The Twilight Zone – Complete Series Review – Season 5 Episode 1 – In Praise of Pip

Jack Klugman plays Max Philips a small-time bookie who lives in a cheap rooming house and works for a small-time hood named Moran.  The episode opens up with Max’s son Pip being carried into a field hospital in Vietnam.  The young soldier has been shot in the stomach while on patrol and the medic is sending him up the line to a real hospital to attempt to save his life through surgery.  But his prognosis is bleak.

We meet Max in his apartment and even though he is a crook we see the human side of him talking to his old landlady, Mrs. Feeney, and asking if any mail has come from his son Pip.  Next we meet one of his “clients,” a young man named George who stole $300 from his job to bet on a horse that lost.  He tells Max that if he can’t give the money back, he’ll go to jail.  Max seems very cynical and unsympathetic about all this.

In the next scene we are at Moran’s apartment where Max hands over his profits to his boss.  But Moran says that Max has stiffed him the $300 George owed.  Apparently, Max let him off the hook.  But Moran heard about it and sent a thug to beat the money out of George.  Both of them enter the apartment.  Now Max gets a phone call from his landlady telling him a telegram has arrived for him.  Max asks her to read it to him over the phone.  The telegram is from the Army stating that Pip was critically wounded and not expected to live.

Now Max regrets his whole shabby life and all of the times he neglected Pip while he was living his life of crime and drunkenness.  He throws George the $300 and tells him to leave but the thug blocks the door and reaches into his jacket.  Max pulls a knife and warns Moran to call off his goon.  But the gunman fires his gun and Max knifes both him and his boss allowing George to escape.

Max staggers away from the building.  He’s been shot in the gut and he’s reeling from the news that his son is dying.  He pours out his regrets and then begs God for the chance to talk to Pip.

Now we jump to the hospital where Pip is being treated.  After his surgery the surgeon tells the nurse that if Pip can last the next hour he should survive.

Walking into the deserted amusement park Max sees Pip but as the ten-year-old boy (played by Bill Mumy) who idolized him as his best friend.  In this dream vision they relive all the fun they had together riding the rides and playing the carnival games.  But after an hour Pip suddenly looks bleakly at Max and runs away.  Max runs after him and follows him into the House of Mirrors.  After frantically chasing Pip, Max hears Pip telling him the hour’s up and he has to leave because he’s dying.

Max staggers out onto the now deserted midway and begs God for another favor.  He asks Him to take Max’s life and spare Pip.  And then Max crumples to the ground.

In the next scene Private Pip Philips in uniform and walking with a cane is accompanying Mrs. Feeney and a young female relative of hers into the amusement park.  From the conversation we learn that Max died a few months before.  And as Pip relives the amusement park of his youth, he demonstrates the fond memories he has of Max.

This episode is a shameless and transparent attack on the audience’s heartstrings.  The whole setup is meant to elicit an emotional response using several of the oldest tropes in Hollywood; the gangster with a heart of gold, the dying child and the appeal to God.  But it’s also very effective.  I alternate between condemning it for rank sentimentality and praising it for the effectiveness of the melodrama.  Also, Jack Klugman and Bill Mumy?  How can you go wrong with that?  I’ll call this an A-.

Destination Moon – An OCF Classic Movie Review

The 1950 motion picture Destination Moon is in several aspects an odd duck.  It was an independent production under George Pal’s control.  He worked with Robert A Heinlein to adapt his novel Rocket Ship Galileo into a screen play.  In point of fact the plot changes involved make the movie and the book completely different stories.  For Pal who would go on to make such sci-fi classics as War of the Worlds, The Time Machine and When Worlds Collide this was a chance to make a realistic space flight movie with Heinlein providing the scientific accuracy.

After a government project to build an advanced rocket motor is sabotaged and abandoned a plan is hatched to overcome the loss of government funding in rocket design by recruiting patriotic business leaders to pool their resources to pay for and build a Moon rocket.  General Thayer and Dr. Charles Cargraves were the moving force behind the earlier government project and Jim Barnes is the principal industrialist who uses his aircraft design facilities to build the atomic powered rocket.  Along with Joe Sweeney who provides radio and communication expertise (along with Brooklyn-accented comic relief) these men will be the crew to travel back and forth to the Moon.

When local bureaucracy threatens to tie up the launch in the courts, the team decides to launch immediately.  Just as the sheriffs are arriving to serve the launch injunction the crew is riding the elevator up to the cockpit.  The ship takes off and the crew gets to experience the pain of eight gee take off acceleration and the nausea associated with zero gravity conditions.  Shortly after taking off they discover the need to do a space walk to repair equipment.  One of the astronauts carelessly allows his magnetic boots to become separated from the ship’s hull while not holding onto his tether and begins floating away from the ship.  One of his mates has to use an oxygen cylinder as a makeshift rocket to rendezvous with the lost man and bring him back.

As the rocket approaches the Moon, errors in the navigation (or should I say astrogation) force the crew to expend to much reaction mass from the rocket to land in their planned destination.  Mission control on Earth begins calculating how much weight must be removed from the ship to balance the reduced capacity of the ship’s fuel load.

Meanwhile the crew investigates the Moon.  The first thing they do is claim the Moon for the United States (for the good of all mankind).  Using a Geiger counter General Thayer discovers large deposits of uranium.  Later on, one of the astronauts takes a picture of Joe Sweeney holding his arm up in such away that it looks like he is holding up Earth in the sky behind him.

The calculations on the fuel are distressing.  The ship has to be lightened by over a ton.  The crew starts removing everything that isn’t required to get the ship back to Earth.  But even after sawing off any metal components of the ship that can be removed, they’re still short by one hundred ten pounds.

Barnes, Cargraves and Thayer realize that someone has to stay behind and each one of them tries to convince the other two that he is the one to stay based on authority, age or responsibility.  Meanwhile Sweeney takes it upon himself to take the last space suit and leave the ship.  He tells them to leave without him.  But Barnes figures out a trick to get them below the weight limit.  With a rat-tailed file Sweeney puts a notch in the outer door frame of the air lock.  A heavy oxygen cylinder is hung outside the ship from a line that runs through the notch in the door.  With the door closed the airlock is pressurized with only a slow leak from the notch.  Then Sweeney ties the space suit to the other end of the line.  Once Sweeney reenters the ship the outer door is opened and the weight of the cylinder drags the space suit out the door.  Then the ship launches back to Earth.

And the movie ends with the words THE END followed by “of the Beginning.”

Destination Moon is a landmark.  It is the first reasonably accurate portrayal of actual space flight.  Coming nineteen years before Apollo 11 it is remarkably realistic.  Now as cinema it definitely isn’t King Lear or even King Kong but it’s excellent propaganda for a space program.  And it does contain all the correct tropes of the time.  If you are a sci-fi fan this movie is a must see.

The Twilight Zone – Complete Series Review – Season 4 Episode 18 – The Bard

Julius Moomer is a struggling tv writer.  He’s awful.  After he’s been rejected for the millionth time he begs his agent for just one more chance.  He goes to a bookstore and a book on black magic flies off the shelf and lands at his feet.  He takes the book home and tries to conjure up William Shakespeare to help him write his script.  After several failures he succeeds and Shakespeare agrees to write a couple of scripts for Julius.

When Moomer brings the script to his agent he actually likes it.  He sells it to a tv show and a committee of producers, directors and the sponsor rewrite it so that Rocky Rhodes (Burt Reynolds doing his best Marlon Brando impression) could play the romantic lead.  But when Will hears what they’ve done to his plot he gets upset.  When Rhodes accuses Shakespeare of being a Tennessee Williams hater Will decks him with one punch.  Then Shakespeare quits and goes home.

Now Moomer is in trouble.  His first play is a hit but how will he do the next one?  The tv station wants an epic on American History.  Of course, he goes back to his book and the next day he shows up at his agent’s office with his writing consultants; Robert E. Lee, Ulysses S. Grant, George Washington, Ben Franklin, Abraham Lincoln and Pocahontas.

Yikes!  Moomer is played by Jack Weston, a very recognizable character actor.  In addition to Burt Reynolds, John Williams played Shakespeare.  I remember him as the police inspector from the movie Dial M for Murder.  And Howard McNear who played Floyd the Barber on the Andy Griffith Show is one of the tv executives.  This is a goofy episode.  It’s played for laughs from beginning to end so I’ll take it in that spirit.  There are a few good laughs so I’ll just go with a B.

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The Twilight Zone – Complete Series Review – Season 4 Episode 17 – Passage on the Lady Anne

Alan Ransome is a hard charging business executive who spends all his waking hours pushing to get ahead.  His neglected wife Eileen is ready to give up on their marriage but she decides to try one last idea to see if they can reconnect.  On a trip to London that Alan must make she demands that he bring her along and that they travel by ocean liner.  Because of the season and the short reservation timing the only ship available is a very old one called the Lady Anne.

When they arrive at the dock two fellow passengers question whether the Ransomes have made a mistake.  These two old men McKenzie and Burgess say that a mistake has occurred because the trip on the Lady Anne is an excursion that was privately booked by a group.  They relent when Alan shows them their tickets.  But later, just as the ship is ready to embark McKenzie and Burgess make a last attempt to buy back the tickets from Alan for $10,000.  Alan refuses.

Going over the passenger list Alan discovers that no one on board is under seventy-five years of age.  When Alan and Eileen go into the passenger’s lounge, they discover that this used to be a honeymoon ship and that all the passengers are former honeymooners who wanted to ride on the final voyage of the Lady Anne before it is retired.

Meanwhile Alan and Eileen reflect on the failure of their marriage and Allan admits that his business life is more important to him than his marriage.  They decide to divorce when they return from the trip.  Toby McKenzie, the man that tried to buy their tickets invites Alan and Eileen to a “tea” with him and his wife Millie.  Ian Burgess stops by and the three older people talk affectionately of their memories of the Lady Anne back when they were young married couples.  Ian’s wife was supposed to accompany him on this voyage but she died shortly before.  The talk of love and happiness affect both Alan and Eileen but when they leave the tea they get into an argument.  After speaking angrily to Eileen Alan turns away from her and looks over the ocean but when he looks back, she is gone.  Alan feels panicky and starts searching the ship and alerting the passengers and crew of Eileen’s disappearance.  The McKenzies assure Alan that Eileen will show up soon and not to worry.  That night when Alan returns to his cabin Eileen is waiting for him in bed wearing a nightgown given to her by Millie.  And somehow Alan and Eileen manage to reconnect and Alan realizes how mixed up his priorities have been.  They rekindle their marriage and the next day they are in a celebratory mood when the ship is throwing a party.  At some point Alan notices that the ship engine has been stopped.  But the passengers are in no way alarmed and the party goes on happily.  At one point Captain Prothero joins their table and asks the older passengers if they’ve told the Ransomes about the event coming up but the passengers decline to talk about it.  The party continues happily until Captain Prothero returns and asks the passengers again if they’ve told the Ransomes about what will happen that night.  McKenzie says they decided not to spoil the evening.  Then the Captain tells the Ransomes that he will have their belongings loaded on a lifeboat and they will be set out on the ocean.  He assures them that a beacon will alert the Coast Guard and they will be picked up safely but that they cannot stay on the Lady Anne.  Alan resists but one of the ship’s crew pulls a pistol on them.  As they are being loaded on the lifeboat Alan says that he thought the passengers were his friends.  The passengers lower their eyes in sadness but Eileen tells Alan that she knows that they are their friends.

Alan and Eileen are lowered down in the lifeboat and drift away.  They are picked up in a few hours by the Coast Guard.  When they returned to shore, they looked for news of the Lady Anne.  But no news of the ship or its crew and passengers was ever heard of.

This is a very odd story.  Obviously, the Lady Anne is transporting these old couples to a heavenly hereafter and the Ransomes are being let off to allow them to continue their young lives.  There isn’t any way of explaining how exactly the Ransomes were able to get tickets to a ghost ship but this is the Twilight Zone.  I thought I’d b a little harsher with this episode but McKenzie and Burgess are played by two actors that I enjoy watching quite a bit.  McKenzie is played by Wilfrid Hyde-White who has a small but memorable part in the movie “The Third Man” and Burgess is played by Cecil Kellaway who was the murdered husband in “The Postman Always Rings Twice.”  Both of them are great fun in this teleplay along with a few other fine character actors.  Let’s say B.

 

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Starman Jones by Robert A Heinlein – A Science Fiction Book Review

Starman Jones is one of Heinlein’s juvenile novels (today it would be called a young adult novel).  Many people feel that some of his best work is represented in these books.  I tend to agree with this.  Starman Jones is also one of his best juveniles.  Well, you can see where that puts it in my opinion already.

Max Jones is an Ozarks hillbilly.  He lives on the family farm and dreams of someday following his father’s brother, Uncle Chet, into space as an astrogator.  But the deaths of his father and uncle leave Max trapped on the farm, and duty bound to provide for his step-mother.  Max struggles to keep food on the table and has to forego his dreams of working in outer space.  But when his step-mother remarries and his new step-father sells the family farm and tries to steal the astrogation books that Max got from Uncle Chet, Max decides that his commitment to his step-mother is ended and he runs away to try and claim a berth as a legacy candidate in the hereditary guild of astrogators.

On the road he meets a hobo named Sam Anderson who shares his dinner with the hungry runaway but steals Max’s astrogation books and identity card before disappearing.  Max hitchhikes a ride with a freight transporter and reaches Earth Port, the main space port in North America.  Upon reaching the guild headquarters Max discovers that Sam had attempted to impersonate him and get a reward for returning the valuable astrogation tables.  Sam managed to escape without getting arrested.  Now Max receives the substantial reward for the books but learns that his Uncle Chet did not list Max as a guild candidate.  Crushed by the news, Max leaves the guild office and immediately bumps into Sam.

Max at first was thinking of turning Sam into the authorities but since their last meeting Sam had come into a windfall (gambling winnings) and was dressed as a prosperous citizen, whereas Max was disheveled and unwashed.  Sam actually ends up saving Max from arrest as a vagrant.  Spotting Max to a good meal, Sam apologizes for stealing Max’s books and lets him know that there is still a way for Max (and Sam) to obtain berths on a star ship.  Sam has connections that can fake identification papers that will indicate that Max and Sam are members of the guilds that work on these commercial space liners.  With this paperwork (paid for with Max’s reward money) and coaching by Sam, Max passes himself off as a Steward’s mate working for the ship’s Purser on the Asgard.  Max was greatly aided in this coaching by the fact that he has an eidetic memory, basically photographic recall of anything he’s seen.

Max and Sam work their way into different roads of advancement on the Asgard.  Sam had been a space marine long ago who had gone AWOL and was still a wanted man so now he uses his service training to become the ship’s Chief Master-at-Arms and uses that office to supplement his income with clandestine gambling operations for the crew.  Max is in charge of the ship’s livestock which includes the passengers’ pets.  An extraterrestrial animal called a spider puppy is the pet of Eldreth (Ellie) Coburn, the daughter of a VIP.  She meets Max because of his kind treatment of the spider puppy and once they become friends, she takes it into her head to use her connections with Captain Blaine to help Max advance into a position on the ship that would give him a high enough status to allow her to be seen with him.  Because his forged papers claimed that he had formerly trained as a chartsman (a lower level member of the astrogation team) he is given the chance to try out for the job on the Asgard.  Here he meets Dr. Hendrix the ship’s Astrogator.  Hendrix had trained under Max’s Uncle Chet and he is interested in seeing if Max has inherited the family’s mathematical skill.  Dr. Hendrix is generally sympathetic toward Max and goes out of his way to teach him the skills he needs.  Max also meets Mr. Simes the Assistant Astrogator.  Simes is an unfriendly, belligerent man who jealously guards his prerogatives as Dr. Hendrix’ assistant.  He resents Max’s presence and once Max’s eidetic memory is demonstrated Simes more than ever goes out of his way to denigrate Max’s skills.

The story proceeds very skillfully and Max is shown to mature and take responsibility for the choices he made that put him on the ship.  And circumstances on the ship lead to excitement from various sources.  The ship is lost during a poorly executed transition, sort of a translation through folded space that sends the ship to a completely uncharted area of the universe.  A planet where they take refuge has hostile lifeforms that threaten the lives of the crew and passengers of the Asgard.  And due to death, suicide and mutiny Max finds himself the only astrogator left on the ship and dependent on his memory to provide astrogation tables need to attempt to return the Asgard to familiar space.

I won’t go into all the details but suffice it to say that Starman Jones is a lively and fascinating story that combines various types of characters interacting in a consistent science fiction plot.  Some of the details of how astrogators do their jobs now would seem quaint and illogical with the advent of powerful computing equipment but this in no way diminishes the interest in the story.  As a naval officer Heinlein paints a very convincing picture of life on a star ship.  His hierarchy among the crew members and their relation to the passengers allows the dynamic of the story to play out.

This book was written in 1953.  Mores and attitudes have changed drastically in the sixty-five plus years since Starman Jones was written but I’ve given this book to a grandson of mine who reads science fiction voraciously and he gave it high marks.  It still maintains a high position among any young adult science fiction books written since then.  Highly recommended.

 

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The Twilight Zone – Complete Series Review – Season 4 Episode 16 – On Thursday We Leave for Home

A colony has been trapped for thirty years on a marginally habitable planet.  The planet has two suns and never has night and the temperature is always well over a hundred degrees Fahrenheit.  The machinery that refrigerates the below ground dwellings of the colonists has finally completely given out and the drinking water is always hot.

The colony is at the brink of despair and all that keeps them from giving up is their leader Captain Benteen.  Whenever they despair, he preaches to them about the rescue ship that will arrive any day.  His assistant Al Baines, has lost hope and when they find that one of the women has committed suicide Al says that she has done the wise thing and none of them should have to go on enduring the hell they live in.  But Benteen tells them a comforting story about the beauty of Earth with its fall foliage, white clouds and cool black nights.  They hypnotically repeat his words like cult followers and calm down.

And then the ship arrives and Colonel Sloane announces that he’ll be able to bring the whole colony home in a few days and they’ll head to Earth where they’ll leave behind the misery and despair of their hell world and join the human race on green Earth.  Everyone is ecstatic except Benteen.  He’s anxious because he’s losing the control over his flock.  When the Colonel describes how the colonists will be treated like heroes back on Earth Benteen tells him that his people won’t be able to understand that experience.  Benteen tells Sloane that the colonists are like children that he has led through their lives telling them whatever they needed to know.  He assures the Colonel that even after they return to Earth, he will continue to control their lives as head of the group and that they will not separate after reaching Earth.  Colonel Sloane listens to Benteen’s speech but at the end he replies that he wants Benteen to allow the colonists to vote on whether they want to stay together or go their own ways.

Benteen calls a meeting with the colonists and tells them that when they get ack to Earth he will arrange for Earth to give them a place where they can continue to live together under his leadership.  But they all want to go to different places that they have heard about from their older relatives.  Benteen is upset by this lack of loyalty.  The next day he tells the colonists and Colonel Sloane that the colony won’t leave on the ship but will stay on the planet.

Colonel Sloane demands that the colonists have the chance to vote on returning to Earth by a show of hands.  Eventually all of them vote to leave.  Benteen, feeling betrayed, runs off.  The next day when the ship is ready to leave Colonel Sloane and Al Baines go searching in the underground caves calling for Benteen to leave with them.  But he ignores their calls and stays hidden until they leave.  Once they are gone Benteen comes out and starts talking to an imaginary gathering of his colonists.  He starts describing the beauty of Earth but when he hears the sound of the space ship leaving the planet he runs out and cries out “don’t leave me here, don’t leave me here, please, I want to go home.”

James Whitmore plays Captain Benteen and he is a very capable actor.  He gives the script a very good rendition.  He portrays a man who considers himself the present-day Moses of a lost tribe.  And he also portrays his jealous possessiveness for his prerogatives over his people.  He allows his desire for power to overrule his judgement as to what is good for his people.  So, Whitmore does a good job with the story line.  And the cast is also pretty good.  Their misery and desperate trust in Benteen are fairly compelling.  The crisis over leaving is handled fairly well and Benteen’s final plea to go home is affecting.

I’ll give this a solid B+.

 

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The Twilight Zone – Complete Series Review – Season 4 Episode 15 – The Incredible World of Horace Ford

Horace Ford is a toy designer.  He’s thirty-eight years old but acts like he’s ten.  At the office he’s preoccupied with a cap gun that he shoots at his office mates.  When his friend Leonard tries to talk to him about a problem with one of his designs, he gets off on a tangent about the games he used to play as a kid.  His boss Mr. Judson tells him that a toy he designed is much too expensive but when Judson tells Horace to remove the lights on the eyes, he pitches a tantrum like a kid.

When Horace goes home, he continues his childish conversations with his wife Laura and mother.  They try to get him to grow up and see reality but he goes into a childish rage.  While talking about his childhood on Randolph Street he gets the idea to go back there and see it today.  But when he goes there, he seems to have gone back in time to the 1930s where a hot dog is three cents and clothes are very old fashioned.  And when some kids rush past him and knock his watch out of his hands, he sees that they are the kids he played with when he was ten.  They haven’t grown old at all.

Late he goes home and tells Laura about it and she doubts his sanity and asks him to see a psychiatrist.  Later, one of the boys shows up at her door and returns Horace’s watch to her.  Horace goes back to Randolph street several times more and each time he relives the exact same sequence of events including the loss of his watch.  And each night he comes home more agitated and confused.

Finally, his boss tells him to take a leave of absence and get psychiatric help.  When Horace angrily refuses Judson fires him.  Horace goes home and tells his family that he’s been fired and when his wife asks him to get help, he storms out.  After he leaves all of the people who were arriving for Horace’s surprise birthday party show up at the apartment and Laura becomes desperate.  She goes out looking for him.

Meanwhile Horace goes back to Randolph Street and relives the same scene but this time when he follows the boys, he becomes his ten-year-old self and relives the terrible beating that his “friends” gave him for not inviting them to his birthday party.

When Laura shows up on Randolph Street, she finds the ten-year-old Horace unconscious on the street and turns away and sobs.  But when she turns around again Horace is his normal age again and she helps him come to and get up.  Now Horace tells her that he finally realizes that his childhood wasn’t a shiny dream world but actually contained much unhappiness.  Laura tells him that everyone tries to remember the good and forget the bad.  The show ends with us assuming that Horace will be sadder but wiser and won’t have as much trouble fitting into the adult world.

This was a slightly disturbing episode.  The character Horace Ford was more than a little unhinged.  Today I think he would be described as on the spectrum.  But the saving grace of the episode (for me) was the fact that he mentioned one of my favorite childhood games ringalevio.  Basically, it was a tag game with two teams, each with a jail.  It was a game that we probably spent more waking hours playing than anything else when we were ten.  For reminding me of ringalevio I’ll have to forgive the off-putting behavior of Horace and give the show a B.

 

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The Twilight Zone – Complete Series Review – Season 4 Episode 14 – Of Late I Think of Cliffordville

William Feathersmith is an evil man who uses the huge fortune he has amassed to crush his competitors and then grind them down by heaping insult onto injury.  Several of his business victims have committed suicide after suffering bankruptcy and humiliation at his hands.  But now he’s bored.  Feathersmith has reached the summit of his success and there’s nothing left to challenge him.  He talks to the building janitor, Mr.Hecate, one night and discovers that they both came from the same town Cliffordville.  Feathersmith mocks Hecate for his lowly status and leaves his office and takes the elevator down.  But instead of reaching the lobby he finds himself in front of the Devlin Travel Agency.

Enter Miss Devlin (Julie Newmar with devil’s horns).  She offers Featherstone a deal.  She will send him back to his hometown Cliffordville in 1910 and he’ll be able to conquer the financial world all over again only this time he knows about all the inventions and history ahead of time and can capitalize on that knowledge.  Feathersmith agrees to sell his soul but stipulates in the bargain that he will appear as the young man he was in 1910 and everything will be as it was when he lived there last.  Devlin agrees but reveals that Feathersmith’s soul has already been damned to hell for his evil deeds and what she will require for payment is the bulk of Feathersmith’s worldly wealth leaving him only $1,400.  But she reminds him that in 1910 that was a sizable stake to invest.  He agrees and soon finds himself in Cliffordville.

Using his knowledge of the future Feathersmith uses his $1,400 to buy land that he knows will be found to have millions of dollars of oil in 1936.  He assumes he can pump the oil out in 1910 but he discovers that the oil is many thousands of feet below the depth that can be exploited using the oil recovery technology available in 1910.  And now he realizes that even though he looks young his body is still seventy-five years old and he will not live to 1936 to capitalize on the oil under his property.

Desperate to escape his fate he begs Devlin to send him back to 1963.  She agrees in exchange for forty dollars.  In order to get the forty dollars, he is forced to sell his oil field to a young version of Mr. Hecate.  Now back in 1963, Feathersmith is the janitor in the building where Mr. Hecate is the tycoon.  They have a conversation which is the inverse of the earlier one.

What can I say?  This is pretty much by the numbers.  The Devil tricks a bad man.  C.

 

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The Twilight Zone – Complete Series Review – Season 4 Episode 12 – The New Exhibit

Martin Senescu is an employee at a wax museum.  His job is to care for the five wax figures of mass murderers (Jack the Ripper, Albert W. Hicks, Henri Désiré Landru, William Burke and William Hare) that are under his care.  But one day the museum owner, Mr. Ferguson, tells Martin that he’s closing the museum.  Rather than see his five exhibits destroyed Martin begs Mr. Ferguson to allow him to take them to his basement and preserve them until a museum wants them.    He installs air conditioning to keep them melting in the summer heat and hovers over them while trying to find them a new home.

But his wife Emma is very upset.  Her husband is unemployed but instead of finding a job he spends the little money they have left to buy air conditioning for the basement and pay the enormous electric bill caused by running the air conditioning day and night.  Also, she can’t use the washing machine and dryer any longer.  And finally, she’s frightened to death by the look of these grim wax figures.  She goes to speak to her brother Dave and he tells her she should give Martin an ultimatum; either he gets rid of the wax figures or she’ll leave.  When she hesitates at the severity of this tactic Dave mentions that maybe instead, the air conditioner could break down and ruin the figures.

That night Emma gives Martin the ultimatum but he assures her that he’ll find a solution if she’ll just have a little patience.  After Martin and Emma go to bed, she sneaks down to the basement to shut off the air conditioning but as she passes Jack the Ripper, we seem to see Jack’s knife hand move and Emma screams in terror.

Next morning Martin heads down to the basement looking for Emma and finds her dead at the foot of Jack the Ripper.  He sees blood on Jack’s knife and upbraids him for the murder.  But you can tell he’s doing it as a friend.  Martin buries Emma in the basement and covers her over with fresh cement.

Later on, Emma’s brother Dave shows up and wants to know where Emma is and what has happened to the wax figures.  Martin tells her that she’s gone on a trip to visit Martin’s sister and that he has gotten rid of the figures.  But Dave hears the air conditioning still running in the basement and doesn’t believe Martin.  Dave breaks into the basement from outside and while he’s investigating the fresh cement the figure of Albert W. Hicks appears to attack him with an ax.

The next day Martin finds Dave’s body and once again chastises the other figure for this serious lack of restraint.  Martin must then have buried Dave as he did Emma.

At some later date, Mr. Ferguson visits Martin at his home with the amazing news that a famous wax museum in Belgium wants to but the wax figures.  But it is obvious from his demeanor that Martin is sad that the figures will be leaving his life.  Martin agrees to the idea sadly and while he goes to the kitchen to make tea for them, Mr. Ferguson goes into the basement to measure the figures for shipping arrangements.  But when he turns his back, he is garroted by the figure of Henri Désiré Landru.

When Martin comes downstairs to the basement carrying the tea service he is outraged.  It’s one thing for wax figures to murder his wife and brother-in-law.  It’s a completely different thing to murder a fellow fan of wax museums who was going to find them a good home in Belgium.  Martin picks up a crow bar and threatens to destroy all of them for their ingratitude.

But now the figures seem to move toward him and they accuse him of being the actual murderer of all three victims.  And the scene ends with Martin cringing at the onslaught of the five figures.

In the next scene we are in Marchand’s Wax Museum in Belgium and we see the five figures on display but then we see a new figure.  It is Martin Lombard Senescu, an infamous modern-day addition to the mass murder club.

Now animate wax figures would seem to violate photog’s prime directive against living mannequins, robots, ventriloquist’s dummies and dolls.  But a more careful analysis would reveal that this is actually a psychological drama.  Martin has allowed his empathy for the figures to allow him to assign his crimes to them.  And it’s interesting that Martin is played by Martin Balsam, the actor who played the private detective Milton Arbogast who is killed by Norman Bates, a character who attributes his own murders to an equally inanimate object, namely, his mother’s poorly taxidermized corpse.

Anyway, assuming that Martin is the murderer would seem to remove this episode from the purview of a Twilight Zone episode and therefore force me to give it a failing grade but I am going to make an exception.  Martin truly should belong in the Twilight Zone and I’m giving him a B.  He’s earned it.

The Twilight Zone – Complete Series Review – Season 4 Episode 11 – I Dream of Genie

George P. Hanley is a sort of sad sack.  He is overlooked by the boss and by the girls he likes.  When the girl in his office that he is sweet on, May is going to have a birthday he goes to an antique shop and is convinced by the salesman to buy an antique lamp (as in Aladdin’s lamp).  But his work neighbor Roger steals his thunder by giving May a fancy negligee.  Also, Roger is up for the same promotion as George and looks to have the inside track on that too.

George goes home and, of course, tries rubbing the tarnish off the lamp and out comes Jack Albertson complete with his New York City accent claiming to be the genie of the lamp.  He offers one wish to George (he’s downgraded it from three due to bad behavior by earlier masters of the lamp).  But tells George to think carefully before choosing a wish.  He also explicitly warns him against asking for money or love.

George spends the next day or so daydreaming about what would happen if he chose this or that wish.  On love, he fantasizes what would happen if he married May and she was a famous movie star.  In the dream she ends up cheating on him with Roger, so that’s out.  Then he imagines if he were a wealthy businessman but the money doesn’t make him happy so he rejects that also.  Finally, he wonders what power would be like.  He dreams he is the President of the United States and uses his power to pardon a soldier sentenced to death for falling asleep at his post.  But when his cabinet runs to him informing him that a fleet of flying saucers are coming and he has to choose between trusting that the aliens are friendly or shooting them out of the air to be safe, he panics and wakes up realizing that he doesn’t want the responsibility that comes with power.

Finally, while he is walking with his dog, he realizes what he wants with his wish.

In the last scene we see a hobo in an alley rubbing the lamp and George appearing out of it as the genie (along with his dog Attila).  George now grants wishes to the destitute and is happy.

This is a pretty weak episode.  Even a wise cracking Jack Albertson can’t add much life to this one.  It’s just sub-par.  C-.