Friday, July 28, 2017

The Twilight Zone - Once Upon a Time


Written Wednesday night


Buster Keaton in the Twilight Zone…perfect opportunity to pay homage to the silent film era while applying a science fiction plot device to jazz it all up. Keaton being a major star in the silent film and how he seemed “out of place” in the sound era might could be seen in the underlying theme of a janitor from 1890 inexplicably sent forward in time to the 1960s thanks to his boss inventor scientist’s “time helmet”. Keaton’s Woodrow Mulligan is annoyed with all the noise and activity of “horse carriages” and “speeding bicycles”, hoping the time helmet will carry him to a different far better time that might perhaps be a bit less noisy. Well, he was in for quite a surprise! Arriving smack dab in the middle of a busy city street (with no pants on after falling into a horse trough, needing to press them, hanging them on his clothing line to dry), Mulligan is party to honking cars, higher priced items, and human traffic. He loses his time helmet when a van driver accidentally hooks it on his hand. Then the helmet hits the sidewalk (while still sparkling), is picked up by a kid in roller skates, and finds its way on his head as Mulligan chases after him. So no-pants Mulligan is soon hopping on a bicycle after the roller-skates kid as a street cop attempts to catch up to him. The kid crashes into a scientist named Rollo (Stanley Adams of the notorious Lost in Space episode, The Great Vegetable Rebellion), as does Mulligan. Rollo is a student of Mulligan’s time and the helmet offers the possibility for him to escape the 60s, so he’s invested in its repair (the helmet no longer sparkles and their crash conveniently happens near a repair shop in an alley). While Rollo tries to guide the repair man (Jesse White) through how the fix the helmet (“Don’t come near my tools!”), Mulligan is looking for some pants and studying the items in the shop (he gets trapped in a low-budget sarcophagus). The heroes running from cops is a silent film staple and considering Once Upon a Time was devoted to paying tribute to that era (and Keaton) it is no surprised you see plenty of that in this episode. Keaton tripping and falling, crashing and running, allows him to slide ride back into a character he knows all too well. With a time helmet added to the formula, Keaton’s inclusion in the classic series provides The Twilight Zone with a reason to showcase him. Nothing about this reinvents the wheel or really stands aside the Keaton greats, but he’s not lost a step even in his twilight years. He didn’t lose his ability to apply his brand of physical comedy (what built his iconic status as a silent film brand) to the story. Clever decision in alternating between silent and sound when in 1890 and 1960 gives each time distinction. Keaton and Adams have good chemistry. White added to the mix affirms that the casting is a key success, more than compensating for a plot that caters to Keaton’s shenanigans. As an entertainment, I think this episode is a silly diversion that passes time (pun intended) and reminded us that Keaton is a treasure deserved of his reputation. Did this add much to his legacy? Probably not, but being that he was involved in The Twilight Zone is a nice trivia footnote if anything.





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I had a fun dialogue with a young lady I work with about the rather hilarious scenes particularly in romantic comedies and action genre wher...

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