Reviews

513 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
Alfred Hitchcock Presents: The Belfry (1956)
Season 1, Episode 33
8/10
A View From The Belfry
6 September 2019
Warning: Spoilers
The Belfry is a typically way above average Hitchcock Presents episode. It isn't much like any other I can think of offhand and yet it has many excellent touches that made the Hitchcock series such compelling viewing in its day; and for those who don't mind slower paced (than today, I mean) black and white television, it holds up very well. This one's set in what appears to be early 20th century America, the rural Midwest or border South, where people still traveled in buggies and rode horses, and most small town folk still didn't have electricity, much less a telephone. Life might have seemed simpler then to those of us of more of than a century later, yet as this episode shows us, disturbed, impaired individuals can and could always be found anywhere, even in outwardly idyllic communities; as could people afflicted with dangerous pathologies.

Simpleton Clint Ringle is the main character in the story, and he's building what he hopes will be a dream house for the woman he is in love with, a schoolteacher named Ellie Marsh, whom he's planning to wed in the near future. Alas for Clint, Ellie already has a suitor whom she is planning to marry. Clint, wholly unaware of this, is shocked when Ellie turns him down one afternoon, after which Ellie is herself even more deeply shocked when she sees Clint kills the man she really loves with a hatchet right in front of her, outside the one room schoolhouse where she teaches. As becomes immediately clear to Clint his act was witnessed by some children playing outdoors nearby, thus even if his beloved kept this a secret his murder shall soon be known throughout the community.

Yet Clint clearly at the very least has an innate shrewdness all the same. What he lacks in cleverness and insight he makes up for at least somewhat in sheer animal cunning. Before long, as he has discovered that the house he was building for his beloved has been soaked in a downpour he returns to the schoolhouse and hides in its belfry. He remains there, for the most part, for the remainder of the episode. It's his only safe hiding place, and yet as the viewer can see even as Clint cannot, it's good only for the short term. It's clear to the viewer that the noose is being tightened around Clint's neck even as his whereabouts are not known. He cannot remain in hiding for long, as becomes evident when what had been his safe haven turns into a hell when someone tolls the school bell.

This is a fine episode for some, albeit not for all tastes. It has no real villain and no real hero. Clint is as blameless as he is clueless. One pities rather than hates him. He is in his way as much a victim as the man he killed. I sensed while watching it that the writer (or writers) went out of their way to make none of the characters in the story either especially likable or loathsome. One can respect the normal people of this rural community, and yet it's difficult, in our time, to identify with them. One cannot help but feel that these people behave as well as can be expected given the circumstances, the time in which the story is set, their lack of much in the way of education, in our modern sense. The ending was, for me, rather a shocker in the way it was handled. I don't see this as giving too much away or spoiling anything for prospective viewers.
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Perry Mason: The Case of the Fanciful Frail (1966)
Season 9, Episode 24
9/10
Fanciful Episode
6 September 2019
I found this one a fun and fanciful late entry of the very long running Perry Mason series, and highly entertaining. It's a tale of murder, identity swapping and corporate intrigue. For much of its length I found myself smiling and occasionally laughing at the near surreal events it depicted.

It seems that the powers that be at Paisano Productions, which produced the series, allowed the stories and the characters depicted therein get more than a bit offbeat, at times downright odd as the show drew to a close in its final season. This one's better than most, and nicely acted by a fine guest cast.

I highly recommend this episode for fans of the series who possess a sense of humor. No, it's not a comedy or a send-up; more like everyone having some good clean fun, all the while keeping straight faces while doing so.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Alfred Hitchcock Presents: The Silk Petticoat (1962)
Season 7, Episode 13
8/10
Grisly Story, Genteel Presentation
4 March 2019
Warning: Spoilers
This Hitchcock story, The Silk Petticoat, offers the viewer an intelligent set-up for a mystery that it takes the entire length of the episode to resolve; and the payoff, such as it can be called, is one of the most unexpected and shocking of the entire series even as,--and I suppose this is a spoiler of sorts--there is no actual gore.

On the surface the story is a kind of awkward romance set in pre-Victorian early 19th century England. with handsome, middle aged Michael Rennie seeking the lovely and much younger Antionette Bower's hand in marriage. One can sense a dark side to Rennie's character quite early on; and yet there's no reason for the viewer to see him as any more than a somewhat more formal, lighter seeming hero of the sort familiar to readers of Gothic romance novels.

Yet as the plot thickens, and we learn of the tragic loss of his first wife, many years earlier, and of the odd secrets Rennie seems intent on keeping to himself. He reveals aspects of himself that are morbid and unpleasant even as his actual behavior remains that of (literally) a gentleman and a scholar.

These contrasts in Rennie's character. between the perfect gentleman and the man with many secrets, suggest that he is not only not the sort of man he appears to be but that he holds the dark undercurrents in his soul in check, and that in the long run he shall be consumed by them. There's some strong stuff in this episode. It is not for the faint of heart.
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
When Ladies Meet
4 March 2019
A Jury Of Her Peers is a first rate Hitchcock entry, adapted from a story by Susan Glaspell, it's a murder mystery that gets solved by the efforts of the women townfolk who live not too far from the farm where the widow of a murdered farmer is found, near catatonic, with the body of her husband still upstairs.

The tale itself reveals the working of the minds of a handful of member of a small, isolated rural community of the sort that scarcely exists today in 21st century America. A Jury Of Her Peers is now a period piece, though when first broadcast it must have felt closer to home for many viewers.

In this, the talk is the story. We hear it told, from different perspectives; and the familiarity of the neighbors of the middle aged, childless widow with her and her husband is the key to understanding what likely happened. Fine acting all-round by the mostly female cast, headed by early talkie leading lady and, for a short while, superstar, Ann Harding, aged, yet still radiantly beautiful.
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Strait-Jacket (1964)
7/10
Heads Up
24 February 2019
The good news about this lurid horror is that William Castle directed it competently and got good performances from his cast. Joan Crawford stars as a woman newly released from an insane asylum for the beheading of her cheating husband and some floozie he was getting in on with some twenty years earlier.

The surreal, psychotronic opening credits help set the tone for this one; and what follows nicely lives up to the hype. One has to have a taste for horror and a fondness for old movies to get into the swing of this black and white chiller. By today's standards it's tame; aside from its subject matter, that is. There are a few surprises, and few real shocks, either; and aside from the unsettling prospect of someone swinging an axe not much to be horrified by.

What makes Strait-Jacket work as well as it does is that director Castle & Friends know their onions about film-making, horror and how to maintain the viewer's attention. Suspension of disbelief is really not necessary when watching the movie. It's a showcase for aging superstar Crawford, and she's more than up to the job. Her performance is rather a poignant one, and her screen presence alone elevates the film in quality.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
The Ancient Mariner
20 February 2019
No, this Perry Mason does not channel the famous Coleridge poem, however it concerns the aging captain of freighter that nearly sinks at sea during a storm en route from Japan to to California; and once safely in port things appear amiss amiss on this troubled ship; and its master is none too happy about the way his first mate took control of his boat from him. The younger man saved the ship, but where's the cargo?

This is a Perry whose plot is so convoluted as to cause he heads of all but the most experienced Perry savvy viewers heads to spin. The story is well told, and most of the non-regular characters come off as either suspicious or a bit shady. The plot is good example of the Something's Wrong With This Picture that's at the core of its story. What makes the episode one of the better in the series is how obvious it was that the police were barking up the wrong tree.

This isn't a brilliant episode, yet it was handled expertly by its cast and crew. There are a couple of red herrings, and lots of possibilities put forth as Perp Of The Week
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Peter Gunn: Lady Windbell's Fan (1959)
Season 1, Episode 33
9/10
Fan Dance
18 February 2019
Lady Windbell's Fan is one of my favorite Peter Gunn episodes. Its west coast urban ambiance, mixing a beatnick sensibility with an exotic, or rather exotic at the time, Chinatown locale makes it a joy to watch for its clever use of back lot sets dressed up as the mostly deserted streets of late night L.A., and an engaging story about a shopkeeper's murder for a fan and the reason for it.

The murder occurs quite early in the episode, and it's a painful to watch. Once Peter is on the case, working for youthful restaurant owner and Chinatown mover and shaker Johnny Chang, as the plot thickens. Johnny's a friend of Peter's, and there's back story to spare when Johnny's ancient father enters the picture when Peter's taken to pay a visit to him under unusual circumstances.

There's a fair amount of lying, posing and perfidy going on; and the characters are offbeat and mysterious even even for a Peter Gunn episode. Also exceptional is the use of back story for exposition, which is to say learning about the pasts of the some of the characters, which explains their motivations. The way the elder Chang is presented is suggestive of a Fu-Manchu movie of an earlier time that may offend (or amuse) certain viewers.

I found the use of stereotyped characters, rituals and customs handled with just the right amount of humor and sophistication to make what otherwise might have seemed a slight tale a fascinating and hugely entertaining one, as much for the stylish way it was told as for the tale itself. The cast is game, with a nicely poised James Hong handsome and solid as the younger Chang, Frances Fong lovely as his love interest and non-Asian Richard Hale spooky looking and acting as a concerned and loving father.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Cell 227 (1960)
Season 5, Episode 34
7/10
Well Made
7 February 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Cell 227 is a well made Hitchcock entry, and while above average I don't rate it as one of the series best. It's a good story even as one can see the ending coming in the first five minutes. Brian Keith plays a college professor, Herbert Morrison, who's on death row, having been convicted of murder he did not commit.

Morrison's back story is vague, as the viewer gets to know little about him aside from his bitter rage against a system that has failed him. The man's integrity means more to him than his life; and he refuses to beg for mercy. For all this, Morrison comes across as more petty and mean spirited than dignified, and the show's final minutes bear this out.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
Middle Age Blues
7 February 2019
Warning: Spoilers
O Youth and Beauty! is a well made, rather downbeat episode of Hitchcock's half-hour, and it concerns an aging and yet certainly not over the hill (except in his own nightmares) man who seeks to prove that he still" has it" by hurdling at the local country club. He does it well enough at first, and this still doesn't please him.

The man's first name, Cash, says it all, as money is what he is short of most. He makes about a third of what he thinks he's worth, and he feels like low man on the totem poll at his club. So far as the viewer can tell Cash is a reasonably well off white collar professional. He has a hard time paying his bills, but then many if not most middle class people do.

One can't but sense that Cash is living beyond his means, that maybe he belongs to the wrong club. He doesn't seem too out of place there, but he feels it, and this motivates him to relive the vigor of youth by (literally) acting out the glory days as a runner indoors, by leaping over furniture and the like; and the second time around he pays a high price.

Well made as it is this adaptation of a John Cheever story is as shallow as it's nicely put together. Gary Merrill's performance in the lead got my sympathy from the start, and held it to the final scene. I've always found Merrill a likable, intelligent actor. He has a way of delivering his lines naturally; and his talent was such that he could make such an obnoxious character as Cash both compelling and tragic
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
The Werewolf (1956)
9/10
A Classy Change Of Pace
27 January 2019
Warning: Spoilers
The 1956 The Werewolf is not, despite its title, a horror film. Or not primarily anyway. It's got science fiction elements (nothing supernatural here); and its western setting makes it feel like a contemporary western. Also worth mentioning is that the fate of the central character is deeply tragic; all the more so for being brought upon by forces outside himself, which he cannot control.

As with two earlier, better known werewolf pictures, the 1935 Werewolf Of London and The Wolf Man, made five years afterwards, the man who turns into a wolf is a decent human being who must cope with a terrible predicament for which he is not responsible. In The Werewolf the main character is a hunted man fairly early on; and the nature of his monstrous transformations is such as to make seeking help from others not a wise course of action.

What makes this film so excellent is the wondrous serendipity of old Hollywood: good actors, a decent script and first rate, albeit spartan production values. This is a dark, shadowy film, and yet much if not most of it takes places outdoors, in the mountains of California. That it was filmed on location makes it feel more real than most films with similar themes. Director Fred Sears makes the most of what he was given to work with.

This is a first rate movie; and, due to the care and talent that went into making it, a classy change of pace for those fond of old films and aren't bothered by the absence of color. The routine, by the numbers nature of its story line, plus the lack of much in the way of character development, keep it from becoming a true classic of its kind. Near the end, as the title character, in full monster mode, is trapped by hunters firing upon him from a bridge, the film becomes emotional, even moving.
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
The Twilight Zone: Uncle Simon (1963)
Season 5, Episode 8
7/10
A Damsel In Extreme Distress
22 January 2019
Warning: Spoilers
This is one downer of a Twilight Tone, and like many of the show's half-hour entries, it begins in an closed environment suggestive of literal or. or likely, psychic entrapment from which there appears to be no escape, as is often suggested, early in such dramas, even as it becomes clear as the stories progressed that these "stuck people" have, deep inside, their key to freedom, to exit, from their dreadful plight.

In this one, borderline middle aged Barbara, well payed by Constance Ford, is at the mercy of her uncle Simon, ailing and rapidly in physical and mental decline; and he's a nasty, sadistic man who must prove himself superior to others,--hence his extreme physical and emotional isolation--and the woman who looks after him, tends to his daily needs.

There's a light at the tunnel for Barbara, who shall inherit her uncle's fortune when he passes on; and yet theere's the nagging issue of how long Barbara can bear her uncle's abuse. Simon is in poor health, thus he may not last long; and yet even the sickest among us have been known to surprise their families and caregivers. The dialogue in Uncle Simon is often witty in the Victorian fashion; and the old central house in which the story is set looks to be of the same vintage.

Part drama, part comedy, this episode is also a character study, and an insightful one at that, of how two "split off" (from the normal world", that is) people can live in a world of their own with scarcely any other people entering it except to serve their needs.

Even as Simon and Barbara share barbed insults one can't help but wonder what their lives would have been like without them. Simon and Barbara complement one another perfectly. Whatever the character flaws of these two trapped individuals may be on an individual basis, considered as a twosome they are bound to one another as Siamese twins. Thst neither uncle nor niece comes across as sympathetic in the end seems only fitting.
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Alfred Hitchcock Presents: The Right Price (1959)
Season 4, Episode 22
9/10
The Better Offer
4 January 2019
The Right Price is an adaptation of a Henry Slesar story by the Hitchcock TV team, and while the pace is a tad slow, the characterizations superficial, it works as a light comedy tale that seems to borrow in unequal parts from the short tales of two very different and at the time popular American authors: Damon Runyon and John Cheever.

Set in the kind of upper middle class New York suburb that John Cheever made his literary home, so to speak, for decades, it with a begins as a presentation of a comically dysfunctional middle aged couple of the postwar era; a husband and wife business team who bicker constantly, and even sleep in separate beds (the norm for television couples of the time anyway).

When they finally get to the bedroom for an (apparently sexless, but no matter) good night's sleep, the husband is awakened by sounds downstairs, where he is confronted by a genial looking burglar who holds a gun on him and proceeds to have the man of the house find objects of value for him to abscond with. That there appears to be less real friction between the perp and his prey cleverly foreshadows what is to occur in the story's second half.

As it becomes increasingly clear that there's little of real value in this nicely furnished home; and after wifey's calling downstairs and wondering what was happening (the husband said it was the radio), the plot thickens: the husband now wants to hire the burglar to work for him, as he wants the man to commit that has probably been on his mind for some time: the murder of his bossy, shrewish wife.

As there was never any real edge to this episode, and the major players. Allyn Joslyn and, especially, Eddie Foy, Jr., were known for "light" roles in film, one could see the comedy coming early. Foy was particularly good as a surprisingly laid bad crook; while Joslyn came across as more put upon than frightened.

What transpires in the end is a nicely done twist which I think it's fair to say most viewer wouldn't have seen coming when the show was first broadcast. I certainly didn't. As the set up was vaguely comical, and that Eddie Foy, Jr. had an easygoing, friendly way about him,

As Joslyn, or rather his character, has a genteel, Cheeveresque disposition, Foy comes across as a character out of the Broadway musical Guys & Dolls. He never seems to take anything too seriously; and this includes murder. Neither actor, or rather the characters these men play, seems out of his league or way too off his turf, and this tips the perceptive off as to the ending, which I see no reason t give away.

The Right Price is good clean fun, and it's droll even for a Hitchcock show. Neither the dialogue nor the story suggest great talent at work. There's a familiar been there, done that tone throughout that implies that while there may be a lack of much original talent that went into this effort, what talent there was available was used wisely and well. Also, for all the doublecrossing and trickery on display in this episode, it feels benign, almost innocent more than a half-century after it was first shown.
2 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Westbound (1959)
8/10
Lively Paced Western
2 January 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Westbound is a well above average entry in the canon of the now legendary team of director Budd Boetticher and veteran cowboy star Randolph Scott, already well into middle age when he began this collaboration. The story, set well into the latter half of the Civil War, is a convoluted one concerning gold shipments being diverted from Overland stagecoaches by Confederate sympathizers in what was then Colorado Territory.

The characters are better and more interesting than the story, as Scott's Union man character is willing to manipulate people to get his job done; and given the kinds of people he must contend with in the frontier town of Julesburg one can hardly blame him. Gentleman bad guy Andrew Duggan is a formidable opponent; while Duggan's chief henchman, as ably portrayed by Michael Pate, is way more ruthless than his boss.

Yet Scott's good guy has more than his share of tricks up his sleeve; and he also benefits from patience in his waiting for Duggan to make his move. Alas, things go badly when a stagecoach carrying gold as well as passengers is ambushed and during the attack is sent crashing down a steep hill, killing all aboard. The tide begins to turn after this, as Duggan's villainy is balanced somewhat by a moral conscience.

Drunk and filled with self-loathing for all the damage he's done, Duggan has a confrontation with his already fed up wife (and also ex-Scott galpal), and he undergoes a late in the game change of heart. The pace of this already lively sagebrush saga picks up as the citizen of the town Duggan lords over have begun to turn on him. One senses a mob mentality at work in Julesburg, with Confederate sympathizers at odds with those who support the Union.

The supporting characters are well drawn for this kind of film; and among the more sympathetic,--a wounded in battle and now one-armed Union veteran, his (bodacious) wife--things do not turn out as one might expect. There are unexpected deaths, a tense mood in this divided town, and while at the end good triumphs over evil, this comes at a high price.

Aided by a sprightly David Buttolph score and fine color photography by Peverell Marley, Westbound is a modest western that gets the job done and no doubt satisfied fans of the genre when it first came out some sixty years ago. Randolph Scott was a major star of westerns at this time, yet his age was showing and he would retire from acting for good a few years later. His performance in the film is solid, yet his screen persona was, overall, as unexciting as it was reliable.
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
The Wrong Man (1956)
7/10
Hard Luck Case
30 December 2018
Warning: Spoilers
This Alfred Hitchcock directed picture was based on the true story of something that went terribly wrong one night for a musician who worked in a swank and at the time very famous New York nightclub, and what happened to him one night when, on his way home from work, he was confronted by policeman in a car outside his home and was arrested on charges of armed robbery.

This musician, Manny Balestrero, was innocent of the crime of which he was accused; and from things the viewer gets to know about him he is a caring family man, imperfect in mostly small ways; a devoted husband and father; and overall an upstanding citizen. What follows Manny's arrest is essentially a ritual of dehumanization and humiliation, as Manny is prepared by the police to spend his time in jail as he await his trial.

What little good news that comes Manny's way is that he has acquired the services of a decent, sympathetic, competent lawyer who believes in his case, and who works hard for him. The downside during this period is the slow, tragic mental decline of Manny's wife, whose mind is slowly unraveling under the stress of her husband's predicament ; and it's easy for the viewer to see where she is headed from her increasingly strange and for her atypical behavior, as she becomes detached from reality and sinks into a deep depression.

The Wrong Man is a movie that feels like a short trip to hell. There's not a moment of joy in the entire film. There are, for sure, good people in the story, and yet they are, most of them, helpless in their attempts to help Manny, as the wheels of justice are as slow as they are heavy. Manny's ordeal is a long one; and what in the end saves him is nothing less than a miracle. A good Catholic, Manny prays to God for help; and his prayers are answered; after a fashion, that is.

However that may be, Manny's personal life is ruined. His wife is a mess. What fame and goodwill he received in the media vanished quickly. The story happened a long time ago. Manny was not going to appear in coast to coast talk shows. A movie, this one, would be made of his ordeal; but one cannot put a price tag on personal suffering Could any of the suffering he went through be made up for in some way? One senses not. Manny shall survive, shall continue to earn a living, but he shall not prosper. To put it in plain English: to be saved from a several years prison sentence and a felony conviction is not the same as "winning". Manny did not win his case so much as the state lost its case. Manny lost the night he was arrested.

There is no quick fix,--or for that matter even a slow one--for people who have suffered as Manny did. This is what the viewer of The Wrong Man learns about our criminal justice system and, more broadly speaking, our society. Manny was one of many people who are not perhaps blessed in life to any great extent, yet not cursed, either. They live in a kind of drab normality, occasionally interrupted by moments of joy and of love. After his arrest, Manny was too wounded to wholly recover, though he did live. His wife fell apart and never wholly recovered.

The Wrong Man is a true to life movie, and an exceedingly sad and depressing one. It's a downer from start to finish. Justice was served in the end; and yet two people's lives were ruined along the way. Where's the justice in that? There isn't any. The entire story of this film is that of a hard luck case. Manny was not a fortunate man to begin with, though he had some good things in life prior to his arrest. Afterward, he was still a hard luck case, only now he could walk the streets again as a free man; in theory anyway.
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
Solid Effort
30 December 2018
For a modest western, The Redhead & The Cowboy manages to rise above its station (so to speak) and become something much better : part character study (and an excellent one at that), part mystery, it's maybe a bit too densely plotted for the kind of film it is, and yet it rises above its slightly sluggish pace, especially early on, and once its story gains a head of steam one wants very much to know what the late radio commentator Paul Harvey used to call "the rest of the story", which is to say the payoff.

Set in the Far West during the American Civil War, the film's story is indeed connected to that bloody conflict, mostly tangentially or inferentially; and yet it's there all the same, and all the time. One can never forget that there's a war "back east"; and the loyalties of the sympathies of many of the characters in the movie factor in its final outcome. Yet's easy for the viewer to forget such issues, and what drives the film. Gold figures into the narrative, as does, more prominently the guilt or innocence of its main character, well played by Glenn Ford.

As its story develops, the film begins to feel more like a western as it moves forward; as bit by bit there are more action scenes, more vistas; and also more twists and turns in the story itself. By its (roughly speaking) third and final act, while there are still unanswered questions, and some uncertainty as to who the good guy really is,--though casting helps in this--the movie is clearly heading toward what's starting to feel like a slam-bang ending. Western fans should be satisfied by the way the movie ends, even as the resolution is, alas, bittersweet.

Solid work all-round from director Leslie Fenton and such gifted players as not only Glenn Ford, Rhonda Fleming, Morris Ankrum, Alan Reed and, in a pivotal role, Edmond O'Brien, who's first rate and manages to stay very much in character for the entire length of the film. For me, his playing is smooth and low key for the kind of actor O'Brien was; and he gives the best and most memorable performance in the film.
3 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
More Offbeat Than Mysterious
25 November 2018
A solid, rather modest Hitchcock entry, The Hands Of Mr. Ottermole delivers the goods in its own solid way, rises to the occasion, of being an engrossing "Ripper tale" thanks to its slow, steady presentation and some first rate acting. Somehow, for all the pussyfooting around in the London fog, the ending manages to feel shocking. The Hitchcock crew knew how to make something out of what might have at first glance seemed like nothing. It's how the tale was told that makes this one work more than the tale itself.
2 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
The Twilight Zone: Third from the Sun (1960)
Season 1, Episode 14
8/10
The Sun Also Rises
10 October 2018
Third From The Sun is a tense early entry in the at the time (1959) fledgling Twilight Zone series, and it's as good an example as any as to what made the show tick, why so many occasional viewers became regular ones, as it channels thoughts, feelings and behaviors that appear normal on the surface which the viewer soon learns is actually a subtext. pointing to larger themes of great significance; and what may well be the sooner than expected end of the world. The Twilight Zone may be, of the TV series of the Cold War era, the one that dealt most often with the prospect, fear and at times the consequences of nuclear mass destruction.

The plot is simple and melodramatic, as the story revolves around defense workers in what at the time must have felt like a foregone conclusion was postwar U.S.A. Indeed, the casting, the behavior of the people in the episode and how they handle the Cold War stress of what feels like impending nuclear holocaust was a worry on many people's minds back then. We feel this most strongly in the early scenes, and especially the build-up of tension when a man named Carling appears to be dropping in on the main character with alarming regularity, as if he knew what they were up to; and as a government security man he was determined to stop them. Or perhaps he was intending to join them in their planned escape from their doomed planet.

The the phones they use, the artwork on the walls, the odd, unfamiliar furniture, the interior decoration of the suburban home of the family the episode focuses on, these and other things suggest that the episode is set in an indeterminate future , likely not too far off in the future. Yet the nuclear family survives, as the main characters live as so many Americans did back sixty or more years ago, with dread, anxiety, an uncertainty regarding what the future holds. The threat of nuclear war was on the minds of many if not most Americans back then, and in this Third From The Sun is true to life.

How the story ends should be a big surprise for the first time viewer. It would be downright cruel to give it away. Although there are hints here and there as to what's rally happening in the episode, not much is made clear. It plays as a near fever dream, thus it has, by virtue of this, an internal logic; on the one hand earnest and concrete in presentation, and yet, on the other hand, intelligent and playful enough as to suggest that what's transpiring could well be the ravings of a lunatic locked away in an asylum. Or could it all be a shared collective nightmare of s group of Fifties era suburbanites on a warm summer night when things look and feel just a little bit too good to be true.
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Alfred Hitchcock Presents: The Waxwork (1959)
Season 4, Episode 27
4/10
Museum Piece
6 August 2018
This one is truly a sub-par entry in the usually excellent Hitchcock half-hour series. There aren't too many this bad,--and there are much worse--but it truly lacks originality, pacing, good dialogue and a good story.

On the surface it's a promising idea: an American journalist in London, who also has some gambling debts, wants to spend a night in a wax museum for, among other reasons, a good true life magazine story.

So far, so good; and a promising cast, too, including two capable veteran players, Barry Nelson, as the journalist; and Everett Sloane as the museum owner. Yet the set-up at least is if nothing else promising.

Once the journalist is alone the museum for the night, as one might expect, strange things start happening. Or are they figments of the man's imagination? He appears normal enough, yet he seems easily spooked by the eerie atmosphere, as he's surrounded by wax figures of well known murderers.

Alas, the story unfolds as one might expect, as wax museum tales, like ventriloquist dummy ones, tend to feature similar themes and resolutions. This one is disappointingly conventional, especially as it's a Hitchcock entry.

Yet it's by no means all bad, just not very good. The actors help, as does the art direction, which nicely suggests sinister things lurking right around the corner. The episode does have a few modest virtues.

Robert Stevens was a capable director, yet he failed to bring much to the table with this one, which might have benefited from being handled by a more seasoned movie man with some experience handling macabre yarns such as this one.

I think of Robert Florey and John Brahm, who were active in American television around the time this one was made; and I suspect that either would have made a better job of it, with inventive camera placement, stronger pacing, shadows in all the right places.
0 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Perry Mason: The Case of the Libelous Locket (1963)
Season 6, Episode 17
7/10
A Martian Nine Feet Tall
23 March 2018
Warning: Spoilers
No Martians in this Perry. This review's title is a reference to a line repeated a few times in this episode that points to a suspect who turns out to be the murderer in this somewhat convoluted though watchable Perry Mason entry. A decent supporting cast helps this one along, as does as livelier than usual performance from William Hopper as Paul Drake.

Maybe the most memorable thing about this episode is pinch hitting guest star Michael Rennie, playing a law professor who gets involved in the case because a student of his is a suspect, is that nine foot Martian line. A guess here: this is maybe a thinly veiled reference to Rennie's most famous film role as space alien, though not Martian, Klaatu, in the 1951 sci-fi classic The Day The Earth Stood Still.

In that film Klaatu has a giant android robot as his helper,--or is he Master?--named Gort, who is capable of killing with a death ray. Gort may well have been at least nine feet tall, maybe taller, and Klaatu's famous order to him ("Klaatu barada nikto!") is a key line in the film, as is the bit about the nine foot Martian in The Case Of The Libelous Locket. I'm guessing that someone involved in the making of the episode added this as an in-joke, whether for Michael Rennie's sake or to remind the viewer of Rennie's best remembered film role.
5 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Mannix: The Color of Murder (1971)
Season 4, Episode 22
7/10
Full House
10 February 2018
The Color Of Murder is a decent Mannix episode featuring an excellent guest starring cast, including Diane Keaton, John Lupton, Virginia Gregg and Johnny Haymer. The hook, which is a young woman being harassed by a mysterious female caller who claims that her late politician father, murdered several years earlier, was killed by some unknown person, and that there's a Big Reveal behind it all. The plot is convoluted, as was often the case with this series, with nearly the guest players suspects one degree or another.

This is far from the best Mannix I've seen but it's above average to very good in its parts more than as a whole. The big picture, which offers some tantalizing glimpses into how the Mob operates in L.A., the way political figures are often linked to unscrupulous people, feels about right. There's an almost laid back, unflashy knowingness to not only this episode but all the better Mannix entries that I've seen that contribute to it being, overall, not only a very good detective series but also a classy one.

The twists and turns of the plot of The Color Of Murder are mostly just that. They're there to keep the viewer watching and guessing. There must be an aesthetic (of sorts) behind all this that all good crime and mystery writers love, honor and obey, as if it were an marriage. If there's a downside to this particular episode it's that there's little in the way of empathy for or among its various characters. Mannix (and his secretary) are or appear to be the only two unambiguously decent, ethical human beings around, which ramps up the danger level a good deal, and holds the viewer's attention.
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
The Twilight Zone: The Hitch-Hiker (1960)
Season 1, Episode 16
10/10
The Highway Man
31 October 2017
Warning: Spoilers
The Hitch-Hiker is a Twilight Zone adaptation of Lucille Fletcher's famous radio play of the same title, and for my money an improvement on it. An eerie tale in any medium, it's the story of Nan Adams, a department store buyer from New York, driving cross country, who, after a tire blowout in Pennsylvania, begins to see the figure of a shabby little man hitch-hiking, wherever she goes. The most uncanny aspect of this is that the little man isn't following her. He's always ahead of her, looking for a ride. It's more like she's following him, albeit reluctantly; and it's like she can't "shake him", get rid of him. But then, how can a person avoid or rid himself of something or someone that always lies ahead?

For all the menace implicit in Nan's predicament, it's not quite a literal nightmare she's living in as she makes her way cross country. She mentions the little man a few times to other people, yet she's the only one who can see him. They see nothing. Nor is the man threatening her. His presence is unappealing: scruffy like a hobo, small, middle aged, wearing a hat, he never behaves in an intimidating manner. If anything, there's a plaintive quality to him, a wistfulness, that suggests that he's seeking not merely a ride but fellowship. Yet this is also a key element in his strangeness. Nan does not know this man, and she proceeds on her journey his familiarity rattles her, as she is driving alone, does not want company.

After a gas station owner refuses to get out of bed in the middle of the night to help her, Nan returns to her car to find a sailor, and his manner is friendly, his disposition pleasant, and she agrees to give him a ride. For a few precious minutes the tension lessens; and then that hobo turns up ahead of them on the road. The sailor cannot see him, however, and when Nan veers toward him, so as to kill him, she drives off the road, at which point the sailor decides that things are getting too strange for him. Sore as his feet are he prefers to go it alone on foot. Once again alone, Nan stops of at a diner, closed for business, and uses a pay phone to call her mother in New York, and what she learns is both very bad news as well as a relief.

As she returns to her car Nan feels at peace with herself and the world, ready for anything, as she at last knows the truth of what has been happening to her these past few days. She adjusts the rear view mirror and,--no surprise to her, though perhaps a shock to the viewer--the little man is sitting in the back seat behind her, speaks to her in a friendly voice and says "I believe you're going my way"; and indeed she is. The Twilight Zone dealt with death in many ways, as something to be feared, yet also to be accepted when it's inevitable. In this case there was no alternative, as death came aboard as a companion, as it were, and as such an end to worry and fear.
3 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
The Twilight Zone: The After Hours (1960)
Season 1, Episode 34
10/10
Are You Happy, Marsha?
31 October 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Written by series creator Rod Serling, directed by Douglas Heyes, this first season entry is one of the most eerie and ambient episodes of the entire series. It's a straightforward telling of an attractive young woman in search of a gold thimble as a gift for her mother in a department store of a large American city. Neither the store nor the city are named. The woman, however, is. Her name is Masha White. Or is it? Ah, there's the rub, and the story hinges on this question, of whether Marsha is a real human or something made of wood.

The hustle and bustle of a large department store is nicely conveyed early on as Marsha asks someone where she must go to find the item she's looking for. She's told the ninth floor, and there she goes. When she arrives the place is dark, like a warehouse, and the only other person there is a strange looking and acting sales woman, who asks her some odd questions. Marsha does get the thimble she was looking for, then leaves. When she arrives back on the first floor she realizes that the thimble is scratched, asks where to return it; and when asks where she bought it, on the ninth floor, she is taken aback, as she is told that in this store there is no ninth floor!

After discussing the matter with the man in charge of returns and complaints, Mr. Ambruster, Marsha is taken to an office suite, where she lies down to wait to speak to someone about the matter. She soon falls asleep, and when she wakes up, the store is dark and empty, with not a soul in sight. What follows is an unsettling series of elevator trips and encounters with store mannequins behaving like people and speaking to Marsha, as if beckoning her to join them, which is in the end is what she does. Unable to escape, and also apparently devoid of personal memories, Marsha is told that she has been on leave, as it were, allowed to live like a normal human being, and that her time is up, she now must return to her true self, that of a department store dummy!

As if aware of the nightmarish aspects of his story, Rod Serling chose to end it on a semi-humorous note, on the next morning, with Mr. Ambruster recognizing the face of Marsha in a crowd, only to suddenly realize that it's a mannequin, not the woman he spoke to the day before. I'd rather they'd handled this differently, but this is a small criticism of an otherwise masterfully written, directed and acted episode. Young and lovely Anne Francis was perfectly cast as Marsha, as her well defined features gave her a somewhat generic look. Elizabeth Allen, as the too inquisitive for comfort ninth floor sales lady and James Milhollin, as the dithering Ambruster, were well cast. Milhollin's playing is broad, and I gather this was what was asked for, which was a lessening of the tension. This was, after all, mid-20th century television, geared to families, and that includes children.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
The Twilight Zone: Long Live Walter Jameson (1960)
Season 1, Episode 24
10/10
Long Live The Twilight Zone!
31 October 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Long Live Walter Jameson is one of the best and best loved episode of the Twilight Zone TV series, and like so many from the first season it's different in mood and theme from the ones that came before and after it. The script is by the legendary science fiction and fantasy writer Charlies Beaumont, and it's directed by radio veteran Tony Leader.

The story is that of a perennially youthful looking history professor at a small college who, it strikes a colleague and friend of his, more than just a little too knowledgeable about the history he lectures about. This is particularly disturbing as the professor, the Walter Jameson of the episode's title, is engaged to be married to his colleague's daughter.

After a post-prandial chat, and during a game of chess with his, he hopes, father-in-law to be, Jameson admits that indeed that's him in the Matthew Brady photograph taken during the Civil War, and that indeed he's way over a hundred years old. More like two thousand, and counting.

Jameson acquired his gift of youth from a sorcerer of some kind millenia ago, and this enabled him to live an incredibly long time, and to have been married, raised children, and yet also see his family and friends die, many times over; and as he speaks the viewer learns that this gift has not granted him wisdom but is something nearer to a curse.

Even with his eternal youth Jameson yearns for death. In the end he gets his wish, and from an unusual source, as he is shot by an ancient wife he had abandoned decades earlier. The transformation of the still handsome and youthful looking Jameson to an old man, then a painfully wizened and crippled dusty old thing is probably the best special effect of the entire original Twilight Zone series.

There's wisdom in this episode, and a cruel irony as well, as author Charles Beaumont suffered from a rare medical condition that caused him to age prematurely and die before he was forty. Nor was the show's creator, host and frequent contributor, Rod Serling, destined for a long life, as he died before he turned fifty.

Yet the dark clouds that hung over these two men have silver linings for the viewer: The Twilight Zone has been in continual syndication since production closed in 1964. This may not be immortality but it's a very long time for what's become a cult TV series to remain popular, as it is to this day.
3 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Final Arrangements (1961)
Season 6, Episode 36
7/10
The Big Payoff
31 October 2017
Final Arrangements is a bland but effective Hitchcock show, featuring excellent performances from its offbeat cast. I especially like John Ford regular O.Z. Whitehead as an undertaker, and Slim Pickens as the owner of a store specializing in exotic masks, weapons and the like.

In the leading role of the put-upon husband of a wife from hell, Martin Balsam is almost too good casting. His performance, good in itself, comes across as a bit too serious for this playfully morbid episode. It's seems merely a matter of just a matter of time it will take him to murder his nagging, hypochondriac of a wife, and by what means.

Those know-it-alls, fans of this series who think they can guess the endings of all the Hitchcock shows may come a cropper big time if they think they have this one all figured out,--and I'll leave it at that.
2 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Make My Death Bed (1961)
Season 6, Episode 37
9/10
Sing Along With Bish
30 October 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Make My Death Bed is a stylish Hitch entry, features well to do suburbanites, and fairly young ones at that, and a good 'ol boy, Bish who's handy with a guitar and other men's wives, very well played by James Best, who, if it's him doing the actual singing, makes a nice job of it, especially the old ballad Barbara Allen, the lyrics to which prove (ironically) prophetic.

Fine acting by all in this upscale, modern looking episode. Top billed Diana Van der Vlis is the lovely object of his affections; and the feelings are mutual. Also on hand: Jocelyn Brando, sister of Marlon, as the doctor's wife; and Madeline Sherwood, probably best remembered as Gooper's wife in film version of Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, as Best's wife.

Aside from the last few minutes dang near telegraphing the outcome, this is an almost perfect and, for its time, very adult half-hour of television, even today.
4 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
An error has occured. Please try again.

Recently Viewed