The Reel Infatuation Blogathon: Robert Redford in The Twilight Zone

Robert Redford is my choice for the Reel Infatuation Blogathon of 2018.  I don’t believe this is an unusual pick. Like my crush on Outlander’s Sam Heughan, there is a lot of love (by the millions) out there for these two Strawberry blonde (gingers?) actors. The multi-talented Redford has done more than just perform  in 79 movies.  Besides acting, he directed ten movies; and in my humble opinion, two of those ten films are near perfect examples of the best kind of film making: Ordinary People (1980) and The Horse Whisper (1998). Along with acting and directing, he has also produced 50 films.

In addition to his amazing body of work within the industry, he has been active in many social issues. He is nearly legendary in his work as an environmentalist and his philanthropy. To add to all of this, he is the founder of the largest independent film festival in the United States: Sundance Flim Festival. 

Now, before I go further, I would like to thank two wonderful young ladies and bloggers: Ruth from Silver Screenings and Maedez from  Font and Frock and A Small Press Life.  I hope they will host, like they have for last three years, next year too. To read about more posts about Reel Infatuation, please use the links below:

#ReelInfatuation 2018 – Day 1

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Welcome to the 2018 Reel Infatuation Blogathon!

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Why Did I Pick Robert Redford?

I chose Redford because he is my first ever crush on an actor. As we all know, you never forget your first love. Unbelievably, my love for Redford didn’t begin because of his stunning good looks or his magnetic screen presence or even for my loving every one of the his 79 movies.

My magical crush happened when he very young (26 years old) and  complete unknown to me and the rest world. He had been acting on numerous television shows from 1960 to 1964. He first showed up on one of my favorite shows: Maverick starring James Garner. During this four-year span of time, he had guest starred on quite a number of popular shows at the time: Perry Mason, Route 66, The Untouchables, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Dr. Kildare, Naked City etc … His last television appearance was in 1964 on The Defenders.

I “fell in love” with Redford while watching a re-run of a very popular television show Twilight Zone (1959-1964). For those unfamiliar with this American television show, it was created by Rod Serling. He was a producer, playwright, and screenwriter.  In addition, he introduced and closed each episode with his compassionate pathos and unique voice.

The Twilight Zone 

This series is a science-fiction, fantasy, horror anthology. It was brilliantly written, acted, and realistically presented with twists and turns in the end. Also, and maybe more importantly, it usually had a philosophical, howbeit hidden, message about the nature of mankind and what life lessons we need to be learning. Usually, this was an emotional truth that Serling felt should be shared. The legacy of his Life Lessons.

A Few Notes About The Creator of Twilight Zone

Right out of high school, Serling joined the Army to fight in WWII.  He was wounded several times; but, he kept going back to combat duty. He fought hand-to-hand combat in the Philippines. After the war, he  suffered from severe PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) that haunted him with night terrors for the rest of his life. While working in Hollywood, he was known as an “angry young man.” There were issues that he continuously fought against: racism, the Vietnam war, and censorship.

Twilight Zone: Nothing in The Dark

Introduction 

An old woman living in a nightmare, an old woman, who has fought a thousand battles with death and always won. Now she’s faced with a grim decision – whether or not to open a door. And in some strange and frightening way, she knows that this seemingly ordinary door leads to the Twilight Zone.  

They claim the best writers always write at an emotional level that they are most familiar with. This introduction conveys the words written by an ex-solider who has witnessed death and is still haunted by it in his dreams.

More People Behind The Scenes

Nothing in The Dark first aired on January 5, 1962; and, it only ran for 24 minutes.  There are three actors: Gladys Cooper, Robert Redford, and R.G. Armstrong.  It was co-written by screenwriter George Clayton Johnson (Logan’s Run (1976), Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983), and Ocean’s 11 (2001). Here are a couple of pics of Johnson with Redford and Gladys Cooper.

This episode is directed by Lamont Johnson who will go on to win two Emmys for Directing two made for television movies: Wallenberg: A Hero’s Story (1985) and Lincoln (1988). In this clip he explains how the unknown twenty-six year old Redford was hired and the superb British actress, Gladys Cooper reaction after meeting him. This interview was published in October of 2010…48 years after it first aired in ’62.

A Summary of Nothing in the Dark

This story centers around a sad, lonely old woman, Wanda Dunn, (Gladys Cooper) whose fear of Death is so great that it has forced her into isolation for most of her life. Oddly enough, she can recognized Death in his infinite forms and disguises. She “knows him” and has been able to avoid him for years. However, there is a cost to pay for having this amazing skill: fearful isolationism. She has never really lived her life because her fear has trapped her from others. As a result, she lives alone on the bottom floor of a dilapidated apartment building.  With double locks on her door, she is totally alone, as she nervously sleeps.

One snowy night, she is awaken by the sound of class breaking, probably her own window; then, she hears a whistle and then, gun shots. A policeman, Harold Beldon, (Robert Redford) is shot and begs for help. Should she open her door and try to save him? Is it Death tricking her?

She finally gives in to his cries and helps him into her flat.  She places him on her bed as he profusely thanks her. Then, he begs her to call a doctor, or the police, or an even a neighbour. She explains that she does not have a phone and all the neighbors have moved away. She refuses to go outside to look for help because “he” is out there waiting for her. She decides she can trust the young man; since, she didn’t die when he touched her. She reveals her life story and her gift of recognizing death.

Here is a clip of those first 3 minutes of their encounter.

As incredulous as Wanda’s story sounds, Beldon is sympathetic to her tragic situation. Suddenly, there is someone banging on her door. She is too afraid to answer it. Someone is breaking in the door. Finally, the door flies open; and, Wanda crumbles to the floor, unconscious.

A contractor ( R.J. Armstrong ) is relieved that she is still alive. He explains that she must leave because he is tearing the old building down to build a new one. He tries to calm her down by explaining that how things work in life. Wanda is terrified to go outside; so, she asks Beldon to help her explain it to him. The contractor looks at her like she is crazy. He warns her that she must gather all the things she doesn’t want to leave behind. He said he would help her move her them; once, he comes back in an hour.

Wanda is feeling so hurt and overwhelmed that she cannot understand why Beldon did not say anything to the contractor to help her. Then, she realizes that Death tricked her. I must say Ms Cooper’s performance is this show is what ” pulled me in, hook line and sinker.” I felt so sorry for her and what she missed in her life. All because of a fear of something that was enviable.

I was completely into this story. So, you might understand how shocked I was when I learned that twenty years earlier, Cooper played Betty Davis’s BITCH mother in Now, Voyager (1942). Who I hated. Cooper plays a better bitch than Betty Davis in any of her best Bitch roles. This is quite a compliment to Cooper, who I love as Wanda Dunn.

Once Wanda realizes that Beldon is Mr Death, he begins to calm her down and reassure her she has nothing to fear from him. He charms her and convinces her that she will be at peace and in comfort. In order for Wanda to surrender her will to Beldon there has to be a believable sense of compassion and trust. Not only for the characters, but also  between the actors too. This can then be felt by the audience: The connection is successful. This bond and chemistry between Gladys Cooper (who was 74 years old) and Robert Redford (who was 26 years old) was very strong and compelling.

When he reaches for her hand and begs her to trust him and to come with him, I wasn’t sure if she would. Then, in one second everything changed.  It changes with two heartfelt words.  He softly, begs: Please, Mother. 

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That was the moment that I cried and fell in love with Redford.  I doubt Wanda has ever been married or had children. Beldon is probably the only person/Inhuman ever spoke those words to her in her entire life. In the video clip, Lamont Johnson tells the story of the actors mutual respect. Without their mutual regard and respect, this performance could not have been as successful.

Rod Serling closes this episode with the following words:

There was an old woman who lived in a room. And, like all of us, was frightened of the dark. But who discovered in a minute last fragment of her life that there was nothing in the dark that wasn’t there when the lights were on. Object lesson for the more frightened amongst us, in or out, of the Twilight Zone.

Here is a 2 minute video clip that I found on You Tube that mashes scenes together to summarize the story. Unfortunately, the “Mother” was completely left out. To me that was a huge mistake.

In closing, I have added an interview clip with Redford published four years ago. He is reminiscing about this 52 year old episode. It is very interesting because he mentions the “wonderful dynamic” between the two characters. It’s funny because  when most people think of great chemistry between actors, they usually refer to sexual attraction. However, for actors it means so much more.

I once remembered a quote that defined love not in years but in moments … if that is true; the,  my “Reel Infatuation” with Redford only started in a moment; but, happily his work keeps adding more moments over the years.

Please check for more “Reel Infatuation” stories by using the links near the top of this post.

Reference Links

https://m.imdb.com/title/tt0734603/quotes?ref_=m_tt_trv_qu

https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0178066/bio

https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0785245/bio

https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0425593/

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Clayton_Johnson

Outer Space Blogathon! The Year was 1968: Barbarella, Space Exploration And War

The idea of space travel has always been an intriguing idea; but, in the more recent years, this idea has become a fact.  For years, probes and satellites have been sent to Space to study and learn more about Earth’s neighboring planets. Recently, there are constant reports of a project to colonize Mars. Some scientists believe it may even happen by 2030.  An example of how excited people are about this whole idea of space travel, one only has to look at Twitter.

The growing number of accounts devoted to space exploration increases every day. As a matter of fact, a Tweet, on April 12th, celebrated The International Day of Human Space Fight. It celebrates the first manned space flight by Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin back in 1961. He was in orbit for 108 minutes with only twelve of his twenty-four rockets. The other twelve exploded at take off. It’s a miracle he made back alive. With the success of Gagarin’s space flight, stories by science fiction writers like Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein and Verne slowly morphed into facts.

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Regardless of the numerous space exploration accounts on Twitter, NASA’s Twitter account is still the best one to give you a front row seat to the wonders of space. They tweet live video of astronauts walking and floating in space; and, by the way, they still use Velcro up there. I know because I heard them asking an astronaut to check his Velcro feed. I had to ask the obvious; so, I tweeted the question: You still use Velcro?  Someone tweeted back that NASA invented it.  I tweeted back: I know but that was over fifty years ago.

I doubt that I will be going to Mars in this lifetime; but, I can still imagine it and enjoy it vicariously by watching Sci-Fi movies. So, I want to thank to Debbie Vega for hosting The Outerspace Film Blogathon. I can read reviews of various space movies and then make a list of one’s I still need to see. There are several wonderful Sci-Fi movies that have been reviewed for this blogathon, just click on the link below to find the ones you would like to watch:

https://debravega.wordpress.com/2018/02/04/announcing-the-outer-space-on-film-blogathon/

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Speaking of great movies about space, I truly enjoyed Sandra Bullock’s Oscar-winning performance in Gravity. However, this is not the movie I chose to review. No, I wanted to review another Oscar-winning actress, Jane Fonda, in a Space movie released during one of the most tumultuous years in American history, Barbarella (1968). This year is its 50th Anniversary since the release. Like all science fiction movies, it helped lead the way in special effects technology while subtlety making social commentary. For this particular film, I believe the social commentary involved the philosophy: Make love and not war. It’s plot driven, like most science fiction movies of that time, by using high-tech gadgets to stop world domination by mad scientist.

 

 

Barbarella is based on a comic book character by French creator JeanClaude Forest for the French V Magazine.  It was a series of comic strips from 1962 to 1964.  Then, it was published as a comic book in 1964.  It was considered extremely scandalous at the time.  It was labeled as the first adult erotica in the comic book format. Of course, that is not true; but, it did become infamous from this hoopla. Forest claimed the image of the character of Barbarella was based on French actress, bombshell, Bridgitte Bardot.

This science fiction movie is the first feature film that came from the comics. There were other films like Flash Gordon and Buck Rodgers; but, they were serials. Meaning, they often ended in cliffhangers where you would continue the story in a few weeks in a different film from the series.  Barbarella was directed by Fonda’s French husband Roger Vadim (m. 1965 -1973). Fonda was 30 years old when she made this film. Later, in the same year the movie was released, they had a child, Vanessa, named after actress Vanessa Redgrave. Barbarella did not become a cult classic until it was re-released in 1977.

 

 

Barbarella is an intergalactic space agent/spy in the 401st century; yet, her character mirrors 20th century, secret agent, James Bond.  For instance, Bond saves the world from a crazy evil genius while he accommodates women who want sex; and, he has the latest spy gadgets. She travels in deep space in a ship that has an interior completely covered in shag carpet.

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Before Barbarella receives her orders from the President of Earth, she had just awaken from a deep space sleep. While she peels off her space suit, bouncing off shag interior,  She ends up totally naked. It’s at that moment she get the telecommunication.  The communication is similar to a Skype (participants can see each other) When she attempts to cover herself, the President of the Earth tells not to bother because the message is urgent. Of course, he is ogling her. This puts the letter “C” in the word creepy. Obeying orders, Barbarella moves forward to receive the message.

I wonder if Mike Myers was influenced by this movie when he made the Austin Powers swinging 60s movies? There is so much shag and shagging in both movies. The shag or shagging would definitely influenced Powers in being “randy” most of the time; and, Miss Shagwell, herself, (Heather Graham) kind of resembles Barbarella. Oh well, maybe, or maybe not?

As far as shagging goes, Barbarella encounters aliens from various planets who want to have some kind of sex; and, she accommodates them while she is saving planets from total destruction from evil genius Dr. Duran Duran’s (Milo O’Shea) the inventor of the Positronic Ray. This weapon will unleashed evil into the universe.

 

 

The kicker is Barbarella comes from Earth where physical sex is obsolete. Centuries ago, people found it messy and too distracting. To have sex in AD 40,001, you match your psychocardiogram (?) with someone else. Then, they take an “Exultation Transference” pellet. As they touch each other’s hands to finger tips, rapture is accomplished within 30 seconds. So, civilized! However, it is probably not as much fun either.

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Unfortunately for Barbarella, just as she begins to appreciate the fun part of having messy and distracting sex, with Mark Hand – the Catchman, (Ugo Taognazzi), she later meet another alien, Dildano (David Hemmings) who insists on taking the “Pellet.” A few other aliens worth mentioning is professor Ping (Marcel Marceau), Pygar (JohnPhillip Law) the Birdman/angel, and The Great Tyrant (AnitaPallenberg).

Pygar is a blind birdman who befriends Barbarella and becomes her flying Uber in order to find Duran, Duran.  While Barbarella and Pygar search for Duran, Duran, Professor Ping tries to fix her crashed spaceship.  During the whole movie Barbarella finds herself in perilous situations.  Luckily, there’s always an escape; until, Duran Duran captures her and places her in the “Excessive Orgasmic Machine.”  This is Duran Duran’s ultimate killing machine: you are “pleasured to death.”  I have to applaud Fonda’s professionalism. Her faked orgasm looked like the real thing.  She didn’t fake an over the top orgasm like a porn star; and, she didn’t fake a funny orgasm like Meg Ryan in Harry Met Sally (1989).

To be honest, I was too young to watch this movie when it first came out 1968. So, I didn’t see it; until, a few years ago on HBO.  In the 21st century, this movie seems pretty tame compared to movies and television shows today.  Even so, I was still a little hesitant to watch it because, quite frankly, I thought it would be a waste of time. Happily, I can honestly say that it wasn’t a waste of time. I laughed all the way through this entertaining film. Yes, it is CAMPY! So campy, that it is listed among The 100 Most Amusing Bad Movies Ever Made receiving the Golden Raspberry Award. 

What possessed a successful actress, like Fonda, to make this movie? Her husband? The part of Barbarella was turned down by several actresses before Fonda accepted it. Sophia Loren and Virna Lisi turned it down. When United Artists offered it to Lisi, she terminated her contract and returned to Italy.

Years ago, I had heard Fonda say that this movie was an embarrassment for her and because of that she never watched it. Like everything else in this life, things change. Just before, she and British actress Helen Mirren presented the 2018 Oscar for Best Actor to Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour), Fonda compliments the production design in the Dolby Theater: How about these sets? Aren’t these great sets? They’re just like the Orgasmatron in Barbarella. That’s what they look like.

Apparently, years after it was released, Fonda finally did watch her movie. In interviews, she claims the film surprised her because she actually enjoyed watching it.  Fonda turned 80 years young this year. She has lived long enough to reflect and examine the decisions and actions she has made in her life. In other words, she has learned a lot and is still learning.  Like all of us, she has made mistakes and through those mistakes, she has made changes to make her life even better.

However, there is probably one mistake that will haunt her to the day she dies. Her misguided trip to North Vietnam near the end of the war. She regrets going there, now. Her intentions were right: Doing what she could to help end America’s longest war and bring our boys home. She didn’t understand, at the time, how her actions would be interpreted by both sides. Since then, she has repeatedly apologized to American service personnel who saw her actions as traitorous. Unfortunately, not everyone wants to forgive.

The events of 1968 forever changed America: The assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and  Robert F Kennedy, North Korea capture of the USS Pueblo with 83 crewmen aboard, protesters at the Chicago Democratic Convention, the Tet Offensive which was a surprise attack on US troops during a truce with North Vietnam, the Olympic protests (fists in the air) that resulted with two American athletes (Tommie Smith and John Carlos) losing their medals, and Richard Nixon wins the Presidential election.  All of this and more happened in the space of one year while at the same time bombs explode on college campuses around the country in protest against the war.

By 1968, seven years had passed since Yuri Gagarin completed his famous space flight. Sadly, 1968 was the year that he was tragically killed in a mysterious Mig 15 plane crash. Yet, despite these numerous sad events, there was still some outstanding successes and accomplishments.

Just to name a few with a “Space Travel” focus,  Apollo 8 will successfully orbit the moon. By 1969, man will walk on the Moon. In addition, Television show, Star Trek, had telecast, before millions of shocked viewers, the first “scripted” interracial kiss in the United States. Captain Kirk will kiss his communication officer, Lieutenant Uhura (William Shatner and Nichelle Nichols).  Remember, this was at a time when most white America was still adjusting to the Civil Rights movement and ending segregation.

Besides Apollo 8 and the first interracial kiss, Space Travel never looked so good as it did with another Sci Fi film released in 1968.  This is the iconic 2001: A Space Odyssey. It was directed by Stanley Kubrick and written by Arthur C. Clarke. This was like no other Sci Fi film before. It was an art film with a philosophical base weaved within the plot. This film gave audiences a more realistic portrayal of space travel that included the dangers and some technological threats.  Because of this, space movies, like Star Wars and Star Trek, were enabled to become big movie blockbusters with huge budgets and mind-boggling technological special effects.

Barbarella is a fun movie. What it lacks in sophistication, it makes up for in its innocent portrayal of an emancipated woman. It also reminds us how far women have progressed and how much farther they need to go. I think science fiction writer Robert J. Sawyer said it best: A science fiction writer should try to combine the intimately human with the grandly Cosmic. Barbarella is not a science fiction writer; but, this film definitely combines the intimately human with the grandly Cosmic… to perfection.

REFERENCE LINKS:

https://m.imdb.com/title/tt0062711/

https://debravega.wordpress.com/2018/02/04/announcing-the-outer-space-on-film-blogathon/

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/may/21/jane-fonda-youth-plastic-surgery-sex-cannes

https://m.ranker.com/review/barbarella/541352?ref=wiki_2636556

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/jane-fonda-wish-i-hadnt-31-03-2005/2/