Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, June 27, 2013


The astronauts confront the unfathomable
DEATH SHIP. The Twilight Zone. 1963. Directed by Don Medford.

When I first saw this disturbing episode of The Twilight Zone -- the sixth episode of the fourth season -- it stayed in my mind for literally decades until I saw it again and found that it had the exact same effect on me as it did when I was a boy. (Suffice it to say that the story takes place in 1997 -- it was long before that that this episode was aired, and long after that that I finally saw it again.)  Based on an excellent short story of the same title by Richard Matheson (he also wrote the script and expanded the tale a bit), Death Ship deals with three astronauts who land on an alien planet and see a crashed spaceship outside a porthole. Does this mean they've finally encountered intelligent extraterrestrial life, or could the crashed ship have possibly come from Earth? They go outside to investigate and discover something that nearly drives them insane on the spot. Are they witnessing illusions created by malevolent alien forces? Are they sharing the same nightmare? Could they have gone through a time warp and past their own deaths? Is there any way to get out of this grotesque and hellish predicament? The astronauts are played by Jack Klugman (as the captain), Ross Martin (of The Wild, Wild West fame); and Fred Beir, all of whom give fine performances; Martin is especially outstanding in a very moving and sensitive turn. Sad, creepy and horrifying in equal measure, Death Ship is probably the best of the hour-long episodes of the show. Don Medford was a very busy television director who did everything from The Man from U.N.C.L.E.  to Dynasty. NOTE: Richard Matheson recently passed away at 87, leaving behind a legacy of influential and entertaining stories, novels and screenplays.

Verdict: A classic. ***1/2.


Matthew Bradley said...

Bill, thanks so much for noting the passing of this giant talent (yet a very gracious man), and for the link to your nice review of my book about him. The hour-long episodes in the fourth season are usually heaped with abuse, but biased though I may be, I thought his two episodes, the other one being "Mute," were excellent. In this case, he too was particularly impressed by the caliber of the performances, especially Martin's.

William said...

Thanks, Matthew. I haven't seen "Mute" in years and I will watch it again soon. I'm working my way season by season of TZ, with a few detours along the way. [Couldn't wait to look at Death Ship again!] I'm glad that RM was pleased with the performances, as that often is not the case. Best, Bill