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Light and Shadow:
Quint crosses over into The Twilight Zone!
1.4-1.6 reviewed!

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with the next Light and Shadow, my systematic and possibly suicidal attempt at going episode by episode through one of the best scripted shows to ever be beamed to idiot boxes, THE TWILIGHT ZONE. I’d like to start by thanking all those who left talkbacks on the first article (read it here if you missed it) and sent in emails. The level of support for this column was astounding and much appreciated. This installment features episodes 1.4 (“The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine” starring Ida Lupino and Martin Balsam), 1.5 (“Walking Distance” starring Gig Young) and 1.6 (“Escape Clause” starring David Wayne). Enjoy!

1.4 – “The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine”
Directed by Mitchell Leisen
Written by Rod Serling
Original Airdate: October 23nd, 1959

Picture of a woman looking at a picture. Movie great of another time, once-brilliant star in a firmament no longer a part of the sky, eclipsed by the movement of earth and time. Barbara Jean Trenton, whose world is a projection room, whose dreams are made out of celluloid. Barbara Jean Trenton, struck down by hit-and-run years and lying on the unhappy pavement, trying desperately to get the license number of fleeting fame.
These first two episodes, The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine and Walking Distance, concern trapping oneself in the past, which makes them particularly interesting watching them back to back. First up is a SUNSET BLVD.-ish story about an aging actress who craves her glory days to the point of obsession. She screens all of her old films over and over again on 16mm, watching them every waking hour of the day. On the surface this is a cautionary tale about living in the past, but there are deeper messages here. There’s a reason Ida Lupino’s Barbara Jean Trenton lives in the past. Everything she holds dear… her career, her co-stars, have all but turned to dust. There really isn’t anything for her to look ahead for. She doesn’t seem to have any family outside of a nervous maid. So in that way it’s not an optimistic tale. The episode treats her obsession as harmful, the dark room with a whirring projector a Howard Hughes-like separation from any real human interaction, but doesn’t really show her (or us) why she shouldn’t live in the past. Her agent, PSYCHO’s Martin Balsam, is her sole real human connection. Lupino’s maid doesn’t seem to mean anything more to her than a Motel 6 housekeeper. Lupino doesn’t give a shit about the maid and the maid doesn’t seem to give much of a hoot for Lupino as well. Balsam is the only friend Lupino has and in trying to break her out of her shell he sets her up for a return to the screen, but upon meeting the studio head he insults her by offering her a “Mother” role. Being a bit of a diva, she gives her old boss a stern speech and he fires back with equal fury, putting her in his place. One of my favorite moments of the episode has Balsam facing down this executive like a loyal guard dog, asking the exec to remind him about this moment whenever he’s at his lowest, down on his hands and knees, so that Balsam can give him a swift kick in the teeth. Then the exec would know she feels. One final attempt is made to force Lupino to socialize and that’s a reunion with her old co-star, the William Powell-ish Jerry Hearndan (Jerome Cowan). It seems to work, excitement showing in her eyes for the first time in years. But when her old co-star shows up, it’s not the young officer from her 1930s pictures, but a gray-haired wrinkled old man. This pushes her over and leads us to the finale. With this set-up I’m sure you know exactly where this is going and there aren’t many surprises in the episode. For those Woody Allen fans, I’ll say that I’m sure this episode served as great inspiration for one of my personal favorite Woody Allen movies: THE PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO. I found The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine to be a fine episode, but there’s one crucial flaw: the old Ida Lupino doesn’t seem to look any different than the young one. When we meet the older Jerry Hearndan he’s gone from heart-throb to old man, but Lupino looks virtually the same. So I don’t really buy that she couldn’t still be playing young parts and it really takes away from the impact of the final moments, which should play a lot more fantastical than they ultimately do. Of real interest to film score fans, listen to the score by Franz Waxman who also scored the incredibly similar SUNSET BLVD as well as REAR WINDOW.

1.5 – “Walking Distance”
Directed by Robert Stevens
Written by Rod Serling
Original Airdate: October 30th, 1959

Martin Sloan, age thirty-six. Occupation: vice-president, ad agency, in charge of media. This is not just a Sunday drive for Martin Sloan. He perhaps doesn't know it at the time, but it's an exodus. Somewhere up the road he's looking for sanity. And somewhere up the road, he'll find something else.
For a “living in the past” story of a radically different nature we follow Gig Young as Martin Sloan, who stops at a gas station while traveling and realizes that his home town (a little town with the slightly on the nose name of Homewood) is a short walk away. Since the minor repairs needed for his vehicle will take an hour or so, Young decides to take a stroll and, in doing so, walks right into his past. Literally. Oddly enough, one of the first people Young stops and talks to is little Ronnie Howard playing marbles who starts screaming that he can’t possibly be Martin Sloan because he knows Marty Sloan! Back when this episode aired I’m sure playing with time travel wasn’t as old hat, so for modern audiences Young might be a little too slow on the up-take to realize what has happened to him. It really isn’t until he sees his young self that he knows what’s going on and that’s about halfway through the episode. But there’s a charm to the pacing, there’s a charm to being one step ahead of our lead, watching him literally stroll through his memories. The character of Martin Sloan is such a worn out guy, run down by the daily suit-and-tie grind that when he realizes what’s going on he becomes quite desperate to tell his younger self to enjoy these days of freedom, to appreciate them more than he did the first time through. However his desperation makes him kind of a creep and his younger self doesn’t want anything to do with him. Neither do his parents, who, understandably, can’t fathom this grown man being their little boy from the future, so poor Martin Sloan feels useless… until a very warm-hearted ending conversation between father and son that one can’t help be touched by. That’s what I love about Serling as a writer. The fantastic is just an excuse to get past the audience’s defenses so it has a clear shot at their heart. Sometimes it’s to warm it up, sometimes it’s to stick the knife in and twist and that you never really can tell which one you’re going to get is part of what makes him such a brilliant writer. Speaking of, if you have this Definitive set make sure you listen to the Rod Serling lecture that’s on specific episodes. He goes in depth on specific TZ episodes in front of a class at Sherwood Oaks College opening up to criticism, agreeing with much of it and putting straight some people with their heads up their asses. He comes across as such a laid back, fascinating guy with a genuine down to earth quality and great sense of humor. These serve as some of the best commentaries I’ve ever heard; possibly because of the classroom setting. It’s a dialogue, not a one-way conversation. It also helps that Serling is selfless in his deconstruction of his own work, something that could probably only be gained by the 15+ years separation from his material. Great stuff… if you own this set and don’t listen to these pieces of lecture you’re missing out big time.

1.6 – “Escape Clause”
Directed by Mitchell Leisen
Written by Rod Serling
Original Airdate: November 6th, 1959

You're about to meet a hypochondriac. Witness Mr. Walter Bedeker, age forty-four, afraid of the following: death, disease, other people, germs, draft, and everything else. He has one interest in life and that's Walter Bedeker. One preoccupation: the life and well-being of Walter Bedeker. One abiding concern about society: that if Walter Bedeker should die, how will it survive without him?
I found this to be one of the lesser episodes I’ve seen, but a lesser TZ episode is still far and away better than 90% of television. David Wayne (probably best known as The Mad Hatter in the ‘60s Batman series) plays Walter Bedeker, a vain despicable little man who is so full of himself that he believes everyone is out to get him… yet at the same time the world will collapse without him in it. From his doctor to his doting wife, Walter feels the world is bound and determined to make him ill. So when a strange fat man in a suit appears with a contract that will let him live forever it’s quickly apparent that it’s an offer he can’t refuse. This is the first Deal With The Devil episode of the series and much like how Murray Hamilton portrayed Death in “One for the Angels” a bit uncharacteristically, Thomas Gomez brings an interesting layer of kindness to The Devil. Some of that has to do with Wayne playing Bedeker as such a prick. When the contract is offered, Bedeker haggles the Devil like no one has before, closing loopholes in this eternal life contract that others might not think about. For instance, he insists that he does not age, that he’s immune to the world’s ills and is all but indestructible. All that said, The Devil, going by the great name of Cadwallader, goes out of his way to offer up an escape clause should Bedeker tire of immortality. All Bedeker has to do is summon Cadwallader and ask for the contract to be broken and he will die a quick and painless death. With a laugh, Bedeker accepts, signs and the world’s most annoying man grows into the world’s biggest cock-bag. He throws himself in front of a subway train, bus, etc in order to collect settlements from these corporations. But he quickly grows tired of a life without risk. The ex-shut-in grows tired of the lack of excitement and when he accidentally nudges his wife off of a roof he calmly calls the cops, turning himself in just so he can ride the lightning that awaits him at the end of his sure death sentence. There’s not much to this twist ending and I guess that’s what I liked the least about this episode. Maybe I’ve just been conditioned to expect twists upon twists, but I found this particular ending to be dissatisfying. That’s it for this installment of Light & Shadow. Next time we cover Jack Warden in The Lonely, the classic Burgess Meredith starrer Time Enough At Last and Perchance to Dream. -Quint Follow Me On Twitter

Previous Twilight Zone Articles:

Episodes 1.1-1.3

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