The Twilight Zone – Complete Series Review – Season 5 Episode 14 – You Drive

Oliver Pope is a middle-aged man who thinks his co-worker Pete Radcliff is after his job.  Driving home one night he is so worried and distracted that he accidentally hits a boy on a bicycle.  He stops and gets out of his car but when he sees that the boy is badly hurt and that no one is around he gets back in his car and flees the scene of the accident.  But a woman sees his car take off and reports it to the police.

Oliver arrives home and tells his wife Lillian that he’s not feeling well.  From her he learns that the boy he hit was their paperboy, Timmy Danbers, who is in critical condition.  Oliver becomes very upset and when Lillian questions his agitation he claims it’s due to Pete Radcliff at work angling to get his job.

After dinner the door between the garage and the kitchen opens on its own and Lillian sees the car lights flashing.  She tells Oliver to see if there are intruders in the garage fooling around with the car.  He goes in but no one is there.  The lights are flashing on their own.  Later that night the car horn starts honking on its own and the lights flash.  In an angry rage Oliver smashes the lights and horn with a hammer.  In the middle of the night the car radio starts playing and the audio is from a news flash from earlier in the day that the boy on the bike had been hit.

The next day Oliver stays home from work to avoid being seen by the witness and the police.  Pete Radcliff stops by from work with Oliver’s correspondence that Pete has kindly answered and only needs Oliver’s signatures to complete.  Oliver screams at Pete claiming that Pete is just trying to steal his job.  After Pete leaves and while he is driving home the witness misidentifies Pete to the police and Pete is arrested for the homicide.

When Oliver hears the news report that Pete has been arrested, he is relieved and claims to Lillian that he always knew Pete was a bad guy.  Next morning Oliver tells Lillian that he is going to take the bus to work and sell the car.  But after he leaves the house and right in front of a stunned Lillian, the car drives out of the garage and with no one at the wheel follows Oliver down the street.  The car shadows Oliver and finally he panics and flees down the street with the car in hot pursuit.  When he trips while running the car stops with its front tire inches from Oliver’s head.

In resignation he enters the open passenger side door and allows the car to drive him to police headquarters where he gets out and apparently goes in and confesses his crime.

Edward Andrews who plays Oliver is a familiar face from film and television as the officious and smug middle-aged businessman.  Here he is frantic and harried as the guilty Oliver.  This is a mildly interesting play.  But B- is how it strikes me.

 

The Twilight Zone – Complete Series Review – Season 5 Episode 13 – Ring-a-Ding Girl

Bunny Blake is a Hollywood movie star who is about to fly to Rome to star in a new picture.  She receives a box in the mail and finds that her fan club in her home town of Howardville have sent her a ring with some kind of large stone.  But when she looks into it, she sees her sister Hildy begging her to come home.

In the next scene we are in Hildy Powell’s home where we also meet her son Bud.  Suddenly Bunny shows up in her fur coat and movie star persona.  Hildy is thrilled by the surprise visit but when Bunny sees another Howardville inhabitant in her ring begging for help and she passes out Hildy is panicked and calls the family doctor.

Dr. Floyd examines Bunny and although she seems better, he tells her to rest.  Bunny asks the doctor who is the chairman of the Founder’s Day Picnic to postpone it to another day so she can visit her friends in peace.  He tells her that she has let Hollywood go to her head and refuses.

Bunny decides to go downtown with Bud to get her own prescription and while there she stops in at the High School to ask if townspeople can come to the auditorium to see a cabaret show she wants to put on that day.  Then she goes to the radio station and invites the town to see her show instead of the picnic.  All this seeming selfish behavior angers Hildy but she relents and decides to see Bunny perform.

Now a heavy thunderstorm begins and Bunny sees visions in her ring of herself on an airliner during a storm.  Next she walks out the door into the rainstorm and disappears.  Hildy receives a phone call from the police and is told that an airliner has crashed on the picnic grounds.  Luckily most people were at the high school auditorium waiting for the show.  Then the officer tells Hildy that Bunny was a passenger on the jet liner and is dead.  Hildy is confused because many people have seen Bunny throughout the day.  When she looks around, she sees Bunny’s ring on the floor but the ring is scorched and broken.

This is a ghost story but the twist is that the ghost appears before the woman is dead.  It’s an interesting switch.  Even though I’m not particularly sympathetic to the actress character (she seems a typical Hollywood narcissist) I’ll give this episode a solid B.

 

The Twilight Zone – Complete Series Review – Season 5 Episode 12 – Ninety Years Without Slumbering

Ed Wynn is Sam Forstmann, an old man living with his granddaughter and her husband, Marnie and Doug Kirk.  Sam has a grandfather’s clock that he tends to compulsively.  He was given the clock by his father on the day he was born and Sam believes if the clock ever stops his heart will stop too and he’ll die.

Doug is upset that Sam is worrying Marnie with all his fretting about the clock.  Marnie is expecting a child and Doug wants Sam to see a psychiatrist to determine if Sam is lucid.  When Sam goes to the psychiatrist, he tells the old man that the delusion about the clock is unhealthy and he should get rid of the clock.

Sam gives the clock to their next-door neighbor Carol, and is happy for the first couple of weeks as he gets to go over every other day to wind it.  But one day he finds that the neighbors have gone out of town for the week and Sam panics.  In the middle of the night he tries to break into the house to wind the clock but the police see him breaking a window and escort him home.

Now reconciled to his own death as the clock winds down he takes to his bed.  Suddenly his spirit, looking like a ghost of himself arrives and tells him his time to die has arrived.  But inexplicably Sam tells his spirit that he doesn’t believe that clock can determine his life and death and the spirit becomes dispirited and fades away.

Now Marnie shows up at his bedside expecting the worst but Sam rebounds and tells her he’s fine and the important thing is her child.  He takes her downstairs to have some hot chocolate and sounds like a new man determined to embrace life.

Ed Wynn was a comedian of the earlier part of the twentieth century.  He did an earlier episode of the Twilight Zone (actually the second episode shown) called “One for the Angels” that was a gentle but entertaining teleplay.  This episode is equally gentle but I would say it’s a little thin.  Not to say bad but not too substantial.  It’s based completely on that old song that ends, “the clock stopped never to go again when the old man died.”  Let’s call it a B-.

 

The Twilight Zone – Complete Series Review – Season 5 Episode 11 – A Short Drink from a Certain Fountain

Harmon Gordon is an old man who married Flora, a very young wife.  Flora is a gold-digger who is bored and resentful of her old husband who can’t keep up with her energy level and appetite for thrills.  Desperate to satisfy her, Harmon begs his brother Raymond, who is a medical researcher, to inject him with a youth serum that has, so far, only been tried on animals.  Raymond refuses saying that the serum is just as likely to kill Harmon as make him younger.  But when he sees that Harmon will jump fifty stories to the pavement below if thwarted, Raymond relents and injects him.  Raymond tells Harmon he will visit him early next morning to see his condition.

The next morning, Raymond shows up early and questions Flora about Harmon.  She dismisses the questions claiming she hasn’t noticed anything strange about him.  But then Harmon walks out of the bedroom and is immediately seen to be about thirty years younger.  He barely has grey hair at his temples and looks about thirty-five.  Harmon says that he feels fantastic and tells Flora that they’ll be going on a cruise the next day.  She becomes ecstatic and all seems well.  But in the next moment suddenly Harmon looks even younger, just a man in his twenties.  And then he doubles up in pain.  Raymond drags him into the bedroom and Flora waits nervously.  When Raymond reappears, he warns her that her life will now change.  Flora doesn’t understand and wants to see Harmon.  Finally, she bursts into the bedroom and finds that Harmon looks like a four-year-old boy.

Raymond tells Flora that if she wants to live in the luxury, she’s become accustomed to she will be responsible for raising Harmon and if she shirks her responsibilities at all, Raymond will see that she’s disinherited altogether.  Flora says it’s not fair but Raymond tells her it will get worse.  She will grow old and then one day Harmon will replace her.

In my opinion this is a swing and a miss.  The story feels flat and the whole thing is kind of boring.  C.

 

The Twilight Zone – Complete Series Review – Season 5 Episode 10 – The 7th Is Made Up of Phantoms

A three-man tank team of National Guardsmen participating in war games in Montana find a wigwam close to the Little Bighorn River.  Pvt. McClusky and Sgt. Connors are familiar with the history of Custer’s Last Stand and after finding a canteen with 7th Cavalry inscribed on it they explain to Cpl. Langsford that the location of the wigwam jibes with the events of Custer’s route.  The next day they are sent along the stretch of ground where the battle occurred and one by one, they experience all the signs that preceded the battle.  They see smoke signals, find a village and McCluskey is actually shot in the back with an arrow.  In the next scene the crew climbs over a ridge on foot and sees the battle occurring.  They prime their machine guns and pistols and charge into the battle.

Back at the War Games Headquarters Captain Dennet learns that the tank crewed by McClusky, Connors and Langsford was found abandoned.  Dennet has the soldiers declared AWOL.  While walking through the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument Dennet and his assistant Lieutenant Woodard notice that McClusky, Connors and Langsford’s names are inscribed on the memorial.  Finally, Dennet says out loud, “Too bad they couldn’t have brought the tank.  It would’ve helped.”

This is a simple and straightforward fantasy.  I think it was quite well done.  And of course, it would have ruined the integrity of historical evidence and the ghostly aspect of the story but I have to agree with Dennet.  I wish they had brought the tank.  That would have been one hell of a story.  B+.

 

The Twilight Zone – Complete Series Review – Season 5 Episode 9 – Probe 7, Over and Out

Richard Basehart plays Colonel Cook, an astronaut crash landed alone on a world four light years from home.  Cook’s arm is broken and the only thing left working on the space ship is the communicator.  Cook is in touch with his home base and General Larabee tells him they have no ship that can rescue him.  Later he tells Cook that a nuclear war is imminent.  After exploring the area around the ship and finding some symbols drawn in the dirt Cook looks around and calls out for the stranger to come out of hiding.

When next he calls his home base the General informs Cook that the nuclear war has occurred and they are waiting for the radioactivity to finish them off.  After this call Cook goes out again looking for the people he thinks are around.  Unfortunately, he is injured and lies unconscious on the ground through the night.  While he lies there a last call comes in from home and the General tells Cook that the end is upon them and he hopes that Cook will be able to live in peace with the strangers he’s found, without hate.

When Cook wakes up he reenters the ship and discovers that someone has occupied and locked one of the ship compartments.  Cook leaves the ship to lure the stranger out.  And it works.  He chases after the intruder and he catches a woman!  Dealing with the language barrier he communicates that his name is Cook and she tells him that her name is Norda.  They have some difficulties when Norda runs in fear from him.  But when Cook has packed his supplies to leave the ship for a garden-like area that he’s found, Norda returns and joins Cook on his trek.  We find out that Cook’s first name is Adam and Norda’s name is Eve.  Adam asks her to name their new planet and she calls it Earth.  And Eve gives Adam an apple that she picks from a tree.

Richard Basehart was a television actor that I remember from a sort of science fiction show called Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.  He actually does a very good job of animating this story.  And although the plot and the reveal are a little much, I enjoyed this little teleplay quite a bit.  The story works.  Let’s give this one an A-.

 

The Twilight Zone – Complete Series Review – Season 5 Episode 8 – Uncle Simon

Cedric Hardwicke plays Simon Polk, a sarcastic misanthropic inventor who lives in his big old house with his niece Barbara.  He is a frail old man but he keeps a firm hold onto life in order to enjoy mocking and torturing Barbara with his taunts and endless demands for hot chocolate.  Barara has worked for him for twenty five years in order to inherit his fortune but also to celebrate his death.

Simon works in his basement workshop but will never allow Barbara to see his results.  When she attempts to sneak in he flies into a rage and when he attempts to strike her with his cane she grapples it out of his grasp and causes him to fall down the stairs.

Simon begs Barbara for help claiming his back is broken.  She mocks him, pretending that she hears him asking for hot chocolate.  When he expires she runs through the house smashing his possessions and opening the curtains to let light and air into the dreary house.

Simon’s lawyer, Mr. Schwimmer, tells Barbara that she will inherit Simon’s wealth but only if she remains living in the house, leaves the house exactly as it is and finally, only if she takes care of Simon’s latest invention.

The invention turns out to be a robot.  Over the course of a week the robot takes on the voice and personality of Simon, so by the end of the episode the robot is hurling abuse at Barbara exactly as its inventor formerly did.  And it likes hot chocolate.

What a goofy episode.  Honestly, the reason to enjoy this episode is to hear the Shakespearean enunciation of Sir Cedric Hardwicke coming out of the laughably foolish looking shape of the robot.  B.

 

The Twilight Zone – Complete Series Review – Season 5 Episode 7 – The Old Man in the Cave

In this episode there was a devastating nuclear war in 1964.  Ten years later we are in a small community somewhere in the Northeast.  At this point a small community is hanging on by a thread with farms barely producing starvation rations and no electricity or machines to help with the work.  The town leader is a man named Goldsmith who talks to the “Old Man in the Cave” to know where it’s safe to plant crops or which cans of food are contaminated.  The rest of the townspeople grumble about eliminating any potential food but they obey because the Old Man has always been right.

Suddenly a working automobile, a jeep, with four soldiers appears on the street and their leader Major French (played by James Coburn) informs them that he is the local face of a military unit that is organizing the remaining survivors into a new society.

Goldsmith tells French that they’ve met other wandering soldiers before claiming to represent a larger organization but actually just looking to steal food.  French resorts to force to force Goldsmith and the townspeople to obey his orders.  He demands that the town provide him with food but when Goldsmith warns him that the canned supplies are radioactive, he asks for proof.  Goldsmith tells him about the Old Man.  French goes up to the cave with his men and tries to open the steel door of the cave with a grenade but is unsuccessful.

Returning to town French convinces everyone but Goldsmith that the canned food is safe and they all eat it.  Then in a drunken state the crowd led by French force Goldsmith to open the cave door.  Inside they discover that the Old Man is actually a computer.  In a drunken rage the townspeople, led by French destroy the computer.  French declares them now free.

In the next scene everyone except Goldsmith is lying on the street dead from eating thee radioactive food.  Goldsmith walks among the dead and speculates on what drove them to this, greed or faithlessness?

This is a pretty bleak story.  Coburn adds a certain amount of flair to his mercenary major.  But it seems odd that after surviving for ten years French wouldn’t be more cautious about eating food that a reliable source has declared poison.  And why would Goldsmith hide the nature of his information source with the improbable Man in the Cave story?  Wouldn’t having a computer that is programmed to help the town survive be an even better story?  Anyway, a it of a downer.  B-.

 

The Twilight Zone – Complete Series Review – Season 5 Episode 6 – Living Doll

Telly Savalas plays Erich Streator the newly married husband of Annabelle and stepfather of eight-year-old Christie.  Based on some dialog Annabelle tells us that Erich is bitter because for some reason he and Annabelle can’t have children of their own and so he is resentful and unfriendly toward Christie.  But actually, he didn’t seem that bad initially.  I just think he was peeved because Annabelle bought the extravagant present (the doll) for Christie.

When Christie tries to sneak up the stairs with the Talky Tina doll that her mother bought her Erich becomes angry and slightly vindictive.  He takes the doll away from Christie and makes her cry.  And whereas whenever Christie winds up Tina she says, “My name is Talky Tina and I love you,” when Erich is alone with the doll she says, “My name is Talky Tina, and I don’t think I like you.”

Erich becomes extremely agitated as the doll ramps up the comments moving on to, “I hate you,” and finally “I’m going to kill you.”  At first, he accuses Annabelle of hiding a walkie-talkie in the doll and making the comments herself.  But eventually when the doll calls him on the telephone (somehow!) he realizes that the doll is basically alive.  He then goes into his workshop and tries to destroy it by sticking its head in a vise, burning it with a blowtorch and decapitating it with a table saw.  But no luck.

Finally, he gives the doll back to Christie and hopes things will end but when they’re alone together Talky Tina tells him, “I don’t forgive you.”

After the family goes to bed Erich can hear the mechanical sound of Tina’s mechanism outside his bedroom.  He goes into Christie’s room but the doll is gone.  While walking on the stairs he trips over Talky Tina and falls to his death.  As he is expiring Tina rolls next to his face and is the last thing he sees in life.

Annabelle comes running down the stairs to Erich and when she notices the doll, she picks it up and it says to her, “My name is Talky Tina and you had better be nice to me.”

This is an iconic episode.  It’s probably responsible for all the Chucky movies and a lot of even less good stuff.

But put that aside.

What we’re up against once again is photog’s First Law of the Twilight Zone; no robots, mannequins, ventriloquist dummies, dolls or other inanimate objects that think they’re alive.  So that’s one strike.

Secondly, Talky Tina is a twerp.  She richly deserved everything Erich attempted to do to her.

Thirdly, let’s look at the whole Erich as bad husband and stepdad thing.  What woman in her right mind marries Telly Savalas thinking he’s going to be Ward Cleaver?  This is the biggest psycho in the Dirty Dozen crew.  She must have been crazy herself.

And finally, I feel cheated.  Erich has the table saw sparking away against Tina’s neck and nothing happens, not even a scratch.  This is highly unfair.  The only way this episode could have redeemed itself would have been for the soul of dead Erich to be transferred to a little bald Evil Erich doll and it had been allowed to harass Talky Tina for all eternity using his famous tag line from Kojak, “Who loves ya, baby?”

F!

 

The Twilight Zone – Complete Series Review – Season 5 Episode 5 – The Last Night of a Jockey

Mickey Rooney plays Michael Grady, a crooked jockey who has just been given a life long suspension by the Racing Commission.  Grady is an angry, bitter little man who feels he’s been given a bad deal by life and everyone he’s ever met.  Sitting in a cheap hotel room he rails against life, when suddenly he hears a voice laughing at him.  After bickering with the hidden voice, he finds out it’s his alter ego, his conscience talking to him from inside his head and, when he looks there, from inside any mirror in sight.  The reflection in the mirror is a more sophisticated, less disheveled version of Grady and he takes his more corporeal self to task for his shabby life of crime and dishonor.  But finally, when he’s through mocking him he asks Grady to tell him his greatest desire, his secret wish.  Grady tells him he wants to be big.  He wants to be tall.  He wants to be able to walk down the street without people looking down on him and laughing.

Grady goes to sleep and when he wakes up, he’s about eight feet tall.  Now he’s ecstatic and plans all the things he’s never been able to do and all the girls who won’t disrespect him for his short stature.  And he asks his conscience if he’s impressed with him now.  But the reflection tells him that he’s not impressed.  He thinks Grady’s dreams were tiny.  He said if he had asked to win the Kentucky Derby honestly or done some heroic deed then he would have been a big man but as things stand, he considers Grady a very small man indeed.

Then a phone call comes through from the Racing Commission telling Grady he’s been reinstated.  Grady is once again ecstatic and gloats to the mirror how everything is going his way.  But now the alter ego is hysterical with laughter and finally Grady realizes the joke.  He’s too big to ever ride as a jockey again.  And suddenly he grows even taller.  Now he must be twelve feet tall and he falls into a desperate rage and breaks up the furniture and smashes the windows begging his alter ego to make him small again.

This episode has a number of plot elements alike with an earlier episode, Season 2 Episode 3, “Nervous Man in a Four Dollar Room.”  In both episodes an alter ego carries on a dialog through a mirror with his flesh and blood self.  In both cases that self is a disreputable man in a fleabag hotel room who has let his life fall apart.  But the difference between the plots is that the earlier one has a happy ending and this one doesn’t.  Here the alter ego while much more powerful than the one in Nervous Man doesn’t take over control of his body and straighten things out.  Instead he punishes his weak, selfish other half by giving him what he says he wants but in spades.  He makes him a giant that will be just as miserably isolated from life as his short stature previously made him.

This is an odd episode to evaluate.  Standing on its own it is an interesting premise and Mickey Rooney does a good job of breathing life into the dual roles.  But knowing what was done with Nervous Man makes me dissatisfied with the ending.  It’s spiteful and somehow seems too extreme.  Maybe I’m too soft-hearted.  B-