Friday, July 28, 2017

The Twilight Zone - Of Late I Think of Cliffordville


This was actually written Thursday night.



Another of Salmi’s Twilight Zone appearances, “Of Late I Think of Cliffordville” is yet another rather insignificant, flawed episode that failed to really generate much in the way of beefing up the oft-used time travel device (or yet another appearance by Old Scratch, this time played by the fetching and delish Julie Newmar). It is through a “deal with the devil” that an unscrupulous, bored, aging corporate monster (Salmi) named Feathersmith is allowed to return to an Indiana town in 1919 where he started out from the bottom.

At this point in 1963, he has an empire, bankrupting one last adversary, Deidrich (John Anderson) through demands in paying off a loan he just recently purchased (at an exorbitant price he brags) just so he could conquer him. Through an intercom to his room of secretaries and typists, Feathersmith’s laugh roars at a gnawing pitch while Deidrich—defeated, with head hanging low and countenance crestfallen—makes his way to the elevator to get out of the damn building and away from this capitalistic sociopath. While drowning his woe in booze, all alone in his office, lamenting inside over having no one else still to destroy (or buy), Feathersmith interrupts the three-floored building custodian, Hecate (Wright King), giggling a bit at his comment about 34 years of service and receiving a gold watch as commemoration.

Leaving his office floor, Feathersmith encounters “Devlin” (Newmar), on a floor he’s unfamiliar, locating her office for which he’s never seen. That is because Devlin is in the building just to offer Feathersmith a deal he can’t pass up because she knows he so badly desires to devour and take, not build and create. He wants to return to 1919 in the young [exterior/outer] form of his past (of that year), as it was with the same people…Feathersmith wants the chance to relive the past and once again enjoy the ascent, the thrill of acquiring and usurping, stepping over victims in the world of finance and business. A stretch of land he sees as the perfect business venture, purchasing it cheap from Deitrich and a banker named Gibbons (Guy Raymond), knowing it has plenty of oil worth a fortune, Feathersmith makes it a priority to rub their noses in it. But they get the last laugh knowing that oil is underground but the equipment needed doesn’t exist (it wouldn’t until 1937). Feathersmith getting laughed at by others, he isn’t used to it, a bruised ego all that succeeded from the return to 1919. He doesn’t have the mind of a builder, with no clear blueprints of the machinery needed to drill the oil, and despite his young outer appearance, inside he’s still that same dying millionaire from 1963. Devlin, much like others in 1919 now, gets the last laugh.

Pitiful and pathetic—a sweaty, ruined, shell of a man—Feathersmith begs Devlin to return his sad carcass to 1963. She might just do so…but when he returns it won’t be as he once was but of how he would be after the repercussions of this travel back in time. Needing to sell his land deed, finding a younger Hecate willing to buy it (for a measly $40 dollars), Feathersmith will have the right amount of fare to board Devlin’s train to the future.

My questions come in the way we are supposed to accept that Feathersmith’s mind has slipped and deteriorating. When he calls in Deidrich, you don’t see a weakened mind incapable of reasoning. He’s sharp, calculating, in full control of his faculties. I don’t see a tired mind, a worsening acumen. I have a hard time seeing someone who is the master of the chess of business not think about the lack of technology in 1919 as opposed to 1963. He would know that in order to drill oil from the land in 1919 he’d need to have his ducks in a row and the machinations in place to make his fortune. And how he could be so duped by Devlin and not use the corporate tactics that had brought him to such heights in his old age in 1963 after he had just destroyed a man that gave him fits for decades was a bit hard to swallow to me. Sure he knows that the land in 1919 is available to take and still can wheel and deal, but the Feathersmith that rudely interrupts Gibbons during lunch and makes himself at right at home seemingly fails to think two steps ahead…something he had obviously done his entire business life…which included securing the business of Deidrich requiring cunning and chicanery, seizing upon his prey when he was at his most vulnerable. Sure I loved seeing him humbled and his ego crippled. Seeing this narcissist brought down to size, eventually little more than a fool, of course I cop to enjoying his downfall. But I’m also a realist and a guy like this has spent his life using treacherous methods (that does require a type of genius, even if it is a use of intellect that devalues and renders those affected by him human wreckage) to get and stay ahead. Is Feathersmith such a narcissist, with just this vast enough ego, that he would avoid planning and plotting out the finest details to garner the kind of portfolio in 1919 he spent his life cultivating? Maybe, but I just find that highly doubtful. I think he would be far more prepared and not so willing to sign this piece of paper Devlin whips up just because of ego and woe.

Now I love me some Julie Newmar. God, what a sexy woman. Her laugh at Feathersmith’s expense and the way she conducts herself in the “time travel office” tell us she is about to topple this monument of greed and corruption, while still comfortable in arranging a deal with him. I can’t take my eyes off her the entire time Newmar is on screen. Those little horns and the way she moves confidently around this giant of corporate avarice; Newmar is such a dynamo. I think she’s the best thing about this episode. The cutthroat nature of negotiation is still alive and well in Cliffordville in 1919 as Gibbons and Deidrich have a good drink and laugh when the cocky Feathersmith learns that they already knew about the oil and how there was no ways to remove it from the swampland where it rests so far under. So from how Devlin negotiates away Feathersmith’s power to how Gibbons and Deidrich make some easy money on land seemingly worth so much yet so little due to the time they live; cutthroat business metes some fitting injustice on Feathersmith. All of this ultimately and predictably works solely to introduce to us a powerful and mighty man of industry so we can see him crumble and fall. And he does. He does. The switcheroo between Feathersmith and Hecate at the end is one of those expected Twilight Zone twists of irony where the mockery shifts roles…a different man has the watch and is told that a career of sweeping and mopping the floor provides very little legacy or invites much in the way of respect. But someone has to sweep and mop, so why not Featherstone?












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