The Twilight Zone
The hero of this tale is a used-car salesman who keeps a pile of heaps on his lot with signs that say “Like New!” or “Get a Honey from Hunnicut” (and a large one on the back wall, “Absolutely Dependable”). He’s a one-man two-party system, in one brilliant display of Serling’s writing prowess, Hunnicut runs down “late-model propaganda” for “post-54s” as denying “the dignity of traditional craftsmanship” strictly for profit against one’s fellow man, all this said for the benefit of a young couple eyeing the merchandise warily. To the old gleep who drives in a nice-looking Model A for sale and says, “They built them better in the old days, I think,” he offers the contrary spiel on the energetic combination of “mind and muscle” that puts together the car of today.
The car is haunted, he is told. Honest Luther Grimbley of the 13th Ward looks it over, but the new owner has to tell the truth, about everything. “Holy Hannah,” says Grimbley, suggesting his rival in the 12th Ward as a buyer, or the Mayor. “The greatest gag of all time” would be to sell it to Nikita Khrushchev, which Hunnicut does, as a sample of the average American’s car.
“Can you get me through to Jack Kennedy?”, he asks the telephone operator.
Sheldon directs this continuously with cameras all over the set.
A Penny for Your Thoughts
The Twilight Zone
Johnson’s mild bank employee instantly recalls Nabokov’s ape. “It is discerned spiritually,” says Blake the painter and engraver.
Serling’s guardian angel endows him with this gift. Struck by a car, berated by his boss, he hears the driver’s contumely and the rascal’s scheme though unspoken.
This Strange Interlude with its audience of one concludes in a love match. “Helen,” says the spectator, “I can’t hear what you’re thinking!” Patting him with her gloved hand, she replies, looking up into his eyes, “Can’t you?”
The presence of Dan Tobin as the boss, and certain effects that play upon speech and silence, possibly indicate a familiarity however acquired with the cans of film then all but unbroadcast labeled The Fountain of Youth (dir. Welles, prod. Arnaz).
Long Distance Call
The Twilight Zone
This appears to be a structural evaluation of Cocteau’s Les Parents terribles (and Les Enfants terribles) and Orphée. The dramatic pivot occurs when the father pleads with his late mother for the life of his son, her grandson, by means of the toy telephone she gave the boy.
Sheldon’s direction is of the very finest, videotaped live in the various rooms of a suburban house. Every composition is telling, the actors are treated ideally and educe a correct reading which is handled for the purposes of the drama first and foremost. The sense of urgency communicated by the line of continuous action is brought into play, a very different thing from film or theater, pointed as it is at every moment by the intimacy of the mise en scène and the controlled resources of the director.
It’s a Good Life
The Twilight Zone
A small town in Ohio suffers the tyranny of a psychic six-year-old boy with magical powers, whose whims and megrims determine the instantaneous fate of the inhabitants.
Things either please him like a toy, or are instantly dispatched to the oblivion of “the cornfield”. No mental reservations are permitted to those who witness his cruelties, which must be judged as “good”. One man rebels, adjuring the others to cave the monster’s skull in, and is turned into a jack-in-the-box.
“Monster” is Serling’s word for the boy, who creates his own television shows for everyone to watch forcibly, prehistoric agones that must be applauded.
“I kinda liked it a little bit better,” says an audience member, “when we had cities outside, and we could get real television, things like that.”
The Twilight Zone
“Ye soldier conjured here in the name of the Prince of Darkness”, out of a book called Witchcraft, in Virginia shortly before the Battle of Gettysburg, by the seventh son of the seventh son of a seventh son, “a witch man like my pappy before me.”
Union soldiers on the march stand motionless, “not dead, not alive, just frozen stock-still like rocks,” a structure related to Charles Beaumont’s “Elegy”.
The direct surrealism of this is absolute and unequivocal. The South can win the war by renouncing God and immobilizing the Union. Sergeant Paradine, given the chance, refuses to do so.
Judge—I’ll Be Jury
The Alfred Hitchcock Hour
The title is from Lewis Carroll’s calligramme on Fury and the mouse. The teleplay is practically a variant of Psycho. A man and wife sail their yacht from New York to Mexico, where she is strangled to death while he siestas before their picnic in the countryside. He suspects the fellow who nearly ran her down on the road. With the authority of the police, he befriends the man, who lives with his mother and runs a tackle shop.
Their conversations about women convince the widower that he has the right man. The police, however, need evidence, so he decides to kill the fellow himself, but the killer gets the best of him.
The victim’s sister and brother-in-law investigate his death, feign to blackmail the man, goad him into another attempt and force him to a bell tower, where he confesses to both murders and a third on pain of being hanged by his neck from the bell. The police arrive on the instant and arrest him.
Hitchcock says afterward that the brother-in-law was later made to understand his actions were beyond the pale.
TV or Not TV
My Mother the Car
“Why does dinner always taste better after dinner?”
A comfort in a dark garage, television. “You are a clever man, Willman, for one who has lived but one lifetime.” Savage toy kills living room set.
“Pretty smart car you’ve got for a mother.”
“Thanks a lot, fairy godmother.” Barbs to the automotive experts. “Are you sure?”
“I oughta be, I’m wearing one.” The Giant Mystery Prize “probably wouldn’t even fit in our garage.”
“It would if you took the TV out. I’m just kidding.”
To Each Her Own
Donald’s idea for an article on computer dating, close but no cigar.
It’s what one “ordered”, after all, more or less (her date is played by Rich Little).
Gidget Grows Up
UCLA student Gidget heads to New York as a tour guide at the United Nations. “You can face tomorrow without turning your back on today,” says her father, the professor (Robert Cummings). She wonders if that’s Matthew Arnold. “Dad” is the reply.
Gidget takes up with an Australian agronomist (Edward Mulhare) in the Food and Agriculture Organization. Moondoggie serves with the United States Air Force as a captain, he has a sometime attachment to a Swedish girl, Katrina Lund (pronounced Loont).
An Arab prince wants Gidget for his twelfth bride. An African nation enlists her sympathies for recognition. She befriends a Village filmmaker passionately involved with silent history, Louis B. Latimer (Paul Lynde), “Louie B.”. His “aboveground epic” Smiles incorporates hers, she switches film cans at a UN screening so that propaganda against recognition is replaced by Smiles, it’s granted for one reason and another, though she is suspended from her post.
Now a permanent alliance with the agronomist is undertaken, Gidget is reinstated at the UN. Moondoggie’s protestations are in vain, he bivouacs in Greenland surveying sex among the Eskimos, Mr. Lawrence flies there to reason with him. A very grown-up Gidget accepts Moondoggie’s proposal of marriage under Fourth-of-July fireworks in New York.
The crucial pivot from Wendkos to Swackhamer.
McMillan & Wife
The title refers not only to Mac’s friend Carmichael, reliably reported as dead and buried thirty years before, but to the practice among spies of planting a “sleeper” in the enemy ranks, an agent brought up in ascending circles until required for active service.
The structure is in two main parts, responding to the abstract nature of the subject. Sheldon builds quite a Hitchcockian ambience throughout, mostly from North by Northwest, until the final scene at the airport, which is closely derived from Bullitt.
It develops that Carmichael was caught and “turned” in 1964 while undercover in Eastern Europe, had come back tired and with a new face, fell in love, and was ready to give up a sleeper in exchange for money and a new identity.
His Agency boss, Walt Harmon (an old hand at “the dirty tricks business”), was their CO during the war, and brings down the weight of the government on Mac to avoid a breach of security.
This is one of Howard Berk’s finest creations. It begins at the zoo, where Mac and Sally have a bet about the bears, the point of which is males are superior or not, and the upshot is that Mac has to cook dinner, unassisted.
Walt Harmon is introduced with a surreal device. Sgt. Enright meets Mac and Sally in the city during their investigation, and reminds the Commissioner that he is due to christen a ship. They dash off, and the ship is revealed to be a new SFPD helicopter. “I christen thee number seven three eight four,” says Sally as she breaks a bottle of champagne over the stern. The chopper takes off, in front of a formal police gathering, the camera turns around and there’s Harmon, leaning on his car.
The Adventure of Miss
Aggie’s Farewell Performance
Miss Aggie is a principal in Middleville, a radio character who steers people over life’s shoals. The mechanism of her death has a twofold interest. First, the actress playing her wants more money, the writers threaten to kill her off, dramatically, the actress poisons herself lightly during a broadcast so as to attract publicity. In the hospital, she’s murdered for real.
Second, this murder is filmed by Sheldon as a POV with a pillow for silencer, so the look of alarm on the victim’s face is met with a screen full of feathers as the shot is fired.
The agent did it, looking to promote a kinder young actress. Four actors at their Rockefeller Center microphone stands, the Wurlie-player off to one side, director and technicians in the booth, the stern sponsor (whose wife never misses the program), Inspector Queen’s crash diet.
“Come on, son, let’s get out of this wonderful world of show business and grab a piece of cheesecake at Lindy’s. Maybe two.”
The Adventure of the Mad
This marvel is one of the Ellery Queen stories arranged for television by Peter S. Fischer under the eye of Robert Van Scoyk, a concatenation of circumstances which would explain, without recourse to the shooting schedule, why Sheldon has his hands full.
The occasion is a Broadway adaptation of a work by Ellery Queen, only in production talks but giving rise to this fancy-dress party on a Lewis Carroll theme.
Here is a visionary work for connoisseurs, particularly those who go downtown to art openings at abandoned bank buildings, in the vault, as it were.
The Deadly Cure
McMillan & Wife
Mac is wounded shielding Sgt. Enright from a drug dealer’s bullet. While under sedation awaiting surgery, he sees a patient smothered with a pillow by two men dressed as surgeons.
The script is an intricate mystery involving a “Mr. Big,” AKA “The Possum,” who heads “the biggest drug ring in the state.” All Mac has is a cryptic message from his undercover officer, whose whereabouts are unknown.
The hospital scenes twice call upon Hudson to give a portrayal of Mac in a lurching state of near-insensibility. There is an aftertaste of John Frankenheimer’s Seconds.
Sheldon introduces the key scene with an exploratory camera following the nurse at her station, picking up the gurney wheeled in from the other end of the corridor, and catching Mac’s reaction.
Out to Mel’s Diner in roadside Arizonaland comes Vince, an admirer from way back. He runs a business of his own in New Jersey, importing “Early American furniture from Korea”, he would like to marry Alice and return there.
She has no wish to be in the trammels, and besides, she doesn’t love him.
The waitresses want more money, Mel cuts pies into smaller slices for more tips.
Directed to the point by Sheldon.