised 2nd edition, Borgo Press, 1990), and to the Internet Speculative Fiction Database (isfdb.org), the Internet Movie Database (imdb.com), and the Internet Archive (archive.org). 

* “The Jungle” is a notable exception. See my review for a story to episode comparison. 

Notes:
---Charles Beaumont’s original story, “The Man Who Made Himself,” was published in the February, 1957 issue of Imagination magazine, edited by William L. Hamling. Beaumont included the story, as “In His Image,” in his 1958 collection Yonder: Stories of Fantasy and Science Fiction (Bantam Books). The story has seen subsequent inclusion in such volumes as The Twilight Zone: The Original Stories (editors: Martin Harry Greenberg, Richard Matheson, and Charles G. Waugh; Avon Books, 1985), Mass for Mixed Voices: The Selected Short Fiction of Charles Beaumont (editor: Roger Anker; Centipede Press, 2013), and Perchance to Dream: Selected Stories (Penguin Classics, 2015).
--Charles Beaumont wrote 17 additional episodes of the series, with another 4 written by other writers under his byline. Among the many exceptional episodes written by Beaumont are “Perchance to Dream,” “Long Live Walter Jameson,” “The Howling Man,” “Shadow Play,” and “Miniature.”
--Perry Lafferty also directed the season four episodes “The Thirty Fathom Grave” and “Valley of the Shadow.”
--George Grizzard also appeared in the first season episode “The Chaser.”
--Gail Kobe also appeared in the first season episode “A World of Difference” and the fifth season episode “The Self-Improvement of Salvadore Ross.”
--Katharine Squire also appeared in the third season episode “One More Pallbearer.”
--Wallace Rooney also appeared in the second season episode “The Rip Van Winkle Caper” and the third season episode “Young Man’s Fancy.”
--George Petrie also appeared in the 1980s Twilight Zone episode “Shadow Play,” a remake of Charles Beaumont’s original series episode.
--Joseph Sargent appeared uncredited in the second season episode “Twenty Two.”
--“In His Image” was adapted as a Twilight Zone Radio Drama starring John Heard.

-JP

8 comments:

  1. Nice writeup, Jordan. I recently bought the complete set from Amazon (at a steal) and now have no excuse not to revisit these episodes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Jack. There are definitely some episodes from Season 4 well worth revisiting, "In His Image" certainly being one of them.

      Delete
  2. I love this episode. The idea you're not a thirty-something on the threshold of marriage but only a few days old and that all your memories and experiences are simply implants courtesy of a woefully insecure creator is frightening, compelling stuff. True, the second-half, with Alan talking to his creator, is a bit padded -- and it's pretty laughably obvious when they square off that two stuntmen, and not two George Grizzards (which wouldn't be possible), are doing the fighting. Plus, it's a shame Walter doesn't tell Jessica that he's not Alan but Alan's creator (I know they have only so much time, even with fifty-something minutes, and this is the sixties, when the interests of women were not nearly taken into account like they are today, but still ....). Despite these reservations, this is cool, ahead-of-its-time television, and along with "Miniature" and "On Thursday We Leave For Home," probably fourth season "TZ" at its finest.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Great assessment, Gregory, and it's refreshing to find someone else who appreciates the quality fourth season episodes (few though they are). I'd personally throw "Death Ship" in there as well. It wasn't until I began writing my review that I saw the tragic parallels between what is happening to Alan (the confusion, memory loss, disoriented anger) and what happened to writer Charles Beaumont. It's a sad fact that Beaumont was still in the prime of his creative abilities when he was suddenly struck by early onset Alzheimer's. Thankful we have these episodes to watch over and again. Thanks for reading!

      Delete
  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  4. "Death Ship" is a good one as is "The Parallel," though the latter gets a lot of flack for its padded nature. I will concede it would have been improved by a twenty-four minute running time. Still, I love its premise, the subtly eerie tone, and the fact that it's cited often as an early example of "The Mandela Effect"... Fascinating comparison you draw between Beaumont and Alan. Keeping this in mind when one watches the episode lends it an additional layer of poignancy. Amazingly, despite what Beaumont was enduring, he still, of all the "TZ" writers, probably emerged the most unscathed, creatively-speaking, by season four's ill-advised hour-long format.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "The Parallel" would have made an excellent half-hour segment as it is certainly very eerie but can't quite be stretched out to forty-plus. On the whole I think the series performed those dimensional slip episodes quite well and in my mind I bracket "The Parallel" with "A World of Difference" and "Person or Persons Unknown," two episodes I enjoy. I recently listened to the Twilight Zone Radio episode of "The Parallel" and enjoyed it very much.

      I completely agree about Beaumont and the fourth season. He seemed to easily slide into that hour-long format, which makes it all the more tragic that he was cut short in the middle of its run. For me, the only misstep from Beaumont in the fourth season is "Valley of the Shadow," which is enjoyable but not altogether successful. I find "In His Image," "Miniature," "Passage on the Lady Anne," and "Printer's Devil" all to be very good episodes which successfully utilize the hour-long format. I really enjoy "The New Exhibit" as well though Jerry Sohl wrote that episode entirely.

      Delete
  5. Latest Dish TV Recruitment 2018 Will be released soon official notification for 4500+ vacancies.

    ReplyDelete