Sunday, December 30, 2012

Jack Klugman (1922 - 2012)

Jack Klugman (1922 - 2012)
It’s hard to imagine The Twilight Zone without Jack Klugman. The prolific character actor, known for his ability at portraying the twentieth century everyman, died on Christmas Eve at the age of 90. Klugman enjoyed a rare kind of success as an actor and during his lifetime he remained a sought-after performer on television, in film and on the stage. Klugman’s low key, approachable personality lent itself wonderfully to the misfit characters he so often portrayed.  

Jack Klugman and Jonathan Winters in
"A Game of Pool"
He and Serling first worked together in 1959 in Serling’s heavily autobiographical Playhouse 90 production of "The Velvet Alley." So when it came time to cast someone as hopeless vagabond Joey Crown in the season one episode “A Passage for Trumpet” Serling turned to Klugman and actually postponed the initial production date of the episode in order to work around Klugman’s schedule. His next appearance on the show was as angry young pool hustler Jesse Cartiff in the season three classic “A Game of Pool” in which he starred alongside Jonathan Winters.  His third episode of the program was season four’s “Death Ship” in which he played a militant Airforce captain leading a crew of three men whose spacecraft has crashed on a bizarre planet. Klugman’s character here is an atypical one for him and he confessed in interviews years later that this was his least favorite episode out of the four he appeared in. Nevertheless his performance is great and I have always considered the episode to be a vastly underrated one. His fourth and final episode was Serling’s “In Praise of Pip” for Season Five in which he played a washed-up gangster whose son is dying in a military hospital in Vietnam. In all, he played the lead in four episodes of the program, a record he holds with Burgess Meredith. Klugman also appeared in Serling's adaptation of Whit Masterson's novel The Yellow Canary in 1963. It was directed by Twilight Zone veteran Buzz Kulik.

Jack Klugman and Tony Randall on
the set of The Odd Couple
Outside of The Twilight Zone Klugman enjoyed a highly prolific career. In 1957 Sidney Lumet cast him as Juror #5 in Reginald Rose’s 12 Angry Men and in 1962 he appeared with Jack Lemmon in Days of Wine and Roses. He was a regular fixture on anthology programs and in the live dramas of the 1950’s including a critically praised 1955 televised adaptation of Robert E. Sherwood’s play The Petrified Forest for Producer’s Showcase where he starred alongside Humphrey Bogart, Henry Fonda, Lauren Bacall and Jack Warden. He put in four appearances on The United States Steel Hour and Studio One in Hollywood and five appearances on Kraft Theatre where he also directed an episode.  His other television credits during this time include appearances on Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Inner Sanctum, Gunsmoke, Suspicion, The Untouchables, Naked City, Kraft Suspense Theatre, The Fugitive and The Defenders to name just a few. From 1964-65 Klugman was given a shot at his own show when he starred as Alan Harris in the NBC half-hour comedy Harris Against the World. Unfortunately, the show was cancelled after only thirteen episodes. From 1970-1975, however, he achieved pop culture immortality as Tony Randall’s unrefined roommate in the television adaptation of Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple. Klugman had already played the role of Oscar Madison in 1965 when he replaced original cast member Walter Matthau in the Broadway production. At the end of the show’s run in 1975 Klugman stepped from one iconic television program into another when he took the role of crime-solving medical examiner Dr. R. Quincy in Quincy, M.E. The show ran from 1976–1983.  After Quincy Klugman continued to appear regularly on television and on the stage. In 1989 Klugman, a lifelong smoker, had to have part of his larynx removed as a result of throat cancer.  This left him with a raspy, harsh voice but despite this setback he continued to act regularly for the next decade or so until his health forced him to retire. He was one of the last great living icons from television’s golden age and his passing marks the end of an era and the end of a long and remarkable career.

Monday, November 26, 2012

''The Man in the Bottle''

Luther Adler, Vivi Janiss and Joseph Ruskin
“The Man in the Bottle”
Season Two, Episode 38
Original airdate: October 6, 1960

Cast:
Arthur Castle: Luther Adler
Edna Castle: Vivi Janiss
Genie: Joseph Ruskin
Mrs. Gumley: Lisa Golm
IRS Agent: Olan Soule

Crew:
Writer: Rod Serling (original teleplay)
Director: Don Medford
Producer: Buck Houghton
Associate Producer: Del Reisman
Production Manager: Ralph W. Nelson
Director of Photography: George T. Clemens
Art Direction: George W. Davis and Phil Barber
Set Decoration: Henry Grace and H. Web Arrowsmith
Assistant Director: Darrell Hallenbeck
Casting: Ethel Winant
Editor: Leon Barsha 
Sound: Franklin Milton and Charles Scheid
Music: Stock

And now, Mr. Serling:
“Inside this curio shop, next week, from amidst this old school rococo and some fuzzy moth-eaten antiquary, will emerge a bottle—this one.  And from it will step a genie to give Mr. Luther Adler four wishes.  But he’ll discover, as will all of you, that there’s an economics to magic, a high cost of living.  Next week, a most intriguing tale, ‘The Man in the Bottle.’ Thank you and good night.”

Rod Serling’s Opening Narration:
“Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Castle, gentle and infinitely patient people, whose lives have been a hope chest with a rusty lock and a lost set of keys.  But in just a moment that hope chest will be opened, and an improbable phantom will try to bedeck the drabness of these two people’s failure-laden lives…with the gold and precious stones of fulfillment.  Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Castle, standing on the outskirts and about to enter the Twilight Zone.”

Summary:
Arthur Castle and his loving wife Edna are the owners and sole operators of their very own ramshackle antique store which has been one step away from bankruptcy nearly since its inception.  While attempting to balance this month’s bills a customer enters the store and approaches the counter where Mr. Castle sits brooding over his expenses.  She sheepishly takes what looks like a wine bottle from her purse and places it on the counter.  Mrs. Gumley, the customer, then proceeds to tell Castle that it’s a valuable heirloom that has been in here family for generations.  Castle recognizes the bottle as an ordinary wine bottle and realizes immediately that she is lying.  But he feels sorry for the poor woman who is forced to beg for money.  He gives her a dollar for it and she thanks him and leaves.  His wife enters the room and reminds him that he barely has enough money for himself and that he cannot lend it out to people just because he feels sorry for them.
                In the midst of their argument the bottle falls to the floor and breaks.  From the broken pieces a thick smoke emerges and within minutes a strange man is standing before them.  He claims to be a magic genie who will grant them four wishes.  Not convinced, Arthur tells him to fix the broken glass in his display case to test the genie’s supposed abilities.  Right before his eyes the glass mends itself.  Convinced of the genie’s power Arthur then wishes for one million dollars.  Sure enough, an abundance of American dollar bills begin to fall from the ceiling and accumulate on the floor.  Feeling generous they decide to share their good fortune with the people of the neighborhood by giving away some of the money.  Later in the evening they are visited by a representative from the Internal Revenue Service who tells them that they must pay a tax on their recently acquired one million dollars.  After taxes they realize that all they will be left with is five dollars.  Trying to outsmart the genie this time Arthur wishes for something that he thinks is foolproof.  He tells the genie that he wants to be the ruler of a contemporary foreign country who cannot be voted out of office.  The genie grants his wish and Arthur finds himself in an underground bunker in Germany at the end of World War Two.  The genie has turned him into Adolf Hitler, who is now facing either suicide or his inevitable capture and death by execution.  He then wishes for everything to be just as it was before he met the genie.  Miraculously he is transported back to his shop with his wife who has no memory of the genie or the wishes.  The bottle lies broken at his feet.  Suddenly, his life doesn’t seem so bleak.  He then throws the remnants of the broken bottle into the trash.

Rod Serling’s Closing Narration:
“A word to the wise now to the garbage collectors of the world, to the curio seekers, to the antique buffs, to everyone who would try to coax out a miracle from unlikely places.  Check that bottle you’re taking back for a two-cent deposit.  The genie you save might be you own.  Case in point:  Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Castle, fresh from the briefest of trips…into the Twilight Zone.”

Commentary:

Arthur Castle gets his wish

The second episode of The Twilight Zone’s sophomore season unfortunately comes off as stiff and predictable and is one of the few sore spots in an otherwise wildly impressive run.  It’s Serling’s take on the avarice of the talisman, of trying to alter preordained fate with empty wishing.  This theme is one made famous by W. W. Jacobs’ short story “The Monkey’s Paw.”  Since its original publication in 1901 “The Monkey’s Paw” has been anthologized hundreds of times and is possibly the single most imitated story in the history of the horror genre.  Jacobs based his story in part on the Asian folk tale “Aladdin and the Magic Lamp” found in Arabian Nights in which an impoverished youth is granted wishes from a mysterious genie who resides in an oil lamp.  “The Man in the Bottle” is basically a hybrid of both of these tales although it relies on a good deal more on Jacobs’ story and follows its structure almost exactly.  In fact, the only change Serling made to the setup is that this genie offers a generous four wishes instead of the usual three.  Why Serling chose to make this change is uncertain for it does nothing to enhance either setup or outcome.  Serling makes no misgivings about the fact that this story is a retelling of Jacob’s story for, as I mentioned, “The Monkey’s Paw” is a story that has been adapted or retold so many times that it hardly seems necessary to credit it as source material.  However, because Serling is retelling a story that the audience already knows and changing it only enough to call it his own (and watering it down a bit for television) the episode comes off as drab and uninspired.  What I do find interesting about this episode is Joseph Ruskin’s take on the genie.  His flamboyant dress and playful personality make the genie a more approachable character which for my money makes him a substantially more frightening villain. This episode also showcases some clever direction from Twilight Zone veteran Don Medford.  The majority of the episode is shot entirely inside the tiny antique store and features several dolly shots and crane angles that could only have been created by a seasoned director.   There are also several innovative special effects sequences found throughout the episode (the reverse shot of the bottle coming back together at the end is particularly impressive.).
                But even with its redeeming qualities, at the end of the day this episode’s lack of enthusiasm and originality leaves the viewer with very little desire for a second viewing.

Grade: D

Notes:
--Joseph Ruskin is also the voice the Kanamit in the Season Three episode “To Serve Man.” He appeared in Rod Serling's "The Messiah on Mott Street" for Night Gallery. 
--Vivi Janiss also appears in Season One’s “The Fever.”
--"The Man in the Bottle" was adapted as a Twilight Zone Radio Drama starring Ed Begley, Jr.  
-- It was also adapted into a short story by Walter B. Gibson for Rod Serling's Twilight Zone Revisited (Grosset & Dunlap, 1964).

--Brian Durant 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

"King Nine Will Not Return"

Robert Cummings as Captain James Embry
"King Nine Will Not Return"
Season Two, Episode 37
Original Air Date: September 30, 1960

Cast:
Captain James Embry: Robert Cummings (as Bob Cummings)
Psychiatrist: Gene Lyons
Doctor: Paul Lambert
Nurse: Jenna McMahon

Crew:
Writer: Rod Serling (original teleplay)
Director: Buzz Kulik
Producer: Buck Houghton
Associate Producer: Del Reisman
Production Manager: Ralph W. Nelson
Director of Photography: George T. Clemens
Art Direction: Philip Barber & George W. Davis
Set Design: Henry Grace & H. Web Arrowsmith
Assistant Director: Kurt Neumann, Jr. 
Casting: Ethel Winant
Editor: Bill Mosher
Sound: Franklin Milton and Charles Scheid
Music: Fred Steiner

Rod Serling's Opening Narration:
"This is Africa, 1943. War spits out its violence overhead. The sandy graveyard swallows it up. Her name is King Nine, B-25 medium bomber, 12th Air Force. On a hot, still morning she took off from Tanzania to bomb the southern tip of Italy.
An errant piece of flap tore a hole in the wing tank. And like a wounded bird this is where she landed. Not to return on this day or any other day."

Summary:
            Captain James Embry awakens while laying on the ground under the hot sun a vast, North African desert. Nearby is the King Nine, a World War II bomber plane that Embry piloted and whose five man crew he captained. The plane has crashed and lies damaged and broken in the sand. The rest of the crew is nowhere to be found.
            Confused and disoriented, Embry searches the plane and the area around the plane for the missing crew, calling for the other men and attempting a mayday call on the radio, both to no avail. The more he tries to remember and logically reason his way through the situation the more confused and afraid he becomes. One thought in particular tortures him and that is his responsibility to look after the other men. Eventually, he does find signs of the men. He finds a canteen on the ground and a makeshift grave, both belonging to one of the crew members named Klein. As Embry's grip on his situation grows threadbare, he begins to see what appear to be the crew members but may be no more than hallucinations. He sees a crew member sitting in the pilot's seat but as Embry runs toward the plane the man disappears. He later sees the collective crew members standing a ways off from the crashed planed on a small sand dune but they disappear as Embry frantically approaches.
            Above him in the sky, Embry sees the strangest sight yet. Three jets soar overhead and though Embry knows what these aircraft are, he also knows that this knowledge is impossible since there are no jets in 1943. Seeming to be psychologically broken by his situation, Embry falls to the ground in desperation.
            When he regains consciousness, he finds himself lying in a hospital bed in present day (1960). A doctor and a psychiatrist are at his bedside. It seems that Embry's nervous breakdown was caused by the daily newspaper. The headline story was the recent discovery of the King Nine, a World War II bomber plane that disappeared in the African desert in 1943. Embry never did pilot that flight and that crew. He was supposed to pilot the plane but was sick at the time and another pilot took his place. The guilt of missing that flight and the subsequent disappearance of the plane and her crew has haunted Embry endlessly in the intervening years. The psychiatrist tells Embry that his guilt caused a nervous breakdown and that, however real it felt, Embry went back to that crash site only in his mind. A final reveal, however, seems to prove otherwise. As the nurse takes Embry's clothes back to his room, an overturned shoe spills out desert sand.


Rod Serling's Closing Narration:
"And enigma buried in the sand. A question mark with broken wings that lies in silent grace as a marker in a desert shrine. Odd how the real consorts with the shadows, how the present fuses with the past. How does it happen? The question is on file in the silent desert and the answer. . . the answer is waiting for us in the Twilight Zone."

Commentary:
            The Twilight Zone was most successful when the episode provided an equal dose of the supernatural and the psychological. The show's vastly talented writers included this successful mix in their most memorable scripts. Rod Serling's "King Nine Will Not Return" was the opening salvo of the second season and he chose a subject matter with which he was intimately familiar, Serling having served as a paratrooper in World War II, and one taken from the daily headlines, as it was based upon the Lady Be Good, a B-24 bomber mysteriously lost in April of 1943 and rediscovered in the Libyan Desert in 1959. Eight of the nine crew members of the Lady Be Good were found a year later. Thematically, it is an episode with resemblances to past Serling plays and represents a theme that Serling would build upon in the future.
            It was important for Serling to choose a script that built solidly upon the success of the first season and one that would be easily accessible to new viewers of the show. Just as "Where is Everybody?" was the perfect opening to the first season so is "King Nine Will Not Return" to the second season. The episode strongly resembles many of Serling's other episodes and though it is not, once the twist ending is revealed, strictly a story of time travel, it shares many common traits with Serling's other time travel episodes. Those which come to mind include "The Time Element," a teleplay written by Serling for the Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse in 1958 and a show that is often viewed as the unofficial pilot episode for The Twilight Zone. In it, a man travels back in time through his dreams in a failed attempt to prevent the deaths incurred in the bombing of Pearl Harbor. "Where is Everybody?," also not strictly a time travel episode, concerns an astronaut who, while confined for a long period of time in an isolation chamber, constructs an entire fantasy world in order to escape from his claustrophobic environment. "Walking Distance," "Back There," "A Hundred Yards Over the Rim," "One More Pallbearer," and "The Arrival," to name but a handful of other similar Serling-penned episodes, all concern a psychological battle within the main character when confronted with a slip in reality, be it a trip back in time or the physical manifestation of inward guilt.
            Robert Cummings, as Captain James Embry, solely drives the show as it is basically a one man episode and, in the hands of a lesser talent, may have failed completely. Cummings, born in Joplin, Missouri on June 10, 1910, found success as a comedic actor first on Broadway and then in Hollywood in the 1930's and 1940's, using a pair of stage names and even a fake British accent before reverting back to his given name to host his own show, The Bob Cummings Show, in the 1950's.  A second, and unsuccessful, incarnation of the show appeared for a short time a few years later. He found later recognition in the 1960's television show My Living Doll. There are two interesting points about Cummings' involvement with The Twilight Zone. The first is that Cummings was a licensed pilot and avid flyer. This certainly lends credit to his excellent portrayal of an embattled World War II pilot. The second is that Cummings is credited as Bob Cummings, which the actor typically used for what he considered lighter fare, opting instead to use his full name, Robert Cummings, for dramatic roles. It is interesting to think that Cummings may have considered his stint on The Twilight Zone, or perhaps television work in general, to be consistently light fare. Cummings died on December 2, 1990 in Los Angeles.
            Director Buzz Kulik began his career directing television commercials after World War II before becoming a prolific and successful director of live plays for early anthology shows such as the popular Playhouse 90. It was here during the "Golden Age of Television" that Kulik met Rod Serling, then a prolific and Emmy award winning writer of live television plays. "King Nine Will Not Return" was the first opportunity for Kulik to direct a Serling script since the director was unavailable for the first season of The Twilight Zone because of a production contract with CBS. Kulik later found success in television movies, creating his most lasting work with Brian's Song in 1971.
            "King Nine Will Not Return" was shot on location near Edwards Air Force Base, located on the border of Los Angeles County. Located there was a vast piece of dry salt bed that was used for many western and adventure films as it was the perfect location to give the impression of a vast desert. The episode took five days to create, two days rehearsal and the typical three days to shoot. Production Manager Ralph W. Nelson provided a very efficient manner of moving the production along its scheduled course of time. The cast and crew were taxied from Santa Monica to the set by a DC-3, which landed directly on the highway near the set. Belongings for the cast and crew were kept twenty miles away at the nearest town, Lone Pine, a location which was previously utilized for the second season episodes "A Hundred Yards Over the Rim" and "The Rip Van Winkle Caper." The vintage B-25 bomber was disassembled, flown to the set, and reassembled on site. Temperatures climbed above one hundred degrees while filming. In order to provide the realistic reaction of Robert Cummings to the cues presented by his voice-over narration, the voice track was recorded prior to filming and played on-set so that Cummings could react to his own voice as though it were the thoughts of his character. It is also probable that, in some instances, an assistant read aloud the lines of voice-over narration from the shooting script in order for Kulik to more effectively direct Cummings's portrayal of the character. The footage of jets flying overhead was stock footage. The musical score by Fred Steiner is masterful and poignant and should sound familiar to frequent viewers of the show as it would be recycled for future episodes.
            On a final note, it seems interesting that there has been no mention whether or not Rod Serling's older brother, Robert, served in any capacity, most likely as technical advisor, to this episode. His contribution to a later episode dealing with aviation, "The Odyssey of Flight 33" is well documented, but it seems unlikely that he was not at least consulted by Rod in some respect when "King Nine Will Not Return" was being produced. Robert Serling was a prolific and highly successful writer and expert on matters of aviation and aeronautics. In 1960, he became full time aviation editor for United Press International and wrote a handful of novels, some with aviation themes, including the bestseller, The President's Plane is Missing, later made into a successful television movie.
            "King Nine Will Not Return" is a solid piece of work and a showcase for the talents of Robert Cummings and Buzz Kulik, the latter of whom would return to the director's chair on the show, not to mention Rod Serling who, as executive producer and principle writer on the show, proved he could still produce a memorable and tightly written script while being weighed down with the responsibilities inherent in his executive role. It was a strong start for what is perhaps the show's strongest and most successful season.

Grade: B

Grateful acknowledgement is made to Marc Scott Zicree for information contained in The Twilight Zone Companion (2nd revised ed., 1989). 

Notes:
--Buzz Kulik directed eight additional episodes of The Twilight Zone, some of which represent the finest the show had to offer, including "The Trouble with Templeton," "A Game of Pool," "A Quality of Mercy," "Static," and "A Hundred Yards Over the Rim." His other episodes include "The Mind and the Matter," "Jess-Belle," and "On Thursday We Leave for Home."
--Robert Cummings can be heard several times in the episode mispronouncing the Spanish name Jimenez. It is not clear whether this was something he was directed to do or a mistake the actor himself made.
--"King Nine Will Not Return" was adapted as a Twilight Zone Radio Drama by Dennis Etchison, starring Adam Baldwin.

--Jordan Prejean

Monday, October 29, 2012

Season Two

Science Fiction Book Club Ed.
(Image provided by ISFDB)

"You're traveling through another dimension. . . "


When The Twilight Zone was picked up for its second season in the spring of 1960, it had become both a critical and commercial success. Though never a ratings champion, the series developed a dedicated viewership (many of whom, to the surprise of both series creator Rod Serling and producer Buck Houghton, were children and young adults) that pushed the ratings high enough to keep the series afloat in its 10:00 EST time slot on Friday nights. Rod Serling was becoming more visible as a television personality, especially as creator and host of The Twilight Zone, as he made the transition from an off-screen voice to an on-screen host for the second season. In April, 1960, Rod Serling returned to Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse (1958 venue for "The Time Element"), this time playing himself in the segment, "The Man in the Funny Suit," which detailed actor Ed Wynn's difficult transition from comedy to drama for Serling's Emmy Award-winning 1956 Playhouse 90 program "Requiem for a Heavyweight."  

The Twilight Zone was becoming not only an entertainment property but a commercial opportunity quicky seized upon by the CBS marketing department, which loaned out the name and images from the show to a number of media ventures.  1960 would see a book of short stories adapted by Rod Serling from his teleplays and published by Bantam Books (Stories from the Twilight Zone) just as the first season wrapped up its broadcast. The following year saw the series turned into a comic feature for the Dell Four Color series, which eventually grew into a proper Twilight Zone comic book which enjoyed a successful run from Dell & Gold Key Comics until 1982. Eventually, The Twilight Zone gave life to further books, buttons, records, trading cards, toys, and a now highly collectible 1964 board game from Ideal Games. Among the awards given to the series for its impressive premiere season was the Hugo Award given out at the World Science Fiction Convention and an Emmy Award for Rod Serling for Outstanding Writing Achievement in the field of Drama. 


                Upon entering Season Two, Rod Serling and producer Buck Houghton decided that several changes needed to be made in order for the show to craft the voice for which it had been searching.  For starters, they felt the show needed a more aggressive opening theme in order to grab the audience’s attention. They found what they were looking for in two pieces from French composer Marius Constant.  When combined, Constant's music became a highly unusual twenty-eight second theme song which perfectly fit the atmosphere of the show. This music would eventually become one of the most iconic pieces of music in the history of television. Since Constant's song is shorter than Bernard Hermann's theme for Season One, the opening animation segment needed to be cut down to size as well.  Another noticeable aspect that changed was Serling’s appearance at the beginning of every episode. In the previous season the host only appeared in the promos for the following week’s episodes (the one exception was the season finale “A World of His Own” in which he appeared as a gag at the end of the episode).  Dressed in a sharp, dark suit with a cigarette wedged between his fingers, his calm demeanor and teeth-clenched opening monologues became one of the defining characteristics of the show.  Serling also decided to change his official title at the start of the second season. Instead of “Executive Producer for Cayuga Productions” the closing credits would now read “The Twilight Zone created by Rod Serling.”


                The new season would see many new faces on both the production and creative sides of the program.  To help with the hectic production schedule, Del Reisman was brought on as associate producer.  E. Darrell Hallenback and Lesley Parson, Jr. joined the crew as the regular assistant directors.  In the art department George W. Davis continued on from Season One with the help of newly hired Phil Barber.  Henry Grace remained the senior set director with the help of W. Web Arrowsmith.  Franklin Milton remained the senior sound engineer with Charles Sheid and Bill Edmonson working with him.  Ethel Winant was brought on as the new casting director.  Among the new directors in Season Two were Buzz Kulik, James Sheldon, Justus Addiss, Montgomery Pittman, and Elliot Silverstein, all of whom would become regulars on the program.  Season Two also saw the first script by author George Clayton Johnson, “A Penny for Your Thoughts.”  Johnson had already seen two of his stories adapted by Rod Serling during Season One but this was his official introduction as a regular writer on the show.  He would see two more of his stories adapted and would script a total of four episodes himself, several of which are regarded by fans and critics as some of the best of the series.


                Though the series was hitting its creative stride, Season Two was not without its setbacks.  As a cost-cutting measure iniated by CBS executives, the number of episodes was reduced from 36 to 29, with six episodes to be shot on videotape. The videotape form was in its infancy at the time* and the result was of such poor production quality that it was quickly decided videotape was not a feasible method of shooting the series.  Aside from this, the second season of The Twilight Zone marks arguably the most successful creative period during the shows’ five season run and offers a handful of gems that became some of the most recognizable images in television history.


Episodes shot on videotape:


“The Lateness of the Hour”
“Static”
“The Whole Truth”
“Night of the Meek”
“Twenty-Two”
“Long Distance Call”


Rod Serling’s Intro to Season Two:


“You’re traveling through another dimension.  A dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind.  A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That’s the sign post up ahead, your next stop: the Twilight Zone.”

Note: For the first three episodes of the season a slightly shorter version of this intro is used.


*The videotape method required no director of photography since it was a standard four camera setup. It also required no editor since editing was accomplished virtually on the spot by switching from one camera to another in order to achieve the desired angle. Videotape did not allow for an exterior photography, thus greatly limiting the type of shows Rod Serling and company could write for the videotaped episodes. The videotaped episodes had a different shooting schedule as well, requiring more days for rehearsal and fewer days for actual shooting. The videotaped episodes were transferred to 35mm film for broadcasting and storage. 

--Brian Durant and Jordan Prejean

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

"The Time Element" (The Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse)


William Bendix as reluctant time traveler Peter Jenson
"The Time Element"
from The Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse
Original air date: November 10, 1958

Cast:
Peter Jenson: William Bendix
Dr. Arnold Gillespie: Martin Balsam
Ensign Janoski: Darryl Hickman
Mrs. Janoski: Caroline Kearney
Bartender: Jesse White
Newspaper Editor: Bartlett Robinson
Newspaper Reporter: Don Keefer
Army Doctor: Alan Baxter
Drunk Man at Bar: Joe de Rita
Bartender at Andy's: Paul Bryar
Maid: Jesslyn Fax
Host: Desi Arnaz

Crew:
Writer: Rod Serling (original teleplay)
Director: Allen Reisner
Producer: Bert Granet
Production Supervisor: W. Argyle Nelson
Production Manager: James Paisley
Associate Producer: Jack Aldworth
Director of Photography: Nick Musuraca
Art Direction: Ralph Berger and Gabriel Scognamillo
Set Decoration: Sandy Grace
Assistant Director: John E. Burch
Casting: Kerwin Coughlin 
Film Editor: John Foley
Editorial Supervisor: Bill Heath
Story Editor: Dorothy Hechtlinger
Sound Editor: Jack A. Finlay
Sound Engineeer: Cam McCulloch
Theme Music: Johnny Green
Music Supervisor: E.C. Norton
Music Editor: Arnold Schwarzwald
Property Master: Kenneth Wescott
Wardrobe Design: Edward Stevenson 
Costumer: Della Fox
Makeup: Charles Gemora
Hair: Jane Shugrue 
Photographic Effects: Howard Anderson, Co.
Sound Effects: Glen Glenn Sound, Co.
Desi Arnaz in charge of production

Desi Arnaz's opening narration:
"Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to another Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse. Tonight we're going to see a story written by Rod Serling and starring William Bendix. Our story begins in a doctor's office. A patient is sitting there. He walked into this office nine minutes ago."

Uncredited voice-over narration:
"Once upon a time there was a psychiatrist named Arnold Gillespie and a patient whose name was Peter Jenson. Mr. Jenson walked into the office nine minutes ago. It is eleven o'clock, Saturday morning, October 4th, 1958. It is perhaps chronologically trite to be so specific about an hour and a date but involved in this story is a time element."

Summary:
            Peter Jenson, an everyday kind of man, if somewhat lonely and transient, has come to visit Dr. Arnold Gillespie in hopes that the psychiatrist can help Jenson alleviate the overburdening fear that his dreams of time travel may not be dreams at all. Jenson is extremely defensive about his situation being that he feels everyone else will perceive him as crazy whenever he tells his story. Gillespie, however, simply urges Jenson to talk. Jenson tells an incredible story. He tells Gillespie of a series of experiences that appear to be recurring dreams but that Jenson knows to be much more than that. Every night Jenson dreams the same thing. Here the audience "wakes up" with Jenson within his "dream." Jenson wakes up with a stunning hangover in an unfamiliar hotel room. He takes a moment to look around and outside the window before calling the front desk. The front desk clerk tells Jenson that he is staying in the Hawaiian Imperial Hotel. Jenson gets up from his bed and finds a calendar which reads December 6. Suddenly, there is a knock at the door and a hotel maid enters Jenson's room. Jenson, confused and hung over, angrily interrogates the woman as to what he did last night and about what Jenson believes to be a joke at his expense. When the maid tells him that it's not October 4 as Jenson remembers it but rather December 6, Jenson refuses to believe her. He is even more incredulous to his situation when the maid discloses that they aren't in New York City as Jenson remember but are in Honolulu, Hawaii. After shooing the maid from the room, Jenson decides that it’s time for a bit of the hair of the dog and goes downstairs to find the hotel bar. At this point, the only thing Jenson has a choice but to believe is that he went on a two month bender and somehow wound up in Hawaii.
            Jenson's rough manner puts him at odds with the bartender but Jenson quickly makes friends with a young married couple next to him, Mr. and Mrs. Janoski. He buys the couple champagne. Jenson's mood quickly darkens again when two things happen. First, Jenson learns that young Mr. Janoski is a sailor on the U.S.S. Arizona, a naval warship sunk by Japanese bombers in the attack on Pearl Harbor. Jenson, of course, has memory of this fact while no one else at the bar does. Second, Jenson gets into an argument with the bartender about the date and the year. The bartender states that it is the year 1941 while Jenson, still fighting against the logic of his unlikely time travel, insists that it is 1958. It takes Jenson seeing a newspaper being read nearby to really hit the situation home for him and, after making an embarrassing scene, runs panicked from the hotel bar.
            Back in Dr. Gillespie's office, Jenson tells the doctor all about it. He ran outside the hotel and looked at all cars in the parking lot and how none of them were models newer than ‘41. Dr. Gillespie continues to play skeptic. At this point, Jenson makes it very clear what he is saying.  When he dreams, it is real and when he "wakes up" it is still real. He is not just dreaming that he is going back in time; he actually is going back in time.
            Back in Jenson's "dream," we see Jenson frantically placing numerous bets with various bookies on future sporting events that he now knows to be sure bets. Jenson is visited by the sailor Mr. Janoski. It seems Janoski and his young wife are concerned about Jenson after his freak-out at the bar when he saw the newspaper with the headline about the impending war, WWII that is. By this time Jenson has learned to control his reactions and to play it cool when it comes to revealing that he is actually from 1958. He watches Janoski leave his room and meet his young wife in the hallway and a change comes over him. He now realizes that he must attempt to save people like this young couple and decides to contact the local newspaper to reveal what he knows about the attack on Pearl Harbor.
            This proves to be a huge mistake. As Jenson spills everything he knows about the imminent attack, he is ridiculed by the newspaper editor that warns Jenson against what he, the editor, believes to be a dangerous joke. Jenson and the editor eventually come to blows. An army doctor is called in to examine Jenson. This goes equally disastrous. Jenson checks out physically okay but when the doctor questions Jenson on subjects like the president and vice president of the United States, Jenson stumbles as he struggles to remember where he is, when he is and to remember seventeen years prior to his concept of the present, 1958. Jenson runs out of the newspaper office and winds up back at the hotel bar.
              Here, Jenson again meets with the young married couple, Mr. and Mrs. Janoski. Having a little drink in him, Jenson begins to open up about what is going to happen the next day when the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor. He tries to warn the young naval officer not to board the Arizona the next day. He even tells the young couple about his travels backwards in time. He pleads with them but is only met with hostility and fear. As the couple tries to leave, Jenson completely breaks down and begins telling the young bride that her husband is going to die if he boards his ship the next day. Janoski punches Jenson and knocks him backwards into the jukebox. When Jenson begins scaring the rest of the people in the bar, the bartender knocks Jenson out cold. Jenson awakens in his bed to the sound of Japanese fighter planes flying overhead. He gets up and runs to the window and sees the planes.
            Back in Dr. Gillespie's office, the doctor gives Jenson a rundown of how time travel, and, specifically, how one person's actions in the past will always affect the future. Jenson, in an effort to prove to Dr. Gillespie that his is actually traveling back in time, tells him a story of how he attempted to prove to himself that he actually had been back in Hawaii right before Pearl Harbor. When back in 1958, Jenson called for Janoski in the small town the couple mentioned having come from. Jenson got Janoski's mother on the phone and she informed Jenson that Janoski and his wife both died in the attack on Pearl Harbor.

            Voice-over narration: "Dr. Gillespie's patient lay on the
couch, almost in a stupor. They've been talking for hours. It was Saturday and Gillespie had planned to close early and go play golf. At that moment, he'd forgotten golf. He was concerned only with the fascinating and unbelievable story that this man in front of him had told him. And then, as he looked at him lying there on the couch, Dr. Gillespie knew that Jenson was falling asleep. He could tell by the look on the face that he was far from resting though his eyes were closed and he was no longer aware of him."

            Dr. Gillespie, looking down at Jenson, sees the man struggling in his sleep. Then we see a montage projected upon Jenson's head showing all that had transpired in the episode and the progression of events from Jenson's point of view. Jenson screams once and Dr. Gillespie is unable to wake him.
            Jenson awakens on December 7, 1941, back in Hawaii to the sound of fighter planes flying over his hotel room. He rushes to the window, looks out, and keeps repeating "I told you," over and over. Then, in a particularly violent moment, the planes open fire upon the hotel. Bullets come crashing through the window to Jenson's room and kill him where he stands.
            Dr. Gillespie is left alone in his office, seemingly confused as to what has just happened. Jenson, of course, has vanished from the present because he died in the past. Gillespie looks around his office as though trying to remember something which he can't seem to get a grasp on. Gillespie decides to go to a bar. There, he ironically and morbidly makes a toast on his first drink to "happy dreams." Then he sees a picture of Jenson framed and hung on the wall. When he asks the bartender who the man in the picture is, the bartender tells him that it's Peter Jenson. Jenson used to tend bar at this establishment. Gillespie says he looks familiar but the name doesn't ring a bell. When Gillespie asks the bartender what happened to Jenson, the bartender tells him that he'd died, killed in Pearl Harbor.

            Voice-over narration: "It is October 4th, 1958, Saturday, 12:10 p.m. If anyone is remotely interested in the element of time."

             Desi Arnaz's closing narration: "As you can see, the pendulum has stopped. We wonder if Pete Jenson did go back in time or if he ever existed. My personal answer is that the doctor has seen Jenson's picture at the bar some time before and had a dream. Any of you out there have any other answers? Let me know. We'd like to thank Mr. William Bendix and the entire cast for their wonderful performance tonight." (Arnaz then previews next week's show and helps sell a Westinghouse refrigerator. This closing narration was excised from the syndicated version of the episode.)   

Commentary:
            At this late date in scholarship of The Twilight Zone, "The Time Element" is generally considered the true pilot for the series. Though "Where is Everybody?" is an excellent episode which does much to establish the tone of the series, Rod Serling himself admitted that the episode was produced and written in such a way as to garner approval from network executives and endorsements from potential sponsors for the show. This is generally thought to be because Serling planned to use the fantasy elements of his episodes to soften the blow of the outward social and political commentary inherent in his teleplays. However, in both "The Time Element" and "Where is Everybody?" this socio-political commentary is nearly completely absent. It is important to note that though Serling's work is remembered for its hard lined commentary on ills of society, he was also simply a lover of fantasy fiction and could construct a fantasy script in pure form, evidenced  by "The Time Element."
            Serling's purpose, other than simply writing an entertaining show, was to display to both sponsors and network executives that a serious fantasy anthology show could achieve the same combination of viewer response and positive critical reception that any other type of show achieved. Serling had previously attempted to sell CBS on a fantasy anthology, which would soon become The Twilight Zone, with "The Time Element." Serling initially envisioned the series as utilizing the one-hour format common to dramatic anthology programs of the time. Studio executives balked, simply not understanding the appeal of a out-an-out fantasy drama or the likelihood of an audience which would be receptive to such a show. They apparently found enough to appealing in "The Time Element" script, however, to buy it from Serling and promptly shelve it. Though fantasy had occasionally been featured on anthology shows from the earliest days of television, networks were very reluctant to devote an entire anthology show to this type of subject matter. Fantasy was generally relegated to imaginary constructs such as those found in Superman or Flash Gordon. It was understood that these types of shows were to be enjoyed by children, not be taken seriously. The idea that fantasy and science fiction could also be stirring and engaging drama simply did not exist in the minds of network executives in the early days of television. Serling hoped to change that with "The Time Element," and the combination of the great script, cast, and production team got the job done well enough for CBS to take on Serling's new show, The Twilight Zone, just a few months later. In all likelihood, the network was reacting to the extremely positive audience response to "The Time Element" rather than any inherent quality in the production itself. "The Time Element" became a shining moment for The Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse, encouraging the most overwhelmingly positive responses from viewers and bringing in a flood of letters to the network offices. Though something of a rarity these days, te episode has been shown in syndication, including as part of the Museum of Television and Radio Showcase. If nothing else, "The Time Element" proved that not only was the public ready for quality fantasy and science fiction on television (particularly in the anthology format), but that they hungered for it. Though popular radio shows of the 1940's, such as Lights Out and Suspense, made the jump to television, and forerunners such as Tales of Tomorrow and Science Fiction Theatre enjoyed brief runs, in just a few short years television would see the greatest influx of this type of programming in its history as shows such as The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, One Step Beyond, 'Way Out, and Thriller invaded the small screen.
            On a thematic level, "The Time Element" resembles the main reoccurring themes of The Twilight Zone much closer than does "Where is Everybody?" The episodes it most closely resembles is the Charles Beaumont penned first season episode "Perchance to Dream." Check out our write up of that episode here. Beaumont adapted his teleplay from his own story published in the October, 1958 issue of Playboy, just one month before "The Time Element" premiered on The Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse. In both episodes, a man is having a recurring dream that puts him in a dangerous situation. Both men go to a psychiatrist to help and are ultimately doomed by the tragedy of their situation. The obvious difference in the episodes is that in Beaumont's "Perchance to Dream" there is no element of time travel.
            "The Time Element" also closely resembles Serling's other time travel themed episodes that deal with someone going back into the past as most of these, such as "Walking Distance" from season one, "King Nine Will Not Return" and "Back There" from season two, and "No Time Like the Past" from season four, deal with the inability of a noble or well intentioned character to correct a mistake or prevent a tragedy, such as the bombing of Pearl Harbor or the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Like another Twilight Zone writer and author that spent a lot of time on this subject matter, Ray Bradbury, whose most famous story on the subject is "A Sound of Thunder" in which the killing of a butterfly by a man gone back in time for a prehistoric animal hunt severely alters the future, Serling has Dr. Gillespie in the episode describe exactly what Bradbury indicates in his story by explaining the process of altering the future with either action or inaction in the past. For Serling, however, it is not so much that his characters go into the past and change the future but that they find themselves faced with inevitable tragedy and the absolute inability to do anything about it. In "The Time Element," Jenson is hit with resistance everywhere he goes. The more frantic he becomes, as the situation looms closer in time, the crazier he appears to the other characters and the more resistant they become to his preventative efforts. It is a terrifying and effectively suspenseful construct that Serling would return to again several times throughout the course of The Twilight Zone.
            Serling had previously attempted the story of "The Time Element" far back in the early days of his radio and television writing career. In 1951, a year after graduating from Antioch College, Serling found work in Cincinnati for WLW, a radio station which focused on comedy and variety programs, for which Serling could easily provide material but for which he had little passion. As a solution, he turned to the television arm of a rival station, WKRC-TV, which was receptive to his dramatic scripts. Serling developed a summer anthology series, The Storm, and set about displaying his talents to a regional audience. Many of the plays he wrote for The Storm would be re-imagined and recycled for his later masterpieces, including "The Time Element" and his first crack at his Emmy Award-winning triumph "Requiem for a Heavyweight," a play with the intriguing title "The Twilight Rounds." Serling resorted to recycling his scripts from The Storm, much of which material was admittedly not up to Serling's high standards, due to the influx of offers following his triumph with the Emmy Award-winning "Patterns" on Kraft Television Theatre on January 12, 1955. 
            Several members of the cast and production team for "The Time Element" would return to work with Serling on The Twilight Zone. On the production side, director Allen Reisner would return to direct the season one episode, "Mr. Denton on Doomsday." Producer Bert Granet would return to produce 18 episodes of seasons four and five for Serling and The Twilight Zone. It was Granet that pushed to get "The Time Element" in front of audiences after the script was rejected by CBS. Granet was eager to work with Serling (who was easily the most in-demand and talented television writer of the time) and pushed the fantasy drama forward on The Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse to great reward. It was not an easy task, however, as Granet faced resistance from the show's sponsor and needed the firm backing of Desi Arnaz to get the fantasy drama made. From the cast comes excellent character actor Martin Balsam who went on to feature in two Twilight Zone episodes, "The Sixteen Millimeter Shrine" from season one and "The New Exhibit" from season four. The relatable Balsam enjoyed a very fruitful career as a character actor and would become best known as the private investigator Arbogast and Mother's second victim in Alfred Hitchcock's classic 1960 shocker Psycho. Don Keefer, playing the newspaper reporter in "The Time Element," would return to work with Serling on three Twilight Zone episodes, the most memorable of which was his turn as Dan Hollis, who is transformed into a grotesque human jack-in-the-box by adolescent psychopath with the power of a god, Anthony (played to perfection by Bill Mumy) in the classic third season episode, "It's a Good Life." Keefer also featured in "Passage on the Lady Anne" from season four and "From Agnes, With Love," from the fifth and final season of The Twilight Zone. Jesse White, in a tense and dramatic role for "The Time Element" as the gruff bartender that knocks out William Bendix's character near the end of the show, was more at home in light-hearted or outright comedic roles and was featured twice in such a capacity on The Twilight Zone in two episodes from season three: "Once Upon a Time," alongside Buster Keaton, and "Cavender is Coming," alongside Carol Burnett. 
            Though he would not work again with Rod Serling on The Twilight Zone, another interesting member of the production team is makeup artist Charles Gemora. Born Carlos Cruz Gemora in the Philippines, Gemora first found work in the days of silent cinema at Universal Studios where the young and talented artist sculpted work for the production department. Where Gemora really found his niche, however, was as a "gorilla man." Gemora's slight frame and excellent makeup talents led him to create and perform within realistic and often frightening gorilla suits on such classic horror films as The Unholy Three, Murders in the Rue Morgue, and Island of Lost Souls, working alongside such stars as Lon Chaney, Bela Lugosi, and Charles Laughton. Though it would have been special to see what Gemora could have done with the material presented on The Twilight Zone, the show's fortunate alliance with MGM and its talented makeup department, headed by Academy Award winner William Tuttle, was more than capable of providing memorable special effects for the series. Read about William Tuttle's contribution to The Twilight Zone here.
             "The Time Element" stands the test of time as an intuitive and somewhat ingenious early offering of the type of fantasy to soon be featured prominently on late '50s and early '60s television. It is important to remember that although the easily recognizable tropes of science fiction were standard fare in pulp magazines and book anthologies, it was a relatively novel presentation on the still very young medium of televison. Beyond Rod Serling's natural talent, his greatest contribution to fans of this type of show was simply the drive to get it on television and get it taken seriously; to put it in front of producers and network executives and sponsors and to show that this type of programming, when done with serious intention, works. Though The Twilight Zone was never a ratings winner (it was never a ratings loser, either, but sat right in the middle of the pack for most of its run) it undoubtedly remains one of the most critically acclaimed and fondly remembered shows in television history. "The Time Element" can be considered essential along with the best of The Twilight Zone in that it upholds the same high standards representative of the best the show had to offer. The type of show that "The Time Element" represents is the type that provides both the escape and the provocation, utilizing the medium to its fullest potential. It is an effort that Serling would continue for the remainder of his professional career, reaching the apex of artistic success with The Twilight Zone.
           
Grade: B

Grateful acknowledgement is made to Marc Scott Zicree for information contained in his commentary on the Definitive DVD release The Twilight Zone: The 5th Dimension.

And to the Cincinnati Enquirer for "'The Twilight Zone' Had Roots in Cincinnati," by John Kiesewetter (May 27, 2014).

Notes:
--Allen Reisner also directed the season one episode "Mr. Denton on Doomsday."
--Martin Balsam also appeared in the season one episode "The Sixteen Millimeter Shrine" and the fourth season episode "The New Exhibit."
--Don Keefer also appeared in the season three episode "It's a Good Life," the fourth season episode "Passage on the Lady Anne," and the fifth season episode "From Agnes, With Love."
--Jesse White also appeared in the season three episodes "Once Upon a Time" and "Cavender is Coming."
--Bartlett Robinson also appeared in the second season episode "Back There" and the third season episode "To Serve Man"
--"The Time Element" was adapted into a Twilight Zone Radio Drama starring Bobby Slayton.

-JP