Thursday, 28 October 2010
HORROR WEEK: What a howler
Like most rational, intelligent and good looking people I am slightly obsessed with 'The Twilight Zone'. Has any show ever delivered such quality and ingenuity for so long?
I can literally think of scores of the 156 episodes of the original series that stand as some of the most well-written, well-acted and well-executed pieces of drama ever to appear on TV. Of all of these memorable slices of television genius, the episode which particularly sticks with me and seems completely in keeping with this week's theme is 'The Howling Man'.
Written by Charles Beaumont, broadcast in November, 1960, and filmed with bags of gothic and at skewed, unsettling angles, the story concerns an intense American called David Ellington who becomes lost and sick whilst on a walking trip through Europe in the early twenties. Close to collapse he stumbles into a castle, and a hermetic order of monks reluctantly take him in.
As he recuperates he is disturbed by a blood curdling howl from the depths of the castle and, on investigating, discovers a man imprisoned there in a cell barred by a wooden staff . The man says that his crime was to kiss his sweetheart in public and that the religious order, headed up by the insane Brother Jerome, have imprisoned him out their own exaggerated sense of moral justice.
Ellington confronts Brother Jerome who explains that the howling man is not a man at all, but The Devil. He states that the Brotherhood caught him at the end of The Great War and have kept him a prisoner, using the holy power of 'The Staff Of Truth' to contain him. Brother Jerome points out that the world has experienced a period of relative peace and stability since The Devil's capture, a peace and stability that would be shattered if he were ever set free.
Naturally, Ellington frees him. And, as the howling man, makes his way to freedom, an awful change takes place --
After this faux pas, Ellington devotes his life to recapturing Old Nick, but fails to do so before The Lord of the Flies has had the opportunity to start World War Two, The Korean War and to instigate the nuclear arms race (evil is obviously measured in relation to US involvement).
As the story closes, Ellington finally has the rubber Horned One trapped again, locked in a hotel room, escape route barred by mystical The Staff Of Truth. All Ellington has to do now is keep him there until he can contact Brother Jerome and hope that the nosy housekeeper doesn't let him out...