Saturday, August 29, 2015

THRILLER: Child's Play

Hosted by Boris Karloff
Guest Stars:  Frank Overton, Bethel Leslie, Tommy Nolan, Parley Baer, George Werier
Directed by Arthur Hiller
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A couple experiencing marital strife and their 11-year-old son spend their summer in a cabin in the woods, not realizing that the son's resentment towards his father is about to explode in violence.

This isn't one of my favorite Thriller episodes, but it certainly is suspenseful, with young Hank aiming to punish the imaginary "Black Bart", but with a real gun and a real victim, and Nolan's performance is convincing enough that we can't guess just how far he will go.  Despite this, Leslie has perhaps the best showcase in the episode, her wrinkled brow and measured words showing the effects age and an absentee husband has had on her life.  Robert Dozier's script does an excellent job of capturing the ways husbands and wives take arguments to heart, but focuses more on how they feel than what exactly their son is thinking or feeling, which I thought should have been the main concentration here.  Nonetheless, it's a well-crafted episode.

Monday, August 24, 2015

THRILLER: The Twisted Image

Hosted by Boris Karloff
Guest Stars:  Leslie Nielsen, George Grizzard, Natalie Trundy, Dianne Foster, Constance Ford
Directed by Arthur Hiller
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A married executive becomes the target of two people in his building, a young woman who's become infatuated with him, and a mailroom clerk who covets his life.

This single episode feels more like two, and might have been better served focusing solely on either Grizzard's or Trundy's character, rather than the both of them, with a bit too much emphasis on developing the multiple characters rather than ratcheting up the suspense.  Nonetheless it is still entertaining, moves along well with Hiller at the helm, and features a good group of actors.  There's some interesting visual ideas employed as well, especially during the climax.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

THE TWILIGHT ZONE: Mr. Denton On Doomsday

Hosted by Rod Serling
Guest Stars:  Dan Duryea, Martin Landau, Jeanne Cooper, Malcolm Atterbury, Ken Lynch
Directed by Allen Reisner
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A drunk in an old western town, tormented by the local toughs, is given the gift of a gun by a mysterious peddler.

This was the first of numerous period pieces on The Twilight Zone that brought supernatural occurrences to America's historical past.  It was bit of economical cleverness on creator Rod Serling's part to frame these tales so that they traded in on the popularity of the western genre, and avoided the more costly special effects and makeups of his science fiction plots.  With fine camerawork and editing, especially during the episode's climactic showdown, this installment also compares favorably with any television western, and veteran actor Duryea plays the title role admirably, conveying genuine weariness and shame through his performance.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

THE TWILIGHT ZONE: One For The Angels

Hosted by Rod Serling
Guest Stars:  Ed Wynn, Murray Hamilton, Dana Dillaway, Jay Overholts, Merritt Bohn
Directed by Robert Parrish
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

An aging pitchman who sells his wares on street corners encounters Mr. Death, who notifies him his time on this world is up.

This installment is a nice character showcase with classic comedian Ed Wynn turning in a fine performance, immediately capturing the audience's sympathy from his first moments on screen, and plays off Hamilton quite well.  Serling's script for this episode gets perhaps a bit too over the top in the final moments, but this is a quality tale of fantasy which sells itself to the audience convincingly without special effects, not unlike Wynn's pitchman.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

THE TWILIGHT ZONE: Where Is Everybody?

Hosted by Rod Serling
Guest Stars:  Earl Holliman, James Gregory, Paul Langton, James McCallion, John Conwell
Directed by Robert Stevens
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

An amnesiac wanders into a deserted town, and tries to remember who he is while he searches for anyone he could talk to.

The first episode of The Twilight Zone is one of the best in my opinion, with a good performance by Holliman, and a terrifically eerie premise, tapping into our fears of loneliness.  The production is as cleverly staged as it is written, with the photography showing us the town through Holliman's eyes, startling us along with him when something unexpected comes into view, and suspense being generated by Bernard Herrmann's excellent score along with the unsettling moments of silence on the soundtrack when it's absent.  The series could not have gotten off to a better start.