Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Twilight Zone - A Quality of Mercy



Coming towards the end of WWII right before the H-bomb was dropped, some half-starving, wounded Japanese soldiers remain doggedly entrenched in a cave, not budging or willing to surrender. Meanwhile an outfit of American soldiers has been a bit distant waiting for them to give up or eventually die. These soldiers, held together by Sgt Causarano (Albert Salmi) as best he can, have had their fill of the war, tired of the killing and just ready to go home. Then comes in overbearing platoon Lt Katell (Dean Stockwell), eager to “kill him sum Japs”…until he’s in a different position, awakening in the lieutenant position of a Japanese platoon, as Lt Yamura. He sees the error of his ways when it is American soldiers holed up in the cave and he’s part of an outfit wanting to annihilate them. Stockwell arrives with this rather stern, bold, authoritative speech and talk despite being barely a man while Salmi and his bunch look as if they have endured their fair share of the war, just looking for it all to just fucking end. Salmi’s approach to the character is as this seasoned, wizened, weathered, war-battered sergeant who has seen his last three platoon leaders die during attempts to get at and kill those Japanese soldiers held up in that Philippines’ cave. His men (which include Star Trek’s Leonard Nimoy, sweaty-and-sleepy Rayford Barnes, and fatigued Ralph Votrian) are fed up and downtrodden. Katell dropping off to order these guys around was obviously going to result in high tensions and sore back-and-forth. The sarcastic expressions on Nimoy (who doesn’t have a lot of dialogue but reacts well) amused me to no end, but he’s given little to do, really. Salmi is able to steel himself for a while until Stockwell provokes his anger, throwing around the weight of his command and how the men are buckling and defeated. Then he is put in the position of a lieutenant under the thumb of demanding captain (Jerry Fujikawa) and realizes that perhaps compassion and empathy, regret in continuous killing and ongoing death toll, is better than angling for bloodshed and encroachment to further destroy. The Twilight Zone teaches that to Katell.

Stockwell really is incredible as Yamuri. He’s quite stone-cold and stuffy (which I reckon is intentional…) as Katell but the realization of his position, being in the skin/suit of those he opposes, how it feels to be in the place of Salmi, and understanding that his fellow man is reduced to insignificance gives Stockwell a wealth of performance reaction/response. Of course the script and what it provides Stockwell, I imagine was really cool for such a young actor. When the Twilight Zone is this good, the show proves why its reputation has persevered. Stockwell is obviously a method actor, in his tone and approach to the part, and it benefits him when in the character of Yamuri, more so than Katell. Of course the end does allow Stockwell, when returned to the character of Katell, to react to his experience, news of the bomb drop, and the ability to alter the course he had planned in pursuing the enemy in the cave. The script goes out of its way, though, to admit that war is hell and leaves a lasting mark as the men of Salmi’s outfit more than elaborate during their long wait to leave. Sour and spent, these boys are done, so Katell’s hungry-to-kill kid presents a bad taste. A bad taste he also experiences thanks to the Twilight Zone.



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