The Twilight Zone
What a boon it is to have on a starving newspaper’s staff the very thing, Satan himself, (Burgess Meredith), as linotypist and reporter. His fingers are so fast, his stories so captivating, that no-one notices every headline somehow tells a parable of the newspaper’s own destruction, the collapse of its editor and publisher (Robert Sterling).
Consequently, this is one of the wittiest and sharpest teleplays in the series. Evil vitiates where it fattens, all is an illusion save for the signature of a soul on the dotted line and a recalcitrant secretary (Patricia Crowley) who cringes at the devil’s advances.
When the Wind Blows
In rustic Wyoming, an extremely rare analysis of the boy with a feeling for birds and fish, “something else” contemptuously, “an original” to Dr. Kimble.
Senensky’s direction is as rare as the title and Betty Langdon’s teleplay and the score signed Peter Rugolo.
The Night of the Druid’s Blood
The Wild Wild West
The long train of illusions begins with the archæology professor’s “evil” young wife named Lilith, his death by “spontaneous combustion”, a black mass or “witches’ sabbath”, finally the tricks of Asmodeus, “late of His Satanic Majesty’s Company of the Damned”, a stage magician.
Lilith’s name is Astarte, she’s a gaff or roper for Dr. Tristam, a skeptic. Scientists are murdered with his adaptation of Greek fire, he prods their brains with electric shocks in his laboratory, and stores their knowledge in his Accumulator.
Astarte’s new husband, a man with many contacts, is chairman of the Senate’s Surveillance and Operations Committee, with oversight on West and Gordon. They are ordered off the case of Professor Robey, West’s late instructor, their province is “Federal matters” with no pertinent interest swaying them.
The Night of the Big Blast
The Wild Wild West
The high school sweetheart is an actress now, it’s New Orleans at Mardi Gras, Gordon is on vacation, her mother never liked him.
Dr. Faustina is turned down by the Government, her “bizarre experiments” raise the dead, she says, President Grant won’t approve Federal funds and writes to her that she and her assistant Miklos “may be lunatics”. She kidnaps West, molds his face onto an executed prisoner whom she resuscitates with a time bomb in his thoracic cavity. Thus, James West assassinates the Attorney General at a meeting with the Secretaries of the Interior, State and War.
Gordon and Lil retrace his steps, he fights a duel with D’Artagnan at a masked ball (cf. Blake Edwards’ The Great Race), she is abducted and replaced behind her mask with Dr. Faustina.
The second bomb has Gordon’s face and is meant for the President. West escapes in time to stop it with him.
A helpful liaison from the Service elopes with Mrs. Fortune. Lily rejects Gordon’s proposal of marriage, he might be a bomb.
Like “The Submarine” (dir. Paul Krasny), a long setup to a beautiful punchline. The setup is in fact most detailed and particular, deriving an intense amount of suspenseful interest from the special effects of moviemaking shown onscreen in an ad hoc way, meant to provide an illusion of train movement on a certain route from Svardia to Switzerland.
Barney supervises the effects, which are designed to cause the passengers in a shunted car the sensations of hurtling headlong downhill into a terrible crash. The survivors wake in their hospital beds ready to take repressive control of the government from the credulous head of state, no longer among the living.
The walls part and recede, he looks upon his trusted successor, and thanks the IM Force for showing him a world beyond death.
This Guy Smith
“Who, at this very point, is the heart of the enemy communications on the West Coast,” an elusive customer. “You just suddenly become friends with people up here because it’s—you’re pitted against the elements in this subdivided wilderness.”
“And I’m just the girl who does it.”
“Does what, dear?”
“I certainly hope so.” The little man with the beard up Sawmill Road, the proprietor of the local resort, the real estate agent, how they hook you at the lake and skin you for a couple of deputies... which is a tale to tell Russ if you’re going to San Francisco and a masterwork by Jackson Gillis, beautifully directed by Senensky in the spirit of Milton and what have you (cf. “Identity Crisis”, dir. Patrick McGoohan for Columbo, e.g.).
The Miracle at Camafeo
The old switcheroo, a type of writing extended by Serling from “Execution” (dir. David Orrick McDearmon) in The Twilight Zone, e.g., to a happy stasis on the model of Dives and Lazarus.
The personal injury fraud is immobilized by a bus and carried on a stretcher with his half-a-million judgment to a Mexican shrine (Our Lady’s Grotto). Miraculously he walks away as planned but sightless.
The pilgrims stream past the hotel all night, a small blind boy is toted to the hilltop grotto by a tenacious insurance investigator.
The color richness of the background in the underlit grotto shows the detail brought out by the cinematography in the Night Gallery.
The Ghost of Sorworth Place
The Second Coming as a ghost story, a malentendu.
The late Duke of Sorworth fell to his death on the stairs of the manse when his wife kept his medicine from him (Wyler’s The Little Foxes). A dying promise to return a year hence was added to a vow, only a corpse should have love out of her.
An American on a walking tour of Scotland loses his way and is invited for tea. The day is near, he sees the ghost too.
She admits there was “no love” in her, her husband went to the scullions, she hated him. The Yank has ghosts of his own, he says, he proposes to bury hers.
On the night, the Yank pursues the ghost from her room to the top of the stairs where it vanishes and he lunges down to his death. A ghost enters the bedroom, she beckons it, the Yank sternly promises to return in a year.
Sapinsley, arranging Russell Kirk’s story, has a structure very close to Serling’s script for The Twilight Zone, “The Howling Man” (dir. Douglas Heyes, also “Mr. Garrity and the Graves”, dir. Ted Post), there is even a suggestion of the Mitchells’ Behind the Green Door.
Senensky has a great study of Kiley and Ireland in profile, and the light structural characterizations of the irreflective Yankee and the Scotch duchess (with a flavor of The 39 Steps adding je ne sais quoi to the Highland brew).
A Dream for Christmas
The transposition of Renoir’s The Southerner to Los Angeles entails one essential difference, the farmer is now a minister and a fisher of men, his neighbor and adversary wants them for his new shopping center on the site of the present church, where the parking lot will be. The congregation is dwindling away to almost nothing, the church has no money to pay its new minister from Sweet Clover, Arkansas, the shopping center magnate holds the mortgage and has waited a year for payment. His father’s name is on the cornerstone, a deacon who passed the plate. No pie in the sky for his son, a man of the here and now, and no further talk with an importunate minister whose church is “up to its belfry in debt, and the belfry has no bell.”
While his family make do in the big city a long way from home, the minister has a dark night that finally dawns in his calling. One by one he brings his flock to the fold, the church has a new bell found in a junkyard by his son, he preaches a Christmas sermon on the will of God, “don’t tear my house down, don’t let my house be destroyed, let my house stand, leave my house be.” In the midst of it, the magnate enters to see a full church, and acknowledges the fact of it.
Senensky extends the visible range of television style to groupings and long shots, the latter especially recalling Altman’s early work, the former contrapuntal in effect. Both are combined occasionally for a delicate expression, the image is varied and dramatically telling.
Renoir’s flood is typically subtle in its version here, the careless life of street youth and a basketball game organized to harness their energies make for a hectic ambience that fells grandmother. The year is 1950, perfectly evoked with some well-chosen locations. The actors are more than capable, and Senensky is one of the great directors of small children and older juveniles.