And When the Sky Was Opened
The Twilight Zone

Three astronauts “leave home” for a day and return. Two go into a bar, the first calls his parents and doesn’t exist. The second is berated by his girl and doesn’t exist. The third, in his hospital bed, hears the tale and doesn’t exist.

“Justify our leaving home,” says André Breton, who doubtless has his critics. There’s a girl at the bar, and a nurse at the hospital.

The three Air Force test pilots are two or one or none at all, finally, it’s like a countdown. Each remembers a past that isn’t there suddenly, each vanishes in torment. As in Albee’s Tiny Alice, there is a span of time missing, the better part of a day in this instance. The experimental interceptor X-20 is gone from its hangar.

The first disappears in a phone booth at the bar. The second, who alone remembers the first, follows outside a room in an Air Force hospital. The third, who remembers the second, leaves Room 15 empty.

The inspiration might have come from Eliot, citing Shackleton with reference to Emmaus (and tacitly Daniel 3:25).

Rod Taylor’s shattering performance conveys all the degrees of fear and trepidation, even to roaring panic, as well as other and more amiable qualities. His finest effect reveals a secure technique in a momentary doubt over the truth of his own knowledge in the split second after the change of circumstances following the disappearance of his colleague is reflected in an altered headline on the day’s newspaper in front of his face. Charles Aidman and Jim Hutton second him in blank terror and anguish.

Heyes also is most proficient with another shot, a close-up in profile that follows a curved tracking pan to full face and cranes down slightly for an up-angle of Taylor in the throes, against an outside window and then, a monumental head or John the Baptist’s, alone with ceiling and corner for background.

Col. Harrington (Aidman) calls home, his parents don’t know him, gone. Lt. Col. Forbes (Taylor) sends a telegram to his girl and calls the commanding general at Anderson Air Force Base, they don’t know Harrington either, gone. Maj. Gart (Hutton) witnesses Forbes’ disappearance and sinks in horror below the frame, an Air Force doctor and nurse prepare the empty room for malaria patients.

There is not, nor was there ever, an X-20 interceptor under the tarpaulin in an Air Force hangar. Tennessee Williams has,

Those that go on through time not meant to admit them

     are the most valiant explorers.


The Twilight Zone

A truly visionary work, the inspiration for Crichton’s Westworld, and just anticipating Richardson’s The Loved One. Astronauts land on a cemetery asteroid in 2185, two hundred years after total war. The place is divided into Medieval, Roman, Egyptian and Western areas, etc. The dead are immortalized in their dearest wish, as mayor, for example, surrounded by imitations and tended by a robot.

The monumental groupings are virtuosically handled, and the really ultimate precision of the satire is decisive.

The spaceship comes from Cunha’s Missile to the Moon or Fritz Lang’s Frau im Mond, the machine terminating the human menace is turned off in Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.


The Chaser
The Twilight Zone

Deceptively simple as the construction is, it has pulled the wool over some eyes. This is a tour de force by Heyes, who devised the giant bookcase set and then a suite of camera movements within its walls.

The whole thing pivots on George Grizzard, who deftly dances between a monstrously good performance by John McIntire and another by Patricia Barry, whose characterization of a femme fatale is a balanced adversary.

Doubtless this was the inspiration for Richard Quine’s How to Murder Your Wife.


The After Hours
The Twilight Zone

Heyes’ ability to create a surface for Serling’s inwoven style is well-suited to this monumental composition. The structure is derived from the Divine Comedy for a disquisition on femininity in the ninth circle of Paradise where the department store shopper is Queen, the hellish realm of prostituted shopgirls, and the Purgatorial limbo of manikins.

This formal division lays the basis for an imagistic unity and a narrative one. The month-long sojourn among the “outsiders” is the pivot of the image, and the yachtsman/elevator operator is the key to an occluded version of Bartok’s opera Bluebeard’s Castle (filmed by Michael Powell three years later).


Nervous Man in a Four Dollar Room
The Twilight Zone

Generally speaking, this owes a debt to Preminger’s The Man with the Golden Arm (not counting the one to A Christmas Carol) that is repaid in the resemblance of William D. Gordon to Darren McGavin, as presented, and that having been said, the work is divided equally between Joe Mantell in a dual role as craven and mensch, and the camerawork establishing his dialogues before a mirror. This is where a great actor in the toils extricates himself masterfully, and it remains to be said that Cassavetes may have found his inspiration here for The Killing of a Chinese Bookie.


The Howling Man
The Twilight Zone

A bit of what Welles would call “sidearm snookery”, in that a pungent satire is presented in the form of “an age-old mystery”.

John Carradine is costumed, wigged and bearded as DeMille’s Pisgah Moses, with Frederic Ledebur as Brother Christophorus, having corralled the devil himself in the Hermitage of the Brotherhood of Truth, after the Great War. H.M. Wynant is a naïve American who looses the demon innocently, and captures him again after “the Second World War, the Korean War and the hideous new weapons of war,” only to let a housekeeper remove the Staff of Truth barring the door of his confinement.

The transformation sequence is well-remembered by Huston in The List of Adrian Messenger (and the omnipresent devil by Stevens in The Greatest Story Ever Told). The opening anticipates Beckett’s mirlitonnade,

sitôt sorti de l’ermitage
ce fut le calme après l’orage


The Private World of Darkness
The Twilight Zone

Beauty is treason in this Orwellian world, because Truth is Beauty. Heyes’ direction is famously remarkable for its somber starkness as much as its shocking homage to 1984.

Serling obfuscates the Keatsian key with an impossible feint toward “the eye of the beholder”, which only intensifies it. The original title is “The Private World of Darkness”.

His script opens with a speech by the leader deriding the open nonconformity of former times as a laughable impossibility that has now been done away with once and for all.

Heyes sketched the facial designs himself, for William Tuttle.


The Twilight Zone

Heyes filming outdoors does a trick for the viewer, accustomed as one is to his inventions on the sound stage, by finding in his Western set precisely what is needed.

The truculence of the script proffers Thomas Gomez as “a pig who sells trinkets at funerals,” and John Larch as the sheriff who says so. Vladimir Sokoloff is made to all but whine in his keening, and falls in the dust outright. Serling’s legerdemain equates the scoffer and mountebank with the shoddiness of his goods, even if it be a brand-new rope of “five-strand hemp”.

Jerry Goldsmith introduces a bass twang later heard amidst the works of Ennio Morricone.


The Invaders
The Twilight Zone

Here we have the nursery rhyme writ large,

Four and twenty tailors

Went to kill a snail,

The best man among them

Durst not touch her tail;

She put out her horns

Like a little Kyloe cow,

Run, tailors, run,

Or she’ll kill you all e’en now.

—a rhyme that also figures, come to think of it, as the ending of Antonioni’s Zabriskie Point—unless here we have to do with “Three Blind Mice” and an allusion to blind doctors and elephants.

Matheson’s terse poetry describes this failed expedition of U.S. Air Force Space Probe No. 1 as “a bill stamped paid in full.”

Jerry Goldsmith’s score is varied and remarkable.


The Dead Man
Night Gallery

A companion piece to “Whisper”, from a theatrical point of view. A hypochondriac and the son of hypochondriacs is treated by a physician with suggestion, achieving a state of complete health and something more, an ability to reproduce the symptoms of any disease whatsoever, instantaneously upon command received by a prearranged signal.

Might not one conquer death? The young man is rich, the physician’s wife maintains his interest. “I’ve created the perfect rival,” says her husband.

He forgets the signal that raises the dead, the patient is buried. A colleague finds the mistake in his notes, the frantic wife pounds on the crypt in code, the coffin is open when the colleague arrives, the body locked in death-struggle with the physician on the ground, motionless.


Who Says You Can’t Make Friends in New York City?
Man from Taos I

McCloud goes to help a lady in distress, but gets caught in a shootout that sends him back to Taos on Chief Clifford’s orders. At the last minute, the Chief is kidnapped to force McCloud to act as a courier to Paris.

We begin with a flashback and voiceover as Chris Coughlin remembers meeting Sam McCloud in Taos, returning the following year, and finally inviting him to New York (her cousin is a police commissioner who presumably has some pull with the department).

So there he is, Deputy Marshal McCloud, riding the range in Central Park of a Sunday, meeting Chris for dinner (they quarrel briefly, and she refers to his home town as “Tacos”), then returning to his hotel (fifth floor) where he hears a fight going on in the room across the hall. Later, it becomes so heated he has to intervene, six-shooter in hand, shirtless but wearing his hat. (“I’m just bunking across the hall there.”)

No trouble, say the couple, but she telephones him later for a rendezvous at—a deserted alley, it turns out. A hit man takes a few potshots at him with a silencer, McCloud kills him, and there you are.

The press call it frontier justice, and Chief Clifford has no choice but to pack his cowboy off to Taos (JFK-Albuquerque). Sitting on the plane at the terminal, McCloud is paged and sent to the locker room of the Freight Terminal Building, where the Chief is being held at gunpoint (this is where McCloud’s boss introduces him as a “trainee”). Object: force McCloud into delivering an attaché case past customs to a Mr. Recent, as McCloud pronounces his French name, in Paris.

The greatest glory of Part I, aside from some New York exteriors (especially a shot from Central Park that anticipates the Parisian second unit footage in Part II), is Saarinen’s JFK, maneuvered in with a distorting lens to emphasize the harmoniousness of its lines.



The Million Dollar Round Up

The history of The Saracen Horse, a fabulous objet d’art worth “twice a million”, is related by Mr. Jason, given to Richard the Lionhearted after the Third Crusade as a peace offering by Saladin, lost to Leopold of Germany, later in the collection of Adolf Hitler, from whom it passed to a Russian general named Khemidov who was murdered in his bed, finally coming into the hands of Signore Cimarosa, who bequeaths it to whoever can steal it.

He does so in the presence of his rivals, whom he describes as “unscrupulous.” They are presented briefly as an Arab, an Englishman, a Chinaman, a German, and an American (Mr. Jason). The skylight crashes, a gas canister fills the room, a cat burglar slides down a rope, the horse disappears.

The script applies astringent foreshortening in a rather satirical abstraction. An antique dealer in New York, whose name is Cicero, has hired a professional to filch the dingus. Cicero is double-crossed and murdered. One of New York’s finest, a sergeant thrice wounded in the service, takes possession of it on a sudden impulse. It’s snatched by a petty thief, “seven or eight years old,” masquerading as a shoeshine boy, who lives in a warehouse.

The little towser, whose name is Tobe, has also lifted McCloud’s .45, to defend himself against his rivals. “It’s like having an H-bomb,” he says, “if you’ve got one you don’t have to use it.”

Cicero’s pro is still on the trail, and so is Mr. Jason, as well as the others.


The Hotel Dick
Magnum, P.I.

Leder makes you sit up and take notice in the honeymoon suite at the Hawaiian Gardens, a cat burglar (“the Cat Man of Kauai”) interrupts the guests, the title character pursues but pauses at a roof ledge (Vertigo).

Magnum has been hired to catch the fellow, he is rebuked by the manager for interrogating a hooker over drinks in the lounge. She hides in his room, menaced by two thugs. She tried to pick a mobster’s pocket in the penthouse suite.

Rick, T.C. and Higgins help out as staff at the 7th Annual International Convention of Jewelry Designers to catch the manager and the mobster rifling the display cases, which but for Magnum might have been hit by the Cat Man of Kauai, who in the end is pursued across the gap.

Heyes has what this takes. A gag from Hitchcock’s Rich and Strange has Magnum and the girl temporarily ensconced at the King Kamehameha Club, Rick walks in for no apparent reason and asks, “are you ready?She turns, vexed, to loudly reply, “no, get the hell outta here!The confab continues, then the pair return to the Hawaiian Gardens as conventioneers.