Thursday, March 31, 2011

TZ Promo: “Long Distance Call” (3/31/1961)

“Long Distance Call” (3/31/1961)
Season Two, Episode 22 (58 overall)
Cayuga Production # 173-3667

Fifty years ago tonight, a little boy’s dear departed grandmother reached out and touched him. No, this isn’t a zombie story (those wouldn’t be in vogue for a few more decades). Rather, Grandma bridged the gap between the real world and the afterlife with a simple phone call.

Brrrrring. Billy, it’s for you!

Charles Beaumont’s “Little Girl Lost” offers us the latest in a long line of The Twilight Zone’s supernatural objects. It’s a toy telephone which, for reasons never explained, can somehow connect the living with the dead. The supernatural aspect is actually pretty subtle… Billy could be imagining/pretending that he’s talking to his grandma. Billy’s mom, shocked into near-catatonia when she hears breathing on the other end of the toy phone, may simply be the victim of her own nerves. Billy’s near-death incident may have been a simple accident, not influenced by grandma’s urging. And the climax, in which Billy’s dad pleads with grandma to release her grip on the boy… well, the end result might just be a coincidence. Either way, the chain of events is undeniably horrific. The death of a loved one is hard on a kid, but sheesh.

Forbidden Planet alert! Well, sorta. Billy is played by Billy Mumy, probably best known as Will Robinson from TV’s Lost In Space, the cast of which included the B-9 Robot, Robby the Robot's fraternal twin (Robby himself appeared on the series once too). This is Mumy’s first of three TZ appearances, but most people don’t remember this one. Next season, he’ll return as little Anthony Fremont, the most powerful kid in the world, in the excellent “It’s a Good Life.” Beyond that, he shows up in season five's "In Praise of Pip," opposite the legendary Jack Klugman. I was hoping to snag Mr. Mumy for a brief Q&A before this entry went to press, but he didn’t return my messages. Ah well, he’s a busy guy, with his folk music career and all. He’s still okay by me.

I scoured Google Images for the toy telephone used in this episode, but I came up empty. I did, however, find this:

Bet you weren’t expecting a Toy Story 3 plug here, were you?

Interestingly, another “chat with the dead by telephone” episode will crop up down the road, in season five’s “Night Call,” which will beat this episode by a mile. However, “Long Distance Call” is decent enough. It’s hampered by the videotape it was shot on (this is the final of season two’s six episodes that were shot on tape to save money), but the script and the performances are of sufficient quality to overcome the technical end of things. It’s not a favorite of mine, but I don’t mind recommending it.

Next week: A desperate man in 1880 walks over a sandy hill and finds himself in 1961. It’s the first of a Twilight Zone time travel double-whammy, and it’s a good one. Do tune in.

1 comment:

drlerner said...

I got a really cool phone, looks like one from episode, Bil signed for me.