Burke's Law: Season 3, Episode 16

Terror in a Tiny Town: Part 1 (5 Jan. 1966)

TV Episode  -   -  Action | Adventure | Crime
8.8
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When Burke investigates the strange death of an atomic plant security officer, he finds a town in which the residents respond in robotic way with fear and hatred of strangers.

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Title: Terror in a Tiny Town: Part 1 (05 Jan 1966)

Terror in a Tiny Town: Part 1 (05 Jan 1966) on IMDb 8.8/10

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Cast

Episode cast overview:
...
Robert Middleton ...
Jed Hawkes
...
Bill Adams
Lynn Loring ...
Ann Rogers / Anna Rodriguez
Skip Homeier ...
Paul Lynnaker
Joan Huntington ...
Joan Lynnaker
Patricia Owens ...
Sharon O'Brien
...
Richard Prince
Monica Keating ...
Ruth
Don Haggerty ...
Policeman
...
Harlan O'Brien
Troy Melton ...
Taylor
James Edwards ...
John Norton
Carl Benton Reid ...
The Man
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When Burke investigates the strange death of an atomic plant security officer, he finds a town in which the residents respond in robotic way with fear and hatred of strangers.

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5 January 1966 (USA)  »

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(RCA Sound Recording)

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1.33 : 1
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User Reviews

Surprisingly Allegorical
7 March 2014 | by (USA) – See all my reviews

I'm not familiar with the series, and was lured into watching this two-part series finale based on the plot description, and from the excellent reviews provided by ShadeGrenade (second one accessible at http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0533824/reviews). (His) has been the only input in over four years, so obviously "Terror in a Tiny Town" is far from the best known entity.

Settings where a hero finds him or herself in a town where all inhabitants think alike and pose a threat to the stranger can be irresistible. The first time I was introduced to the idea was in THE CITY OF THE DEAD (aka "Horror Hotel," 1960), which gave a very creepy feeling. The intent of that movie dealing with witchcraft had nothing to do with politics, of course. Ditto, INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, the horror classic whose intention was (ar least on the surface) only to provide chills. (In that one the protagonist was not a stranger, of course, but a town resident who had escaped the effects of the evil doers.)

As you may have determined from the IMDb's information, the villain of this story was the big power of the town who gained control of the townsfolks' minds through publicly transmitted subliminal messages. The idea was to get them all to think his way (or, as the villain put it, to goad them into "obedience"), leading to his ultimate goal, control of the whole country.

Aside from the inherent entertainment value, where the viewer's interest is easily maintained thanks to the effective way the story was handled, what I appreciated about this tale was its value as a parable to our current times.

I recall a young man appearing in a TV show who had made a name for himself when he was a kid, espousing far right ideology. What changed him? He answered that he started examining other sources, while maintaining all of the major sources of information wherever it was he grew up (perhaps Alabama or Mississippi) provided the same messages.

Indeed, some "big powers" in the United States have grown so wealthy, they have made good on a campaign to buy up newspapers, radio and TV stations in the last thirty-four years, so that in some locales, all one absorbs is the singular message advantageous to the big powers. (As an example for this case, the Koch Brothers.) Add to the mix heavyweight planners such as Karl Rove who initiate the strategy of keeping the base riled up, through knee-jerk issues with little relevance to peoples' day-to-day lives (such as gun control and abortion), in addition to financing think tanks to make available pseudo-science to support the mind-molding in effect, and what do you wind up with? A willing army of sheep who have forgotten to think for themselves, and who may be counted on to support the agenda of the big powers. This is an exact analogy for "The Terror in a Tiny Town'!

At the end of the show, the big power (wonderfully played by Robert Middleton, as Judge Hawkes) admits his intention of destroying the government of the United States. Is that not uncomfortably close to what we have been experiencing in recent times, when the extremist politicians who have been brought to office by the unthinking sheep, don't care for the government and will sometimes take unprecedented steps to slow it down (by avoiding appointees to important offices, or by not enacting laws) or to harm the government outright, through shutdowns.

It's insidious, and it's happening. Obviously, such a danger is nothing new, otherwise the writers of this episode would not have thought of it. (No doubt the McCarthy era served as their inspiration.) Yet if we may step away from reasons of political ideology (the extreme right-wing serving as the example here, but the extreme left wing poses no less a threat), and look at the big picture: it's a fact that media outlets, owned by some fifty companies back in 1980, have now dwindled down to five. We are all susceptible to the propaganda and limited windows of information the big powers prefer for the sheep of society to be guided by.

The writers of these episodes were undoubtedly repulsed by such tendencies, and they drove their points hard at the end; Amos Burke makes a joke to the pretty Mexican (played by Lynn Loring), calling her a "conformist," and when a lady voices her objection to another about the presence of the Mexican, Amos confronts the bigotry by asking, "Haven't you learned anything"?

How remarkable that an old and obscure television program from 1966 could have "foretold" the events in motion leading to a point in history where the terror in a tiny town could, not inconceivably, and quite frighteningly, become the terror of a great country.


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