[April 22, 1961] Out of time (Twilight Zone, Season 2, Eps. 22-24)

I’ve mentioned in previous articles that Rod Serling’s horror/science fiction anthology show, The Twilight Zone, has been lackluster this second season.  But things have been looking up recently, and I’m happy to announce that the latest run has been quite solid.  The show did not air on the 14th, owing to some stop-press coverage of Gagarin’s flight, so I just have three episodes for you this time around.  They are all worthy watching, should you catch them in the summer reruns.

First up is yet another of the awful run of video-tape experiments.  This is #6 for the season, and I hope they’ll give up the effort soon.  Twilight Zone is superlative in so many ways; it’s a shame when it has to settle for, at best, mediocre cinematography.  Long-Distance Call makes do rather admirably, however.  A 5-year old boy loses his doting grandmother but finds he can still reach her on the toy telephone she gave him just before she died.  Tragically for the boy’s parents, the grandma exhorts the tyke to join her – and there’s only one way that is possible.  It’s a strong episode, another episode that telegraphs its twist a mile away but has stand-out character development.  Three stars.

100 Yards over the Rim not only gives the gimmick away early, it’s a theme we’ve seen several times before on this show: namely, a fish out of water time travel story.  Chris Horne, a homesteader working his way West in a truncated wagon train, heads over a rise to secure game and water for his desperate party.  He finds, instead, a 1961 trucker’s diner, and a very puzzled man-and-wife pair of owners. 

Despite the hackneyed premise, it’s actually quite an excellent watch thanks to the efforts of the writer and the actors.  Cliff Robertson goes out of his way to recreate a pioneer from 1847.  Eschewing the cowboy duds that would have been used in a lesser show, Horne is inappropriately dressed for the desert in his Easterner’s clothes, complete with stovepipe hat.  Not only is he out of place in the future, but in desolate New Mexico.  Also effectively conveyed is the idea that folks are pretty much the same, regardless of era.  I liked it.  Four stars.

It’s pretty clear that the following episode, The Rip Van Winkle Caper, was shot at the same time so as to save costs – the backdrop is the same desert.  Interestingly enough, this episode is another time travel story, though of an entirely different sort.  It starts where Rim leaves off: in modern day.  Four men, one a scientist, hijack a million dollars in Fort Knox gold.  Their plan is to hide away in side a hill, put themselves in suspended animation for a century, and then stroll back into civilization with their ill-gotten, but now forgotten, gains.  It would be the perfect plan, if there were any honor among thieves…

Caper is a good watch, and it does a fine job of keeping you in suspense as to the outcome until the end.  It’s a bit padded for the first half, however, and the characters are not quite so engaging as in Rim.  Three stars.

That’s that for April.  There can’t be too much left to the season, so I’ll probably break up the remaining episodes into a couple of parts, with the latter summarizing the season as a whole.  Next up: the May 1961 Fantasy and Science Fiction!

6 thoughts on “[April 22, 1961] Out of time (Twilight Zone, Season 2, Eps. 22-24)”

  1. The first two sound excellent. Was the first because the little boy would have grown up to be an evil man? And I’d certainly like to know how the second came out.

    Of the third, which I’ve read, the criminals seem rather cartoon-ish on paper; and what is surprising is that Farwell never thought of the twist. I suppose the moral could be he was just another dumb crook.

    Thank you for sharing these programmes, and looking forward to the next lot.

  2. Not a bad set at all and very representative of what this show is capable of. Really, apart from the video tape this is some of the best we’ve seen.

    A story like Long Distance Call works well in print, but lives or dies on the skills of a child actor in this format. Young master Mumy was quite good here. I’m sure much of the credit goes to the director since getting the best out of child actors is a very special skill, but he clearly had good material to work with. I hope we see more from this young man.

    Over the Rim could have been merely mediocre, but Cliff Robertson elevates it to a much higher level. Of course, he’s an excellent actor. By the way, did anybody catch his performance in The Two Worlds of Charlie Gordon on the US Steel Hour a couple of months ago? It was based on “Flowers for Algernon” and seems to have been very well received. Alas, I only found out about it after the fact.

    Caper wasn’t bad. I generally enjoy Simon Oakland’s work (usually as the heavy or a police officer), so he made the episode for me. Story-wise it was a bit light. I’m sure I’ve read something relatively similar either in the 50s or in the pulp era.

    Still, a good set. Let’s hope the show can finish strongly as we head into the summer hiatus.

    1. I did not catch Gordon!  I wonder if it will be rerun.

      I must confess with some sheepishness that I have been watching more television of late.  I watched the Oscars in their entirety (Bob Hope can be a gas–“Yuri Alexeyivich Gagarin.  A name that will go down in history.  Misspelled.”) and it’s fun to play “spot the actor” since Hollywood has a limited pool.

      I was sad to see Wanted: Dead or Alive go.  Steve McQueen is fun to watch.

  3. Not much to add except for the fact that these are all episodes I would rate as “pretty good” is not classics.  It seems to be the acting that stands out in each one.

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