Twilight Zone Collector's Edition: "Mr. Denton on Doomsday," "The Shelter," "The Lateness of the Hour," and "The Trouble with Templeton"
Includes four episodes: "Mr. Denton on Doomsday" (1959), "The Shelter" (1961), "The Lateness of the Hour" (1960), and "The Trouble with Templeton" (1960). Collector's edition box includes write-ups on each episode.
The classic western stories are turned upside down in "Mr. Denton on Doomsday". Al Denton is the town drunk after an earlier career as a gunslinger and he now endures humiliation in order to get his next drink. A sadistic and sarcastic bully played by Martin Landau often goads Denton into singing "How dry I am" for his next drink while the people around laugh at him. When the bully forces Denton into a gunfight, a mysterious peddler called Mr. Fate arranges for him to get off two superb shots that incapacitate the bully without really harming him. Getting back his self-respect and giving up alcohol, Denton learns very quickly that it has a significant downside. A young gunslinger challenges him to a duel and when Denton practices, he realizes that he has no chance. In desperation, he turns to the peddler, who offers him an elixir that will make him unbeatable in the draw. Thus fortified, Denton stands up to the young gun, only to cringe when he sees his opponent drinking the same elixir. Both men suddenly realize what has happened and lose all their confidence; after all they do not know what will happen when two unbeatable gunfighters face each other. This is an excellent moment of tension, eased when both draw and only wound each other in the hand, ending their careers as gunfighters. "Mr. Denton on Doomsday" is a superb episode, taking the western genre and injecting some real surprise and tension into it. Some of the best stories take a standard plot and interject odd, unexpected twists into it and that is what happened here. "The Shelter" plays on the fragile nature of civilization and how it all can evaporate in a moment of tension. The episode opens with a party being held for Dr. Stockton, a man clearly admired, respected and loved in his community. However, unlike his neighbors, Dr. Stockton has built a bomb shelter in his basement so when an alert is sounded, he takes his wife and child downstairs and locks the door. His neighbors quickly realize that if a nuclear bomb is detonated, the only possible way to survive is to enter the shelter with the doctor. However, the doctor understands that if all of them join him in the shelter then none will survive. In a matter of minutes, the neighbors degenerate into a rabble, hatred, bigotry and violence erupts as they batter their way into the shelter and the doctor prepares to defend his family. Suddenly, the alert is cancelled, having been a false alarm and the group disbands, realizing that all their friendships have ended. People that lived through the fifties and sixties when school children were constantly practicing "duck and cover" will understand the tension over the potential for a nuclear attack. People born much later will be puzzled by the plot although the reality that civilization can quickly evaporate in either a nuclear burst or even the credible threat of one is a lesson that is very real. Superbly acted and written, this is an episode that will always remind us how fear can quickly destroy our collective sanity. I found "The Lateness of the Hour" predictable and dull. The brilliant and wealthy scientist William Loren has retired with his wife and daughter Jana to a mansion and the three of them never go anywhere. They have a set of servants that tend to their every whim so they lack for nothing. It is quickly revealed that the servants are perfect because they are robots that have been programmed to be perfect. Being frustrated and spoiled, Jana demands that the robots be dismantled and her father complies, but the consequences are unexpected. Jana's life quickly changes, taking a twist that she did not expect but in the end one that satisfies everyone, in a way even her. If you pay close attention there are many clues to the revelation that alters Jana's life, subtle smiles and mannerisms give many hints if you pay close enough attention. However, to me the episode had no tension or real drama, although it is a different aspect of the old adage, "Be careful what you wish for." That adage also applies to "The Trouble With Templeton", where aging actor Booth Templeton longs for the earlier days of the Twenties when his deceased wife Laura was alive and he was happy. The episode opens with Templeton watching his young wife romantically cavorting with a young man at the swimming pool and commenting about the sadness of his life to his aide. Templeton is to play the lead role in a new play but a new and very brash director has been hired and when Templeton is late to the first rehearsal, the director berates him in front of the entire cast. Distraught, Templeton flees out the stage entrance, only to find himself transported back to 1927. Once he learns of the new circumstances he gets directed to the local speakeasy where Laura and a fellow male actor that is also his best friend are eating dinner. Initially overjoyed at seeing his wife again Templeton's joy is quickly shattered as Laura just wants to eat, drink and dance, much like his current wife. His dreams destroyed, Templeton is actually buoyed up and re-enters the theater to find himself back in his normal time. His confidence restored, Templeton dresses down the director, causing him to surrender and beginning what appears to be a very effective working relationship. Brian Aherne is superb as an aging actor in this episode, which was critical for success as all other roles are supportive. You feel for the man as he is repeatedly humiliated and humbled yet admire his strength as he pulls himself together at the end and you know that the play will be a resounding success.
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