Horror on TV: The Twilight Zone 3.24 “To Serve Man” (dir by Richard L. Bare)


“It’s a cookbook!”

During the month of October, we like to share classic episodes of horror-themed television.  That was easier to do when we first started doing our annual October horrorthon here at the Shattered Lens because every single episode of the original, black-and-white Twilight Zone was available on YouTube.  Sadly, that’s no longer the case.  In fact, there is exactly one episode of the original Twilight Zone on YouTube.

Fortunately, that episode is a classic.  In 1962’s To Serve Man, an alien (Richard Kiel) comes to Earth and invites people to return to his home planet with him.  He leaves behind a book.  When everyone learns that the title of the book is To Serve Man, they excitedly decide that the book must be an instruction manual on how to help mankind.  The truth, as we learn in the episode’s classic finale, is something a little bit different.

Here’s the episode!  Watch it before YouTube yanks it down.

(This episode originally aired on October 2nd, 1962.  It was directed by Richard L. Bare from a script by Rod Serling.  It was based on a short story by Damon Knight.)

Enjoy!

Horror on TV: The Twilight Zone 3.24 “To Serve Man” (dir by Richard L. Bare)


“It’s a cookbook!”

During the month of October, we like to share classic episodes of horror-themed television.  That was easier to do when we first started doing our annual October horrorthon here at the Shattered Lens because every single episode of the original, black-and-white Twilight Zone was available on YouTube.  Sadly, that’s no longer the case.  In fact, there is exactly one episode of the original Twilight Zone on YouTube.

Fortunately, that episode is a classic.  In 1962’s To Serve Man, an alien (Richard Kiel) comes to Earth and invites people to return to his home planet with him.  He leaves behind a book.  When everyone learns that the title of the book is To Serve Man, they excitedly decide that the book must be an instruction manual on how to help mankind.  The truth, as we learn in the episode’s classic finale, is something a little bit different.

Here’s the episode!  Watch it before YouTube yanks it down.

(This episode originally aired on October 2nd, 1962.  It was directed by Richard L. Bare from a script by Rod Serling.  It was based on a short story by Damon Knight.)

Enjoy!

 

Horror on TV: The Twilight Zone 3.24 “To Serve Man”


On this day, 58 years ago, one of the most influential shows in the history of television, The Twilight Zone, premiered on CBS.  Created by Rod Serling, this anthology show not only featured some of the best actors and writers in the business but it also used tales of the unexpected to address some of the most pressing issues of the day.  (Many, if not all, of those issues remain relevant today.)  The Twilight Zone inspired a countless number of future filmmakers and writers and it remains popular today.  The annual New Year’s Eve and 4th of July marathons on SyFy continue to delight viewers both new and old.

When we first started doing our annual October horrorthon here at the Shattered Lens, every single episode of the original, black-and-white Twilight Zone was available on YouTube.  Sadly, that’s no longer the case.  As I sit here writing this, while several episodes from the show’s later (and largely unsuccessful) revivals have been uploaded,  there is exactly one episode of the original Twilight Zone on YouTube.

Fortunately, that episode is a classic.  In 1962’s To Serve Man, an alien (Richard Kiel) comes to Earth and invites people to return to his home planet with him.  He leaves behind a book.  When everyone learns that the title of the book is To Serve Man, they excitedly decide that the book must be an instruction manual on how to help mankind.  The truth, as we learn in the episode’s classic finale, is something a little bit different.

Here’s the episode!  Watch it before YouTube yanks it down.

Enjoy!

Horror on TV: The Twilight Zone 3.24 “To Serve Man”


You know what?

I’ve spent this October irritated by the lack of episodes of the Twilight Zone on YouTube.  I mean, I understand the importance of copyright laws and everything but seriously, how can you take away the Twilight Zone in October!?

However, I finally managed to find one — and exactly one — episode of The Twilight Zone on YouTube.  And it’s a classic!  (And who knows how long it’ll be available so don’t hold off on watching it!)  Here is the classic “To Serve Man” episode of The Twilight Zone!

Enjoy and bon appetit!

 

The Fabulous Forties #40: Smash-Up, The Story of a Woman (dir by Stuart Heisler)


Smash-Up_(1947)

The 39th film in the Fabulous Forties box set was 1947’s Smash-Up, the Story of a Woman.  I have to say it was a little bit strange going from watching the hilarious and life-affirming My Man Godfrey to watching the very serious and rather depressing Smash-Up.

Smash-Up is pure, tear-jerking Hollywood melodrama.  When the film starts, Angie Evans (Susan Hayward) is in a hospital, with her face totally covered in bandages.  Just by looking at her, we already know that her story is not going to be a happy one.

Flash back time!  Angie was a nightclub singer and a pretty good one at that.  The audiences loved her and she loved performing but she loved one thing more.  (See how overwrought my prose was there?  That’s a reflection of Smash-Up’s style.)  She loved Ken Conway (Lee Bowman, who may be related to me but probably isn’t).  Ken was a singer himself, though he was nowhere near as successful as Angie.  However, after Ken and Angie married, Angie put her career on hold while Ken went on to become a huge success.

Angie was already a drinker before she met Ken.  Having a few drinks before going out on stage helped to calm her nerves.  It helped her to relax and become the performer that the audiences loved.  However, once Ken became a star and Angie found herself continually alone in their home, she started to drink because it was the only thing that made her happy.  Whenever she started to regret giving up her career, she drank.  When she was worried that Ken was having an affair with his secretary (Marsha Hunt), Angie drank.  Ken’s best friend and songwriter, Steve (Eddie Albert), could see that Angie was losing control.  However, Ken refused to accept that his wife had a drinking problem.  Accepting that Angie was drinking to be happy would mean accepting that she wasn’t happy in the first place.

Trapped in the middle of all this was their daughter, Angel (Sharyn Payne).  When Ken, finally admitting that his wife could not control her drinking, demanded custody of Angel, Angie was determined to get back her daughter.

But, even though she wanted to, Angie could not stop drinking.  Or smoking.  And the smoking, the drinking, and the kidnapping did not make for a particularly good combination.

According to Wikipedia, Smash-Up was a failure at the box office and I can actually see why.  1940s American cinema can basically be divided between the earnest, patriotic, and optimistic films that were released during World War II and the dark and pessimistic films that came out after the war ended and the world realized just how evil and dangerous human beings could be.  Smash-Up is one of those dark films.  It’s not a happy film, nor is it at all subtle.  In fact, as much as I love a good melodrama, Smash-Up occasionally seems like a bit much.  Absolutely every bad thing that could happen does happen and it’s typical of the approach of Hollywood in the 40s that, for all the trouble Angie suffers as a result of her drinking, the film still has to find an excuse to send her to hospital with her face in bandages.  The film is often very empathetic in its treatment of Angie but, in the 1940s, mistakes still had to be punished.

Fortunately, Susan Hayward gives a great performance in the role of Angie, capturing the aching sadness that leads her to drink in the first place.  She saves the entire film and, quite justifiably, she received a nomination for best actress for her performance here.  She didn’t win but she still made Smash-Up worth seeing.

One Toke Over the Line: REEFER MADNESS (G & H Productions 1936)


cracked rear viewer

reef1

I’m writing this post while battling a nasty case of the flu, so it’s probably going to be a short one. That’s okay though, because really, what can I say about REEFER MADNESS? It’s terrible filmmaking, and dull as dishwater. There are plot holes so wide you could drive a semi through them. This little exploitation number would’ve been long forgotten after making the rounds on the grindhouse and roadshow circuits, until it was rediscovered by the stoner crowd in the 70’s and turned into an ironic midnight cult movie.

reef2

The movie itself finds stodgy Dr. Carroll lecturing the local School-Parent Group to help “stamp out this frightful assassin of youth” marijuana. He recounts what happened when some kids got hooked on the stuff. Seems this gang of drug pushers were out to corrupt American youth by turning them on at an apartment run by no-goods Mae and Jack. Sweet Mary’s brother…

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Horror on TV: Twilight Zone 3.24 “To Serve Man”


TheTwilightZoneLogo


I shared this episode of The Twilight Zone two years ago for Halloween but the YouTube video has since been taken down. So, here it is again!


There’s a lot I could say about To Serve Man but really, all that needs to be acknowledged is that it’s a classic and features one of the best endings ever.


To Serve Man was written by Rod Serling and directed by Richard L. Bare. It originally aired on March 2nd, 1962.


Bon appetit!


Shattered Politics #18: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (dir by John Ford)


The_Man_Who_Shot_Liberty_Valance“When the legend become fact, print the legend.” — Maxwell Scott (Carleton Young) in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)

Though I understand and respect their importance in the history of both American and Italian cinema, I have never really been a huge fan of westerns.  Maybe its all the testosterone (“A man’s got to do what a man’s got to do…”) or maybe it’s all the dust but westerns have just never really been my thing.

However, I will always make an exception for The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, which is not just a great western but a great film period.

But you already knew that.  It’s a little bit intimidating to review a film that everyone already knows is great.  I even opened this review with the exact same quote that everyone uses to open their reviews of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.  To a certain extent, I feel like I should have found a quote that everyone hasn’t already heard a thousand times but then again, it’s a great quote from a great film and sometimes, there’s nothing wrong with agreeing with the critical consensus.

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance opens with a train stopping in the small western town of Shinbone.  The residents of the town — including newspaper editor Maxwell Scott (Carleton Young) — are shocked when Sen. Rance Stoddard (James Stewart) and his wife Hallie (Vera Miles) get off the train.  Sen. Stoddard is considered to be a front-runner to become the next Vice President of the United States.  Scott is even more shocked to discover why the Stoddards are in town.  They’ve come to Shinbone to attend the funeral of an obscure rancher named Tom Doniphon (played, in flashback, by John Wayne).

Sitting in the funeral home with Doniphon’s coffin (and having reprimanded the local mortician for attempting to steal Tom’s boots), Rance tells Scott why he’s come to pay respect to Tom Doniphon.  We see, in flashback, how Rance first came to Shinbone 25 years ago, an idealistic lawyer who — unlike most of the men in the west — refused to carry a gun.  We see how Rance was robbed and assaulted by local outlaw Liberty Valance (a wonderfully intimidating and bullying Lee Marvin), we discover how Rance first met Hallie while working as a dishwasher and how he eventually taught her how to read, and we also see how he first met Tom Doniphon, the only man in town strong enough to intimidate Liberty Valance.

At first, Rance and Doniphon had an uneasy friendship, epitomized by the condescending way Doniphon would call Rance “pilgrim.”  Doniphon was in love with Hallie and, when he attempted to teach Rance how to defend himself, he was largely did so for Hallie.  Rance, meanwhile, was determined to bring law and society to the west.

And, eventually, Rance did just that.  When Shinbone elected two delegates to the statehood convention in the territory’s capitol, Rance attempted to nominate Doniphon for the position but Doniphon refused it and nominated Rance instead, explaining that Rance understood “the law.”  When Liberty Valance attempted to claim the other delegate spot, Rance and Doniphon worked together to make sure that it instead went to newspaper editor Dutton Peabody (Edmond O’Brien).  And when Liberty Valance attempted to gun Rance down in the street, Rance shot him.

Or did he?

That’s the question that’s at the heart of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.  However, as a film, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is far less interested in gunfights than it is in politics.  Perhaps the most important scene in the film is not when Rance and Liberty meet out on that dark street.  Instead, it’s the scene at the statehood convention where the reformers (represented by Rance) and the cattlemen (represented by John Carradine) battle over who will be the territory’s delegate to Washington.  Between John Carradine orating, the horses riding in and out of the hall, Edmond O’Brien drinking, James Stewart looking humble, and John Wayne glowering in the background, this is one of the best political scenes ever put on film.

When Rance first arrives in the west, there is no political system in place.  With the exception of the ineffectual town marshal (Andy Devine), there is no law.  The peace is kept by men like Tom Doniphon and, oddly enough, by Liberty Valance as well.  (Whether he realizes it or not, Shinbone’s fear of Liberty has caused the town to form into a community.)  What little official law there is doesn’t matter because the majority of the Shinbone’s citizens can’t read.

When Rance arrives, he brings both education and the law.  He makes Shinbone into a town that no longer needs Liberty Valance but, at the same time, it no longer need Tom Doniphon either.  Hence, it’s Rance Stoddard who goes from dishwasher to U.S. Senator while Tom Doniphon dies forgotten.  Rance represents progress and unfortunately, progress often means losing the good along with the bad things of the past.

(It’s no coincidence that when Rance and Hallie return to Shinbone, the first person that they see is the former town marshal, who no longer wears a star and who, we’re told, hasn’t for years.  Time has passed by.)

It’s a bittersweet and beautiful film, one that features four great performances from Stewart, Wayne, Marvin, and Vera Miles.  Personally, I like to think that maybe Sen. Stoddard had a daughter who married a man named Smith and maybe they had a son named Jefferson who later made his way to the Senate as well.

It would be fitting.

Shattered Politics #14: The Last Hurrah (dir by John Ford)


Last_Hurrah

Down here in Dallas, we have a county commissioner named John Wiley Price.  Even if you don’t live in Texas, you might have heard about him.  A few years ago, Price stormed out of a commissioners meeting while shouting, “All of you are white!  Go the Hell!”  It was a popular YouTube video for a while and attracted all of the usual type of comments that you see online.  It even made the national news.

Nobody down here in Dallas was surprised by Price’s outburst.  To us, that was just John Wiley being John Wiley.  For that matter, nobody was particularly surprised when it was reported that he was being investigated by the FBI.  Everyone always took it for granted that John Wiley Price was taking bribes and receiving kickbacks.  That’s just the way that things are done down here in Dallas, by politicians both white and black.  (Of course, most of the white politicians who do it don’t get publicly investigated by the FBI.)

Now, if you ask the majority of people in Dallas county what they think about John Wiley Price and they’ll probably say something negative.  I’ll admit that I would probably be among them.  But the thing is — John Wiley Price’s constituents love him.  John Wiley Price was first elected to the commissioner’s court before I was even born and, as long as he’s on the ballot, he will be reelected.  Even if Price is convicted on corruption charges, he will still be reelected.

I can still remember the night that it was announced that John Wiley Price was on the verge of being arrested by the FBI.  All across his district, emergency meetings were held in churches and ministers stood behind the pulpit and, while the TV cameras rolled, they called upon everyone to pray for John Wiley Price.  In Price’s district, he’s known as “our man downtown,” the idea being that John Wiley Price is standing up to the rich and white Dallas establishment and, if he makes some money for himself in the process, so be it.  As long as he’s doing right for the people who elected him, who cares how he does it?

And, as much as we may want to judge the John Wiley Prices of the world, the fact that of the matter is that he’s a part of a long American political tradition.  That political tradition is also the driving force behind today’s final entry in Shattered Politics.

First released in 1958 and directed by John Ford, The Last Hurrah tells the story of Frank Skeffington (Spencer Tracy), the mayor of an unnamed city in New England that’s obviously meant to be Boston.  Skeffington is the flamboyant head of a large and powerful (but, as the film makes clear, aging) Irish-American political machine.  He’s preparing to run for his fifth term for mayor, a campaign that he says will be his last.

Whether Frank Skeffington is a good mayor or not depends on who you ask.  The poor and the disenfranchised love him.  Skeffington, after all, is the son of Irish immigrants.  He was born poor.  His mother worked as a maid and was even fired by a member of the wealthy and influential Force family.  They know that Skeffington has had to cut corners and that he’s gone out of his way to reward his cronies but they also know that Skeffington is on their side.  Though the phrase is never used in the film, Skeffington is “their man downtown.”

Meanwhile, the wealthy and the upper class see Frank Skeffington as being a crook, a man who has run a corrupt administration and who uses class warfare to keep the city divided against itself and to make himself and his cronies rich.  Newspaper editor Amos Force (John Carradine) has thrown his considerable influence between Skeffington’s opponent, a wealthy but dull man named Kevin McCluskey.

Reporter Adam Caulfield (Jeffrey Hunter) is in an interesting position.  On the one hand, he is Skeffington’s nephew.  On the other hand, as a journalist, he works for Amos Force.  Skeffington invites Adam to follow and record his final campaign for posterity.

It’s interesting to compare The Last Hurrah to films like The Boss or All The King’s Men.  Whereas those two films came down squarely on the sides of the reformers, The Last Hurrah is firmly on the side of Frank Skeffington.  It presents Skeffington as being a sentimental figure, the type of old-fashioned, populist politician who won office by going out and meeting the people face-to-face and personally giving them a reason to vote for him.  As Skeffington himself points out, he’s the type of politician that will soon be made obsolete by television and modern campaigning.

And it’s impossible not to enjoy The Last Hurrah‘s refusal to pass judgment on its lead character.  It helps, of course, that Spencer Tracy plays Skeffington with a twinkle in his eye while all of his opponents are played by villainous and aristocratic character actors like John Carradine and Basil Rathbone.  Yes, the film says, Skeffington may have been corrupt but at least he wasn’t boring!

Finally, I enjoyed the film because all of the “good” guys were Irish Catholic and all of the bad guys most definitely were not.

So, with that last hurrah, we conclude Shattered Politics for today.  We’ll be back tomorrow, when we’ll start to get into the 1960s.

Sláinte!