Saturday, October 24, 2009

Afterthoughts ("The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine")

If I had to guess, I'd say I haven't watched "The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine" in at least 10 years, probably closer to 15. However, I watched the entire series several times over throughout my teenage years, so my memories of most of the episodes are still pretty strong.* My 50th anniversary viewing hasn't changed my opinion of it: it's a damned good episode, perhaps falling just short of actual greatness (the kind of greatness I would attribute to episodes such as "Long Live Walter Jameson" or "Death Ship").

It should be noted that writer (and series creator) Rod Serling didn't care much for the finished episode. In fact, in a letter to Raymond Frye (whoever that is/was) a few weeks after the episode's premiere, Serling stated that he "disliked" the episode "intensely." I'm gonna have to disagree with the master on this one.

The parallels to Sunset Boulevard are a bit obvious but never distracting. The performances are top notch (I'm a fan of both the leads, Ida Lupino and Martin Balsam), and the script has that Serling bite that we all know and love. The cinematography is excellent (the projection room scenes, with the cigarette smoke mingling with the flickering glow of the projector, are pure noir beauty). The ending is happy, but with that Zone twist.

Final score: 8.5 out of 10. I don't know why Serling hated it so much.

* There are always exceptions, of course. Case in point: "Ring-A-Ding Girl," from the series' fifth season. I know I've seen it, but I have no memory of it except for a couple of fleeting images. It'll have to wait a few more years: I won't be watching it till 12/27/2013.

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