Fifty years ago tonight, a low-down murdering son of a bitch was hung from a tree in one century and woke up in another.
Rod Serling’s “Execution,” based on an unpublished story by George Clayton Johnson and directed by David Orrick McDearmon, stars Albert Salmi as Joseph Caswell, an outlaw in 1880 who happens to be the guest of honor at a “commonplace, if somewhat grim, unsocial event known as a necktie party.” It seems our Mr. Caswell shot a man in the back, and is due to receive justice in the form of a noose around his neck. At the pivotal moment, however, instead of his neck snapping as planned, he vanishes into thin air.
He awakens in 1960 in a darkened laboratory, his neck appropriately rope-burned, confused as hell. Professor Manion (played by Russell Johnson, more famous for playing another professor on TV’s Gilligan’s Island) has apparently plucked him from the past at random using his time machine. Manion smells trouble almost immediately, and his instincts are proven correct… violently so.
Cosmic justice is a hallmark of The Twilight Zone, and tonight’s installment is a great example. While the ending may be a bit too convenient (dues ex machina, anyone?), it’s still an enjoyable episode, definitely bolstered by Salmi’s marvelous performance as Caswell. Watch his mannerisms and movements. Mean and soulless and not sorry about it, he successfully portrays a simple, savage man from a simpler, more savage time. He’d just as soon shoot you as look at you. It's all method, baby. He's riveting to watch.
Albert Salmi, wild in the streets.
Cool set alert: check out Professor Manion’s awesome laboratory, cloaked in shadow, conveniently located in a downtown office building in New York City. That time machine (the hexagon-shaped thing to the left) is freakin’ AMAZING. And that big transparent globe over to the right? Yep, you guessed it.... it's from Forbidden Planet (we saw it previously in "Third from the Sun").
The ultimate bachelor pad.. Dark shadows, gadgets galore, and an honest-to-Rod time machine!
"This may look like some kooky greenhouse; actually it happens to be a conveyance, a mode of travel... TIME travel..."
Next week: Bolie Jackson is a boxer who never quite made the big time. He still might, though, thanks to a little boy with a talent for making wishes… the big, tall kind. Get in the ring and tune in.