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Authors: Marc Scott Zicree

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BOOK: Twilight Zone Companion
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father: Martin, you have to leave here. Theres no room, theres no place. Do you understand that?

martin: I see that now, but I dont understand. Why not?

father: I guess because we only get one chance.

Maybe theres only one summer to every customer. That little boy, the one I know, the one who belongs here, this is his summer, just as it was yours oncedont make him share it.

martin (Bitterly): All right.

father: Martin, is it so bad where youre from?

martin: I thought so, Pop. Ive been living at a dead run and I was tired. Then one day, I knew I had to come back here. I had to come back and get on a merry-go-round and eat cotton candy and listen to a band concert, to stop and breathe and close my eyes and smell and listen.

father: I guess we all want that. Maybe when you go back, Martin, youll find that there are merry-go-rounds and band concerts where you are.

Maybe you havent been looking in the right place. Youve been looking behind you, Martin. Try looking ahead.

Then, too, there is Serlings closing narration, perhaps the most touching and beautifully written of any episode of The Twilight Zone.

Walking Distance is also a prime example of how greatly a musical score can benefit a piece of drama. Bernard Herrmann, with movie credits including The Ghost and Mrs. Muir; The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, Journey to the Center of the Earth, The Three Worlds of Gulliver; Mysterious Island, and Jason and the Argonauts, was one of the great composers of fantasy film music. Here, his gentle and evocative score permeates the episode, omnipresent yet unobtrusive. Listening to this score, composed specifically for this episode, it is hard to believe any composerparticularly one with such distinguished credits in feature filmswould bother to take such pains. In mood, if not in specifics, the score is reminiscent of much of Herrmanns superb score for Francois Truffauts Fahrenheit 451, which he composed seven years later. But to Buck Houghton, theres no mystery behind the excellence of the Walking Distance score. When you have a good rough cut, a musician does a better job than he would with a less distinguished picture. Bernie responded very strongly to things that he thought were good. Its a great score.

 

 

This episode was certainly Serlings most personal and undoubtedly one of the series most finely crafted. Surprisingly, for all its beauty and lyricism, Walking Distance caused Houghton and Serling some problems. Following the production and sale of the pilot, but before regular production of the series began, network vice-president William Dozier was given several of Serlings Twilight Zone scripts to read. Buck Houghton explains where the trouble came in: The pilot could have happened. This was about a guy in a space machine who got claustrophobia to a point where he thought he was the only man in the world. That was one of the two or three Twilight Zones that could have happened. The next script that Bill Dozier read was Walking Distance, about a guy who walks into his own home town hale and hearty and comes back with a limp that he got as a child, and Dozier said, Bullshit! This doesnt work. Who the fucks going to believe this, Rod?

I remember Rod and I spending a couple of two-hour-long sessions with Bill Dozier saying, Its just that people wont swallow this! And Rod said, Bill, thats The Twilight Zone, thats what imaginative fiction is about. Its like the one Im writing, in which a guy falls in love with a girl and, sure enough, shes a mechanical girl, just like it says on the label. And Bill said, Oh shit, youre kidding. Is this what this is all going to be about?

We got through the two-hour conferences, and the next time I heard of it, Bill was totally supportive. Hed been convinced to jump off the deep end and he was with it. So when sponsors started to say, Hey, whats this? he said, Well, thats what you bought. He acted just like hed never had any objections himself, which was great.

 

 

 

MR. DENTON ON DOOMSDAY (10/16/59)

Written by Rod Serling

Producer: Buck Houghton

Director: Allen Reisner

Director of Photography:George T. Clemens

Music: stock

Cast:

Al Denton: Dan Duryea Hotaling: Martin Landau Pete Grant: Doug McClure Henry J. Fate: Malcolm Atterbury Liz: Jeanne Cooper Charlie: Ken Lynch Leader: Arthur Batanides Doctor: Robert Burton Man: Bill Erwin

 

 

Portrait of a town drunk named Al Denton. This is a man whos begun his dying earlya long, agonizing route through a maze of bottles. Al Denton, who would probably give an arm or a part of his soul to have another chance, to be able to rise up and shake the dirt from his body and the bad dreams that infest his consciousness. [Shot of Henry J. Fate.] In the parlance of the times, this is a peddler; a rather fanciful-looking little man in a black frock coat. [A six-gun materializes beside Denton.] And this is the third principal character of our story. Its function: perhaps to give Mister Al Denton his second chance

The setting is the old west. Al Dentononce a feared gunslinger, now the town drunkis forced to draw against Hotaling, a sadistic bully. But on that same day, Henry J. Fate rides into town. Somehow, Fates glance gives Dentons hand a life of its own, and Denton gets off two miraculous shots, disarming his tormentor and regaining the respect of the town. His dignity renewed, he swears off liquor. But all too soon, he finds himself in the same trap that drove him to the bottle in the first place: his newly-won reputation causes a young hotshot to challenge him to a duel. Denton discovers, however, that his old ability is completely gone, and in desperation he buys a potion from Fate guaranteed to give him ten seconds of deadly accuracy. The moment his opponent enters the saloon, Denton downs the potionand sees the other man doing exactly the same thing! The two shoot the guns out of each others hands, each sustaining an injury that will never allow him to shoot again. Denton, freed of ever having to face down another man, tells his adversary that theyve both been blessed.

Mr. Henry Fate, dealer in utensils and pots and pans, liniments and potions. A fanciful little man in a black frock coat who can help a man climbing out of a pitor another man from falling into one. Because, you see, Fate can work that way … in the Twilight Zone.

Serling followed up Walking Distance with the first of what would be three strong and moving fantasies in a row. Originally, his idea for the story was something entitled You Too Can be a Fast Gun, about a meek schoolteacher who achieves his wish to be a gunfighter by way of a magic potion, but eventually Serling rethought the story and opted for something a little less superficial. Mr. Denton on Doomsday explores a theme that writers would touch on often on The Twilight Zone, that of a person magically granted a second chance.

Cast as Denton was Dan Duryea, with whom Houghton had worked on China Smith. Years before, Duryea had made his reputation in films playing thoroughly detestable weasel types. Here he had a chance to play a good guy, and he gave a performance of wisdom, strength, and humility (and believabilityDenton genuinely looks like a man at the bottom of the barrel). Ably supporting him were Jeanne Cooper as a Twilight Zone version of Gunsmokes Miss Kitty, Malcolm Atterbury as Fate, and, as two gunslingers who play key roles in the action, a young (and wonderfully sadistic) Martin Landau and a very young Doug McClure. Allen Reisner, director of The Time Element, skillfully guided this episode away from the cliched and maudlin, and as a result Serlings story emerges as truly poignant.

 

One for the Angels

Written by Rod Serling

Producer: Buck Houghton

Director: Robert Parrish

Director of Photography: George T. Clemens

Music: stock

Cast:

Lew Bookman: Ed Wynn Mr. Death: Murray Hamilton Maggie: Dana Dillaway Truck Driver: Merritt Bohn Doctor: Jay Overholts Little Boy: Mickey Maga

Street scene: Summer. The present. Man on a sidewalk named Lew Bookman, age sixtyish. Occupation: pitchman. Lew Bookman, a fixture of the summer, a rather minor component to a hot July, a nondescript, commonplace little man whose life is a treadmill built out of sidewalks. And in just a moment, Lew Bookman will have to concern himself with survivalbecause as of three oclock this hot July afternoon hell be stalked by Mr. Death.

Sidewalk salesman Lew Bookman is confronted by Mr. Death, who informs him that he is to die at midnight. A persuasive man, Bookman succeeds in convincing Death to let him stay on Earth until he has had a chance to do his masterpiece, the Big Pitchone for the angels. But Bookman has no intention of ever making that pitch. Realizing he must now take someone in Bookmans place, Death arranges for a truck to hit Maggie, a neighborhood child. The substitution is proceeding nicely; all that remains is that Death must be in the dying girls room at precisely midnight to claim her. Bookman, determined that Death not take Maggie, makes a pitch so enthralling that Death misses his deadline. The child is saved. Having made his one Big Pitch, Bookman leaves with Mr. Death.

Lewis J. Bookman, age sixtyish. Occupation: pitchman. Formerly a fixture of the summer, formerly a rather minor component to a hot July. But, throughout his life, a man beloved by the children, and therefore a most important man. Couldnt happen, you say? Probably not in^most placesbut it did happen in the Twilight Zone.

Just after college, Serling wrote a teleplay entitled One for the Angels, which was aired on The Storm in Cincinnati and later nationwide on Danger. The plot concerned an unsuccessful sidewalk pitchman who tries to save his two-bit punk brother from a couple of hitmen by giving a pitch so beguiling that they will always be surrounded by a crowd. Serling wanted to write a special Twilight Zone for Ed Wynn and he felt that this character would suit him ideally. So he borrowed the main character and title from the earlier work and wove an entirely new and superior story.

Director Robert Parrishs problems with this episode have already been discussed, but not those of Wynn. Although the episode was written specifically for him, he seems an odd choice for the role of a fast-talking pitchman, what with his lisp and extremely deliberate way of talking.

It was exactly what Rod thought he could do, says Buck Houghton. And Ed said, My God, I cant say all those words! Rod said, Well, Ed, just concentrate. This is film, you know. We can stop it and pick it up again.

Despite Serlings assurances, Wynn was unable to overcome his inadequacies as a fast-talker, and as a result what was intended to be a spellbinding pitch comes across as thoroughly unconvincing. Fortunately, Wynns compensatory strengths as an actor make this a moot point, and One for the Angels emerges as a moving commentary on mortality and self-sacrifice.

As a concession to Wynns age, all of the episodes night scenes were shot during the day. This was accomplished by pulling tarpaulins over the backlot tenement street, giving the illusion of night. But dont let this give the impression that everyone was bending over backwards for Wynn. On the contrary, it was he who extended himself to the fullest. He was outstanding, says assistant director Edward Denault. He was very prompt, knew his lines. I remember his chair was very close to the camera at all times, so it was never, Ill be in my dressing room, or anything like that. You turned around when you were ready and Ed was sitting right there. He was a real joy to work with, a real pleasure.

JUDGMENT NIGHT (12/4/59)

Written by Rod Serling

Producer: Buck Houghton

Director: John Brahm

Director of Photography:George T. Clemens

Music: stock

Cast:

Lanser: Nehemiah Persoff Captain Wilbur: Ben Wright First Officer: Patrick MacNee Lt. Mueller: James Franciscus Mr. Potter: Hugh Sanders Maj. Devereaux: Leslie Bradley Barbara: Diedre Owen Bartender: Kendrick Huxham First Steward: Richard Peel Second Steward: Donald Journeaux Engineer: Barry Bernard Nehemiah Persoff Little Girl: Debbie Joyce

Her name is the S.S. Queen of Glasgow. Her registry: British. Gross tonnage: five thousand. Age: indeterminate. At this moment shes one day out of Liverpool, her destination New York. Duly recorded on this ships log is the sailing time, course to destination, weather conditions, temperature, longitude and latitude. But what is never recorded in a log is the fear that washes over a deck like fog and ocean spray. Fear like the throbbing strokes of engine pistons, each like a heartbeat, parceling out every hour into breathless minutes of watching, waiting and dreading. For the year is 1942, and this particular ship has lost its convoy. It travels alone like an aged blind thing groping through the unfriendly dark, stalked by unseen periscopes of steel killers. Yes, the Queen of Glasgow is a frightened ship, and she carries with her a premonition of death.

On board the Glasgow is a German named Carl Lanser, with no memory of how he got there, yet with the feeling that hes met all the passengers somewhere before. Things are made even more mysterious by Lansers certainty that an enemy sub is stalking the ship, and by his premonition that something is going to happen at 1:15 a.m. His fear proves correct: at one-fifteen a U-boat surfaces. Peering through binoculars, Lanser sees that its captain is … himself! The U-boat sinks the helpless freighter, then crew members machine-gun the survivors. Lanser sinks beneath the waters. Later, on board the sub, a lieutenant suggests they might all face damnation for their action. Kapitan Lanser discounts this theorynot realizing that he is, in fact, doomed to relive the sinking of that ship for eternity.

The S.S. Queen of Glasgow, heading for New York, and the time is 1942. For one man, it is always 1942and this man will ride the ghost of that ship every night for eternity. This is what is meant by paying the fiddler. This is the comeuppance awaiting every man when the ledger of his life is opened and examined, the tally made, and then the reward or the penalty paid. And in the case of Carl Lanser, former Kapitan Lieutenant, Navy of the Third Reich, this is the penalty. This is the justice meted out. This is judgment night in the Twilight Zone

BOOK: Twilight Zone Companion
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