Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Charles Beaumont's Fate

Charles Beaumont wrote a number of memorable Twilight Zone episodes, among them "Long Live Walter Jameson" and "Queen of the Nile." The immortality theme is engaged in both. I've read elsewhere that Long Live... is the obvious antecedent to a Queen rehash, but I don't think it's uncommon for a writer to employ a recurring topic. I've pulled both episodes to compare in a subsequent post.

Long Live Walter Jameson
Episode 24, original air date: 3-18-1960 

Walter Jameson is a popular history professor with a seemingly first-hand knowledge of the Civil War. As the story opens, an elder professor is sitting in on his lecture. After class the professor asks to speak with Jameson and invites him to dinner that evening. It is unclear how well these two know each other beyond a brief reference to Susannah.

The professors live on campus across the street from each other. As Jameson leaves his home that evening an old woman watches him from behind a tree in the yard.

The door is answered by Susannah Kittredge, the professor's daughter and the soon-to-be Mrs. Jameson. After dinner, Professor Kittredge shoos her off to return to her doctoral studies. He and Jameson resume a chess game apparently begun on a previous evening.

Kittredge confronts Jameson about his age. They have worked together for the past 12 years. Kittredge has grown white-haired while Jameson remains ever youthful.

Further, at the lecture Jameson had read intimately from a Civil War officer's diary. Intrigued, Kittredge references a book of Mathew Brady Civil War photographs, not really expecting to find anything. But there was Jameson's likeness, with the same mole on his chin, and even pinky ring on his finger!

Jameson ultimately reveals himself to be old enough to know Plato. An alchemist imparted him with agelessness, but, not imperviousness to injury. Kittredge is amazed he survived all these years without a scratch. He begs him to share the secret of immortality but Jameson doesn't know how. Besides, would he want to be a 70-year-old man for an eternity? Jameson had tried to kill himself many times over the years but was too cowardly to do so.

"It's death that gives this world it's point," he reflects.

Kittredge realizes Jameson cannot marry his daughter. She will grow old and he will leave her. Susannah hears her father's shouts and rushes into the room. Jameson insists she marry him they marry that evening and to be ready in 15 minutes. He returns to his home and walks into his office, but does not turn on the light. The hallway light illuminates his desk, where he pulls a gun from the drawer. Once again he falters, pushing the gun aside.

From the darkness a woman calls his name. He shines a desk lamp in her face. It is the old woman who had watched him earlier from behind a tree. She is Laurette. He pretends he doesn't know her but she is one of his many wives abandoned over the centuries. She had seen his engagement announcement to Susannah in the newspaper. Laurette could not let another woman suffer her fate. There is a scuffle in the dark and the gun is fired.

Kittredge hears the shot and rushes across the street. He passes Laurette as she runs out the door. Jameson tells him not to enter room, but Kittredge turns on the light and walks toward him. He sees Jameson has been shot. Jameson sighs with relief, "It is happening."

Kittredge watches in horror as Jameson ages into decrepitude before his very eyes.The professor turns off the light as Susannah rushes into the room.

"Dad, what is that on floor?"

There lay only Jameson's suit clothes.

"I don't know dear. Dust, only dust."


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Curse of a Shudra

The Doll
Night Gallery
Episode 5, original airdate 1-13-1971
Teleplay by Rod Serling

A picture of ugly dolls reminded me the other day of what is without a doubt one of the scariest Rod Serling skits I've ever seen. I remembered the doll's face but not the story.

A hideous doll becomes an agent of revenge against an officer in Queen Victoria's colonial forces.

A doll is sent from India to British (unnecessary qualifier) Colonel Masters. When he returns home after his long tour of duty, his young niece excitedly shows him a dreadful doll. When confronted alone, the housekeeper explains she thought he had sent the doll but that there was "something terribly evil" about it.

The colonel buys a new doll for his niece, who later tells him the old doll said she didn't like the new doll and to give it back. The colonel tells her to give it another go but that night he hears his niece sobbing. He and the housekeeper run rush into her bedroom only to see that the "hateful thing" had ripped the new doll to shreds.

The next day a man arrives to see the colonel. He is the brother of a man recently executed in India. Colonel Masters explains expounds on circumstance: his brother was convicted for leading a series of raids against British outposts. The man replied that he was a shudra, a believer in magic, and he had sent the cursed doll to the colonel's house. He warns the colonel that the doll cannot be destroyed "until it has fulfilled its mission". 

As the man leaves he said, “The doll has teeth and there is no medicine on earth to save you." 

The colonel picks up a hot poker from the fireplace and climbs the staircase. Shockingly, the doll is sitting at the top of the stairs. Then the colonel's scream is heard and the sound of tiny feet running away. The colonel calls the housekeeper into the library where he tells her he has been bitten by the doll and to bring it to him. When she comes back, he throws the doll into the fireplace. "Now it is destructible. It has done its job," he said with a sigh of relief. 

The colonel knows he will die soon. He instructs the housekeeper to get retrieve from his dresser a sealed envelope from his dresser addressed to an Indian man addressed to an Indian man. "See that it's delivered to him immediately and tell him the thing has happened. He will know what to do."

The Indian messenger arrives at the apartment of the shudra. He gives him a box and tells the shudra it is a gift from the colonel. "You gave him a gift. He reciprocates," he said and walks away. The shudra opens the box, turns ashen and drops it. Inside the box is a doll that looks like the colonel. It opens its eyes and smiles.

Apparently the colonel was also was a believer in shudra magic. Full review of The Doll by David Juhl (Nov. 2013) 


Friday, July 18, 2014

Zoo To Do

The reticulated giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata), also known as the Somali giraffe, is a subspecies of giraffe native to Somalia, southern Ethiopia, and northern Kenya.

The reticulated giraffe is among the most well-known of the nine giraffe subspecies. Together with the Rothschild giraffe, it is by far the giraffe most commonly seen in zoos. 

Seen in Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens 
Wednesday, June 25