"The Twilight Zone: The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine (#1.4)"
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Reviews & Ratings for
"The Twilight Zone" The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine (1959)

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25 out of 28 people found the following review useful:

A real grower, improves with each watch

Author: (andrew-goulding1@hotmail.co.uk) from Lincoln, England
21 February 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

After hitting the viewers with three very different episodes right off the bat, Serling continued to go about introducing viewers to 'The Twilight Zone' in a very strange way by scheduling one the series biggest growers as the fourth episode. 'The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine' is one of the more understated episodes, focusing on an aging movie star's inability to cope with the changing times and only introducing a supernatural element in the closing minutes. Because of this approach, the episode is under whelming at first but subsequent viewings reveal it to be a thoroughly classy and beautifully written short story.

Both the leads, Ida Lupino as Barbara Jean Trent and Martin Balsam as her frustrated but caring agent, shine in their performances. The main problem with the episode is that the supposedly 25 year old footage of the actress is unconvincing. Lupino looks identical when playing the young Trent as she does when playing the middle aged Trent and this diminishes the tragedy of the situation significantly. Fortunately, Lupino acts her socks off in convincing us of her desperation to return to the past. It's a situation most can sympathise with, and yet Trent is far from a sympathetic character. She is a prima-donna who gives little thought to the feelings of those around her, such as the disastrously withered co-star who she tactlessly belittles because he reminds her of just how long ago her glory days were. It is somewhat surprising, then, that she is rewarded with a happy ending. It is clear what is going to happen from the moment we see the huge projection screen and it is cleverly pre-empted in the opening moments when Trent scares her maid by stepping out from behind the screen. What is not clear at the beginning, however, is whether being sucked into the projector will prove a reward or a harsh lesson in appreciating what we have and living in the moment. As it turns out, Trent is allowed to return to the past she longed for, a testament to how strong the wishful thinking of humans can be.

'The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine' gets better with each viewing. The top notch writing and acting combine to create a short play of enormous power which reflects the nature of humans to long for the past, even though we can never return. Except in the Twilight Zone.

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15 out of 22 people found the following review useful:

Here's to the wishes that come true

Author: Jamie Ward from United Kingdom
1 February 2008

I really enjoyed this episode, which was a great surprise given the bad reputation it seems to have acquired. From a pure writing perspective, 'The 16mm shrine' is an absolute treat, with fantastic dialogue and character analysis, typical of Sterling. In particular I really enjoyed the philosophical indulgences of the episode, tackling themes of existence and reality, whilst balancing it with more psychological topics such as denial, pride, and desire. 'The sixteen-millimeter shrine' is an episode about how these ideas based around an unwillingness to accept change can seemingly alienate a person from the rest of the ever-changing world. It is also a fantastic example of cerebral Twilight Zone; one that explores the mind rather than the world outside it. These elements all come together very nicely to create a thought provoking and incredibly interesting 25 minutes.

The episode is not without its faults however, which mainly lay in Lupino and Leisen shoes. Ironically, I felt Lupino was unconvincing throughout, with only a few scenes that could count as memorable. This of course being an absolute shame considering how well Sterling had written her character. Furthermore Leisen didn't seem to know what to do with most of his characters, sometimes having them stand around on set doing next to nothing -which probably explains why accepted the poor performances from Lupino half the time-. Thankfully Balsam does a good job of covering up a lot of weak spots, helping redeem the show from an acting perspective at least.

As I said previously however, if you're a fan of classic film and cerebral science fiction, this shouldn't be as bad as it's sometimes made out to be. In addition to the writing that I mentioned above, the episode also features some fantastic photography (it still amazes me that the show looks this good nearly fifty years later!) and decent enough set-design. Overall 'The sixteen-millimeter shrine" is a great episode and above all is certainly one to make you think.

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17 out of 26 people found the following review useful:

I'm Ready For My Close-Up, Mr. Serling.

Author: Skeeter700 from British Columbia
4 February 2006

'The 16mm Shrine' is "The Twilight Zone"s take on Sunset Blvd. An aging actress, played by Ida Lupino, sits in a darkened room watching her old films. She longs to be beautiful and famous again; Just as she was in those films. All the while her maid and agent try to help her realize that 20 years have passed and she can't go back. Martin Balsam and Ida Lupino both deserve credit for creating memorable characters in the short amount of time they were given. The theme of revisiting the past was touched upon in the prior episode 'Mr. Denton On Doomsday' and would be dealt with even more extensively upon in the next episode 'Walking Distance'. However, both 'Mr. Denton On Doomsday' and 'Walking Distance' achieved a more satisfying conclusion then 'The 16mm Shrine'. The final plot twist is just unconvincing. Overall, I give it a 6 for 10.

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7 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Living in the Past

Author: Claudio Carvalho from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
10 January 2014

The washed up actress Barbara Trenton (Ida Lupino) is a woman stranded in her past, worshiping and watching her movies of twenty-five years ago in her glorious days. Her housemaid Sally (Alice Frost) is worried with her behavior and she tells to Barbara's friend and agent Danny Weiss (Martin Balsam) that unsuccessfully tries to make Barbara move on with her life, giving a new role in the cinema industry. But Barbara lives in the past and does not accept that she is older now.

"The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine" is another engaging episode of "The Twilight Zone" of a woman in a midlife crisis that insists in reviving her successful past. The contradictory messages seem to be that aging is inevitable and you should accept it; and your dream may come true if you insist on it. But the most important is that this is an entertaining episode. My vote is seven.

Title (Brazil): "Além da Imaginação - The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine" ("Beyond Imagination - The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine")

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5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Norma Desmond should have exited this way

Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
3 May 2013

With inspiration taken from Sunset Boulevard, Ida Lupino steps into Gloria Swanson's shoes as a faded movie queen who sits at home and watches her old films in glory years. Optimistically enough she still retains an agent in Martin Balsam who even tries to get her a small part in a film which film executive Ted DeCorsia thinks is pure charity. Not for Ida though. At least they didn't get her down to ask if they could use her old Deusenberg in a film.

All I can say is that Norma Desmond should have had this satisfactory an ending as the one that Ida Lupino's character received. Come to think of it both achieved their own version of The Twilight Zone and you'll agree if you this fine Twilight Zone Story.

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5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

What happens when the roles dry up? Time to fade out?

Author: tyler-and-jack from Edinburgh.
21 April 2012

This is a lesser episode from the first season of The Twilight Zone but, once again, I have to start by saying that a lesser episode of The Twilight Zone is far better than a good episode of many other TV shows that have come and gone over the years.

It's all about an actress (Barbara Trenton, played by Ida Lupino) who doesn't accept that age has wearied her and her start has faded. One man (Martin Balsam) keeps trying to help her get back into movie work but he struggles against her own imagined stardom/youth. When he tries to jolt her back to reality by having her meet up with a co-star from many years before this just results in Barbara running back to her safe place, the titular sixteen millimeter shrine.

There are great performances here by all concerned but neither the direction by Mitchell Leisen nor the writing by Rod Serling do anything notable to distract you from the fact that, for the most part, this is a pale imitation of the great Sunset Boulevard. Of course, it comes complete with an ending steeped in that strange twilight zone and that's what raises this little tale back up to beyond average.

Not an unmissable episode then but still enjoyable enough.

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

"If I wish hard enough I can wish it all away".

Author: classicsoncall from Florida, New York
28 February 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

There's a theory of time that posits that all the moments that ever existed and will exist, actually exist right now. It's a bit too much to wrap your head around, but perhaps a bit of a comfort to those who wish they could go back to a simpler time and place. For Barbara Jean Trenton (Ida Lupino), that time was twenty five years earlier, the mid 1930's when her youth and glamor held the greatest promise. For my part, if I could travel through time, it would be back to the 1950's when I grew up. Maybe to a place like Willoughby, but that's another episode.

One thing that wouldn't be so special about 1959 would involve dealing with all that clunky machinery just to watch an episode of "The Twilight Zone". How many reels do you think it would take to catalog the entire series, and then find a particular story you wanted to watch? I guess you have to consider the trade offs, convenience versus simplicity, having it right now or taking the time to spool it up to the exact spot where the story begins. Popping in a CD has it's advantages.

I'm a little surprised that Rod Serling would pen a story that so closely resembled "Sunset Boulevard". Ida Lupino's character mirror imaged Norma Desmond just a bit too closely to be considered an original concept. Martin Balsam portrays very much a similar character to Erich von Stroheim, the husband turned butler who's loyalty is unquestioned. Where the story diverges has to do with the way Danny (Balsam) and Sall (Ted de Corsia) challenge Barbara Jean to get with reality and clear the cobwebs that paralyze her existence.

Fortunately for us viewers, Ida Lupino had no such reservations about taking parts that were 'not big, but a nice showcase'. It's a real treat to watch any episode of "The Twilight Zone" and get to see who pops up from days gone by. Sometimes you get a two-fer, like you have here with Lupino and Balsam, celebrities who sometimes made their mark before the series began, and sometimes after. Combined with the stories that the program produced, it's not surprising that they still manage to entertain so well today.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Living In The Past

Author: AaronCapenBanner from North America
25 October 2014

Ida Lupino stars as former movie star actress Barbara Trenton, who lives a secluded life in her mansion, where she spends all of her time watching her old movies, where she was young and beautiful, being romanced by handsome leading men. Those days are gone, but her friend and agent(played nicely by Martin Balsam) tries to get her out of this trap, but his attempt to get her a new acting job goes terribly wrong, leaving poor Barbara little solace but in her movies of the past, which she is desperate to get back to... Underrated episode works even better today, with timely themes of longing for better times, though now of course she would be watching the films on DVD!

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4 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Barbara Jean Trenton becomes one of Hollywood's immortals.

Author: BA_Harrison from Hampshire, England
1 September 2011

In The Sixteen Millimeter Shrine, Ida Lupino plays Barbara Jean Trenton, an ageing actress who constantly revisits her youth via her private film collection; so strong is her desire to return to the glory days of yesteryear, that she eventually breaks the 'fourth wall', entering the movie screen to spend all eternity with her co-stars.

The ability to live forever or recapture one's youth are recurring themes in The Twilight Zone. This episode is reminiscent of earlier TZ story Walking Distance, in which a stressed New York advertising exec longs for the halcyon days of his childhood; but whereas that particular episode ends with the central character accepting that he doesn't belong in the past, The Sixteen Millimeter Shrine features an altogether different message... that if one wishes hard enough, they can cross over into The Twilight Zone, the dimension where anything is possible, and stay forever young. It's a less than satisfying denouement, if only for the fact that Barbara Jean Trenton is such an unlikeable, self-obsessed person.

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7 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

Some fine performances, but not a whole lot else

Author: Anthony Pittore III (Shattered_Wake) from Los Angeles, CA
20 November 2010

Picture of a woman looking at a picture. Movie great of another time, once-brilliant star in a firmament no longer a part of the sky, eclipsed by the movement of earth and time. Barbara Jean Trenton, whose world is a projection room, whose dreams are made out of celluloid. Barbara Jean Trenton, struck down by hit-and-run years and lying on the unhappy pavement, trying desperately to get the license number of fleeting fame.

Playing a bit like Billy Wilder's 'Sunset Blvd.' but with Ida Lupin ('High Sierra') instead of Gloria Swanson as the distressed, aging movie star. To me, this has always been one of the least entertaining & watchable episodes of the series. While Lupino, who would later be the only female ever to direct an episode of the show, does a great job as Barbara Jean Trent, and Martin Balsam is a solid co-star as Trent's agent & friend, the overall episode just does not have enough oomph behind it to make it a classic. This may come from the fact that it, for so long, played out as little more than just a standard Hollywood-themed drama, and the 'Twilight Zone'-ness of it doesn't appear until the final few moments which, to be honest, weren't creative enough to steal the show.

Overall, it's a nice effort to do something a bit different, but it just wasn't a stellar episode and won't go down as one of the tops of this wonderful series.


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