08 May 2014

File under R for Robotics

[Another The Twilight Zone post.]

The other night, I re-watched "Eye of the Beholder," which is a particularly striking title for such a marvelously executed episode. Apparently, it went by another working title, and at late enough a stage that an alternative set of closing credits was prepared. (I don't quite remember that less-memorable title, though it, too, is drawn from the script.)

Last night, I re-watched "The Lateness of the Hour," from the second season; it was one of the first episodes which were done on videotape as a cost-save pressed upon Serling by the network.

First, a visual note. The grainy quality of the videotape is noticeable from the start, with the shot of Jana's face in the window, illumined by a flash of lightning: an immediate, unfortunate downgrade. I feel the loss of quality keenly, having only recently watched the astonishingly vivid camera-work of "The Howling Man," "Eye of the Beholder," and "The Nick of Time." Still, one may argue that, of the episodes shot during the second season (and considered simply from the nature of the narratives) "The Lateness of the Hour" suffers less from the loss of polish. Kudos to the team, too, for echoing the claustrophobia of the story, by the limitations of the medium.

** SPOILER ALERT :: If you have not yet seen " The Lateness of the Hour," STOP RIGHT HERE, READ NO FURTHER **

The story takes place entirely within a house, and we are cued for the house-bound story by the opening shot of a wild rain-storm; we certainly feel for Jana's irritable antsy-ness to go out and play. Two-thirds (perhaps) of the story is shot within the living room, perhaps one-quarter shot in the foyer, and there is one scene in Jana's bedroom. When at last it dawns on Jana, just what she is, I think of Decker's sharp line in Blade Runner: How can it not know what it is? An even keener irony in the story is, that the character in the drama who shows the most energetic emotion, is one of the robots. Dr Loren is always cool and steady (though not mechanical); Mrs Loren's emotionality is not fiery like her "daughter's," but she is like the ground to which the lightning rod conducts the otherwise deadly energy.

Incidentally, as I compose this post, I remember that this second viewing of another episode, "A Thing With Machines," had me thinking that Stephen King ultimately owes all the considerable royalties for "Christine" to Rod Serling.

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