Monday, July 2, 2018

"Valley of the Shadow"

Philip Redfield (Ed Nelson) and his dog Rolly
during their trip through Peaceful Valley
“Valley of the Shadow”
Season Four, Episode 105
Original Air Date: January 17, 1963

Cast:
Dorn: David Opatoshu
Philip Redfield: Ed Nelson
Ellen Marshall: Natalie Trundy
Connolly: Jacques Aubuchon
Evans: Dabbs Greer
Father: James Doohan
Girl: Morgan Brittany (as Suzanne Cupito)
Attendant: Sandy Kenyon
Townspeople: Henry Beckman
                       Bart Burns
                       King Calder
                       Pat O’Hara

Crew:
Writer: Charles Beaumont (original teleplay)
Director: Perry Lafferty
Producer: Herbert Hirschman
Director of Photography: Robert Pittack
Production Manager: Ralph W. Nelson
Associate Producer: Murray Golden
Assistant to the Producer: John Conwell
Art Direction: George W. Davis, John J. Thompson
Film Editor: Everett Dodd, A.C.E.
Set Decoration: Henry Grace, Don Greenwood, Jr.
Assistant Director: Ray de Camp
Music: stock
Sound: Franklin Milton, Joe Edmondson
Mr. Serling’s Wardrobe: Eagle Clothes
Filmed at MGM Studios

And Now, Mr. Serling:

“Next on Twilight Zone, a marvelously exciting excursion into a very strange place called ‘Valley of the Shadow.’ It comes from the probing mind of Mr. Charles Beaumont, and whether you’re a science fiction buff, a fantasy lover, or just needful of some escape, this one should fill most of your requirements.”

Rod Serling’s Opening Narration:
“You’ve seen them, little towns tucked away from the main roads. You’ve seen them but have you thought about them? What do the people in these places do? Why do they stay? Philip Redfield never thought about them. If his dog hadn’t gone after that cat he would have driven through Peaceful Valley and put it out of his mind forever. But he can’t do that now because, whether he knows it or not, his friend’s shortcut has led him right into the capital of The Twilight Zone.”


Summary:
            Philip Redfield, a reporter, is traveling by car with his dog through New Mexico. He attempts a shortcut and becomes lost. Soon, he spots a sign for a small town named Peaceful Valley. When he arrives he is immediately put off by the local gas station attendant who not only struggles to find the gas tank on Redfield’s car but also states that Redfield will have to travel eighty miles to get back to a main highway. Redfield is further annoyed when the attendant informs him that the only restaurant in town is closed.
            Redfield’s dog leaps from the car to chase a cat from the arms of a little girl. Redfield quickly follows and arrives in time to see the little girl use a small device to make Redfield’s dog disappear. Redfield demands to know what happened to his dog. The girl’s father attempts to mollify Redfield by suggesting that the dog ran around the back of the house. After the men split up to search for the dog, the girl’s father uses a device to bring the dog back. Redfield is happy to get his dog back but realizes there is something very strange about this town.
            Meanwhile, the few townspeople Redfield encounters seem desperate to be rid of him. Ellen Marshall, who works at the local hotel, claims there are no rooms available despite the rather obvious fact that there are no guests in the hotel. Perturbed but nonetheless ready to be out of Peaceful Valley, Redfield climbs into his car and drives away. At the edge of town his car suddenly crashes into an invisible barrier, stunning Redfield and throwing his dog from the car.
            Four men appear and insist on escorting Redfield back into town to see a doctor. Redfield checks on his dog and finds the animal dead. Redfield initially puts up a fight but eventually allows himself to be taken back to town. One of the men stays behind and uses a small device to bring Redfield’s dog back to life.
            Instead of being brought to a doctor, Redfield is led to the mayor’s office. The mayor, Dorn, arrives along with two associates named Connolly and Evans. They question Redfield about what he has seen in the town. After consulting one another, they inform Redfield that he will not be allowed to leave Peaceful Valley. Dorn proceeds to relate an incredible story. Many years ago a man arrived in Peaceful Valley. He may not have been from Earth. He introduced Peaceful Valley to scientific wonders far beyond the ability of mankind. They have used these wonders to build lives of peace and comfort for themselves. Their greatest fear is that their secrets will become known to the world-at-large, which will use the technology to bring devastation upon the planet. For this reason, Redfield cannot leave town.
            Dorn displays many amazing instruments for Redfield, including a machine which can heal grievous injury and another which can produce objects (from ham sandwiches to handguns) using coded cards. Redfield is given two options: death or assimilation. Redfield chooses assimilation. Though he is given a comfortable house and finds himself strongly attracted to Ellen Marshall, Redfield plans his escape from town. The idea that this technology, which could be used to cure disease and alleviate hunger, is being kept a secret in this small town drives him mad. When Ellen appears to reciprocate his feelings, Redfield springs into action.
            He returns to Dorn’s office and uses a machine to produce a handgun. He steals the book of secret formulas from a wall safe, setting off an alarm system. When Dorn and his men arrive and try to stop him, Redfield shoots them. On the edge of town Ellen suggests that Redfield look inside the book of secret formulas. The pages are blank. The entire escape was a setup to gauge Redfield’s adjustment to his permanent life in Peaceful Valley. The only option left is execution. Or is it?
            Using their technology, Dorn turns back time to the moment Redfield was preparing to leave the gas station. Although Redfield is mildly bewildered, especially when he sees Ellen, he leaves town ignorant of his extraordinary adventure.            

Rod Serling’s Closing Narration:
“You’ve seen them, little towns tucked away far from the main roads. You’ve seen them but have you thought about them? Have you wondered what the people do in such places, why they stay? Philip Redfield thinks about them now and he wonders, but only very late at night, when he’s between wakefulness and sleep, in The Twilight Zone.”

Commentary:

            With “Valley of the Shadow,” writer Charles Beaumont is far more interested in the ideas presented by the narrative than in the narrative itself. His principal interest is to challenge the viewer on the ethical implications which accompany great advancements in technology. This goes some way in excusing the logical missteps in the narrative, which include the fact that a town which wishes to remain unnoticed by outsiders would place a directional sign at a crossroads. Also the fact that such a town would be caught completely unaware and unprepared when an outsider found their way to town. In this regard, Redfield is immediately presented with a surly gas station attendant who cannot find the gas tank on a car as well as a hotel manager who doggedly repeats an easily contested lie. It is also difficult to believe that the townspeople would be so progressive as to allow a child to possess a device which can destroy and recreate matter.
The viewer also wonders how a generation of townspeople, even those who live a technologically enhanced life of comfort, could all be content to remain isolated their entire lives. Surely someone would desire to leave town if only out of curiosity. Lastly, the solution to the problem of Redfield, to use advanced technology to turn back time, is one which should have been arrived at nearer the beginning of the ordeal. For Beaumont it is an uncharacteristically, though necessarily, convenient solution akin to the “it’s only a dream” ending. As noted in Marc Scott Zicree’s The Twilight Zone Companion, at least one contemporary reviewer did not fully understand that time had been reversed, instead believing that Redfield daydreamed the events.
            Upon repeat viewings it becomes clear that these inconsistencies are merely the straw ladder which Beaumont climbs to get where he really wants to go, that being an (ultimately unresolved) exploration of the dilemma presented by Redfield’s presence in Peaceful Valley. Similar to Beaumont’s previous episode, “In His Image,” another tale of technology, violence, and the ethics of progress, the narrative arc serves as an examination of what it means to wield enormous technological power and whether that power should be used if it can conversely cause great harm.  
Further evidence that Beaumont is unconcerned with narrative logic is the expedient, fable-like story of how Peaceful Valley came into possession of such advanced technology. To quickly recap: a strange man, possibly extraterrestrial, arrived suddenly in Peaceful Valley, bringing great technological wonders with him. He gifted the technology to the town with the admonition that the townspeople must never share the technology with the world at large. Why? Because it would certainly get into the hands of people who would use it to make weapons of mass destruction. Albert Einstein and the Manhattan Project are alluded to at this point.
Another interesting observation is that Peaceful Valley, despite the presence of advanced technology, is frozen in time. Redfield spots a decade old newspaper in the hotel lobby and the overall feel of the town is one of rural isolation. One hardly expects Peaceful Valley to resemble the 1960s version of the City of the Future but one also does not expect it to be a New Mexico Mayberry. Although, according to the directional sign, nearly a thousand people live in Peaceful Valley, we are only shown a scant dozen or so townspeople, giving the impression of a ghost town, or one in which progress has long since passed by. It is not until Redfield is shown behind the curtain, so to speak, that the production is given over to some semblance of futuristic display with a minimalistic design typical of the series.
It can be difficult for the viewer to determine the significance of these divergent qualities. The obvious answer appears to be that the rural nature of the town is a façade to fool unwanted outsiders. If this is the case, however, why is the town so unprepared for Redfield’s appearance? Is it rather that Beaumont suggests that technological innovation is not the path to societal progress, or that technology brings such comforts as to create a community of a slothful citizens? Both of these thematic angles are old pathways in the SF genre. Whatever the case, the insular lifestyle adopted by Peaceful Valley seems also to have intellectually and emotionally affected the townspeople. They appear to be ignorant of basic human interactive behavior and their impulsive responses to Redfield’s natural curiosity is largely the catalyst for the chaos which follows. Only the mayor, Dorn, is able to remain reasonable amid the events which unfold after Redfield’s intrusion.
The final sequence of the episode only adds to the confusion. Redfield commits a calculated act of violence which likely alienates the viewer but also serves to reinforce the townspeople’s suspicion of Redfield’s ultimate goal, to abscond with the town’s technological secrets. We can be reassured by the idea that Redfield knew the townspeople could be healed with their technology but it still illustrates that the desire for advanced technology can drive people to violence. This is a similar structure to that previously used by Beaumont in “In His Image,” although that episode used a final sequence of violence as an act of purgation. Here it serves only to bring us back to where we began. The experiment is over and it has failed.
































Typical of the series, the special effects in “Valley of the Shadow” were achieved through a combination of economy and ingenuity. The effect of people, animals, or objects appearing and disappearing was achieved through editing and film reversal, as was the effect of Evans (Dabbs Greer) miraculously healing after being stabbed by Dorn in a bizarre and unsettling display of the town’s abilities in medical science. The most impressive effect in the episode occurs when Philip Redfield’s car crashes into the invisible barrier which surrounds the town. Author Marc Scott Zicree, in The Twilight Zone Companion, learned the secret of this effect from director Perry Lafferty. Two 1959 Chevrolet Impala convertibles were used for the scene. One of the cars was front-end wrecked and the other was not. Ed Nelson was filmed driving the un-wrecked car toward the mark. Then, with a stunt performer inside, the chassis of the un-wrecked car was tethered by chain, with a bit of slack, and then slowly driven to the mark where the car was to crash into the invisible wall. There, the chain pulled taut and abruptly jerked the car to a stop*. This was filmed from a close side angle to obscure the tethering. Ed Nelson was then filmed behind the wheel of the front-end wrecked car. A framing shot of the wrecked car completed the scene and the sequence was edited in a way to give the appearance of the car crashing against an invisible barrier.
The Twilight Zone is often casually summarized as a series in which ordinary people are placed into extraordinary circumstances. Perhaps no story type better epitomizes this quality than the tale of someone arriving upon a strange town. Among the variations of this theme explored on the series are Rod Serling’s first season episodes “Where Is Everybody?” and “Walking Distance,” Beaumont’s own first season episode “Elegy,” and Earl Hamner, Jr.’s fifth season episode “Stopover in a Quiet Town.” Other writers on the series found this story type useful as well. Stories such as Richard Matheson’s short story “The Children of Noah” and Ray Bradbury’s “Mars Is Heaven!” and “The Town Where No One Got Off” come immediately to mind. Unlike these related episodes and stories, there seems to be no satisfactory revelation in “Valley of the Shadow,” no shocking twist ending or profound change in character. Whatever lesson is to be learned from the proceedings, if there is a lesson to be learned at all, must come from the viewer.
Beaumont in this rare mode of social commentary reminds the viewer of the moral fables of series creator Rod Serling, who approached similar material in episodes such as “The Shelter,” “The Gift,” and “The Old Man in the Cave,” the latter an adaptation of a Henry Slesar story. An observation upon the series as a whole is that technology is rarely presented as something which brings about prosperity and happiness. This is obvious in such dystopian episodes as “Eye of the Beholder” or “Number Twelve Looks Just Like You” but is more effectively presented in episodes in which an adverse psychological change occurs in one or more characters, such as in “Where Is Everybody?”, “The Lonely,” or “The Trade-Ins,” all written by Serling. Richard Matheson’s “A World of His Own” may be the only episode in which technology brings about preferable change, though Gregory West’s magical Dictaphone can better be classified as magic.

David Opatoshu (1918-1996) is the surprising top-billed actor in the episode,
David Opatoshu
playing Dorn, the mayor of Pleasant Valley. Opatoshu’s credits date back to 1939 but he came into his own in the early years of dramatic television. Though he appeared in a handful of prestige films (The Brothers Karamazov (1958), Torn Curtain (1966)) Opatoshu is likely better known to television viewers, particularly genre television viewers. Opatoshu’s earliest genre credits include an episode of Inner Sanctum (“Nobody Laughs at Lou” (1954)) and the infamous dystopian episode of Playhouse 90, “A Sound of Different Drummers” (1957), which achieved infamy as an unauthorized adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s 1953 novel Fahrenheit 451. Opatoshu also appeared in episodes of Alcoa Presents: One Step Beyond (“Earthquake”), Alfred Hitchcock Presents (“On the Nose,” “Strange Miracle”), The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (in a memorable adaptation of H.G. Wells’s “The Magic Shop,” adapted by writer John Collier and director Robert Stevens), The Outer Limits (“A Feasibility Study”), Star Trek (“A Taste of Armageddon”), Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, and The Time Tunnel. Opatoshu also appeared in an episode of Rod Serling’s The Loner (“Westward, the Shoemaker”) and Earl Hamner’s Falcon Crest (“Acid Tests”). His last credit was for the short-lived 1991 comedic medical series Stat.
Ed Nelson (1928-2014), playing reporter Philip Redfield, learned his craft in the
Ed Nelson
local theater and television venues of New Orleans, even serving as director of local station WDSU-TV, now a MeTV affiliate, before relocating to Los Angeles in the mid-1950s. There he began to appear in B-grade science fiction and horror films such as Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957), Invasion of the Saucer Men (1957), and The Brain Eaters (1958) before landing numerous roles in television westerns and police dramas. Nelson still found time to appear in a number of memorable genre series, including a whopping four episodes of Boris Karloff’s Thriller (“The Fatal Impulse,” “Dialogues with Death,” “The Cheaters” and “A Good Imagination”), The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (“Captive Audience,” “I’ll Be Judge – I’ll Be Jury”), The Outer Limits (“Nightmare”), Rod Serling’s Night Gallery (“Little Girl Lost,” no relation to the Twilight Zone episode of the same title), The Sixth Sense, and the Logan’s Run television series. His last credit was for the 2003 film Runaway Jury.
The striking actress Natalie Trundy (b. 1940), playing the naïve yet alluring
Natalie Trundy
Ellen Marshall, was born in Boston and raised in New York City where she worked her way on the Broadway stage by age 12. Television work arrived in 1953 and Trundy smoothly transitioned from child actor to young adult on such series as The Alcoa Hour, The Goodyear Playhouse, and Studio One. Genre credits include episodes of Climax! (“Along Came a Spider”) and, memorably, Boris Karloff’s Thriller, starring opposite Leslie Nielsen in the premier episode, “The Twisted Image.” Trundy also appeared in an episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, “The Long Silence,” which was adapted by writers Charles Beaumont and William D. Gordon from the Hilda Lawrence’s story “Composition for Four Hands.” Trundy suffered a career-halting back injury in a 1963 car accident but returned to acting in 1967. She married producer Arthur P. Jacobs in 1960 and appeared in four of Jacobs’s Apes films, including Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970), Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971), Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1972), and Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973). Trundy retired from acting in 1978, her last credit being for an episode of Quincy, M.E.
Other familiar faces in the cast include James Doohan (1920-2005) as the father
James Doohan
of the little girl who causes Redfield’s dog to vanish. Doohan, of course, is well-known as Montgomery “Scotty” Scott on the original series of Star Trek and its accompanying films. Doohan also appeared in episodes of Suspense (“Go Home Dead Man”), Tales of Tomorrow (“Plague from Space”), The Outer Limits (“Expanding Human”), and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea before securing the role of Scotty.
Morgan Brittany (b. 1951), here billed under her birth name Suzanne Cupito,
Morgan Brittany (Suzanne Cupito)
plays the little girl who makes Redfield’s dog vanish. Best known for her role as the villainess Katherine Wentworth on Dallas, Brittany appeared in two additional episodes of The Twilight Zone, the first season episode “Nightmare as a Child” and, memorably, as the scheming little girl Susan in the fifth season episode “Caesar and Me.” Brittany also appeared as a child in episodes of Boris Karloff’s Thriller (“The Fingers of Fear”) and The Outer Limits (“The Inheritors: Part II”). Although she continues to occasionally appear in films and television series, Brittany is better known today as a conservative political commentator who is an occasional guest on news programs and talk shows.
Regular Twilight Zone viewers are sure to recognize the gas station attendant as
Sandy Kenyon
actor Sandy Kenyon (1922-2010), who appeared in two additional episodes of the series, “The Odyssey of Flight 33” and “The Shelter,” portraying the villainous Frank Henderson in the latter, a racist who incites violence among neighbors during a panic over a possible nuclear attack. Kenyon also appeared in episodes of Alcoa Presents: One Step Beyond (“Front Runner”), Thriller (“The Hollow Watcher”), and The Outer Limits (“Counterweight”).
Although “Valley of the Shadow” is an episode filled with ideas of varying interest and complexity, Beaumont hardly has the space to fully explore any of it and we are left with one of the few missteps from Beaumont on the series. The cast is a treat for genre fans and the pacing is not nearly as brutal as the worst of the fourth season but ultimately “Valley of the Shadow” is unable to satisfactorily drag itself out of the quagmire of its ambitions.

Grade: C

Grateful acknowledgement is made to Marc Scott Zicree for information found in The Twilight Zone Companion (2nd edition, Silman-James, 1992), and to the Internet Movie Database (imdb.com).

*Lafferty also relates to Zicree the fact that the stunt performer who drove the wrecked car, despite only driving the car at 12 mph, needed to be hospitalized after the stunt.

Notes:

--Perry Lafferty also directed the fourth season episodes “In His Image” and “The Thirty Fathom Grave.”
--Ed Nelson also appeared in the second season Night Gallery segment “Little Girl Lost.”
--Dabbs Greer also appeared in the third season episode “Hocus-Pocus and Frisby.”
--Morgan Brittany also appeared (as Suzanne Cupito) in the first season episode “Nightmare as a Child” and the fifth season episode “Caesar and Me.” Brittany also performed in the Twilight Zone Radio Dramas “The Passersby” and “Mirror Image.”  
--Sandy Kenyon also appeared in the second season episode “The Odyssey of Flight 33” and the third season episode “The Shelter.”
--Henry Beckman also appeared in the second season episode “A Thing About Machines,” as well as the first season Night Gallery segment “They’re Tearing Down Tim Riley’s Bar.”
--King Calder also appeared in the second season episode “The Trouble with Templeton.”
--Pat O’Hara also appeared in the second season Night Gallery segment “A Feast of Blood.”
--“Valley of the Shadow” was adapted as a Twilight Zone Radio Drama starring Chelcie Ross.
--The title of the episode is taken from the fourth line of the 23rd psalm from the Book of Psalms: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me.”

-JP

4 comments:

  1. I don't remember this one at all, but your review makes me want to check it out. Natalie Trundy is always worth a look!

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    Replies
    1. It's definitely worth a look, Jack. It's one of those rare episodes that doesn't really deliver on its premise but is still fairly engaging.

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  2. Natalie Trundy also appeared in Beneath The Planet Of The Apes the second in the series.

    ReplyDelete