Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Twilight Zone - The Sixteen Millimeter Shrine

"It's better to burn out, than to fade away....."

Neil Young's words ring eerily true in the fourth episode of season one.  This story is a slow burn, with an uncomfortable discord between aging actress Barbara Jean Trenton (Ida Lupino) and the rest of the world, which has moved forward without her.  Barbara spends her day in her parlor watching the films in which she starred in her heyday of the 1930's.

Her agent, Dan (Martin Balsam) tries to bring her out into the real world and tries to get her active in the film world again, however the meeting with the producer does not go very well.  Barbara Jean is appalled when she is informed that the part the studio had in mind for her was not only NOT the leading role but also that of a mother.  Barbara Jean scoffs at the offer without so much as reading the script.  She falls into a deeper self induced isolation.

Dan tries another tactic by inviting an old co-star to visit her.  Barbara Jean is alight with excitement at the news of her old friend coming by.....that is until she see's him.  He is old and now manages a chain of grocery stores.  Barbara, caught in her own world of the 1930's is horrified to find him in this condition.  She again slumps into her room of despair and memories.

As per usual, I won't spoil the end of the episode, but I will say this:   Those who are expecting a frightening twist will be disappointed.    While there is tension that slowly builds as we watch her descend into her world of make-believe, the ending gives more of an Amazing Stories sort of vibe to it.

While this episode isn't really one of my favorites, Ida Lupino's performance is before it's time.  Her delusional, manic and neurotic performance calls to mind Faye Dunaway's portrayal of Joan Crawford.....with out the wire hanger beatings.

Midnight Factoids:

- Originally aired October 23, 1959
-  Ida Lupino is not only the only woman to direct an episode of TZ (The Masks in Season 5), but she is also the only person to both star in an episode and act in one!
- The Sixteen Millimeter Shrine shares a similar story to Billy Wilder's "Sunset Strip".

Phantoms from the Celluloid Crypt:

Ida Lupino - played Mrs. Skinner in the Bert I. Gordon schlock classic Food of the Gods.  Also appeared in two episodes of the 1964 Batman tv series, playing Dr. Cassandra Spellcraft in the episodes The Entrancing Dr. Cassandra and The Joker's Flying Saucer.

Martin Balsam - played Mr. Pym in The Black Cat segment of Two Evil Eyes.  Also keep an eye out of him in Murder on the Orient Express as Bianchi!

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