Friday, April 15, 2011

Twilight Zone: Part 3

The final 5 of the best pisodes of The twilight Zone...

5. Walking Distance

Opening narration:
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

A middle-aged man, Martin Sloan), is driving cross-country when he stops his car at a gas station. He walks toward his hometown, Homewood, that the attendant assures him is within walking distance. Homewood appears exactly as it was when he was a boy. He goes into a dugstore, and has an ice cream soda at the soda fountain while recalling his memories from the past. He says "One of the greatest memories I have is old man Wilson, may God rest his soul, sleeping in his comfortable chair just like he did before he died". The clerk looks at Sloan oddly but says nothing. After Sloan leaves the store, the cashier goes up to a room where Mr. Wilson is sleeping and says "We'll need more chocolate syrup, Mr. Wilson." He responds by saying "I'll order some more of it this afternoon."

Sloan continues walking until he eventually sees himself as a boy, and following him home, meets his parents. Trying to convince his parents that he is their son from the future, he succeeds only in alarming the disbelieving couple who tell him to leave. He finds his childhood self on a carousel, and tries to warn his younger self to enjoy his childhood before it is too late. His advances scare young Martin, who falls off the merry-go-round and injures his leg. Sloan is then confronted by his father who, having seen the papers in Sloan's wallet with its dollar bills from the future, now believes his story. His father advises him that everyone has their time, and that he should look to the future rather than to the past, because the happiness he is seeking may be in the places he hasn't looked yet. Sloan finds himself back in his own time, now walking with a limp, but resigned again to his life as it is.

Closing narration:
Martin Sloan, age thirty-six, vice-president in charge of media. Successful in most things but not in the one effort that all men try at some time in their lives - trying to go home again. And also like all men perhaps there'll be an occasion, maybe a summer night sometime, when he'll look up from what he's doing and listen to the distant music of a calliope, and hear the voices and the laughter of the people and the places of his past. And perhaps across his mind there'll flit a little errant wish, that a man might not have to become old, never outgrow the parks and the merry-go-rounds of his youth. And he'll smile then too because he'll know it is just an errant wish, some wisp of memory not too important really, some laughing ghosts that cross a man's mind, that are a part of the Twilight Zone.

4. Nightmare at 20,000 Feet

Opening narration:
Portrait of a frightened man: Mr. Robert Wilson, thirty-seven, husband, father, and salesman on sick leave. Mr. Wilson has just been discharged from a sanitarium where he spent the last six months recovering from a nervous breakdown. The onset of which took place on an evening not dissimilar to this one on an airliner very much like the one in which Mr. Wilson is about to be flown home. The difference being that, on that evening half a year ago, Mr. Wilson's flight was terminated by the onslaught of his mental breakdown. Tonight, he's travelling all the way to his appointed destination which, contrary to Mr. Wilson's plan, happens to be in the darkest corner of the Twilight Zone.

Bob Wilson (played by a young William Shatner) is a salesman on an airplane for the first time since his nervous breakdown six months earlier. He spots a gremlin on the wing of the plane. Every time someone else looks out the window, the gremlin leaps out of view, so nobody believes Bob's seemingly outlandish claim. Bob realises that his wife Julia is starting to think he needs to go back to the sanitarium, but also, if nothing is done about the gremlin, it will damage the plane and cause it to crash. Bob steals a sleeping policeman's revolver, and opens the window marked "Auxiliary Exit" to shoot the gremlin, succeeding despite the fact that he is nearly blown out of the plane himself. Later, the plane lands and Bob is taken away in a strait jacket. Julia tries to assure him that everything is all right. Confident that what he saw was real and not a relapse, Bob says that it is, but he's the only one who knows it… yet. Behind him, the damage on the engine will soon be discovered, proving his sanity to everyone.

(This episode was remade for the Twilight Zone movie. There is also a scene in Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls where he sits down at a window seat, opens the curtain and looks out, then quickly closes it and says to his companion “There’s something out there.” I have done this to my wife an others, only to evcer receive quizzical looks.)

Closing narration:
The flight of Mr. Robert Wilson has ended now, a flight not only from point A to point B, but also from the fear of recurring mental breakdown. Mr. Wilson has that fear no longer, though, for the moment, he is, as he has said, alone in this assurance. Happily, his conviction will not remain isolated too much longer, for happily, tangible manifestation is very often left as evidence of trespass, even from so intangible a quarter as the Twilight Zone.

3. Steel

Opening narration:
Sports item, circa 1974: Battling Maxo, B2, heavyweight, accompanied by his manager and handler, arrives in Maynard, Kansas, for a scheduled six-round bout. Battling Maxo is a robot, or, to be exact, an android, definition: 'an automaton resembling a human being.' Only these automatons have been permitted in the ring since prizefighting was legally abolished in 1968. This is the story of that scheduled six-round bout, more specifically the story of two men shortly to face that remorseless truth: that no law can be passed which will abolish cruelty or desperate need - nor, for that matter, blind animal courage. Location for the facing of said truth: a small, smoke-filled arena just this side of the Twilight Zone.

In a future where any boxing involving human fighters has been criminalized, the sport is now dominated by fighting robots. Former boxer Steel Kelly (played by Lee Marvin) manages a B2-model robot called "Battling Maxo." Maxo is an older fighting robot and we learn that due to his age, he is not in demand.

Kelly and his partner have used the last of their money to get to the fight venue. He is being given this chance due to the fact that one of the scheduled fighters was damaged in transport. Kelly has to assure the fight promoter that Maxo will be able to fight. After the fight promoter leaves Kelly and his partner and mechanic, Pole, argue about Maxo's condition and that he needs new parts. Kelly feels that Maxo should be able to go through with the fight despite Maxo's age and condition.

While Pole tests Maxo's functions, an arm spring lets go and they don't have the parts or the money to fix him. Kelly decides that since they are from out of town, he would disguise himself as Maxo in order to collect the money necessary for repairs. Steel enters the fight disguised as Maxo. However, despite a valiant effort, he is unable to damage the B7 robot he is fighting, even when he lands an unblocked punch directly in the back of its head. He is nearly killed after lasting a little under three minutes. The crowd jeers and boos at Maxo's performance, not knowing that it is a human doing the fighting.

Afterwards, the fight promoter will only give them half the prize money because of "Maxo's" poor performance; Kelly dares not protest, or the promoter will recognize him as "Maxo" and renege entirely. The episode ends with Kelly, bruised but stubborn as ever, telling Pole that with the money they will get the parts to fix Maxo.

Closing narration:
Portrait of a losing side, proof positive that you can't outpunch machinery. Proof also of something else: that no matter what the future brings, man's capacity to rise to the occasion will remain unaltered. His potential for tenacity and optimism continues, as always, to outfight, outpoint and outlive any and all changes made by his society, for which three cheers and a unanimous decision rendered from the Twilight Zone.

2. Two

Opening narration:
This is a jungle, a monument built by nature honouring disuse, commemorating a few years of nature being left to its own devices. But it's another kind of jungle, the kind that comes in the aftermath of man's battles against himself. Hardly an important battle, not a Gettysburg or a Marne or an Iwo Jima. More like one insignificant corner patch in the crazy quilt of combat. But it was enough to end the existence of this little city. It's been five years since a human being walked these streets. This is the first day of the sixth year, as man used to measure time. The time? Perhaps a hundred years from now. Or sooner. Or perhaps it's already happened two million years ago. The place? The signposts are in English so that we may read them more easily, but the place is the Twilight Zone.

It's been five years since almost all of mankind has been wiped out. In a small town overgrown by jungle growth, a woman (Elizabeth Montgomery) in a military uniform walks the streets. Going through the town, she spots a female mannequin wearing a dress and compares it to her own tattered uniform. She sees the employee entrance for a restaurant and goes inside to find food. She finds a single can of food but before she can open it, a man (Charles Bronson) comes in, wearing a different military uniform. She attacks him but he manages to subdue her. Once she's unconscious, he takes the can of food and eats the chicken inside. He looks around and sees a pin-up calendar of a girl, and considers the unconscious soldier. He goes out into the street and sees the mannequin wearing its dress, as well as a magazine cover advertising fashion styles for women's combat gear. He goes back inside and tries to wake the woman up. He finds survival gear in her holster but no gun. He dumps a bucket of water on her and she cowers back. He offers her what's left of the food and insists there's no reason to fight, but she doesn't understand his language. Giving up, he leaves and she takes the food.

Outside, the man goes down the street into a barber shop and finds a razor. He shaves himself while the woman follows him in and considers what he's doing. He tosses her a bar of soap and she cleans herself up while he finishes shaving and tosses her a towel. When he walks out she backs nervously out onto the street but then follows him a few steps behind as he walks down the avenue to a theatre. He spots a skeleton with a gun and picks it up as the woman goes for another skeleton's corpse. The two face off and then the man walks away. The woman follows him as he goes back to the store window with the mannequin. The woman looks at the dress and the man tosses it to her. He backs away and she goes inside a nearby recruiting office to put it on. She undresses, setting her knife and gun nearby. She sees posters for her enemy's side. Infuriated, she runs outside and shoots at the man, just missing. He considers her and then walks away.

The woman takes refuge in the barbershop when it begins to rain. The next day the man leaves a house where he's taken shelter and found two bottles of preserves. He puts on a suit and spots her hiding behind a truck. He tells her to go away because he's no longer a soldier, and she emerges to reveal she's wearing the dress. He gives her one of the bottles and starts walking down the streets. She follows him and finally approaches him and smiles. The two walk down the street... together.

Closing narration:
This has been a love story about two lonely people who found each other in the Twilight Zone.

1. Time Enough at Last

(My favourite episode out of the 156 episodes produced and the one that most Zoners remember.)

Opening narration:
Witness Mr. Henry Bemis, a charter member in the fraternity of dreamers. A bookish little man whose passion is the printed page but who is conspired against by a bank president and a wife and a world full of tongue-cluckers and the unrelenting hands of a clock. But in just a moment Mr. Bemis will enter a world without bank presidents or wives or clocks or anything else. He'll have a world all to himself without anyone.

Mr. Bemis (marvellously played by Burgess Meredith) is a bank teller and loves to read. His wife despises his reading addiction and even tears up one of his books. Bemis' reading also gets him into trouble at work. He is so absorbed in his reading that he can't count out the proper amount of money for a customer. When called to the supervisor's office, he complains that he can't read at home. He had resorted to reading the label of the ketchup bottle but his wife even stopped him from doing that.

One day during his lunch break, he sneaks off to the bank vault to read the Charles Dickens novel "David Copperfield". Suddenly, a bomb blows up while he is inside. Once he recovers, he comes out of the vault to find that a nuclear war has taken place, everything is destroyed and he is the only survivor.

He searches through the rubble for signs of any other survivors. He finds no one but he does discover enough food to sustain him indefinitely. The boredom and loneliness begin to affect him, however. He discovers a revolver and plans to shoot himself in the head when he notices the sign marking the ruins of the public library. He is overjoyed to find that the books are still intact.

He finds the works of Shakespeare, George Bernard Shaw, Shelley, Keats and Browning. He piles up books to read each month for the years to come. He drops a book and bends over to pick it up. As he does so, he drops his glasses on the concrete steps. The lenses shatter. In shock, he picks up the broken remains of the glasses he is virtually blind without, and says, "That's not fair. That's not fair at all. There was time now. There was all the time I needed...! That's not fair!", and bursts into tears, surrounded by books he will never read.

Closing narration:
The best laid plans of mice and men and Henry Bemis, the small man in the glasses who wanted nothing but time. Henry Bemis, now just a part of a smashed landscape, just a piece of the rubble, just a fragment of what man has deeded to himself. Mr. Henry Bemis in the Twilight Zone.

As a final item, I love the comment on George W Bush that was disseminated at the time of commencement of the war in Iraq:


1 comment:

  1. Time to put Obama's picture over George Bush. This little man Obama has cast the final curtain for the America that Rod Serling once knew. This "Change" is not something that Rod Serling would want to believe in. America was once a great nation in the days of Rod Serling. With Obama, "we have just crossed over into The "Twilight Zone of America".


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