A The Twilight Zone Community
CBS (ended 1964)
And so we do another thrilling installment of Tales of Tomorrow reviews, based on or derived from Twilight Zone and Night Gallery episodes. Hey, it was that or this morning's episode of "The Mighty Casey." Ugh.

As always, these episodes are produced live and limited to 3-4 sets and pretty static camera work. There are a few flubbed lines and no special effects worth mentioning. The Hulu copies also have about six minutes of ads. Ah, the 50s, when smoking was cool during ads.

Tell it to the hand.

So first we start with "The Duplicates," because Darren McGavin, who never appeared in a TZ episode, should have appeared on that show. Who can resist an episode of any TV show with the first captain of a TV ship named Enterprise, a horror-hunting reporter, and of course, The Old Man. Of historical importance, this is apparently McGavin's first TV appearance, at the age of 30.

Anyhoo, McGavin plays Bruce Calvin, an unemployed mildly alcoholic chain smoker who used to have a good job. Now he has a nagging wife and bills to play. He applies for a job in the newspaper and discovers that it's the U.S. Government. They've got Bruce fired from his job and planted the job in the paper so he'd apply. (And apparently refused to take his calls for about 8 hours for some odd reason.)

In any case, the government informs Bruce that they've discovered an exact duplicate of their planet, and they must covertly destroy it before both planets destroy each other in an unwinnable fight. Everything, and I mean everything on the other planet, is an exact duplicate of Bruce's world.

Of course, the kicker at the first act break is that really, Bruce's planet is Jupiter! Minus, you know, the poisonous atmosphere, the lack of a solid planetary surface, and the 12x Earth gravity.

In any case, the government is going to send Bruce off to Earth (because he's... on JUPITER!!) to kill his counterpart. In some weird metaphysical way that isn't really explored, this will sever the connection and end the duplication. Bruce isn't anyone of significance and as we discover, they could have sent a chimp and it wouldn't have made any difference. The spaceship is on autopilot.

Anyhoo, Bruce gets there, poisons his counterpart's whiskey, and returns to his home planet (on... JUPITER!!). Only to discover that his planet's government counterparts sent Bruce's counterpart to do the exact same thing. Whoops!

This tale doesn't really hold up because first of all, people knew even in 1952 what Jupiter was like. This is Rod Serling-levels of science. The whole metaphysical twinning thing is similarly confusing.

McGavin makes the best of it as a schlub given a second chance to make enough money to satiate his shrewish wife. But even he seems puzzled by some of the odd directorial choices. The government office has a newspaper for a lampshade, and the director requires McGavin to jump in through the front window of his house. Twice. (A house interior that looks suspiciously like the one in "Time to Go" from my last review.)

What can you make of this, Darren?
This? Well, I can make a hat; I can make a broach; I can make a lampshade!

Onto the second episode, "The Little Black Bag." This was later remade into a Night Gallery episode, thus my choice of it for viewing and reviewing.

Joseph Anthony plays Dr. Arthur Fulbright, an unemployed mildly alcoholic chain smoker who used to have a good job. Now he has a nagging wife and bills to play... hey, wait. That sounds like Bruce in "The Duplicates." Yep, Mann Rubin provided "additional dialogue" for both episodes. He also wrote "Time to Go" which featured a nagging wife who had a husband who was a mildly alcoholic chain smoker. He wrote "Ghost Writer" for Tales..., maybe I'll check it out to see if that runs on a similar theme. One suspects Mr. Rubin was having marital issues at the time.

Anyhoo, the failed Dr. Fulbright buys a doctor's bag from a pawnshop and discovers that it's from... the FUTURE!! and all the items are miracle devices. that will cure anything. However, there is an ominous card/warning on it that says if you use it for unethical purposes, it will stop working. Naturally, Fulbright's wife is a nagging shrew of a wife and wants it so she can make a lot of money. Eventually she decides to eliminate the middleman and gets screwed as a result.

I'm going to kill you with this scalpel that heals any wound.
Oh, okay... wait, what?!?

By now, we're a bit bored of nagging wives and despondent husbands. And the payoff may be closer to the original story compared to the Night Gallery version (which had a more graphic ending), but it's still rather abrupt. We also get no real explanation of the bag. The performances are okay, especially Joseph Anthony, who turns it around from beaten-down alcoholic ex-doctor to brand new sparkly new Dr. Genius!

And that brings us to our last story. The wife is kind of nagging, but other than that it's at least a change of pace.

So, tell me if you've heard this. A mute woodsy outdoorsman person discovers a diminutive alien invader and engages in a dangerous game of cat and mouse to defeat them. "The Invaders", right? But hah! You'd be wrong. We find out where Matheson may have gotten his story idea. From "The Great Silence." A plague of muteness is spreading across the NW U.S., supposedly caused by nuclear testing. It's moving at 500 miles a day, has reached South Dakota, and will be at Washington DC in a day (don't ask). However, a mountain man living near the center of the plague with his wife discovers the true source of the muteness: an alien spacecraft!

I picked this episode because it sounded like "Many, Many Monkeys" from the 80s TZ. My bad, I made that mistake with "Dark Angel" last time. I think I'm saying that any episode I pick is going to be cheesy 50s S.F. But I'll keep hoping. :)

The mountain man is a backwood hillbilly of sorts, played by Burgess Meredith, our old friend from three classic TZ episodes. And "Mr. Dingle the Strong." To his credit, Mr. Meredith isn't as embarrassing here as he is as Mr. Dingle.

In any case, Meredith's mime skills are called upon since his character and his wife are rendered mute and they can't read or write. So most of the episode is interminable miming sequences. Unfortunately, since the alien is a short little stud with antenna, this means Meredith spends a lot of his time trying to impersonate a rabbit.

What's up, Doc?

And the alien. Oh, the alien, my brothers. It's not bad per se, and looks a bit like the Silence from Doctor Who because of the mouthless look. It has three fingers like a Sontaran. glitter like Liberace. And a slight resemblance to the Gremlin from "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet". But it's a very typical 50s pulp alien and played by a little person. it has no personality or motive: we never find out why it's trying to render everyone mute: maybe it doesn't like right-wing talk hosts? Who knows?

You'll forget this episode as soon as you look away.

In any case, Meredith saves the day thanks to some dynamite he keeps in his trunk, blows up the alien spaceship, and once again the day is saved by... Paul, the hillbilly backwoodsman!

In any case, until I watch three more episodes to review, you can find these on Hulu for free. Check them out and enjoy!
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