The Brasher Doubloon

Marlowe puts it in his tobacco pouch for safekeeping.

The unsigned New York Times review exhibits not a glimmer of understanding, but records this, “Jack Benny and troupe, including Phil Harris, Eddie (Rochester) Anderson, Marjorie Reynolds and the Sportsmen Quartet, headline the Roxy’s stage presentation. However, the real star of the first show yesterday was a fellow name of Fred Allen, who raced down the orchestra and up onto the stage yelling “Stop it! Stop it!” and demanding his money back when it was announced that Mr. Benny would render “Love in Bloom” on his fiddle. Mr. Allen’s courtesy appearance, and the only one he will make during Mr. Benny’s two weeks on the Roxy stage, was arranged by the theatre management. Newsreel and still camera men were on hand to record the heckling and ten policemen, plus two dozen private detectives, were stationed around the orchestra—just in case. But they had nothing to do and joined in the general guffaws.”



“Above pearls...”

The effect of memory, a transverse walk (diagonal dolly) into it, repeated.

Above and beyond the camera, beholding it.


The Secret Sharer
Face to Face

Despite the eloquent last lines, more than one writer has wondered how it came to be on a double bill with Windust’s “The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky” (H.H.T. of the New York Times, for example). That is one of the mysteries, the arcana, the pure conundrums of film criticism.


The Mad Magician

The tale of das Ewig-Weibliche that zieht uns hinan.

In view of the many complexities of narrative and the countless subtleties that figure everywhere in Brahm’s film with an almost fiendish exactitude and above all a most refined and savory wit, we can admire the doubtful aplomb of the New York Times reviewer “A.W.” who pronounced sentence upon it this way, “there is nothing subtle about it.”


A Night with the Boys
Alfred Hitchcock Presents

A young stockroom clerk is diddled out of his paycheck by the head of his department in a poker game. The wife is expecting, he dirties his clothes and cuts his own face with a rock, says he was mugged. The wife calls the police.

The cops have the mugger, a juvenile delinquent with nearly the whole amount in his pocket. The man signs for it and withholds charges.

Next morning as ordered, he stops at the department head’s apartment for some papers. The older man is bloodied and bruised, was mugged after the poker game, could he borrow a few dollars? Not from a married man, says the clerk.


Alfred Hitchcock Presents

A businessman with a sporty image and an unfaithful wife keeps “the largest collection of dueling weapons in Southern California”. A young chum studying for the bar advises him to challenge the lover, an old article in the Civil Code grants some rights. He does exactly that, sticks the fellow with a saber and is acquitted. The judge imposes a settlement on the dead man’s son, based on another article, and a lifelong annuity. “Cheap,” the businessman calls it.

The late Philip Baxter is succeeded in the wife’s affections by Philip Baxter, Jr., the law student.

Paul Douglas and Hugh Marlowe fight the duel all over the baronial modern living room like the rank amateurs they represent. Robert Morse drapes himself lazily into conversations, and takes his emolument like a man.

Dody Heath dashes to her husband for a kiss after the lover is dispatched (their martini still wet on his lips), and is rejected.


Mr. Henry Comstock

The great moment, as Preston Sturges would say, comes at the dance when Comstock tries to tell Chief Winnemucca a pleasant joke about successive marriages. Little Joe is there with the Chief’s daughter, Comstock is a confidence trickster and claim jumper. He is about to foist a worthless claim on the hapless miners thereabouts, it’s a bonanza, his shill tells them, they all buy lots from Comstock.

The shill can’t get a word in, the strike is rich, it turns out to be the Comstock Lode, named in his honor by the laughing miners.

He christens the place anyway, Virginia City.

Ben looks down on the fever of gold, his friend John Sutter was overrun by it.

Jack Carson, bearded in a tall hat, riding a mule, plays Comstock.


Dry Run
Alfred Hitchcock Presents

Problems of the organization man in a “Madison Avenue suit”.

Robbe-Grillet has a very similar instance, Trans Europ Express.

Hitchcock in trenchcoat and hat bewailing the jazz detective on TV.


Time Enough at Last
The Twilight Zone

Serling & Venable take Auden’s tack on reader v. rider. David Copperfield is the mind’s refuge, Micawber makes change at a bank, always short. At noon he repairs to the vault, the world outside is destroyed. Despair takes hold, he finds books but his eyeglasses break.

The point is made twice over, his wife having forbidden him to read anything at all. A man who forsakes his wife for the Golden Treasury is just the sort of thing O’Neill has a great time with. Brahm famously depicts the disaster “man has deeded to himself”, nothing at all being written by Bemis the bank clerk (Burgess Meredith).


Judgment Night
The Twilight Zone

The tale is told in reverse order (the peculiar hell depicted is furnished and let out again in “Deaths-Head Revisited” and “A Quality of Mercy”). Nehemiah Persoff’s fantastic bizarrerie is only gradually explained. He’s stricken with terror, he knows how U-boats operate, he has a skipper’s cap in the Kriegsmarine. And there he is, watching himself bombard the ship he’s on, the S.S. Queen of Glasgow.

Brahm portrays the attack with flash and élan and a bit of footage from a U-boat. The epilogue has a mate (James Franciscus) question the deed, but the captain, oblivious in his submarine, doesn’t buy such “mystic” musings.

The sensitivity of the crew and passengers to the poor man’s shocking mental condition is the chorus to Persoff’s rendering, and there is a nice touch in the saloon entryway dousing the lights automatically when opened.

Serling’s analysis of Michael Powell’s The Spy in Black.


The Four of Us Are Dying
The Twilight Zone

The remarkably poetic construction of this, “under the sign of three” with a sting or a J.M. Synge in its tail, is, one would suggest, a satire upon actors who betake themselves, with their wonderful mimetic properties, far from the author’s intent.

Mission: Impossible rediscovered the opening mirror gag in the course of its own meditations on the subject. Brahm’s transitions through a surreal fabrication of New York nightlife are remarkable as well.


Mirror Image
The Twilight Zone

“Metaphysical explanation to cover a phenomenon,” is how Serling describes it afterward. That is to say, the technical aspects of the production lead to two images only.

The plot, since there must be one, has a woman in a bus depot see her suitcase in two places at once, and then herself. A man soaking wet from the rain gives her the handbag she dropped. The bus comes, she’s on it and not, he calls the police. They take her away, his briefcase disappears, he goes after the culprit.

How near a thing is romance to this vision of people chasing themselves in some “parallel universe”, how acute the direction of Brahm in Vera Miles’ other face serenely screwy, and Martin Milner’s looking over its shoulder with a goofy grin.


A Nice Place to Visit
The Twilight Zone

The eternal abode of Beaumont’s sinner is guessed early by dint of a similarity to the sojourn of Shaw’s Don Juan there. “My job,” says the guide, “is to see that you get what you want.”

The deception is hinted at. Dante’s Thaïs works overtime.

Luxury and no action forever, in “your own private domain”, which includes a well-appointed apartment asked about by the new occupant, “who’s it belong to, some phony politician?”

The Hall of Records, an infinitely tall stairway punctuated with filing cabinets on each of its broad landings, suggests a conception of Douglas Heyes’, but then brings to mind Brahm’s forceful contributions to the series.


The Cuckoo Clock
Alfred Hitchcock Presents

A petite masterpiece on a split personality (housewife, artiste) who heads for the hills against a man, the framework is a loony bin off-camera, there’s a late husband of course.

If canned laughter is added to unfunny comedy shows, Hitchcock demonstrates the reverse.


The Hero
Alfred Hitchcock Presents

A very fine relic of the Boer War, like Losey’s The Go-Between.

The animosity runs deep, after all the hostilities and a general encampment of views, sides are taken even long since, the Englishman Musgrave who made out like a bandit goes down under the foot of the bleeding Afrikaner, De Keyser (formerly Vander Klaue).

A ship in a bottle, says Hitchcock, made by carpenters shrunk to fit.


Alfred Hitchcock Presents

A very convincing picture of the war, in which the lady perishes by fire and the man in the wheelchair exacts retribution but also perishes, and the sleeper now restored, by his own devices.

Hitchcock on the In and Out.


The Five-Forty-Eight
Alfred Hitchcock Presents

A great work of art as tightly-disciplined, straightforward and calm as an express train, in which the worm turns and the mighty have fallen.

Phyllis Thaxter and Zachary Scott for this.

Hitchcock the dispatcher.


Mr. Dingle, the Strong
The Twilight Zone

In this meditation on Samson, he is a bullied vacuum cleaner salesman who acquires the strength of three hundred men, and foolishly exhibits it, whereupon he acquires in its stead the wisdom of another three hundred.

The treatment resembles William Wellman’s Magic Town in some respects. The instrumentality of Henry J. Fate in Serling’s “Mr. Denton on Doomsday” (dir. Allen Resiner) is here replaced by that of a two-headed spaceman and his diminutive, distant relations, cf. Hamner’s “Stopover in a Quiet Town” (dir. Ron Winston) and the theme as a variant of Jeffers.


Shadow Play
The Twilight Zone

Beaumont’s teleplay is a psychoanalytical masterpiece, on exactly the same lines as Beaumont’s “Perchance to Dream” (dir. Robert Florey), in which a happy man’s successful life is represented as a nightmare the consummation of which wakes him up screaming.

It is to be remarked that, by surrealistic processes of the utmost discernment, all the men in his dream are himself, and the woman his wife.

His description of the electric chair ends with a shock cut to the woman turning a pair of steaks she’s broiling, as she hums Tchaikovsky’s overture to The Nutcracker.

Analysis reveals illuminating and important stages of kinship with Serling’s “A Stop at Willoughby” (dir. Robert Parrish) and “To Serve Man” (dir. Richard L. Bare).


Person or Persons Unknown
The Twilight Zone

This is the nightmare in Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life, conceived as recurring. It begins with a wife not recognizing her husband, and grows progressively worse until he wakes from it in the very same bed with another woman, cf. Earl Hamner, Jr.’s “Stopover in a Quiet Town” (dir. Ron Winston), and this of course is the initial nightmare of Siegel’s The Invasion of the Body Snatchers...


Young Man’s Fancy
The Twilight Zone

Laurel and Hardy having asked Should Married Men Go Home? (dir. James Parrott), it remains to point out that Wilde’s famous dictum on women and their mothers here ends up a comedy, if you like.

A study in parallel lines, representing no man’s land. The set decoration makes the late mother’s house a terrain of childhood memories that are reasonable or exact. The new husband doesn’t want to leave, the new wife doesn’t want to stay. Comedy is provided by the real estate agent who arrives for the sale and is dismissed.

Almost from the beginning, certainly after the first season, The Twilight Zone was ignorantly criticized for, of all things, a want of ideas. It can’t be pointed out often enough that Serling’s technique is based on artistic economy in two senses, he explores an idea to its essence, then he revolves it for a consideration from every angle.

“Young Man’s Fancy” is the middle ground between Serling’s “Walking Distance” (dir. Robert Stevens) and Beaumont’s “Static” (dir. Buzz Kulik), the identical theme given radically different expression. It’s written by Richard Matheson, another artistic economy.


Don’t Look Behind You
The Alfred Hitchcock Hour

A highly complex work designed simply to show that a psychologist who treats of art as mental aberration must join the artist in the mental asylum as a jealous æsthete who doesn’t speak the lingo.

The setup is a classic, woods at night traversed by a woman who flees noise and movement to a lighted doorstep. With her back to the door, a man sticks his head out crossly and says, “Daphne.”

The domain is that of Psycho from its principal source in The Lodger. A psychologist catches a musician who murders girls, then takes up the business himself. All of this centers on a medical school.

That first walk in the woods evokes It’s a Wonderful Life in shrubs shaking ominously. Welles’ The Stranger is brought into play in dinner conversation on various murderers in history, including the Ripper. Lubitsch’s That Uncertain Feeling is perhaps satirized in the envy of the therapist.

Lyn Murray’s score nearly quotes Richard Strauss’s Salome at the climax.


The New Exhibit
The Twilight Zone

The defense of crime as a work of art consumes the critic, Beaumont imagines a Murderers Row of wax dummies in a museum, the curator succumbs to their witless accomplishments and becomes a wax dummy himself, in Brussels.


Death And The Joyful Woman
The Alfred Hitchcock Hour

The Joyful Woman is a wine produced in magnums at the Aguilar vineyards. Luis Aguilar dreamed all his life of uniting his vines to those of his neighbor through the marriage of his son to Kitty Norris. These, he allows, are “considerations of empire”.

The boy has married a harvester instead. Aguilar cuts him off without a penny save his eventual inheritance, calls him “Mr. X”, goads him into anger and offers a pistol, which is refused. Both engage in a family ritual, drinking the old man under the table for a tidy sum of cash. The boy loses.

Aguilar himself proposes to Kitty in the tasting room. She pushes him down the stairs, his devoted secretary has long been promised marriage and now avails herself of this opportunity to bash his brains out with an empty bottle. She takes the gun and marches an inquisitive servant to the cellars, but there are no bullets so she clubs him with it, dumps the body in a large oaken vat, opens the pipe to fill it and closes the lid.

The sheriff arrives to rouse the secretary from an overdose of sleeping pills. Her second victim is fished out alive, the sheriff’s son and a fond admirer of Kitty, who stirs him from semi-consciousness with the promise of “a gold star” if he behaves.

Gilbert Roland and Laraine Day are Aguilar and his secretary, Don Galloway the sober drip of a son. Tom Lowell gives a great performance as the dutiful waiter at Aguilar’s annual Harvest Ball.


You Drive
The Twilight Zone

This is Earl Hamner, Jr.’s idea of King Saul and David, transported to a suburban milieu where an executive preoccupied with a younger rival hits a paperboy one rainy evening with his car, which haunts him until he accepts a driverless ride in it to the police.

Brahm’s direction has a clarity that’s striking from the first. Wet streets, plain verisimilitude, Edward Andrews’ horror and dissimulation, Hellena Westcott’s rational bewilderment as the wife, Kevin Hagen’s turn as a helpful man of temperament, the interior of the house, airy and clean, with the living room open to the kitchen and its far door leading to the garage, where Andrews has to subdue headlights that blink on and off, a blaring horn in the middle of the night, and a car radio giving the news out of the junior executive’s arrest.

Andrews takes a hammer to the car and walks to work, but it drives alongside him with a camera showing no-one at the wheel as he tries to outwit and escape it. His life is spared when he slips on the street, and he meekly gets in through the open passenger door.


Murder Case
The Alfred Hitchcock Hour

Cleopatra in a New York run of Shaw’s play has an affair with a spear-carrier, but marries a wealthy Englishman who produces a play for her in London.

“Murder Case” opens with auditions for the part of an American boxer in the play, which is called The Count of Ten but resembles Golden Boy in the accidental death of the boxer’s opponent.

The spear-carrier gets the part, the play is a hit, she acquiesces in his plot to kill her husband. And so you have the image of Joe Bonaparte dumping Caesar’s body in the North Sea, only to be caught in turn with Cleopatra’s in the boot of his car.


Queen of the Nile
The Twilight Zone

A very great movie star is interviewed by a columnist who learns that the secret of her enduring beauty is she turns inquiring columnists into ash.

She was a Floradora girl and the fairest of them all, made Queen of the Nile twice (silent and sound) and sat for her portrait in 1940 to a painter named Bersonne (the art department’s joke, personne is French for “no-one”).

This requires Ann Blyth for the full effect, she opens her mouth and speaks magisterially like a contract player who’s become a goddess.

Her daughter is a bitter, envious crone. The columnist is a prying boor. The outstanding feature of Brahm’s direction is that he plays it straight, with no English on the ball and no parody.

The star describes the painter as “wildly creative, it was his genius to project the flowering of a fragile blossom, as he put it.”


Final Performance
The Alfred Hitchcock Hour

The writer setting out for television passes through this essential conundrum. The death of vaudeville in television’s ubiquity, the vaudeville of a dead actress in the hands of a ventriloquist.

A passerby stirs the leaves of a May-December marriage. Things seem to fall in his direction, then they shift to hostility (he gives her a lift, she summons the sheriff). It’s a show business tale, a wayside inn, a bridal costume, a trouper’s trunks.

Rudolph the Great, the World’s Greatest Ventriloquist, a venerable act. The young man breaks his Edsel out of the garage and goes to find the girl. All in white, motionless, she’s like Muriel’s punchline, “what’s the matter?” An appointment is made, she doesn’t show, she’s rehearsing, says her husband. The unseen heft of a knife, her pliable form, Rudolph beside her as she explains across the room her decision not to go, in a voice belonging to him.


The Trap
The Alfred Hitchcock Hour

In effect, a rather Nabokovian spoof of Malle’s Ascenseur pour l’échafaud. The plan is to kill the boss by trapping him in his elevator. This goes awry, the lover dies there instead.

The joy is in the details. A toy manufacturer hires a male secretary from Princeton, a shorthand champion whose Army sergeant called him “Princeton”. The wife is bored and unfaithful Miss Stuffed Toy of 1957. The boss is a self-made man, jovial and enthusiastic about his toys, canny and successful enough to work at home.

Brahm gets up a handheld camera for the Pinteresque game of Go-Ball in his office, a small tetherball swatted with paddles.

The ornate grille of the elevator in his New York townhouse is a great study. It comes with an explanation of the fuse box.

The wife is at their country house, the husband’s in Chicago, the lover is in Rome. A little girl’s teddy bear gives her second thoughts, she races back to the city. “Too bad we can’t bury him in it,” says her husband.