Twilight Zone S4 – Miniature (02/21/63)

tzminiature04Office drone Charley Parkes is slaving away with both hands working his adding machine which is the size of a Thanksgiving tenkey. On his lunch hour he heads over to the museum. Nothing like absorbing a little culture, refreshing your humanity and zest for life. Well, actually he was going to the museum cafeteria.  Since the cafeteria was closed he hit the shitter and took in an exhibit.

At the Victorian exhibition he is drawn, as any grown man would be, to a dollhouse. Peering inside he sees a tiny hot piece of ash seated at a piano.  As he turns to leave, he hears music.  Leaning down to look in the dollhouse again, he sees the doll inside is now actually playing the piano.  Fascinated, he asks the guard how they make the doll play the piano.  The guard doesn’t cotton to this kind of tomfoolery.

Arriving back to the office late, he finds a note to see the boss.  Charley is just too much of a loner, plus he now has this one-time-ever tardiness on his record.  So he is let go. Back at home, his mother is outraged.  Clearly, he is about as strong and independent as Buster Bluth.  His mother turns down his bed, fluffs up his pillows, unties his shoes, makes him cocoa.  This is a little strange — according to Alfred Hitchcock Presents, these are things his sister ought to be doing.

tzminiature07The next day, having plenty of time on his hands, he goes back to the museum.  He makes a beeline back to the dollhouse.  He is momentarily distraught when the doll is not sitting at the piano.  However, she makes a sweeping entrance down the staircase and is even met at the bottom by a snappy young maid who she begins to kiss.  No wait, now I’m imagining things.  As the doll begins playing the piano, the maid lets in a gentleman caller dressed in top hat and tails.  Arm in arm, they head out on a date.

The next day, he returns to the museum.  Now he begins talking to the doll.  The following day, he goes back yet again, this time tailed by his sister.  She busts Charlie gazing into the dollhouse.  She drags him to a coffee-shop and lays into him about being alone and acting like a child.

tzminiature10The next day, Charley is telling the doll about a blind date his sister set him up on.  The gentleman caller shows up again.  When the maid protests, he breaks his cane over her head.  Wait, what?  When the doll sees him, she faints and he carries her upstairs.  This is too much for Charley and he claws at the house trying to stop the assault. Finally, he grabs a statue and breaks the glass display case.

Charley’s next stop is at a psychiatrist’s office.  This is interesting for two points — the doctor begins by lighting up a cigarette, and Charley is there wearing a robe so he must have been committed.  Attempting to convince Charley that the doll is just made of wood, the doctor pulls a box out of his desk and takes out the doll.  Charley rubs the doll against his face as tears stream down his face.

tzminiature13The doctor tells Charley’s mother the the constant pressure of trying to be something he wasn’t contributed to his breakdown.  He was unable to cope with this world so his mind created another world.

Charley escapes out the window and heads back to the museum.  He hides in a sarcophagus until closing time then goes to see his sweetie in the dollhouse.

Really, there is only one way that this story was ever going to end, but that doesn’t make it bad.  In fact, it was another pretty good episode — where did all the scorn of the hour-long episodes come from?  Oh, yeah, sometimes from me in my ignorance.  Maybe Charley took one too many trips to the museum, but who cares.  It was beautifully written, engaging, and Duvall is always going to be great.

Most surprising were Barbara Barrie as his sister and Lennie Weinrib as his brother-in-law.  Both of them took very slight characters and through interesting line readings and minor physical business, created real characters.  You know . . . like acting.  I’m not usually one to compliment actors, but something about both of them really seemed special.

Post-Post:

  • Title Analysis:  Meh.  It is a miniature house, but not really a microcosm of anything. In fact, more of an anti-microcosm: a non-existent world where Charley is comfortable.
  • Nine years before Robert Duvall played Tom Hagen in the Godfather.
  • Written by Charles Beaumont  just 4 years before he died at only 38 years old. Christ, what this guy would have done with another 50 years.

Twilight Zone S4 – Valley of the Shadow (01/17/63)

tzvalleyof03

Blooper: A peaceful valley would be to the right

Phil Redfield and his dog Rollie are lost on a backroads short cut.  He is relieved to see a sign for Peaceful Valley, Population 981. Running low on gas, he stops for a Phil-up.  Giggity.

While paying the gas station attendant — this really is The Twilight Zone — his dog Rollie runs off after a little girl’s cat.  As Phil approaches the girl, she whips out a device and makes Rollie vanish. The girl runs inside her house. Phil bangs on the door until her father comes out.  Further contributing to the twilighty zonish nature of the episode, it is Scotty from Star Trek and he has no accent!

Scotty promises to help Phil look for his dog.  When he is out of sight, around the corner, he pulls out the Popeil Pocket Transporter and causes Rollie to reappear.  Phil gets back in his car and goes on his way.  He passes the closed Restaurant and goes into the local hotel which claims to have no vacancies.  When he leaves town, his car crashes into an invisible barrier.

tzvalleyof06A few local yahoos just happen to be nearby and take him to the doctor. They actually take him to see the head yahoos in charge.  When he roughs them up, one of them uses another device on him.  He disappears form the doorway and reappears sitting down in a chair.

Head yahoo Dorn tells Redfield that he can never leave.  100 years ago a visitor came to their town bearing science hundreds of years ahead of his time.  They take him to the basement and show him a “disumlator” which is able to makes items vanish and return; but wait — that’s not all!  Dorn stabs one of the other men with a letter opener, then uses the disimulator to not only heal him, but remove the blood stain from his shirt!  Now how much would you pay?

Kudos to the other man, also.  He knew he was going to be stabbed and allowed it just to show Redfield they weren’t kidding around.  OK, he knew he would be healed, but surely that would have stung a little.

tzvalleyof08Having already seen the transporter, shields, and healing gizmo, they then show Redfield a food replicator. Finishing the tour, Dorn shows him a book which contains all the secrets of the amazing things he has seen. Surprisingly, it is not called Chicago Mobs of the Twenties.

The strange visitor must have been an alien because we get the same condescension seen in thousands of Star Trek episodes.  A few men were given this gift of knowledge, but warned not to to share it with others because humans were not ready.  Dorn illustrates this by stating how we misused the power of E=MC2.  We then get the old horseshit about how many thousands of lives were lost rather than how many thousands of lives were saved.  Dorn laments that it wasn’t used to bring water to the deserts and to feed the hungry.  Well, tell that to the people who stopped the building of nuclear power plants in this country.

Redfield pretends to accept Dorn’s offer to stay in Peaceful Valley forever.  He finds that another invisible shield has been erected around his house.  The next day a local girl agrees to flee town with him.  He first snatches the book and shoots the town leaders. Strangely enough, the murders and some backstabbing result in a mostly happy ending for everyone.

tzvalleyof07Unlike the last episode, this one zipped by with no obvious padding. Thus far, the 4th season’s poor reputation is not deserved.  This episode might have been better at 30 minutes, but it was pretty good at 60.

Post-Post:

  • Natalie Trundy was in every Planet of the Apes movie except the one written by Rod Serling.

Twilight Zone S4 – In His Image (01/03/63)

tzinhisimage02At 4:30 am, Alan Talbot strolls out of his hotel.  It is a great location because he walks to the subway, goes down to the platform, and it is still 4:30.  He starts feeling woozy and hears electrical sounds.  The only other person in the station — a crazy cat lady with no cats — starts preaching to him, so he throws her in the path of the oncoming train.  It must be the Express, because it ain’t stopping.

His gal-pal Jessica is in her apartment when Alan comes to the door.  After a little goofy repartee about being a Junior Woodchuck, she invites him in.  He is astounded to learn he is 45 minutes late.  He was supposed to be there at 5:00 a.m. to take Jessica to meet his Aunt Mildred for the first time.  After a lengthy 4-day courtship, they are going to get married.

tzinhisimage03They arrive in Alan’s hometown of Coeurville and he begins pointing out the landmarks to Jessica.  He has only been away from home for a week, but his memory is a little spotty.  He doesn’t recognize some buildings, remembers a restaurant where there never has been one, goes to the wrong house expecting his aunt, and points out an empty field where he remembers his office being.

He goes to find his parents . . . at the cemetery.  In their plots he discovers a tombstone for Walter and Mary Ryder.  On the way back of town, Alan jumps out of the car and sends Jessica away for her own protection as the electronic noises overwhelm his brain.  Having second thoughts, he runs out into the road where he is hit by another car. The accident leaves a gash on his arm, exposing electronic circuitry.

tzinhisimage06Looking through a phonebook (a very thick object made of dead trees and containing phone numbers), he finds the name and address of Walter Ryder Jr.  At the Ryder house — as in every show I’ve posted about — Alan feels free to let himself in and explore the house.  He is surprised by Ryder who turns on the lights.  He is surprised again as Ryder looks exactly like him.  Ryder tells him, “You’re a machine, Alan!” — words he longed to hear from Jessica.

Ryder tells Alan how he dreamed as a kid of “building the perfect artificial man, not a robot, a duplicate human being.  Why he chose himself as the template rather than Marilyn Monroe or some other 60’s babe is a topic for discussion.  Sadly, Alan blew a gasket, attacked Ryder with a pair of scissors and fled the house a week ago.

tzinhisimage05Ryder takes him downstairs to his “birthplace” in the basement.  He shows Alan a couple of other spare Alans that were factory rejects.

Ryder is kind of a loser, but he does come up with a pretty good plan.  Someone with Alan’s face shows up at Jessica’s apartment.

There is a sly humor to the episode which is a sure sign Serling didn’t write it.  Some of it is slightly absurdist as when Alan points out the empty field where he works.  George Grizzard is quite good at delivering scenes like that, although he doesn’t get a lot of support from Gail Kobe as Jessica.  She comes off as a little desperate, and I don’t mean her character.