Exploring The Twilight Zone, Episode #4: "The Sixteen Millimeter Shrine"
The Twilight Zone (Episode #4): "The Sixteen Millimeter Shrine" (airdate 10/23/59)
The Plot: An aging movie star yearns for her all-but-forgotten days in the celluloid sun, and alienates everyone in the present in the process.
The Goods: The awesomely bitchy Barbara Jean Trenton is not all that in demand anymore. Formerly a matinee doll of some sort, Ms. Trenton has taken to her lonely mansion, alienating friend and colleague alike. Her only loyal ally is Danny Weiss, her agent, who tries to shake Barbara Jean from her misery by landing her a small role in an upcoming film. Unfortunately, it seems the role is a bit TOO small...
As a meditation on the fleeting nature of fame and the fickle nature of Hollywood, the episode works more than well enough ... but as a two-part character study full of clever barbs and pointed insight, "The Sixteen Millimeter Shrine" works like a charm. Danny clearly cares for Barbara Jean as much more than a meal ticket, but the aging (not old) actress is simply too obsessed with nostalgia to take notice. Her brusque and often abusive demeanor masks a deep yearning we all have: to return, if only for 90 minutes, to our favorite of all memories.
And since this is a Serling tale, you know the curtain's about to fall on Barbara Jean Trenton, one way or another. This talky (and, fine, slightly predictable) episode earns an even B.
The Trivia: As the unpleasant Ms. Trenton, we have Ida Lupino, who of course had a rather esteemed career as both a lead and supporting player. (She also directed seven films between 1949 and 1966.) As the doting Weiss, we have the always-welcome character actor Martin Balsam, who's probably best known for playing Detective Arbogast in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, but also lives on within dozens of other films you've seen (or should see.)
On the Next Episode: A 1970 Oscar winner goes back in time and meets a four-year-old who'll grow up to become a very prolific film director.
We're running through all 156 of the original Twilight Zone episodes over the next several weeks, and we won't be doing it alone! Our friends at Film School Rejects will be entering the Zone as well, only on alternating weeks. So definitely tune in over at FSR and feel free to also follow along on Twitter accounts @twitchfilm and @rejectnation.