Shadows on the Wall
Dr. Brigham is slowly murdering his sister, who inherited the house. She dies, her shadow is seen on the wall, produced by no light. Another sister gives him at one dose the poison he administered over years, lest he sell the house and all their belongings. His shadow appears, so that the two are seen in the postures of a quarter-century, the one in bed excitedly listening as the other reads Dickens to her.
There is a certain sense in which Cries and Whispers is closely anticipated, the fearful moribund, the foolish sibling and the stern one (Rachel Roberts, Grayson Hall). Corey starts from Agnes Moorehead’s startling visage and Louis Hayward’s speaking voice as he reads, in a composition making great play with his shadow on the green wall in the background, the bed lateral in the foreground. Admirable control sustains the preparation in cast shadows throughout.
The Glendalough Military Academy is a peculiar institution, a place of perpetual enrollment. It is the last destination for any young “rotter” abandoned there by his parents. Cadets become men at Glendalough, middle-aged men, old men.
Serling’s concise telling of this deals it out during a visit by the father of just such a prospect. The mother has died in a boating accident, “there were rumors”. Corey directs it on clear, strong lines and angles that are not even in the most far-removed sense of the term “academic”.
The Dear Departed
The medium and his two assistants are carny folk, his sense of style has carried them to a social stratum that includes people of wealth and standing, even a Senator.
The assistants are a married couple, he is the prop man or mechanic, working the dummy heads and recorded voices, she receives the clientele. The “track is too fast” for Joe, but he promises to stay because he’s needed. Angie is having an affair with the medium, who tells her Joe’s “an artist, baby,” and to his face calls him “the Michelangelo of prop men, a regular Leonardo da Vinci”.
Joe is killed by a passing truck one night, they’re eating out, Angie wants to be alone with Mark, “my hair hurts,” she says. Joe will be sent to a double feature (he names the bill, Dark Intruder and Destiny of a Spy), “who’ll hold my seat while I go for popcorn?” Mark relents, Joe goes across the street to get some aspirin for Angie’s headache. Angie is greatly disappointed (“all glands, no brains,” Mark says, “that’s your trouble, baby”), a policeman walks in and tells them Joe is dead.
In contrast to the opening séance, at which a little girl not only speaks to her despairing mother from beyond the grave but presents her with a favorite stuffed elephant, the next one goes rather badly. Mark rigs the pedal and wire himself for the main act, Angie drops the wire operating a tambourine played by the spirit guide, Running Deer of the Arapahoe, eliciting a patron’s remark. The voice of the widow’s dear departed is played too fast and high, then slows down to a crawl and stops.
Cigar smoke is seen, explaining the broken contact, despite a strict prohibition, “the spirits are opposed to tobacco” (Joe’s cigar, according to Angie, made the place smell “like a snooker parlor”, and he drank). It is Joe, not one of their dummy heads but a green and glowing one, cheerful as always. He made a promise to Mark, “you said you needed me, we’re gonna stay a team forever.”
Indian tribal masks decorate the damask walls, with a large brass plate dominating the room. The little girl’s mother gives the medium an offering after the first séance, “you’re a saint, an absolute saint.” Joe inquires, “what’s the going price of sainthood?” Mark tells him, “500 bucks”.
Steve Lawrence, Harvey Lembeck and Maureen Arthur have the parts, the Nabokovian teleplay is by Rod Serling out of Alice-Mary Schnirring.
Quoth the Raven
Edgar Allan Poe wrote “The Raven” seated at his desk with a quill pen and a glass of sherry, Marty Allen wears a mustache for this role. “Once upon a midnight dreary,” he inscribes, speaking aloud, and “While I pondered weak and—.”
He stops, pondering the rhyme. “Weary!” The voice comes from a raven perched atop a carven bust of Pallas Athena, above his chamber door. “Weak and weary, dummy! Can’t you get anything right? Weak and weary!” Poe hurls his glass at the bird and misses it.
The humorous tone of the poem with its Nabokovian firebird sprouting from a goddess of antiquity is exacerbated by this nagging to a point justifying the comedian’s appearance.
The present, which dates from 1989, is made up of electronic maps, programmable telephones, security cameras and non-smoking. It comes as a vision to a deceived wife twenty years earlier, and warns her against jealousy. She kills her husband in the arms of their French maid, then herself in jail awaiting trial.
The vision is of her son and his unpossessive wife. Lost driving on dark streets that rain on her alone, she finds herself at their house. He is a whiz with gadgets. The cousin from back East her husband went out with raised the boy and gave him her name, jealousy “destroyed” his mother.
Her husband mocks her at home in a crone’s mask and wig, insanely jealous. The maid provocatively bars his way up the stairs.
The painting is of a man with a greenish child on his breast or within him. Having understood the vision, the wife contrives to have her son receive her picture, she accepts his forgiveness in advance, “he said I was very beautiful.” Father and son David are played by the same actor.
A woman above, a fish below. The doctor says “throw it back,” Lindemann cannot abide that. The quack says, “I will make it walk on two legs, I will.” The charm works, the sea captain has his bride, a fish-head on human feet.
One of those oracular pronouncements that are the boon of an analytical style such as Serling’s. The image is surprisingly lifelike.
The Late Mr. Peddington
The terms of her husband’s will place Mrs. Peddington on a tight budget for two years, therefore she is shopping to find an economical undertaker.
Nothing fancy, no casket, cosmetics or cerements. Ash, “he always respected real estate”.
Cause of death, a ten-story fall from a balcony removed for structural repairs without his knowledge. Out the glass door and down to the pavement.
Mr. Conway has one dead certainty in his life, other than the consolation of drink, and that’s his ability not to be underbid. To his son and assistant, he explains what happens next. “She was shopping, now she has to go home and—.” Corey cuts to the body falling.
A great performance by Harry Morgan, played mainly to Kim Hunter’s monologue on a selfish, stingy husband.
Deliveries in the Rear
A pair of ghouls, Serling’s Burke & Hare, “a breed of social subhumans”, keep Dr. Fletcher supplied with cadavers, unembalmed and useless or freshly bludgeoned, “absolute Jim Dandy”. He has his doubts, moral outrage is a luxury, he has a class of surgeons to instruct, “no individual life is of consequence if it means the saving of many lives”.
His fiancée Barbara plays the clavichord, her father expresses the concern of Dr. Shockman that his colleague has strayed far afield. The cadaver reused time and again in class was a “nameless derelict—we give him a kind of immortality, we put him to work,” on the contrary, you “rob him of his own right to live,” Barbara’s father says.
The cadaver was a Charley Woods, his widow exclaims, “you’ve got me Charley! Every day you cut into him—ghoul!” Dr. Shockman receives her. A detective and an Irish cop wring Dr. Fletcher’s neck or nearly, he puts in a rush order for a female cadaver, “hunting on the wing” costs twice as much, “risky”. No Charley Woods at all he shows the class (Dr. Shockman is in attendance—one student had thought the cadaver “unappetizing”), nothing but the march of progress, “nerves more important than muscles”, and Barbara lying upon the gurney to his surprise, absolutely dead.
You Can’t Get Help
Like That Anymore
The machines have a survival instinct, so that when the drunken husband accosts the beautiful and lifelike maid, so bringing down the wrath of the philandering wife, the robot is not destroyed and returned as defective but strikes out in its own defense.
And then what a bothersome thing it is to have these front men at the sales office, these technicians and lab men. All these human types go in the show window.
“Number 12 Looks Just Like You” has this same feature (The Twilight Zone). The same nightmare is at the bottom of “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street” and “A Thing About Machines”, also “The After Hours” elaborately.
Eye of the Haunted
The Sixth Sense
Corey directs this masterfully on a useful analytic model. Day exteriors are governed by camera movement, night interiors by lighting. The finale is a night exterior with an effect of moonlight, in which editing prepares the “ghostly” manifestations that precipitate the conclusion.
A psychopath kills a professorial female acquaintance of Dr. Rhodes’, her sister is so like her as to be her ghost. The vision of an eye looking everywhere leads Dr. Rhodes to a mind-reading salon, where the proprietress has dealt with ghosts before, and is the killer’s mother.
A little pan-tilt-and-zoom à la Frankenheimer, throw lighting on a natural plan, the cemetery where the “wished-back” dead vanish at the shot of a silver bullet per the seeress’s instructions, make up the dramatic layout of Corey’s direction, along with an unexpected treatment of actors that is only to be expected of him.
Nemerov’s attic, O’Neill’s dilemma, Mallarmé’s blank paper.
“Up in the attic, among many things / Inherited and out of style, / I cried, then fell asleep awhile.” The illusion of emulation is no remedy (Long Day’s Journey into Night), one might burke the issue altogether (The Iceman Cometh).
Corey has pictures of all this, from Robert Malcolm Young’s teleplay of Kurt von Elting’s story. It’s a haunted house, trunk in the attic, centuries-old spirits, Halloween “witches and warlocks abroad in the land, revisiting their former homes.”
Ennui nods at the typewriter in an attic study, the spirit leaves a depression in the pillow. The wife is affrighted, the trunk is locked and cannot be moved. “I charge thee,” says a crone’s voice, “be done with it! Possess her now!” The spirit replies, “Have I not tried? Her innocence foils me.” The crone again, “There is no innocence beyond the grave! Through his offices then you shall possess her!”
A note is typed, all in caps. His satanic majesty the prince of darkness commands, “it must be that the young woman with a scalding white liquid past her lips and down her throat on the sabbath day night be executed by the young man for her soul’s forfeit.” A warning, this.
Crickets cease upon the motion of the trunk, inducing sleep. “I’ll write something... anything!”
Three months, no progress, nothing coming in, no cocoa in his hot milk. “Thou shouldest try to manage better,” he says, and starts to pour the scalding white liquid past her lips and down her throat, a knock on the door, two trick-or-treaters (from Kafka), then the cadaverous old ghost, he’ll take the trunk, climbs the stairs.
“Day dawns on art for all,” the trunk’s still there, a note attached to it ignites in the writer’s hand. Next Halloween, then, “It will be called for.” They move out, bag and baggage.
A Caravaggio light in the occluded bedroom, acting that is directly to the point however obscure, very fine art direction.