Friday, May 11, 2012

TZ Promo: “Young Man’s Fancy” (5/11/1962)

Season 3, Episode 34 (99 overall)
Cayuga Production # 4813

50 years ago tonight, a blushing bride got c-blocked by that dreaded beast known as Mama’s Boy Syndrome.

Richard Matheson’s “Young Man’s Fancy” introduces us to Alex Walker and Virginia Lane, newlyweds who swing by his late mother’s residence to finalize the sale of the house and commence their new life together.  The past, however, will have none of it:  Alex is promptly overcome with nostalgia for his childhood days.  Virginia, meanwhile, is assailed by physical manifestations of the past:  copies of old magazines, a vintage vacuum cleaner, a Victrola turntable that spins the oldies of its own volition.

What we’re seeing is a tear in the fabric of space and time, willed into existence by Alex’s icky longing for his dead mother (Psycho, anyone?).  It sounds intriguing enough, but unfortunately the whole thing is one big yawnfest.  There’s never any real sense of tension, even when Virginia faces off against the specter of Alex’s dead mother (who, by the way, looks bored as hell).  Even when we find out that the late Mrs. Walker isn’t even to blame for Alex’s reversion, the revelation doesn’t pack anything resembling a wallop.  John Brahm, who directed such atmospheric TZ entries as "Judgment Night" and "Shadow Play," clearly phoned this one in. The subject matter demands creepiness, dammit, and this episode simply fails to deliver it.

Ultimately, the fault lies with Matheson’s script.  The case can also be made that he cribbed this idea from Reginald Rose’s superior “The Incredible World of Horace Ford,” a 1955 production by Studio One, in which a nostalgic toy designer gradually wishes himself into boyhood again (ironically, Rose would adapt his teleplay for The Twilight Zone’s fourth season).  Closer to home, Matheson may have found, um, inspiration in George Clayton Johnson’s “Kick the Can,” which featured a group of rest home residents who escape into their childhoods.  In any case, Matheson’s story kernel isn’t original in the least; not necessarily a crime in and of itself, but impossible to overcome with a limp script.  Throw lackluster direction on top of it, and mediocrity is all but guaranteed.

“Young Man’s Fancy” features an original musical score by Nathan Scott (who also composed the score for season one’s “A Stop at Willoughby”); unfortunately, it’s every bit as generic and forgettable as the episode itself (imagine what Jerry Goldsmith might've done here!).  The production number (4813) indicates that the episode was produced early in season three (which explains why the opening music is the earlier non-Herrmann version of the Constant theme); however, it wasn’t aired until the tail end of the season…. presumably because it’s just so damned weak.  Or wait!  What if it was held back to coincide with Mother's Day...?  Eeeew.

Bottom line:  you’ll watch, you’ll yawn, you’ll forget it almost immediately.  It’s not quite in the heinous category (“Four O’clock,” “Mr. Bevis,” etc), but it's nothing great... or even particularly good.

Next week:  “I Sing the Body Electric” introduces us to Facsimile Limited, where you can build an electric grandmother from scratch.  So much for the prescience of science fiction:  50 years later, the closest we’ve come is Build-A-Bear. 

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