Friday, October 21, 2016

The Twilight Zone Vortex 2016 Halloween Countdown #11: "Eye of the Beholder"

The Twilight Zone is an amazingly diverse program that offers stories of almost every conceivable theme and setting within the overall structure of intelligent modern fantasy. One area in which The Twilight Zone excelled was in the story of terror, exploring the darkest aspects of human existence in myriad ways. To celebrate the Halloween season, we’re counting down the 31 most frightening and unsettling moments from The Twilight Zone, one for each day of October. We’ll be revisiting some of the episodes we’ve already covered and looking ahead to episodes from the final three seasons of the series.                                                                                                                                    -JP


#11 - A Beautiful Outcast, from “Eye of the Beholder,” season two, episode 42
Written by Rod Serling, directed by Douglas Heyes, starring Maxine Stuart, Donna Douglas, William Gordon, Edson Stroll

Rod Serling’s “Eye of the Beholder,” which he originally composed under the evocative title, “The Private World of Darkness,” is perhaps his finest episode of the series. The episode perfectly captures Serling's primary concerns as a writer: the horrors of injustice, intolerance, and the erosion of individuality in the face of mindless conformity. The episode also happens to be a terrifying vision of a nightmare world ruled by an intolerant, hideous governing class that suppresses all forms of beauty because it is different. Serling doesn’t allow the story be one-dimensional, however, and the overall effect is one of sorrow and empathy, unlike more extreme episodes on a similar subject (“The Obsolete Man,” “The Shelter”). “Eye of the Beholder” also happens to showcase the horrifying makeup creations of William Tuttle, then head of the MGM makeup department, whose unique style has become a trademark of the series. There is a distinct shift in the episode once we leave the dark confines of the hospital room and are thrust into a brightly lit world filled with monsters. The raging dictator who follows us through the hospital on television screens is particularly effective. The episode is notable for keeping everything in shadow, both literally and figuratively. For reasons which become obvious, the faces of all the actors are shrouded in low lighting. Serling also gives us only glimpses of the society we find ourselves in. We know that it is populated by a hideously deformed majority and we also know it is under an oppressive ruling party. Serling was making obvious connections to the political climate of the Cold War era but leaves much to the imagination of the viewer. The episode also contains a melancholy score by Bernard Herrmann which progressively increases to a frantic pitch as our heroine attempts to make her escape. “Eye of the Beholder” is one of the more memorably frightening episodes and rightly regarded as one of the finest moments in television history.

Trivia:

- The production crew on “Eye of the Beholder” is truly remarkable, as it is the only episode to involve the team of Rod Serling (w), Douglas Heyes (dir), George T. Clemens (dop), William Tuttle (fx), and Bernard Herrman (mus) working together on a single episode. Which begs the question: Is this the finest crew ever to work on a single episode? The series had a steady group of crew members that only occasionally changed from episode to episode (in areas such as set design, editing, sound, production assistants, etc.) but some creators (typically in music, makeup, writing, directing, photography, and, of course, acting capacities) worked only occasionally for the show and it was unique for an episode to contain the work of creators who could each be argued as the finest at their craft among the show’s many participants. “Perchance to Dream” (Charles Beaumont (w), Robert Florey (dir), George T. Clemens (dop), Van Cleve (mus), with Richard Conte and John Larch) and “The Invaders” (Richard Matheson (w), Douglas Heyes (dir), George T. Clemens (dop), Jerry Goldsmith (mus), with Agnes Moorehead) come immediately to mind as having an exceptional collection of cast and crew.
           
-“Eye of the Beholder” was remade as an episode of the third incarnation of the series, which ran on UPN from 2002-2003, and starred Molly Sims.

Read our full coverage of “Eye of the Beholder” here.

2 comments:

  1. When I was interning as a middle school teacher a couple of years ago, I showed this episode and "The Masks" to the English classes for a lesson the objective of which escapes me at the moment. (Perhaps it was foreshadowing and prediction?) I remember standing at the back of the darkened room when the climax to "Beholder" played and feeling this visceral thrill ripple through me from the moment we see Douglas' actual, beautiful face on till the final frame. It's a masterful sequence, and one that never loses an ounce of its power.

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  2. It's very troubling to see Elly May Clampett trapped in this freakish world...

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