Strange little coincidences with this morning’s episode of The Twilight Zone, which Rod Serling scripted from a short story called Blind Alley by Malcolm Jameson. As regular readers may recall, I picked most of the new-to-me episodes for our viewing based on whether I knew the actors, and I always enjoy seeing the people who would later play villains on Batman in these roles. So the other day, we watched an episode with Burgess Meredith as the devil, and this morning, we watched Julie Newmar as the devil. I genuinely didn’t know when I picked these what the plots of these tales were!
The other nice surprise was that title. As we started watching this show, I quickly became bored of Rod Serling’s use of the good old days trope of old men’s nostalgia for simpler times. I don’t think even Julie Newmar could save yet another one of these tales of men looking starry-eyed at old town squares. But that’s not what this is about at all, mercifully! Albert Salmi plays a downright sadistic robber baron who, having made his final, ultimate, screw-turning “deal,” has thirty million in the bank and is bored. The devil, here in the guise of a travel agent named Miss Devlin, offers him the chance to go back to 1910 and do it all again, only this time with all the memories of his past and about $1400 in his pocket. But memories are fragile, imperfect things.
Once again, our son really didn’t enjoy this story. Salmi’s character is just too darn mean. Even when we pointed out that this is a story about a mean guy getting his comeuppance, he wouldn’t budge. But he did understand even the talkiest bits. The story opens with Salmi twisting the knife into a very old rival and letting him know his only way out is bankruptcy, and we paused it to clarify what went on, but he recapped it very well for us. On the other hand, none of us spotted that the very old rival was played by gravel-voiced John Anderson, who we’ve seen twice as MacGyver’s grandfather Harry, so pobody’s nerfect.
Actually, I’ll tell you who really wasn’t perfect, and that’s the makeup artist for this story. Sure, they had a chore making Salmi, Anderson, and Wright King all look fifty years older for the stuff set in the present so they could appear as their normal ages in 1910’s Cliffordville, but you’d have to have been watching with a bent antenna in a snowstorm on a very small TV set in 1963 to ignore Salmi’s unbelievably phony bald cap!