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Light and Shadow:
Quint on Twilight Zones 1.13-1.15!

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. This installment features episodes 1.13 (“The Four of Us Are Dying” starring Harry Townes), 1.14 (“Third from the Sun” starring Fritz Weaver) and 1.15 (“I Shot an Arrow into the Air” starring Dewey Martin). Enjoy!

1.13 – “The Four of Us Are Dying”
Directed by John Brahm
Written by Rod Serling, based on a story by George Clayton Johnson
Original Airdate: January 1st, 1960

His name is Arch Hammer. He's 36 years old. He's been a salesman, a dispatcher, a truck driver, a con man, a bookie, and a part-time bartender. This is a cheap man, a nickel-and-dime man, with a cheapness that goes past the suit and the shirt; a cheapness of mind, a cheapness of taste, a tawdry little shine on the seat of his conscience, and a dark-room squint at a world whose sunlight has never gotten through to him. But Mr. Hammer has a talent, discovered at a very early age. This much he does have. He can make his face change. He can twitch a muscle, move a jaw, concentrate on the cast of his eyes, and he can change his face. He can change it into anything he wants... Mr. Archie Hammer, jack-of-all-trades, has just checked in at three-eighty a night with two bags, some newspaper clippings, a most odd talent, and a master plan to destroy some lives.
Now, I love episodes like this one. This is essentially about a guy with a supernatural power, but presented in a semi-real world way. Archie Hammer can change his face, but as Mr. Serling states in the opening narration he’s not really a magician or a mutant or god… He’s a just a dude with a talent, a talent for mimicry. Of course, there has to be some belief suspended with this episode… I mean, sure… you can scrunch your face, change your gait, etc… but how does Hammer get the voices of people he’s never met, get their hair, their teeth, etc? Blah blah blah. With these kinds of episodes you either buy in to the conceit right away or you’re just wasting your time. If you’re reading this column and interested in Twilight Zone at all then I’m willing to bet a good amount of you are bound to overlook a big logic leap in favor of the overall message. And this episode has a good one. Hammer is a fucking sleaze, a real low life scumbag willing to take advantage of anybody’s love, sadness, fear or regret in order to make a buck or get a piece of tail. When you have the talent to change your appearance at will and a soul as dark and disgusting as Mr. Hammer’s that makes for a fascinating character study. We see Hammer start off impersonating a dead musician in order to hook up with his famous lounge singer sweety. He plans to run away with her, taking advantage of the joy she has at seeing her love not mangled in a car accident afterall. Then he takes another newspaper clipping from the obit section that shows a dead mobster who ran off with a ton of mob money. He knows who this guy worked for and shows up as the dead mobster demanding his cut. Of course messing with the mob ain’t good for your health and after making a break for it he finds himself desperately trying to change his appearance in an alleyway, but he has to concentrate. With the goons bearing down on him, Hammer looks to a poster on the wall of a boxer and changes just in time. You’d think this would make him safe, but this joe everybody boxer persona proves to be his undoing. I guess you can call it fate… no matter what advantage you have when you’re that greedy, that despicable there’s only ever going to be one final outcome. The real fun of this episode is watching Hammer find the right moment to change his identity. Once again this is a Twilight Zone that ignites a certain wish-fulfillment in the audience. What would you do if you could change your appearance? What liberties would you take? It’s fun stuff to think about and watching how they show Hammer find his moments to give his multiple pursuers the slip only add fuel to that fire. I don’t know if anyone could stay innocent with a power like that, a power which can’t really be used for good in the day to day if you think about it. Also keep an eye out for real inventive and cool production design. The exteriors are all very obviously stages, but the show doesn’t hide it. In fact, they make it hyper real, dropping in neon signs everywhere in the streets, giving the whole episode a distinctly surreal feel.

1.14 – “Third From the Sun”
Directed by Richard L. Bare
Written by Rod Serling, based on the story by Richard Matheson
Original Airdate: January 8th, 1960

Quitting time at the plant. Time for supper now. Time for families. Time for a cool drink on a porch. Time for the quiet rustle of leaf-laden trees that screen out the moon. And underneath it all, behind the eyes of the men, hanging invisible over the summer night, is a horror without words. For this is the stillness before storm. This is the eve of the end.
I know it’s hard to say with any certainty this early in the run, but I’m willing to bet that when I’m finished with these DVDs, when I’ve filed my last Light & Shadow report, that Third From The Sun will be in my favorite Twilight Zone episodes list. I’m going to talk spoilers here. If you haven’t seen this episode and think you may end up watching it THEN DON’T READ AHEAD. The twist to this episode is one of the best and the filmmaking is absolutely superb. Save this one for your own discovery if you can. When someone can hide a twist in an engaging story I get all aflutter. That’s why I love The Sixth Sense… I got caught up in the story that I wasn’t expecting the gut-punch. There’s a great slight of hand at work in this episode thanks to Rod Serling’s skillful adaptation of Richard Matheson’s original story and Richard Bare’s fantastic direction. On the surface we have a cold war tale. Devastating war is days away and one of the “cogs in the wheel” at the government run plant is Fritz Weaver, a family man who has just enough inside knowledge to one step ahead of the destruction that awaits the world. So, it’s a suspense game as Weaver conspires with his best friend, a test pilot, to steal a prototype ship before the bombs fall. Not only is there a heist to deal with, but a suspicious co-worker (Edward Andrews) seems to be lurking just outside the frame the entire time. He knows something is up and that’s not good for our guys. While we’re preoccupied with the ticking time bomb of nuclear war and the cat and mouse game with Weaver and his co-worker Serling and Matheson have cleverly set us up for a surprise. They play with assumption. By showing us a normal suburb with a normal family we assume we’re on Earth watching a possible Cold War eventuality unfold. Not so fast. The big twist is that we’re not watching the apocalypse happen on Earth, but on another planet, with people similar to ours. We don’t know this until our happy travelers make it aboard the ship, avoiding total fucking destruction (that’s for you TFD) and they say they’re headed for another planet, the third from the sun. This is such a smart episode. Our attention is drawn to the pending threats of the moment… be it Andrews’ catching wind of their plan or the falling bombs, and away from the twist. When the possibility of life on other planets is discussed, our assumption is always on little green men. But there are clues packed throughout, the most prominent is the director’s choice of Dutch angles throughout. I thought it was odd when watching, that the director was either trying to communicate something visually or was just trying to show off. Seems like the former. Everything on the planet is shown just a beat out of step, giving it a slightly foreign feel, perfectly telegraphing the twist without giving anything away. Big fan of what they did with this one.

1.15 – “I Shot an Arrow into the Air”
Directed by Stuart Rosenberg
Written by Rod Serling, based on a story by Madelon Champion
Original Airdate: January 15th, 1960

Her name is the Arrow One. She represents four and a half years of planning, preparation and training and a thousand years of science and mathematics and the projected dreams and hopes of not only a nation, but a world. She is the first manned aircraft into space and this is the countdown, the last five seconds before man shot an arrow into the air.
Following a sci-fi episode is another sci-fi episode, this one focused on our first rocket shot into space. The rocket is lost, falling off monitor and all contact is lost. The crew seem to have crash landed on a asteroid, moon or desert planet and it becomes a survival tale as the crew fight to survive with limited water and food. In this tale two strong personalities clash, one a frayed officer (Dewey Martin) willing to do anything to survive and the other the stoic Colonel (Edward Binns) trying to keep order. When desperation comes to a head there’s violence and murder to deal with as men’s true selves are shown. The brave prove cowardly, the kind prove stony. But Binns’ Col. Donlin is the rock, the one constant in this story. Ultimately, this episode has the poor fortune of playing right after Third From the Sun. While solid, it tries to pull the same trick with audience’s assumption. And it’s not as smartly scripted or directed, so when one of the stranded astronauts makes mention of the sun looking the same as it does on Earth relatively early on in the episode I think it really tips its hand, showing the twist so I found myself waiting for the episode to catch up with me. I’d also say that the last 50+ years has seen more stories like this than Third From the Sun. Looking at it from that point of view helps it, as does the good acting from all involved, but at the end of the day this episode comes across as underwhelming. If it had been later in the season or in a following season I might view it differently, but watching these things in the order they aired kinda boned this one. And that completes this installment and wraps us out of Disc 2. Twenty-One more episodes to go and we’ve wrapped up Season One! The next month sees me traveling to Santa Fe, San Diego and Montreal, and that’s just what I know of at the moment, so I can’t tell you when the next Light & Shadow will hit, but just know that it will. I’d say the best bet is the week prior to Comic-Con. -Quint Follow Me On Twitter

Previous Twilight Zone Articles:

Episodes 1.1-1.3
Episodes 1.4-1.6
Episodes 1.7-1.9
Episodes 1.10-1.12

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