Thursday, January 31, 2013

TZ Promo: "Mute" (1/31/1963)

Season 4, Episode 5 (#107 overall)
Cayuga Production # 4858
Originally aired January 31, 1963

Before we start, notice anything strange about that title card?  That lettering is positively GIGANTIC.  Okay, the title is a measly four letters long, but other short-titled episodes didn't get an oversized card (“Dust” and “Two,” for example). Oddly enough, the title is regular-sized in the end credits.  After the missing quotation marks two weeks ago (“Valley of the Shadow”) and now this, I’m starting to think Pacific Title had a gremlin on staff, tampering with their output.

Richard Matheson’s “Mute” opens on a clandestine meeting in which several couples enter into a secret pact to raise their children in silence, to (hopefully) promote telepathy.  It’s not disclosed if this consortium has already achieved some success in this rather peculiar endeavor, or if they’re flying completely blind.  It’s so crazy, it might just work.

And work it does.  Fast forward ten years to a house fire in the quaint little town of German Corners, PA.  A young girl, Ilse Nielsen, is found outside the house, safe and sound, while her parents are charred to a crisp inside.  Volunteer fireman-slash-town sheriff Harry Wheeler brings the girl home temporarily until her disposition is decided.  Ilse doesn't speak to anyone, but she can hear them plainly enough, and through a series of telepathic flashes, we see that this kid is the real deal.  Cora, Ilse’s new foster mother, dotes on her to the point of hysterical obsession (we discover that the Wheelers’ only child drowned, so I guess we can cut her a bit of a break… just a bit now); meanwhile, her new schoolteacher, Miss Frank, apparently wants to eat her for lunch, piece by quivering piece.

What we have here is your basic fish-out-of-water story.  Will Ilse retain her unique individuality, or will she go native and start talking like the other chimps in town?  My God, the suspense is unbearable! Okay, I’m being a bit flippant here, but there actually is a fair amount of tension throughout. We immediately identify with Ilse (especially compared with the rest of the characters), so naturally we want and hope for the best for her… but what exactly is best for her?  That’s the question at the heart of this story, and unfortunately Matheson gets it completely and utterly wrong.

 Extra crispy.

The episode succeeds best in those moments in which we’re offered glimpses inside Ilse’s thoughts (she’s able to  highjack someone else’s eyes to witness the discovery of her parents’ charred corpses, for example). The shrill echo effect used to represent how Ilse hears spoken voices is effective (if it’s harsh on our ears, imagine her discomfort!).   

Ilse is well-played by Ann Jillian, acting mostly with her eyes. Jillian, who would grow up to be a staggeringly beautiful woman, is probably best known for playing herself in The Ann Jillian Story, a 1988 TV movie chronicling her battle with breast cancer (for which she won a Golden Globe and an Emmy nomination).  Is it creepy to consider her a TZ babe?  Probably, since for our purposes she’s a kid.  Dammit.

Frank Overton plays Harry Wheeler with what appears to be an all-consuming resentment for everything and everyone.  We last saw Overton in season one’s “Walking Distance,” in which he wasn't nearly as cranky.

The highly annoying and frequently-hysterical Cora Wheeler is played by Barbara Baxley.  She’ll return to The Twilight Zone 23 years later in “Profile in Silver” (incidentally one of my favorites of the revived series).  Don’t worry; she’s not nearly as gratingly manic there.  Maybe she’s mellowed with age…?

Twilight Zone veteran Oscar Beregi (“The Rip Van Winkle Caper,” “Deaths-Head Revisited”) essays the Karl Werner role competently enough, but it’s the least interesting of his three TZ roles.  Blame Matheson’s script, which doesn't give an actor of his magnitude nearly enough to do.

Irene Dailey is quite effective as Miss Frank, the teacher-from-hell who misdiagnoses Ilse’s unique condition and relentlessly badgers her to speak.  Dailey is best remembered for her work on TV’s Another World (which I've never seen, so I can’t comment on her work there.  Days of Our Lives, on the other hand, well… that’s another story).

The fire at the Nielsen residence is well-staged (that’s a real fire, folks), which adds some nice production value.  However, some unintentional comedy arises from Percy Helton’s cameo as a firefighter on the scene.  Helton is impossible to miss in anything he ever did, given his comically raspy voice (imagine a slightly-less obnoxious Andy Devine).  We’ll see (and hear) him again in season five’s “Mr. Garrity and the Graves.”

If the sight of Ilse fleeing the house and out into traffic seems painfully familiar, it’s because we just saw the exact same scene played out a mere seven episodes ago, in season three’s “I Sing the Body Electric.” Both were shot on the same city park/town square set (MGM Lot 2; thanks again, Martin Grams!), and both use almost-identical shots:

I've been talking about the series’ visual identity a lot lately, examining the recurrence of specific imagery across multiple unrelated episodes, but I think this crosses the line a bit (a lot, actually).

“Mute” is the first episode of the fourth season to feature an original music score.  Fred Steiner (who will contribute a full two-thirds of the original scores in this abbreviated season) delivers a compelling work heavy on the strings (particularly the viola) with the occasional harp flourish thrown in for good measure.  The cue used at the start of the prologue (a zither piece that sounds like a reject from Anton Karas’ score for The Third Man) isn't by Steiner, though: it’s an uncredited library composition called "Peasant Waltz" (see cute sheet above). Steiner scored a total of seven Twilight Zone episodes (including season three’s "The Passersby," which is easily one of my top 5 favorite TZ scores), matching the output of Bernard Herrmann and Jerry Goldsmith, but he’s probably best remembered as the composer of the themes for both Perry Mason and The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.

“Mute” is ultimately hard to watch because so many of the characters are just plain unpleasant. Sheriff Wheeler is gruff to the point of cruelty, his wife Cora is a trembling basket case set to erupt at the drop of a hat, and Miss Frank, Ilse’s school teacher, is an unabashed sadist.  Ilse’s struggles are primarily due not to the loss of her parents, but to the emotional and psychological chaos inflicted upon her by these three individuals, chaos that will undoubtedly continue after the end credits roll.  The script implies that Ilse’s unconventional upbringing is a form of abuse, and that her new life in German Corners represents her salvation, but Matheson completely wrecks it by making her saviors so toxic. If Ilse’s new parents were Jonathan and Martha Kent, I might feel differently… but they aren't, and I don’t.

The climactic moment when Ilse finally capitulates and speaks is effective enough from a dramatic standpoint, but impossible to accept as a triumph.  We could argue the questionable merits of the consortium’s antisocial (and anti-verbal) methods, but at the end of the day, they've figured out how to cultivate and promote telepathy, and the profound implications therein demand further research and development.  By leaving Ilse in German Corners, the Werners both squash her budding talent and abandon her in an emotionally hostile environment.  So yeah, even the well-meaning Werners, who came to America to save Ilse, end up screwing the poor kid over like everybody else.  The girl can’t win.

I would've liked to see Ilse’s telepathy explored more; and perhaps expanded to include telekinesis.  I’d love to see her wreak some good old fashioned havoc on German Corners (maybe toss that bitch Miss Frank out a window or something).  At the very least, maybe a quick end scene suggesting that Ilse will continue developing her talents on her own, in secret…. yeah, that might've made quite a difference.  As it is, “Mute” ends with Ilse smiling contentedly, which is supposed to signify a happy ending… but it’s anything but that.  Despite the window dressing, we've just watched a goddamned tragedy unfold before our eyes.

Next week:  Matheson redeems himself with season four’s finest episode.  Three guys in a flying saucer land on a remote planet and face the darkest horror imaginable.  Not to be missed.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

TZ Promo: "He's Alive" (1/24/1963)

Season 4, Episode 4 (#106 overall)
Cayuga Production # 4856
Originally aired January 24, 1963

50 years ago tonight, a Neo-Nazi on the rise found a surprise ally straight from the bloody pages of history.

Spoiler alert:  It’s Adolf Fucking Hitler.

We've seen Hitler before on The Twilight Zone (season two’s “The Man in the Bottle;" plus we’ll get a glimpse of him later this season in “No Time Like the Past," in the cross-hairs where he belongs), but this is the one and only time that he is a tangible character with influence over the proceedings.  He’s not revealed as such until the third act, but his identity is immediately apparent to us… not so much to our angry but slow-witted protagonist.

Peter Vollmer (well-played by Dennis Hopper) is an angry young man with a racist bent and a thirst for power in Rod Serling's "He's Alive." He’s the head of a motley gang of four Neo-Nazis who pontificate on street corners about racial purity. In the episode’s prologue, we observe him being ridiculed by a mob and taunted by a police officer, and we can’t help but smile (I’d be at the front of that line, hurling tomatoes at him). Then, act one finds him whimpering like a sad puppy at the doorstep of Ernst, his long-suffering de facto father figure, and we suddenly wonder if perhaps we judged him too harshly too quickly.  Instead of kicking him in the teeth, Ernst offers him a glass of wine (Manischewitz?) and a bed for the night. Then we find out that Ernst is a Jewish holocaust survivor.  Wait, what?

That’s right:  this bigoted malcontent’s only friend in the world is a Jew, which represents a gigantic conflict of interests for him (there’s an understatement!).  I’m sure Serling did this to apply some multi-dimensionality to Vollmer’s otherwise superficial character, but frankly it’s confusing, and it essentially ruins the Ernst character’s credibility (who by default would’ve been the hero of the episode) by begging the all-important question:  WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK, MAN?  What kind of man, Jew or otherwise, would suffer this weasel’s bullshit?  I dunno, maybe Ernst is supposed to represent some kind of Christ figure.  Wait, that might piss off a few people.  Ah well.

The only way to embrace this contradiction and move forward is to view Vollmer as a troubled and disturbed man-child who is primarily motivated by a pathological need for attention, versus an educated racist with at least a semi-coherent (if severely skewed) world view.  If Vollmer is nothing more than a crazy mixed-up kid, then Ernst’s sympathy is at least acceptable, if not entirely understandable.  Okay, let’s give Serling the benefit of the doubt and go with that.

So next we find Vollmer lying in the dark, restless and morose.  We cut to a close shot of his eyes, where we spy tiny little swastikas superimposed over his eyeballs.  It’s at time stamp 14:21; blink and you’ll miss it (Marc Scott Zicree obviously did, since he reports in his Twilight Zone Companion that the shot was filmed but not used; do your goddamned homework, MSZ!).  The effect is neat (if a bit gimmicky), but ultimately pointless since it couldn't possibly have been visible on the primitive TV sets found in 1963.

Vollmer’s self-pity party is interrupted by a shadowy presence outside. He identifies himself only as “a friend,” and starts giving Vollmer pointers on effective public speaking (eat your heart out, Dale Carnegie!).  Vollmer takes his advice and BOOM! His popularity around town skyrockets (evidently this particular neighborhood has a high racist count).  Vollmer’s shadowy adviser suggests that one of his gang should probably be martyred to strengthen the cause, prompting a murder and ensuring that Vollmer’s house of cards will soon be bulldozed.

Be on the lookout for a really unsettling visual early in the episode.  At the end of the prologue, where we find Vollmer crying behind a dumpster, we dissolve to the usual shot of Serling delivering his opening narration.  I don’t know if this was intentional or not, but their faces line up perfectly, so for a split second, we get a Serling-Hopper hybrid that’s frankly bizarre to behold.  Ah, the power of the pause button!

I’m not a big fan of this episode.  I think that’s probably already at least somewhat evident.  But there must be something good here, right? Well, sure. I do enjoy Hitler’s expressive hands, which jut out from his shadowy form like weapons. It’s actually kind of hypnotic, the way he punctuates each point with an aggressive gesture.  It’s fun to watch.  

In fact, the whole episode is shot well enough, with plenty of shadows.  There’s definitely a noirish vibe herein, particularly at the end when a fleeing Vollmer is, um, stopped by the authorities in a back alley (spoiler proximity alert!).  How many film noirs end with this exact scene?

Stop or I'll --- aw, fuck it.  BLAM!

Ugh! I'm hit!

I'm a goner, Ma. *sniff*

Unfortunately, there’s not much here for me past the visuals. Serling’s character and plot choices just wreck the story for me. It occurs to me that, had Serling plotted things differently, the results could have been immensely more satisfying.  I’ve come up with three different plot deviations…

1. Hitler is actually Vollmer’s alternate personality, a la Fight Club.

2. Eliminate the Ernst character altogether; instead, give Vollmer a good-hearted girlfriend who tries to woo him away from his misguided cause.  Vollmer tries to bow out, but is stopped by his subordinate Frank, who shoots him.  As he lays there dying, the shadowy advisor appears, reveals himself as Hitler, and reveals that he’s also been advising Frank.  Vollmer is weak, like the murdered Nick before him, and will better serve the cause as another martyr.

3. Hitler isn’t just a ghost:  he’s an immortal evil entity (perhaps the devil himself) and Hitler is only one of the many forms he has taken on over the centuries.  I personally like this one the best; however, season four already has two devil episodes (“Printer’s Devil” and “Of Late I Think of Cliffordville”).  

Ultimately, “He’s Alive” doesn’t amount to much more than another holier-than-thou sermon from Serling.  I don’t mind a good sermon now and then, but this particular message comes dangerously close to insulting my intelligence.  Hatred is evil. Racism is evil. Hitler is evil.  Evil can only lead to destruction in the end.  Well, duh.

Next week:  Ann Jillian keeps her lips zipped.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Fun with Dictation!

Twilight Zone fans are probably aware that Rod Serling had a somewhat unique way of writing his many TZ teleplays (along with, presumably, his non-TZ work as well).  He’d record his ideas, dialogue and all, with a Dictaphone machine (reportedly while lounging by his swimming pool, which you have to admit is pretty damned cool), and his secretary would transcribe his recordings into script form.  

As for me, I've dabbled with various methods of electronic note-taking over the years (micro-cassette, digital mini-recorder, cell phone voice recording, etc), but now that I have an iPhone, I thought I’d found the perfect solution.  Using Siri along with Apple’s Notes app, I could now dictate my blog entries during my to-and-from work commute, then cut-and-paste the resultant text straight into Blogger with minimal editing, bypassing the need for transcription altogether.

Or so I thought.

As it turns out, Siri… well, isn't the world’s best dictation-taker.  I thought at first that the problem was with me, that perhaps I needed to enunciate more clearly, but since I don’t have the same problem with the iPhone’s other voice features, I acquitted myself.  I then wondered if perhaps something was getting garbled in translation between Siri and Notes, or perhaps my 3G connection on the road was just intermittent enough to confuse things… I dunno. In any case, I was astonished to discover just how useless this new methodology is when, over a three-day period early last week, I attempted to dictate my thoughts for this week’s promo/review for the episode “He’s Alive.” What follows can either be construed as a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the machinery humming underneath this blog, or an exercise in senseless hilarity (to maximize said hilarity, read it out loud).  I should mention that there are a few spoilers here, but since most of it is linguistic chaos, you may not even catch them.

     Notes on he's alive. Discuss how sirloins intent was probably to show the corrupting influence of evil Allah Hitler's ghost however the Vollmer character is already pretty much set he's already you have got the that the racist mindset that revolutionary mindset all the Hitler influence really does is focus focus his hatred It's impossible to identify will forward because he's such a paradox honey I get the keys you know a racist Dick basically you know someone without a real direction in life so he chooses you to to persecute others however he's also had this you know influence since his childhood of an elderly Jewish man infector concentration camp survivor with as his parental figure out throughout most of his life how did he go so wrong? Maybe we should be blaming others for some of this first was clearly aware that he was a troubled child he offered him food and shelter so he kind of assumed a parental role he probably should have been you charging himself with the task of this person's emotional development Okay what Sterlings trying to do here is basically presents yet another tale of you know you home is a corrupting influence and here's another sample of what it will do ultimately to someone you as Vollmer basically kills Ernstes ends up you know on the hook for murder and shop at least possibly fatally. The problem is it's really not appointed needs to be made anybody with two brain cells can tell you that evil hateful people are going to come to a bad and especially email him in a in a narrative drama. We arty Noe. We are do you know he will be a corrupting influence the only real point to the story is if we could've mostly identified with the Vollmer character which we cannot therefore the story as executed for me at least is a failure, Not on the level say season freeze 3 o'clock because that was just horrible as fucked up his former is he's nowhere near as repellent as all over Krengel however it's impossible to feel sorry for him because he's such a rampaging asshole and I'm sorry I have no tolerance for racism

Further notes on he's alive What is the point of all this? The evil defeats it's on purpose? That's not much of the story. The whole thing is just a little bit heavy-handed and frankly nonsensical in parentheses homers attachment to Earnst the one person world he should be repelled by and hate is the one person that he loves and that he goes to when he's hurt or sad or in need of it but a nice glass of Manischewitz. Don't get me wrong he's alive isn't awful it's technically well done and are some great imagery am particularly with the the Hitler character in in shadow but we see his very expressive hands with all kinds of things I really like that and there's a cute little special-effects that probably 99.9% of the world has never even realize was there parentheses the swastika eyeball thing) and really the performances are fine Dennis Hopper is you know suitably shrill little whiny and repellent as he should be the last thing we want is to like this guy Earnst is the hero of the story by default and you know he dies so I guess this is a tragedy…?  I think I would've liked to see something a little less black-and-white and Morgret-year-old get a little bit of archetype thing going on Notsi versus Jew basically even though a few other ethnic city is our name dropped throughout Vollmers histrionic speeches Maybe some more conflicted list of him foamers part and maybe though I guess there is some of that when he freaks out when he realizes just how real all this shit just got which even that is a little weird because he seems pretty clearheaded about what he's doing. It's Wicassee surprised that the Shatterly advisor is Hitler die fuck I don't know maybe if Follmer had a girlfriend thing first then we have some estrogen in this freaking him Man festival episode binders literally not one spoken word dialogue by female we see females in the crowd but they never talk So yeah mediocre girlfriend no then we would have you know an attempt at a voice of reason other than the nurse character which again really doesn't make any sense and Vollmer story him in unless you know Serling was trying to draw parallel to the Holocaust where we have yet another Jew murdering get an early start another Nazi murdering yet another judo which man that's that's pretty heavy-handed right there to so I guess we can fake Sterling ford not away but that's what he did a fuck Maybe having Homer have a girlfriend who you know tries to set him straight and failing know maybe I could add some color no pun intended you're some yeah maybe maybe she could be conflicted make make that maybe she could be conflicted maybe she's like on the fence about this whole racism thing she loves Vollmer but yet you know she's Jewish and see him go down the dark path so you know maybe Gatelot now it could've me And maybe he could ultimately killed her you know I don't know I I mean ultimately in oh and I don't know this is going to favorites I don't necessarily Haidet but I don't really Lovelody learning and not even really sure I like it euros bayberry I think that generally it's well-regarded you know as you know one of Sterlings it out rages against Theo the crimes of humanity or whatever I also almost get this weird feeling that Hitler's ghost isn't even really fair that it's you know me Vollmers develop like a split personality kind a like you know Tyler Durden and fight club sort of a deal him and basically it's his own's no alternate personality that's directing him I can't like that better actually and we could totally explain it is that until the very end when we see the shadow of Hitler you know leaving the scene as Homer lays there bleeding to death Of course then we wouldn't if this is a ghost then we would really not have us a supernatural element but in the show certainly has done that at various times

Notes on heis alive part three It occurs to me that it may have been Avastin more interesting story if Serling and written as follows everything the same up until the part where the one guy in the group the loyal guy kills the the fact guy and he is perfectly willing to do it okay what if as Peter's popularity grows as the group grows in strength him he Peter starts to have second thoughts and then but this other guy the loyal gap Is just got informed full bore and what if in the end it's he that kills Vollmer and the last thing Vollmer sees Autopscot set so as you know the loyal guy pulls the gun on Ballmer and you warmers try to talk his way out of it maybe up until this point doesn't know that the advisor is Hitler so then the guy the loyal guy has a gun on him and And then it's revealed that Hitler's been advising the loyal guy too so almost dying site is the loyal guy whatever his name is and Hitler standing over his body you know that then you obviously completely different ending but something more powerful because not only does it do when we get the you're basic black and white usual is bad thing but they would also we can also meditate on the duplicitous mess of evil The two-faced nature of evil that might've been cool I still like the idea to of there being a dick like a girl lately maybe Vollmers got a girlfriend of Enmedio influence is what kind of pulling Vollmer out of of the Nazi gang I am not real sure how the earnest character with fitted all this maybe he wouldn't even be part of it anymore I'm interesting in this could've been a very different story but it's not and this is what we. Have. Boom Also what is the Hitler character is some kind of like supernatural being I mean God he is he's a ghost but what if he says something at some point maybe it's a Vollmer before it roamers killed that he is like an immortal something he's evil of Italy he manifests throughout the ages different things maybe he's the devil himself that wouldn't that be interesting Hitler is the devil account like that interesting but if maybe Hitler's just the guys that he Uses. Hum interesting Also mentioned that while the devil would be an interesting approach that might've been too much Satan for season four of us there are two episodes still due come both featuring the old rascal

If you made it all the way through.... well, congrats (unfortunately, there's no prize). If perhaps you've experienced similar problems with your iDevice, there is help out there.  I've found a tutorial video ("How To Improve Siri Dictation on iPhone 4S") that offers a number of helpful tips.... I suspect my future dictation endeavors will have more coherent results (fingers crossed).

Thursday, January 17, 2013

TZ Promo: "Valley of the Shadow" (1/17/1963)

Season 4, Episode 3 (#105 overall)
Cayuga Production # 4861
Originally aired January 17, 1963

Before we get started, look at the title card above.  Look odd?  Something… missing, maybe?  There aren't any fucking quotation marks!  It seems to be a simple mistake… until the title is shown again during the end credits, where it happens again!

This is exactly the kind of minutiae that keeps obsessive fans like me awake nights, trying to decode the mystery behind what appears to be a typographical error that nobody else seems to have ever noticed, but may also be some bizarre and very subtle plot to screw with obsessive-compulsive minds like mine.


Fifty years ago tonight, a man stumbled across the best-kept secret in human history in Charles Beaumont’s “Valley of the Shadow” (with quotes, goddammit!). We find reporter Philip Redfield snooping around Peaceful Valley, his curiosity piqued by a glimpse of impossible technology, not to mention the townsfolk’s determined resolve to get him to leave town ASAP.

The town elders, realizing there’s no getting rid of him, relent and relay to him the fantastic tale of a stranger who visited their town a century ago.  This visitor, who may have come from another planet or another time (or both), bestowed upon the town the means to construct machines that, among other things, can rearrange matter into anything (including a ham sandwich with mustard, just the way I like ‘em), and generate impenetrable force fields (hey, this sounds really familiar; was the visitor in fact a Kanamit, an advance scout who didn't eat the locals because he was a vegetarian?)  The town elders were charged with protecting the technology until the day that humanity finally achieves world peace and, now that Redfield knows the secret, he can never be allowed to leave.

Redfield is given a house to live in once he (facetiously) agrees to cooperate, but quickly discovers that he’s trapped on the premises by an invisible force field. We’re reminded of season one’s “People Are Alike All Over,” in which marooned astronaut Sam Conrad (Roddy McDowell) is given a similar house by seemingly friendly Martians, only to discover that it’s actually a cage in their interstellar zoo.

Cue the escape plan, which consists of the following:

Seduce a comely local girl.  Yeah, that one'll do nicely.

Use the matter-rearranging console to create a loaded pistol
(why would the machine even allow this...?).

Turn off the force field that prevents you from leaving town
(maybe breaking off the handle would have been smart).

Steal the town's Book of Secrets
(which is kept in an unlocked safe, fer chrissakes!).

Shoot everybody who tries to stop you.

As interesting as this all sounds (particularly that first part), it’s unfortunately a pretty vanilla affair.  I wouldn't call it boring, necessarily (nothing like last week’s snoozefest), but there’s a blandness throughout that’s hard to deny.  Maybe pedestrian is the word I'm looking for. There’s no sense of atmosphere or style and, since every single scene takes place in broad daylight, there’s a total lack of shadows and contrast.  Despite the fantastic elements of the story and the vast potential therein (a cool flashback showing the town's fateful meeting with the visitor would have been most welcome), there’s never really any tension to speak of, not even when our hero’s very life appears to be in mortal jeopardy at the climactic moment when….



…um, when nothing actually happens.  And I mean nothing.  You’ll see.

Even the assorted gadgets are pretty boring to look at, despite their amazing functions.  The worst is The Glass Bowl of Doom, shown above, which we’re led to believe will terminate Redfield’s life…. but doesn't.


I’m thinking Gene Roddenberry saw this episode and immediately created Star Trek. The matter replication machine appears to be a 20th century version of Trek’s replicator technology (perhaps the “visitor” was a rogue time traveler from the future…? Somebody call the Temporal Integrity Commission!). Meanwhile, the handheld device that teleports Redfield from place to place manages the same function as Trek’s famous transporter (but without the cool visual effects).  I'm not saying Roddenberry was a thieving hack, but.... well, maybe I am saying it.

Of course there’s always the possibility that the visitor was in fact a Time Lord (the BBC's Doctor Who debuted in 1963, after all).  But I’ll be damned if I’m going there (so suck it, Logan!*).

That stupid how-many-people-can-we-fit-into-a-phone-booth fad?  Yeah, it started right here.

Philip Redfield is played by Ed Nelson, who, if his IMDB listing is accurate, appeared on just about every television series throughout the sixties and seventies. He’s probably best known for his work as Michael Rossi on TV’s Peyton Place (1964-1969), but genre fans will recall his appearance in the “Nightmare” episode of The Outer Limits, which aired a little less than one year after this, his sole Twilight Zone stint.

Interestingly, writer Charles Beaumont sold a (very) similar script called “An Ordinary Town” to The Outer Limits a year later, which was heavily revised and filmed as “The Guests.”

Smart House™, 1964 model.

Oh, and speaking of Roddy McDowell, the deliciously busty Ellen Marshall is played by Natalie Trundy (TZ babe alert!) who is probably much more recognizable to genre fans as McDowell’s simian mate Lisa in the final two Planet of the Apes films.  She also appeared in the second and third Apes films as a mutant and a human scientist, respectively, but her connection to the Apes saga is much deeper: she was married to producer Arthur P. Jacobs, and she took over his APJAC Productions when he passed away in 1973.  Trundy is still with us as of this writing (she’s 72 today, which would make her 22 here).  I should note that McDowell and Trundy are the only two actors to appear in four out of the five Apes films.

Oh, and speaking of Star Trek, we're treated to an appearance by James Doohan, who famously portrayed Trek's resourceful (and very Scottish) engineer Montgomery Scott.  Maybe Roddenberry saw him here and like him enough to use him... you know, when he was "coming up with" his "totally original" new TV series "idea."

I do like "Valley of the Shadow," but it’s a bit frustrating to realize that it had the potential to be so much more.  It calls to mind those vintage sci-fi comic books like Weird Science and Incredible Science Fiction, which frequently featured tales like this one, in which lone heroes stumble upon shocking secrets or alien plots and must somehow save the day.  There’s one in particular that’s been stuck in my head forever, about a guy who stumbles upon a secret passageway which leads to the center of the earth, where the earth’s orbit is controlled by a machine, which is somehow damaged and he has to fix it to save mankind (I think I've got a reprint my storage unit someplace… maybe I’ll dig it out and come back to this).

Redfield doesn't save the earth, by the way.  In fact, he doesn't end up doing a goddamned thing.  You’ll see.

*Logan, my 19 year-old stepson, is a Doctor Who fanatic.  I've never seen a single episode, so he tried repeatedly over Christmas break to make me watch it.  He was unsuccessful.

Next week:  Mein Gott!