The Twilight Zone (1960/1961) – A Most Unusual Camera, The Night of the Meek and Dust

Paramount Pictures guides me deeper into The Twilight Zone with their Complete Series on blu-ray. Up first this week is A Most Unusual Camera. Written by Rod Serling, this episode premiered on 16 December, 1960.

When Chester (Fred Clark) and Paula (Jean Carson) rob a curio shop they get more than they expected with a camera they lift. It seems when the pictures are developed they show the future, five minutes into the future. Teaming up with Woodward (Adam Williams), they come up with a plan to make it big at a horse race.

None of the characters seem to be particularly clever. Chester starts going on about magic and sorcerers in regards to the camera, Woodward sounds like a moron, and Paula, well, she just seems vacuous.

As the reveal plays out, they all get their just desserts one way or another, and a lot of this could have been played for more laughs than it has, but it actually comes across as pretty damned funny.

And as the episode ends, the camera finds its way to a new owner, temporarily. This one is actually rather delightful. I do like when Serling lets his dark side out.

The extras on this first episode include an isolated score and sponsor billboards.

zonecamraThe Night of the Meek is up next, airing on 23 December, 1960 was penned by Serling and is a bit of a Christmas tale. This is the second of six shot on videotape, and again, hasn’t aged well.

Art Carney is a department store Santa Claus who is fired on Christmas Eve. When he finds a mysterious bag full of presents, he sets out on a holiday mission. To make sure the less fortunate amongst us have a Christmas to remember.

This one is a bit saccharin sweet, and it it had been shot on film, this one may have turned into a Christmas classic and re-aired every holiday season. Instead, being shot on tape, it hasn’t stood the test of time very well.

It’s a gentle sentimental story that works nicely but looks horrible. Carney is a delight, as his character is a but of a drunk, but longs for the magic of holidays to be real. He wants to see the children happy and not hungry, to spare them and their families their poverty.

It’s a lovely little story that shows us that not all ventures into the Zone have to be spooky and worrying, some of them can be wondrous.

The extras on this one commentary by Marc Scott Zircee, Len Wein and Gary Gerani, all fans of the Zone, and historians and authors in their own right. There is also an original production slate and a radio drama starring Chris McDonald.

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Dust is the final episode this week, also written by Serling, it brought the Zone into 1961, premiering on January 6.

Gallegos’ (Vladmir Sokoloff) son Luis (John A Alonzo) is about to be hanged for an accidental death and Peter is desperate to save his son in anyway he can. Enter a devious salesman into this western tale, Peter Sykes (Thomas Gomez) who says that he can sell Gellegos some magic dust that will elicit the sympathy of the townspeople.

But things don’t always play out the way one wants in the Twilight Zone.

The extras to round out this last episode for the week are an interview with director Douglas Heyes from 1978, billboards, and an isolated score by Jerry Goldsmith.

Next week I’ll venture even deeper into the Zone, with Paramount Pictures Complete Series on blu-ray… keep an eye out, because there’s the signpost up ahead!

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