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|Index||17 reviews in total|
This is a beautiful story, both rugged and gentle at one and the same
time. Mr. Christian Horn suddenly emerges from his minimalist wagon
train tended by a handful of hardy but weary and increasingly doubting
companions. With women and children in tow, the troupe trudged toward
the pre-Gold Rush California of 1847, en route from Ohio for the better
part of a year, but still stifled by the vastness of the plains and
deserts of the United States' western territories as they stood at the
time. Also, burdened by hunger, his boy's critical pneumonia-like
illness, and with water resources in remission, Mr. Horn, brilliantly
portrayed by the highly studious Cliff Robertson who thoroughly
researched his character's essence before the shoot, advises that he'll
check out the sandy rim nearby for whatever glimpse of hope it may
yield on the other side.
An early spot by the great John Astin (soon to become famous as Gomez Addams from "The Addams Family"), playing Charlie, one of Mr. Horn's compatriots, briefly reveals Astin's abilities as a serious character actor as he expresses reserved support for Mr. Horn's dogged persistence. As suggested by this episode's title, upon reaching the other side of the rim, Mr. Horn immediately, but unknowingly enters The Twilight Zone. With wits and courage backed by a quiet, wary intelligence, he begins to understand that which cannot often be grasped through one's ordinary perceptive mechanisms.
In another twist of characterizations, Ed Platt, best remembered for his rare (but long-running) comedic role as Maxwell Smart's (Don Adams) beleaguered, beloved Chief in "Get Smart" beginning four years later, plays his more typical character role here. He portrays the local doc who tries to assist a friendly café owner and his nurturing wife with the unexpected handful of a tattered man who arrives unceremoniously, and bewildered, on their doorstep. How that happened and what follows is unexpected, heartening, and ultimately fascinating in ways that typify "The Twilight Zone" at its best.
And it would be an error of omission not mention the power of the musical score, sometimes subtle, but pounding dramatically toward the climax, just before shifting musical gears once again, precisely on cue. The compositional phrasing provides an effective musical conduit through which the story-line best evokes its emotive content before transitioning back to a perfectly executed return to the introductory setting--except for it having now been duly altered by the Zone of zones.
This classic episode is among those that reveal Rod Serling's singular capacity to employ visionary dimension to his stories from either side of time's turbulent tunnel.
It's episodes like this that remind us that Rod Serling was able to
produce terrific fantasy and science fiction without fantastically
expensive special effects and elaborate sets. Just a poignant yet
intriguing script and great acting by some of Hollywood's biggest stars
(Cliff Robertson in this case).
That's all it took to produce this terrific time-travel story of the meeting of two eras, when Chris Horn (Cliff Robertson), a wagon master heading west in 1847 with his wife and desperately ill son, accidentally stumbles into the year 1961. Horn's initial shock at the changes wrought in America in over a hundred years, soon turns to a determination to use the medical advances of the 20th century to save his son's life, back in the 19th century.
A family traveling west in hopes of striking it rich in a mysterious
paradise that they've heard about called California suffers more and
more every day, until they can think of nothing but the heat and thirst
and sickness that they deal with on a daily basis. Serling gives us a
pretty obvious story where he imagines what would have happened if one
of those people traveling west all those years ago were to have been
able to experience modern convenience for just one afternoon during
that torturous journey.
It's not the wildest stretch of the imagination as far as a story idea, but the entertainment is high and the performances are some of the best I've seen so far in the series. The couple in the diner hit the nail right on the head with their subdued reactions to the strange stranger's story, not sure to react with shock or to hide their surprise from someone who must be a little crazy.
There's a cute twist at the end and an interesting paradox that calls your attention of the episode thus far into question, the time travel is not presented as anything more than simply walking over a sand bank, and the 100-years-in-the-future theme is done again the following week, but this is an excellent example of how good the twilight zone can be.
The show takes a deliberate pace in setting up the characters,
circumstances & especially, the POV from their era. To this viewer,
when Horn leaves his family & crosses to the other side of the sandy
rim, the sudden view of the high-power-line girder structure seems very
unsettling & unreal, with no explanation for what it is (in B&W, it was
even more so). And the road itself is dark and smooth. All the way out
here ? Why ?
The odd twist takes a deadly turn when a tall wheeled noisy 'monster' comes racing down the road toward Horn, who just gets out of the way. But his rifle goes off, injuring an arm (Cinematographer George Clemens showed Horn's POV as seen from a very low angle on the road, lending Horn's 'monster' to be a real & threatening unknown).
Horn has no idea what this all means, but he pulls himself together, keeps going, handling his deep fear, and finds his answers.
Looking at something, someone or another era from a different point-of-view, does indeed open up many possible worlds of thought . .
This episode is good because of the realistic portrayals of its characters. They are human and act with compassion and concern. Cliff Robertson plays the leader of a small group of wagons, heading for California. They are nearly done in by the sweltering heat of the New Mexico desert. Robertson goes "over the rim" looking for water and game. He is suddenly transported a hundred years into the future. He meets some nice people who help him, but he is confused and bewildered. Still, he plays the stoic leader that he is and tries to piece things together. Unfortunately, the authorities get involved but he comes to realize the grander plan involved. This is a nice treatment of a story Serling used many times.
Wagon train master stumbles across time warp and into truck stop 100
years in the future. Finds out that his trip was no accident
One of the more interesting time travel episodes, though nothing special. Direction and story telling are pretty straightforward, without ornament. However, encounter between time traveler Robertson and married couple at truck stop is nicely handled, especially by John Crawford as Joe. There's a persuasive naturalness about his performance that again demonstrates the reservoir of talent behind those anonymous credit-crawl names . Robertson is also effective, while his top hat is not only distinctive, but oddly appropriate head-gear for a bygone era. Episode's main interest, of course, lies in seeing how the characters will react to contrasting time periods. There's none of the grim humor of Albert Salmi's dislocated cowboy in 1960's "Execution", for example. But there is an interesting conceptual wrinkle posed near the end. Slightly better than average.
I am a big fan of the 30 minute Twilight Zones and this one ranks near
the top of my list of favs. I would say it more the theme than anything
else; I have always been fascinated by time travel...
While all Twilight Zone episodes are somewhat dated; the beginning of this episode has a realistic western appeal to it - much the same as a John Wayne movie. Another interesting aspect is the portrayal of the '60s era diner/quick stop in the middle of nowhere that allows the viewer to suspend any pre-conceived notions of the actual time change (which leaves many theoretical and scientific holes, believe me.)
All in all, a solid episode, with better than average twilight Zone (this series ) acting and an above average theme. A solid 7
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In memoriam to a wonderful actor, Cliff Robertson, who passed away
yesterday, I watched a terrific little Twilight Zone episode featuring
him as a nineteenth century pioneer man who has been leading a wagon
train through hostile territory facing the elements and Apache, his
wife tired, son running fever, and the company of families with him
absent hope or belief that California, a place where such a journey
offered the possibility of prosperity and purpose, was worth their
sacrifice (leaving Ohio), the effort and time they have spent fighting
hunger, heat, cold, and illness.
Christian Horn (Robertson) tells his wife and men (one of which is John Astin, Gomez Addams of "The Addams Family" fame) that he will go over a rim not too far ahead and see what lies in front of them before the company decides it might be wise to turn back and just give up. What Horn finds is beyond his comprehension: power lines and a highway, including a giant monster that nearly hits him (a truck). He treks a mile or so, finds a diner, its owner, Joe (John Crawford) and Joe's wife, Mary Lou (Evans Evans). Horn learns from an equally perplexed Joe (taken aback by Horn's stovepipe hat, unusually "new" relic of a rifle, and serious look of bewilderment) that he is in Arizona, outside of Phoenix. Invited in to the diner, Horn is stunned by what he sees. When Horn discovers that he is in the year 1961, instead of 1847, you can imagine his surprise.
A pure performance from Robertson, who I think just nailed the role to perfection, as he conveys a man totally shell-shocked by what he sees in this new time. It's authentic because we would carry the same expression if facing similar circumstances. Horn sees these "inventions" that are so far advanced from the time he comes from, the experience would elicit shock and awe. All Horn can do is look at a jukebox, the inside of a diner, the instant appearance of a glass of cool water with mouth agape and in total silence. I think the characters of Joe and Mary Lou are just as important because they have a hard time conversing with such an *oddball* (you see, to them he is strange because of his outfit and puzzled demeanor), needing to call the local doc (Edward Platt, Chief of "Get Smart" fame) to help them out. Doc chats with Horn and informs Joe and Mary Lou that the patient's details of his pioneer travels, family, and struggles seem so intricate that such a delusion (as they three believe, because the preposterous notion that he really is a man from 1847 is just too hard to accept) would be incredible to create. When Doc calls the local authorities, Horn flees, running hard and fast to get back to his family. Will Horn be able to return to his family?
The inclusion of penicillin and how an encyclopedia describes Horn's son, the time paradox theme, always used so effectively on the Twilight Zone, once again is utilized to describe how a mansomehow taken from his time and transplanted to the futurecan be put somewhere else seemingly for a reason, a purpose he may soon learn later. I just love the idea of the fish-out-of-water formula, regarding time travel and the way others within the "future"(normally in the 60s when the Twilight Zone was current)respond (and vice versa) to their *visitor*. That awkwardness that derives from such an impossible series of events has a special place in the Twilight Zone. Rest in everlasting peace, Cliff Robertson.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Without ever having seen this episode of The Twilight Zone before, I'm
prepared to conditionally confer it to my personal Top Ten list. It
helps that the Western is my favorite movie genre, and having Cliff
Robertson head the cast along with a couple more veteran character
actors in support makes the story even more intriguing. Of course the
similarities to other TZ episodes are apparent; one that immediately
comes to mind testing the time travel concept is the first season's
"Execution", similarly starting out in the heyday of the Old West.
Interestingly, that story also had it's dislocated protagonist become
fascinated with a jukebox. It seems Rod Serling had no problem
rehashing plot lines to the most minor detail.
As the local doctor called in to examine Christian Horn (Robertson), Ed Platt has a curious diagnosis of the wagon master's malady - a delusion of the purest form. You know, I liked that. I don't know if that's a clinically accepted term today, but it seemed to make sense within the confines of the story presented here. The history book passage mentioning Horn's son as a pioneer in the field of antibiotics was just the cleverest way to have the story come full circle to it's inevitable conclusion. The other neat touch was the way Horn's rifle turned into a virtual relic the minute he ventured back 'over the rim'. More subtle than most of the Zone's twists, I think that's what makes the episode so appealing.
Anyone who's read any of my other Twilight Zone or old time classic movie reviews knows I like to go in for an examination of those remembrances of the past as highlighted by the going price of commodities back in the day. As this story ended, I couldn't help but think about the price of homemade apple pie at Joe's Airflite Cafe pegged at fifteen cents, with an additional twenty cents for a la mode. Wouldn't it have been cool if Horn had noticed those signs, and scratched his head at how expensive things had gotten so far in the future!
Cliff Robertson stars in this Twilight Zone episode as the leader of a
small Wagon Train, hardly like the big outfit that Ward Bond and John
McIntire led on television. They're part of that hardy breed of men as
host Rod Serling says that tamed the west.
What they are in the future New Mexico territory is hot, tired, dirty, and thirsty. In addition some are sick like Cliff Robertson's young son. At a time when they're at their lowest spirits Robertson takes a short walk from the Wagon Train over the top of a small hill and steps 114 years into the future.
Without going into any details that will spoil, let us say that in truck stop diner owners John Crawford and Evan Evans and Dr. Edward Platt, Robertson finds the help he needs and the courage to carry on.
An interesting concept that this Twilight Zone episode offers us.
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