The Twilight Zone – Complete Series Review – Season 4 Episode 8 – Miniature

Charley Parkes is a loner.  He lives with his mother and she dotes on him.  He is a shy quiet man who cannot socialize with his peers at work and even has trouble empathizing with his own sister and her husband.  His boss fires him because his detached attitude toward his office associates is causing animosity.  A woman that his sister convinces to go on a date with Charley slaps him in the face and walks out when Charley knocks her off the bench they were on because she tries to kiss him.  He is a hopeless recluse.

While killing some time at the local museum he happens upon an exhibit containing a dollhouse of a 19th century Boston home containing a small wooden carving of a young woman sitting at a harpsichord.  Charley is enchanted by the tiny beautiful figure and he becomes lost in the scene.  Suddenly he sees the tiny woman playing the instrument and moving.  He asks the museum guard how they can make the doll move and the guard tells him he’s seeing things.  He shows him a sign that expressly states that the doll is made of a solid piece of wood.  Charley admits that he must have been mistaken.  But Charley goes back e3very day and spends hours watching the dollhouse.  And what he sees is the whole life of the woman and her household.  There is a maid and even a gentleman caller who takes the woman to the opera.  But one day the man comes back to the house in a fury and forces his way in the door, strikes down the maid with his cane and carries the fainting woman up the stairs to her bedroom.  Charley is so alarmed for her safety that he takes a museum furnishing and uses it to shatter the glass around the dollhouse.  He explains to the guard why he did it and the guard leads him off to the authorities.

Charley is placed in a mental institution where his psychiatrist works to convince him that he was suffering from hallucinations caused by his desire to escape from a world in which he felt he didn’t belong.  When Charley persists in saying that the girl was alive the doctor reveals that he has borrowed the doll from the museum and Charlie can see that it is only a piece of wood.

Some time later the psychiatrist explains to his family that Charley has been cured and can reenter the real world.  Charley pretends that he is convinced that what he saw was an hallucination and agrees to all the plans his family make for his career and his social life.  But while he is supposedly taking a nap, he sneaks out the window and heads back to the museum.  There he hides until closing time.  Then he comes out to stand in front of the dollhouse and talk to the little woman.  He tells her of his love and his belief that he and she were made for each other and would enjoy each other’s company.

Meanwhile his family discovers his escape and along with the psychiatrist they summon the police to escort them to the closed museum.  When Charley hears them coming, he closes the lights.  They call to him but he can’t be found.  Now the museum guard who appeared in the earlier scenes looks into the dollhouse and sees the woman now joined by a little man that looks just like Charley.  He doesn’t say anything to the police because they would think him crazy.

In the last scene we see the man and the woman in the dollhouse and it is indeed Charley and the little woman looking at stereopticon slides and looking happy together.

Okay everybody what is the law!  No living mannequins, ventriloquist’s dummies, robots and just in case someone misses the category no living dolls either.

So, Robert Duvall and William Windom who play, respectively, Charley and the psychiatrist are both good actors and do a good job of giving the play depth.  And I myself am a sensitive soul who can barely interact with my fellow man without wincing at his barbarity.  But come on!  Dammit Charley, man up and kiss the girl if she wants to.  C+

The Twilight Zone – Complete Series Review – Season 4 Episode 7 – Jess-Belle

Back in the Blue Ridge Mountains Billy Ben Turner (played by James Best) is in love with Ellwyn Glover.  At a town dance he proposes to her and she accepts.  But Billy Ben’s old girlfriend Jess-Belle Stone (played by Anne Francis) is desperate to win back Billy Ben.  She goes to the local witch Granny Hart and begs her for a love potion but Jess-Belle has no money.  Being desperate she agrees to give Granny Hart whatever else she wants.  Granny Hart gives her a potion to drink and after a painful transition Jess-Belle is told that Billy Ben will never look at another woman as long as Jess-Belle is alive.

Jess-Belle goes to a dance and Billy Ben is immediately hypnotized and leaves the dance with Jess-Belle.  Ellwyn is devastated but she warns Jess-Belle that witchcraft always ends badly.  And so, it does for Jess-Belle she discovers that she has herself has become a witch.  She has lost her soul and now every night she turns into a leopard.  Knowing that the townspeople have gathered to hunt the big cat that night, Jess-Belle begs her mother to lock her in her room and not let her out.  But the leopard escapes the house and goes after Ellwyn in the family barn.  Luckily, the hunters show up to save Ellwyn and they shoot down the witch cat and it disappears in a puff of smoke.  But Billy Ben who was one of the hunters finds his engagement ring that he had given to Jess-Belle on the ground where the leopard had been.

Released from Jess-Belle’s influence Billy Ben returns to Ellwyn and they are eventually married.  But Jess-Belle’s mother warns him that her daughter’s spirit still haunts the area and that she will try to revenge herself on Billy Ben and Ellwyn.  Billy Ben goes to Granny Hart and finds out that to kill a witch he must use her clothes to make an image of her and then stab it through the heart with a silver pin.

When he gets home Ellwyn’s body has been possessed by Jess-Belle’s spirit and she is threatening to take him away.  But he is able to use one of her dresses and a silver pin to attack her.  The dress suddenly contains Jess-Belle and she dies and evaporates.  Now Ellwyn and Billy Ben are happily together and looking up in the night sky they see a shooting star and Ellwyn claims that the star means that a witch has died.

A hillbilly witch story, yeehah!  James Best and Anne Francis are a lot of fun as the protagonists.  It’s not exactly Shakespeare but it is very entertaining.  I’ll say B+

The Twilight Zone – Complete Series Review – Season 4 Episode 6 – Death Ship

Three astronauts are aboard the, by now familiar, Forbidden Planet flying saucer set that is bringing them to explore and evaluate a new planet that Earth hopes to colonize.  Lieutenants Ted Mason and Mike Carter along with Captain Paul Ross (played by Jack Klugman) are scanning the planet’s surface to identify a good landing site to begin their work.  But they see a shiny object and land to investigate.  It turns out to be a crashed flying saucer.  They go to investigate and discover what appear to be their own three bodies lying dead in the wreckage of their own ship.  Mason and Carter now start to hallucinate that they’ve gone back to Earth.  Carter imagines that he visits his home and sees a telegram with his death notice on it.  Mason meets his wife and daughter but when Ross finds him and forces him back he is reminded that his wife and daughter died in an automobile crash years ago.

Mason and Carter are now convinced that they’ve all died in a crash.  But Ross claims that aliens are causing them to hallucinate the crashed ship, the bodies and even the scenes on Earth.  Ross tells them that they must escape from the planet to escape the delusions.  But Mason and Carter are convinced that taking off will be the occasion for their ship to crash.  When they successfully take off everyone is overjoyed but when Ross says it’s now safe to return, Mason and Carter panic and attempt to stop him from landing.  In doing so they force the ship into a power dive from which they barely escape without crashing.  Once on the surface they see that the crashed ship is still there.  Now Mason and Carter are despondent and convinced that all of them are already dead.  But Ross refuses to believe he’s already dead and says they must go over the logic of what’s happening to them again.

In the final scene we return to the beginning when they see the shiny object from orbit as they approached the planet.  They are in an endless loop of denying their own deaths.

While some of the scenes between the men and their friends and family from Earth are affecting and the interactions between the captain and his crew are somewhat interesting and Jack Klugman is fun to listen to, the season four hour format finally draws out this premise too long.  It’s too thin a premise to keep it going that long.  C+

The Twilight Zone – Complete Series Review – Season 4 Episode 5 – Mute

The episode opens up in Vienna where five married couples who also happen to be scientists studying extra sensory perception are setting up a grand experiment to restore telepathic ability in humanity.  Their plan is for each couple to bring up their children without any use of speech and solely use telepathy for communication.  One couple, the Nielsens would return to their home in Pennsylvania and communicate their progress to the others by monthly letters.

The Nielsens were extraordinarily successful and their daughter Ilsa is a natural telepath who has never learned spoken language at all.  But ten years later when Ilsa is twelve a terrible fire breaks out in the Nielsen home and only Ilsa escapes.  She is physically unharmed but in deep shock from experiencing telepathically the death of her parents.

The town sheriff Harry Wheeler and his wife Cora shelter Ilsa in their home after the fire.  Ilsa can’t speak but Cora comforts her like a mother.  Cora had lost her own daughter to a drowning accident a few years before and is very lonely without her child.

Harry finds out from the postmaster that the Nielsens regularly received letters from Austria and obtaining the address, Harry writes a letter telling these friends about Ilsa’s orphaning.  But unknown to Harry, Cora steals the letter from the mailbox and burns it.  But Ilsa sees it and reads from Cora’s mind what is happening and in despair she runs out into the street and collapses in grief.

Ilsa takes up residence with the Wheelers and Cora heaps great kindness and attention on her.  When the Wheelers send her to school she is taught by Miss Frank, a woman whose father also brought her up mute in order to become a medium to the dead.  And because of this shared background she is able to get through Ilsa’s telepathic behavior and force her to learn to speak and understand human language.  At about the same time, a couple of the Austrian scientists, Karl and Maria Werner, show up to find out why the Nielsens have stopped writing.  They go to see Harry Wheeler and he tells them of the fire and brings them to see Ilsa. Karl talks telepathically with Ilsa and implores her to answer him.  But Miss Frank’s training has changed Ilsa from a telepath to a normal girl and she rejects the telepathic appeal by instead speaking clearly out loud.

The Werners say that they will leave Ilsa to be adopted by the Wheelers.  They pretend that they haven’t a legal right because they see how happy Ilsa is with her new parents.  When Karl is walking away from the house with Maria, he expresses misgivings about allowing the experiment to be lost.  But Maria states that the love that Ilsa has gained is much more important than the telepathic gift she would have possessed or even the benefit to mankind in rediscovering telepathy.  She reminds him that though the Nielsens were kindly people they really treated Ilsa as more of their experiment than their child.

So, this is a morality tale wrapped in a science fiction story.  It’s a minor work but enjoyable.  B.

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-.

Guest Contributor – War Pig – The Killer Shrews – A Science Fiction Movie Review

Killer Shrews: Schlock at its finest. Poor special effects, hackneyed plot and ham acting. They used hand puppets of the giant killer shrews for up-close shots. They looked like an oversize stuffed mouse with chopstick fangs glued in and black ping pong balls for eyes. For action sequences, they used coon hounds with carpet and fur attached to them and never shot them close up. The coon hound shrews supposedly ate the token Black man in the movie, which would be protested today.

 

The premise is that a Swedish scientist was working on the then threatened coming food apocalypse. He had a Hispanic servant (Alfredo de Soto; more racist tokenism), a cowardly assistant (played by Gunsmoke’s Festus, Ken Curtis, who was an investor in the film and also a fine western actor and amazingly good singer), a beautiful Swedish daughter (played by the attractive Swedish actress Ingrid Goude) and an American assistant scientist played by Gordon McLendon. They are on an isolated island somewhere in the Atlantic hurricane zone so they can be left alone, especially by federal inspectors. James Best (most famous for playing Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrain on Dukes of Hazzard) plays the captain of the small motor ship bringing them supplies. With him is the faithful Black actor Judge Henry Dupree who is his first mate and apparently engineer, playing the character Rook.

 

A hurricane is approaching, so they have to anchor in the protected harbor and wait it out before unloading. The captain goes ashore to meet with the scientists while Rook runs extra anchors and has to tie the boat to a tree ashore. The captain is met by Ken Curtis’ character who is armed and takes him to the residence. There he is told what all is happening, that the experiment went astray and they accidentally created giant killer shrews who must eat their body weight daily to survive, that other animal food is running out, that the shrews are mostly nocturnal and that they will eat humans with gusto.

 

Poor Rook is chased and run up a tree by the coon hound shrews and the effects are so poor you can see the lines pulling the tree down supposedly under Rook’s impressive weight to his doom of being eaten alive. The shrews then surround the residence like the Little Big Horn and try to get in to eat the humans. They dig through the adobe walls and have to be shot or burned. One grazes the assistant scientist’s leg and they therefore find out that the shrews are also deadly venomous, as he dies shortly thereafter. The Hispanic servant also dies from a shrew bite. The shrews make a very distinctive noise that sounds something like “aaawk-ch-ch-ch!”. The shrews are also enthusiastically cannibalistic and will eat any form of meat, including each other, to quell their ravenous appetites.

 

The surviving humans decide they must escape and create a human-powered tank made of barrels roped together. Ken Curtis refuses as he is deathly afraid of the shrews and stays behind. Creeping in the tank the Captain, the Scientist and his lovely daughter make it, barely, to the water where the shrews, who cannot swim, leave them and go back to eat Ken Curtis who, instead of camping out on the roof and safe for a couple of days until the shrews turn on each other, stupidly tried to run off through the woods and he suffers Rook’s fate. As the shrews take him down he screams like a 12 year old girl with a spider on her face. The survivors swim to the motor launch and the Scientist declares; “In twenty-four hours there will be only one shrew left on the island, and he will die of starvation.”

 

This movie and it’s double feature The Giant Gila Monster made a surprising amount of money on the drive-in circuit. Although they were both low budget and schlocky even for 1959, I enjoyed the two movies at the drive-in. An amazing fact is that James Best reprises his role as the captain in the remake “Return of the Killer Shrews” in 2012, which was mostly a mockumentary of the original with even worse special effects and played for laughs. I am probably one of the very few people who have seen both movies. It is also a break of 53 years between the original and the sequel. Has to be some kind of record.

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.