The Twilight Zone (1959) – The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine, Walking Distance, and Escape Clause

My exploration of the dark corners of the universe captured in The Twilight Zone: The Complete Series, available from Paramount, continues this week with three spooky episodes.

Up first is The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine which aired on 23 October, 1959, and was penned by Rod Serling. The tale follows Barbara Jean Trenton (Ida Lupino) an ageing film star who lives in a self-imposed isolation, reliving her past glories in a private screening room instead of continuing with her life.

Her friends and agent try to pull her out of her funk, her obsession with her past, but to no avail. She covets her own youth, and days of success.

There’s a commentary here about ageism in Hollywood, and its meaningful that it’s a woman who is the focal point of the story. Of course, there is also a discussion of living in the present, and being trapped by the past.

But Barbara Jean gets what she wants in the end, and you are left to wonder if that’s a blessing or a curse for her, and what of those she leaves behind.

This one isn’t as spooky as some, and is, in fact a little sombre. Is Barbara Jean happy? Will she remain so? And what explanation will her agent, Danny (Martin Balsam) give to the public?

An interesting tale that seems to have a couple of themes at work, and the retellling of it now would she a strong shift in the way it’s told.

The extras feature the always enjoyable sponsor billboards as well as an isolated score track by Franz Waxman.

sixteenmililmeter

Walking Distance was penned by Serling and had an airdate of 30 October, 1959. Martin Sloan (Gig Young) is almost back in his home town, but then upon his arrival, he discovers he is in his own past.

Sloan is an ad-man. It’s always go, go, go and now, he’s worn out executive who is a bit angry, and maybe needs to be reminded of the wonders and joy of life. He encounters faces, and family from his past, including himself, and realises he wants, needs, to pass on a message to his younger self about appreciating the time you have, the wonder and joy of youth, because it doesn’t last.

This is a wonderful episode, poignant and joyful, showing that not all the corners of the Twilight Zone need to be frightening. They can get you back on the right path, remind you of things you’ve lost.

After a bittersweet moment with his father (Frank Oveton), Martin gets some good advice and learns to enjoy life again.

This one ends up being one of my favourite episodes so far. It’s just a joy to watch.

There are a slew of fantastic extras on this episode, two commentaries, a Rod Serling lecture, an alternate audio mix, isolated score by Bernard Herrmann and a radio adaptation starring Chelcie Ross.

walkingdistance

Escape Clause, penned by Serling, aired on 6 November, 1959. This was is a little goofier than the previous episode, but still an undeniable amount of fun.

Walter Bedeker (David Wayne) is a hypochondriac, who suffers through countless aches and pains, most of them, his doctor tells him, are psychosomatic. His life takes a left turn when he encounters Cadwallader (Thomas Gomez), who proposes a deal one night in Bederker’s bedroom – he can have immortality, but must promise Cadawaller his soul.

Bedeker agrees, and acquiesces to the caveat that should he ever grow tired of his life, then he is promised a quick death.

Now, with nothing to harm him, (something he explores on a regular basis, burning himself, leaping in front of a subway) and living off the insurance claims he makes from the ‘accidents’ how long before he becomes bored with all these thrill seeking experiences that do not thrill…?

And what happens when his wife (Virginia Christine) dies, something he accidentally causes, and he has to face the charges, and verdict? The ending is fun, playful, and a little horrifying if you think of Bedeker’s fate.

This episode includes an isolated score, and a radio adaptation starring Mike Starr. I tell you with this fantastic collection from Paramount guiding me through the series step by step, I feel very safe exploring the dark and interesting corridors of The Twilight Zone.

escapeclause

 

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