THIS JOURNAL DOCUMENTS MY INTAKE OF ONE BOOK, ZINE, CD OR DVD A DAY. RATINGS ARE: ***** = Godhead, **** = Great, *** = Good, ** = Fair, * = Why Bother?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Twilight Zone - "The Silence" (*****)


"The note that this man is carrying across a  club room is in the form of a proposed wager, bu it's the kind of wager that comes without precedent. It stands alone in the annals of bet-making as the strangest game of chance ever offered by one man to another. In just a moment, we'll see the terms of the wager and what young Mr. Tennyson does about it. And in the process, we'll witness all parties spin a wheel of chance in a very bizarre casino called the Twilight Zone."

Me TV has been airing Rod Serling's original The Twilight Zone series in glorious black-and-white weekdays at 11 p.m. and back-to-back episodes at 11 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. Sunday nights. Last night I saw that "The Silence" (a Season 2 episode originally broadcast on April 28, 1961) was airing and made sure I recorded it.

Jamie Tennyson's lips are sealed in "The Silence"

This is probably my favorite episode of The Twilight Zone and the one I remember best - because it totally creeped me out! This despite being one of only a handful of TZ episodes that contained no fantasy or science fiction elements.

And what an all-star cast: veteran film star Franchot Tone, Jonathan Harris (later to find fame as Dr. Zachary Smith on TV's sci-fi kitsch series Lost In Space), and Liam Sullivan (who was a memorable LSD guru - and obvious Timothy Leary stand-in - on the 1968 Dragnet episode "The Big Prophet").

The story concerns a talkative member of a gentleman's club named Jamie Tennyson (Liam Sullivan) whose constant chatter so annoys Col. Archie Taylor (Franchot Tone) that the Colonel offers him $500,000 if he can remain silent for one year, living in a glass enclosure in the club's basement. Tennyson accepts the "vow of silence" wager - but at what cost? And while both Tone and Sullivan are good actors, are their characters both acting in good faith?

Rod Serling's teleplay, loosely based on Anton Chekhov's short story "The Bet," is one of the classic Twilight Zone episodes, one whose ending (as one YouTube reviewer perfectly phrased it) will leave one speechless.

Silence is Golden?

According to IMDB.com, Franchot Tone filmed the episode's club sequences in the early part of production before suffering a face-injury, leaving the left side of his face was swollen. But the producers opted not to hire a new actor or redo Tone's scenes; instead, they resumed filming but only having exposed the right side of the actor's injured face to the camera, causing Tone's character to be denied eye contact while mocking Sullivan's - in effect making made his character a more complex one.

And Rod Serling's parting words?
"Mr. Jamie Tennyson, who almost won a bet, but who discovered somewhat belatedly that gambling can be a most unproductive pursuit...[For] somewhere beyond him a wheel was turned and his number came up black thirteen. If you don't believe it, ask the croupier, the very special one who handles roulette - in the Twilight Zone."
Following is a sample clip from Liam Sullivan's tour de force acid guru performance from the Dragnet episode "The Big Prophet" (originally broadcast january 11, 1968); in this clip, Sullivan gets a few head nods in during Joe Friday (Jack Webb)'s "Alcohol Vs. Marijuana & LSD" monologue:

"Marijuana is the flame, heroin is the fuse, LSD is the bomb!"

Watch the full episode at Hulu.com.

And here we have the great Jonathan Harris exhibiting the kind of emoting for which he became famous on Lost In Space:

And here's an ultra-hip Jonathan Harris "freaking out" and dancing on Lost In Space.

Me TV is one of life's great joys for Baby Boomers like me, my girlfriend Amy and my overgrown-child pal Dave Cawley (to mention but a few fans!). Forget MTV - pfffft! - I want my M(e)TV!

See also:
Programs on Me TV (from 12 O'Clock High to Wild Wild West)

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