Saturday, July 3, 2021

Noirsville bonus - Twilight Zone ( TV Series (1959–1964)) The Noir Episodes (Part 1)

"There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone." (season one opening narration)

Those of us that were of a certain age in 1959 were entertained by the eerie opening monologue above, illustrated with "Dali-esque" surreal landscapes that were also accompanied by music of Bernard Hermann. I was enthralled. I was also at roughly the same time first introduced to the power of the visual Noir stylistics, not only from the original films of what we now consider Noir's Classic Hollywood Era but the same Noir style in a number of the episodes of the Twilight Zone that closely reflected and built upon the various non Crime genre tangents that Noir exploited in film during the lead up to the 1959-1968 Transitional Noir Era. 

Noir was transitioning/morphing into Neo Noir. With the end of studio "B" film production and the weakening of the Motion Picture Production Code, Classic Noir unraveled. Crime stories were siphoning off to TV.  Poverty Row, Independent, and other low budget film creators were taking more artistic liberties, and making films targeting certain demographics. So those Film Noir that went too far over the line depicting violence started getting classified as Horror, Thriller (even though they were just say, showing the effects of a gunshot wound, or dealing with weird or kinky serial killers, maniacs, and psychotics, etc.). Hitchcock's Psycho (1960) notoriously opened that tangent.

Noir-ish films that delved into the fantastic, were labeled Sci-Fi and Fantasy. Those films that went too far depicting sex, drugs, addictions, torture, juvenile delinquency, etc., in story lines and situations were now being lumped into, or classed as various Exploitation flicks, (even though they are relatively tame comparably to today's films). The noir-ish films that dealt with everything else, except Crime, concerning the human condition were labeled Dramas and Suspense. Those that tried new techniques, lenses, etc., were labeled Experimental films.

A few episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955–1962) and more in The Twilight Zone (1959-1964) represented this Transitional Noir Era with it's themes and visuals on television, with almost all the variations listed above except notably sex and violence, and probably reaching far more people than the original (one or two weeks in a theater and then gone) films ever did. Us "Twilight Zone-ers," so to speak, were well schooled in all the possibilities that Noir offered well before the current Film Noir nostalgia fad.

Frustrated by seeing his scripts divested of political statements and ethnic identities (and having a reference to the Chrysler Building removed from a script sponsored by Ford), Serling decided the only way to avoid such artistic interference was to create his own show. In an interview with Mike Wallace, he said, "I don't want to fight anymore. I don't want to have to battle sponsors and agencies. I don't want to have to push for something that I want and have to settle for second best. I don't want to have to compromise all the time, which in essence is what a television writer does if he wants to put on controversial themes."[Contemporary Authors Online, Gale. 2010.

Serling submitted "The Time Element" to CBS, intending it to be a pilot for his new weekly show, The Twilight Zone. Instead, CBS used the science fiction script for a new show produced by Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball, Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse, in 1958. The story concerns a man who has vivid nightmares of the attack on Pearl Harbor. The man goes to a psychiatrist and, after the session, the twist ending (a device which Serling became known for) reveals the "patient" had died at Pearl Harbor, and the psychiatrist was the one actually having the vivid dreams.[3] The episode received so much positive fan response that CBS agreed to let Serling go ahead with his pilot for The Twilight Zone.[Contemporary Authors Online, Gale. 2010.]

Many episodes of The Twilight Zone had Classic Noir directors, John Brahm twelve Twilight Zone episodes directed The Locket, Hangover Square, and The Lodger, Joseph M. Newman four episodes directed 711 Ocean Drive, The Human Jungle, Dangerous Crossing, Robert Florey three episodes directed The Face Behind the MaskDanger Signal, and The Crooked Way, Mitchell Leisen three episodes directed No Man of Her Own, Robert Parrish three episodes directed The Mob, and Cry Danger), Stuart Rosenberg three episodes directed (Murder, Inc.), Robert Stevens two episodes directed (The Big Caper), Christian Nyby two episodes, directed SciFi Noir The Thing from Another World), Don Siegel two episodes directed The Verdict, The Big Steal, Private Hell 36, Riot in Cell Block 11, The Lineup, other Noir directors Ralph Nelson (Transitional Noir Once a Thief), Ida Lupino (The Hitch-Hiker) and Jacques Tourneur (Out of the Past, The Leopard Man, I Walked with a Zombie and Cat People) each directed one episode.

Many episodes of The Twilight Zone starred Noir vet actors, who nicely provide a cinematic memory links to not only Noir, but also to Transitional Noir, and future Neo Noir. Vaugh Taylor appeared in five episodes, Burgess Meredith appeared in four episodes, Richard Conte, Ida Lupino, Steve Cochran, Dana Andrews, Richard Basehart, Dan Duryea, Ann Blyth, Lee Marvin, Robert Cummings, Howard Duff, Ted de Corsia, Franchot Tone, Dane Clark, Neville Brand, Jack Elam, Richard Erdman, Jay Adler, Percy Helton, Earl Holliman, Inger Stevens, James Gregory, Anne Francis, Joe Mantell, John Hoyt, Simon Oakland, John McGiver, Martin Landau, Martin Balsam, Thomas Gomez, Jack Warden, Cecil Kellaway, Claude Akins, Ross Martin, Jack Weston, Ivan Dixon, Jesse White, Arlene Martel, Warren Oates, Rod Taylor, Luther Adler, John Carradine, Fred Clark, John McIntire, Keenan Wynn, Jack Carson, Peter Falk, Dean Jagger, Gary Merrill, Agnes Moorehead, Barbara Nichols, Dean Stockwell, Dennis Weaver, Theodore Bikel, Arthur Hunnicutt, Joseph Wiseman, Barbara Baxley, Dennis Hopper, Mickey Rooney, Telly Savalas, James Whitmore, Robert Keith, Nehemiah Persoff, Gig Young, Vera Miles, Everett Sloane, Charles Bronson, Cloris Leachman, Frank Silvera, Murray Hamilton, Martin Milner, Maxine Cooper, R.G. Armstrong, Lee Van Cleef,  Dub Taylor, Beverly Garland, and Seymore Cassel, there are probably a few more that I've missed.

Bernard Herrmann composed season one's moody title theme. Other music contributors for the original television show are Jerry Goldsmith, Leonard Rosenman, Nathan Scott, Fred Steiner, Nathan Van Cleave, and Franz Waxman. Avant Guard composer Marius Constant wrote the well-known theme introduced in the second season.

All of the episodes also contain another Noir trope, that of the voice over narration which was provided by Rod Serling 

Season One, Episode 1 - aired 2 Oct. 1959

Where Is Everybody?
Directed by Robert Stevens (The Big Caper (1957)). Written by Rod Serling. Music by Bernard Herrmann (many Noir scores) and Cinematography by Joseph LaShelle (Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950), Storm Fear (1955), Kiss Me, Stupid (1964)).

The episode stars noir and neo noir vets Earl Holliman (The Big Combo (1955), I Died a Thousand Times (1955), as Mike Ferris, and James Gregory (The Naked City (1948), Nightfall (1956), The Big Caper (1957), The Manchurian Candidate (1962), Twilight of Honor (1963)) as Air Force General also Paul Langton as the Doctor.

Mike Ferris finds himself alone wandering down an old country road. He comes to a roadside café. He hears Jazz. Mike walks in the juke box is blaring, coffee is perking over a burner on the stove. Mike calls out an order for ha. and eggs, but the place is deserted, there is nobody around. 

 Earl Holliman as Mike Ferris

He goes through the kitchen and out the back door. He yells out hoping the owner is nearby. No one answers.

Mike continues down a road and into the small town called Oakwood. Mike has amnesia he doesn't even know his name, who he is, or where he is.  

He is looking for people. At each possibility of human contact Mikes hopes are dashed and his anxiety levels rise. Mike becomes your de facto alienated and obsessed Classic Noir character in this great visually stylistic Sci Fi Noir.


James Gregory center

I have read that it was this episode that sold the anthology series to the sponsors. It was a gamble a mash up of Noir, Fantasy, SciFi, and the Supernatural. 

Supernatural, Sci-Fi and Fantasy based Noir have been around since the beginning of the Classic Film Noir Era. Decoy (1946) used the exact same plot point, revival of a gas chamber executed con, albeit minus the indestructible angle.  Other films like Cat People (1942), The Leopard Man (1943) I Walked with a Zombie (1943),  Alias Nick Beal (1949), Repeat Performance (1947), The Amazing Mr. X (1948), Fear in the Night (1947), The Night Has a Thousand Eyes (1948), The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), Nightmare (1956), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), all covered roughly the same Supernatural, Sci-Fi and Fantasy territory, there are probably a few more.

Season One, Episode 2 - aired 9 Oct. 1959 
One for the Angels

Directed by Robert Parrish (Cry Danger (1951), The Mob (1951)), Written by Rod Serling. Cinematography was by George T. Clemens.

Ed Wynn as Lou Bookman

Murray Hamilton as Mr. Death

The episode stars Ed Wynn as Lou Bookman and Murray Hamilton as Mr. Death

A kindly old street vender Lou, loved by all the kids on his block is visited by Death and told that his time is up at midnight. Death tells him to get his priorities in order. Lou stalls Death by asking to at  least let him fulfill his life long dream and that dream is to make one great pitch, a "pitch for the ages." Death agrees but is chagrinned when Lou tells him that he is in no hurry to do so.

When Maggie, one of the blocks kids gets hit by a truck Lou finds out that since he outwitted Death, Death will now claim a substitute to depart this Earth at 12:00 midnight. This one is barely a Café au lait Noir.

Season 1, Episode 5 airdate 30 Oct. 1959 
Walking Distance

Directed by Robert Stevens (The Big Caper (1957)). Written by Rod Serling. Music by Bernard Herrmann. Cinematography was by George T. Clemens.

Gig Young as as Martin Sloan

Frank Overton as Robert Sloan

Starring Gig Young as as Martin Sloan, Frank Overton as Robert Sloan, Irene Tedrow as Mrs. Sloan, 
Michael Montgomery as as Young Marty and Ron Howard.

Martin Sloan, a man escaping the present, pulls off a highway at a service station to get a tune up for his sportscar and finds himself on the outskirts of his highway bypassed, old home town. 

A sign points the way. It's just a mile - walking distance. We watch in the reflection of the cigarette machine mirror as Martin decides to walk back home. But who is actually walking Martin, or Through the looking glass Martin?

Basically, Martin finds that he actually can go home again but hone is now Noirsville and of course he is seriously out of place. 

 Ron Howard

A very poignant story with Some excellent Noir cinematography in this one.

Season 1, Episode 10 airdate 4 Dec. 1959 
Judgment Night

Directed by John Brahm (The LocketHangover Square, and The Lodger). Written by Rod Serling. cinematography by George T. Clemens. Music by Bernard Hermann.

Nehemiah Persoff as Carl Lanser

The episode stars Nehemiah Persoff as Carl Lanser, Deirdre Owens as Barbara Stanley 
Patrick Macnee as First Officer McLeod, Ben Wright as Captain Wilbur, Leslie Bradley as  Major Devereaux, Kendrick Huxham as Bartender and James Franciscus as Lt. Mueller.

Carl Lanser is standing at the rail of a cargo ship on a foggy night in the North Atlantic. It's 1942. He's alienated from the rest of the passengers and crew. He's anxious. Obsessed with the thought that something bad is going to happen, but he doesn't at first quite know what. Some excellent Noir cinematography in this one also. 

Season 1, Episode 11 air date 11 Dec. 1959 
And When the Sky Was Opened 

Directed by Douglas Heyes, written by Rod Serling and based on a short story by Richard Matheson.

The episode stars Rod Taylor as Lieutenant Colonel Clegg Forbes, Jim Hutton as Major William Gart Charles Aidman as Colonel Ed Harrington, Maxine Cooper as Amy and Paul Bryar as the Bartender.

Rod Taylor as Lieutenant Colonel Clegg Forbes

Jim Hutton as Major William Gart

Charles Aidman as Colonel Ed Harrington

Three astronauts crash land after a return from an experiential test flight of a rocket plane. At one point during their mission they completely disappeared from the tracking devices. 

As each man recovers but strange things begin to happen to their memories.

Maxine Cooper as Amy 

Another just barely a Café au lait Noir.

Season 1, Episode 12 airdate 25 Dec. 1959 
What You Need
Directed by Alvin Ganzer, Teleplay written by Rod Serling and based on the story by Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore.

Steve Cochran as Fred Renard

Ernest Truex as Pedott

Arlene (Sax) Martel as the Girl in Bar

Read Morgan as Lefty

The episode stars Steve Cochran as Fred Renard, Ernest Truex as Pedott, Read Morgan as Lefty, Arlene Martel as the Girl in Bar (as Arline Sax) and William Edmonson as the Bartender.

A weird street vendor travels around with a suitcase of full of seemingly useless inconsequential  ephemera. As he makes the rounds of the local bars he approaches only certain people and gets some type of premonition about each of their individuals needs. He gives those people exactly what they need.

tail fins

Some great Noir-ish sequences in this episode.

To Be Continued....

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