The Obsolete Man
The Twilight Zone

In the end of days, an enemy of mankind more terrible than Hitler and Stalin sets himself against the very Word, but a martyr prevails by inspiration and wins a convert.

Serling proceeds on the understanding provided by Leni Riefenstahl in Triumph des Willens, the enemy for all his protestations is an æsthetic soul in the final analysis. Beckett’s vicar similarly has a bad case of stage fright.

There is an extraordinary report that Silverstein’s editor balked him of a proper conclusion. Perhaps these things ought to be issued in scholarly variorum editions.


The Passersby
The Twilight Zone

A play representing the War Between the States among the ghosts of its epoch, and dramatically offering a Southern widow who fires upon a blind Union officer without effect. Her husband appears, and Abraham Lincoln.

She herself is a ghost, this is “the afterwards of the Civil War”, she has died in a fever and doesn’t know it, her husband was killed with Jeb Stuart at Yellow Tavern, Lincoln himself is the war’s “last casualty”.

A Rebel sergeant sings “Black is the color of my true love’s hair”, the Union officer is a mere silhouette until a lantern thrust in his face shows the wound.


The Trade-Ins
The Twilight Zone

Serling comes by his genius honestly, and this is an arduous arrival at Frost’s “we love the things we love for what they are”. It’s a very poetical teleplay, quoting Gibran (“love is sufficient unto love”) and Browning (“the last of life, for which the first was made”).

Richardson’s The Loved One seems to recall the display windows of youthful bodies for the transformation or transference or rebirth, as it is variously called. The poker game with Theo Marcuse certainly anticipates Al Waxman’s in Malle’s Atlantic City, with great significance for the whole idea. Godard’s Éloge de l’amour comes to the same conclusion.


Are There Any More Out There Like You?
Kraft Suspense Theatre

The cool ones, “a whole generation... we’re just a little bit cooler.”

Their agglutinated confidence and terrible disregard, their mocking contempt, its source and the remedy.

Robert Ryan heads the cast as a man with money and political influence who is reduced to girlish anguish and swiftly recoups.


Spur of the Moment
The Twilight Zone

The lightly-clad eighteen-year-old rider on a white horse the morning of her engagement party sees a terrifying apparition in black on a black horse riding her down and shrieking her name. This is herself a quarter-century after breaking the engagement with an investment broker to marry “my true love, my adored one”.

“If youth would, if age could.” The image is all, an impossible object. Or, if you prefer, an Ibsenite or even Shavian contradiction of received ideas concerning romantic love as springing from childish minds (she “never had to acquire those useless traits, judgment and discretion”, raised as a child of the house).


Cat Ballou

The strange bariolage of style has always eluded critics who nevertheless perceive the facets and gold-veins of its discontinuous construction centered on Judith and Holofernes (not by Tintoretto, and not the dead giveaway by Titian, either).

The complex diffraction of the allegory through all its paces comes quite close to the prevailing qualities of a classic Western, and a ballad Western of note, which is part of the film’s great charm.


The Happening

Beach boys with a girl kidnap a guy for kicks and shake him down for ransom, he’s invested in his life (wife, business partner, mother), in cash terms he’s a write-off.

This comes as a shock to him, a salutary shock. He takes charge of the operation, threatening to blow the whistle on everything, Sam the Tailor kicks in a million five to hush him up.

The kids are overjoyed. “Marked,” he says, “fake,” and burns it.

He walks away. The kids go get something to eat.

Very brilliantly filmed, with a cast of geniuses.

Vincent Canby of the New York Times had no use for it in the slightest, “Sam Spiegel... should go off someplace and hang his head.”

“Intriguing offbeat item” (Variety), “a strange specimen” (Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times), etc.

“Dated excuse for an anti-establishment comedy” (Time Out Film Guide), “irresponsible” (Halliwell’s Film Guide) and “very irritating.”



A Man Called Horse

Gilligan’s Island was an absolute comedy, in that it aimed to represent life on Earth as the result of a mishap, and found in seven featured players “the whole human race,” not counting guest stars (Shaw would call it “a sitcom for those who think”). A Man Called Horse has the same approach to a tragic film, it’s a sort of satirical view of a man’s life, given a surrealist outlook on the world.

It’s all dispensed very quickly as childish reason vs. Universal Yahooism before the film properly begins. Much of it is structured as a marriage farce deriving ultimately from Keaton, but the borrowings and adaptations are many. The well-filmed battle scene incorporates Zulu and even a bit of jousting from Camelot.

The Christian allegory per se is, one should think, diffused pretty well throughout the picture to give, at the end, a sense of fellow-feeling. Silverstein’s main accomplishment, apart from some framing sun-views and the general mise en scène, is simply the attention paid to the requirements of such an allegory, and a certain gusto in the execution of it.

The result is a marvelous and terrible film, something that flowers beyond Kafka and Borges. The closest thing to it is probably The Martian Chronicles (dir. Michael Anderson), but here the device is a deceptive familiarity and historical accuracy that also gives the thing a blessing on the poor devils who inhabit this world.


Nightmare Honeymoon

The main image is from Kafka’s and Welles’ The Trial. There is a large-scale response to Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs, and the replication of a shot in it. The plane of thought is rather akin to Losey, and the means are not dissimilar to Maté’s D.O.A.

Silverstein films this entirely on location in Louisiana, and says so in the opening credits. It begins with a sunshot garden wedding, moves to mossy night exteriors at a rural motel, stays at a beautiful hotel in New Orleans, and comes to an end at Fort Pike, all in perfect Metrocolor style.

It can’t be mistaken for anything but a masterpiece, and yet it has lain in obscurity for three decades. The title expresses the double entendre that characterizes its surrealism, and can’t be the difficulty.

The truth is, it’s rarefied and abstracted beyond most films, but why the director of Cat Ballou and A Man Called Horse should have been greeted with stony silence at this can’t be easily explained. Lawrence Block, who wrote the original novel, says “I can’t imagine why anyone would voluntarily watch it all the way through,” but no less than Ray Bradbury repudiated no less than François Truffaut.


The Car

Anton La Vey, who wrote The Satanic Bible (a HarperCollins book) is given the superscription, which exhorts the demons to move.

Silverstein unmistakably treats this as a Fifties science-fiction movie. Leonard Rosenman’s music behind the purple desert (keying up to natural tones) at the beginning establishes the style.

A POV shot through the amber-tinted tenantless windshield anticipates Wadleigh’s Wolfen. A great deal of art conceals still more behind the stylistic façade. The ambiguity of this demon (a gussied-up luxury car) is the only real link to Spielberg’s Duel, oft-cited in this connection, which features a malign truck driver behind the wheel of a menacing tanker.


The Reluctant Vampire
Tales from the Crypt

A plan to turn Sunnyside Memorial Blood Bank into a giant by vampirizing criminals on the streets, even less than criminals, is ultimately foiled by that great authority on “addiction” to blood, Rupert Van Helsing.

Malcolm McDowell has the lead as a Burtonian oddity, the security guard too “sensitive” to poach on the outside world.