Thursday, July 1, 2010

TZ Promo: "A World of His Own" (7/01/1960)

The Twilight Zone ended its historic first season 50 years ago tonight with “A World of His Own,” a comedic tale in which the creative power of the writer is taken to supernatural extremes. The writer (here a playwright) in question uses a Dictaphone to record his ideas; those ideas, in turn, magically come to life. We never learn if the Dictaphone itself is enchanted, or if the writer himself has extraordinary powers (like little Anthony Fremont of season 3’s “It’s a Good Life”), but either way… well, the whole affair is a writer’s wet dream. Serling himself was famous for writing his scripts verbally using a Dictaphone; it’s a bit surprising, therefore, that this episode WASN’T written by him.

The Twilight Zone’s attempts at comedy are usually failures (“Mr. Bevis,” which we looked at a few weeks ago, is the most glaring example, but there others: “A Most Unusual Camera,” “Cavender is Coming,” and “Once Upon a Time” are all terminally unfunny). Happily, “A World of His Own” manages to beat the odds, likely due to a sharp and clever script by Richard Matheson. Matheson’s original short story, it should be noted, wasn’t a comedy at all: his seminal tale focused on the horror of the writer’s unique talent, not the comic potential. I think the tonal shift was a good idea in this case…. otherwise, we wouldn’t have that delicious ending, which provides us with Serling’s first on-screen appearance and a delightful breaking of the fourth wall as Serling interacts --- for the first and only time in the series --- directly with the characters.

The cast is flawless. Keenan Wynn (son of Ed Wynn, seen previously in “One for the Angels”) is the perfect anchor for the increasingly chaotic proceedings. His Gregory West, “one of America’s most noted playwrights,” is calm and collected, always in control, a veritable master of his own universe, an untouchable playboy with real power on his side. Phyllis Kirk shines as his high-maintenance rich-bitch wife. Mary La Roche, who will appear later in the series in “Living Doll,” essentially plays it straight as West’s secret (well, until about thirty seconds into the episode) lover, soft and feminine, the ideal alternative for the unhappy husband.

And then there’s the elephant. What can I say? It’s a real big-as-life elephant, right there in the goddamned house. It's not an optical effect.

“A World of His Own” is a nice capper on a stunning season, and its final scene suggests an enhanced self-awareness that was certainly ahead of its time in 1960. It still snaps and buzzes, 50 years later.

Next: 12 weeks of summer reruns, then season 2 starts. Wow, imagine only having to wait 3 months before your favorite show started up again. A season these days is usually 16 episodes, tops. The times, they sure have a-changed. My plan is to watch the repeats as they occur, but I probably won’t post entries about each one. Well, maybe I will. Damn it, I dunno. I guess I can decide as I go. I am, after all, the one holding the Dictaphone when it comes to this blog.

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