Thursday, November 24, 2011

TZ Promo: “Still Valley” (11/24/1961)

Season 3, Episode 11 (#76 overall)
Cayuga Production # 4808

50 years ago tonight, The Twilight Zone took us back in time 98 years (which I guess would be 148 years ago for our purposes). It’s 1963, the day before the Battle of Gettysburg, and the Confederacy is facing imminent defeat. A Confederate scout, Joseph Paradine, ventures into a small Virginia town to confirm Union occupation, and finds himself smack dab in the middle of…. “Elegy"???

Think Samantha had a copy of this book in her lingerie drawer?

Paradine finds a battalion of Union soldiers, lined up in formation in the middle of town. Trouble is… they’re frozen in place. A toothy old man, a Confederate sympathizer, claims responsibility: “I’m a witch-man, like my pappy before me. He was the seventh son of a seventh son, and I was his seventh son.” He produces a book of witchcraft titled, ridiculously enough, “Witchcraft” (we’ll see other such books throughout the series, and they’ll have better names; “The Bard” will give us the delightful Ye Book of Ye Black Art), and offers it to Paradine. With its power, the South can be victorious.

Cheer up, sourpuss.

Paradine is played by Gary Merrill, whom I know from 1961's Mysterious Island (which just came out on blu-ray in a limited edition from Twilight Time; I’m happy to own one of the 3,000 copies in existence; I’m a sucker for those wonderful Harryhausen films) and The Outer Limits (“The Human Factor”). He’s good enough as the grizzled Reb, made instantly uncomfortable by the prospect of using black magic, what with his God-fearin’ nature and all (funny, though, how an abhorrent practice like slavery seemed to jibe just fine with these secessionist’s Christianity). Playing Teague, the spell-casting old coot, is Vaughn Taylor, last seen in season one’s “Time Enough at Last” as Henry Bemis’ unsympathetic boss. We’ll see him again later this season, selling robotic grandmothers to lonely families, in “I Sing the Body Electric.”

Contrary to popular belief, I'm not Popeye's pappy.

We’ve seen large groups of people frozen in time before, in season one’s “Elegy,” and “Still Valley” suffers from the same inherent technical problem: namely, people absolutely cannot stand perfectly still. When Paradine makes his way through the frozen battalion of Union soldiers, you can see tiny movements everywhere. It’s particularly obvious in high definition, on a big screen. This issue plagued much of “Elegy”; thankfully only one short scene is affected here.

Ultimately, “Still Valley” is overly simplistic and easily forgotten. At best, it’s just mediocre. It’s certainly not on the same bottom-feeding level as “Mr. Bevis” or “Mr. Dingle, the Strong,” but there’s nothing good or great to be found either. Watch it once and move on to something better… like next week’s episode.

Freeze right there, mister!


“Still Valley” features an original score by Wilbur Hatch. It does the job, but there’s really nothing particularly memorable about it. Like all other original scores composed and recorded for The Twilight Zone, Hatch’s score was added to the CBS Music Library, for use in both future TZ episodes and other CBS productions. None of Hatch’s ten cues were ever reused on the show. Like most (but maddeningly not all) of the series’ original scores, it can be found in isolated form on both the Definitive DVD and blu-ray editions of season three from Image Entertainment.

A crappy shot of Mr. Hatch, courtesy of Google Images.

Next week: More black magic, this time of the African variety. Hoodoo wanna voodoo?

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