Bopping with Niall JP O'Leary

Niall O'Leary insists on sharing his hare-brained notions and hysterical emotions. Personal obsessions with cinema, literature, food and alcohol feature regularly.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Zoned Out

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I should mention that a week or so ago I finished watching Season One of the original Twilight Zone series. All my life my preference has been for the Richard Matheson ('The Last Flight', 'Third from the Sun') and Charles Beaumont ('Perchance to Dream', 'Long Live Walter Jameson') tales. My esimation of Rod Serling, who wrote the bulk of Season One (and of the other four seasons too; apparently over 120 25 minute episodes) has just grown and grown. Despite a moralistic tone, some occasionally clunky dialogue and a definite streak of sentimentality, his tales are showcases of good storytelling. Perfectly formed, they tend to center on an urban nobody, a thirty-something loser, given a chance at redemption, he something takes, but as often rejects ('The Big Tall Wish'). 'The Twilight Zone' features so heavily in my psyche, having made such a big impact from my childhood television viewing, that I could write on and on about its strengths and weaknesses. I won't. I'll just say there are some masterpieces: Burgess Meredith in 'Time Enough at Last' (though a little too schematic this viewing around), 'The After Hours', 'And When the Sky Was Opened', and 'The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street'. That last one is particularly famous, but I could not remember having seen it before. Despite two aliens with antennae (who nevertheless must form the basis for the alien duo from 'The Simpsons'), this is a powerful tale of human weakness which starts humbly and builds inexorably to the final frightening frenzy. Masterly.
I'm on to Season Two now and delighted in Beaumont's classic 'The Howling Man' last night. Then there was William Shatner in 'Nick o' Time', with the bobbing devil-headed, napkin-dispensing fortune teller (Matheson has Shatner's character's psychology just right). They really don't make them like that any more, and more's the pity.

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