Tuesday, September 12, 2006

"The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street"

The Twilight Zone episode Keith Olbermann mentioned in last night's Countdown -- you can see his entire commentary at the bottom of my most previous posting here -- is really worth examining in more detail as cogent and timely.

You can read the Wiki, but it's probably best if you go down to your local video store -- not Blockbuster -- and get a copy to watch.

First a nostalgic digression: two of the stars of this masterpiece were Claude Akins and Jack Weston, hard-working and known-to-you character actors from the Fifties through the Eighties.

Claude Akins had a nearly immortal television career as a bit player. With a face like a stop sign (that had been hit a few times with a baseball bat), Akins was a staple of my adolescent teevee diet. He actually made appearances in two of the greatest movies ever made prior to his cameo in a George Reeves-Superman episode two years before I was born. He was a Western regular as both Indian and white man and a beat cop often, a detective occasionally, and a bad guy frequently. He appeared three times each in "My Friend Flicka", "The Rifleman", and "Tales of Wells Fargo". The same year he filmed "Monsters", 1960, he played Rev. Jeremiah Brown in Inherit the Wind. He was in "The Untouchables", Laramie, Rawhide, Laredo, and "Gunsmoke." He made the rounds to "Love, American Style", "Mission: Impossible", Barnaby Jones, Marcus Welby MD, McCloud, Mannix, Cannon, "Streets of San Francisco" and "Police Story". But his starring role came in a spinoff from "BJ and the Bear" -- "The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo", in 1979. This review of the show is priceless:

...without a doubt the worst television series to be renewed for a second season. Critics said that Lobo must be short for lobotomy. To admit to have watched Sheriff Lobo is to admit that you watched way too much television back then. However, Sheriff Lobo had the clout to get Playboy's 25th Anniversary Playmate Candy Loving as guest star, but even she couldn't save it from cancellation.

I was in lust with Candy Loving back in the day (warning: not employer-safe).

Jack Weston played a host of neurotic characters, from "Perry Mason" to Please Don't Eat the Daisies to Bob Hope's Chrysler Theatre. I remember him best in Dirty Dancing as Catskills resort owner Max Kellerman, and in The Four Seasons as dentist Danny Zimmer, whose prized Mercedes falls through a frozen lake when his wife, played by Rita Moreno (completely imponderable), drives out on it to save him.

This was perhaps the beginning of the TV trend that saw fat balding jerks married to ultra-hotties (first wives, not trophy wives). Ever noticed?

And now back to George Bush's Twilight Zone.

If you haven't already deciphered the subtext of "Monsters", allow me to quote the aliens on the hill, who have manipulated the appliances on Maple Street and created the panic:

"Understand the procedure now? Just stop a few of their machines...throw them into darkness for a few hours and then sit back and watch the pattern. They pick the most dangerous enemy they can find and it's themselves."

And the closing narration by Rod Serling:

"The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices, to be found only in the minds of men. For the record, prejudices can kill and suspicion can destroy, and a thoughtless, frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all of its own -- for the children, and the children yet unborn. And the pity of it is that these things cannot be confined to the Twilight Zone."

Yeah, Dick Cheney as Alfred Hitchcock. The real terrorists are in the White House.

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