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|Index||18 reviews in total|
This is one of those episodes that you really have to think about the time in which it was shown in order to appreciate why it was relevant. The scene presented was reminiscent to its audience of more than just Cuba -- this was an era of frequent "revolutions" and military-style commanders: Castro, the Perons, Pinochet... but with a change of clothes and accents, this could become Burma or the Middle East or somewhere in Eastern Europe or Africa today, and maybe that consideration will help others appreciate this episode. The only problem I had with the story was the ending, which I didn't understand and didn't feel that it "fit" with the character. This episode is no more "preachy" than any of the Twilight Zone, and if such bothers you, it's not really a series you will ever appreciate, let alone enjoy.
When the peasant Ramos Clemente (Peter Falk) leads a successful
revolution in his undefined country, the former dictator General De
Cruz (Will Kuluva) advises that his mirror is magic and can anticipate
who will murder him. Clement becomes paranoid and kills each one of his
revolutionary comrades believing that they want to murder him.
"The Mirror" is a predictable episode based on the paranoid behavior of a man unprepared to lead a nation. The despicable analogy to the charismatic leader Fidel Castro and the Cuban revolution is not a subtle, but a direct message; but the story of the corruption of the absolute power of a tyrant is reasonable. My vote is six.
Title (Brazil): "O Espelho" ("The Mirror")
Peter Falk plays a Central American peasant revolutionary leader named Ramos Clemente, who has just overthrown a hated tyrant who abused his power, and Clemente and his associates are basking in their new power when the dictator they ousted issues them a warning that their hold on power won't last long, and that a cursed mirror will reveal all the future assassins that will threaten Clemente. This prophecy seems to be coming true, as Ramos sees his comrades plotting to kill him in the mirror, so has them killed, but are these reflections true or false? The normally excellent Falk(best known as Lt. Columbo) overacts here, and is miscast, but central point of how absolute power corrupts may unfold a bit too obviously, but episode still remains a guilty pleasure.
As a story, this episode doesn't seem to go anywhere. It's predictable
and the Castro comparisons and Sterling's prediction of his demise did
not age as well as Castro himself, who showed us that dictators indeed
can hold onto power for a very long time.
As a Latino, the dirty make-up, fake beards, and crappy accents are hard to overlook. But the mirror that shows one's would-be assassins and feeds the paranoia of the powerful is a great science fiction concept, one that--in my opinion--saves this episode.
In short, this is not Sterling's best, but I like that he appears to be using current events to spice up these episodes. At the time, audiences probably really enjoyed this condemnation of Castro (that reinforced all of their stereotypes about Latino politics). In our time, we can appreciate it as a reflection of the fears of the past, fears that turned out to be well-founded.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The 1961 entry "The Mirror" was obviously inspired by real-life figure
Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution. Writer and creator Rod Serling
was a fervent anti-communist and equally despised authoritarian rulers.
In this story, a newly-installed military dictator named Ramos Clemente
in a fictitious Latin America country is played by an over-the-top
Peter Falk. To say that Clemente is a little power-hungry would be an
understatement. Upon his ruthless ascendancy, he is introduced to a
very strange mirror by the outgoing general (a cynical Will Kuluva) who
guarantees that its reflections can expose Clemente's enemies merely by
standing in front of it. Soon, Clemente is spotting spies and
counter-revolutionaries by the dozens and he begins ordering non-stop
executions to satisfy his thirst for power. In no time at all, Clemente
runs out of allies and becomes the victim of his own delusional and
maniacal behavior. It all sounds interesting but the story is presented
with little room for any real tension and General Clemente's quick
demise is a bit too obvious from the start.
Directed by TV veteran Don Medford and written by Serling, "The Mirror" evokes a heaping dose of Cold War hysteria but isn't up to the usual high standards of this classic series. Falk does his best to fit the image and mentality of a Latin American dictator but chews up far too much scenery in the process. Kuluva is fine as his predecessor who's on his way to the firing squad. Old time actor Vladimir Sokoloff does a good job as a Catholic priest who witnesses Clemente's final desperate moments. All in all, it's still an interesting piece for viewers who would like to re-examine the historical content of the early 1960s. Back in those days, Fidel Castro and his ilk were considered real bogeymen.
Peter Falk in this episode of the Twilight Zone showed another facet of
his talent in playing a Castro like new dictator of an unnamed South
American country. The fatigues and beard that Falk wore made him rather
unmistakable. Castro is quite a bit taller though.
In any event Falk has led a peasant revolt and he's newly arrived in power and now in the presidential palace he's hearing the ever present sound of firing squad. Sending for his predecessor Will Kulava he wants to do a bit of gloating. Instead Kulava goes bravely to his demise, but not before willing to Falk the mirror in his presidential office which he says will reveal your enemies, real and potential before they strike.
The mirror does show some interesting things to Falk, but as this is the Twilight Zone is it real or is Falk's conscience playing tricks on him.
We never really know, but that's the beauty of this Twilight Zone episode. Very Edgar Allan Poe like, a tell tale heart or a tell tale mirror.
It's the adage of "absolute power corrupts absolutely" that Twilight Zone writer/creator Rod Serling was going for with this episode. It may seem dated because it is about Cuban leader Fidel Castro, but the concept never dies. Seemingly good men take power from bad men. Paranoia, greed, blood lust creep in, and then good men do bad things. Castro was courted, briefly, by the United States after he took power. This episode was produced just a few weeks after the failed US backed invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs. So, it was a mirror of its time. This same morality tale seems to play out over and over and over again. Whether it be a power hungry manager or a nation's leader. Only thing is, these days people come to respect those knee jerk decisions and paranoid moves to eliminate competitors. Seems these types never learn, somewhere, sometime that another will just push 'em down the stairs or out into traffic. And the cycle starts anew ... the point of "The Mirror" Great work, as generally was the case with Serling's Twilight Zone episodes.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The whole "absolute power corrupts absolutely" (as mentioned by others
already) is beaten over our skulls with no subtlety whatsoever and
because it was a loud, vocal statement against the likes of Fidel
Castro (played as a caricature than an actual human being by Peter
Falk, laying it on a bit too unrealistically thick) and any "tyrant"
that holds power over a people without freedom due to a military at his
disposal the episode certainly preaches with fists beating chest
against any totalitarian dictatorship and communist-type ideal. Whether
or not you agree with his statement could determine how this episode
goes over with you. There's a mirror that supposedly reflects what will
happen to you in the future, and when Falk's Clemente, a peasant farmer
who rose to power with four of his loyal comrades leading to an
overthrow of the current communist government (led by General De Cruz
(played sufficiently by Will Kuluva)), sees his own friends "plotting
to assassinate him", it sets off a chain of events that lead to his
downfall. Does the mirror ever truly reveal anything or is it just an
illusion brought about from the paranoia of the person who looks into
it? This prop could have been excellently used in another tale in the
same fashion, but because Falk's new leader is so maniacal and
accusatory almost from the onset with little room of development
(again, he's saddled with a caricature and plays him as such) it is
hard to care one way or another. The ending is never in doubt although
Vladimir Sokoloff's priest nearly salvages this Serling misfire by
communicating to Clemente how man (no, power-hungry, paranoid ruler)
can be a detriment to himself. I guess the message ultimately is that
when achieving a position of supreme rule, gaining such control after
being at the bottom so long, can lead to devastating consequences
wrong in the case of Castro, however, which means Serling's message
failed to deliver as intended. The episode significantly concentrates
on public executions as a point direct, with those in his entourage
becoming appalled and concerned over the overuse of violence, which
would just continue and continue. Eventually Clemente is on his own,
behind the deaths of those most behind him, with Serling's message
overtly purposed on how those like Castro would meet a similar fate. I
think as a look into the mindset of an intellectual like Serling who
saw communist/leftism/Marxism as a danger to the world, "The Mirror"
might be intriguing, although its portrayal of Latinos could deservedly
be viewed as disconcerting. Not a good half hour for Falk who overacts
and Serling, whose writing is more than a bit ill-advised. Besides the
priest's "voice of moralistic reason" and Kuluva's "you are just like
me" speech to Clemente (both prove to be right about him), there isn't
much successful about this episode of the Twilight Zone.
"Instead of the flavor of wine, it is the taste of ashes."
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It's been said that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. That theme is at the center of this Twilight Zone episode, as an unnamed Central American country undergoes a revolutionary change of power, and it's new leader immediately becomes fearful of threats to his legitimacy. It's a severely condensed version of Hitler's fall from dictatorship, though most will see it as Serling's take on Castro's Cuban revolution. Either way, the story exposes every dictator's reliance on an impoverished economy and promises for a future filled with social justice to carry them to victory. What they always fail to tell their followers is that they intend to live it up on the backs of the workers, maintaining power through working class reliance on 'cheap taste and short memory'. History is littered with examples, and one would expect that society and nations learn from the past mistakes of their predecessors. Instead it seems, history is continuously doomed to repeat itself, with only the names and faces changing, and each passing generation facing even higher stakes for the survival of mankind.
There's no suspense. It's another one of those stories where the absolute power corrupts. Castro (or whomever) is given a chance to correct the evils of his predecessor. Of course, he betrays everyone. He has a magic mirror that shows people betraying him and he strikes out at them. It turns out that the mirror is a means to an end that was already there. He is paranoid from day one and begins to insulate himself immediately. He is harsh and a pure jerk within minutes of taking power. The sad thing is that the episode is so doggone dull that it goes nowhere and has no insights for us. One of Serling's weakest outings. Peter Falk is OK but he has nothing to work with.
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