[June 22, 1960] Here comes Summer! (Twilight Zone wrap-up)

Summer is here, and that means the television season is wrapping up, freeing time for a slew of blockbusters.  But the small screen hasn’t quite finished with all it has to show us–between Maverick, Bonanza, and The Twilight Zone, there’s still plenty to enjoy.  I must confess a guilty affection for What’s My Line, too.  I like to close my eyes when they display the guests’ professions so I can play along with the contestants in guessing.

Twilight Zone, in particular, continues to impress.  The latest three episodes (there was another gap in the schedule for some reason) are all interesting, and they break from the early season mold of featuring a fellow descending into madness and screaming through the second act.

In fact, it’s rather hard to pick a favorite from this bunch.  Perhaps you can help:

Jack Klugman stars in A Passage for Trumpet as an alcoholic, down-on-his-luck trumpeteer with a real talent for horn.  His rendezvous with the bottle has killed his career, spiraling him into a depression for which booze is his medication.  Seeing no way out of the vicious cycle, he throws himself in front of a speeding car.  Surprisingly, he seems unscathed… except now no one can see him anymore.  Is he a ghost?  Perhaps the mysterious trumpeteer named Gabe knows the answer…  Klugman is particularly great in this role, but he is great in everything (q.v. 12 Angry Men).

Mr. Bevis is an altogether different sort of episode, though like the last, it is excellent and marked with more than a little touch of the supernatural.  The eponymous protagonist, played by Orson Bean, is eccentric in the extreme.  He wears a mismatched suit topped with an archaic bow-tie.  He drives an ancient Rickenbacker.  His apartment hasn’t a square inch of free space, so crammed is it with half-built models, random toys, instruments, clocks.  He plays football in the street with urchins.  He listens to zither music.  His demeanor is uncommonly, unhealthily cheerful and engaging.  At work, he’s a disaster, bouncing from job to job with seasonal frequency.  He rarely makes rent on time.

In fact, the episode begins with Mr. Bevis being fired, evicted, and losing his vehicle.  But then he’s offered a second chance by his family guardian angel.  Will he trade his happy-go-lucky lifestyle for security and success?  Would you?

After Hours, starring mostly women (at last!  In this case, Ann Francis and Elizabeth Allen), throws a curve ball.  A young woman goes to a department store looking for a gold thimble to give her mother as a present.  She is taken to the all-but deserted ninth floor… of a building that has only eight floors, where she is sold the item by a most unsettling saleswoman.  When she later sees the retailer is just a mannequin, she faints, waking up after the employees have departed and the store has been locked up.  It’s set up like a conventional episode with a mystery, an increasingly distraught protagonist, and a manic second act.  The ending isn’t what you think it will be, however.

My contacts at the studio tell me there are only two episodes left before the season is out.  I’ll cover those, and pick out my favorites for the season, in just a few weeks.

Stay tuned!

7 thoughts on “[June 22, 1960] Here comes Summer! (Twilight Zone wrap-up)”

  1. All three episodes sound good, and I’d love to hear more of them. But I admit I find the third particularly intriguing, maybe partly because of its touch of The Thirteenth Is Magic.

  2. As you say, Jack Klugman is great in just about anything, and he really delivers here. But he always plays such sad men. I’d like to see him try his hand at something a little lighter once in a while. And the episode was quite good, though things are maybe getting a little predictable.

    I generally like Orson Bean, but I didn’t much care for this one. Maybe his character just annoyed me too much. There was also the problem that this story wasn’t too far off from the previous one, other than in tone. They probably shouldn’t have shown them back to back.

    The third one was certainly creepy, but again I felt like it misfired slightly. Of course, I don’t tend to find mannequins creepy or disturbing, as some do. But hey, any excuse to see Anne Francis. I’ve had a thing for her ever since Forbidden Planet.

    Although there are a couple of episodes to go, I think we can fairly say that the Twilight Zone shows real promise as a venue for decent to good science fiction and fantasy on television. Here’s hoping it starts a trend.

  3. “A Passage For Trumpet” — A fine story with fine performances.  Not only Jack Klugman, but John Anderson as “Gabe.”  Maybe we’ll see more of these talented actors on the series.

    “Mr.  Bevis” — Although I enjoy Orson Bean, I thought this episode tried too hard to make Mr.  Bevis lovably wacky.  Not bad, but not great.

    “The After Hours” — Of the three, this is the one I really like.  I love the surreal touch of the floor that doesn’t exist which only sells one item.  I thought the cinematography was outstanding for television, and made that floor look particularly vast and dark.  And the actresses were perfect for their parts.  (Special kudos to the makeup department for subtle hints.)

    In a way it reminds me of the fine story “Evening Primrose” by John Collier, although the premise is almost exactly the opposite.

  4. Jack Klugman is good in anything – honestly, I’ve never seen a bad performance out of him – but “After Hours,” for me, just got everything right. I found myself wishing it had been a short feature down at the Neptune, rather than television, so I could watch it again, looking for more little hints dropped along the way about the ending. (It was certainly shot like film, particularly the scenes on that strange ninth floor!)

    I’ll be keeping a lookout for it in the television schedule just to do that. Perhaps it will be re-run towards the end of summer.

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