Monday, July 11, 2016

Ghosts

I've never been much of a fan of Rod Serling or his original Twilight Zone. (Its contemporary genre sister One Step Beyond has always seemed more genuinely strange and mysterious and honest). There's a quality of over-literary slumming to most TZ episodes (the same feel I get from Herb Leonard's Naked City and Route 66 [George Maharis!] -- Method Museums both). Yet, from the position of hate and degradation we're all covered in by our current Commodity Culture, to deny the show's occasional greatness is absurd.

Episode number five was called "Walking Distance" -- premiering October 30, 1959 and starring the sadly forgotten Gig Young (who seems to have once lived in the Amberson mansion). Strange to say for a network TV show, but the greatness of "Walking Distance" is in its music -- perhaps the most moving ever written for a single episode of any series, by Bernard Herrmann, coming off of Vertigo and North by Northwest, and preparing for Psycho. An excess of love seems to come from the sound, a kind of abnegation and loneliness which speaks of what is tender and what is lost forever. Herrmann's music contains the ghost of tenderness itself. (And how much better the episode would be without Serling's nail-on-the-head narration.)