Thursday, December 2, 2010

TZ Promo: "The Lateness of the Hour" (12/02/1960)

“The Lateness of the Hour”
Season Two, Episode 8 (#44 overall)
Cayuga Production # 173-3652

50 years ago tonight, something quite bizarre happened on The Twilight Zone, and it had nothing to do with the story being presented. The picture looked… well, different somehow. Perhaps viewers didn’t notice, given the low quality of TVs back then, but the filmed program they’d been enjoying every week for a year-and-a-half was suddenly not film at all.

Videotape. Oh god, the dreaded videotape. Six episodes were shot on video during season 2 as a cost-cutting measure. Videotape was a primitive format in 1960; it certainly wasn’t the high definition format of choice that it’s evolved into over the past 50 years. Back then, it looked terrible. It’s like watching the show through a fishbowl smeared with Vaseline. Thankfully, the cost-cutting wasn’t that consequential, so they stopped after six and returned to film. The experiment, unfortunately, yielded six episodes that are permanently and irrevocably inferior to their 35mm siblings; happily, though, most of them are actually fairly decent (and watchable) episodes despite their visual failings. One of them, however, is just plain awful… but we’ll get to that one next month. Another of them, meanwhile, is an absolute treasure that transcends its technical limitations… we’ll be checking it out in three weeks, just in time for Christmas (that’s a hint, folks).

The first of the six to be broadcast, “The Lateness of the Hour,” stars the lovely Inger Stevens (last seen in “The Hitch-hiker”) as Jana, the terminally unhappy daughter of Dr. Loren (John Hoyt), who has staffed their mansion with robot servants and apparently keeps her confined to the house at all times. Jana hates the robots, and demands that her father get rid of them. More unhappiness ensues.

Written by Rod Serling and directed by Jack Smight (who directed three of the six videotaped episodes, plus season 1's "The Lonely"), “The Lateness of the Hour” is infused with a palpable sense of claustrophobia, due in part to Jana’s confinement to the house, and also due to the limitations of shooting on video. The entire episode takes place in two rooms (and a staircase). Since this particular story is light on action and heavy on dialogue (it could easily translate to a stage play), not much is ultimately lost by shooting it on video.

Next week: Speaking of stage plays, we’ll spend some time with one Mr. Booth Templeton, a renowned thespian who yearns to escape to his younger days. Like Martin Sloan before him, he’ll get his chance… but with a catch.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Of course, anyone who was "genre savvy" would know immediately what the ending twist would be.