Thursday, April 15, 2010

TZ Promo: "A Nice Place to Visit" (4/15/1960)

The man lying prostrate surrounded by garbage cans is a two-bit thief named Rocky Valentine, who's just been shot to death by a policeman during a jewel heist gone wrong. In a traditional story, this might be the ending. But we're in The Twilight Zone. This is only the prologue.

Valentine awakens in the care of Pip, a jolly sort who acts as Valentine's guide through his new post-life surroundings. Valentine finds himself the new owner of a swanky bachelor pad, zippy new threads, and women at his beck and call. Despite a life of petty crime, it seems Valentine has made it to heaven.

Sebastian Cabot is spot-on as the enigmatic Pip, who Valentine can summon with a simple phone call. The number? P-I-P. Cabot's hair, which was normally black, was bleached shock-white for this performance. Interesting side-note: I work with a guy who's (almost) a dead ringer for the white-haired Cabot. Mike Lewis, if you're reading this, consider this your official shout out.

Writer Charles Beaumont crafts a diabolical tale of cosmic justice, but in reality it comes off a bit like a half-hour one-liner. It's hardly a surprise when Valentine's true eternal disposition is revealed, and Larry Blyden's over-the-top performance as Valentine doesn't help much either. Having said all that, the episode is technically well done, effectively directed by John Brahm. The highlight comes late in act two, when Pip and Valentine visit the Hall of Records.

We last saw this enormous stairway in "Time Enough at Last" (as part of the destroyed library), but it was first seen in The Time Machine. Shooting at MGM clearly had its perks. This single scene (coupled with Cabot's performance) elevates the episode considerably. However, when you line it up against the embarrassment of riches that comprise this first season of The Twilight Zone... well, it comes up short. Had it been produced in the show's (vastly inferior) fifth season, it would probably be considered a masterpiece.

Next week: Well, nothing. An episode of Playhouse 90 aired the week of 4/22/1960 instead of The Twilight Zone. But on 4/29, the show returns with a story of a school teacher and an annoying little girl. It's not as bad as it sounds. Pour yourself a cup of cocoa and tune in.

1 comment:

ishkanei said...

It's been years since I last commented on this blog and I've meant to do it sooner, but for that sense of 'splainin' something that maybe didn't need 'splainin'? Anyway, Larry Blyden's "over the top performance": I don't fault him for that, I actually praise him for it, as the episode seems meant as light humor, and so the need to provide a sort of live-action Wile E. Coyote figure for the hammer to drop on in the last scene, otherwise we feel more sympathy than we ought to close out a half-hour of (in this case) light entertainment. It seems to me a deliberate choice by director and actor to skew it thus as a live-action cartoon rather than tragic story. In fact, there are several other episodes in this vein: "The Chaser", "Escape Clause", and "A Kind of a Stopwatch" among them. My two cents. Though then again, looked at that way, it/they might become another episode you like more than before? If I'm being pretentious there, well, I'm trying to aim high. Cheers.