The Twilight Zone 1.9 – Dead Woman’s Shoes / Wong’s Lost and Found Emporium

I had been planning to look at a couple of the remakes that they did in the eighties Twilight Zone, though I confess that I completely forgot to check out Charles Beaumont’s original “Dead Man’s Shoes” production before watching its 1985 rewrite. So I have no idea how “Dead Woman’s Shoes” compares to the original, but it’s extremely entertaining! Helen Mirren is completely wonderful as an evasive, shy woman who works in a Los Angeles thrift store and gets possessed by the spirit of a murdered woman when she tries on her donated shoes.

Once Mirren, possessed, gets into her old home, which she had shared with her killer, played by Jeffrey Tambor, she does herself up and looks as glamorous and beautiful as you expect Helen Mirren to look. As the cashier at the thrift store, sharing a scene with Robert Pastorelli in an amazing rockabilly haircut, she’s so introverted that she almost collapses in on herself.

After this very fun ghost story, Brian Tochi, who I remembered as Tee Gar from Space Academy even if our son didn’t, takes the lead in Alan Brennert’s “Wong’s Lost and Found Emporium.” It’s a whimsical story but a bit spiky and hard to embrace because his character has sought out this strange shop in the hope of finding his lost compassion. Other shoppers have come here to find lost time or lost respect. I found it a little hard to sympathize with a character so deliberately abrasive, but it’s a swell script for what looks like a budget-saving segment.

Our son can’t decide which of the two installments he enjoyed most. He liked the ghost story a lot, but he liked the surprises and all the odd props in the second one, too. They really got the balance right with this hour, I think.

Today’s feature was a gift from Marie’s brother Karl and we really appreciate it! If you would like to support this blog, you can buy us a DVD of a movie that we’d like to watch one day. We’ll be happy to give you a shout-out and link to the site of your choice when we write about it. Here’s our wishlist!

The Twilight Zone 5.6 – Living Doll

This wasn’t the first time that we went into a celebrated and famous installment of The Twilight Zone, this one written by Charles Beaumont, and I ended up loathing it. Yet again, it’s a trip back to the weird, stupid, and bizarre days when completely incompatible people got married for God-knows-why.

I started with a grain of sympathy for Telly Savalas’s character, because it’s strongly implied that he did not know that his wife had a daughter from a previous marriage, and his new(ish) wife deliberately hid this, surprising him with “two for the price of one.” He is apparently unable to have children, and she judges everything he does as resentment. But he’s far from sympathetic. That grain I had dwindled and died pretty quickly as his already aggressive and unlikable character descends into irrationality, and when he privately smiles when nobody can find his stepdaughter’s Talky Tina doll, which he’d thrown out, I was ready for Talky Tina to go all Chucky-from-Child’s Play on him.

There’s value in old TV like The Twilight Zone even when it doesn’t entertain. It’s a window to the awful world that the Greatest Generation and the Boomers perpetuated, where it was preferable to be miserable together than either happily divorced or “living in sin.” As fiction, it’s impossible for me to look at this as anything other than the story of two horrible adults getting what they deserve. As history, it’s another reminder that the “good ol’ days” were often incredibly rotten.

On the other hand, our son at least seemed to enjoy the amusing shock of the stepdad answering that telephone call at the commercial break…

The Twilight Zone 4.17 – Passage on the Lady Anne

Another oddball coincidence: a few days ago, when we watched “Printer’s Devil,” I told our son to be on the lookout for an actor he’d seen before, hoping that he’d identify Burgess Meredith. So with his brow furrowed and his aim to please, he asked, when the actor Charles Thompson came on screen, “Is that Batman’s butler, Alfred?” No, but he just had to wait a few days. I told him this evening that Alan Napier was in this episode instead. And then, wouldn’t you know it, the story’s about a ship completely booked with men and women in their seventies. Every new old-timer the young couple met, our son asked, “Is that Alfred?” Napier doesn’t show up until the final scene.

I’m afraid this one didn’t go over too well. I was intrigued by the strange goings-on aboard the Lady Anne, and why all the old codgers want this unhappy young couple, trying to save their marriage by way of two weeks on a ship without any of the man’s distractions, aboard. But our son was bored out of his skull, despite a great little halfway mark “cliffhanger” to lead into the commercial break. And Marie cannot bear to watch unhappy couples. I knew all the way through this one was like nails on a chalkboard for her. The opening scene, in which the unhappy couple (Joyce Van Patten and Lee Phillips) consult the most condescending travel agent in America, was particularly painful!

On the other hand, Marie often smiles patiently as I grumble good-naturedly about our son not quite recognizing actors, because, as she always reminds me, she never recognizes actors, either. But as soon as Wilfrid Hyde-White showed up, right after our son asked “Is that Alfred?” she asked “Is he Colonel Pickering from My Fair Lady?”

I had to check to make sure. I’ve never actually seen My Fair Lady. Sacrilege, I know.

That’s all from The Twilight Zone for now, but we’ll return with a look at season five in June. Stay tuned!

The Twilight Zone 4.9 – Printer’s Devil

Wow, our son didn’t like tonight’s episode of The Twilight Zone at all. Not a bit. I think he was most aggravated by this season’s version of the devil, played by Burgess Meredith, driving a car very, very fast down an old two-lane to bring his passenger to a grisly end. He shouted “He needs to slow down,” which I thought was a charming bit of concern. He does get invested in teevee enough to worry about the protagonists, and at the same time, he doesn’t like worrying.

I thought Charles Beaumont’s story was wickedly funny in places. Robert Sterling plays the beleaguered editor of a dying small-town newspaper and asks Meredith’s “Mr. Smith” whether he’s a creditor. Almost under his breath, the devil hastily replies “Not yet, anyhow.” I wasn’t thrilled with the ending. There’s a sense that this particular kind of evil just can’t be allowed to win when the mortal isn’t actually wicked, just desperate, and so it comes to a cute, but not really satisfying conclusion. That’s a shame, because in between the black comedy and a downright electric scene between Sterling and Meredith debating whether to sign over the human’s soul, this really did please me, but in the end, there wasn’t a twist, just a good winning over evil wrapup when the story was calling for something a shade more malevolent.

The Twilight Zone 3.12 – The Jungle

Tonight’s episode of The Twilight Zone gave us the opportunity to talk with our son about superstitions. That’s after we got him calmed down from this remarkably effective half-hour of horror. He was so frightened that he was shivering!

So this time, Charles Beaumont has written the script from one of his short stories. The great John Dehner – he played the villain in my all-time favorite episode of Maverick – plays an oil company executive who has paid careful attention to the superstitions and magic rites of a tribe in Africa who will be displaced by his company’s hydroelectric dam project. He’s a marked man and his fate is inevitable, but getting there is thirty minutes of quiet, growing terror as something in the silent, three-in-the-morning streets of New York follows him.

There’s a really terrific scene where Dehner’s colleagues scoff at his explanation of the curse that has been threatened, but he points out the hypocrisy in their use of rabbit’s feet and horoscopes and buildings that don’t have a thirteenth floor. “Why doesn’t it have a thirteenth floor,” asked our son. We mumbled we’d tell him later. When the episode was finished, he was too scared to really care.

The Twilight Zone 2.22 – Long Distance Call

Well, here’s a good, old-fashioned ghost story. This one was written by Charles Beaumont and William Idelson. We haven’t looked at any of Beaumont’s Zone stories so far. He wrote or co-wrote 22 episodes of the series and was just a decade into what should have been a long and amazing career before he died at the stupidly young age of 38 in 1967.

This is just an excellent little story. Young Bill Mumy, whom we’ll see in a couple more memorable Zone episodes, might be the main attraction, but I was really impressed by the actors playing his parents. Philip Abbott, who would star in The FBI for a decade, is actually hard to watch as he carries his grief so well. And when it seems like the impossible has happened and his son is talking to the much-missed grandma across the lines of a toy telephone… they do a great job selling the supernatural.

I did have half a mind that this might be too heavy an episode for our son, but he handled it really well. He does clarify that this was not scary, but “very, VERY creepy.” And he’s right. Pleasant dreams!