The Twilight Zone (1962) – Showdown with Rance McGrew, Kick the Can, and A Piano in the House

Paramount Pictures has handed me the map, and I continue to explore the depths of The Twilight Zone: The Complete Series on blu-ray this week with another trio of episodes.

First up is Showdown with Rance McGrew. Written by series creator Rod Serling from an idea by Frederick Louis Fox, this episode aired on 2 February, 1962.

Rance McGrew (Larry Blyden) is a television cowboy, and the star of his own series. A bit of a prima donna, he proves consistently that he is tough to work with. Whether he is unprepared, late, or wants script approval, this star is a legend in his own mind.

That is, until he takes a turn through the Zone, and finds himself in the Old West, facing down Jesse James (Arch Johnson) himself who is a little upset with his portrayal (and others) on the show.

This, to me, is just a fun episode, and you very much want to see Rance get his just desserts. I’ve hear tales of actors like this, happily I know none of them, and they should be a little more thankful for the career and the life they have, instead of being so unprofessional.

You’d almost feel sorry for him when James puts him in his place, but Blyden makes his character pretty likeable, despite Rance’s attitude.

The extras this time out include an isolated score, sponsor billboards and a commentary by Robert Cornthwaite, who plays the Director in the episode.

showdownwith

Kick in the Can, the magical episode that Spielberg updated for The Twilight Zone Movie. Written by George Clayton Johnson, this episode first premiered on 9 February, 1962.

Charles Whitley (Ernest Truex) is stuck in an old age home, clinging to the hope of moving in with his son. Unfortunately, but that doesn’t work out, and he’s stuck in the home. He begins to recall his youth and the days when he played kick the can.

His friend Ben (Russell Collins) begins to worry about him, when he sees that Charles begins to believe that youth can be his, if he simply embraces it, and wishes for it.

Ben begins to doubt his friend’s sanity, but what if Charles is right?

As much as I love the performance by Truex in this episode, some of it is genuinely heartbreaking, I’ll always be a fan of Scatman Crothers turn in the film version. He adds a version of magic to it, that expands nicely on this original episode.

The message here remains important, you are only as young as you feel, and youth is a state of mind. And honestly, a little play, every now and then, is good for everybody. It’s too bad that sometimes we let adulting get in the way.

This is a gentle, and classic episode and a favourite. I rather treasure this one, and I love the reminder to keep your inner child alive. Mine’s fine, so make sure you check yours!

The extras include  a commentary by Johnson joined by Zone historian Marc Scott Zircee, an isolated score, billboards, and a radio version starring Shelley Berman and Stan Freberg.

zonekick

A Piano in the House is the final episode this week, and is a bit darker than the previous two episodes. It was written by Earl Hammer Jr., and aired on 16 February, 1962.

Fitzgerald Fortune (Barry Morse) is a sadistic soul, and perhaps the most reviled theatre critic of all time. And he is about to find himself smack-dab in the Twilight Zone.

Strange things begin when he buys a player piano, and it is revealed through its mechanical playing the nature of the souls who hear its music. He exploits people through the music, laying their honest souls bare, revealing truths that they try to keep hidden.

Finally, the tables are turned, and Fortune’s own terrified soul is laid out for all to see.

The extras include a commentary by Zone historians Scott Skelton and Jim Benson, a 1978 interview with Hammer and producer Buck Houghton, an isolated score, sponsor billboards, and a radio version starring Michael York.

Next week we continue our journey through Season 3 of The Twilight Zone with Paramount Pictures’ The Complete Series on blu-ray. Keep your eyes open, because the signpost is up ahead!

piano in the house

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