The Twilight Zone (1961) – A Game of Pool, The Mirror, and The Grave

Paramount Pictures just keeps guiding me deeper and deeper into the Twilight Zone with their Complete Series on blu-ray. This week’s trio of episodes are a lot of fun.

First up is A Game of Pool, penned by George Clayton Johnson, this episode first aired on Halloween, 31 October, 1961. Honestly I would have expected something a little spookier if they’d known they were gonna broadcast an episode that night, but oh well.

Jack Klugman is Jesse Cardiff a hell of a pool player, perhaps even the best, but he’ll never know because the best there ever was, James Howard ‘Fats’ Brown (Jonathan Winters) is dead. But that doesn’t stop things in the Zone, because look who just walked through the door.

Fats offers Jesse the opportunity to play him in one game. and lets him know the stakes… And Jesse racks them up.

As they play game after game, Fats reminds him of all the things Jesse has missed out on by spending nothing but time on the game. Jesse’s good, but is a good enough, and does he realise what he actually wins if he succeeds? This is the Twilight Zone after all.

A great episode with two fantastic actors, and a great ending. I really enjoyed this one.

The extras include a commentary by Jonathan Winters, who in another feature reads the alternate ending of the episode,, there is also a commentary from Johnson joined by Zone archivist Marc Scott Zircee, an interview with director Buzz Kulik and Buck Houghton from 1978, a clip from the 1989 remake, an isolated score and sponsor billboards.

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The Mirror was written by series creator Rod Serling, and had an original airdate of 20 October 1961. This one also features a fantastic and much beloved actor, Peter Falk.

Falk stars as Castro-knockoff, Ramos Clemente, who comes into possession of a mirror that shows him his enemies.

But is it the real deal, or does it simply feed into his paranoia as Clemente summarily executes any who would turn against him, or even hint at it. The ruler they have deposed, General De Cruz (Will Kuluva) warns him that they are one and the same, that the room, the mirror will turn him into the same type of man he is.

It’s not the strongest episode of the trio this week, but Falk is very good in the role, but he always was. It’s great watching Clemente unwind as the mirror shows him, one by one, his most trusted advisers turning on him one by one, either with guns, knives, even poison.

There is definitely a healthy does of paranoia taking place in this episode, and Falk’s performance is right on point, as he succumbs to the darkness brought on by the mirror. There’s no real twist or revelation, just a dark ending.

The extras include an isolated score, billboards, and a radio version starring Tony Plana.

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The Grave is the final episode this week. Penned by Montgomery Pittman, who also served as director, this episode aired on 27 October, 1961.

The tale follows Conny Miller (Lee Marvin) a lawman making his way in the West who comes to visit a grave of a man he’s been tracking for four months. He missed the opportunity to stop him, and a wager is floated to visit the grave site. Conny accepts. He’s does this to convince himself, and perhaps the dead, that he’s not afraid.

Watch for an appearance by Lee Van Cleef!

Lee Marvin just plays a badass so well, and he just exudes menace, and looks so comfortable in Western duds with his fast draw.  But will that save him when he goes up to visit the grave?

Does something spooky happen to him? That’s up for debate as the story ends with that very thing being discussed.

The extras on this episode include a commentary by Zone archivist and film historian Gary Gerani, another by Zone archivist Martin Grams Jr., a radio drama starring Micheal Rooker, an isolated score, and billboards.

Next week, the journey continues. Come along as we explore The Twilight Zone: The Complete Series on blu-ray, available now from Paramount Pictures.

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