Thursday, May 9, 2013

TZ Promo: "Passage on The Lady Anne" (5/09/1963)

Season 4, Episode 17 (#119 overall)
Cayuga Production # 4869
Originally aired May 9, 1963

Ah, that thin line between love and hate.

50 years ago tonight, a couple suffering a disintegrating marriage quarreled and bickered their way onto the Lady Anne, a British cruise ship on its final voyage. What awaits them out on that open sea?  Reconciliation?  Death?  An iceberg??? 

I'm really sorry for this, folks.

Allan and Eileen Ransome snip at one another viciously, their exchanges bristling with resentment. Their mutual tension hangs in the air almost as palpably thick as the fog that perpetually engulfs the ship. Still, we see brief glimpses of affection; clearly love still exists beneath the bitterness (or at the very least lust: check out time stamp 14:10 to see Eileen bending over to look into a vanity mirror, and Allan blatantly checking out her ass).

The Lady Anne was, in its heyday, a luxury liner catering to young lovers. The Ransomes are surprised to discover that everyone else on the ship is at least 75 years of age, and all of them were married on the Lady Anne, and are on board to celebrate the old girl’s legacy on her final expedition before being decommissioned. Some are traveling alone, having already lost their partners, but all are united in their passionate devotion to the ship. 

The passengers initially object to the Ransomes’ presence, viewing them as interlopers, but they soon warm up to the young couple and (subtly) encourage reconciliation. The Ransomes submit to the Lady Anne’s romantic spell in fairly short order, and all seems well… until Allan notices that they’re sailing away from their destination. The engines abruptly stop, a pistol is drawn, and it becomes pretty goddamned evident that something is amiss.

On the surface, it appears that the Ransomes have stumbled innocently (and quite accidentally) into/under the Lady Anne’s enchantment; however, upon analysis it’s clear that they’re being maneuvered at every turn.  The events that unfold, along with the people they encounter, form a design that seems geared specifically toward saving their marriage. Said design seems to require repeated attempts by multiple characters to steer them away from the cruise, which invariably results in the Ransomes rebuffing them and barreling ahead with increased resolve (their mutual stubbornness is likely why they’re still together after six years of apparent misery). 

In other words, pushing them away only serves to draw them in further, a kind of reverse psychology approach, and virtually everyone in the episode, including the prologue’s travel agent, seems to be in on it… but whose design is this?  I get the how, I get the why…. I’m haunted by the who. Maybe it’s God, maybe it’s Cupid, or maybe it’s the spirit of the Lady Anne herself. And hey, maybe I’m overthinking this. Part of The Twilight Zone’s appeal, after all, is that element of the unresolved, the unexplained. 

The Lady Anne herself is a marvelous construct, a ridiculously ornate relic from an earlier time (it was a relic in 1963, so it’s even more so now). She’s spoken of so lovingly by her passengers, and what we see of her is so lavish and detailed (not to mention that sumptuous fog always swirling about her), that it’s difficult not to view her as a living, breathing character in the proceedings.

“Passage on the Lady Anne” feels at times like early Hitchcock (The Lady Vanishes and Suspicion come to mind), not in plot but tone. It’s a charming mystery, gentle and sophisticated (and veddy British), lightly sprinkled with bits of suspense throughout. It never really feels like a Twilight Zone, but that’s not necessarily a strike against it.  It’s a bit slow and overlong (a hallmark of most season four episodes), but our patience is rewarded with an absolutely delightful cast (Wilfrid Hyde-White in particular). It’s easy to spend an hour with this group, and most of their faces should be quite familiar to genre fans.

Lee Philips (Allan Ransome) stops by for his first TZ role; we’ll also see him next season in “Queen of the Nile.” Phillips also appeared in the pilot episode of The Outer Limits (“The Galaxy Being”) as radio-deejay Gene “Buddy” Maxwell.

Joyce Van Patten is quite good as Eileen Ransome in her only TZ appearance, but she was also seen on The Outer Limits (“A Feasibility Study”) the following year. I’m gonna go ahead and call her a TZ babe: she’s sufficiently attractive (and, um, sufficiently buxom as well), and she possesses a certain spark that I find quite endearing. It’s interesting to note that she was briefly married to TZ alum Martin Balsam (1958-1962).

This is Wilfrid Hyde-White’s only Twilight Zone appearance (as Toby McKenzie). I’m mentioning him because last week’s episode co-starred Tim O’Connor, who would go on to co-star on TV’s Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, a series which also featured Hyde-White (as Dr. Goodfellow). He’s also a supporting character in one of my all-time favorite films, 1949’s The Third Man.

Gladys Cooper (Millie McKenzie) previously appeared in “Nothing in the Dark,” and will appear again in season five’s “Night Call.” She also visited The Outer Limits as a medium-slash-con-artist in “The Borderland.”

Cecil Kellaway (Burgess) previously entertained us in season one’s “Elegy” as the murderous android Jeremy Wickwire. Cyril Delevanti shows up as an unnamed officer (brandishing a pistol, no less!) in this, his fourth and final TZ appearance (he previously graced “A Penny for Your Thoughts,” “The Silence,” and “A Piano in the House”). Alan Napier (Capt. Protheroe) only appeared on TZ this one time, but he subsequently showed up on Serling’s Night Gallery three different times. He’s probably best remembered as Alfred the butler on TV’s Batman

Mr. Spiereto, the travel agent who books the Ransomes on their trip, is played by Don Keefer. Keefer holds a special place in the pantheon of TZ alumni: he played Dan Hollis in season three’s “It’s a Good Life,” in which Anthony Freemont turned him in to a human jack-in-the-box before wishing him away into the cornfield. Happily, he's much less slobbery this time around. He’ll swing through The Twilight Zone one more time, in season five’s “From Agnes, With Love.”

“Passage on the Lady Anne” features an original musical score by Rene Garriguenc (one of four he would ultimately contribute to the series). There’s nothing really memorable here, but it does fit the proceedings (the underscore is a bit old-timey and melodramatic, which is totally appropriate).  Garriguenc’s score is isolated on both DVD releases (volume 40 and the season 4 Definitive Edition set) and the more recent blu-ray release of season 4, so you know where to go if you need music for your next Murder Mystery Party.

“Passage on the Lady Anne” is the final Twilight Zone episode written by Charles Beaumont (he adapted his 1960 short story “Song for a Lady”).  There will be three episodes in season five credited to him, but his involvement with them will be peripheral at best (ghostwriters will pen the actual teleplays, as we saw recently with “The New Exhibit” and season three’s “Dead Man’s Shoes”).  Interestingly, all three will be among the better offerings of the series’ final, wildly uneven season.

In two weeks: 
Bo ‘Bandit’ Darville tries to find his tertiary motivation and ends up getting decked by William Shakespeare.
Don’t believe me?  Tune in.

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