Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Twilight Zone - Nothing in the Dark

Cooper fears Mr. Death is on the other side of the door


An episode that completely relies on Gladys Cooper almost specifically for effect, “Nothing but the Dark” features her as an elderly recluse hiding away from “Mr. Death” in the basement of a condemned tenement in an unnamed city. Two gunshots go off outside of her “apartment dwelling” and a moaning plea for assistance from a cop (a young Robert Redford) asks for Cooper to open her latch-chain door. It appears Cooper has been afraid of Death for some time, but Redford looks safe enough so she brings him inside so he can be nursed back to health.

Meanwhile the “building destroyer”, RJ Armstrong (who seriously has never looked more friendly and hospitable), employed to have a crew knock down the building Cooper currently inhabits, intrudes to give her fair warning to vacate the premises. The claustrophobic confines of the basement location within the obvious dilapidated building she holes herself in is perfectly gloomy and enough of the outside tells us of the cold of winter, conveying that Cooper is merely existing, no longer really living.

The episode, I thought, does enough to illustrate that Cooper’s life of hiding is rife with melancholy and infinite sadness (pun intended, Smashing P fans). We all eventually meet Mr. Death, but the Twilight Zone has a way of letting us see afterlife as not so traumatic. Sure, many believe it is just over and that’s it, but why not a show like Twilight Zone romanticize the hereafter…this is certainly a show with the platform available to do so. Attempts at eluding death is nothing new for the Twilight Zone, though, and I think this episode’s significance hinges on Cooper’s believable, sympathetic performance.

Those having lived quite a long time, nearing the end of the line, certainly understand Cooper’s resistance towards Death. Her dialogue on loving the outside, the sun, in her youth and the entrapment of old age, the cold, and dark especially resonates. Her willingness to fight to keep Death away, at a distance, isn’t some far-fetched notion: the “great unknown” is fought against tooth-and-nail by almost everyone, no matter what religious/spiritual faith they adhere to. Redford’s true identity I don’t think is much of a surprise ultimately. But I really like how he reaches for her hand and has a very pleasant appearance to him. He isn’t frightening or monstrous.

And where would Cooper go anyway? She would have to leave the dwelling and the future didn’t appear to offer much for her quite honestly. Cooper doesn’t seem to have family or friends...and maybe they have already met Mr. Death. Redford and Cooper also share a warm, developing camaraderie that factors particularly in the success of the final “trip to bountiful”. Taking Death’s hand and the acknowledgment that it isn’t so bad leaves us with Cooper no longer so terrified, instead bidding adieu to a morose existence not worth clasping so tightly to.

A great dialogue scene I don't want to fail to mention involves Cooper recalling a woman dying on a bus after Death's supposed touch of her hand after sitting next to her, and her supposedly seeing him in various forms as the camera eyeballs Redford hard...I think it questions Cooper's mental state while planting a seed that grows into full bloom by the end.

Serling's opening monologue has an effective visual use of a mirror that cleverly ties in to the revelation regarding Death. At first it might appear rather like just a random object used by Serling simply because it is in the basement, but it is quite well utilized by episode's end.






You know, I can recall when “Nothing but the Dark” was a marathon staple on Syfy back when it was still The Sci-fi Channel. That was a reason why I became so fond of it. I just thought Cooper’s performance was neat. Her face is so etched in fear and all that worry about dying is so distinctive…you can literally see the weight in her eyes and countenance. Her voice even has a quiver that elaborates the burden of all that concern. Redford’s soothing presence gradually gaining her trust until she no longer is afraid and Armstrong trying to convince her that he isn’t some boogeyman ogre are good in support. But this is Cooper’s show. Cooper’s other episode, “Night Call” is one of my all-time favorite Twilight Zone episodes…

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