The Twilight Zone – Complete Series Review – Season 1 Episode 35 – The Mighty Casey

This episode is a pure comedy.  The Hoboken Zephyrs are supposedly a very bad NL baseball team residing solidly in the standings cellar.  Their Manager, McGarry (played by Jack Warden) is informed by the General Manager, Beasley that he is going to be out of work if the team doesn’t improve ASAP.  Along comes a young left-handed pitcher named Casey and his “mentor” Dr. Stillman.  After displaying unhittable stuff McGarry wants to hire him on the spot.  When he asks Dr. Stillman for Casey’s age, Stillman tells him that he’s three weeks old.  He further explains that Casey is a robot that Stillman built.

But McGarry is completely unconcerned with the details of his star prospect’s ancestry and the team goes on an extended winning streak which brings them to the very brink of pennant contention.  But fate steps in.  Casey gets beaned and for the sake of safety he is brought to the hospital for a checkup.  The league doctor says that Casey seems fine but upon trying to take his pulse he discovers that Casey has no heart.  Dr. Stillman confirms this and elaborates that Casey is a robot.  The league doctor reports back to the National League that Casey isn’t human and the League official reads the pertinent baseball regulation.  “The game is to be played with nine men.”  It is reinforced that if Casey hasn’t got a heart then he can’t be on the team.  McGarry objects, but Beasley hasn’t got a heart and he owns forty percent of the team.”  But the official is adamant; no heart, no play.  Dr. Stillman intercedes and says that if Casey needs a heart in order to qualify then he’ll install one.   Everyone is satisfied and the modification is made.  At the next game, Casey shows up with his new heart.  He is smiling and happy as compared to his former robotic blank stare.  Dr. Stillman is pleased with the more human aspect of his creation and everyone is jubilant.

Casey is shelled inning after inning.  After the game McGarry questions him about why he was so awful.  His answer was that his new heart meant that he had empathy for the opposing hitters and didn’t want to be responsible for their lack of success.  So, he let them win.  Dr. Stillman comes over to McGarry and tells him he thinks Casey should change careers to social work and gives McGarry a copy of Casey’s blue print as a memento.  Looking at it McGarry has an idea and he goes running across the outfield to catch Stillman and suggest an idea for using his robots in baseball.  It ends with a voice over by Serling talking about a certain East Coast team that moved to California and suddenly had a pitching staff that was basically unbeatable (meaning the actual Dodgers who were the team the Zephyrs were a stand in for).

This is a hokey joke.  When Rod Serling made a later series called the Night Gallery he would have a couple of longer stories and then a short vignette, usually of a comic nature.  This story in a slightly more condensed form would have been perfect for that kind of treatment.

But as you know I prefer the more light-hearted approach to sf&f.  I especially liked the line about the GM not having a heart.  And the Dodgers were the team my family (well most of them) followed until they left New York the year I was born.  For sentimental and aesthetic reasons, I’ll give this a B but I can understand if the more serious readers disagree.  To each his own.

The Twilight Zone – Complete Series Review – Season 1 Episode 34 – The After Hours

I’ll go through this episode but really one word suffices to explain my review, mannequins.

The lovely Anne Francis plays a young woman named Marsha White.  She is in a large department store looking to purchase a gold thimble for her mother.  An obliging elevator operator brings her express to the ninth floor.  But when she gets off the elevator, the whole floor is deserted, dark and empty of merchandise.  Looking confusedly for an explanation she is startled to see and hear a woman.  A very elegantly dressed woman asks her if she needs service and Marsha tells her what she wants to buy.  The woman produces the gold thimble and Marsha pays her.  Then the woman looks at her strangely and asks her if she’s happy.  They get into a little spat about the inappropriateness of the question and Marsha is headed back downstairs with her purchase.  But studying the thimble she realizes it is damaged and she gets off at the third floor to visit the Complaint Department.

There she is told to return it to the Housewares Department for an exchange or a refund.  However, when she states that she bought it on the ninth floor she is met with the news that the store has no ninth floor.  While arguing with the staff about this, Marsha thinks she sees the impertinent sales lady on the floor and rushes to her but when she gets closer, she realizes that she is looking at a mannequin, one that is dressed exactly like the sales lady and in fact has the same face as her.  Marsha faints and is taken care of by the store staff.  Somehow when the store closes, Marsha finds herself locked in.  She starts hearing the mannequins talking to her and when she retreats into the elevator it brings her to the ninth floor.  There she is greeted by the sales lady and finally by all the mannequins now animated and acting as if they know her well.  Incidentally the elevator operator turns out to be a mannequin too.

Obviously, Marsha is very upset by this turn of events but the sales lady calms her down and convinces her to try to remember the details of her recent past.  Finally, Marsha remembers that she herself is a mannequin and was on the one-month vacation that mannequins get to take and go out into the world and be human.  It seems she is a day late and the sales lady has been delayed a day on her turn because of it.  She apologizes to the sales lady, tells the elevator operator that she had a good time and assumes a mannequin pose and in the next scene she’s just a mannequin on the store display.  One of the sales managers (the very recognizable character actor James Millholin) who had been dealing with Marsha’s complaints is startled when he sees the resemblance to the recent patron who was so upset by the other mannequin but nothing comes of his astonishment.  Finally, Serling makes some final comments about the story.

Mannequins.  I’ll put up with a lot in a sci fi or fantasy story.  And I am second to no man in my admiration of the acting and other attributes possessed by the lovely and charming Miss Anne Francis but I will not submit to mannequin tales.  That is too much.  F.

The Twilight Zone – Complete Series Review – Season 1 Episode 33 – Mr. Bevis

For those who’ve been reading the last few of these reviews you will have noticed that I prefer humorous and upbeat Twilight Zone episodes.  So of course Rod Serling comes back with an episode so goofily silly and so ridiculously upbeat that he makes me eat my words.

Orson Bean plays the part of James B. W. Bevis.  He’s a man-child who enjoys zither music, model ships, dogs, sliding down bannisters and playing football with the neighborhood kids.   Unfortunately, he’s not as good at getting to work on time, paying his bills, owning a reasonable automobile or maintaining bureaucratic decorum.

His idiosyncratic lifestyle leads him to lose his job, car and apartment all in the same morning.  While drowning his sorrow at the local watering hole he chances to notice in the bar mirror, a man seated in a chair behind him.  When the man speaks to him he turns and realizes the man isn’t there.  Or rather he’s visible only in the mirror.  This is how he meets his guardian angel.

The angel, named J. Hardy Hempstead, explains that he has been the guardian angel to the Bemis family for hundreds of years and he has been responsible for saving James from the consequences of many of his careless and clumsy actions for many years.  Furthermore, he is about to reverse the unfortunate results of the present day and restore his life to prosperity.  In order to affect this change, he will alter Bevis in various ways to avoid the behaviors that have caused his problems.

Hempstead dresses Bevis in a suit, puts him three weeks ahead on his rent, gives him a sports car and when they arrive at work his bizarre desk decorations are gone and his boss is praising him for his efficient and diligent work habits and providing him with a ten dollar raise.  But when Bevis tells Hempstead that he wants to celebrate his success by going home and playing ball with the kids on the street he is told that they won’t play with him anymore.  Bevis is not that guy anymore.

It’s too much for Bevis.  He insists that Hempstead returns things to the way they were previously.  Immediately he gets fired again and he heads out the door uplifted to have gotten his priorities straightened out again.  As he reaches the street his car is restored to working order, so he knows that Hempstead is still looking out for him.  In fact, a fire hydrant that he is parked next to magically moves over a spot just as a cop is going to write him a ticket.

Let’s just say that there is such thing as too much of a good thing.  I do prefer the sunnier side of the street and all that but this is a bit much.  I’d give it a C but Orson Bean is on our side of the aisle (he was Breitbart’s father-in-law) so I’ll give it a B-.

The Twilight Zone – Complete Series Review – Season 1 Episode 32 – A Passage for Trumpet

An alcoholic trumpet player named Joey Crown is trying to get a friendly club owner to hire him as a musician.  But Joey has a very bad reputation as an unreliable drunk.  The man gives Joey some money but turns him down.  Joey is at the end of his rope and decides to sell his trumpet to the local pawn shop.  The shop owner gives him eight bucks but immediately puts it in the window for twenty-five.  Even more depressed now he goes out and spends the money on booze.  Staggering down the street he sees a speeding truck heading toward him and jumps in front of it.

In the next scene it’s twilight and Joey finds himself on the ground but apparently unharmed.  He is amazed and slightly elated.  He goes up to a few of the people walking on the street but no one seems to be able to hear or see him.  And he discovers that he has no reflection in a mirror.  After talking to himself for a while he wanders off in a puzzled mood.  While walking down an alley he hears someone playing a very skilled trumpet solo.  He finds a man in formal attire sitting on a fire escape playing.  Joey compliments the man’s playing.  The man thanks him and asks if Joey would like to try the trumpet.  Joey thanks him and takes the horn and plays it well.  The man compliments him and speaks knowingly about various aspects of Joey’s life.  Joey asks him how he can see him but nobody else can.  Joey thinks that both of them are dead and the living can’t see them as ghosts.  The man says that actually he himself is not dead, the others are dead and Joey is actually in a limbo state between life and death following his accident.  The man says that Joey has the choice to live or die and he reminds Joey that he has a pretty wonderful gift of being able to bring emotion to others and joy to himself.  He points out the good things in life that maybe Joey has forgotten about.

As the man walks away Joey asks him his name and he says, “Gabe, as in Gabriel.”

In the next scene Joey is on the sidewalk and a crowd is forming around him.  He is dazed from the impact with the truck but he hasn’t been seriously injured.  The truck driver is worried about police or insurance repercussions from the accident so he puts some cash in Joey’s hand and asks him to forget about the accident.  Joey walks away and sees the pawn shop.  He uses the money from the truck driver to buy back his trumpet.

That night Joey is on the roof of his apartment building happily playing the trumpet to himself when a young woman strikes up a conversation about how much she likes his playing.  She says she’s new to the City and wishes she had someone to show her around.  Joey offers to show here around Manhattan and you can tell that his life is turning around in every way.

Jack Klugman is Joey Crown.  Klugman was in at least three Twilight Zone episodes and I actually had forgotten about this one altogether.  This is the best of the three.  It’s a very sentimental and almost hackneyed.  But for me it strikes the right balance.  God doesn’t come down out of the sky and blind Joey with the light of heaven.  He sends an angel in the shape of a fellow musician to play a sweet trumpet song and talk man to man with him.  Of course the Angel Gabriel is usually portrayed as blowing a blast on the trump of doom at the end of the world but a horn player takes his gigs where he finds them.  I’m feeling sentimental.  It’s an A.

The Twilight Zone – Complete Series Review – Season 1 Episode 31 – The Chaser

This is a straight forward fantasy.  A young man named Roger is hopelessly in love with a woman named Leila that has no interest in him at all.  He calls her endlessly hoping she will just talk to him.  A man waiting in line for the pay phone that Roger is hogging tells him that there is only one way to win the love of Leila.  He gives Roger the business card of Professor A. Daemon (get it, a demon!).

Roger goes to the professor’s office and tells him he must have Leila’s love.  The professor tells him “that’s easy and cheap.”  The love potion only costs a dollar.  But the professor tells Roger that he’d be back.

Roger convinces Leilah to have a goodbye drink of champagne with him to get him out of her hair.  Of course, it works and she falls in love with roger.

When next we see Roger he has been married to Leilah for six months and she won’t give him any peace.  She sits at his feet and talks to him continuously.  She can’t keep her hands off him and dotes over his every move.  Finally he goes back to the professor and asks him how he can tone down Leilah.  The professor says nothing will change her and the only way he’ll ever have peace is to kill her.  And he has a potion that’s painless, undetectable and will kill her immediately.  He pays the thousand dollars and with great misgivings decides to murder his wife.  He goes home and once again decides to use champagne as the disguise for the poison.  And just as he’s about to hand the drink to Leilah he sees the baby booty she has been knitting and immediately throws both glasses to the floor.  He closes his eyes in resignation knowing now that he will spend the rest of his life with the maddening mother of his children.

This is a silly, goofy story.  But I enjoy a comical look at the war between men and women.  There isn’t a red-blooded husband out there who hasn’t at one point or other in his marriage contemplated his wife’s murder (or is it just me and Camera Girl?).  Well anyway, it works for me.  B+

The Twilight Zone – Complete Series Review – Season 1 Episode 30 – A Stop at Willoughby

Gart Williams is a New York advertising executive who hates his job, is despised by his rapacious wife and wants desperately to escape from his torturous life.  When first we meet him, he is in a sales meeting where his boss belittles him for not preventing his protégé from quitting and stealing away a big account.  This fat repulsive jerk just keeps haranguing him to push, push, push.  Push, push, push.  Push, push, push.  Williams finally screams at his boss to shut his mouth and storms out of the room.

While he’s sitting in the commuter rail car on the way home to Connecticut, he shuts the window shade to shut out the swirling snow that mimics the cold despair he feels.  He falls asleep and he is awakened by the conductor calling a stop at Willoughby.    When he looks up, he sees sunlight streaming in and realizes it’s a summer day.  We can see that the train is now an antique one and the conductor is dressed from an earlier era.  Williams looks out the window and sees an idyllic turn of 19th century town with little boys heading to the fishing hole with their poles and citizens walking leisurely around their town.  As the train leaves Willoughby Williams wakes up and realizes he dreamed of Willoughby.  When he gets home his wife belittles him for being an unambitious loser.  He tells her about Willoughby and her reaction is that she was the fool for marrying a man whose ambition was to be a grown-up Huckleberry Finn.

The next day he sees Willoughby on the way to work but once again wakes up before he can get off the train.  He has another horrific day at work and is determined that on the way home he will get off at Willoughby.  He falls asleep and this time he gets off the train at Willoughby.  He talks to the inhabitants and feels like he has found his way home.

The scene changes to the snowy New England landscape near the train tracks and we see the body of Gart Williams lying in the snow.  The conductor says that Williams shouted that he had to get off and he jumped off the train while it was in route.  The Doctor says that Williams must have been killed instantly.  When we see the back of the Funeral Parlor’s hearse picking him up the name reads Willoughby and Sons.

Well.  So, we’ve already seen the nostalgia for the simpler, happier time before (Episode 5, Walking Distance).  But in this one we are presented with the aftermath of this choice, violent death.  Well, based on Mr. Williams lifestyle I think he chose wisely.  Now, what about my choice?  C+.

The Twilight Zone – Complete Series Review – Season 1 Episode 29 – Nightmare as a Child

Helen Foley is a grade school teacher who returns home from school anxious and confused.  She saw a man in a car who brought up troubling memories from her past.  When she gets to her apartment door there is a little girl sitting on the staircase with a very solemn expression on her face and apparently wants to talk to Helen.  She invites the girl in and learns the girl’s name is Markie.  Markie seems to know a great deal about Helen and she reminds Helen of things in her past that had been forgotten after some tragedy in the past.

Later that day a man named Peter Seldon arrives and Markie beats a hasty retreat before he enters the apartment.   Seldon questions Helen about her past.  She seems to remember him and he fills in her memory by telling her that he had worked for her mother long ago.  When Helen seems to hear Markie singing outside and Seldon doesn’t she describes Markie to him.  He informs her that when she was a little girl she was called Markie.  He shows her a picture of herself as a little girl that he has kept all these years.  The picture looks exactly like the girl Markie that Helen had met that day.

When Seldon leaves, Markie returns and reveals that she is indeed Helen as a girl.  She now forces Helen to remember that Seldon was the man who murdered her mother all those years ago.  Just then Seldon returns and attempts to kill Helen but she resists and he accidentally falls down the stairs to his death.  And Helen lives happily ever after.

Well, not too bad, but definitely not top notch.  C+

The Twilight Zone – Complete Series Review – Season 1 Episode 28 – A Nice Place to Visit

Rocky Valentine is a career criminal who as we view him initially is burglarizing a pawn shop.  The cops arrive and Rocky runs down an alley and jumps onto a wall to escape.  The police order him to halt.  He fires a few shots at them and they hit him with several bullets at which point he falls off the wall.  Next we see him lying unconscious on the ground when a portly bearded man named Pip (played by Sebastian Cabot) approaches him and calls to him to wake up.  Rocky gets to his feet and immediately attempts to rob Pip who casually hands him seven hundred dollars and asks him if he’d like more.  When Rocky wants to know who Pip is, he replies that he is Rocky’s guide.  Pip brings Rocky to a spacious apartment decorated in the taste that we imagine Rocky would appreciate.  Large paintings of voluptuously shaped women and gold colored trappings adorn the deluxe suite.  Pip provides him with expensive new clothing, gourmet food and even an attractive interested woman for company.  When Rocky becomes suspicious of this set-up Pip reveals that Rocky died when the police shot him and this was the after-life.   Later on, he brings Rocky to a gambling club where he is surrounded by appreciative attractive women and games of chance where he never loses.  Afterwards he drives home in a luxury convertible with his bevy of girls.

A month later we see him at the club still winning every spin of the roulette wheel and every pull of the slot machine handle.  He’s even bored of the women.  He calls up Pip and begs him to relieve the boredom.  Pip, ever agreeable, asks if he’d like to lose occasionally.  But Rocky says it wouldn’t help.  He asks if he could get back to thievery and Pip recommends a bank around the corner.  But when Rocky asks if it is possible that he’ll get caught Pip’s smile reveals the futility of his idea.  Desperate to understand his predicament he asks why he is so miserable in heaven.  Pip laughs and says, “You think you’re in heaven?”  And the show concludes with Pip laughing on and on and Rocky in despair.

I guess the regulars here know I have a soft spot for comedy.  This is a very silly episode and I like it a lot.  A jolly devil and a despicable thug from Brooklyn.  How can we go wrong?  B+

The Twilight Zone – Complete Series Review – Season 1 Episode 27 – The Big Tall Wish

This is the story of a Bolie Jackson a broken-down boxer who lives in an apartment building where a little kid named Henry befriends him and tells Bolie that he will make a “big tall wish” that Bolie wins his fight that night.  Henry’s mother tells Bolie that the last time Henry made a big tall wish it came true.

Bolie hurts his hand before the fight and he is being pummeled in the ring.  Henry sees this on tv and wishes for Bolie to win.  We see Bolie hit the canvas and is ten counted out but when the referee holds up the winner’s hand it’s Bolie standing and his opponent on the canvas.  Bolie is confused because he remembers himself being knocked down but somehow, he won.  Everyone saw him win and no one saw him knocked down and now even his hand isn’t injured anymore.

When he gets home, Henry tries to tell Bolie that he won through the big tall wish.  But Bolie explodes in exasperation telling Henry that there is no such thing as magic.  But Henry begs Bolie to believe in magic.  Suddenly the scene returns to the boxing ring and this time Bolie ends up knocked out.  The ending voice over by Serling says something about magic, something, something.

This was certainly a swing and a miss.  The acting wasn’t bad but the story was too thin and the whole thing was a sort of jumbled mish mash.  I’ll just say D+.

The Twilight Zone – Complete Series Review – Season 1 Episode 26 – Execution

Serling mixed a western story with time travel.  The episode opens with a hanging in the Old West (circa 1880 Montana).  Joe Caswell is being hanged for shooting a man in the back.  The sheriff slaps the horse on the rump and Joe is dangling from the rope.  We see the shadow on the ground of a man in a noose and suddenly the man is gone and only the noose is left.  The hanging party is dumbfounded.

The next scene we see Joe in a modern building.  A man dressed in 1960 attire is explaining to Joe that he was transported from 1880 Montana to 1960 New York City by him, “Professor Manion,” in his time machine.  Joe is suffering from his hanging and the professor lets him rest.  While Joe is sleeping Manion dictates his notes and states that he now realizes that Joe was being hanged when he transported him.  When Joe returns, Manion tells him that he realizes Joe was being hanged and that he must return him to his punishment.  They get into an altercation and Joe kills the Professor with a desk lamp.

Joe runs out into the night of midtown Manhattan and is panicked by cars, theater lights, a television at a bar and a jukebox.  He runs back to the professor’s office and is in time to confront a burglar who is looking for cash.  They get into a fight and the burglar strangles Joe with a window curtain cord.  The burglar fumbles around the laboratory and manages to be transported back in time and ends up at the end of the hanging noose.  The hanging party don’t know whether the devil is responsible but they are frightened that an innocent man may have been killed.

Point of interest, the professor was played by Russell Johnson who was the “Professor” on Gilligan’s Island.

It was kind of fun let’s go with a B-.