Thursday, September 15, 2011

TZ Promo: “Two” (9/15/1961)


Season 3, Episode 1 (#66 overall)
Cayuga Production # 4802

Fifty years ago tonight, The Twilight Zone returned for its third season. In keeping with tradition, the season premiere features a solitary figure wandering around trying to make sense of the environment they find themselves in. This time, however, our solitary figure is a woman. And as she quickly discovers, she’s not so solitary after all.


“Two,” written and directed by Montgomery Pittman, stars the lovely Elizabeth Montgomery (of Bewitched fame) as a nameless military officer of indeterminate rank, exploring the ruins of a bombed-out city, scrounging for food. The script never specifies, but we’re given sufficient clues to deduce that she’s from the invading army, and that said army is Russian. Serling remarks that “the signposts are in English so that we may read them more easily,” but what else would they be? The city is pretty obviously American. The episode premiered in 1961, when the cold war was in full swing, so our fictional enemies are pretty clearly intended to represent the US and the USSR. The intent is made doubly clear when the woman finally speaks, and her language is… you guessed it, Russian.

Speaking English, meanwhile, is another unnamed soldier, this one played by Charles Bronson (of big 70’s mustache fame), and he speaks plenty. He’s a pacifist, he’s weary of all the fighting, and he’s a member of the presumably defeated (American) side. Actually, maybe neither side won. Serling tells us that “it’s been five years since a human being walked these streets,” and that “this is the first day of the sixth year, as man used to measure time.” Sounds like worldwide destruction to me. For all we know, these two are the last two surviving people on the whole planet. Serling confirms this in the “next week on The Twilight Zone” promo that aired (or maybe didn’t, see below) the week before this episode premiered, in which he states that the couple in question are “left alone on an otherwise uninhabited earth.”


Which begs the question: Is this that hoary old Adam and Eve parable, rearing its clichéd head? Well, sure, why not? A clichéd story works if it’s told well. TZ will crack this particular literary chestnut again in season 5, but less effectively (and more obviously). Yes, I’m talking to you, “Probe 7, Over and Out.”

You thinkin' what I'm thinkin', baby? Furlough Romance, indeed.

As it stands, “Two” is a pretty good, but not necessarily great, Twilight Zone offering. There’s really no supernatural or science fiction element to it (except the nuclear war aftermath angle, which is pretty thin, but we’re also witnessing future events, so maybe the two combined is enough to push it past the reality line…? I dunno), but the conflicted tension between the characters is engaging. Oh, and Liz Montgomery is a tasty morsel, even under all that grime. She --- along with the rest of the episode --- looks stunning in high-def. Bronson is fine in his role, but Montgomery walks off with the whole damn episode, and she only has a single word of dialogue. Alternatively childlike and deadly, she's miles away from the perky domestic Bewitch she's remembered best for (coincidentally, we've already seen a similar mime-centric performance in season two's "The Invaders" from Agnes Moorehead, who played Montgomery's mother on Bewitched).

Precrassny. *Sigh*

THE MUSIC

Nathan Van Cleave contributes original music, moody and a bit melodramatic, with effective militaristic touches via the trumpet and tympani. It’s one of my favorite TZ scores, and was first released on Varese Sarabande’s The Twilight Zone: The Original Television Scores, Volume 4 LP (and CD in Japan), and later appeared on Silva’s The Twilight Zone 40th Anniversary 4-CD set. The score is also presented in isolated form (on an alternate audio track) on Image Entertainment’s The Twilight Zone, Season 2: The Definitive Edition DVD, as well as the more recent blu-ray edition, for your listening pleasure.


I keep a CD-R of my favorite TZ scores in the car at all times. I usually revise it a couple of times per year, adding and subtracting stuff depending on my ever-changing musical whims. However, Van Cleave’s “Two” never gets rotated out, along with Bernard Herrmann’s “Walking Distance” and Fred Steiner’s “The Passersby.”


RANDOM HILARITY

Early on in the episode, Montgomery's character explores an abandoned restaurant. She discovers a lone can of "Forever Seal" pre-cooked chicken drumsticks. As she pulls it from the shelf, she spies a painfully fake tarantula on a nearby counter. With minimal reaction, she slams the can down on it. This strikes me as a bit odd... after six years of isolation, I'd probably be keeping that thing as a pet.


Splat!


THAT PROMO SHOULDN’T EXIST, BUT IT DOES…

Each Twilight Zone episode ends with a brief clip in which Rod Serling plugs the following week’s show, just a quick glance at what’s coming up next (I mimic this approach here in my episode spotlights; the Serling shots I use come from said promos). The promos were (presumably) omitted entirely during the summertime, since the episodes were never reran in the same order that they were originally aired (this is also why the promos aren’t included in syndication packages). This omission extended to repeats aired in mid-season; if a repeat was shown, there would typically be no promo for the new episode that would follow it. This included season premieres; however, Image Entertainment’s blu-ray of season three includes a promo for “Two” as a supplemental feature. Since “Two” was the season premiere, and was therefore preceded by a repeat, how can this be?


I can only speculate, but it’s probable that Cayuga had commenced production on season 3 with no clear idea which episode would open it. Therefore, they would’ve shot promos for every episode, “Two” included. The promo’s inclusion on the blu-ray in no way implies that it was ever actually aired, since it was preceded by the repeat of season one’s “A World of His Own”… but who knows? It’s nice to have either way. Thanks to Scott Stevenson for bringing this to my attention in time for this entry!

As long as we’re talking about promos, one (obviously) didn’t exist for the pilot episode “Where Is Everybody?” back in 1959. When it was repeated directly after the season two closer “The Obsolete Man” in 1961, a new promo was shot. To my knowledge, it was the only episode to be graced with a promo after the fact. This promo appears on Image Entertainment’s season two blu-ray.

Another promo tidbit: although not present on Image Entertainment’s blu-ray for season five, a promo for “In Praise of Pip” (that season’s premiere) is discussed at length in Martin Grams Jr,’s The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic (turn to page 606, students), and it sounds like it was definitely aired (with a repeat of season four’s “The Thirty Fathom Grave”). So maybe I’m completely wrong, and promos were in fact shot AND AIRED for season two’s premiere “King Nine Will Not Return,” season four’s premiere “In His Image,” and yes, season three’s “Two.” For all I know, the promos were aired all throughout the repeat seasons too, and everything I said three paragraphs up is completely wrong. Hell, I dunno. Thanks again to Scott Stevenson, for challenging my notions and making my head hurt.



Next week: A commercial airliner lands on schedule, with one big problem: it’s completely empty. Whaaaaaaat?



1 comment:

Joel Benedict Henderson said...

The Grams book does fail to acknowledge most of the "lost" promos from the DE dvds ("Escape Clause", "Dust", "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet", etc.) that later turned up on the blus so maybe the deal with the "Two" promo stems from that.