The Silence
The Twilight Zone

An aggressively complicated satire, closely related to “Back There”, against substanceless poseurs who band together in clubs sequestered from their wives and give each other the semblance of existence.

The true condition of these men is revealed at the close when one of them lowers an article of clothing to display a surgical scar.


The Arrival
The Twilight Zone

“The national pastime in the Twilight Zone” is analysis, or the solving of puzzles such as this, an elevation of the blind doctors and the elephant into the skies of modern aviation that culminates in precisely the kind of shaggy dog story indicated by Toscanini on Tradition, “the last bad performance.”

Critical animadversions against this episode are, not to put too fine a point on it, hysterical.


Alfred Hitchcock Presents

The jealous woman who breaks up a happy couple is a circus performer in a chimpanzee suit, a dwarf (the couple are a mind-reading act with no future).

Hitchcock with a moon pilot.


The Test
Alfred Hitchcock Presents

Murder case, acquittal, still not beyond doubt.

The father of the accused takes it in hand.

Sing along with Hitch, to drown out the commercials.


A Day in June

Pirosh & Sagal’s D-Day is translated in a slate of potential images. A farmhouse off the beach is the squad’s objective, where prisoners are being held, paratroopers. This isn’t known, that’s the objective, to find out.

Technical Sergeant Hanley and Sergeant Saunders woo the same girl in London, and contrive a rendezvous on the eve of battle.

Pvt. Braddock scans the weather, “fog or low-hanging clouds”, he can’t say which. There is a pool to decide the date, he tries to sell his ticket.

A vicar rises in the pulpit to give thanks on behalf of “this happy breed” for help received. Are those paratroopers flying out overhead, or bombers?

Seven weeks of waiting, then “anti-seasick pills” are issued. Saunders’ advice to new recruits, “think of something else... a pretty girl.”

All this in the way of remembrance, the squad is holed up in a building on a rainy night, the subject swiftly turns to how Braddock won the D-Day pool.


The Thousand Plane Raid

There is only one, or a handful, of the planes in question. It swoops down on the field (Lompoc standing in for England) within inches of the ground, filmed in a wide pan from right to left. A second run filmed contrariwise at another angle shows this as impossibly close, a B-17 hugging the ground and flying away. The drama of it is a Limey pilot showing off, and he is rebuked.

Mostly it’s the drama of the new idea, and how hard it goes. You can’t just order a thousand plane raid (even if you’ve got ‘em), you have to muster the skill and tactics that go with it. Mind you, the joke’s never on Sagal nor his actors nor his crew, but he does have an overhead shot of an officers’ car entering the HQ yard (this is the house used in Columbo: Dagger of the Mind) like a very large turtle.

The film opens with an eighteen-plane raid, limping back and wistful for more action and better work. Sagal’s incidental survey of the B-17 design (against rear projections) is telling, and but for the novelistic treatment (which has confused some) his realism is the thing made visible, and remarkably so also in a sense of the English airfield attained in early morning light.


Mosquito Squadron

Operation Jericho (Amiens, 1944), filmed as a variant of The Dam Busters with bombs that bounce on dry land to become horizontal projectiles (against the chateau wall, for instance, permitting the Resistance to gain entry). It has good structural use of contemporary design (notably the planes) to attach a sense of governance to a mise en scène designed to register the look of color film in WWII (comparable to The Dirty Dozen in this regard).

The death of the priest is exactly repeated in Romero, with perhaps an echo of The Bridge on the River Kwai.


The Omega Man

A Sino-Soviet border war, with “bacilli-carrying missiles”.

The distinction between the secondary and tertiary stages of the plague is an important one.

MacDougall’s The World, the Flesh and the Devil, Salkow’s The Last Man on Earth and Dearden’s Khartoum are the bases of the conformation, “where Christ’s blood streams in the firmament!”

Critics seem never to have noticed the genius of the film, a companion piece to Fleischer’s Soylent Green like bread and wine.


The Disposal Man

The theme is brilliantly stated in the stylistic pirouette of the opening scene. McCloud and Chris Coughlin are at a Chinese restaurant. Her columns praising him in the New York Chronicle are exciting the jealousy of his fellow officers. She has to be objective, she says. They order drinks, he wants fruit juice, their waitress has “a couple of grapefruit” she could squeeze for him. “Squeeze away,” says Marshal McCloud, “there ya go.” At the bar, Malcolm Petrie (Pat Renella) is holding a nervous confab with Frank Gordon (Jack Carter), who interrupts it drunkenly and loudly to rail against cops in general and that cowboy over there in particular. Finally, Gordon advances upon McCloud and draws a switchblade. Wrestled to the floor, he suddenly addresses the marshal by name, and in a perfectly quiet and sober voice tells him that a contract is out on a certain very famous man.

Gordon denies it all at headquarters, but McCloud is nevertheless assigned to protect Arthur Yerby (Patrick O’Neal), the very famous man with a half-deaf tailor and an art dealer who sells him knockoffs. McCloud knows him to be very rich, and discovers he has many enemies, even among his own family.

Petrie meets a hit man (James Olson) at the airport, whose aliases are Thomas Dane and Alan Roberts. McCloud confers with a paroled and retired assassin, Sid Nylan (Arthur O’Connell), who briefly explains the techniques employed by a “disposal man”. For close work, auto accidents and heart attacks (induced by poison gas from a small tube) are best. If security is too tight, sniping’s the only way. Asked by Nylan if he was in the service (if there’s one thing Nylan can’t stand, it’s a hypocrite), McCloud replies that he flew Air Force reconnaissance missions in Korea.

Petrie engages a prostitute (Nita Talbot) for the lonely disposal man stuck in his hotel room until zero hour, but she is dismissed. McCloud tracks her down, but she won’t help. Instead, she snoops on her own and is killed with a poison-gas tube.

After a first attempt at the airport (Yerby is in town for “a big proxy fight”), and another from his hotel window, the disposal man trails Yerby to an art warehouse, where Edward Kienholz’s The Beanery (1965) and Back Seat Dodge ‘38 (1964) are reflected in the sculpture, with significant differences. The couple are not embracing in the back seat of the old Dodge, rather she is being throttled in the front seat, and the customers at Barney’s Beanery are mannequins, one of which (with a cowboy hat on) is beheaded in the shootout. A surgical operation is also represented in the style of the sculptor George Segal. The showdown reflects The Lady from Shanghai.

Yerby’s son Philip (Randolph Mantooth) is described by his father as feeling “what every good son feels toward his father—paralyzing fear,” but Philip isn’t afraid, only inept, as his mother (Jean Allison) explains, before calling the police to have him arrested.

In the end, Yerby the “empire builder” is all alone.

Sagal activates the Universal back lot with throngs and jackhammers. The disposal man’s second-floor vantage on Burton Rill’s Custom Tailoring across the street from the hotel resembles The Sting’s set-up, and there is a sense of New York in the summertime.




The Greenhouse Jungle

Jonathan Latimer’s joking script, at the acid level of a dry martini, is a series of controlled explosions. Sagal’s tour de force is an application of the camera that matches it, so tight, tense and controlled that one whip pan bursts into editing (jump cut or speed-up).

Add to this Ray Milland, Arlene Martel, Bradford Dillman, etc. Sagal is always there to catch their act, usually in close-ups allowed to register telling and descriptive expressions, Milland’s watchful gaze of concerned anticipation is a gleeful hilarity. Martel has a smooth, steady reading of lines like this, in response to Milland asking if she doesn’t like orchids,

They’re my favorite corsage.

Orchids abound, usually in foregrounds as the camera follows the action meticulously, featuring a costly Moth (or Moss) Orchid and a Cattleya from Brazil.


Candidate for Crime

An interesting concatenation of effects and things (this being an unusually tactile episode) elucidates a five-handed script setting forth the Wag the Dog or Pearl Harbor myth, a candidate for high office with a mistress engineers an assassination attempt against himself, under the cloak of which he murders his campaign manager, who sensibly has advised him against philandering. The security of its hollow madness brings the plot to nothing, and allows Sagal to deploy a flexible camera style in the required rally and cocktail party scenes, as well as high comedy in an improvisational style for a long take between Peter Falk and Vito Scotti.

The freedom of deployment is developed in the script, which happily sends Columbo off on a tangent to bring his randomly-inspected car into compliance (the scene of the road inspection includes one little shot that demonstrates Sagal’s style, Columbo is asked for his license, and the camera moves over enough to show him rummaging through his glove compartment for it, then moves back as if content with his discovery). More things, at the dedication of a senior citizen center, presided over by the candidate’s wife (Joanne Linville), a large cake drolly reads, “Good Luck Senior Citizens!” The candidate’s hotel room TV set has Clete Roberts matted-in (Cinecittà style) reading returns like Ray Walston in The Sting.


Amy Prentiss AKA The Chief

This is carefully constructed almost to the point of laboriousness in pre-production, which frees Sagal to a considerable degree in his shooting. He finds minute transitions that are thematic and quicker to film than to describe.

The theme, which was satirized in an immemorial McCloud episode, is itself a variant of the Star Trek episode of interchanging sexes later developed on The New Perry Mason (dir. Ron Satlof).


The Greatest Gift

The Greatest Gift is made up of To Kill a Mockingbird, All the Way Home (which is to say, Agee’s A Death in the Family), and Hamlet, Act III, Scene iii (in the aspect of I Samuel, 26). A drunken rogue of a sheriff (Harris Yulin) makes a fracas in a general store, charges are brought against him and he is sent to jail. He returns to the store and attacks the proprietor (Charles Tyner), Rev. Holvak (Glenn Ford) intervenes and is killed. Mrs. Holvak (Julie Harris) takes her children to live in a converted haybarn, and her young son Ramey later must decide whether or not to kill the man in revenge.

This is harsh material, set in the harshness of the Depression in the South. Sagal is astoundingly matter-of-fact with it, he moves from shot to shot taking in all manner of observation without ever pausing for emphasis. At the sheriff’s first trial, the “smartalecky lawyer from Baxter” is seen to be acute and well-prepared, but in a subsequent shot he folds up his tent, promising “legal action in Baxter.” The townsfolk in the courtroom are serious, sympathetic people in one shot, and in the next laugh goodnaturedly at the sheriff’s bigoted remarks. Everything is seen from a variety of perspectives by means of editing.

Whereas Rev. Holvak preached “perfect love casteth out fear,” the new fellow is a hellfire-and-damnation man, watched from the window of the church by Ramey. You never know from moment to moment what tack the bundle of perceptions thus set in motion will take, hilarious, harrowing, philosophical, humorous, and that’s the greatest gift of Sagal’s overall style in this film, what makes it lifelike.


Sherlock Homes in New York

Irene Adler’s son is kidnapped to quell Holmes’ investigation of Moriarty’s greatest crime, one for the ages, the professor is adduced in Sapinsley’s teleplay as a definite avatar of Dr. Mabuse, out to precipitate chaos upon the world and capitalize thereon (cp., in this instance, Lang’s Mabuse der Spieler).

Holmes’ absolutely capital freeing of the boy is just a little ahead of Bergman’s Fanny and Alexander, the caper at the International Gold Exchange located deep in the vaults of the Bouwerie National Bank is akin to T. Banacek’s exploit in “To Steal a King” (dir. Lou Antonio), the building of New York’s subway allows a gross imposture on the bank.

Holmes’ disguises as an Italian escapologist “at the Orpheum” and a placard-bearing end-of-the-worlder are notable.