Season 4, Episode 15 (#117 overall)
Cayuga Production # 4854
Originally aired April 18, 1963
50 years ago tonight, yet another of The Twilight Zone’s nostalgic misfits found himself visiting his own idealized past. No, it’s not last week’s episode all over again.
“The Incredible World of Horace Ford” (written by Reginald Rose, adapted from his own 1955 Studio One teleplay) finds the title character, an overgrown man-child, designing toys for a living and aching for his treasured childhood on Randolph Street (is this the same Randolph Street from “A Game of Pool”?) as he nears his 38th birthday. He takes an evening stroll down to the old neighborhood and marvels at how little has changed.
A gang of kids runs by, one of whom bumps into him and knocks his pocket watch out of his hands. The boy smiles at him before running off, and Horace recognizes him as Hermy Brandt, a kid he knew as a youth, impossibly still a child. Horace, understandably freaked out, gets the hell out of there. Later that night, Horace’s wife answers the doorbell: it’s Hermy, who hands her the pocket watch and smiles, “He dropped this.”
It’s a pretty obvious hook to get him to return to Randolph Street… which he does. He won’t like what he finds, though, as time has a tough lesson to teach him.
It’s impossible to watch “The Incredible World of Horace Ford” without drawing parallels to season one’s “Walking Distance” (and other similar nostalgia-driven time travel stories throughout the series’ run). It’s fairly successful on its own, but the been-there-done-that vibe is palpable. In all fairness, Rose’s original version was written before Serling's 1959 teleplay, which makes one wonder if Serling remembered the live broadcast and, um, subconsciously borrowed from it. However, one could draw a parallel between Rose’s original 1955 teleplay and Ray Bradbury’s 1953 short story “The Playground,” in which a man is beaten to a pulp by a mob of children (oops, spoiler alert!), and wonder if Rose did some, um, borrowing of his own.
Hey kids! If you've ever had difficulty making paper airplanes (like yours truly), we’re given a very useful step-by-step close up of Horace doing just that at the end of the prologue.
And I’m not sure it’s an actual Forbidden Planet connection, but Horace’s robot toy design looks, at least from the waist down, an awful lot like Robby the Robot.
Is it just me, or does there seem to be a little something-something going on between Horace's wife Laura and Leonard, his coworker at the toy company? Watch as he stares intently at her with the burning gaze of unrequited passion, and gasp in shock as he basically paws the hell out of her, never mind that her husband is in the next office over.
Down with O.P.P.? Yeah, you know me.
Pat Hingle is pretty effective here as Horace, swinging wildly from wide-eyed glee to sullen brooding, oftentimes in a matter of seconds (you know, like a little kid). It’s impossible not to get caught up in his excitement as he giddily relives his childhood to whoever happens to be in the same room, and it’s easy to forgive his childish behavior once we've witnessed his living situation (he shares a home with his wife AND mother!). Hingle is probably best remembered by modern audiences as Commissioner Gordon in the Tim Burton (and later Joel Schumacher) Batman films (1999-2007).
Nan Martin is fine as Laura in her only classic TZ appearance (I’m undecided if she qualifies as a TZ babe; she’s not bad looking, though….). She’d return to The Twilight Zone for two appearances (“If She Dies” and “A Saucer of Loneliness”) in the 1985-1987 revival series on CBS.
We last saw Phillip Pine (Leonard) playing Virgil Sterig, one of Arch Hammer’s alternate faces, in season one’s “The Four of Us Are Dying.” He also plays a pivotal role in the “Hundred Days of the Dragon” episode of The Outer Limits as Vice President Ted Pearson.
Mr. Judson, Horace’s boss, is played by Vaughn Taylor in his fourth (out of a total five) TZ appearance. We previously saw him in season one (“Time Enough at Last”), twice in season three (“Still Valley” and “I Sing the Body Electric”), and we’ll see him again in season five (“The Self-Improvement of Salvadore Ross”). He also showed up twice on The Outer Limits (“The Guests” and “Expanding Human”).
“The Incredible World of Horace Ford” is yet another stock-scored episode with disparate cues by multiple composers, including Rene Garriguenc, Lyn Murray, Fred Steiner, Nathan Van Cleave and, most significantly, Bernard Herrmann. Herrmann’s “Walking Distance” evokes the sweet ache of nostalgia, so it fits in quite well here (as it did in season three’s “Kick the Can”).
"The Incredible World of Horace Ford” is decent, but it would undoubtedly be more effective as a half-hour episode. Horace goes back to the same moment in time on Randolph Street three different times, stretching the proceedings out into three stages instead of one. Martin Sloan, meanwhile, learned his lesson in a single trip and that, ladies and gentlemen, is the power of the half-hour format.
Ha! Suck it, Horace!
Two weeks from tonight:
A bunch more Forbidden Planet eye candy but, more importantly, a great episode.