Tales of Tomorrow
A single image covers the ground of a desert air base, spoiling the aspirations of a general’s son in command.
The unmanned rocket brings it back, a freezing blast under a blazing sun. All human life is threatened, the commanding officer goes up himself to dispel it.
Edmon Ryan has this role, against Raymond Bailey as an auditing congressman (Michael Gorrin is a resident scientist, Paul Newman a sergeant). The tale is closely related to “The Case of the Misguided Missile” (Perry Mason).
I’m a Fool
General Electric Theater
A Midwestern roustabout (Eddie Albert) regales the camera with the greatest folly of his youth, the time he played up to a girl as someone else and lost her forever.
Behind him is his childhood home, his younger self (James Dean) walks on and says goodbye, he’s off to Sandusky.
There he gets a job at the race track as a stable hand for Burt (Roy Glenn), a groom.
On the town, he’s dressed to the nines but discombobulated by a swell. He meets the girl (Natalie Wood), fobs himself off as a racing scion. They watch a race and walk by the river in the moonlight.
She catches a train, promising to write to his nonexistent person.
Older and rueful, he laments his mistake, the very worst of his life.
One of the miracles of live television.
Triggers In Leash
Alfred Hitchcock Presents
The Cold War is represented as two gunslingers out to do each other in because of a quarrel over a game of cards, an act of God prevents them, it is seen to be providential wisdom in a woman who cooks their breakfast at her eating house on a rainy day.
A comic masterpiece well-directed by Medford, acted by Gene Barry and Darren McGavin like Calaveras frogs on a griddle while Ellen Corby tends kitchen.
Into Thin Air
Alfred Hitchcock Presents
Tragic and dismal in the last degree, carefully distinguished from Fisher & Darnborough’s So Long at the Fair, a terrible loss on the Continent from which Hitchcock can only expect to make a comeback, as he puts it.
The exquisite detail is that the missing person’s room has been entirely redecorated so that memory may not serve for a witness.
Hitchcock mentions his own earlier version, The Lady Vanishes, Polanski has another, Frantic, and there is The Man Who Knew Too Much, Foreign Correspondent, North By Northwest, etc.
A Baudelairean theme is presented in the guise of an elaborate memory of Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life. A jazz trumpeter abandons his life because of his unsuccess, the angel Gabriel himself appears to set him right about a few things.
As in Matheson’s “A World of Difference”, the main theme is taken from “The double room”, and here another prose poem is brought technically into play to develop the form.
“You’re the one that’s alive,” he isn’t heard because they’re all dead and don’t know it. “Get drunk,” the poet said, “on wine, on poetry or on virtue, as you please!”
The specific point at which Serling meets Capra is the selling of the trumpet. Job’s family in Blake have hung their instruments on the wall, only later do they take them down and play, a symbol of prayer.
The Man in the Bottle
The Twilight Zone
Into Arthur Castle’s shop of Antiques & Curios there steps an old woman, a regular client, who has a family heirloom for sale. Actually it’s a wine bottle she found in an alley. She’s desperate, he gives her a dollar for it.
Castle and his wife are months behind with their bills, the shop is on the verge of bankruptcy. It killed his grandfather and his father, and has become “a shrine to failure itself.”
The bottle has a genie in it. He fixes the display case, showers them with money, endows Castle with absolute power and takes it back. These are the four wishes granted once in “a century and a year”.
The tax man takes the fortune, Castle is Hitler in the bunker, the flask of cyanide he flings to the floor in renunciation becomes the wine bottle in shards on the shop floor. Sweeping them up, he breaks the display case again.
The S.S. Morro Castle burns, a mob collector jumps ship with a million in his money belt. A henchman is grilled by the title characters, who shine flashlights at him in the dark. “Judge” Foley turns on the light. “I’ve heard you’re psycho,” says the witness. “The word is psychic,” the judge replies.
The henchman is tailed to the collector, who escapes by answering an ad to share a ride with Mrs. Wagnahl on her annual trip to commemorate her honeymoon. She kills him en route and buries him next to her husband and all the other men who’ve made the trip. She dies shot by Foley after an interrogation and a fiery shootout with Ness and the squad, having memorized the collector’s list of mob names but too weak to repeat it for Ness.
Richard Devon plays to Joan Blondell’s “devil-worshiper”, a slight exaggeration of her cheeriest demeanor. She’s fantastic, but as Judge Foley says, “we’re big business”, Devon hews the line of admiration and annoyance. Blondell’s death scene in a hospital bed moves from exhaustion to a Mae West archetype and a unique expression of beauty.
The Lily Dallas Story
Lily was brought up by Jack “Legs” Diamond, she’s a mastermind of sorts (“not smart enough to stay out of prison,” Ness observes) who makes her world into an image she keeps fresh, like the clientele at her Fleur de Lis Beauty Salon. Her latest husband is her own creation, a Tommy-gun expert called “Blackie”, really a mild man with a manufactured reputation, once a bootlegger.
Her gang kidnaps a millionaire and then kills him on her orders. The ransom money is marked. They rob a bank and kill their own inside man to silence him.
Blackie won’t do in a recalcitrant fence, Lily takes the Tommy gun and blasts him herself, then a toy merry-go-round in his shop because it reminds her of the daughter she neglects.
She dumps her husband for a bank robber, and dies when the worm turns.
The Nick Acropolis Story
Nick’s flower shop is a front, he’s got the book in six states, from horse racing to cockfighting. But he has a brother-in-law who plays and loses with the proceeds, and a henchman who wants to be big.
The brother-in-law kills another bookie to pay back Nick, his sister won’t let Nick kill him. The henchman wants Nick dead, he says, and kills the brother-in-law when he tries it. Nick makes him a partner.
Nitti wants half, Nick threatens war, Nitti takes a quarter. The partner sends two hoods to Nitti from Nick, they’re gunned down after a warning from the man who sent them.
Nick is about to go under, he reasons it out. Armed with a pair of shears, he goes after his partner in the flower shop (“I’m gonna cut your heart out”) and is wounded. Ness and the squad pull up and shoot it out with the partner, who is killed.
“Truly loved,” was Nick. His wife walks out after her brother’s death, but wouldn’t abandon him for her brother’s sake. Their marriage survives his imprisonment.
Ness has a time with Nick’s cryptic books, an expert has to be called in, leading to a fortune kept in a safe deposit box.
“You are me,” says the overthrown dictator to the victorious rebel, “we care for no-one but ourselves.” His magic mirror shows the face of his assassins.
And sure enough, there they are, among the new government, more quickly dispatched even than the thousands of prisoners executed round the clock.
This is a summation of “Mr. Denton on Doomsday” and “A Game of Pool” on the subject of faith and works, and briskly posits a state of war between man and God “through a glass, darkly,” suggesting the game is up entirely without a state of grace supervening.
The Twilight Zone
A dramatic representation of the witness borne by such places as Dachau, and therefore a plea against the simple desire to see them effaced.
The Kommandant of Dachau returns for a visit. The drama has precisely two events. Oscar Beregi as the Kommandant exults in his reminiscences, turns and sees Joseph Schildkraut in a prisoner’s uniform. The ghosts of all the inmates pronounce sentence, and the Kommandant is struck mad.
Serling’s formulation on the madman’s previous state is simple, he and his fellows “walked the earth without a heart”, the master race followed orders. The entire work is a variant of “The Obsolete Man”.
The Twilight Zone
Even in the future, Mallarmé’s shipwreck, a perennial item.
Scenes from home, that is to say Earth, people the thing.
The planet has no name, thirteenth in its star system, semi-tropical, freezing at night.
The question is begged ad infinitum with an allusion to the Flying Dutchman in “the darkest nightmare reaches of the Twilight Zone.”
To Trap a Spy
The new Western Ntumban premier is a tool of WASP.
U.N.C.L.E. is under the impression that he is targeted for assassination, his War and Economics ministers are, in Maryland, at the Global Chemical Corporation plant run by Andrew Vulcan, an investor in Western Ntumba, synthetics are the main product.
“The Vulcan Affair”.
Inspired score by Jerry Goldsmith.
A common American housewife is inveigled into it as an old college chum of Vulcan’s, gussied up for Washington society.
Luciana Paluzzi is a WASP agent, Patricia Crowley the American materfamilias, Fritz Weaver the schemer.
The Hunting Party
Stroheim’s Greed is ultimately the key to the all-encompassing satire of Medford’s film, as revealed in the final scenes. Tycoon and outlaw and borrowed bride die in the desert after a long pursuit (Stroheim has a mule stand in for the girl).
Critics could not wait, despite a screenplay signed by the author of Pollack’s The Scalphunters and Laven’s Sam Whiskey, and did not see this, which left them at a disadvantage. “Seldom,” said Variety, “has so much fake blood been splattered for so little reason,” which is an ironic observation quite close to the meaning of the film. Roger Greenspun (New York Times) found only “a really stupid movie”. Halliwell similarly has “crude, brutish and repellent melodrama”, which is pretty much how Mordaunt Hall saw Greed in 1924 without missing the point.
The basis of the screenplay is Robert Wise’s Executive Suite. The technique and style reflect Medford’s extensive work on The Untouchables.
These points have evidently been lost on critics. The chase and gun-battle in an unfinished BART station is later moved down south for the MTA in Donner’s Lethal Weapon 3, however.
The “domestic asides” complained of as immaterial in They Call Me MISTER Tibbs! are even more concentrated, and now mirror the action even more obliquely as brief but solid increments of the main story looked at another way.
Century Furniture, a manufacturer that also imports from Hong Kong, is a front for heroin smuggling via Paris and Istanbul (an expressive range of metaphor with San Francisco). College kids, a Marine vet, a preacher, a former dealer (the collegiates are in track & field at San Francisco State, one works in a sporting goods store by day and studies law at night) rob the place of its latest heroin shipment in the film’s opening sequence. They blow up the factory gate upon leaving, to bring in the cops.
A Century Furniture executive is found shot to death, they didn’t do it. Det. Tibbs takes the case personally.
A very wealthy night watchman has a beautiful wife in a posh condominium, she professes ignorance of his activities but turns out to be the carrier. Two executives of the organization silenced the victim and are themselves assassinated before they can testify.
The screenwriter is James R. Webb, the score is by Gil Mellé.