Friday, June 8, 2012

Repeat Report – Summer 1962 (Part 1)

The summer 1962 reruns kicked off on 6/08/1962 with “The Odyssey of Flight 33” and ran for fifteen weeks (14 episodes were aired; there was pre-emption on 8/24).  We’ll look at the first half here, which is comprised of seven episodes from season 2.  Note that “The Eye of the Beholder” was aired under its alternate title for its repeat airing:  “The Private World of Darkness.”  As always, click on each image for a full-sized eyeful of high-definition beauty.

Original air date:  2/24/1961

The Private World of Darkness (aka “The Eye of the Beholder”) (rerun)
Original air date: 11/11/1960

Original air date: 9/30/1960

Original air date: 12/09/1960

Dust (rerun)
Original air date: 1/06/1961

Original air date: 11/04/1960

Original air date: 12/16/1960

It confounds me to no end that several undisputed classics from season 2 were never repeated, including “Nervous Man in a Four-Dollar Room,” “The Rip Van Winkle Caper,” “Shadow Play” and “The Obsolete Man.”  Meanwhile, embarrassingly awful crap like “A Most Unusual Camera” got an encore telecast.  Why, Rod, why???

We'll have a look at the second half of the summer 1962 repeats in about six weeks.  Things will likely be a bit quiet around here between now and then.  It is summer, after all....

Thursday, June 7, 2012

RIP Ray Bradbury

August 22, 1920 – June 5, 2012

Ray Bradbury, writer of the Twilight Zone episode "I Sing the Body Electric," has passed away at the age of 91.  Bradbury's influence on The Twilight Zone, and on the science fiction and fantasy genres, is incalculable.  I'm a huge fan of his work (my favorite novel of all time is his Fahrenheit 451), so naturally I'm devastated.  Yet another hand I'll never be able to shake....

Rest in peace, good sir.  Thank you for all the rockets and Martians you filled my head with.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

In Retrospect: Season 3 (1961-1962)

The Twilight Zone aired more episodes in season 3 than any other season (37; seasons 1 and 5 each had 36); however, two of those episodes were actually produced during season 2 (“The Grave” and “Nothing in the Dark”).  Unfortunately, quantity didn’t always equal quality…

Readers of this blog are aware that I don’t typically rate and rank the episodes as I review them.  However, for retrospective purposes, I am willing to categorize them in three general ballparks:  Decent-to-excellent, mediocre, and lousy.  Season 3 breaks down as follows:

Good-to-excellent: 32
Mediocre: 2
Lousy: 5

This means that 81.08% of season 3 was good-to-excellent.  That’s not bad, but it’s a step down from season 2’s 82.76%, and it’s a dramatic drop from season 1’s 91.67%.

The mediocre entries were “Showdown with Rance McGrew” and “Hocus-Pocus and Frisby.”  Neither were terrible and they had their moments, but I’d be fine if I never crossed paths with them again.

The lousy entries were “The Mirror,” “Once Upon a Time,” “Four O’clock,” “The Gift,” and “Cavender is Coming.”  All five are offensively bad in some way (actually several ways, in most cases), and all five should’ve been aborted before production ever started.  They could’ve (and should’ve) produced five less episodes and ran some of the season 1 gems that never got encores instead.

Here are some screenshots that I held back during the weekly episode spotlights (usually to avoid spoilers.)  Enjoy!

Friday, June 1, 2012

TZ Promo: “The Changing of the Guard” (6/01/1962)

Season 3, Episode 37 (102 overall)
Cayuga Production # 4835

Fifty years ago tonight, The Twilight Zone’s third season came to a gentle, elegiac close with a somber tale of failure, redemption, and… oh yeah, ghosts.

“The Changing of the Guard” concerns elderly Professor Ellis Fowler, who is devastated to learn that he is being forced into retirement just as school is letting out for the Christmas break. Believing himself to be an abject failure, and that he’s never really taught anyone anything worthwhile, he sets out into the winter night… with a loaded pistol in his pocket.  However, the ghosts of his past students might have something to say about this misguided act.

Genre favorite Donald Pleasence is remarkable as Fowler, a character twice his actual age (the age makeup is among the best in the entire series; it holds up quite well under the high definition microscope).  Pleasence wasn’t a recognizable actor (in the US, anyway) at the time; I imagine most who saw his performance when it first aired assumed he actually was a senior citizen.

Pleasence would go on to a memorable role the following year as a man with extraordinary psychic abilities in the Outer Limits episode “The Man With the Power” but, more famously, he was one of three actors to portray the villainous Ernst Blofeld in the James Bond film series (specifically You Only Live Twice; coincidentally my favorite Bond outing).  He also played Dr. Loomis in several installments of the Halloween film franchise.

The headmaster is played by Liam Sullivan, last seen in season two’s “The Silence,” in which his obnoxious character promised to remain silent for a year (but cheated by having his vocal cords snipped).  Here he’s got plenty of nice things to say, but our Professor Fowler is too despondent to hear them. The lovely, pastoral music heard as Fowler leaves said headmaster’s office (after being told of his forced retirement) is called “Quiet Western Scene,” a CBS Music Library stock cue by Nathan Van Cleave, contributor of many great original TZ scores.  Here we only get a snippet; the cue will be more prominently featured in season four’s “On Thursday We Leave For Home” (we’ll get it about a year from now).

Ghosts appear and fade away. (Men at Work, "Overkill")

Aside from the scheduling absurdity of airing a Christmas episode in June (TZ would also rerun its perennial holiday classic “Night of the Meek” a few months later… in August!), “The Changing of the Guard” is a gentle, satisfying tale of one man’s heartbreak and ultimate optimism for the future.  I could argue that Fowler is actually a selfish jackass for endeavoring to blow his own brains out in the middle of the campus, which would likely traumatize both the faculty and the student body, but I’ve never been forced to retire, so I’m really not in a position to judge.  In all honesty, I WISH they’d force me to retire.  At 42, however, I fear I’ve got quite a while to wait.

Next:  The summer rerun season kicks off with the passionate tale of a plane, a dinosaur, and the freak tailwind that brought them together.