The Veil – Summer Heat (1958)

vsummerheat08

Hey Grampa, what’s for supper?

Mr. Paige arrives home at his hotel. He is complaining about the heat while wearing a suit and tie on this sweltering day.  Did people not make the connection back then?  And the smell!  My God, the smell!

A neighbor that he passed on the stoop mentions that he always has hot soup for dinner.  Really, he doesn’t see the problem?  How about a nice vichyssoise?  Thank God jalapenos had not been invented yet, or this guy would spontaneously combust.

Across the courtyard, he sees a man looking around an apartment.  I’m not sure why Paige was immediately concerned unless he has made a habit of peering into that apartment and knows it is occupied by two hot college girls who beat the heat by lounging around topless and giving each other cool sponge-baths.  But I might be reading between the lines.

As the man is looking around the apartment, he finds a jewelry box.  Hearing a noise, he hides as a blonde woman comes into the room wearing a robe.  She finds his burglar bag — poor sap couldn’t even afford the fancy one with the $ on it — and he confronts her.  Paige watches helplessly as the burglar strangles the woman, flashing back four years earlier when he saw this same scene in a movie. [1]

Paige turns off the soup on his hot-plate — a nice touch — and dashes out of the room to report himself for peeping-tomming.  Since phones had apparently not yet been invented, he actually runs to the police station to report the murder of the “pretty blonde”.

The police show up and enter the apartment with Paige.  This burglar is damn good at his job — in minutes, he made off with the the jewelry, all the furniture, the woman’s body, the paintings on the wall and even shampooed the carpet based on the paper on the floor. Or maybe Paige is crazy and the apartment is vacant.

I’ll stop here and say this is why the series only lasted 10 episodes.  I predict that he saw a premonition of a future event.  The blonde will seen moving in later and he will be able to prevent her murder.  Continuing . . .

Paige and the police go back to his room and look across the courtyard.  Much as I wish the courtyard were some kind of portal, they only see the vacant apartment they were just in.  Paige seems pretty reliable, but the cops attribute his story to being hungry and crazy from the heat.  When Paige protests, the cops haul him away.

vsummerheat21Moments later, the “pretty blonde” asks Paige’s neighbors for directions to an apartment she wants to rent. Well, well, well . . .

Apparently the cops didn’t take him to the police station, they went directly to Bellevue where he is sedated and questioned by Boris Karloff.  After he tells his story, Karloff tells him he can go back to his room — well, not his room, but one at the hospital.  He calls in the police and tells them that Paige is perfectly sane.

The next scene is a replay of the murder, exactly as Paige third-eye-witnessed it.  The burglar clubs the blonde on the noggin and steals her jewelry.  He then rushes out, leaving the body, the furniture, paintings and dirty carpet.

The police get a report of a murder at that same apartment and return to the scene of the crime.  They discover that Paige was released from the hospital three hours ago, and see him enter his apartment across the courtyard.  He could not have been the murderer as he described the woman and her furniture before, but the police continue questioning him.  He finally remembers the burglar had a cauliflower ear, which I’m sure has some more politically correct name now.

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This isn’t really pertinent to the story. I just had not thought about these in a long time — not the LPs, but the record-changer.

They haul in a thug matching that description who naturally denies any wrong-doing with Clintonian arrogance.  The police then bring in Paige who recounts every detail of the burglary and murder.  Aha! That tells the thug that Paige really saw the murder, but it doesn’t offer up any corroborating evidence for the police.

Uh, maybe this show is too smart for me after all.  Paige informs the police that the blonde bit her killer on the arm.  They roll up his sleeves and see bite-marks. There’s yer corroborating evidence.  Unlike Clinton, a doormat wife, the press and a phalanx of sycophants aren’t going to protect this guy — he’s going to the big house.

So I was wrong in my presumption of the simplicity of this episode.  A lesser man would go back and delete that paragraph.  And by lesser, I mean less lazier.  It turned out to be pretty good.

I rate it 86 degrees.

Post-Post:

  • [1]  Jimmy Stewart helplessly watched Raymond Burr threaten Grace Kelly in an apartment across a courtyard in Rear Window.  In that case, Kelly was the burglar . . . the hot, hot burglar.  She was not murdered, but merely arrested and taken in for fumigation and a shower surrounded by young, pretty guards.  At least, that’s how I remember it.
  • Hey Grampa, what’s for supper . . . how can there be no YouTube clips of this?

Alfred Hitchcock Presents – The Diamond Necklace (02/02/59)

ahpdiamondnecklace04 Mr. Thurgood marshalls the staff for another day at Maynard’s Jewelry. The all-male sales staff is nattily attired, and the elderly doorman Henry is in a spiffy uniform.  As Henry is carrying the jewels from the safe to the display case, he accidentally drops a $165,000 necklace [1].  As is always the case in real life, this is the moment the boss chooses to walk in.

Maynard calls Thurgood into the office to show him plans for a renovation to the store. Thurgood prefers it the way it has been for 50 years, but Maynard wants it airy and full of light.  Unfortunately one of the musty old relics wants to get rid of is Thurgood.  The Thurgood family has worked at Maynard’s for 117 years, but the owner can’t wait just 3 more years until Thurgood was going to retire anyway.  He is given 5 days notice.

Thurgood is a bloody pro! [2]  He works diligently that last week, calling old customers, making sales.  On the afternoon of his last day, a woman sporting a mink and unidentifiable accent is shopping for an anniversary gift for her husband, the psychiatrist Anton Rudell, to give her.  The $165,000 necklace catches her eye.  The lady clearly has an eye for jewelry and idiot-men.  She instructs Thurgood to bring it to Dr. Rudell’s office.

ahpdiamondnecklace11Mrs. Rudell meets Thurgood there and puts on the necklace.  She goes into an office to put it on.  She just misses Dr. Rudell as he comes out to the lobby.  AWKWARD!  Not awkward because Thurgood is about to spoil the surprise.  Awkward because Dr. Rudell calls his wife out of a different office to give her hell, and it is a different woman.

Back at work, Thurgood is distraught.  He is near tears at having disgraced the name of Maynard and his family name Thurgood; although, to be honest both monikers are a little silly to begin with. Maynard is actually pretty cool, allowing the police and insurance company to take care of things.  Maynard offers to call Thurgood’s daughter to pick him up, but Thurgood is too ashamed for her to know.

Thurgood gets home somehow and calls for his daughter Thelma.  She is not home, but the doorbell rings.  It is the woman who stole the necklace.  “Daddy, we did it!” she says.

He says he is going to invest the money the same way his father and grandfather did.  There were two previous robberies in Maynard’s history and both were also inside jobs by the Thurgood family.  He says that is the Thurgood tradition, taking what is rightfully theirs.  Sadly it can’t be carried out by his daughter as they only hire men.

ahpdiamondnecklace19They are surprised by Maynard at the door.  He tells Thurgood, “I suppose you know you can’t get away with this.”  Psych!  He hands Thurgood his gold watch and severance.  He says he knows that “forgetting” them was his way of making restitution.  Thurgood calls his daughter out to meet Maynard.  He is so overwhelmed by Thurgood’s loyalty that he breaks the men-only tradition and offers the daughter a job at Maynard’s beginning Monday morning.

It is all well-done and it has a nice, if not entirely surprising, twist.  It was just a little bit too much of a happy ending.  Sure, there is the obligatory suggestion in the coda that they were caught in another robbery, but I don’t consider the epilogues to be canon. So, in effect, the Thurgoods stole a $165,000 necklace, got away with it, and invented equal rights for women.

Post-Post:

  • [1] That would be $1.35M in 2016 dollars — about 2.5 Hillary Clinton speeches, or an Ambassadorship to be named later.  But I would suggest rounding up to $2M so she provides adequate security for the Embassy.
  • [2] Claude Rains (Thurgood) is a bloody pro too.  He might be the most natural actor I’ve encountered so far.
  • AHP Deathwatch:  Both actors credited as Jewelry Salesman are still alive.

Twilight Zone – Paladin of the Lost Hour (11/08/85)

Danny Kaye is at the cemetery visiting his dead wife.  He is being stalked by a 2-person gang which is sadly not as committed to diversity as the gang in the previous episode.  The youths rough him up and make off with a gold pocket-watch.  As one of the thugs looks at it in his hands, it burns him and begins to float into the air.  Luckily a near-by mourner / martial-arts expert is nearby and opens a crypt of whoop-ass.  The watch floats back into Kaye’s hand like the one ring to Sauron (if not for those meddling kids).

Kaye shows his appreciation by inviting the heroic mourner out for a “cup of Earl Gray,” hot.  Kaye is insistent, ergo insists on dragging the guy out for a drink.  For some reason, I can’t figure, Kaye has talked the man into not only having tea with him, but going back to the man’s apartment and having him make the tea.

The stranger is a pretty smart guy.  He has shelves full of books and knows the meaning of ombudsman.  Turns out the man is the night manager at a 7-11 named Billy.  Kaye even more amazingly talks Billy into allowing him to rest in his apartment for a while while Billy is dodging bullets at work.  When Billy returns at 2 am, Kaye has prepared beef stew and cupcakes for desert.

They decide to be roommates, but Kaye says it won’t be for long.  His doctor has told him the end is near; also that he will die soon.  Billy says that he was in the cemetery visiting the grave of a man he knew in Viet Nam.  They turn on the TV, but are turned off by the war news.  Kaye promises Billy that there will never, never, never be a nuclear war because — he produces his pocket-watch — it is 11:00.  Billy points out that it is 4:00 am; why else would they be eating stew and cupcakes.

The next day, Kaye offers to take Billy to a manatee matinee, “but no films with Karen Black, Sandy Dennis or Meryl Streep.”  Wow, what’s with the misogynist, gratuitous, mean-spirited shot?  Against Karen Black, I mean — the other two, totally get. [1]  They see a man toss a cigar out his car window.  Kaye picks it up and tosses it into the man’s backseat, making it the first time I’ve ever liked Danny Kaye.  Kaye claims he is responsible for everything from lima beans to cockroaches to the President of the United States to Billy’ mother.  But is not God.

One day, Kaye takes Billy to the cemetery because he has a feeling he is going to die that day.  He tells Billy how Pope Gregory XIII decreed that October 4, 1582 would be followed by October 15th.  Eleven days vanished in order to synchronize the calendar with the seasons and equinoxes.  Popes were no more infallible then than now, and he got it wrong by one hour.  Kaye is the custodian of that hour.  He is now ready to hand that responsibility off to a younger man.

It is a fine episode, just not what I was looking for.  This kindler, gentler Twilight Zone is a little disappointing.  Taken as discrete plays they are often very good even if they are a little maudlin.  However, compared to Burgess Meredith breaking his glasses or James Whitmore being left completely alone forever on a planet far from Earth, they just lack the grit that I was hoping for.

Post-Post:

  • [1] He does go on to explain, “They’re always crying and their noses are always red.  I can’t stand that.”
  • An article about those 11 days.
  • Directed by Alan Smithee.
  • Available on YouTube.

Twilight Zone – Teacher’s Aide (11/08/85)

ears wings ears wings ears wings

One of those fabulous, inclusive, multi-cultural TV gangs — that is more diverse than actual TV — is walking across campus when they spot a member of the denim-wearing tribe that “has had it 2 good for 2 long.” 2 be 4gotten. Wizard, of the bare-chest-covered-only-by-open-sleeveless-shirt-studded-clothes tribe looks into his handsome adversary’s dreamy eyes and unbuckles his belt. To the surprise of everyone, it is to use it as a weapon.

While my belt has certainly been choking the life out of me lately, it is no match for the switchblade held by Colfax.  Wizard, contrary to his name, has stupidly brought a belt to a knife fight.  It works out, though, as he is soon pummeling Colfax with his fists.  80’s babe Adrienne Barbeau jumps into the fray and roughly pushes Wizard off of Colfax.  All the while, the scene is being observed by a gargoyle with glowing red eyes.

The principal chastises her, calling the students animals.  She corrects him by pointing out they are “children” . . . 6-foot tall, muscular, violent children.  That night, Adrienne dreams of the gargoyle and claws the stuffing out of her mattress.

tzteachersaide20In class the next day, she says, “We will start by conjugating the verb to be.”  How remedial is this high-school class?  Wizard and Trojan walk in late and constantly disrupt class with their proud ignorance. Adrienne asks why they bother coming to school and Trojan says, “because I like your legs, baby.” This guy truly is an imbecile.  Adrienne Barbeau may indeed have a fine set of legs.  However, I have never once in my life heard anyone mention any body parts below her chest; or maybe now, her waist.

Adrienne picks Trojan up with one arm and slams him against the wall.  “You are an insect.  I’d like to break your wings, little bug.”  Nothing is scarier than a broken Trojan, but Wizard comes to his friend’s side, and both are saved by the bell.  Adrienne seems genuinely surprised at what she just did.

There is a good scene as she is walking to class with a fellow teacher who is frustrated by the criminals she has to teach.  Adrienne peels off and starts pounding a guy’s head against the lockers.  That’s the good part.

tzteachersaide31

No, that’s her foot.

The next day, she is reading to the class from The Wives of Brixham by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Hehe . . . Longfellow.  Wizard starts cranking some tunes. Adrienne quite reasonably smashes the noise-box, then throws him out of the classroom.

The guys are getting tired of Adrienne pushing them around. Trojan, looking fab in long dangling silver earrings, silver necklaces, a silver braided waist-necklace, white pants with sleeveless back shirt, one fingerless white glove, a three inch thick belt, and a huge 10-years-too-late afro, tells his trilby-wearing mulletted gang-mate that they are tired of looking like fools.

Wizard grabs a Louisville Slugger and goes looking for Adrienne.  Unfortunately for him, he finds her looking more gargoyley than usual.  She attacks Wizard, then I start to lose track; and interest.  Clearly, with the sunken red eyes, sharp teeth, and unmanicured claws, she has been possessed by the gargoyle.  After beating Wizard even more senseless, she sees herself in the mirror and backs into an electrical panel which explodes; then the gargoyle on the roof is struck by lightning.  But which was the cause and which the effect?  Or was either either?  After several more lightning strikes, the gargoyle is completely destroyed and Adrienne collapses to the ground.

Wizard:     You could have killed me.

Adrienne: I couldn’t let that happen.

Me:           Hunh?

Wizard says “Thanks” and helps her up.  So maybe it was all worth it.

tzteachersaide40Closing narration:  We are told damned places exist — buildings where madness permeates the very bricks and mortar.  We are told sometimes dedication and kindness can purge the evil from those walls . . . a lesson to be learned in the study halls of The Twilight Zone.

It is never explained why the gargoyle chose her to enter (other than her being Adrienne Barbeau), or if she understood what was happening to her.  They only had 10 minutes to work with, so maybe I should cut them some slack.

On the other hand, the outro is not merely missing exposition, it is completely backwards.  Wizard’s kindness did not exorcise the demon from Adrienne or the school. He only turned from Goofus to Gallant after the gargoyle was destroyed.

Meh, just not much going on here.

Post-Post:

Science Fiction Theatre – Beyond (04/09/55)

This might not last long.  How do make science-fiction dull?  You have the entire known universe at your disposal.  If that isn’t quite enough, you can make a new universe designed to your specs.  You can people it with plants, you can plant it with monsters, you can faun over the flora, be floored by the fauna, you can have it be devoid of life or have snotty omniscient beings.  How do you take this canvas and come up with a Rothko painting? On the very first episode of a new series?

After the overbearing orchestral score dies down, the series opens with a shot of an empty leather office chair.

“How do you, do ladies and gentlemen?  My name is Truman Bradley.  At the moment you can’t see me.  Why?”

Interesting.  Is he invisible?  Is he dead?  Is he in another dimension?  Did he teleport? I bet he teleported!

“Very simple.  The camera is not pointed in my direction.”

Are you shitting me?

He walks into the shot and assures us that this is a work of fiction.  Wow, they must have a real mind-bender for us tonight!  “But the big question is, could it have happened?”  Truman tells us that somehow this misdirection is a metaphor for tonight’s story.  Actually, if that had been a director’s chair, I would have agreed.

sftbeyond15We open with shots of experimental aircraft and the voice-over tells us we are in the California Desert.  Hot damn — Edwards Air Force Base! This series immediately bought a ton of goodwill.

The FA-962 (code-named the XF because FA-962 is just too descriptive for a secret aircraft) is testing out a new fuel that should allow it to go unimaginably fast.  Major Fred Gunderman will be yeagering this test flight.  As Gunderman is flying a record-breaking 1,650 MPH, he sees another craft keeping pace with him. [1]  

Gunderman reports that it looks like a missile or torpedo.  As it draws closer to the XF, he launches his ejection seat and allows $750,000 of taxpayers’ cash to crash and burn. In the hospital, the other officers question his health, any double vision, nausea, anything that might have caused him to panic.  He is adamant that there was another craft.  He is not afraid to suggest, “it could have been a flying saucer.”  But one of them missile-shaped saucers, I guess, as he describes it as cylindrical, silver, and twice the length of his ship.  Sadly, it was not tracked on radar, but Gunderman is smart enough to suggest maybe it was invisible to radar, which might have sounded crazy at the time.

Just the kind of accurate, to-scale picture a professor of astronomy would have on their wall.

A board of inquiry is assembled to investigate the crash.  Men are subjected to the same stresses as Gunderman to see if they dream of long cylindrical objects.  Gunderman takes a polygraph.  After a week, and despite a fact-finding trip to Hawaii at taxpayer expense, the board comes up with nothing.

They finally allow his wife to visit and even she is skeptical at first. Gunderman sends her to Cal-Tech to talk to professor Samuel Carson about UFOs.  Luckily, she arrives during his 1:00 – 1:15 bi-weekly office hours.  He is mostly useless, but does give some exposition about the size of the universe and how many planets could be sending ships here.

The board’s final conclusion is that Gunderman saw his own fountain pen floating weightless in the cockpit.  They suggest he “assumed it was a large object outside the plane instead of a small object inside the plane.”  They all have a good laugh and the Gundermen go home.

Another officer comes in, though, and shoots holes through that theory like so much swamp gas.  First, radar determined the XF was never weightless.  Second, the XF’s debris is now magnetized after being close to “an airship flying on magnetic power.”

So Gunderman thought he saw something — which we didn’t see.  Then the government comes up with a ludicrous explanation — which was wrong.  Then Gunderman is vindicated because an officer knows the effects of a magnetic power source — which they have never heard of.

I’m a sucker for 1950s – 1960s air & space tales, so I will take this as an introductory episode; a pilot episode, if you will where they are working the kinks out.

Post-Post:

  • [1] This would indeed have been a record in 1955.  A faster speed was not achieved until 1962.  Kudos to the show for getting this right.  It is hard to believe the silly Tales of Tomorrow aired only 3 years earlier.
  • Later in the episode, we are shown mice on a rocket floating weightless.  An officer says this is due to the thrust of the rocket.  Unless the rocket was thrusting back toward earth, I’m going to have to deduct a kudo.
  • Title Analysis:  Didn’t work for Star Trek Beyond [2] and doesn’t work here.  Again, I will charitably take it as a gateway to the series.
  • [2] And beyond what, BTW.  Same for Star Trek Into Darkness — what darkness? Isn’t 99.999999% of space dark?  Lets go back to Roman numerals and colons in titles; you’re not fooling anyone!
  • Available on YouTube.  Kind of fishy that a 1955 TV show is letter-boxed, though. However, they were an early adopter of color.