Thursday, October 14, 2010

TZ Promo: "Nervous Man in a Four Dollar Room" (10/14/1960)

"Nervous Man in a Four Dollar Room"
Season Two, Episode #3 (overall #39)
Cayuga Production # 173-3641

His name is Jackie Rhodes. He's a small time crook, nickel and dime, scared of his own shadow. Tonight, his boss will scare him even more. He'll order Jackie to commit murder.

"Nervous Man in a Four Dollar Room," written by Rod Serling and directed by Douglas Heyes, first aired fifty years ago tonight. It is without question the first truly excellent episode of The Twilight Zone's second season. Seriously, there's virtually nothing to complain about here. Great script, innovative direction (which I'm not going to describe in detail, because doing so will give away too much of the plot, and I really try to avoid spoilers whenever possible), marvelous acting by the two leads (two leads, three distinct roles... uh-oh, there I go already, spoiling the surprise), a wonderful jazzy score by Jerry Goldsmith.... everything comes together beautifully. It sits comfortably in my top 40 favorite episodes of all time.

I love this episode. It feels like a stage play, but it never feels overly staged... if that makes sense. I once had aspirations of being a stage director (I was a proud member of the International Thespian Society in high school), and I remember thinking that this would be a great episode to adapt for the stage. Unfortunately, ours was a small school, and I'd need twins for the lead role... oops, there I go again, wrecking the surprise.

Never mind Michael Jackson. Jackie Rhodes is the original "Man in the Mirror."

Joe Mantell really shines as the two Jackies (damn it! See, it's impossible to talk about this episode without ruining it). We'll see him again in season five's "Steel." He's probably best known for his role in 1974's Chinatown, in which he utters the final line of the film to Jack Nicholson: "Forget it, Jake, it's... Chinatown."

Sadly, Mr. Mantell passed away just two weeks ago, on September 29. Rest in peace, Jackie. I mean John (you'll get it when you watch it).

William D. Gordon, here playing Jackie's slimy boss George, will be seen again much, much sooner. He'll appear as a much different character, a surgeon who wears his heart on his sleeve (and his face in the shadows), in "The Eye of the Beholder," a true classic that we'll be spotlighting in just a few short weeks.

The aforementioned Goldsmith score was first released on Varese Sarabande’s The Twilight Zone: The Original Television Scores, Volume 4 vinyl LP (and CD in Japan), subsequently collected in their The Best of The Twilight Zone (the first of two such "Best Of" volumes), and later appeared on Silva’s The Twilight Zone 40th Anniversary Collection. It’s also presented in isolated form (on an alternate audio track) on Image Entertainment’s The Twilight Zone, Season 2: The Definitive Edition DVD (the forthcoming blu-ray edition of Season 2 will also feature the score in isolated form).

Two weeks from tonight: If you rage against the machines... well, they might just rage back.

No comments: