Monday, June 13, 2011

Under Construction....

For the first time since I started this blog... well, I'm taking a brief break from posting. But alas, I won't be resting. I'm in the middle of a pretty awesome development that (if it pans out) will greatly enhance this blog. Therefore, I'm temporarily ceasing operations while I iron things out.

I should be back in a couple of weeks, tops. I've got a lot of great things planned for the summer, so it'll definitely be worth the wait.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

In Retrospect: Season 2 (1960-1961)

Another season of The Twilight Zone has come and gone. What can one say about season two? Um… well, it was shorter than the other seasons (with the exception of season four, but since that’s only a half-season, it’s not really a fair comparison) due to budgetary demands by CBS (which resulted in six videotaped episodes, most of which were subpar). Season two was also a slight step down in quality from season one, but it still contained some absolute gems (including two of my top ten favorites, “Shadow Play” and “The Obsolete Man,” as well as other classics like “Eye of the Beholder,” “Nervous Man in a Four Dollar Room,” and “The Invaders”). There were also some clunkers sprinkled throughout (“Mr. Dingle, the Strong,” “The Whole Truth,” and “A Most Unusual Camera” should’ve been aborted before they ever saw the light of day), and a few mediocre offerings (“The Man in the Bottle,” “A Thing About Machines,” and “The Mind and the Matter” weren't exactly awful, but they weren't especially good either). Nothing in season two trumped the absolute crime against television that season one’s “Mr. Bevis” committed, but “Dingle” sure as hell tried.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the series would never match the overall brilliance of its first season. “Bevis” aside, it was nine months of damn good television. Season two, despite its abbreviated length, was a pretty impressive follow-up (however, I should note that a whopping nine of my top 20 favorite episodes of all time come from season one, while a mere three come from season two). Season three will feature some brilliant episodes, but things will start to get a bit stale… well, we’ll get there in the fall.

As I did last year, I’ll post screen captures from select episodes that I didn’t use during the season (usually to prevent spoilers). Enjoy!

King Nine Will Not Return.... well, I guess it kinda did return after all.

The Eye of the Beholder. Makes me wonder what the pigs on that planet look like....

Gotta love an elaborate makeup job that still allows you to smoke. I'm sure Oasis Cigarettes appreciated this.

The Invaders are from... earth. Wait, so we're actually the invaders? OMG!!!

Henry Corwin is the REAL Santa Claus. I derive from this that it's perfectly okay for me to get drunk on Xmas Eve.

Static: it seems nostalgia really CAN make you younger.

A crack in the glass meant this Rip Van Winkle never woke up. Oh well, he would've died anyway.

The Silence: The guy with the voicebox-removal scar is a total cheater.

The Obsolete Man: Romney Wordsworth meets an explosive end.

The Obsolete Man: The chancellor meets an explosive end of his own.

Season Two was brought to you by Oasis Cigarettes. Thank you, and goodnight.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

TZ Promo: “The Obsolete Man” (6/02/1961)

“The Obsolete Man” (6/02/1961)
Season Two, Episode 29 (65 overall)
Cayuga Production # 173-3661

“There is no God. The State has proven that there is no God!”

The Chancellor bellows pro-State sentiments from his impossibly high lectern. A meek librarian stands below, the reality of the situation sinking in. He has been found obsolete. He is to be executed.

TZ alums Burgess Meredith (“Time Enough at Last,” “Printer’s Devil,” and, sadly, “Mr. Dingle, the Strong”) and Fritz Weaver (“Third from the Sun”) return as the librarian and the chancellor, respectively, and both turn in excellent performances. When we meet them, the chancellor is vicious and predatory, while the librarian is weak and fearful. By the end of the episode, the tables aren’t so much turned as flipped over and smashed.

The first half of the episode takes place in a futuristic courtroom, which looks like something out of a German Impressionistic nightmare (was director Silverstein channeling Fritz Lang?). The door that Meredith enters through is impossibly tall, for no apparent reason other than to amp up the ominousness quotient.

Rod Serling’s “The Obsolete Man,” directed by Eliot Silverstein, is an absolute classic. This is one of those episodes in which every component operates at maximum greatness, and the combined result is transcendent. “The Eye of the Beholder” is frequently cited as the all-time greatest episode of The Twilight Zone but, for my money, “The Obsolete Man” trumps it. I recently revised my Top Ten Favorites list to include it, and I can’t wait to watch it tonight, on its 50th anniversary, in glorious high definition (thanks, Image Entertainment!).

In 1995, a local theater company called Hellfire Productions performed “The Obsolete Man” (along with “A Game of Pool” and “Nothing in the Dark”), complete with an actor performing Rod Serling’s narration. I was fortunate enough to attend, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I still have the program:



Back, for completeness' sake.

In between episodes (okay, acts), they had a TZ trivia contest. As I recall, one of the questions asked which two actors starred in the most episodes. The answer is, of course, Jack Klugman and Burgess Meredith, which I’m happy to say I answered correctly (I don’t recall getting a prize, however). After the play, I got myself on their mailing list. They produced nine more episode adaptations over the next 3 years... but for some unfathomable reason, I never saw them. I still have the postcards they sent me advertising each production, which I'll scan and post sometime soon. In fact, I'm hoping to track down somebody connected with the production for an interview...

The music in “The Obsolete Man,” is sourced from Bernard Herrmann’s score for the CBS Radio Workshop’s 1956 adaptation of Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World.” This score (like much of Herrmann’s radio work) was subsequently added to the CBS Music Library, and its various cues found their way into several TZ episodes. The score was released on vinyl in the early 80s by Cerberus Records (Bernard Herrmann: Music for Radio and Television), and on CD in 2003 by Prometheus (Bernard Herrmann: The CBS Years Volume 2: American Gothic).

Next week: The summer rerun season kicks off with a bang. We return to where it all started: Earl Holliman stars as a lonely man with no memory, wandering through an empty town and wondering… say it with me now… “WHERE IS EVERYBODY?”