Twilight Zone – The Elevator (01/31/86)

At a svelte 11 minutes, I’m not getting 500 words out of this one.  But that’s not a bad thing, as readers of this blog can attest.

Two brothers are curious what their father has been up to late nights at an old ware-house, although it only seems to require two nights per year.  They know he was doing some sort of experiments to produce cheap, plentiful food.

Inside, they find huge dead rats, then huge dead cats, then the titular elevator.

There is virtually no characterization, no story, no irony, no twist, no arc.  It raises a warehouse of questions that are never addressed.  And yet I really like it.  It is creepy and suspenseful.  The score doesn’t torpedo the segment as frequently happens on TZ.

It is just one of those short TZ time-fillers, but this one happens to work.

Good stuff.

Post-Post:

  • Classic TZ Legacy:  Ray Bradbury wrote one episode.  This simple segment didn’t require a writer of his talent.  Luckily they did not use this on Ray Bradbury Theater.
  • The director of this segment also helmed one episode of RBT.
  • The actors portraying the brothers are 7 years difference in age and look every bit of it.  In a flashback, however, they both look about the same age as kids.

Twilight Zone – The Burning Man (11/15/85)

tzburningman01In 1936, Doug and his Aunt Neva are driving through the country.  An old man in a dirty white suit runs into the road and flags them down.  He climbs into the car without an invitation and tells Neva to drive off because the sun is after them.

He tells her that on days like today, it feels like the sun is going to split you wide open.  He says Lucifer was born on a day like this.

“Ain’t this the year when the 17 year locusts are supposed to come back?” he asks.  “If there can be 17 year locusts then why not 17 year people?”  This piques Doug’s interest for some reason.  The old man continues, “Sure, why not 24 year people or 57 year old people?”

Somehow this leads him to ask, “Who’s to say there ain’t genetic evil in the world?”  The car blows a tire and the man allows the old woman to change the tire herself, answering his own question.  He tells Doug to imagine that on a hot day like this, an ornery 57 [1] year man could be baked right out of the dried mud and arise.  That evening he would crack open like a snap bean and a new young human would emerge.

“I think I’ll eat me some Summer, boy.  Look at them trees, ain’t they a whole dinner?  And that grass down there, by golly there’s a feast.  Them sunflowers, there’s breakfast.  Tar-paper on top of that house, there’s lunch.  And Jehoshaphat, that lake down the road, that’s dinner wine.  Drink it all up til the bottom dries up and splits wide open.”

At this point, I think they need AA more than AAA.  Neva finishes changing the tire and inexplicably doesn’t leave the crazy bastard behind.

tzburningman05Doug says he is thirsty and the old man says, “Thirst don’t describe the state of a man who’s been waiting in the hot mud 50 years [2] and is born but to die in one day.  Not only thirst, but hunger!”  C’mon, you just had some tar-paper!

He yammers on — and by he I mean Bradbury — about eating all the cats in the county. [3]  When he finally, inevitably gets around to talking about eating people, Neva slams on the brakes and orders him out of the car.

Proving that he is not the only long-winded son-of-a-bitch in the car, she rants, “I got a load of bibles in the back, a pistol with silver bullets here under the steering wheel, I got a box of crucifixes under the seat, a wooden stake taped to the axle, and a hammer in the glove-box.  I got holy water in the radiator filled early this morning from three churches on the way.  Now out!”  And by she, I mean Bradbury.

They leave the old man literally in their dust.  Soon they arrive at a lake.  Whether this is their destination or just a chance to cool off, I don’t know.  God forbid we get 5 seconds of exposition between the monologues.  I guess a refreshing minute at the lake was the point of their drive.  Hearing some locusts, Doug gets the willies and asks if there is another road back to town.

tzburningman20They see a little boy in a clean white suit in the road.  Neva offers to drive him home.  After it gets dark, he leans in from the back seat and whispers to Neva, “Have you ever wondered if there is such a thing as genetic evil in the world?”  The car stalls, the lights dim, then nothing. We couldn’t at least get a scream?  I think we deserve that.

This was like a flashback to Ray Bradbury Theater — not much of a story, monologues better-suited to the printed page, set when times were simple and presidential candidates weren’t, and an unsatisfying ending. Unfortunately an average episode of Ray Bradbury Theater equals a disappointment from TZ.

To be fair, Roberts Blossom as the old man delivers Bradbury’s poetic words as well as anyone on RBT.  And Danny Cooksey’s smile at the end is worth the price of admission.  As I seem to say for every segment — it’s OK, just not what I’m looking for from a Twilight Zone reboot.

Post-Post:

  • [1] 47 year man in the short story.
  • [2] 30 years in the short story.
  • [3] Country in the short story.
  • The episode closely tracks with the short story, except for the flat tire.  Much of the dialogue is verbatim from the story.
  • TZ Legacy:  Sadly, none.
  • Roberts Blossom will show up in Amazing Stories if I last that long.

Alfred Hitchcock Presents – Design for Loving (11/09/58)

Charles Brailing is growing annoyed watching his wife play with a set of magic rings. Nothing so bold as presenting them as only intermittently interlocking — no, she’s just spinning the damn things like an idiot.

He calls his pal Tom. Tom’s wife Anne is playing kissy-face with her oblivious husband and refuses to hand over the phone as it is Tom’s night to stay home with her.  Charles tries to engage his wife in conversation, but she is not interested.  He suggests a vacation, but that somehow turns into her snapping at him for them having no children.

He takes her hands and she gasps as if something a little more intimate occurred.  She is astounded because he “hasn’t done that in years.”  She recalls a time when he once kissed her hand.  The lack of children is starting to make sense.  She gets on her knees and says she’ll go on a trip with him if he will only kiss her hand again.  Apparently that price is too stiff for Charles.  Or maybe he isn’t stiff enough.

Charles manages to get Tom on the phone and they agree to meet.  Lydia tells him to be home in 10 minutes.  Charles sneaks down to their basement and laments that he “gave her a chance.”

We cut to Tom & Charles stumbling out of a bar.  Charles complains that Tom’s wife doesn’t want him to go out because she loves him; and his wife doesn’t want him to go out because she hates him.  It’s a pithy line, but Charles clearly doesn’t have any idea what women want.  Not that Lydia is making it easy — she is alternately accusatory, frigidly cold, and pathetically needy. Charles makes the bizarre claim that he is at home with his wife as they are standing outside the bar.  Tom is drunk enough to take the bet. In easily the best moment of the episode, they stuff the ante into a lawn jockey’s hand for safe-keeping.

Sure enough, they look in the window and Charles appears to be inside with his wife. Charles II really knows how to light Lydia’s fire as they are both dressed in snappy outfits, playing chess.  Charles blows a whistle and the other Charles comes outside. Charles shows Tom a card from Marionette Inc which created a robot in his image. They card says he is a 1965 model [1], which is a very optimistic 7 years in the future.

Tom claims not to be able to tell them apart even though Charles II, made to his specifications, seems to have about 4 inches on Charles I.  I suspect Lydia would be thinking the same thing.  Charles I announces his intention to fly to Rio for some fun while the iron man services Lydia.  Say, maybe he does know what women want.

ahpdesing17Tom thinks this is a swell idea. But when he goes home, he is horrified to discover that his wife has beaten him to the punch and replaced herself with a robot.

Charles bought his robot to give Lydia a companion while he flew off to Rio and later, I suspect, Thailand. That plan could work, but Anne bought her robot to leave with her husband who didn’t appreciate her smothering him. She’s just going to end up annoying some other poor sap.  So her problem is not really solved.

Back at the Brailing house, Lydia starts to come on to Charles II, so Charles I literally blows the whistle and summons him back to the basement.

Charles II says he doesn’t like his box in the basement because it is too cramped. Charles I wittily proposes relocating to a closet which I suspect he has some experience of living in.  Charles II ominously tells Charles I that they Marionettes are far more advanced than the company is aware.  Charles II grabs the Rio ticket and stuffs Charles I in the box.

Tom shows up that the Brailing house and tells Charles that his wife has replaced herself with a Marionette.  Charles II tells him these are strange times when strange machines are moving into our lives and taking over.  Strange days indeed.

ahpdesing23That night, Charles II brings Lydia a martini in bed where she is still playing with the rings.  Even Charles II is annoyed at this.  He kisses her hand and takes the airline ticket out of his pocket.  He places it on the nightstand for reasons unknown.  Is he going to now take Lydia to Rio? Then how to explain the single ticket? Has he decided to cancel the trip and stay happily with Lydia?  Then he better not let her see that ticket or it will not be so happy.

There is an imbalance here that might have required an hour to remedy.  Tom and Charles are in the same situation, trapped — in their eyes — with an incompatible, annoying wife.  However, it is Tom and Lydia that will benefit from the new robots.  They will both be happier despite having been deserted by a spouse and being out $15,000 in 1965 (or 1985) dollars.  Or maybe that lack of symmetry is the point.

Overall it is a fine story, just done in by some weak characterizations and a couple of married schlubs who think themselves superior and entitled due to mores that were out-dated even in 1958.  No, I’m thinking of the lawn jockey scene.

Post-Post:

  • [1] To be fair, when the card is shown, it says 1985.  Of course even in 2015 we have nothing like this technology.  That I’m aware of.
  • AHP Deathwatch:  If IMDb is to be believed, Norman Lloyd is 101 years old.
  • Title Analysis: All I can think of is that it was originally titled Designed for Loving and the ed got cut as being too suggestive.  Love really doesn’t play a role in the story.
  • Based on the same short story as the first episode of Ray Bradbury Theater. Luckily, I saw it years ago, thus did not need to rewatch it for this blog.  And I ain’t going back.  The story leaves it ambiguous as to whether Charles I or II is with Lydia.
  • Back at Tom’s house, we see a couple of signs of the future.  The light comes on automatically when he enters.  And there are faucets on the wall in the hallway to dispense coffee and orange juice.  Are these public utilities now?  Has “Big Beverage” bought off the local government?