The Twilight Zone 3.7 – The Grave

Montgomery Pittman’s “The Grave” is absolutely packed with top-shelf acting talent. Shown above, that’s Lee Marvin, Stafford Repp, and Strother Martin. Lee Van Cleef and James Best are on the other side of the room.

With that many good actors, it’s easy to overlook the nothing of a story. Like some of the other, lesser Zone installments that we’ve watched, this is just a three-page comic book ghost story. Our son thought it was okay. I wouldn’t have even thought it was as good as that had Lee Marvin not been growling and drawing his gun so fast that he didn’t look human.

The Twilight Zone 2.7 – Nick of Time

We’re stepping back into The Twilight Zone for a little while. I’ve picked eleven stories from the program’s second season that sound promising. There are a couple that we’re going to watch that I remember fondly. Others I don’t know, but they have memorable actors in them. I picked Richard Matheson’s “Nick of Time” because William Shatner is in it. I never saw this one before, but publicity photos from the production, thanks, perhaps, to Shatner’s later celebrity, are among the most common Zone pictures out there.

Shatner and Patricia Breslin play newlyweds whose car breaks down in a small Ohio city. While waiting for a part to come in from Dayton, they kill time in the local Busy Bee Cafe, trying to enjoy some lousy sandwiches and iced coffee. Shatner’s character is deeply superstitious, and he quickly becomes obsessed with a penny-per-question fortune teller on their table. It’s part of the napkin-holder, a cute and clever way for restaurants to make an extra buck or two a day.

You could imagine a later production doing the same sort of script with a Magic 8-ball. The fortune telling machine could be viewed as stunningly accurate, leading to one very surprising moment and one very funny one involving Stafford Repp, who plays the town mechanic… or are they just coincidences? Shatner coughs up twenty-odd cents, stunned by its power. Breslin urges him to leave it alone and write his own fortune.

Our son really enjoyed this one, more than most Zone stories, and so did I. It’s a simple and uncomplicated episode with an ethical question at its core that viewers of any age can grasp. I liked the straightforward script and the performances. Breslin is very good and Shatner is even better. The Twilight Zone Wiki noted that Matheson had hoped that Breslin would have been available to play Shatner’s character’s wife in the even more famous fifth season story “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” but she wasn’t, and Christine White played that role instead. What a missed opportunity!

Batman ’66 Meets Steed and Mrs. Peel # 1

A quick little break from the routine to note that, for fans of the sort of shows we watch here – and are certainly going to watch here, later on down the line – DC Comics and Boom Studios have a new funnybook out this week that you may enjoy. Three years ago, DC Comics revived the Adam West Batman continuity in a series written by Jeff Parker called Batman ’66. I’ve only seen some of these, but they’re pretty cute, and I like the way that Parker threads together various neat little bits between the episodes, like establishing that the Mad Hatter and the Clock King are brothers. I also understand that they’ve introduced “1966” versions of classic villains who never appeared on the program, or were actually created decades later.

As an aside to this series, they’ve been doing some team-up books, in which the characters from other 1960s media properties get a long story working with our heroes, as they might have done on TV if the stars had lined up right. Each of these storylines is long enough to (presumably) get a collected book edition. In 2014, Kevin Smith wrote Batman ’66 Meets the Green Hornet, which simply can’t be any worse than the one they really did on TV, and last year, Parker wrote Batman ’66 Meets The Man From UNCLE, which has not yet been collected.

This year’s team-up is Batman ’66 Meets Steed and Mrs. Peel – you know, the proper Avengers – which is written by Ian Edginton. I’m very familiar with Edginton’s many series for 2000 AD, the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic, like Scarlet Traces, Brass Sun, and Ampney Crucis Investigates. He’s a heck of a good writer, and, teamed with Matthew Dow Smith on art duties and a cover by Michael Allred, he’s put together a good little opening story.

I wasn’t planning to buy this in single issue form (there will be six of them), but, since we’ve moved to Chattanooga, we’ve been looking for a good comic shop. Daniel and I popped into one today, I saw it on the shelf, and decided that I would read it to him. It worked really well on the reading aloud front – it turns out I do a pretty good Stafford Repp, but my Patrick Macnee is appalling – but it also works really well as a story that somebody unfamiliar with The Avengers might enjoy. Catwoman doesn’t need an introduction, but the book’s co-stars, and some characters from their show, do. He really enjoyed it, although he wasn’t pleased that there will be such a long wait to see what will happen next!

Incidentally, it’s called “Steed and Mrs. Peel” because, of course, Marvel has the trademark for any funnybooks called Avengers. Boom Studios has the current comic book rights because back in 1990, writers Grant Morrison, Emma Caulfield, and artist Ian Gibson teamed up for a comic mini-series that was published by Acme/Eclipse and which was out of print for many years before Boom correctly decided that Morrison’s many fans might like to have a copy for their shelves and bought the rights. I’m glad to see that Boom is doing something else with that license, even if the potential audience for a Steed and Mrs. Peel ongoing is probably quite small.

If you’d like to see what we thought of the TV Batman, click here and settle in for a spell, because they made a lot of those episodes. If you’d like to see what we’ll think of the TV Avengers, subscribe and be patient. Daniel’s a little young for it yet.