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.

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