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The Honeymooners: Funny Money (1955)
Series starts to pick up
"Funny Money" is the second episode of the "Classic 39". Ralph discovers a suitcase which has been left on his bus, and, since it has not been claimed after thirty days, takes it home. After a very funny scene which includes Alice and her mother ends with Ralph throwing the woman out of the apartment, and Alice leaving too, Ralph opens the suitcase (urged on by Norton, who has just arrived). Another funny bit occurs as Ralph discovers to his amazement the contents of the case--money, lots and lots of it. The problem is that it isn't real. Of course, Ralph doesn't know that. The complications that arise from Ralph's belief that he is rich, and the truth that he is not are both hilarious and sad, as it illustrates very clearly the fantasy world that Ralph lives in, and his sometimes reckless schemes to escape it. Jackie Gleason seems more relaxed here than the first show, and has some great moments (for instance, trading insults with Alice's mother); Audrey Meadows is more assured in her interactions with Ralph; and Art Carney shows his talents neatly as Ralph's somewhat dim friend. Joyce Randolph is not in this episode (but Trixie is mentioned--some shows she wasn't included). "Funny Money" is a bit slow in developing, but once it does, it is a powerful example of the humor/pathos theme of this wonderful series.
Scary but thought-provoking
"The Zanti Misfits" is a scary but thought-provoking story. It takes place in a deserted town called Morgue (no kidding). It is here that the Army has set up a base that is to receive a spaceship from the planet Zanti. The aliens are criminals ("misfits"), cast off from the planet and sent to Earth. Why? We find that out as the story unfolds. Complications arise when two drifters arrive on the scene unexpectedly. They are played by a young Bruce Dern and a somewhat older Olive Deering. Ms. Deering was a wonderful actress who did a lot of work in early television, and she is given second billing here. Fine work is also done by Robert F. Simon, who plays the general who is in charge of the operation. His IMDb resume shows about 175 roles. Also present is Michael Tolan, who plays a civilian who is recruited to observe the case, and becomes a pivotal part in it. He volunteers to communicate with the aliens, who believe they have been double-crossed by the Earthlings. All is resolved at the end, of course, but not before some harrowing scenes as the truth about the aliens is revealed, and a dandy moral is given. While not the best OL, "The Zanti Misfits" is certainly worth watching.
The Honeymooners: TV or Not TV (1955)
The classic show takes flight
"TV or Not TV" is the first of the "Classic 39" episodes of "The Honeymooners" series. This version is distinguished from the "Lost" episodes mainly because the quality of filming is better, and the show has a fixed length of roughly 25 minutes playing time. The DVD set is excellent in quality. We see a slightly fatter Ralph beginning in this episode, and thus begins the "fat jokes". Alice proves herself a perfect match for Ralph's tantrums, as she refuses to give in to him. Norton is foolish as always, and shares a lot of screen time with Ralph. Trixie, although the least seen character, is Alice's friend and confidante. The story concerns Alice wanting a T.V. Ralph complains that it is too expensive. The solution is Ralph and Ed buying a set together. It is put in the Kramden's apartment, which leads to arguments when Norton wants to watch "Captain Video" and Ralph wants to watch something else. Can they ever agree? It is hilarious watching them fight. Jackie Gleason as Ralph really 'is' the show--his antics are priceless. Audrey Meadows is solid as Alice, but maybe a little too tough (the Liberace speech). Actually, both she and Gleason come off a little too tight. Maybe it's nerves of a first show. Art Carney's Norton is a great "second banana" to Ralph. Joyce Randolph is attractive and competent as Trixie. Watch for two flubs--one with Gleason, and one with Carney ("The Honeymooners" is famous for them since it was done quickly, with minimal rehearsal. The wonderful writing, laugh out loud comedy with an undercurrent of pathos, and the instincts of these performers are what carried the day).
All in all, this is a good beginning to the series, and the rough edges will be worked out in the episodes to come. I give it a 9.
"Many Happy Returns" is one of a few episodes of this series that deals with children. It is perhaps the best. Adapted from a story by noted sci-fi author Frederik Pohl, the story is about a youngster (played well by the 13 year old Clifford Sales) who is able to communicate with an alien, from the Moon. His father encourages him in one of his projects, making a kind of electronic device, although he doesn't know what it is for. He only hears vague explanations from the son that it has something to do with this "being". One day the father, intrigued, pulls the switch to activate the device, and nearly electrocutes himself in the process. The child is forced to reveal his secret--that the alien "told" him to build this so that he can one day be transferred to Earth (apparently to abduct the boy). The son shows his parents a picture of the being that he has sent through the device, and they are repulsed. From that moment, they become determined that the alien will not succeed in its evil act. But will it? This episode pushes all the right buttons. The father (played by Gene Raymond, who has appeared in other episodes as well) does a fine job, as does his wife and the boy (as mentioned above). The episode is executed well (some of the episodes are almost laughable due to bad synchronization between sound and action, but not this). A sub-plot is woven into the story that is resolved neatly at the end. "Many Happy Returns" deserves the rating viewers have given it, and I gladly add mine of 8 out of 10.
scary as anything
It is hard to believe that this episode only received a 5.9 rating by viewers. Perhaps it is because of the age of the show, or perhaps it is the fact that so little seems to be known about the actors and actresses. No matter. The episode is scary as anything this series did. The subject is alien thought control over a boy, and his parents' attempts to save him. The boy (who seems to be about 12 years old) has an abnormally high IQ (240). He spends most of his time reading books that contain what look like hieroglyphics. His father can understand some of the books; he takes one back to the university where he teaches. He discovers by accident a secret door leading to a library (The Children's Room). There he is informed by the librarian (the wonderful old actress Una O'Connor) that the son is a mutant, destined to be abducted by an alien to help its race survive. The parents can't go with him. The father promises her that he will not let the child go. Can he prevent the abduction, however? This is a great episode. The direction is masterful. We feel the tension and the horror in each close-up of the parents' faces. The dissolve from a hallway to the secret room is done in a believable manner. The thought of such an incredible thing happening is made plausible because it is treated so well. The subject has been used several times in sci-fi--including in an Outer Limits episode in the 1960's. Watch this episode. It is excellent.
"Night Caller" stars Felicia Farr (who was married to Jack Lemmon), David White (soon to be in "Bewitched"), and Bruce Dern (who seems to specialize in 'creepy' roles). Farr is Marcia, the beautiful but vain wife of White, who marries her presumably to take care of his son after his first wife dies. There seems to be little love between them. One day when he is away, she is sunbathing and spots Dern looking at her from across the fence. The sight frightens her, as does the casual way the young man (his character's name is Roy) speaks to her. She runs into the house and calls the police. After questioning neighbors to find out his address, one of the officers questions Roy. While admitting that he saw her, he is curiously detached. After another incident, Marcia's husband talks to Roy. He gets pretty much the same reaction, making him wonder if Marcia is making too much of this. Things get complicated as the son befriends Roy, and to Marcia's dismay, is not discouraged in this friendship by his father. Soon the "peeping Tom" incidents escalate into obscene phone calls. As Marcia's husband is frequently "away on business", she soon becomes hysterical. What happens next you will have to see for yourself. One problem I had with this episode was why didn't Marcia's husband take her fears seriously? I also found it hard to believe that he would allow his son (who was only about twelve) to continue seeing a young man who was obviously disturbed. At first, I thought that David White was a very poor choice as the husband, but perhaps there was a reason for the casting. I will also leave that to the viewer. Finally, I found the last piece of the puzzle (which is answered by Alfred Hitchcock himself) to be rather silly. A 7 0f 10.
very well-done drama
This episode of Alfred Hitchcok Hour reminded me of one of his earliest half-hour shows, starring Joseph Cotton, first telecast in 1955. I recommend that to anyone who wants to see this episode as well. "The Long Silence" stars Phyllis Thaxter as a woman who discovers a body that her husband has set up to look like a suicide. Yet she suspects him of homicide. The husband, played by Michael Rennie, is a cad; he has stolen money from her, and, in his panic, pushes her down the stairs. She is paralyzed. Although she is unable to do much, she still has her sight, and, just as importantly, her mind. As her husband's attempts at deception continue, she is faced with two fears. One is that she will not remember what happened, and the other is if she does remember, that she will not be able to protect herself because of her limited mobility. This is truly an episode to be seen, as things slowly come to a head. Thaxter gives a great performance in a challenging role. She is ably assisted by a stellar cast. An 8 of 10.
The Outer Limits: The Beholder (2000)
bittersweet love story
"The Beholder" is a bittersweet love story, and one of the Outer Linits best episodes. Patrick is an English teacher who is blind. He volunteers for an experiment that is intended to cure his blindness by implanting a small prosthetic device in his head. To his amazement, he is now able to see. His joy soon turns to fear, however, as in the distance he can see a mysterious figure that seems to beckon to him. It is difficult for him to explain the figure to the female psychiatrist assigned to his case, as he also fears being considered a "whack job" (his words). In a dramatic scene, he encounters the figure, a beautiful woman with red hair and light skin, who reveals herself as a being from "another world". Later they meet again, and fall in love. If this isn't complicated enough, both of them are being watched by the scientist and the sponsor of the experiment. The sponsor is pushing (blackmailing?) the scientist to ply Patrick with a drug, ostensibly to guarantee the success of the operation, but really to "investigate" Kyra. That is all I will tell you about the plot. The resolution of the story is memorable and beautifully told. Mackenzie Astin (the son of John Astin and Patty Duke) and Canadian-born Claire Rankin are perfect in the leads. One of the hallmarks of OL is the sympathetic way that the disabled are portrayed, and that continues here. Also, the idea that alien beings can sometimes be good is a theme that is explored time and time again (in both versions of the series). A 9 of 10.
The Outer Limits: The Awakening (1997)
In "The Awakening" Lela Rochon (Waiting To Exhale) plays Beth Carter, a young woman who suffers from a condition known as alexithymia. This renders her incapable of feeling or expressing emotion. A psychiatrist enlists her for an experiment, in which a chip, which is programmed to correct the problem, is implanted in her head. The doctor and his female associate dutifully watch their patient to track her development. Indeed the chip appears to work. Beth is taken into the associate's apartment for 'observation'. What Beth doesn't know is that there is a trick being played on her. She begins to hear voices through the implant. What or who is behind this? Therein lies the tale, and you'll have to watch the episode to find these answers. What I was drawn to was not what admirers of the series (even the original) would call "the bear" (which was pretty silly), but rather the performance by Rochon, a beautiful Haitian-American with (in reality) a very expressive face. The photography inside the apartment was wonderful, with extremely bright colors that both highlighted the textures in this fine actress' face, but also fully expressed the "awakening" of her emotions. Watch for the cubist painting on the wall in one of the scenes; it perfectly mimics Beth's sense of disorientation when she hears the "voices" The twist at the end is satisfying, and makes you want to know more about this mysterious condition. An 8 of 10.
The Outer Limits: Bits of Love (1997)
don't mess with a hologram
One of the good things about the new Outer Limits is that, in the better episodes, even a fairly implausible premise can produce a great show. To paraphrase one of the characters in "Bits of Love", the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts. Good acting and direction help, but one must also be drawn into the story. In this episode, Jon Tenney (now in "The Closer") plays the last survivor of a war that has left the Earth a wasteland. He has built a house underground, complete with a garden, and has created holographic images of his parents and brother for companionship. Their "caretaker" is also a hologram, named Emma (Natasha Henstridge, who has also done television). The parents worry about their son, who is a cad, as he has casual sex with different holographic partners, including Emma. He desires her, but not in the sense that Emma thinks. Emma loves him. He denies it; she is incapable of love, he says, because she isn't real. Things get complicated when Emma tells him she is pregnant. Of course she is rebuffed, but she won't be silenced. The title "Bits of Love' is ironic, because of the computer power (bits) needed to generate the hologram, but also because the love is not fully realized (it is only one-sided). The ending has to be seen to be appreciated; it is terrific. If you can accept this premise, then "Bits of Love" is for you. Please note that it is rated 'R', for some nudity. An 8 of 10.