“The Mind and the Matter” (5/12/1961)
Season Two, Episode 27 (63 overall)
Cayuga Production # 173-3659
Cayuga Production # 173-3659
Rod Serling will forever be remembered as a dramatist of distinction. His greatest works stand among the best that television has ever offered. The Velvet Alley. Patterns. Requiem for a Heavyweight. “Walking Distance.” “The Eye of the Beholder.” The list goes on. Upon cursory examination, his body of work is staggering in its radiant brilliance. However, the guy was human. He worked himself ragged which, coupled with his relentless chain smoking, killed him at the tender age of 50. He took on way too many commitments and, as a result, sometimes turned in work that was beneath him. When examining his body of work with a more critical eye, it’s impossible to deny that some of his stuff, for lack of a better work, stunk. 50 years ago tonight, one of his lesser literary children debuted.
“The Mind and the Matter,” written by Serling and directed by Buzz Kulik, doesn’t quite descend to the depths of past stillbirths “Mr. Bevis” or “Mr. Dingle, the Strong,” but it’s still pretty bad. To sum up: guy hates people. Guy is given a New Age book on mind control, which actually works. Guy makes humanity disappear. Guy gets lonely and repopulates the earth with duplicates of himself. Guy realizes what an ass he really is. Guy puts everything right.
That’s it. Do we care? No. Are we glad when it’s over? Hell YES. Funnyman Shelley Berman tries to make it work, but Serling’s script is just limp. The only interesting sequence -- -when our dubious hero surrounds himself with copies of himself --- is ruined by bad makeup effects (probably the only failure in William Tuttle’s illustrious career… this guy created the makeup for The Time Machine’s Morlocks, fer chrissakes).
Jack Grinnage, playing the sap who spills coffee on our hero and gives him the mystical magical book as an apology of sorts, is shockingly annoying. According to imdb.com, Grinnage turned down a role in Forbidden Planet (thankfully!). It’s pretty thin, but I’m counting is as a Twilight Zone-Forbidden Planet connection.
Berman, meanwhile, has had quite a career as a comedian and actor. He’s still active today, probably most recognizably from his recurring role as Judge Sanders on the late Boston Legal, which starred… William Shatner. There’s your Shatner connection.
The Twilight Zone does have its share of successfully comedies. Unfortunately, they’re usually written by people other than Serling. I wonder what George Clayton Johnson would’ve done with this story…? Serling will give us a much more interesting enchanted book --- Ye Book of Ye Black Art --- in a much funnier outing called “The Bard” near the end of season 4. We’ll get to that one in a couple of years.
Two weeks from tonight: Another Serling comedy. But wait! This one doesn’t suck. In fact, it’s quite good. Count your eyeballs and tune in.