Saturday, April 30, 2016

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S02 E16: A Penny For Your Thoughts

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S02 E16: A Penny For Your Thoughts

The trappings and conundrum of not being able to read minds, but having people’s thoughts forcibly transmitted to you is the basis of this enjoyable episode, revolving in and through the Twilight Zone’s mystique.

Dick York plays the role of the shy and non-confrontational Hector Poole, who when paying for a newspaper flips his coin into the tray, where it sits on its edge. As a result he begins to ‘hear’ the thoughts of people all around him in his head, even as they say different things to his face. The episode then follows him through his day, as he deals with both customers and fellow employees while being confronted with their unspoken thoughts and then trying to deal with that knowledge.

The moments of both good and bad decisions by Hector are played out with the touch of humour required to get the best out of the episode, and the conclusion ties up everything in a pleasing way. Dick York carries the episode with his ease of charm, and makes this one of those episodes that doesn’t promise anything it can’t deliver.

Rating: Let’s see you get that coin on its side again. 4/5

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S02 E15: The Invaders

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S02 E15: The Invaders

One of the more remarkable episodes from The Twilight Zone in many ways, including the acting and directing, but also the writing and the final twist in the tale that comes with all of the best episodes from the series.

The Invaders stars Agnes Moorehead in a one woman role as the only person who appears on screen throughout the episode. It is also important to note that she does not utter one word throughout, and emotes he character’s feelings to the viewer completely through her actions and her occasional gasps and cries. It is quite a performance, one that is sometimes lost within the scope of the Twilight Zone universe. While the ‘invaders’ appear in the episode and are occasionally heard to be communicating, there are no other actors as the invaders are so small they are seen as such.

The woman is in her small ramshackle house when she hears noises in her attic, and she eventually discovers that she has been invaded by small creatures that are beginning to make their way through her home. Through the episode we watch as they come together and she fights for her property. It isn’t until the final scene that we discover it is not a human being invaded by small being from outer space, it is indeed small humans from Earth ‘invading’ a giant of another planet.

This is so well done on all levels that it is a must watch for all devotees of the programme. Richard Matheson’s story perfectly encapsulates the way this show can turn around what may appear to be normal and like a mirror make you face yourself and your own beliefs. A wonderful episode.

Rating: Things are not always as they appear on the surface. 5/5

Monday, April 25, 2016

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S02 E14: The Whole Truth

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S02 E14: The Whole Truth

This is a likeable episode, and given the observed nature of the employment of the protagonist here it becomes amusing along the way as well.

How well would a used car salesman operate if he was forced to tell the truth without fail? It’s a clichĂ© of course, but one that is explored endlessly in TV shows and movies. Still, by purchasing a car from a customer – who has already told him that the owner of the car is forced to always tell the truth – Harvey is indeed bound by the curse, and it begins to impinge on his business and his own life.

The story has its moments, and one wonders just how Harvey is going to offload himself of this problem. And while the eventual conclusion is an inventive one – who apart from a car salesman could be accused of constant lying than a politician? – it is just a little far-fetched to believe a Russian Premier would buy a car from a used car salesman in America?

Rating: Enjoyable in a mindless kind of way. 3/5

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S02 E13: Back There

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S02 E13: Back There

There is always the (theoretical) danger when it comes to time-travel stories as to how to approach those episodes that deal with events well known to the viewing public, and how well the story can be told around those events. For instance, being transported back in time to the night that Abraham Lincoln was assassinated immediately rang alarm bells in my head.

Why? Well, if you interfere with that event, how does the rest of history change after that? In this instance, our protagonist Peter tries to do the right thing and warn people of the event, but he is of course unable to do so. In this instance, because John Wilkes Booth himself drugs him. Realistic? Well…

Also, the finale, where the man he passed on his way out of the Club is found to have inherited his money from the one person who believed Peter in the past and tried to save the President… well I’m not buying it. It all becomes a bit too convenient, even for this show.

Rating: Where is his protection detail? 2/5.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S02 E12: Dust

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S02 E12: Dust

Over the period of a series, not every episode is a great one, indeed not every episode is an average one. Somewhere through the time on air there will be episodes that just don’t stack up when it comes to those it is surrounded by. This one is one of those for me.

Perhaps it is the somewhat morbid air of the entire episode. A man is convicted to hang after accidently killing a child. Skulking around is a peddler, who not only sells the rope to hang the man, but sells a bag of dirt to the man’s father insisting it is magic dust which will change the mood of the mob and help free his son. The rest of this episode is devoted to the slow crawl of the inevitable final scene, where not only does the brand new rope suddenly break as soon as the trap door is released, the man survives, and the parents of the girl killed decide he has suffered enough, and THEN the peddler starts giving his money away! Yeah, it’s a little much for little reward.

Rating: Check the bonds of that rope. Or don’t sell real magic. 2/5

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S02 E11: The Night of the Meek

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S02 E11: The Night of the Meek

Well, you can’t blame any show for having a Christmas-themed episode, can you? Even one here that probably feels predictable all the way through to its conclusion, but makes use of such a fine actor in Art Carney in making the story watchable.

Utilising the idea of a man who wants to do good but has tools in order to do that, we see this drunken wretch find a large bag in an alley that suddenly starts producing the very things that are wanted by the people to whom our protagonist approaches. He is arrested soon after in the belief that he stole these things from the store where he had previously been working as a Santa Claus – but when anyone else looks in his bag, they find only rubbish.

As a Christmas story it works just fine. As a Twilight Zone episode, is sits comfortably back in the pack.

Rating: Here comes Santa Claus. 3/5

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S02 E10: A Most Unusual Camera

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S02 E10: A Most Unusual Camera

This is an entertaining episode, with a natural twist from the usual ‘seeing into the future’ routine to include a camera that takes photos of what will occur some five minutes in the future.

Obviously this special talent, once discovered, can only be used in so many ways that would be seen as useful, but our criminal duo and the addition of a brother, having stolen the camera in the first place, soon discover ways in which to utilise it to make all the money they can.

The episode moves along nicely, and even the strange addition of the French waiter into the mix doesn’t seem to harm the flow. It is only once we reach the climax of the story, where the camera spits out its final two photographs that don’t seem to add up that everything begins to spiral apart for everyone within the hotel room.

As mentioned, this is an interesting deviation from the norm, and it is another of those Serling episodes where anyone who steps out of line ends up being dealt with appropriately… in the Twilight Zone…

Rating: Say cheese! 4/5

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S02 E09: The Trouble With Templeton

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S02 E09: The Trouble With Templeton

When I first started watching this episode, I thought it was going to be one that I watched the once, and immediately put on that list of ‘I’ve watched it, but never again’ shows. Well, I was mistaken, and though it wasn’t until the final five minutes of the episode that it all clicked together for me, it was made it so much more enjoyable than I thought it would be, and has enhanced my enjoyment since.

The trappings of advancing age is the tale of this story, with our protagonist reminiscing on his past and on those things that he loved from back then and how much he missed those times. As his day progressively gets worse, he storms out of his play rehearsal to find he has gone back 30 years in time, and can now catch up with his departed love of his life and his best friend. However, things don’t go according to plan, and it seems that all is awry in the past as well.

The final twist as Templeton returns to his own time is just perfect, as was the acting and directing of the two major scenes that complete the story, and allow Templeton to regain his sense of self-esteem. As I said, I particularly enjoy the way the episode turns out, and it is well worth watching without having that final ending revealed.

Rating: Can memories of the past be just seen through rose coloured glasses? 4/5

Friday, April 15, 2016

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S02 E08: The Lateness of the Hour

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S02 E08: The Lateness of the Hour

I think this episode had the potential to be much better than it eventually turned out to be, and that’s not because it was filmed on videotape to save money and comes across like live theatre because of it.

There was always a strange air about the home of Loren family, with the two parents constantly being doted upon by their hired help, which are in fact robots designed by Dr William Loren. The fact that they won’t allow their grown daughter Jana out of the house, and that every supposed need is taken care of by these robots should surely have sent off alarm bells very early on, even to the most uninterested of viewers. The fact that all of the photos around the house have Jana looking exactly as she was at that time, and none of her when she was ‘younger’, was surely a dead giveaway that the servants were not the only robots living within the household.

Yes, this episode does just dawdle along, and with the resolution obvious from early on, there was no real twist to keep you in suspense to the end.

Rating: Ask me no questions I’ll tell you no lies. 2/5

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S02 E07: Nick of Time

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S02 E07: Nick of Time

Who doesn’t like a tale about a fortune teller who can see the future and wants to mess with your life? This is a nice variation on the theme that keeps you intrigued to the end without requiring a massive twist to make it enjoyable.

Watching a very young William Shatner playing the lead role along with Patricia Breslin as his young wife, they are particularly good as the couple whose car breaks down in a small town, and while waiting for it to be fixed they stop for lunch in a café that has a fortune telling machine on their table, and by feeding in a coin and asking a question it will pop out a card with its answer on it. Their initial fun turns to morbid curiosity when the answers they get to their questions turn out true. Don in particular in dragged in under its spell, especially when the machine informs them they must not leave before 3pm.

The story is well written and covers all the areas you would expect it to go. The end of the episode surprised me a little, as I expected Don and Pat to be all consumed by the machine and meet some terrible doom. Of course, being the Twilight Zone, there is still someone else’s story that can be tied up in it as well.

Rating: The seer of all in its domain. 4/5

Monday, April 11, 2016

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S02 E06: Eye of the Beholder

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S02 E06: Eye of the Beholder

This is one of those episodes that transcends the genres that the Twilight Zone proliferates, and becomes one of those wonderfully perfect episodes that should be shown in schools everywhere as a lesson that everyone should learn in regards to racism. Sexism, elitism and every other facet of humanity’s indignant response to those not of the ‘norm’.

Rod Serling once again nails the argument of what is held as ‘normal’ and what is held as ‘abnormal’ in a story that is also perfectly filmed to emphasise its point. Throughout the episode we see Janet Tyler’s face wrapped in bandages after yet another operation to make her ‘normal’, to enhance her beauty such that it is like everyone else around her. She worries constantly of what the result will be given that by law, she is on her last chance. If the operation is a failure she will have to live her life as an ‘abnormal’. At no stage do we see the faces of anyone, until Janet’s face is finally revealed to all, and then their faces too are shown to the camera.

People may say this is an easily discovered plotline; that the end is not really a twist as it is hinted at all the way through. This may be true, but firstly consider the excellent camera work and direction needed to conceal the twist until the reveal, and secondly consider the message that Serling pointedly makes to his audience, one that still has as much meaning today as it did when it was first aired back in 1960.

Rating: Can bandages withhold true beauty. 4.5/5

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S02 E05: The Howling Man

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S02 E05: The Howling Man

Whilst initially this felt like a Rod Serling story to me, it turns out it was written by Charles Beaumont, and the story and idea is an intriguing one, and while it might take a bit of time to get going, it is worth it in the long run.

As told in a flashback story by the protagonist, he comes across a castle in the middle of nowhere in Europe while looking for shelter. He is initially turned away by the occupants, abut as he is in no condition to travel he is let inside. His discovery inside of a ‘howling man’ who is being held captive within the castle is further complicated by the story given to him as to why he is being held there. He feigns belief in the story, while at the same time deciding he must do something about it.

While the episode does tend to get bogged down by its slow reveal, once the identity of the howling man and his travails are revealed it all comes together in a more than satisfying conclusion. Apart from the fact that once the bottle is uncorked, it appears unlikely it can ever be fully sealed once again. Beaumont’s story still holds up today, because its relevance transcends the years and can always be translated into today’s world

Rating: For goodness sakes just leave the damn door closed! 4/5

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S02 E04: A Thing About Machines

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S02 E04: A Thing About Machines

Looking back now in this ridiculous age of technology, the idea behind this episode is well worth considering and seeing just how something like this would be a possibility in the mind of a disturbed person.

Our protagonist in this story seems to have a problem. All of his electronic devices and machines seem to have a habit of being broken. It’s just that they are broken by the man in question. And while he seems incapable of interacting with humans he seems even more unable to come to terms with machines. And they seem to be turning on him.

The realms that this episode takes us to is amusingly believable in a corner of the Twilight Zone that takes its vengeance on people whose interactive skills are just not up to it. The idea is a good one, but it does feel by the end that it has been overused without actually making the best use of it throughout.

Rating: Get out Finchley! 3.5/5

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S02 E03: Nervous Man in a Four Dollar Room

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S02 E03: Nervous Man in a Four Dollar Room

Another of Serling’s one-room plays that places an enormous amount of emphasis on the actor or actors involved to retain the interest of the viewer given the lack of interaction and change in scenery.

Fortunately Joe Mantell is excellent here in the role of Jackie Rhoads, the nervous man of the episode’s title, who is a two bit criminal working for a mobster. Here in this room he is awaiting instructions, which is to go and kill and storekeeper who has refused to pay their protection money. Jackie starts to talk to himself in the mirror, when to his surprise his reflection starts to talk back to him. Only it isn’t quite his own reflection. Staring back at him is his doppelganger, a confident image as against his own nervous and undecided nature.

The episode focuses on the discussion between the two, with the reflection of Jackie wanting to ‘take over’ their life, and come out into the real world to replace the nervous Jackie and get their life on track. Given the day and age, this episode is excellently filmed and wonderfully acted by Mantell in playing both parts, and the back and forth is completely realistic. When the ending comes it mightn’t be a surprise, but it is convincingly portrayed. An enjoyable sojourn.

Rating: Don’t spin that mirror. 4/5

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S02 E02: The Man in the Bottle

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S02 E02: The Man in the Bottle

This is a similar twist on the old tale about the monkey paw, that would grant wishes to its owner but usually with a side effect that guaranteed that not all turned out well for the recipient.

Such is the story here, with an antiques dealer buying the bottle, from which magically appears a genie who offers them four wishes. So, not one wish, not three wishes, but four wishes. You get the feeling that this was just to ensure the episode ran for the correct amount of time? Anyway…

Each wish is granted on request, but of course all is not as it seems, and the couple find that there seems no way to ensure they finish in front on the deal. A broken glass cabinet is restored, but eventually broken once again. They wish for money, which they share with others, but they are then hit with a tax bill that leaves them with practically nothing. Arthur wishes to be a placed in a position of power, and he becomes Adolf Hitler in the dying days (literally) of World War II.

While the episode has its moments, and tries to tell the moral story of be happy with what you have, it isn’t able to build on the idea as presented, and eventually becomes an easy episode to watch, but not a memorable one.

Rating: Don’t take that cyanide capsule. 3/5.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S02 E01: King Nine Will Not Return

Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S02 E01: King Nine Will Not Return

The second series of The Twilight Zone kicks off with an average tale of a man who finds himself alone in the desert beside the wreckage of his crashed plane, and with no sign of life anywhere else around him. Despite his best efforts, he cannot locate any other members of his crew, nor can he remember much of anything else. When jet planes fly over the top of him, he can’t understand why he knows what they are, even though they are far more advanced than anything from his time is.

When it comes to the crux of the episode, where we then see our protagonist in hospital suffering from the effects of delayed hallucinations, which his doctors claim have been triggered by the newspaper which claims to have found his plane some 17 years after it crashed without trace, you then have to decide whether it is his mind playing tricks on him, or his claims playing tricks on the doctors.

Despite the reasonable assumption of mind games, this is a fairly lacklustre start to the new series.

Rating: Flying in a blue dream. 3/5