The Shelter
The Twilight Zone

Serling’s Noah has built a bomb shelter, and the construction of the teleplay allows the revelation of his neighbors’ characters in the face of the great disaster, which Serling calls off, having made the point.

As directed by Johnson, this often looks as if it were filmed live with two or more cameras, with such striking dramatic immediacy that the force of the argument all but carries itself to a conclusion resembling that of Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People, and with attendant ironies (including Serling’s famous call for submissions, which proved unworkable and inundating in the last analysis).

One of Serling’s greatest compositions, an example of his fearless surrealism and at the same time of his hocus-pocus, you have to go back to Nabokov’s plays in the Thirties to find something quite like this.

The suburban doctor is feted with a surprise party, something he loathes, and a “sloppy, sentimental speech” from “a dirty dog” in his own home. He’s cared for these people over the past twenty years, the sudden shift is registered on his psyche as a missile attack, they clamor at him for room in his basement shelter, they should have built their own he tells them, a battering ram opens the steel door of his defenses, the missiles are only satellites, their bonhomie returns more or less, he is shattered.

The Ibsen healer in a plague spot, the equation drawn up for all to see. The famous meeting of Robert Lowell (“sometimes I feel too full of myself”) and Robert Frost (“I think how little good my health did anyone near me”).

 

Five Characters in Search of an Exit
The Twilight Zone

Beckett’s The Lost Ones similarly conceives a cylindrical universe. Twice the inhabitants try to escape by standing on each other’s shoulders, first in a Statue of Liberty play with the ballet dancer on top (she cannot reach the rim), the bagpiper, the hobo, the clown and the major, then with the major on top and the clown on the bottom (the injured ballerina sits this one out). The major hooks his saber over the rim, climbs up and falls out into the snow, where a little girl picks up the little doll he is and replaces him in the sidewalk barrel of the Viewpark Girl’s Home 17th Annual Christmas Doll Drive, cf. Earl Hamner, Jr.’s “Stopover in a Quiet Town” (dir. Ron Winston) inter alia.

 

Nothing in the Dark
The Twilight Zone

Serling goes so far as to parody Eliot, “what you feared would come like an explosion, is like a whisper. What you feared was the end, is the beginning...”

As often happens with Serling, this is mistaken for something else, Albee’s The American Dream.

The insidiousness of a wounded policeman demanding succor from an old woman whose tenement home is threatened with imminent demolition is revealed after twenty minutes or so when he announces himself as Mr. Death, and after four decades or so by the legislated sale of television airwaves to accommodate police and fire communications. “There’s nothing in the dark that wasn’t there when the lights were on,” Serling warns us.

No useful bids were actually offered by police and security services at the FCC auction.

 

One More Pallbearer
The Twilight Zone

The destruction of New York, “the end of the world”, to provide a savior and a refuge to his bÍtes noires, “the hydrogen bomb is not an illusion.The details of the construction are absorbingly concentrated and of the utmost interest, the hill not taken in 1942 is from Wyler’s The Best Years of Our Lives