Monday, August 22, 2016

"The Jungle"

Doris Richards (Emily McLaughlin) warns her husband Alan (John Dehner) not to venture outside.
“The Jungle”
Season Three, Episode 77
Original Air Date: December 1, 1961

Alan Richards: John Dehner
Chad Cooper: Walter Brooke
Doris Richards: Emily McLaughlin
Templeton: Hugh Sanders
Hardy: Howard Wright
Sinclair: Donald Foster
Vagrant: Jay Adler
Taxi Driver: Jay Overholts
Zamba the Lion

Writer: Charles Beaumont (based on his story)
Director: William Claxton
Producer: Buck Houghton
Associate Producer: Del Reisman
Production Manager: Ralph W. Nelson
Director of Photography: George T. Clemens
Art Direction: George W. Davis and Phil Barber
Set Decoration: H. Web Arrowsmith
Assistant Director: E. Darrell Hallenbeck
Editor: Jason H. Bernie
Story Consultant: Richard McDonagh
Sound: Bill Edmondson and Franklin Milton
Casting: Stalmaster-Lister
Music: Stock
Animal Handler: Ralph Helfer

And Now, Mr. Serling:
“Next week on The Twilight Zone we once again borrow the talents of Mr. Charles Beaumont, who’s written a script especially for us called ‘The Jungle.’ Now, this is designed for the reasonably impressionable amongst you who find nothing to laugh about when somebody mentions the words ‘black magic.’ Mr. John Dehner stars in another small excursion into the darker regions of the imagination. Next week, ‘The Jungle’.”

Rod Serling’s Opening Narration: 

“The carcass of a goat, a dead finger, a few bits of broken glass and stone, and Mr. Alan Richards, a modern man of a modern age, hating with all his heart something in which he cannot believe, and preparing, although he doesn’t know it, to take the longest walk of his life, right down to the center of The Twilight Zone.”

            While looking through his wife’s jewelry case for a missing cufflink, Alan Richards comes across a startling array of primitive magical artifacts, including a dead human finger. He confronts his wife with the items. She tells him they are for protection against a curse leveled at them by a village shaman while they were staying in Africa. Alan is working on a hydro-electric project for an American company that will disrupt the ecosystem of the African jungle and they have only recently returned to New York City. Calling his wife foolish and superstitious to believe in such things, especially here in America, Alan burns the items in the fireplace.
            His wife becomes downtrodden and depressed, resigned to the fate she believes will befall them now that Alan has destroyed their magical protection. Alan must attend a night meeting with other members of his company. “You won’t come back,” his wife tells him. “Don’t open the door.” Alan ignores her warning and opens the door. Lying in the doorway is the sacrificial body of a dead goat.  
            At the meeting, Alan is asked about the response from the local population in Africa to their project. Alan tells the other men the grim truth: the local population is angry and has cursed everyone associated with the project with a slow and painful death. The other men laugh at this but Alan quickly checks their laughter. He points out an aspect of each man’s character that draws a parallel to the very superstition they ridicule; from a rabbit’s foot to a belief in astrology to knocking on wood, each man puts weight in some superstitious belief.
            Alan joins a co-worker for a drink at a bar after the meeting. They wind up discussing superstitions. Alan becomes agitated when discussing his wife’s behavior following their return from Africa. Seeing how disturbed Alan is becoming, his friend suggests that only somebody who actually believed in the curse would be so disturbed by it. Alan finds a lion’s tooth in his coat, presumably placed there for protection by his wife. He places it down on the bar and forgets it as he leaves.
            Outside, his car won’t start. His friend has already driven away and nobody remains within the closed and locked bar. It is very late at night and the street is eerily deserted. As Alan peers through the window of the bar, we again see the lion’s tooth left there, the final piece of magical protection Alan had remaining to him.
Alan finds a phone booth but discovers the phone is out of order. As he walks away the phone begins ringing. He rushes back and answers it. Strange animal sounds call back to him from the other end. He drops the phone and hurries away.
            A taxi pulls up and offers a ride. Alan gladly accepts. They drive a block and then stop for a traffic light. The driver does not move the car, even when the light turns to green. Alan tries to talk to him and gets no response. He reaches out and touches the driver. The driver is physically unresponsive and falls sideways along the front seat. Alarmed, Alan gets out and goes around to the front to check on the driver. The man appears to be dead. Alan rushes away. 
            As he walks down the street he begins to hear the sound of rhythmic, pounding drums and animal sounds as he heard on the phone. The sounds begin faintly but slowly grow in volume. Alan is confront by a tramp who asks for money. Alan gives the man a little money. He asks the tramp if he can also hear the sound of the drums and the animals but the tramp says that he cannot hear any sounds. Alan offers additional money if the tramp will walk with him on the way home. Alan must walk through a park and he doesn’t like the look of the darkness and the closeness of the trees. A screeching animal sound draws Alan’s attention away and when he looks back the tramp has vanished. Alan is utterly alone on the street.
The sounds of the drums and the animals grow to a deafening crescendo. Alan stumbles through the park toward the front doors of his apartment building. He collapses against the doors as the sounds suddenly cease. Alan slowly rises and enters the building. He enters his apartment and pours himself a drink. 
            Suddenly, he hears a sound from behind the bedroom door. It is the low, distinctive growl of a large cat. Cautiously, Alan approaches and pushes open the door. A large male lion is on the bed beside the body of his dead wife.
            The lion leaps from the bed to attack. Alan only has time for a single scream before the animal is upon him. 

Rod Serling’s Closing Narration:
“Some superstitions kept alive by the long night of ignorance have their own special power. You’ll hear of it through a jungle grapevine in a remote corner of The Twilight Zone.”


I. "The Jungle" 

“Suddenly it was there. On foxfeet, invisibly, it had crept, past all the fences and traps he had laid, past all the barriers. And now it sat inside his mind, a part of him, like his pulse, like the steady beat of his heart.”
            -Charles Beaumont, “The Jungle”

Illustration by Leo Summers for
Charles Beaumont's "The Jungle"
            The story of supernatural persecution is a versatile story type which was explored on the series from the very first episode (“Where is Everybody?”) until late in the final season (“Stopover In a Quiet Town”), and ran the gamut from the episode of excellence (“The Hitch-Hiker”) to less successful episodes (“The Fear”). A story of this type is exemplified by a seemingly normal individual (or an individual with which the audience can easily identify) confronted with an unexplained phenomena of a persecuting nature. The story proceeds as the individual attempts to evade the phenomena only to be delivered in hand by the story’s end to the very thing from which they were attempting to escape. The physical chase is essential to this type of story and lends it an acute psychological angle that allows the audience to examine a mental struggle reflected in the physical action of the story. 

            A casual glance at the episodes preceding Charles Beaumont’s “The Jungle” shows a number which share these essential characteristics. "Mirror Image," “The After Hours,” “Nightmare as a Child,” “Judgment Night,” “And When the Sky Was Opened,” and Beaumont’s “Perchance to Dream” and “Shadow Play,” all concern protagonists who are stalked by a supernatural (or preternatural) force. These episodes typically end in one of two ways: psychological salvation resulting from an awakening awareness, or psychological (and perhaps physical) trauma from an inability to escape. The latter ending is often tied up in the features of supernatural justice. These episodes are also tales of psychological horror in which the deterioration of the mind is explored equally to the deterioration of the body.
            The episode with which “The Jungle” is most interestingly compared is Richard Matheson’s masterpiece of psychological persecution from the second season, “Nick of Time.” In Matheson’s story, the tyranny of superstitious belief is revealed to be a self-made prison, one wholly unnecessary to be suffered by the modern, enlightened man, whereas Beaumont is suggesting something different in “The Jungle.” In "The Jungle" it is dangerous, perhaps fatal, to deny the shadowy magic which lies behind superstition. Such things are given power by fear and belief, and no amount of knowledge or scientific insight can protect against the machinations of the supernatural.
            The figure of the psychoanalyst is frequently present in Beaumont’s fiction and although there is no psychoanalyst in “The Jungle,” the protagonist, Alan Richards, assumes the role when, during the board meeting scene, he systematically reveals the irrational beliefs of each of the supposedly balanced, successful business men. If these men represent the enlightenment brought about by mass industrialization and scientific progress, then why is it that each man still covets some aspect of an old superstition? What does this tell us about modern man and woman and his or her relationship to their distant, less enlightened ancestors who explained aspects of their world by supernatural means?
            The psychoanalyst is a recurring symbol in Beaumont’s Twilight Zone episodes as well (“Perchance to Dream,” “Person or Persons Unknown,” "Miniature") and typically represents the futility of science when faced with the supernatural. It is rare that a doctor or authority figure of any sort is able to help Beaumont’s doomed protagonists. 

            Beaumont’s original story, first published in the December, 1954 issue of If: Worlds of Science Fiction bears little resemblance to the episode crafted from it. The primary reason for this was production cost inherent in creating the future world of Beaumont’s story. In this future setting the elite members of the world’s population destroy the jungles of Kenya in order to create a self-sustainable city structure. To visualize this futuristic city would simply have cost too much for the production. Most of the show’s futuristic designs take on a cost-efficient, minimalist approach, as evidenced by Beaumont’s later story adaptation, “Number Nine Looks Just Like You” and other episodes such as "The Obsolete Man," “The Trade-Ins,” and “The Lateness of the Hour.”  
            The entirety of Beaumont’s original story takes place in Africa. The protagonist of the story is Richard Austin and he is the designer of a city, Mbarara, built to house half a million select members of the world’s population. The world has become vastly over-populated and the jungles of Africa are the only areas which remain untouched by this over-population. Consequently, it is the area which Austin and his colleagues choose as the location of their expansive, futuristic city. As a result, the inhabitants of the villages which border the jungle fight back against the invaders who have leveled their territory. Though the inhabitants fight Austin’s project in a traditional manner, through the weapons of warfare, they also fight with aspects of magic. The pre-population of Austin’s city, those who arrive to prepare for the arrival of others, are inflicted with a terrible, degenerative disease which causes horrible suffering, as indicted by its crude nickname, “jungle rot.” Though Austin steadfastly refuses to believe that the primitive rituals practiced by the natives have anything to do with the epidemic, he cannot long continue to deny it when his wife falls victim to the disease and lies on the verge of a horrible death.
            Austin leaves his heavily protected apartment home to confront the medicine man and the villagers who have opposed the construction of the city. Beaumont uses many traditional symbols of African magic (drums, ritualistic dancing, miniature effigies, the casting of bones, etc.) to provide a jarring juxtaposition to the sleek futurism of Mbarara.
            The final third of Beaumont’s original story is the portion which most resembles the finished episode. After being turned away by the medicine man, Austin walks home through the silent, abandoned streets of the maze-like city, pursued at every step by the threatening sounds of tribal drums and predatory animals. Austin arrives home to find a lion feeding upon his wife.
            The story is not one of Beaumont’s best, overly long and written with uncharacteristically dense passages of exposition. It does, however, offer a number of interesting ideas, most of which Beaumont carries over into his adaptation. One which he was forced to abandon was the idea of over-population. Beaumont presents an interesting moral dilemma in his treatment of the subject as he illustrates a future world in which population problems are handled by government purges, forcing Austin and his colleagues to build their city not only to escape over-population but also the waves of government-mandated executions. It is interesting to note that the idea of primitive magic, and jungle magic in particular, was prominent in supernatural fiction of the 1940s and 1950s, especially in the pulp magazines and pre-code horror comics of the time. Much of it, unfortunately, was characterized by the racial stereotyping too common at the time, but some of the more successful treatments of theme, by writers such as Ray Bradbury and Fritz Leiber, proved to be important influences upon Beaumont’s original story and later adaptation.

II. "The Veldt" 

“. . . my eyes focused upon a scene, a large house with two people in it. I saw a flight of vultures on a blazing flesh sky, I saw yellow lions, and I heard voices.”
            -Ray Bradbury, “Prologue: The Illustrated Man”

“The lions were finished with their red feast.”
            -Ray Bradbury, “The Veldt”

Illustration by Jim Burns for
Ray Bradbury's The Illustrated Man
      One writer whose influence can be felt in many episodes of The Twilight Zone is Ray Bradbury. Though Bradbury only contributed a single teleplay to the series, season three’s “I Sing the Body Electric,” his hand can be felt in nearly every episode of the show. According to Bradbury (from his introduction to John Collier’s Fancies and Goodnights (New York Review Books, 2003)), Rod Serling came to Bradbury's home looking for suggestions for stories to adapt for The Twilight Zone, then still in development. Besides Collier, Bradbury also recommended two young writers whom he had mentored as they developed into professionals, Richard Matheson and Charles Beaumont, two writers who would go on to be the principal writers on the show behind Serling.
Beaumont was a teenager when he met Bradbury in a Los Angeles bookstore years before. At the time Bradbury was publishing horror stories in Weird Tales, stories which would eventually comprise Bradbury’s first book, Dark Carnival (1947). When Beaumont began to write his own stories, Bradbury read the stories and gave Beaumont constructive criticism. In the early 1950s, Beaumont began regularly selling his material to the pulps and science fiction digest magazines. By the end of that decade, much like Bradbury before him, Beaumont had largely graduated to the “slick magazines” (Playboy, Esquire, etc.) and developed a style that was distinctly his own. The early stories, however, clearly show Bradbury’s influence. An early story such as “Elegy” (published in 1953 and adapted for the first season of The Twilight Zone), in which three astronauts land on a planet that looks like a pastoral version of Earth only to discover the planet’s deadly secret, in many ways resembles Bradbury’s famous 1948 story “Mars is Heaven!” (collected in The Martian Chronicles (1950) as “The Third Expedition”). 

Illustration by Al Parker for
"The World the Children Made"
“The Jungle” owes much to Bradbury’s fiction as well, both in style and tone, and in particular to Bradbury’s famous story “The Veldt,” originally published in the September 23, 1950 issue of The Saturday Evening Post, as “The World the Children Made,” and collected in The Illustrated Man (1951). Although thematically Bradbury is attempting something altogether different with “The Veldt,” the core aspect of the story also concerns a futuristic setting beset by the dangers of an older world. Both writers use the images of Africa to juxtapose a future in which an advanced society is confronted with the dangers of primeval places.
On the genesis of “The Veldt,” Bradbury wrote: “What if you could create a world within a room . . . and introduce a family to that room where its walls might operate on their psyches and deliver forth nightmares?” (“Dancing, So as Not to Be Dead,” introduction to The Illustrated Man, 1999). "The Veldt" illustrates the direction in which the supernatural story was headed in the middle part of the 20th century. Many writers of supernatural fiction were reevaluating the traditional Gothic story in the wake of the horrors of the Second World War, fears of developing technologies, and the increasing industrialization of the modern American city.
In “The Veldt,” a story of the near future, a family purchases a fully automated home. In this home they install a nursery in which virtually anything can be simulated for a child’s enjoyment through marvels of sensory manipulation. As the family becomes more dependent upon the automated home, the nursery begins to replace the parents in the eyes of the children. The result of the room’s influence on the children’s psyche is that their increasingly aggressive nature is reflected by an African veldt, in which predatory animals stalk their prey. Soon, the room responds only to the children’s demands and assumes a preternaturally life-like effect. When the parents threaten to permanently shut down the room, the children’s murderous impulses fuel the room’s occult power to devastating effect. The character who is left to sort through the mess is, naturally, the family’s psychologist.
The primary link between Bradbury’s story and Beaumont’s “The Jungle” is the image of Africa as infused with a magic that can supersede all the efforts of science to combat superstition. The lion is the central image upon which both stories conclude.
“The Veldt” was one of the first stories that firmly pushed Bradbury out of pulp territory and into the realm of mainstream literature. It was a hugely influential story on the development of the type of science fantasy which was regularly exhibited on The Twilight Zone. The story would go on to become one of Bradbury’s most renowned stories, anthologized dozens of times, and one in which he derived a significant amount of mileage. The story was presented on radio by NBC for Dimension X in 1951 from a very faithful script adaptation by veteran radio writer Ernest Kinoy. Kinoy’s script was reused, with an added happy ending, four years later for NBC’s science fiction radio series X Minus One. Bradbury adapted the story as a one-act play in 1963 and presented it at the Coronet Theatre in Los Angeles in October, 1964 as one third of The World of Ray Bradbury, directed by Charles Rome Smith. The other two thirds were comprised of Bradbury’s “The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit” and “To the Chicago Abyss." "The Veldt" was one of three Bradbury stories adapted for the 1969 anthology film The Illustrated Man (along with "The Long Rain" and "The Last Night of the World") and Bradbury later adapted the story into a teleplay for The Ray Bradbury Theater. One wonders how Bradbury would have adapted the story for The Twilight Zone.

III. "Conjure Wife" 

“The room seemed to darken. There was a faint, mighty roaring in his ears, as of motors far underground. He had the sense of standing suddenly naked and unarmed before something menacingly alien.” 
            -Fritz Leiber, Conjure Wife

Illustration by Gene Colon & John Romita
for Fritz Leiber's Conjure Wife
          The principal task Beaumont faced when adapting “The Jungle” for The Twilight Zone was to develop a cost-efficient method of staging the play. His solution was to strip the story of its futuristic setting and to take the story out of Africa and place it firmly in a modern urban setting. In doing so, he eliminated the costly aspects and crafted a supernatural story further in-line with the developing trends of contemporary urban fantasy. The author who most effectively typified these trends, and who proved an influence on The Twilight Zone's writers, was Chicago born writer Fritz, Leiber, Jr.
            Though he is probably better known today for his science fiction and heroic fantasy, Leiber devoted a great amount of time to the tale of supernatural horror, particularly during his formative years as a writer. He would occasionally return to the form, especially late in his career with the influx of periodicals inspired by the pulp era of the horror story (Whispers, Fantasy Tales, etc.). Leiber was a correspondent of H.P. Lovecraft, who spurred the younger man to write his own stories. Leiber never fell under the influence of Lovecraft’s literary style, however, as did so many of Lovecraft’s acolytes, and always seemed more interested in juxtaposing the traditional aspects of the horror story with a decidedly modern setting.  Leiber was instrumental in developing the recognizable traits of the modern urban fantasy story and the supernatural fiction which grew out of his work, fiction informed by the terrible events of the Second World War, eschewed much of the Gothic trappings of the supernatural fiction which came before in order to examine the characteristics of a persecuting supernatural occurrence in the 20th century.
            During the 1940s, in magazines such as Unknown and Weird Tales, Leiber re-imagined the archetypes of the Gothic story in a modern setting. These stories were greatly influential and many are now considered masterpieces of the form. These include Leiber’s innovative takes on ghosts (“Smoke Ghost”), witchcraft (Conjure Wife), werewolves (“The Hound”), and vampires (“The Girl with the Hungry Eyes”). The best of Leiber’s early macabre tales are found in Night’s Black Agents.
             For his adaptation of “The Jungle,” Beaumont borrowed heavily from both Conjure Wife and “Smoke Ghost.” Soon afterwards, Beaumont collaborated with Richard Matheson to adapt Leiber’s Conjure Wife into a screenplay. Both writers, when deciding what property to adapt, came to the same conclusion that Leiber’s novel was the best modern fantasy of the time. The resulting film was titled Burn, Witch, Burn in the U.S. (Night of the Eagle in the U.K.) and released in 1962, the second of three films to be taken from Leiber’s novel after 1944’s Weird Woman, starring Lon Chaney, Jr., and followed by 1980's Witches’ Brew.
            Both Conjure Wife and “Smoke Ghost” are psychologically charged tales of supernatural persecution. In Conjure Wife, a sociology professor discovers that virtually every woman in his small college town, including his wife, is a practicing witch. The women use their magical powers to influence university politics. Like Beaumont’s story, the husband in Conjure Wife also finds items of primitive magic in his wife’s belonging and burns the items to his detriment. What follows greatly mirrors the action of “The Jungle” in that the husband, now unprotected, is the victim of an onslaught of magical attacks. Leiber generally sheds the African influences and uses the stone image of an eagle in place of Beaumont’s lion.
            Leiber’s “Smoke Ghost” presents us again with the prevailing image of the psychoanalyst (Leiber took a psychology degree himself in 1932 from the University of Chicago) as unable to help the persecuted individual. “Smoke Ghost” is one of the most innovative and effective ghost stories of the 20th century and still manages to unnerve the sympathetic reader 75 years after it was first published.
            Leiber was one of a select handful of writers (along with Bradbury, Robert Bloch, and Theodore Sturgeon) who strongly influenced the Southern California Group of writers. “Smoke Ghost” exemplifies what many of these younger writers were, a decade later, attempting to replicate in their own work. Some passages from Leiber’s stories read like precursors to later work by the Group. One example is this from “Smoke Ghost”: “. . . then an opaque monstrous form leaping out from the roof in a parabolic swoop-an unmentionable face pressed close against the window, smearing it with wet coal dust-huge paws fumbling sloppily at the glass.” This passage could nearly have been lifted from Richard Matheson’s famous 1962 story “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” which was memorably adapted for the fifth season of The Twilight Zone. In Matheson’s story, a man is terrorized by a supernatural being on an airplane. In Leiber’s story, the protagonist is terrorized by a supernatural being on an elevated train. Like the action in “The Jungle,” the doomed protagonist of “Smoke Ghost” experiences a physical and mental feeling of utter isolation, despite the fact that he is a resident of a large city. The city itself seems to work against his efforts to connect with other people who may provide salvation from the supernatural force.

IV. A Man Walks Home Alone At Night 

“. . . mankind had once again spawned a ghost world, and that superstition once more ruled.”
            -Fritz Leiber, “Smoke Ghost”

            The standout sequence in “The Jungle” is when Alan Richards makes his way home through an eerily deserted city in the middle of the night. To achieve the effectiveness of this sequence required the considerable skills of cinematographer George T. Clemens, sound engineers Bill Edmondson and Franklin Milton, editor Jason Bernie, and, perhaps most importantly, actor John Dehner and director William Claxton. 
            The story presented in “The Jungle” could easily have fallen into laughable territory and it was imperative that John Dehner play the role with absolute seriousness to ground the fantastic nature of the episode in its realistic urban setting. Beaumont had very little time to establish any logic to the supernatural element and was forced to begin the episode with his main character displaying a dead finger to his wife, followed quickly by a dead goat in the doorway. It is easy to imagine how this could have crumbled in lesser hands.
            Dehner was more than capable of assuming the skeptical demeanor necessary for his character. His long, expressive face perfectly displays the slow degeneration of his character’s mental state until he arrives back at his apartment in a frenzy. By the time Dehner is bringing a drink to his lips with a badly shaking hand, the physical and mental decline of the character is convincingly complete. The wide, unbelieving expression on his face when opening the bedroom door on an adult male lion is simply perfect. Dehner was a talented character actor and showed impressive range in his three appearances on The Twilight Zone. He played a sympathetic character of authority in the first season episode “The Lonely,” and displayed his talent for droll comedy in late fifth season episode “Mr. Garrity and the Graves.”
            Born in Richmond, New York in 1915, Dehner established himself professionally as a disc jockey, pianist, and an animator for Walt Disney Studios before trying his hand at acting in the early 1940s. Dehner appeared most frequently in western television programs, often as a villain, and amassed over 250 film and television credits over his long career. His distinctive baritone voice was heard on several radio programs in an equally long and busy career, starring in such programs as Philip Marlowe, Frontier Gentleman, and the radio version of Have Gun-Will Travel. He died on February 4, 1992 in Santa Barbara, aged 76.
            William Claxton, not to be confused with the American photographer of the same name, was a versatile television director who found a niche directing western and frontier programs, turning in memorable work on shows such as Bonanza (1962-1973) and Little House on the Prairie (1974-1981), programs through which he developed a solid working relationship with actor Michael Landon. Claxton later directed Landon in Highway to Heaven (1985), one of his final credits as director. Claxton directed the cult 1972 film Night of the Lepus, concerning giant rabbits on the rampage, and a memorable episode of Boris Karloff’s Thriller, “The Hollow Watcher.”
            Claxton displays an exceptional visual style in “The Jungle.” Alan Richards’s journey through the city is a tensely staged sequence on par with the exceptional work on display in similar episodes such as “The Hitch-Hiker” and “The After Hours.” The perspective shot within the taxicab is a particular highlight of the sequence. The staging of the physical action in accordance with the distinctive sound effects was also expertly handled. “The Jungle” is arguably Claxton’s finest work on the series, likely because it offered the finest material for stylistic interpretation. Claxton does have the distinction of having interpreted the work of the major writers on the series: Richard Matheson (“The Last Flight”), Charles Beaumont (“The Jungle”), Rod Serling (“The Little People”), and Ray Bradbury (“I Sing the Body Electric!”), only missing out on one of George Clayton Johnson’s efforts. Claxton was born on October 22, 1914 in Los Angeles and died in Santa Monica on February 11, 1996, aged 81. His last directing credit was for the television movie Bonanza: The Next Generation (1988).

            “The Jungle” remains an effectively eerie episode that uses the full spectrum of sensory manipulation to set the viewer on edge. In particular, the innovative use of sound and the wonderfully creepy deserted city are highlights of the show’s third season. With “The Jungle,” Charles Beaumont solidified himself as the show’s most psychologically incisive writer, one interested equally in the existential effects of mental aberration and in strictly physical horrors. He would continue his explorations of these themes in outstanding later episodes such as “Person or Persons Unknown,” “In His Image,” and “Miniature.”

Grade: B

-William Claxton directed three additional episodes: “The Last Flight” from season one, and “The Little People” and “I Sing the Body Electric” from season three.
-John Dehner also appeared in “The Lonely” from season one, and “Mr. Garrity and the Graves” from season five.
-Walter Brooke also appears in “A Short Drink from a Certain Fountain,” from season five.
-Hugh Sanders also appears in “Judgment Night,” from season one, and “Of Late I Think of Cliffordville,” from season four.
-Jay Adler also appears in “He’s Alive,” from season four.
-Howard Wright also appears in “What’s in the Box,” from season five.
-“The Jungle” was adapted as a Twilight Zone Radio Drama starring Ed Begley, Jr.
-Charles Beaumont’s original script for “The Jungle” is included in The Twilight Zone Scripts of Charles Beaumont, Volume One (Gauntlet Press, 2004), edited by Roger Anker.


Sunday, August 14, 2016

"Still Valley"

Joseph Paradine (Gary Merrill) is offered a wickedly
tempting gift from an elderly witch doctor (Vaughn Taylor).
“Still Valley”
Season Three, Episode 76
Original Airdate: November 24, 1961

Joseph Paradine: Gary Merrill
Teague: Vaughn Taylor
Dauger: Ben Cooper
Lieutenant: Mark Tapscott
Mallory: Jack Mann
Sentry: Addison Myers

Writer: Rod Serling (based on “The Valley Was Still” by Manly Wade Wellman, originally published in the August, 1939 issue of Weird Tales.)
Director: James Sheldon
Producer: Buck Houghton
Production Manager: Ralph W. Nelson
Director of Photography: Jack Swain
Art Direction: George W. Davis, Phil Barber
Set Decoration: H. Web Arrowsmith
Assistant Director: E. Darrell Hallenbeck
Editor: Bill Mosher
Story Consultant: Richard McDonagh
Sound: Franklin Milton, Bill Edmondson
Casting: Stalmaster-Lister
Music: Wilbur Hatch

And Now Mr. Serling:
“Next week we move back into time, back to 1863. A distinguished actor, Mr. Gary Merrill, plays the role of a Confederate scout who goes off on a patrol and winds up smack dab in the center of the Twilight Zone. Our story is an adaptation of a strange tale by Manly Wade Wellman called “The Still Valley.” This one is for Civil War buffs and students of the occult. I hope you’re around to take a look at it.”

Rod Serling’s Opening Narration:
“The time is 1863. The place: the state of Virginia. The event is a mass blood-letting known as the Civil War. A tragic moment in time when a nation was split into two fragments—each fragment deeming itself a nation.

“This is Joseph Paradine, Confederate cavalry, as he heads down towards a small town in the middle of a valley. But very shortly, Joseph Paradine will make contact with the enemy. He will also make contact with an outpost not found on a military map. An outpost called the Twilight Zone.”

            Two Confederate soldiers sit quietly on a hilltop gazing out on the Channow Valley. Their purpose is to scout the location of a Union Army regiment in the area. Paradine, the elder of the two men, hears sounds coming from the town below and decides to ride into town and have a look around. As he approaches he becomes aware of an unsettling silence in the valley and begins to wonder if the town has been abandoned. He quietly makes his way through the town until he stumbles upon something that brings his investigation to an abrupt halt. Dozens of Union soldiers stand in formation only yards from him, guns drawn. They could kill him in an instant but they do not. After several minutes of silence Paradine carefully approaches. The troops stand in a marching formation but they remain utterly and completely motionless. Paradine walks through the fleet of soldiers, gazing into cold, empty eyes, screaming at them to wake up. Nothing happens.
            Then he hears a noise. An old man peers out from behind the front door of a house and makes his way onto the front porch. He says his name is Teague. He tells Paradine that he used black magic to freeze the Union troops. He motions to a book in his hands that bears only a single word on the cover: Witchcraft.  Paradine warns the old man that witchcraft is the tool of the Devil and whoever uses it will be damned in the eyes of God. The old man tells Paradine that in impossible situations, such as war, sometimes you have to do the unthinkable in order to survive. Fearing that he is close to death he gives Paradine the book and sends him on his way.
When Paradine meets up with his regiment he tells them about the Union troops and the old man. He shows them the book and tells them that he successfully attempted one of the spells on a group of Union soldiers. They look at him like he is insane until another scout confirms his story. The soldiers argue over the moral consequences of using black magic. Paradine opens the book and begins to recite a chant but stops when the spell calls on them to revoke the name of God. After a heated argument they decide to burn the book. Then they pack up their belongings and make their way to what history will call the Battle of Gettysburg.

Rod Serling’s Closing Monologue:
“On the following morning, Sergeant Paradine and the rest of these men were moved up north to a little town in Pennsylvania, an obscure little place where a battle was brewing, a town called Gettysburg…and this one was fought without the help of the Devil. Small historical note not to be found in any known books, but part of the records…in the Twilight Zone.”

            “Still Valley” is the second Civil War episode in a still young third season (11 episodes). Its historical predecessor, Rod Serling’s “The Passersby,” focused much of its energy on the devastation of war and how survivors cope with the results once it is over. Instead, “Still Valley” is more of an examination of the culture and traditions of the American South during the middle of the nineteenth century. It combines Gothic folklore with a historical setting and attempts an accurate representation of the region. It doesn’t totally avoid the human condition, however, and the struggle over whether or not to use witchcraft to win the war can be seen as a metaphor for the moral dilemma over the cost of winning—although the message here is a bit unclear as the soldiers decide not to use “the Devil’s magic” and are presumably killed later at the Battle of Gettysburg. But, perhaps, this is still better than being damned in the eyes of God for all of eternity.
Weird Tales
August, 1939 
Serling’s teleplay is an adaptation of Manly Wade Wellman’s story, “The Valley Was Still,” which originally appeared in Weird Tales in August of 1939 and later in his career retrospective Worse Things Waiting (Carcosa Press, 1973), which won the World Fantasy Award for Best Collection at the inaugural World Fantasy Convention, held in the fall of 1975 in Providence, Rhode Island, home of influential Weird Tales writer H.P. Lovecraft. In the opening credits Wellman’s named is spelled “Manley” instead of Manly, a mistake the author encountered often throughout his career. An incredibly prolific talent, Wellman published over three hundred stories and essays and dozens of books in a career that spanned over five decades. Among his numerous accolades are the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Allan Poe Award, two World Fantasy Awards, The British Fantasy Award, and the first Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine Award (1946) which he won for his story, “A Star for a Warrior,” which famously beat out William Faulkner’s “An Error in Chemistry.” Faulkner was furious about losing and made his opinion quite public. Wellman’s nonfiction Civil War history, Rebel Boast: First at Bethel, Last at Appomattox was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 1956. Stephan King dedicated his 1981 horror retrospective Danse Macabre to Wellman along with horror masters Ray Bradbury, Robert Bloch, Jorge Luis Borges, Donald Wandrei, and Frank Belknap Long.
Manly Wade Wellman
1903 - 1986
Wellman’s life story is a fantastic one and his enthusiasm for people and culture are directly reflected in his fiction. Despite his fondness for the region to which he dedicated so much of his writing, Wellman was not a native southerner. He was actually born in 1903 in Kamundongo, a small village in Portuguese West Africa (now Angola) to a British medical officer. He grew up speaking the native dialect and listening to renditions of African history and folklore—a background far removed from the American South. His mother was American, however, and she reportedly named Wellman after an uncle who fought in the Civil War likely contributing to his fascination with the subject. His family moved to the states when he was a boy and eventually settled in Wichita, Kansas. He attended Wichita State University where he played football and graduated with a degree in English. He later attended Columbia Law School.
While supporting himself as a journalist for The Wichita Eagle and The Wichita Beacon Wellman sold his first short story "When the Lion Roared" to Thrilling Tales in May of 1927. In November of that same year he sold his story "Back to the Beast" to Weird Tales. This began a long relationship with the celebrated pulp magazine and Wellman would become one of its last regular contributors before it ceased publication in 1954. Although he would actually contribute significantly more to The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, his name and legacy would be forever associated with Weird Tales and its close-knit circle of writers. Wellman also became a regular name in the pages of Startling Stories, Astounding Stories, and Planet Stories among many others.
            After college Wellman married horror writer Francis Garfield and the two moved to New York City in 1934 to be closer to the literary world. He joined Solar Sales Service, the first speculative fiction-based literary agency, managed by celebrated comic book and magazine editor Julius Schwartz. The short-lived agency also represented Ray Bradbury, Alfred Bester, Leigh Brackett, and Stanley G Weinbaum. Wellman increased his short story output and also tried his hand at writing novels, usually space operas or time travel stories which he sold to Startling Stories. His acclaimed time-travel novel featuring Leonardo De Vinci, Twice in Time (1940), originally appeared there as did his Captain Future novel The Solar Invasion (1946). He also published several mystery novels during this time. He became the Assistant Director of the New York Folklore Project for the Works Progress Administration. To supplement his income he took side jobs including a stint as a writer for comics, a relatively new medium at the time. During World War II he was part of a revolving door of writers who ghost-wrote issues of Will Eisner’s The Spirit while Eisner was on active duty. He also worked for Fawcett Comics and helped launch their Captain Marvel’s Adventures series. In 1941 National Comics (now DC Comics) famously sued Fawcett over accusations that Fawcett plagiarized their Superman character when creating Captain Marvel. Wellman was called to testify that Fawcett had openly encouraged their writers and artists to imitate the Superman comics when creating Captain Marvel. After a lengthy legal battle National won the suit and Fawcett Publications agreed to cease publication of all Captain Marvel titles. They subsequently sold the rights to the majority of their characters and dissolved their Fawcett Comics division. DC later bought the rights to the Captain Marvel character.
While living in New York, Wellman began writing stories that featured recurring characters and ongoing story lines. Likely influenced by his close friendships with many of the regular Weird Tales contributors, including Malcolm Jameson and Henry Kuttner—both of whom saw stories adapted into episodes of The Twilight Zone—Wellman began constructing his own literary mythos, fusing American folklore with the occult. He would occasionally include characters or artifacts created by other writers and even incorporated actual literary figures into several stories including H.P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, Frank Belknap Long, Fritz Leiber, and Robert Bloch. This was a tradition among the Weird Tales writers and Wellman participated as a polite nod to his friends and literary predecessors but his characters and the world they occupied were uniquely his, not simply an extension of an already established universe. Among his most popular protagonists are occult detectives John Thunstone, a wealthy New York playboy, Professor Nathan Enderby, and Judge Keith Hilary Pursuivant, a retired judge and author. All three characters are featured together in several stories, although the Judge Pursuivant stories were written under the pseudonym Gans T. Field. All of his occult detective stories were later collected in Lonely Vigils (Carcosa, 1981), fully illustrated by famed E.C. Comics artist George Evans. He also wrote a popular series of stories about a prehistoric superhero named Hok the Mighty.
In 1951, Wellman moved to North Carolina, eventually settling in Chapel Hill where he would live the rest of his life. While living in Wichita in the late 1920’s Wellman became friends with folklorist Vance Randolph and folk musician Obray Ramsey (they would also make occasional cameos in his fiction). Randolph was a historian of the Ozark Mountains and he and Wellman frequently took trips through the Arkansas countryside, hiking the mountains and conversing with the natives. Randolph and Ramsey were tremendous influences on Wellman and their decades-long friendship likely contributed to his fascination with folklore and his adamant appreciation for the people and culture of the south. While in North Carolina, he immersed himself in the history of the region penning numerous geographical essays, biographies, and Civil War memoirs. His 1954 true crime collection Dead and Gone: Classic Crimes of North Carolina won the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Fact Crime Book.
First edition of Who Fears the Devil? (1963)
Cover art by Lee Brown Coye
He continued to write fiction of varying lengths, much of it dedicated to his new home. His most popular fiction series features a protagonist named John—commonly referred to by fans as Silver John or John the Balladeer—a mythic folk hero who wanders throughout the Appalachian Mountains playing a silver-stringed guitar and saving his people from evil conjurers and such. The stories are heavily derived from regional folklore and most feature witchcraft or other occult phenomena. They have an almost dream-like quality and Wellman’s acute attention to dialect and cultural affectations give them a very distinct personality. An avid musician and songwriter, Wellman incorporates traditional folk ballads as well as original pieces in many of these stories. A 1972 anthology film, The Legend of Hillbilly John, written by Melvin Levy and directed by John Newland (host and director of Alcoa Presents: One Step Beyond), was loosely based on his first Silver John collection, Who Fears the Devil? (Arkham House, 1963). This collection contains his Hugo Award-nominated story “Nine Yards of Other Cloth” which originally appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (November, 1958). Wellman eventually wrote nineteen short stories and five novels featuring his famous balladeer.
Worse Things Waiting first edition. (1973)
           Illustrated by Lee Brown Coye.
While living in Chapel Hill, Wellman formed close friendships with fellow North Carolina writers Karl Edward Wagner and David Drake. In 1973, through their small publishing venture Carcosa Press, the two chose as their fist book to publish Worse Things Waiting, a massive, fully illustrated collection of stories from throughout Wellman’s career. The collection won World Fantasy Awards for Wellman and for veteran illustrator Lee Brown Coye (also a close friend and illustrator of many of Wellman's stories as they originally appeared in Weird Tales). The book renewed interest in Wellman’s work, which had diminished since leaving New York, and helped to restore his legacy.
            Wellman’s later work includes dozens of young adult novels, five Silver John novels, two John Thunstone novels, numerous nonfiction books, several volumes of poetry, and dozens of stand-alone novels. He co-wrote a popular series for The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction with his son, Wade Wellman, called Sherlock Holmes’ War of the Worlds, which tells of the adventures of Sherlock Holmes in London during the alien attack depicted in Wells’ novel. It was published as a novel in 1975. He also wrote several stories featuring amateur detective Lee Cobbett. His last finished work was the final Silver John story “Where Did She Wander?” He died in 1986 at the age of 83. His friend and publisher, Karl Edward Wagner, was chosen as the executor of his literary estate.
Despite enjoying a fairly successful career during his lifetime Wellman’s name isn’t as recognizable today as many of his contemporaries. This may be attributed to the fact that his work was rarely adapted for film or television. At a time in Hollywood when science fiction and horror titles were being produced in droves for the big and small screens, Wellman’s work oddly enjoyed very little screen time. Aside from “Still Valley” he has only four other television credits. In 1951 his story “Larroes Catch Meddlers” was adapted for the third season of the horror anthology series Lights Out (as “The Meddlers” starring John Carradine and E. G. Marshall) and his story “School for the Unspeakable” was adapted for season four the following year. In 1971 his World War II vampire tale “The Devil is Not Mocked” was filmed for the second season of Night Gallery. In 1988 his story “Rouse Him Not” was adapted for the first season of the syndicated anthology series Monsters. The aforementioned The Legend of Hillbilly John is the only feature-length adaptation of his work to date.
            “Still Valley” is unquestionably his most well-known screen adaptation and because of this it’s probably his most well-known story. Serling remained relatively faithful to Wellman’s story, making minor changes here and there for nuance. In the story, the conversation at the beginning between Paradine and the younger man, Dauger, is much shorter and less confrontational. In the story, Teague’s book bears the title: John George Hohman’s Pow-wows or Long Lost Friend. This book appears in several of Wellman’s stories. Also in the original story, Paradine decapitates Teague to avoid having to sign a blood oath. The biggest change is probably Serling’s ending. In Wellman’s ending there is no "on-screen" dialogue between Paradine and the rest of the cavalry. Paradine refuses the Devil’s help by reciting a chant and then burning the book before reporting back to his regiment. "Off-screen," the Union troops are then released from their spell and end up slaughtering the Confederacy in battle. Paradine manages to escape and lives to be an old man, occasionally trying to recount his story for people but always being dismissed as crazy.
            “Still Valley” is one of five episodes to feature real actors portraying characters that are either frozen or meant to be a facsimile of a person. The season one episode “Elegy,” directed by Douglas Heyes, season three's "The Fugitive," directed by Richard L. Bare, season four’s “The New Exhibit,” directed by John Brahm, and season five’s “A Kind of Stopwatch,” directed by John Rich, make up the other four. Filming real people standing perfectly still is next to impossible because human beings are not capable of being perfectly still. At the same time, however, manikins and wax facsimiles look too artificial. Even in “The New Exhibit,” where the actors are actually playing wax figures, Brahm knew that the only way to achieve the desired effect was to use real actors. He manages to make it work even though the episode called for more screen-time of the motionless actors and far less manipulation of the camera. Instead he makes no attempt to mask the actors’ movements which gives the wax figures a disturbing quality and actually plays into the audience’s fear as they see the episode from the viewpoint of Martin Balsam who believes that the figures are real. Douglass Heyes achieves this effect to a certain extent in “Elegy” and the audience experiences the same sense of unease the three protagonists are experiencing upon encountering a foreign world inhabited by motionless people. Unfortunately, the actors can be seen moving a little too much in certain scenes. But to his credit, Heyes had more actors than the other three episodes and highly elaborate tableau scenarios to coordinate. John Rich used a combination of still photography, video stills, and live actors to portray a frozen New York City in “A Kind of Stopwatch.” While the stock footage video stills haven’t aged well, the scenes featuring live actors are remarkably well done. Rich uses fluid camera movements during the frozen scenes to hide any unwanted movements. Also, Richard Erdman is constantly poking and prodding the frozen figures, making any physical movement seem completely natural. There is a short scene in "The Fugitive" in which two of the characters have been frozen by alien beings. It is unclear whether they are frozen in time or if they are simply prohibited from physical movement. This gives director Richard L. Bare and the two actors some breathing room as it does not matter as much if the audience notices them breathing or moving. Bare chooses to shoot this with a single mounted camera in order to capture the movement of the other non-frozen characters in the scene. In “Still Valley” James Sheldon relies mostly on real actors with a few photographic stills. The stills are fairly unnoticeable and don’t hurt the direction. The shots of live actors are also done well. Sheldon moves the camera around as much as possible and Merrill stays in constant motion while walking through the fleet of soldiers to hide any physical movements. There are a few sustained shots of soldiers in the process of loading a supply wagon that are really impressive. He also holds several steady shots of Merrill after he is frozen by the old man that are convincing.
            Gary Merrill was a good choice for Joseph Paradine. Rough physical features and a gravelly voice awarded Merrill regular roles in westerns, war films, and detective dramas. During the 1940’s he was the voice of Batman in the Superman radio series. Although he plays a confederate soldier and sympathizer here, Merrill was actually a prominent civil rights activist. Veteran stage and screen actor Vaughn Taylor appeared in a total of five episodes of The Twilight Zone and is almost unrecognizable here as old man Teague in contrast to the tall, bookish characters he plays in other episodes. He plays a similar straight-laced type in Psycho (1960) which is probably his most well-known role. His character here is interesting but ultimately he’s too absurd to be likable. Given Taylor’s quirky performance and Serling’s simple, almost satirical, black magic book title, Witchcraft, it almost feels as if the scene is striving for a campy sensibility in an otherwise serious Civil War story. Whether played straight or with tongue-in-cheek, it does not fit well with the rest of the episode.
            “Still Valley” is an enjoyable episode with a decent script and a solid performance from Gary Merrill but unfortunately it does not survive past the first viewing or so. It has the feeling of a filler episode, one made simply to satisfy a seasonal quota, and given that it is an adaptation that is likely just what it is. It’s not a bad episode and is certainly worth a viewing or two but ultimately it’s one that doesn’t make much of an imprint on the legacy of the show and is more or less forgettable.

Grade: C

Grateful Acknowledgement is made to the following:

--Vaughn Taylor also appeared in Season One’s, “Time Enough at Last,” Season Three’s “I Sing the Body Electric,” Season Four’s “The Incredible World of Horace Ford,” and Season Five’s “The Self-Improvement of Salvador Ross.”
--James Sheldon directed a total of six episodes of the show.
--Jack Swain was director of photography for six episodes during Season Three.
--“Still Valley” was adapted from Manly Wade Wellman’s story, “The Valley Was Still,” originally published in the August, 1939 issue of Weird Tales. It later appeared in his World Fantasy Award-winning collection, Worse Things Waiting (Carcosa, 1973), and in The Twilight Zone: The Original Stories (MJF Books, 1985) edited by Martin H. Greenberg, Richard Matheson, and Charles G. Waugh and in The American Fantasy Tradition (Tor, 2002) edited by Brian M. Thomsen.
--In 2001 Night Shade Books collected the majority of Wellman’s short fiction in five volumes. “The Valley Was Still” appears in Sin’s Doorway and Other Ominous Entrances: Selected Stories of Manly Wade Wellman, Volume Four.
--Listen to the Twilight Zone Radio Drama starring Adam West.
--Wellman's son, Wade Wellman, his brother, Paul Iselin Wellman, and his wife, Francis Garfield, were also successful writers.
--Manly Wade Wellman's 1973 retrospective volume Worse Things Waiting (Carcosa Press) was dedicated, in-part, to Wellman's fellow writer from the pulps Malcolm Jameson, author of the story "Blind Alley" (1943), which was adapted for the fourth season of The Twilight Zone as "Of Late I Think of Cliffordville." 

--Brian Durant