Thursday, January 6, 2011

TZ Promo: "Dust" (1/06/1961)

Season Two, Episode 12 (#48 overall)
Cayuga Production # 173-3653

In a remote desert town in the Old West, a young Hispanic man is set to hang for accidentally killing a child. He waits in his cell, staring helplessly out the window as his gallows are readied. A grimy peddler named Sykes skulks around, offering to sell a pouch of magic dust that just might turn things around for all concerned.

Sounds like some twisted western noir but, despite its title, the episode fails to kick up much “Dust” at all. Everything seems lethargic, as if the entire thing was left out in the sun too long. Director Douglas Heyes, responsible for some of the series’ most innovative and visually exciting episodes (“The Howling Man” and “The Eye of the Beholder,” for example), took this approach intentionally to illustrate that the entire town has, in a way, become like the dust that covers it. Okay, fine, but it doesn’t make for an interesting episode. The script by Serling is good enough, but the problem here is the execution (no pun intended).

It also doesn’t help that the supernatural element is so vague as to be almost nonexistent. Really, there’s no evidence that there’s any “magic” going on at all. I’m all for subtlety, but here it just makes me yawn. The main players are all familiar TZ faces: Thomas Gomez (“Escape Clause”), John Larch (“Perchance to Dream”), and Vladimir Sokoloff (“The Gift”). The cast does its best, but ultimately the episode is a bit tedious to watch. However, like every other filmed episode, it looks spectacular in high definition on blu-ray, so it’s not a total loss.

Probably the best thing the episode has to offer is a brooding acoustic guitar score by Jerry Goldsmith, who composed many of the series’ most memorable scores (“The Invaders,” “Back There,” and a personal favorite of mine, “The Big Tall Wish”). His score for “Dust” was first released on vinyl in the 80's by Varese Sarabande (The Twilight Zone: The Original Television Scores, Volume 5; all 5 vinyl volumes were subsequently released on CD in Japan only). The score later appeared on CD in the US as part of Silva’s Twilight Zone 40th Anniversary Collection boxed set. And of course, it’s also available from Image Entertainment on both the Season 2 Definitive Edition DVD and its newly-released blu-ray counterpart, playing alongside the episode on an alternate music-only track.

Ultimately, "Dust" isn't necessarily bad, but it'll never make my favorites list. In a season filled with some of the series' finest offerings, it's average at best. Anyway, it celebrates its 50th birthday tonight.

Next week: Russell Johnson returns to The Twilight Zone for another time travel tale. He’ll find himself transported to a fateful night in April 1865, where a very special guest is attending a play at the Ford Theater. Get yourself a ticket and tune in.

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