The Oval Portrait

The artist who paints his subject to death.

The admirable freshness (akin to Welles’ Hearts of Age, also the young leading man in old-age makeup) is part of the theme, it won a studio prize and the director, then a USC student, could not find work for seven years.

The joke is later told in Cukor’s A Star Is Born, Bare says in The Film Director that it really happened.


So You Want to Be in Pictures

A correspondence course in Colman and Boyer, first thing on the set is Michael Caine’s “the Germans are crumming!”

It’s the stand-in takes the pie in the face, one basks in the glory of it all.


So You Want to Hold Your Wife

You recognize the situations in Cassavetes’ A Woman Under the Influence, even Clayton’s The Pumpkin Eater, a common problem, friends from work, her family and his, the stress of it all.

The story is told on radio’s The Agony Hour to no avail.

Mr. & Mrs. McDoakes simply adhere to one another, that completes the family circle, in a word.


So You Want to Be a Gambler

As a game of skill and inspiration proves, gambling is for those with all the luck and not permanently behind the 8-ball.


Third from the Sun
The Twilight Zone

“Time for a cool drink on the porch,” Serling writes in the poetic introduction (or possibly Matheson), “time for the quiet rustle of leaf-laden trees that screen out the moon.” The intonation of this might come from Sidney Lanier, the functioning word is “screen” for what follows, a nightmare evocation of a doomed planet 11,000,000 miles from Earth.

Bare’s camera angles and arrangements are not expressionistic but dislocating, and the derivation of the script from Wells’ or Menzies’ Things to Come is a fascinating display of compression. The set design implements a passage of Forbidden Planet.


The Purple Testament
The Twilight Zone

Lt. Fitzgerald sees the faces of the dead before battle, his vision proves true. The medical officer at the base hospital orders three weeks back at Division, the lieutenant makes ready to depart. He’s betrayed by his own face in a mirror, then in shards on the ground, his jeep is blown up by a land mine en route.

A personal work rendering accounts with the fallen in Christological terms. Serling’s title is given from memory as out of Richard III, a blunder worthy of Browning.

This is as good a place as any to remark the extraordinary skill and verve of Bare’s direction.


Nick of Time
The Twilight Zone

A honeymoon gambit, for want of a fuel pump in Ridgeview, Oh. The bridegroom at the Busy Bee Café slips pennies into the slot of a napkin holder cum Mystic Seer, with the restive bride beside him all the while.

And atop the gizmo is a grinning fanged one-eyed devil bobbling like a thing alive. Again, Serling (via Matheson) has a curveball at the close, decrying “the tyranny of fear and superstition”.


The Prime Mover
The Twilight Zone

Another consideration of Samson, after “Mr. Denton on Doomsday” and “Mr. Dingle, the Strong”, this time by Charles Beaumont, and closely related to “The Fever” and “Nick of Time” as well.

The strange woman is introduced as a one-armed bandit and leads surrealistically to an assault on Nevada through the instrumentality of the title character, a man with telekinetic powers.

The perfect expression of the theme is in terms of Las Vegas. A chronic loser acquires moral force and squanders it trying to break the bank.


To Serve Man
The Twilight Zone

The Christian message from a Gibbon’s viewpoint, “The Man Who Would Be King” from that of the subject.

The mode is classic science-fiction, with The Day the Earth Stood Still and its prototype, Things to Come, well in the background. The English do this very well (cf. Devil Girl from Mars and Stranger from Venus).

Bochner’s creation of the codebreaker is the central weight, so American he might be directed by Nyby, and slipping into a Kaintuck drawl when imposed upon.

The Kanamits stare like Kenites or bishops in Vigo or L’Age d’Or.


The Fugitive
The Twilight Zone

This complicated science-fiction parable is ultimately related to Christ’s teachings on little children and “the least of these”. A King of Heaven or of some heavenly body absconds to Earth and amuses children to escape boredom (a theme picked up by Marvin & Tige, with John Cassavetes). A daughter of Zion has her lame leg healed, and he returns with her to his realm as her twin (so to escape the strictures of “the Council”).

The joke in the narration has fantasy and science-fiction combining for the nonce. To be compared with “To Serve Man” as not incompatible opposites, and add, ultimately, Cocteau’s “Les Voleurs d’enfants”.


What’s in the Box
The Twilight Zone

A direct answer to lowbrow television, which is certainly a “high concept” enterprise with its ideal of the “lowest common denominator”.

Here’s a poor slob pushed around on the job all day, suspected by his wife of having a mistress, he’s pooped (she accuses him of “driving his cab to Yonkers” twice that day), he wants a few beers and pro wrestling with The Wild Panther vs. The Russian Duke. He’s so nettled by her nagging he berates the TV repairman for overcharging with his “racket”. The repairman leaves without payment, the man settles back and sees himself and his mistress on the screen, which makes him drop his beer.

Dr. Saltman tells the wife, “it’s possible to have delusions directly attributable to our overmechanized culture,” and this doesn’t happen only to “juveniles and the moronic.” The set further shows the man and wife arguing, fighting, her murder, his trial and execution.

The murder happens as foreseen, he is arrested. Joan Blondell and William Demarest give performances of the utmost brilliance. Rod Serling introduces it all as, “Portrait of a TV fan.”


A Cause of Anger

The teleplay takes care of itself, by William D. Gordon out of Richard Wormser, and is the occasion for a spectacular display of mainly exterior daylight location shooting in concert with the cinematographer, John F. Warren.

The poor rich kid, a genius transported to a clinic for his rages (Brian Keith is the ex-cop who takes the job, an unusual and very keen performance).