Thursday, March 3, 2011

TZ Promo: “Mr. Dingle, the Strong” (3/03/1961)

“Mr. Dingle, the Strong”
Season Two, Episode 19 (55 overall)
Cayuga Production # 173-3644

Remember last season’s Mr. Bevis? Remember how horrible it was? Remember how you hoped the series would never again sink to such a hideous low? Fifty years ago tonight… well, a dubious form of lightning struck twice. Yeah, The Twilight Zone unveiled something every bit as awful as Mr. Bevis.

In front of the camera, we have the brilliant Burgess Meredith, who is excellent in his other Zone outings (“Time Enough at Last,” “The Obsolete Man,” and “Printer’s Devil”), but here… well, he’s a bumbling idiot. Martian scientists secretly imbibe his character, Luther Dingle, with superhuman strength.

Now, this could’ve opened the door to something interesting (Dingle single-handedly saves the world or something… a kind of proto-Greatest American Hero), but... nope. He opts instead to show off his new strongman talents like a complete ass. Oh, and he gets revenge on a bully, well-played by a young (okay, younger) Don Rickles. Serling employed a similar concept in season one’s “Escape Clause,” in which David Wayne is made indestructible by The Devil in exchange for his soul. Wayne’s character, a verbally abusive hypochondriac, abused the power too, but it made sense because that’s what a guy like him would do. Dingle, meanwhile, has no depth of character to speak of, other than the fact that he’s a hapless punching bag, so never really get any logical motivation for his show-off antics.

Maybe I’m reading too much into this. The episode certainly doesn’t merit such scrutiny. It’s a piece of shit. Anyway, the Martians realize their mistake and take Dingle’s superhuman strength away. As they leave, a pair of diminutive Venusian scientists (obviously played by children!) show up, intent on bestowing superhuman intellect on Dingle. *Sigh*

Oh, we also get a brief appearance by James Millhollin, who we enjoyed in season one’s “The After Hours” as the prissy and befuddled department store manager. Here he plays a snippy television reporter who has a few unkind words for Dingle after his strength abruptly vanishes. He’s by default the hero of the story.

Behind the camera, we have a moronic script by Serling, trying his hand yet again at comedy and failing miserably. Directing is John Brahm, who helmed a few Zone classics (“Judgment Night,” "Mirror Image," "The Four of Us Are Dying," "Shadow Play") as well as the moody horror classic Hangover Square. It’s too bad he got stuck with this crap. I can’t imagine it ended up on his resume.

The only point of interest in the whole sad affair is the clever special effects. Dingle crushes alarm clocks, rips large rocks in half, and lifts an assortment of large objects (statues, park benches, cars, etc). These effects are generally well done. However, the aliens --- both pairs of them --- are far and away the lamest creatures The Twilight Zone ever presented in its five years on television. Even the Cyclopsian miniature aliens from season five’s “The Fear” don’t suck this bad. Here’s hoping Bif Bang Pow! does NOT make action figures or bobbleheads from this episode.

Season two had a total of three absolute stinkers in its 29-episode run: “A Most Unusual Camera,” “The Whole Truth,” and this one. It’s really hard to believe that these three were produced alongside masterpieces like “Eye of the Beholder” and “The Obsolete Man.” Serling wrote all three. What a travesty. The upside is that the rest of season two is pretty good (well, except for one mediocre outing that we won’t get to until mid-May), including a few absolute classics. The worst, as they, say is behind us… for this season, anyway.

Go ahead and watch “Mr. Dingle, the Strong,” then slap yourself for wasting 25 minutes of your life. Have I made myself clear enough here? I HATE this episode.

Next week: Back to videotape again. This time we’ve got an enchanted radio that only plays the oldies. Spin the knob and tune in.


Brett Ashley said...

i love your blog.

Craig Beam said...

Hey, thanks. Yours is really cool too. In fact, I'm planning a special spotlight on other Twilight Zone blogs, and I'll definitely be including yours.

Anonymous said...

I rather like "A most unusual camera."

Gary R. Peterson said...

Craig, my critical faculties must be compromised because I always enjoyed "Mr. Dingle," "Bevis," and "A Most Unusual Camera." They're not the best, but they're far from excrement.

Burgess Meredith, Henry Jones and Orson Bean, and Fred Clark have a lot to do with my enjoying the aforementioned. They're just fun actors to watch in virtually anything.

Your commentary was fun and informative reading, even if I didn't share with your feelings about it.

Craig Beam said...

Gary - I'd never try to deprive anyone of their joy... but yeah, I hate all three of those episodes.