by Patricia Grandjean
May 4, 2011
09:01 AMBox Office
My "Twilight" Chronicles—No, not THAT "Twilight"
(page 6 of 7)
STICK A FORK IN 'EM, THEY'RE DONE
1. "What's in the Box." Answer: A freaking mess, but a good example of how dire things too often got in TZ's fifth and final season episodes—hence my bafflement regarding the SyFy network's insistence on playing seemingly all of them. Starring William Demarest and Joan Blondell as an aging couple (and you could only get screechier at that time by pairing Ernest Borgnine and Ethel Merman) whose TV is serviced by a repairman (Sterling Holloway) with peculiar powers, this ep pretty much telegraphs its own ending in the first 10 minutes—not that you're likely to care, anyway.
2. "The Invaders." Yes, I know; groundbreaking episode visually (no dialogue till the very end), fabulously twisted climax. And it's ruined for me by the fact that I can't stand watching Agnes Moorehead grunt, squint, grimace and cackle her way through it one more time. She's so unsympathetic that it's easy to forget she's supposedly the "good" rural frontierswoman fighting off an alien menace. (But then, to be frank, I can't recall finding Moorehead appealing in anything—not "Bewitched," nor Citizen Kane, nor even Pollyanna.)
3. "Eye of the Beholder." I only hope a porcine visage ages better than this groaner. After countless viewings, I still can't figure out why such an efficiently conformist, proto-fascist society—obviously set years in the future (uh-huh)—is so poor at plastic surgery that it can't fashion a simple, successful prosthetic snout for poor, desperate Janet Tyler after 11 tries. Worse yet, I still can't watch the ending without thinking, "Yee-doggies, it's Elly May!" That's not really Donna Douglas's fault (she appeared in "Beholder" before "The Beverly Hillbillies" debuted), more the curse of my own boomer nostalgia.
4. "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street." You could call this the TZ equivalent of Mom, the flag and apple pie. It's been part of the cable industry's "Cable in the Classroom" initiative to teach kids about the dangers of prejudice and hysteria, having itself been written as a response to the Red Scare of the 1940s and '50s. There's no doubt that it's beautifully structured and performed—I always wonder if this was what got Jack Weston forever typecast as a pain in the tuches, he's so good at it—and that makes the obviousness of it somewhat less annoying. Somewhat. When trying to communicate with youngsters I suppose a little ham-fistedness is a good thing; unfortunately it's still insulting to adults.
5. "Deaths-Head Revisited." As in the case of "Monsters," for some, this is Serling at his best; certainly it represents him at his most preachily angry. Inspired by the then-ongoing trial of Nazi war criminal Adolph Eichmann, it centers around a confrontation between the ghosts of Dachau inmates (particularly the wonderful Joseph Schildkraut) and the sadistic SS captain who ran the camp (Oscar Beregi Jr.), who smugly returns to the ruins to reminisce about his glory days. We're much more removed from the horrors of World War II than we were in 1961, and in this era of Holocaust denial, Serling's blistering coda to the ep is more powerful than ever. Once again, I just prefer when he leaves the message open to interpretation rather than pushing so hard to sell it.