The Twilight Zone – Complete Series Review – Season 4 Episode 4 – He’s Alive

Dennis Hopper plays Peter Vollmer, a sort of street corner neo-Nazi who hasn’t been having much success selling his neighbors on his ideas.  He also has a friend, Ernst Ganz who also happens to be a Holocaust survivor.  He’s known Peter since he was a scared little boy beaten by his father.  Ernst criticizes Peter for adopting the same cause that the Nazis had established back in their time.  But he doesn’t reject Peter because he still thinks of the scared little boy he pitied before.

After Peter suffers a particularly humiliating failure in his street corner proselytizing, a man who stands cloaked in the shadows of the night tells Peter that his technique is all wrong and starts to teach him how to work the crowd and get them to sympathize with his message.  This works remarkably well and Peter’s group starts drawing larger and more enthusiastic crowds.

Next the shadow man tells Peter that he needs a martyr to solidify his cause.  Peter tells his comrades that one of their oldest members is a spy and orders them to murder him but to make it look like their enemies did it.  They kill the man and indeed, the crowds become even bigger.

Finally, Ernst sees how the movement is growing and decides he must stop it.  He goes to the rally and belittles Peter and tells the crowd that Peter is just a cut-rate Hitler and a coward.  Peter implores Ernst to stop but Ernst refuses.  Peter slaps Ernst in the face but as he leaves he tells the crowd that Nazis always handle the truth with violence.

Now the shadow man comes back and tells Peter he must kill Ernst.  Peter complains that he is sick of taking orders from someone hiding in the shadows.  The man steps forward and reveals himself to be Adolph Hitler.  Now Peter is completely overwhelmed and agrees to kill Ernst with the Luger pistol that Hitler gives him.  Hitler’s parting words to Peter is for him to remember that from now on he has no sentiment, and is made of steel.

Peter goes to Ernst’s apartment and after Ernst taunts him he pulls out the gun and kills Ernst.  His dying words are that Peter has become steel and has therefore lost his humanity.  Peter goes back to his headquarters and the police have come to arrest him for complicity in the murder of his “martyred” comrade.  Peter runs onto the roof of the building and is shot down by the police.  As he lies dying, he tells the police that something is wrong because even though he’s made of steel, he’ bleeding.  Then we see the shadow of Hitler walking away and Rod Serling gives a speech on how the Nazis still live through the hate and prejudice that still exists.

Whew!  Okay, Rod thinks the Nazis are coming.  Now this is in the 1960s when we’ve been fighting proxy wars against the Russian and Chinese communists for decades and Fidel Castro is emplacing Russian nukes in Cuba.  But Nazis are what’s worrying Rod.  Looking back on what that attitude spawned I guess Rod is why the Social Justice Warriors rule the campuses and infect just about every institution in the United States.  For the fruits of this hysteria I’ll have to flunk Mr. Serling on this overwrought exercise.  F.

 

After you’ve read enough sexbot articles on Drudge maybe switch to something interesting

The Twilight Zone – Complete Series Review – Season 4 Episode 3 – Valley of the Shadow

A man named Philip Redfield is travelling by car with his English Sheepdog Rollie when he pulls in to a small town called Peaceful Valley to refill his nearly empty gas tank.  The attendant doesn’t seem to know much about cars and seems distinctly unfriendly and tries to convince Philip to leave town as soon as possible.  But while the attendant is laboriously counting out change for a ten-dollar bill Rollie catches sight of a little girl holding a cat and leaps out to chase it.

When Philip catches up to the dog and the cat, he’s just in time to see the little girl point a small electronic device at Rollie causing him disappear.  When Philip interrogates her about his dog she rushes into the nearby house and shuts the door.  Philip pounds on the door and the girl’s father (played by James Doohan, Scotty from Star Trek) emerges and refuses to believe his story but maintains that Rollie just ran behind the house.  He tells Philip to head one way around the block and he’ll go the opposite to find the dog.  As soon as the father turns the corner, he takes out a similar device and triggering it causes Rollie to reappear.  The father maintains that Rollie just ran away and Philip goes back to his car very confused but convinced that something strange is going on in Peaceful Valley.

Failing to find a place to eat, Philip decides to drive out of town but as he approaches the town line his car crashes into an invisible barrier and Rollie is killed in the wreck.  Several townsmen appear immediately and insist that they will get him to medical help.  When Philip is escorted away from the scene of the accident one of them who stayed behind uses one of the mysterious devices to resurrect Rollie back to life.

Instead of being brought to a doctor, Philip is escorted to the town hall and there he is introduced to Dorn, the mayor of Peaceful Valley.  Dorn learns that Philip is a reporter but has only come to Peaceful Valley because he ran out of gas.  Now Dorn reveals the town secret.  Peaceful Valley was visited a hundred years previously by a scientist who was either from another planet or because he was unimaginably brilliant made breakthroughs in physical science that allowed him to invent machines that can rearrange and transmute physical things in almost any way imaginable.  Their science allows them to disassemble and reassemble living creatures instantaneously.  They can even run time backward for someone who has been injured or for any other reason.  And Dorn shows him the original scientific papers used to create this miraculous world and puts them in a place where Philip can find them.

Dorn tells Philip that this secret is so important that anyone discovering it must make the choice of either staying thereafter forever in Peaceful Valley or be put to death.  He claims that such incredible power would be used by the outside world to produce weapons unimaginably more powerful than even atom bombs.

Faced with a life or death decision Philip tells Dorn he chooses to stay in Peaceful Valley.  Dorn hands Philip over to a young woman named Ellen Marshall who prepares a house for Philip to live in and tries to orient Philip in his new environment.  But Philip finds out that the house he lives in is surrounded by a force field meant to keep him trapped.  Philip appeals to Ellen to help him steal the scientific secrets and break out of Peaceful Valley and bring these wonders to the outside world.  She agrees and using her own devices she frees Philip and joins him as he heads to the town hall to get the book.  When he reaches the control room, he uses the transmuter to crate a pistol and when Dorn and his men catch him stealing the book Philip shoots them down with the gun.

He and Ellen flee but when he reaches the town line, he looks in the book and finds that it is blank.  Ellen was a part of a test that Philip has now failed.  A resurrected Dorn and his men soon return Philip to the town hall where Dorn explains that Philip has proven the point that mankind would use this almost godlike power to wage war on each other.  Philip is defiant and claims that given the chance he would do it all again the same.  And he blames Ellen for her false claims of love for him.  But she claims that she did have feelings for him.  Dorn declares that the death penalty will be needed.  But he makes a vague reference to more than one kind of death.  He puts a helmet on Philip, hits a button and the scene ends.

In the next scene we see Philip reenacting his first scene with the gas station attendant and acting confused when he sees Ellen walk by.  Instead of actual death, Dorn has reversed time for Philip and he has no memories of the events in Peaceful Valley.  He and Rollie leave with Philip feeling only vague misgivings about Peaceful Valley.

This is an actual science fiction story.  Hurrah!  Despite some slightly hackneyed conventions and plot devices it’s nice to get some good old fashioned sci-fi.  The acting is pretty good and even the ending is relatively happy.  Ray guns, time travel, a goofy dog and even Scotty!  B+

 

The Twilight Zone – Complete Series Review – Season 4 Episode 2 – The Thirty-Fathom Grave

In 1963 a US Navy Destroyer is on routine naval maneuvers near Guadalcanal.  Sonar picks up a large metal object on the sea bottom about the size and shape of a submarine.  And their underwater microphone picks up a banging noise coming from the object.  Captain Beecham orders one of his divers, McClure, to go down and look at the object.  Meanwhile the ship’s Chief Petty Officer Bell starts acting strangely and is taken to the sick bay with something like a panic attack.

McClure confirms that it is a submarine and markings identify it as an American submarine that was sunk twenty years earlier by the Japanese in WWII.  And McClure also confirms that the banging noise is coming from the sub and seems to be someone inside trying to communicate with those outside.  Finally, he finds a set of dog tags on the hull and when he returns to the ship, they are found to be Chief Bell’s from his time as a crew member on the sunken submarine.

Captain Beecham questions Bell about the sinking of the sub and Bell relates a story about how as a signalman he was charged with replacing the infrared filter on a signal light and when he dropped the filter the unfiltered light of the signal gave away the submarine’s position to the surrounding Japanese naval forces that attacked and sank the sub.  He was washed off the sub during the attack and was later rescued by a passing American warship.

Now Chief Bell starts hallucinating that he sees his long dead shipmates gesturing to him to join them below.  Captain Beecham tries to convince him that he is suffering from survivor’s guilt and that he should calm himself and wait for the attack to pass.  But Bell works himself up into a frenzy and yelling that his crew is calling him to muster he jumps overboard and disappears under the surface never to be seen again.  And as Master Diver reminded me in the comments, the Corpsman found wet seaweed near the sickbay where Bell saw his dead shipmates.

A diving team is sent down into the submarine and McClure tells the captain that a metal shaft was swinging free inside the sub and could have been responsible for the banging.  But he also adds that one of the dead bodies was holding a hammer in its bony hand.

This is a straight up ghost story.  Chief Bell was a little too crazy for my taste but it wasn’t bad, just a little thin.  It’s right on the cusp of C+/B-.  Alright, for the Navy I’ll go B-.

The Twilight Zone – Complete Series Review – Season 4 Episode 1 – In His Image

Alan Talbot is a young man living in New York City who is in love with a girl named Jessica.  When we first meet him, he is waiting on a subway platform.  A religious zealot approaches him and after she harasses him about his religious convictions, he has some kind of mental breakdown and throws her under the train and flees.

Jessica and Alan plan to get married and Alan has invited Jessica to go back to his home town to meet his Aunt Mildred.  But when he gets back there many of the details seem different from his memory.  And when he goes back to his aunt’s house the guy living there denies knowing anything about the Talbots and says he’s been living there for ten years.  Utterly confused, Alan checks the town records and finds out there’s no Talbot family there and the college he thought he went to doesn’t exist.

He heads to the graveyard and instead of the Talbot family he finds the Ryders.  While Jessica is driving him back to his hotel, he has another attack and gets out of the car.  When Jessica follows him, Alan realizes that he is ready to kill her with a rock and he orders her to flee.  Once she runs to her car, he follows her but she drives off in time and he’s left standing in the road.  Suddenly a car narrowly misses running Alan over and when he gets up and examines a wound on his forearm, he sees that under his skin is electronic and mechanical components.

Returning to his hotel he tells Jessica over the phone that he will meet up with her the next morning and straighten things out.  He looks up a Mr. Ryder in the phone book and goes to his house.  There he meets Walter Ryder.  And Ryder is the spitting image of Alan.  Walter explains that he created Alan as part of his childhood dream of creating a perfect version of himself.  He shows him the two earlier protypes.  Then he explains that some fault in his design renders Alan violently insane which explains the earlier homicidal actions.  Alan tells Walter about his engagement to Jessica and tells Walter to build an improved version of himself and send it to Jessica.  But suddenly Alan has another mental breakdown and attacks Walter.  The scene ends with the two of them locked in a life and death struggle.

In the next scene we see Alan show up at Jessica’s apartment and tell her that he’s now okay and that they can be happy together from then on.  She hesitantly listens to him and then accepts his word that his crazy actions are behind him.

A final scene shows the inanimate body of Alan lying dead on the basement floor of Walter’s laboratory.  Walter has replaced his robot in a real relationship that he always wished he could have.

Wow!  Well, you know photog’s rule against robots or mannequins that think they’re humans.  There’s one strike right there.  But let’s move on.

Putting aside the mistaken identity and the modern setting this is the story of Frankenstein.  The monster seeks revenge on his creator for making him an outcast in the world of men.  The ending is a bit talkative and Jessica ending up with Walter is a little trite but I’ll give the story some credit for interaction between Alan and Walter.  That portion is at least well written.  Well, all things considered I’ll go with a B-.

The Twilight Zone – Complete Series Review – Season 3 Episode 37 – The Changing of the Guard

Donald Pleasence plays Professor Ellis Fowler, an elderly literature teacher who has served over fifty years at the same prep school in Vermont.  We meet up with him at the last class before the Christmas vacation.  He chides his students for their lack of scholarly interest in his curriculum but he finishes by wishing them warm good wishes for their vacation.

But when the headmaster calls him into his office he finds out that he has been forced into retirement.  Going home Fowler reflects on the generations of boys he has taught but to his mind, he hasn’t accomplished anything.  He believes that the lessons he taught were of no value to the boys in his classes.  Reflecting on the end of his career to his housekeeper, Fowler considers himself a failure.  Afterward he decides to commit suicide with a revolver he takes from his desk.

He walks over to a statue on campus of Horace Mann that has the motto, “Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity.”  He says to the statue that he has won no victory and is ashamed but he will die.  But suddenly the class bell inexplicably starts tolling and Fowler follows the bell to his classroom.

As he stands in front of the empty classroom suddenly spectral forms solidify into young men at the desks.  One by one they walk up to Fowler and he recognizes them as the grown forms of some of his students.  Each of them tells the heroic circumstances of his death (in war or in the interests of humanity) and tells Fowler what lesson he learned from his Literature teacher that inspired him to the courageous actions he took.

Finally Mr. Fowler returns home and his students serenade him with Christmas carols outside his window.  Now Mr. Fowler tells his housekeeper that he is very satisfied to retire, the changing of the guard of the title.

This is a sort of a Twilight Zone version of Goodbye Mr. Chips.  Donald Pleasance does a good job and projects the emotions needed for the transition from despair to happiness.  This is another sentimental story drawing on the traditional values of the old pre-war world surviving into the present.  It’s slightly derivative but I’ll be a little generous and give it a B.

The Twilight Zone – Complete Series Review – Season 3 Episode 36 – Cavender Is Coming

This is a minor effort.  In fact, it’s kind of a reprise of another guardian angel episode called Mr. Bevis that featured Orson Bean as a daydreaming goofball that all the kids on the block palled around with.

Harmon Cavender (played by the immediately recognizable character actor Jesse White) is an angel who hasn’t earned his wings.  In fact, if he botches his next assignment he will probably be demoted (whatever that means).  He is assigned to help Agnes Grep (played Carol Burnett).  Grep is the clumsy kind young woman that all the kids in the rooming house come to for cookies and other treats.  Everyone likes her and she likes them.  But she can’t hold onto a job and so is always broke.  We meet her as she is losing a job as a ticket taker at a fancy movie theater.

Cavender’s job is to make her happy.  He shows up on the bus she is riding and tries to convince her of his angelic identity by means of small miracles.  He turns the bus into a horse drawn carriage and then a convertible.  He decides to make Agnes rich and famous.  He fills her bank account with cash moves her into Sutton Place on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and throws her a party filled up with the crème de la crème of posh New York Society.  Agnes is confused and ultimately bored and exhausted.  But when she tries to return to her rooming house apartment no one knows her and her apartment is occupied by someone else.  Cavender has cancelled out her old identity.  Now Agnes is sad and she begs Cavender to let her go back to her old life.  Reluctantly he agrees.  Now Agnes is deliriously happy but Cavender is in despair.  He has failed to change Agnes’ life and is sure to be demoted.

And sure enough, his heavenly superior officer is sadly disappointed in Cavender’s failure and is about to demote him when he looks down and sees how happy Agnes is.  And since Cavender’s job was to make her happy, then by definition he had succeeded.  Cavender’s boss praises him and says that Cavender will get more cases like Agnes.  As Cavender heads off he clandestinely smokes a forbidden cigar in Heaven.

This is one of those overly sentimental episodes that tugs on the heart strings.  But it’s also a comedy and it also has a good cast and the location is old New York of which I am a native and for the demise of which I mourn.  I’ll say I’m a sap for liking this episode but I do.  B.

The Twilight Zone – Complete Series Review – Season 3 Episode 35 – I Sing the Body Electric

Mr. Rogers is a recently widowed man with three lonely young children, Tom, Anne and Karen.  The children’s aunt tells Rogers that they need a mother not a babysitter but he doesn’t have an answer for that.  Tom shows his father an advertisement in a science magazine that announces robot grandmothers.  The family goes to the factory and learn that they can design a grandmother to look and sound exactly as they want her.  All are excited by the idea except for Anne who is angry at her mother for abandoning her (by dying).  Their electronic grandma proves to be lovable, wise and fun.  Everybody in the house is charmed by her except Anne who runs angrily out the door to escape.

When Grandma catches up to Anne, she tells her that she doesn’t want to have anyone else leave her.  Grandma tells Anne that she’ll never leave but the girl doesn’t believe her and runs into the street.  A speeding truck is on a collision course for Anne when Grandma shoves her out of the way and is struck instead.  Mr. Rogers is there to carry his daughter out of the street where she cries hysterically.  The truck driver is panicked when he sees Grandma sprawled in front of his truck but suddenly her programming resets and she gets up none the worse for her collision.

When Anne sees that her Grandma is indestructible a great fear leaves her and she embraces the robot.  Then we see the life of the children and their robot grandma and all the happiness she shares with them.  When finally, all three children have reached college age Grandma tells them she is returning to the factory to receive a new assignment or maybe e disassembled for parts.  She tells them that at some point she would be in a room with the other grandmas sharing wisdom.  And finally, she said that maybe in a few hundred years of service she would be granted the dream of becoming really alive.  Then the children tell her that she already is really alive now.  Then she tells them to go upstairs so she can leave without any sad goodbyes.

Serling got Ray Bradbury to adapt his short story for television.  But both versions are very strange.  It is a very original concept but it’s odd.  For originality I’ll give it a B+ but it won’t click for all tastes.

The Twilight Zone – Complete Series Review – Season 3 Episode 34 – Young Man’s Fancy

Alex Walker has just returned home with his new bride Virginia and before they take off on their honeymoon, they are preparing to have a realtor sell the old place.  But the more Alex looks at every old memento of his life with his deceased mother the less he likes the idea of leaving it.  Finally, he tells the realtor that he will have to think about the sale after he gets back from his honeymoon.  All this upsets Virginia terribly and we find out that she has waited for years for her deceased mother in law to die so that Alex would be willing to get married.  Now he walks around the house talking obsessively about his childhood life with his mother, about the songs she liked, the fudge she would make for them to snack on and how she took care of him after his father abandoned them.  Finally, he tells her that he will not sell the house but that they will live in it instead.

Virginia is so upset by this that she goes to get her things and leave.  But as she passes through the house, she notes that everything is changing into the version that had been there twenty-five years earlier; the telephone, stove and ice box.  Then suddenly she sees Alex’s mother standing on the staircase and Virginia tells her that she can’t have Alex, that he is a grown man and she hasn’t the right to keep him for herself.  But the mother says it isn’t her doing.  And from behind her a 10-year-old Alex appears and tells Virginia that they don’t need her and for her to go.  Virginia leaves.

Yikes!  This is a very creepy episode.  It reminds me of Psycho except without the murder and transvestitism.  Although I am quite repelled by the tele-play, I guess I’ll say it’s effective and probably quite original for the time.  Despite my reluctance I’m forced to give it a B-.

The Twilight Zone – Complete Series Review – Season 3 Episode 33 – The Dummy

Robots, mannequins and ventriloquist’s dummies.  Saints preserve us.

Cliff Robertson is Jerry Etherson, a ventriloquist and Willie is his dummy.  But Jerry’s problem is that sometimes Willie wants to do the talking.  And because of this Jerry has become an alcoholic.  Obviously, nobody believes him including his manager Frank (played by Frank Sutton of Gomer Pyle semi-fame).  Frank warns him that if he doesn’t conquer his drinking problem the delusion about Willie will persist.  Jerry tells Frank that the truth about Willie is what is driving him to drink.

Jerry thinks he has figured a way out.  He switches the act away from Willie by using his other dummy Goofy Goggles.  When Frank asks him why he is leaving early Jerry says he’s leaving for Miami and he’s leaving Willie behind in a locked steamer trunk.  Hearing that Jerry is running out on an engagement Frank ends his association with Jerry and tells him he needs a psychiatrist to solve his dummy delusion.

But when Jerry tries to leave the club, he can still hear Willie taunting him and telling him he won’t be able to get rid of Willie.  He rushes back to the darkened dressing room; rips open the trunk and smashes the mannequin down onto the floor.  But when he opens the light, he sees that he has destroyed Goofy Goggles.  And Willie is sitting on the couch mocking him.  When Jerry implores Willie to explain how a wooden dummy can live, Willie tells him that he did it by putting words into him.  Jerry bows his head in defeat and Willie laughs at him maniacally.

In the next scene we’re in a theater and the master of ceremonies introduces Willie and Jerry and from behind their backs we see the ventriloquist and his dummy going through their patter.  But as the position of the camera turns, we see that the ventriloquist is a living version of Willie and the dummy looks just like Jerry.

I suspect that Rod Serling was an actual time traveling sadist.  He had gone into the future and knew that I existed and if he would only create Twilight Zone episodes about robots, mannequins and ventriloquist dummies that can talk I would suffer horribly.  He must have been a monster.

And what about Cliff Robertson?  He was a reasonably successful and respected actor for what that’s worth.  And yet here he is wrestling with a dummy and being bested in a battle of wits.  I suppose there is a place for talking ventriloquist’s dummies in this wide wonderful world.  But what am I going to do in season five when I reach the second talking ventriloquist dummy story?  Am I supposed to pretend that’s alright too?  Besides this was the inspiration of the Chucky movies and who knows what future dummy abominations.  No, this will not stand.  D+

The Twilight Zone – Complete Series Review – Season 3 Episode 32 – The Gift

 

In Madeiro, Mexico two policemen are sent to investigate a UFO.  When one of them comes across a fleeing alien they have a firefight and the policeman is killed.  His partner fires at the alien and wounds him.  When the policeman returns with his partner’s body, he warns the town that a dangerous creature is on the loose and telegraphs a message for the Army to come to Madeiro.

At this point a man that seems to be an American shows up in the cantina and asks for a drink.  He passes out and is discovered to be bleeding from gunshot wounds.  The town doctor removes the bullets and finds that this man (who calls himself Williams) very quickly recovers from what should have been fatal wounds.  Williams more or less admits to being the alien and claims that the police officer forced him to kill him.

A boy named Pedro who cleans the cantina befriends the alien and in return for this Williams gives Pedro a box which he tells him is a gift that Pedro should show to the doctor.  At this point, the Mexican Army shows up and a platoon of riflemen corner Williams.  When Pedro tells the crowd that Williams has given him a present, they grab it from him and burn it declaring that it is the work of the devil.  As Pedro and Williams walk toward each other, a woman yells out that the alien is going to harm Pedro and the soldiers all open fire on Williams, killing him.  When the doctor reads what is left of the gift it says “The following chemical formula is a vaccine, a vaccine against all forms of cancer.”  But that is all that is left.  The doctor says, “We have not just killed a man; we have killed a dream.”

First off, I’m really proud of Rod Serling for allowing someone other than Americans to be trigger happy xenophobes.  It’s sort of an achievement for Mexicans to be allowed to be the bad guys in a Twilight Zone.  It’s an acknowledgement of first world status to be responsible for oppressing somebody else.

Now, as to the dramatic quality of this episode, I’ve got some thoughts.  First off, Williams is something of an anglophile.  He can quote Robert Burns in the Scottish dialect.  I assume this is rare in space aliens.  Also, the panicked crowd of villagers were, shall we say, a little too excited.  After all the monster more or less looked and sounded like a guy from Cleveland.  And finally, why is it always cancer?  For once can’t it be high cholesterol or male pattern baldness?

Anyway, it was a little thin and there were a few too many stereotypes.  C+.