Tales of Tomorrow – The Great Silence (02/20/53)

Well, they tried something different.  I’ll give them credit for that.

Most of the episodes of Tales of Tomorrow have offered simplistic plots which did not contain much more than a weak premise or a single unexplored event.  The episodes written by Frank De Felitta, however, seem to transcend the mediocrity more than the others.  He wrote the interesting Another Chance last week, and of course the fun The Window.  Even The Fatal Flower showed more depth than we usually get.  Sadly, there just isn’t much going on this time despite having a high concept and starring Burgess Meredith.  But maybe that’s enough.

The headline on the Kanasha Courier [1] takes up the entire front page:  THIRD DAY OF GREAT SILENCE.  We immediately cut to Washington DC where Senator Perkins is making a radio address.  He reports that in the Northeast, people have lost their voice and the phenomena seems to be spreading to all points of the compass.  “Government scientists and physicists charge this strange paralysis of the vocal chords to invisible hydrogenic particles in our atmosphere resulting the recent H-Bomb experiments.  They are agreed that this phenomenon is only temporary . . . and everyone affected will recover their voices.”  Way to kill the suspense.

Mountain man Paul (Burgess Meredith) is relaxing, listening to the report on the radio.  When his wife enters their cabin carrying a handful of wood, he pretends to be asleep (later in bed, when their situations are reversed, she will do the same).  She purposely drops the logs to wake him up, giving herself a good laugh.  He wacks her on the butt, which gives him a good laugh.  The she takes out a rifle and points it at him, giving me a good laugh.  At this point, it becomes clear what they are going for.

He comically hides as if he expects her to shoot him.  His goofy character and his serious wife are played so broadly, that this becomes a silent movie.  After much pantomiming, she communicates that she wants him to take the rifle and hunt something for dinner.

Viewing Tip:  Wishing to get to bed at a reasonable hour, I turned the playback speed up to 2X.  Not only did this knock a few minutes off the running time, it also further transformed the episode into a silent movie.  It ain’t no Buster Keaton, but the speeded up action did take the homage to a different level.

Paul finds the true cause of the vocal chord paralysis.  In the woods, he spots a flying saucer; but on the ground, not flying.  He tries to tell this to the government, but fails.  So, like a great American, he solves the problem himself.  Then they get their voices back.

Tales of Tomorrow is on a roll.  I suspect the episode would have seemed interminable without increasing the speed, but it worked as I viewed it.  46 years later, there was a similar episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. [2]  I look forward to the musical episode of Tales of Tomorrow.  If they made one, De Felitta might have been just the guy to pull it off.

Other Stuff:

  • [1] There is no Kanasha.  The story seems to take place in Iowa or Montana due to judging from the map and the proximity to the Bitter Root Mountains.
  • [2] There is even the same silent jerking-off joke at 14:07 on You Tube.  OK, probably not intentional on Tales, but it was hilarious on Buffy.

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