Tales of Tomorrow – The Horn (10/10/52)

Shop Foreman Jake Lippitt wants to fire Max Martinson.  He arrived 6 months ago with big plans for new musical instruments, but has produced nothing.  Company President Heinkle wonders if Lippitt is afraid his daughter Evelyn might become interested in Martinson.

Heinkle calls Martinson into the office.  He says he needs only another 2 months to finish his new instrument.  It uses a new principle in the transmission of high frequency sound waves.  He says if it is properly used, “it will do more to heal the world’s wounds than any corp of diplomats.  Improperly used, it will be more destructive than the H-Bomb.” As I get older, I’m starting to wonder if he doesn’t have that backwards.

When Lippitt claims that 2 violins Martinson built were returned as defective (i.e. did not sound like cats f***ing), Evelyn leaps to his defense.  Further, she says her engagement to Lippitt is off.  Later she joins Martinson in the workshop.  She says Lippitt became bitter after he couldn’t hack it as a concert pianist.  She was just looking for an excuse to end the engagement.

Exactly 2 months later, Martinson brings in his new horn to demonstrate to Heinkle.  He blows the horn, but there is no sound. A few seconds later, however, there is a musical riff.  Whether it is a delayed reaction from the horn, or part of the score, I don’t know.  Old Mr. Heinkle gets up and says, “That’s funny, all of the sudden I feel excited!  I feel exhilarated and I don’t know why!  A moment ago I was dog tired!”

Evelyn eggs him on to blow the horn again.  Heinkle gets angry, “Stop it, stop it!  Put that horn down!”  Martinson explains that the horn communicates emotion, any kind, “whatever emotion the player is feeling.”  So Martinson was really bi-polar in the last 30 seconds.  Or blowing hot and cold, as they say.

I guess the musical cue was the score because Martinson explains the sound is ultra-sonic like dog whistles which can only be heard by dogs and MSNBC hosts.  Heinkle has a great idea.  He asks Evelyn to call in Lippitt which seems like a great idea if they can condition him from being such a dick.  Bizarrely, however, Martinson decides to instill the emotion [sic] of acrophobia in him.  Even more bizarrely, Heinkle goes along with this.

Lippitt comes in and sits down.  Hidden on the 6th floor balcony of Heinkle’s office — apparently the violin business used to be YUGE! — Martinson begins blowing his horn.  Lippitt gets very tense and anxious.  He croaks out, “I’m falling, I’m falling.”  Then he falls — sadly, to the floor, not the pavement 60 feet below.

Some time later, Evelyn and Martinson have gotten engaged.  There is a banquet that night to celebrate Martinson’s invention and the fact that he is donating it to a committee of scientists.  He believes physicists will research the nature of sound, doctors will research emotional disorders, military men will control the morale of thousands of troops.  His only stipulation is for it to be used for the benefit of all mankind.  More likely, the main tunes it will play will be “Must Buy Coke” and “Vote for ______ [insert corrupt politician name here]”

Martinson goes to the shop to get the horn and finds that Lippitt has broken into his locker and taken it.  Lippitt suggests that 2 enterprising men like them could make a fortune with it even if one of them was a parasitic jerk.  When Martinson disagrees, Lippitt brains him with a 4 X 4 and steals the horn.

He runs back into  Heinkle’s office since this factory only has 2 rooms.  Like all businessmen, Heinkle keeps a gun in the office.  He pulls it on Lippitt, but the punk knows the old man won’t shoot him as he descends on the fire escape — he might drop the horn and destroy it.

Lippitt looks over the balcony and says, “Look down there.  Thousands of people, all ready to be led.  And, believe me, I’m going to lead them.  Whether there’s one man or an army of men, with this, I can do anything I want!”  Except play the piano.

Martinson regains consciousness and comes in to see Lippitt holding the horn.  He threatens to drop it if Martinson comes any closer.  He blows the horn, transmitting the thought that Heinkle should shoot Martinson.  Martinson implores the old man to wake up from the trance.  For some bogus reason, Heinkle turns and approaches Lippitt standing on the parapet.  This is all is takes for Lippitt to fall backward to his death.

Evelyn assures him he can make another horn, and much more quickly this time.  Martinson thinks not, people just aren’t ready for it.  Kudos to them on one point:  Usually when a sci-fi prototype is destroyed, an invention is strangely unable to be duplicated.

A very simple premise, but the episode is not as egregious as most.

Other Stuff:

  • Franchot Tone (Martinson) was really the only one to give a solid performance here.  He would later be in a classic episode of The Twilight Zone.

Tales of Tomorrow – Youth on Tap (09/26/52)

Pre-inflation Dollar Store — everything is 15 cents.

In an unusual pre-credit opening, one unidentified man kills another unidentified man.  Yeah, that was important enough to shake up the structure.

After the commercial, we open in a diner where Jeff is slow-dancing with his waitress girlfriend.  She pulls away and says, “All week I’ve been waiting for you to come through the door and say ‘Kitty, I’ve got some money.  We can get married now and buy the gas station’.”  Then she wastes money on a pinball machine . . . while talking to her boyfriend . . . which she TILTs.  He says they just need $1,000 by Thursday to buy the station.

A man in a black suit walks in and sits at the counter — presumably one of the men from the first scene, probably the one who was not killed.  Kitty puts on her apron and goes behind the counter.  Although, after after slow-dancing with boyfriend, and playing that grimy pinball machine, I would not want her handling my food.  She snaps at Jeff that maybe she will get a $1,000 tip tonight.  She realizes what a shrew she is being and runs out.

“Very lovely girl,” the man in black lies.  Jeff tells the man the reason he looks beaten down is because he is trying to raise $1,000 . . .  but he has money for cigarettes.  The man — Dr. Platan — plops $1,000 on the table in front of Jeff.  All he wants is a pint of Jeff’s yummy A-negative blood.  Jeff says he might only be a truck driver, but he knows lots of people have A-negative blood [1] and “you can pick it up at any blood-bank” although I’m not sure blood-banks do a brisk over-the-counter business.

Jeff agrees to the deal, happy that he and Kitty can be married that night.  As they get up to leave, Dr. Platan says he must leave through the rear entrance because he is being followed.  Jeff says, “Back-door, front-door, it’s all the same to me” which might cause Kitty to reconsider.

Jeff goes with Platan back to his lab which looks a lot like my grandmother’s living room.  Platan directs Jeff to a bed and hooks him up to the machine that draws the blood.  He had warned Jeff that there would be a slight tingle, but it turns out to be very painful.  He passes out.  Platan is not as unethical as he might seem as he does not bogart the cash he gave Jeff.  He anxiously takes the bottle of blood and transfers a dose to a big-ass syringe, calling it “a new lease on life.”

After the commercial, Jeff regains consciousness on the bed — oddly, face-down.  He threatens to break Platan’s neck, then notices that the doctor looks much younger.  Platan says, “I’ve taken the essence of your youth for myself.  There is a banging at the front door.

An old man busts in and says he’s been tracking Platan for a long time.  He draws a pistol which might have been more effective if it had actually been visible in the frame.  The old man sees Jeff is undergoing the same process Platan performed on him.  He says even though he looks 60, he is only 29.  In days, the 35 year old Jeff will look like a 60 year old man with a 30 year old wife; which is about right in Hollywood.

The old man wants Platan to perform the same procedure again so he can Rogaine regain his youth and vitality.  Platan says he should grab the waitress from the local diner, she has the right blood type.  After threatening to kill Platan for what he did, the old man is surprisingly cool with this plan.  He ties Platan up and leaves the recuperating Jeff to go get Kitty.

The man brings Kitty back to Platan.  He discovers that Kitty is able to give Jeff a new transfusion without suffering the usual side-effects — she will not rapidly age.  So Jeff and Kitty are back to normal.  Platan admits he can’t help the old man because he is the wrong blood type.  I don’t get this, because, his type was obviously compatible during the first transfusion.  But I’m no doctor.

There is a tussle over the gun.  Jeff gives a pretty good speech asking what is the point of Platan living 160 years — he has done nothing with his life.  He has never known love, he is a leech.  In a radical plot twist, never before seen in Hollywood, Jeff decides to let the police handle it.

This was a pretty good episode, of course, grading on a massive curve — this is the “Don’t Buy” of TV reviews.  The acting was better than usual.  Jeff’s final speech was well-done.  There was even a final scene of the happy couple dancing which was a) sweet, and 2) not pure exposition.  It actually infused a little heart into the episode.

Other Stuff:

  • [1] It is about 6% which would have been about 9,000,000 people then.  Still, the odds that he and Kitty were both A- would have been just .36%.  TILT.
  • Robert Alda (Jeff) was Alan Alda’s father.
  • Mary Alice Moore (Kitty) went on to turn the world on with her smile, to take a nothing day and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile.  Wait, that was Mary Tyler Moore.  Mary Alice Moore appeared in the Tales of Tomorrow production of Frankenstein.
  • Looking at the old videos, I see the “Who can turn the world on with her smile” line came in a later season.  Originally, the first line was a very downbeat, “How will you make it on your own?

Tales of Tomorrow – Seeing Eye Surgeon (09/05/52)

Chief Surgeon Dr. Foyle is chewing out his protegee Dr. Tyrell for his bold work in the operating room.  The 67 year old Foyle says he has 25 years of experience, so maybe he ain’t such an expert if it took him until he was 42 to become a surgeon.

Nurse Martha overhears this unpleasantness.  After Foyle leaves, she agrees with Tyrell that he has not kept up with the times.  Now this is someone to pay attention to — she is an O.R. nurse at 19 years old!  Plus, she’s 19 years old!

Martha takes a call from Foyle, that despite his outburst, he wants Tyrell to assist in a critical operation on Dr. Ross the next day.  The patient is a nuclear physicist who has a growth on the frontal lobe.  Hmmm, how could that have happened?

Martha says “he’s not just another patient,” he’s an important man.  Much as that statement might concern the other patients, Ross is critical to our national defense.  Tyrell goes back to his office and is greeted by Dr. Xenon.

Hmmm . . . Martha, Dr. Ross, Dr. Tyrell, Dr. Foyle, Dr. Xenon . . . which one is the alien?  Way to blend!  Xenon also stresses how important it is that Ross survive.  Dr. Xenon has come to ensure that the operation is a success.  He presents Tyrell with a pair of glasses “I have processed in a special way.”  He also gives Tyrell some cleaning fluid in case the glasses get foggy.  Tyrell tells Xenon he isn’t even performing the operation, Foyle is.  Xenon seems to know differently.

That afternoon, Martha informs Tyrell that Foyle has gotten sick and that Xenon was right — he will be performing the operation.  Tyrell wonders if Foyle is just faking it to avoid the responsibility for this 1,000 to 1 operation.

The next day in the eerily dark operating room, Tyrell is losing his patient.  He fears he will have to perform a lobotomy when he begins thinking about Dr. Xenon.  He sends Martha to get Xenon’s glasses out of his desk.  She returns and places them on his face.  They enable him to see at a microscopic level, able to differentiate good cells from bad cells.

Foyle gets the news that the operation was a success.  He calls Tyrell to get an explanation of the crazy report he submitted about “miracle glasses”.  When Tyrell tells him he got the glasses from Dr. Xenon of a university in Europe, Foyle says, “Don’t give me that, Doctor,  I happen to know that legend.”  He snootily says Tyrell wouldn’t know the legend because he never studied in Europe.  Fearing this might lead to an interesting narrative twist, he never mentions the legend again.

When Foyle demands to see the glasses, Martha retrieves them and the cleaning fluid from the desk.  Foyle looks at them and says, “These glasses have no lenses.”  Tyrell theorizes that maybe the cleaning fluid dissolved the lenses after one use in this critical operation.  Foyle questions whether there ever was a Dr. Xenon.

I have this feeling we’re being watched.

Tyrell says, “For that matter, do we three standing in this room really exist?  Maybe we’re just the figment, the product, of someone’s fevered imagination.  Someone from another world.  Perhaps Dr. Xenon.”

This show, still in its 2nd season, is so primitive you have to grade on a curve.  In its own way, it is one of the better episodes of the series.  Sure, the writing was inept — dropping the Xenon-as-legend thread was a yuge mistake.  However, the dark background in the operating room provided a great deal of suspense and atmosphere.  The stock score was used effectively; more effectively than 1980s TZ ever does, anyway.  I even enjoyed the open-ended resolution and Tyrell’s existential musing.

The episode wraps up with the host telling us the show has received the 1st Annual Television Award from the sci-fi magazine Galaxy.  I believe the category was “Only Sci-Fi Show on TV.”

Other Stuff:

  • Title Analysis:  I kind of like the sound of it, but it’s nonsense.  I guess they were playing off the phrase seeing eye dog.  But we don’t give special viewing equipment to the dog.
  • In 1994, Constance Towers (Martha) played a piano teacher who was Frasier Crane’s “first time”.  This was her first credit on IMDb.  Unlike most actors on Tales of Tomorrow, she is still working; also, still breathing.
  • Bruce Cabot (Tyrell) starred in King Kong the year Constance Towers was born.
  • Dr. Xenon, Dr. Xenon.

Tales of Tomorrow – Ahead of His Time (07/18/52)

ttdestinationnightmare07Sam Whipple is reading a newspaper with the headlines KOREAN TRUCE NEGOTIATIONS STALLED and LIVING COSTS ZOOM UP.  He comments that things are a mess, then turns to the camera and breaks the 4th cardboard wall.

He tells us he is just a regular Joe, other than inventing a time machine. He starts the story off on June 30, 2052 in the New York office of scientist Dr. Jarvis.  Jarvis and his hot daughter are hard at work to find a solution to the rising radioactivity that will destroy the world.  And since they are working on Sunday, we can conclude 1) the end of the world is imminent, and 2) this is not a government project.

For some reason, it is Jarvis who has to break this news to the people of earth.  He addresses the world, “In a few hours, you and I, all our loved ones, the whole earth will be dead.”  He tells them that 100 years ago, a scientist named Thorne placed an element into a cyclotron causing a chain reaction.  An error in his calculation caused radiation to increase constantly for a century until it was just now noticed, hours before destroying humanity.

ttdestinationnightmare17Jarvis and his daughter Mary are able to observe the past on a TV screen.  They actually witness the scientist making the faux pas that doomed the earth.  Mary suggests time-traveling back to 1952 to stop this catastrophe, but Jarvis says that is impossible. Only someone from that prehistoric era can affect the past.

Jarvis remembers amusing himself by watching Mr. Whipple on the magic TV.  They tune in and catch Whipple working on his time machine.  Amazingly, at just that second, Whipple perfects his time-travel vest.  Even more amazing, it transports him to the very second Jarvis is watching him.  Most amazingestly, it brings him into Jarvis’s living room.

Whipple mentions needing money for tuition.  Jarvis says, “That is not necessary.  The government takes care of everyone’s tuition.”  There is no war, and cancer has been cured.  He wants to stay in this time, but Jarvis explains the facts of half-life to him.

ttdestinationnightmare23Whipple agrees to go back to 1952 and stop Dr. Thorne from making his fatal mistake.  In the past, Whipple is able to burn Thorne’s notes which apparently contained directions and all known copies of plans for the cyclotron.  He goes back home and straps on the time-vest. Unfortunately his sister has smashed the machine so he will stop acting like a kid.

Whipple gives a firehose of exposition as he explains what would have happened if this episode were an hour long. First, I would have jumped off a bridge.  Second, he describes how he changed after this adventure.  He did not rebuild the time-vest, he became more outgoing, and probably left his sister in a shallow grave.

He even met a girl named Ruth, who bore an uncanny resemblance to Mary Jarvis.  I guess it is supposed to be Mary who has come back in time to be with the irresistible Whipple.  As they each drink a soda-pop, I think she is trying to give us a wink, but can’t quiet pull it off.

ttdestinationnightmare28Paul Tripp, who appeared as Whipple also wrote the script.  Even aside from the 4th-wall bits, the episode gets a little meta.  Mary Jarvis is played by Ruth Enders, who was married to Tripp for 53 years. When he introduces his new girlfriend at the end, he says her name is Ruth.

Objectively, the episode is terrible. Within the context of the era and other episodes of the series, though, it stands out.  Whipple certainly is a chirpy fellow but, surprisingly, is not grating.  The science and logic is ludicrous, but Tripp is so likable that it doesn’t even matter.  It is just a fun little romp.

This is the end of Volume 2.  The prices for these DVDs has skyrocketed.  The Tale of my Tomorrows does not include a $43.90 Volume 3.

Post-Post:

  • Unfortunately, most of the time, Whipple’s time-vest looks like he is wearing  toilet seat around his neck.
  • Available on YouTube.

Tales of Tomorrow – The Duplicates (07/04/52)

Calvin Bruce Bruce Calvin is sitting at home wearing a necktie as unemployed men are wont to do. He is checking the want-ads when he sees this item.  He calls and is offered an interview that same day even though it is already 7:30 pm.

Bruce still can’t figure out why he was let go from his previous employer after eight years.  His wife is about as sympathetic as an Alfred Hitchcock Presents spouse (and by spouse, I mean wife).  She nags him for not having a job, having to scrimp on paying bills, and having a conspiracy theory on why he was terminated.  Maybe he took her to the office Christmas Party — that would be my guess why they canned him.  She continues berating him for falling behind their friends, and calls him a failure.  And that is just the abuse in the living room!

He storms out to meet Mr. J in Room 34.  He is actually Dr. Johnson from the Atomic Energy Control, so it should have been Dr. J.  He asks Bruce to volunteer for an experiment.  It will cause him no harm, take about 3 weeks, and is worth $250,000. Bruce figures it is worth paying that much to get away from his awful wife for 3 weeks so will rob a bank and — oh wait, they’re paying him — maybe he can get away from her forever!

ttduplicates18Bruce recognizes that this is too good to be true.  After all, this is $2.2M in 2016 dollars and $5B in 2017 dollars.  He is also concerned that Johnson seems to have a zuckerbergian knowledge of every detail of his life, and was even expecting his application for the job.  Somehow, they even got a blood sample and determined he was perfect for this project.  They even had him fired from his old job just so he would be available.

Johnson expects earth to be in contact with another planet soon.  The life there closely parallels earth:

  1. “There is another planet where human life functions as it does here.  So closely parallel that for every living thing existing here there is an exact duplicate on this other planet.”
  2. “For every particle of life — animal, bird, flower, tree — living here, there is an identical creature living on this other planet.”
  3. “At this moment on another planet, there are people who think and talk exactly as we do.  Every creature is in direct rhythm with us.”

OK, we get it.

Johnson shows him pictures of their ships speeding through our atmosphere — UFOs to us.  We have also sent ships to investigate their world.  Johnson’s agency has built a ship to go to their world.  They want him to go to this planet and “arrive in a city just like this.  Your home would be there.  A woman who would seem in every respect to be your wife will be waiting.”  That’s reason enough to refuse right there.

ttduplicates25The agency wants Bruce to go to this planet and destroy it before they can destroy us.  Can anyone see the problem here?  Anyone?  Hands? Bueller?  They theorize that all it will take is for Bruce to poison his duplicate, then the two planets will go off on alternate timelines like the new Star Trek.

Later at home, he tells his wife about the job and says, “The future of life here on Jupiter depends on the success of my mission.”  ZING!  I can’t believe this primitive TV show suckered me in.  Especially having seen the same twist on Twilight Zone’s Third Planet from the Sun.[1]

Bruce flies to Earth and finds his duplicate house.  For some reason, he climbs in the window rather than going in the door.  He slips a vial of poison into his duplicate’s scotch bottle, gets a clean shirt from his wife, and returns home to Jupiter.  Back at his Jupiter house, he enters through the window again — I guess that’s how he always enters.  He shows his wife the $250,000 paycheck and she is all smiles for the first time.  His wife mentions giving him the shirt and Einstein suddenly realizes his duplicate was in his house.

ttduplicates16He realizes that he just drank the scotch which his duplicate poisoned. He freaks out and tears up the checks.  That’s not too nice for his wife, but she wasn’t worthy anyway. In a nicely symbolic but meaningless gesture, he breaks a mirror.  Now he will have 7 seconds of bad luck before croaking.

Probably the best episode of this primitive, low-budget series.  Of course the science is ludicrous — did it really have to be Jupiter, the ending is telegraphed, and the wife is stereotypical.  On the other hand, it did trick me and had a stinger at the end of both act breaks.  Darrin McGavin was excellent as Bruce. Patricia Ferris was given a thankless role as his wife.  Because of the sexist way she was written, it is hard to judge her performance.  However, she was attractive in a modern-era way that many of ToT’s actresses were not, so she gets a pass.  So, she’s still being objectified 64 years later.

Post-Post:

  • [1] I might have suspected Serling of a little cryptomnesia, but his screenplay was based on a short story by Richard Matheson.
  • The room where Bruce meets Dr. Johnson has a hanging lamp with a shade clearly made from newspapers.  WTH?
  • For a better parallel Earth story, see Another Earth starring Brit Marling.  Actually see anything she is in.
  • Parallel Earth theory from Star Trek.
  • Available on YouTube.