Friday, September 17, 2021

The Twilight Zone ( TV Series (1959–1964)) -- The Noir Episodes (part 4)

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 Mask, Danger 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.

This list is not a greatest hits list of Twilight Zone episodes. Many other episodes of Twilight Zone do have noir-ish sequences but not enough of them to tip Noir for me.

Episode 29 was the last Noir episode of Season 2....

Season 2, Episode 29 air date June 2. 1961 

The Obsolete Man

Highly Stylistic Noir

Directed by Elliot Silverstein Written by Rod Serling

Starring Burgess Meredith (Street of Chance (1942), Jigsaw (1949)), as Romney Wordsworth, Fritz Weaver (Fail Safe (1964)) as Chancellor, Josip Elic (Murder, Inc. (1960)  as Subaltern Harry Fleer as Guard.

Burgess Meredith as Romney Wordsworth

Fritz Weaver as the Chancellor

Josip Elic

A librarian Romney Wordsworth (Meredith) is on trial in a future totalitarian world where books are deemed obsolete. All thought is controlled by the state. The states symbol is a four canton checker pattern. Their society needs no librarians, libraries are obsolete. 

The courtroom is an immensely overbearing space, architecturally designed to diminish the accused who must stand in a spotlight at the end of a huge table. The other end is occupied by a officiate. Looming over the proceedings upon a ridiculously high desk is The Chancellor.

The state gives Romney his chance to plea his case. The jury finds him obsolete, and the sentence is death within 48 hours. Romney is allowed his free will to choose his favored method of death, which will be televised for the masses. 

When Romney's last hour on earth arrives, he is visited by The Chancellor and things go Noirsville.


The mostly simple sets combined with the creative lighting and various camera angles, that dominate this episode, are reminiscent of the trial scene in 1940s noir Stranger On The Third Floor. Visually a Noir treat 9/10


Season 3

"You are traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land of imagination. Next stop, the Twilight Zone!" (season three opening narration)

Season 3, Episode 12 Dec 1, 1961 

The Jungle 

Audio - Visual Noir

Directed by William F. Claxton, written by Charles Beaumont. Cinematography by George T. Clemens, sound design by Bill Edmondson and Franklin Milton.

Starring John Dehner (Bury Me Dead (1947), He Walked by Night (1948), Backfire (1950), Please Murder Me! (1956), and a lot of Westerns as engineer Alan Richards. Walter Brooke as Chad Cooper. Jay Adler (The Underworld Story (1950), the ukulele playing trailer park owner in Cry Danger (1951), The Mob (1951), Scandal Sheet (1952), The Turning Point (1952), Vice Squad (1953), 99 River Street (1953), The Long Wait (1954), Down Three Dark Streets (1954) The Big Combo (1955), Murder Is My Beat (1955), Illegal (1955) The Killing (1956) Crime of Passion (1956) and Sweet Smell of Success (1957) as the Tramp, Emily McLaughlin as Doris Richards, Hugh Sanders (I Was a Communist for the F.B.I. (1951), Storm Warning (1951), The Damned Don't Cry (1951),  Undertow (1949)), as Templeton, Howard Wright as Hardy, Donald Foster as Sinclair, and Jay Overholts as Taxi Driver

This episode is very reminiscent of Noir atmospherics both visual and audio of Jacques Tourneur's Cat People

New York City. The Asphalt Jungle.  Alan Richards and his wife Doris have gotten back from Alan's work assignment in Africa. He is the job superintendent for huge hydroelectric project in the heart of the continent. 

John Dehner as engineer Alan Richards

Emily McLaughlin as Doris Richards

Doris is freaked out when Alan throws her witch doctor talismans against curses into their fireplace. The reason, one of the shaman's put a curse on everyone connected to the dam. 

Doris Richards: Remember what that Shaman said when we were drilling in Africa? He said that we were hurting the land, that we were making it bleed, that the land would make us pay.

Alan scoffs at er superstitions but is a bit shaken when, opening the door of his apartment he finds a dead goat. 

At his meeting of the board he relates that everything looks good for a go on their hydro-electric project. When questioned about the locals Alan replies that they will all benefit in the long run. His only reservation is the death curse by the witch doctor. 

The board scoffs and laughs but Alan tells the that he has seen perfectly healthy people die after being cursed. Then Alan points out their own superstitious rituals. One member wears a rabbit's foot, another knocks on wood, another reads his astrology everyday. Its fruitless, the board oks the go ahead. 

Walter Brooke as Chad

After the meeting Alan is down at bar with board member Chad.

Alan Richards: [thinking of the animal on his doorstep] If you wanted to get hold of a dead goat on an hour's notice, where would you go?

"To a psychiatrist."
Chad: To a psychiatrist.

On his way back through the asphalt jungle Alan encounters the spirits of the real jungle. Cue the bongos and the calls of the wild.

Narrator: The carcass of a goat, a dead finger, a few bits of broken glass and stone, and Mr. Alan Richards, a modern man of a modern age, hating with all his heart something in which he cannot believe and preparing - although he doesn't know it - to take the longest walk of his life, right down to the center - of The Twilight Zone.


Jay Adler

A great audio visual Noir episode 9/10

Season 3, Episode 18 air date January 19, 1962 

Dead Man's Shoes 

Crime/Fantasy/Jazz Noir

Directed by Montgomery Pittman. Writing Credits Charles Beaumont and Oceo Ritch. Cinematography by George T. Clemens and Music by Marius Constant composer: theme music  with Jerry Goldsmith and Martial Solal proiding stock music.

The episode stars Warren Stevens (Phone Call from a Stranger (1952), Deadline - U.S.A. (1952), Gorilla at Large (1954), Black Tuesday (1954), Classic SciFi Forbidden Planet (1956), Accused of Murder (1956), Madigan (1968)) as Nathan 'Nate' Bledsoe, Richard Devon (3:10 to Yuma (1957), Machine-Gun Kelly (1958), and Magnum Force (1973) as Dagget, Joan Marshall (Homicidal (1961)) as Wilma, Ben Wright as Chips, Harry Swoger as Sam, Ron Hagerthy as Ben, Florence Marly (Le dernier tournant (1939)) as Dagget's Girlfriend, Joseph Mell as Jimmy and Frieda Rentie as Pianist

The Bowery. Early morning. Just past 4 AM. A rundown part of Manhattan's Lower East Side.

One of those neighborhoods with blocks shuffled randomly with taverns, flops, pawnshops, and missions. A district caught between faded prosperity and maybe the next freeway right of way. Music. Crime Jazz  with bongos, base, and horns. 

A black '62 Lincoln Continental creeps into an alley. Bernie Dagget is driving. It's a defacto hearse, carrying Dane, Bernie's late ex-business partner. At the first suitable spot, beneath a rusty iron fire escape, surrounded by trash, they shove Dane out to his half-assed eternal rest. The Lincoln quietly slinks off. 

Richard Devon as Bernie Dagget

But, not quiet enough. A pile of rags perched on the fire escape stirs. 

Nate Bledsoe, was slumbering off is latest bender. He moves gingerly down the steps to sit on the bottom rung. Bending forward he reaches out to drag the nearest garbage can over. Popping the lid, Nate goes diving for a potluck breakfast. 

Warren Stevens as Nate Bledsoe

While chewing on someone else's discarded morsel, Nate glances over his shoulder and sees a pair of shiny two tone Italian shoes. Inside the shoes are a body's feet. Inside the body, now cooling to alley temperature, are a couple of slugs. 

Nate checks all the dead man's pockets for drinking money. He finds just a set of keys. He pockets them. The only thing of real value to Nate are on Danes feet. Nate sits down on a wooden crate, takes off his ruined footwear and slips on the dead man's shoes.

As soon as he does so, we begin to hear another excellent example of Aural Noir. It's a cool medium swing jazz drum and brush beat accompanied by a bassoon, a flute, and various saxes. Nate walks out of the alley to it's corner with the street with this leitmotif. Nate wants to go one way, but his shoes want to go another and they force his feet and twist his legs and body in that direction. 

Narrator: [opening narration] Nathan Edward Bledsoe, of the Bowery Bledsoes - a man once, a spectre now. One of those myriad modern-day ghosts that haunt the reeking nights of the city in search of a flop, a handout, a glass of forgetfulness. Nate doesn't know it, but his search is about to end, because those shiny new shoes are going to carry him right into the capital - of The Twilight Zone.

The leitmotif represents the incarnation of Dane and his shoes are the vessels for this possession of poor Nate. Dane in Nate's body heads to his pad to get revenge on his old buddy Bernie. A few amusing sequences follow, his meeting Dane's gal pal, compilations whenever Nate takes off the shoes and reverts to himself, and the double take reactions to Dane in Nates body knowing all is mannerisms, predilections, and details of (his) Dane's death. 


Joan Marshall as Wilma

Harry Swoger as Sam and Ben Wright as Chips

Florence Marly 

Warren Stevens  is very entertaining in his altering personas, and the rest of the cast doesn't disappoint. The film moves along at a good pace. A favorite Twilight Zone episode with a twist on a twist. 10/10 

Season 3, Episode 21 air date Feb 9, 1962 

Kick the Can 

(Masterpiece) Fantasy/Audio Noir

Directed by Lamont Johnson Writing Credits George Clayton Johnson along with story consultant Richard P. McDonagh. Cinematography by George T. Clemens.

This episode stars Ernest Truex as Charles Whitley, Russell Collins (Close-Up (1948), Shockproof (1949), Niagara (1953), Bad Day at Black Rock (1955), Fail Safe (1964)) as Ben Conroy, John Marley (Kiss of Death (1947), Naked City (1948), Guilty Bystander (1950), The Mob (1951), Time Table (1956), I Want To Live (1958), The Godfather (1972) as Sunnyvale Superintendent Cox, Hank Patterson as Freitag, Earle Hodgins as Agee, Marjorie Bennett as Mrs. Summers, Lenore Shanewise as Mrs. Densley, Anne O'Neal as Mrs. Wister, and Burt Mustin as Carlson. 

Ernest Truex as Charles Whitley

Russell Collins as Ben

John Marley as Cox

Hank Patterson as Freitag, Anne O'Neal as Mrs. Wister, and Burt Mustin as Carlson. 

Charlie and  Marjorie Bennett as Mrs. Summers 

Charles Whitley, Charlie. A small town senior citizen. Palmed off by his son David (Barry Truex) to Sunnyvale Rest "Home for the Aged." Condemned to a dark sedated Noir end in a living graveyard. (Ever notice how old age homes and cemeteries have similar sounding names).

Charlie is hoping, dreaming for an escape. He thinks his visiting son will, this time, take him away to live with his family. It's a ray of hope that keeps his spirit going, keeps him alive. Wishing it reality, Charlie walks down the stair, clutched in his hand, his whole life carried in a suitcase of distilled memories. He tells his fellow seniors, goodbye. His son is driving up in a 1953 Ford Crestline Victoria hardtop, he walks briskly, jauntily to the car and hops in. The car pulls off but stops.

Charlie gets back out of the car. It drives off. Charlie holds a hand up with a reluctant goodbye gesture. From the shaded porch his peers can see the disappointment, the hunched shoulders, a dejected posture. Charlie denied. We told you so, Charlie. Charlie sulks, his audience knowingly nodding to each other. Charlie looks haunted by his future.  

In the foreground a group of kids play kick the can. Charlie watches, remembers. Then walks across the street and picks up the can. He holds it in two hands walking towards a kid who tells him "Hey mister that's my can we're playing." 

But Charlie doesn't hear. He is in a trance like state cradling the can. His audience now growing to include the neighborhood kids perched on a weedy hillside. He's got an inkling. It's a personal epiphany, that he's discovered a great truth.

Later from the second story dormitory Charlie watches another game of kick the can. He grabs the can he kept earlier and rolls it between his hands making it creak and pop. Ben an old friend complains about the kids making noise. 

Ben: Old people need their rest. Let them play someplace else. They got playgrounds, they got homes.

Charlie: It's the grass Ben, kids can't resist going where the grass is.

Charlie asks Ben don't you remember? We played kick the can, statues, hide and seek. You can't stop children from playing kick the can it's in their blood. He tells Ben kick the can is a special summer ritual. 

Charlie: You ever stop to think of it. All kids play those games and the minute they stop they begin to grow old. It's almost as though playing kick the can keeps them young. [walking to Ben] You don't believe in magic do you? There was a time that you did. You know we've known each other since I can't remember. Ever since we were a couple of tow headed kids. You believed in magic then. 

Ben: Me? Magic!

Charlie:  Yes you did. When ever we walked on different sides of a streetlamp you'd say bread and butter. And when your baby teeth came out you put them under the pillow for the tooth fairy. Yea, you believed in magic. What happened Ben what changed you?  Was it time that did it? Or was it something else.

Ben: We grew up that's all. Everybody gets older.

Charlie: Maybe there's people who stay young maybe they know a secret that they keep from the rest of us.

Ben: Charles

Charlie: Maybe the fountain of youth isn't a fountain at all, maybe it's a way of looking at things. A way of...  thinking.

Ben tells him his youth has been gone for sixty years don't go sloppy now acting like a nut. Charlie replies it's all so clear, it makes sense. Don't you see?

Later, Ben speaks with Superintendent Cox, voicing his concerns about Charlie. Cox replies its sad when one of  our residents goes senile. 

Soon after they see Charlie. He laughs and pushes an empty wheelchair at them. Then Charlie goes out on the porch and asks his fellow residents if they remember.

Charlie: [addressing his fellow senior housemates] Are you the same ones that used to skip rope - and hunt for polliwogs? Huh? And run through sprinklers - huh? [sees the lawn sprinkler spinning] 

Charlie: Run through sprinklers.

Charlie goes down the porch steps and starts running through a lawn sprinkler. Cox comes out, calls for an attendant to get Charles, and to take him up to the dorm and get him dried off and into bed. He also announces, after Charlie is taken away, that he'll have to isolate Charles and put him under observation. Ben remarks, "that will kill him."

Ben goes up to the dorm to visit Charlie and tells him of Cox's plan to isolate him. Tells Charlie that he basically better act his age.

Charlie: What a choice - to keep an attendant from pawing at my pulse all day, I have to sit like a vegetable on that porch.

Later that night Charlie wakes up in the dorm. He goes around to all the beds and awakens all except Ben. 

He tells one of the guys to go wake the girls also. At a meeting of all the residents, they ask Charlie what would Mister Cox say?

Charlie: Well he'd say being awake is dangerous, silly, he'd probably say we're crazy. Well maybe you got to be a little crazy to make the magic work. Remember how we used to do it? Sneak out at night when the weather was like this, and we'd play kick the can.

The residents remember, some mumble excuses, some recall their exploits.   

Charlie: Well we can't run fast or far but we can move. And there are trees and bushes. Maybe if the hunted are handicapped so is the hunter. 

Woman #1: Us? you mean games? 

Charlie: Yes, that's the secret. Don't you see? The secret of youth.

Woman #2: You can't be serious?

Charlie: You bet I am Look [holds up tin can]. Think. Here hold this [gives the can to one of the ladies], doesn't that wake some sleeping part of you? Listen! 

We hear the distant sounds of children at play, like sirens beckoning.

Charlie: Can't you hear it? Come! Grass. Run! Jump! Youth! WAKEUP! Wakeup, this is your last chance. I can't play kick the can alone.

They make a plan and Charlie goes up to wake Ben and try to get his best friend to join in and come with them out on the lawn. Ben gives him the brush. He refuses.

Ben: Sit down Charles your tired. Sit down.

Charlie: I can't

Ben: Charles

Charlie: I got to find out Ben. Help me. There is Magic in the world, I know there is. When I fell in love with Mary. That was magic. When my boy was born, that was magic. Friendship is a magic thing. Maybe I'm right Ben. Maybe kick the can is the greatest magic of all.

"Maybe kick the can is the greatest magic of all."

Charlie leaves Ben and and the residents put their plan into action with a firework diversion. 


So Ben goes to Superintendent Cox to rat the residents out, rats that they are going outside to play kick the can. During all the comotion we can hear laughter and Charlie and the others voices. We hear a can kicked. We hear Charlie counting. But it's too late. We hear a change in the voice, from old to young, they've already past over into eternal youth. 

And while our obsessed with age and now alienated character Ben, runs out to the lawn with Cox he sees his boyhood friend Charles of his youth counting, and when he turns to face Ben, Ben melancholically calls for Charles to "take me with you."

"take me with you."

An episode that is more poignant and relevant to me now than it ever was when I first watched it at 9 years old. The sound design consisting of the audio of children playing in the background combined with a fanciful soundtrack really compliments the tale. To stay young think young. 10/10

Season 3, Episode 24 March 2, 1962 

To Serve Man 

(Masterpiece) SciFi Noir

Directed by Richard L. Bare. Teleplay written by Rod Serling based on a story by Damon Knight. Cinematography by George T. Clemens

Starring Lloyd Bochner (The Night Walker (1964), Point Blank (1967), Tony Rome (1967), The Detective (1968)) as Michael Chambers, Susan Cummings as Patty, Richard Kiel as Kanamit, Hardie Albright as Secretary General  and Theodore Marcuse as Citizen Gregori. 

Lloyd Bochner as Michael Chambers

Susan Cummings as Patty

Richard Kiel as Kanamit

A story told all in flashback about the first aliens from outer space to visit Earth bringing peace and posterity to mankind. 


A Classic 10/10

From IMDb

Nice guys from outer space that did so much for us, but there is a surprise...

ksm5174617 May 2006

This is perhaps one of the best "Twilight Zone" episodes of the entire series. The beginning is mysterious, and though confusing, it gives you a big clue as to what will follow. It starts with the end, and does a flashback to what got the main character there. As the story unfolds you forget how it began. Those big tall aliens, who left the book at the United Nations are frightening to look at, but the wonderful things they are doing for the people of the Earth make them seem completely benevolent. It had me and my brother fooled until the end, when the woman ran up and shouted out those three unforgettable words, "It's a ....". No, I can't tell you what she said, you must watch it for yourself. When you do, I think you will add this film to your Sci-Fi Hall of Fame!

You can't get any better than this....

MartinHafer9 September 2007

The episode begins with a race from another planet coming to Earth and offering to make all our problems disappear. Despite our natural distrust of such claims, the planet soon becomes a paradise--with plenty to eat, peace throughout the land and humans praising these well-intentioned beings. However, despite the windfall, two translators who work for the United Nations doggedly try to unlock the alien language contained in one of their books. So far, they only have been able to translate the title, "To Serve Man", but the rest alludes them.

When it comes to the excellent show THE TWILIGHT ZONE, you can't find a better episode than this one--and that's saying a lot because they made quite a few gems. That's because this one is based on a short story that is so gosh-darn clever that you can't help but admire the episode. Plus, the acting, sets and mood is so well created that it just screams "quality television".

To be Continued....

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