Saturday, March 9, 2019

THE RICHARD MATHESON BLOGATHON: The Twilight Zone, Nick of Time (1960)


Wide Screen World and Moon in Gemini are our hosts for The Richard Matheson Blogathon running on March 9th and 10th. Thank you, Rich and Debbie.  Day 1   Day 2  Wrap-Up

Richard Matheson
1926-2013

Along with the acclaim and admiration of countless fans, Richard Matheson was the recipient of Lifetime Achievement Award for his writing from the Academy of Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films.

Television offered a fine outlet for Matheson's sly and thought-provoking works. A Writers Guild of America nomination came his way in 1987 for The Doll, an episode of Amazing Stories, and an Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Television Feature or Mini-Series for The Night Stalker in 1972.

Among his many television scripts are 14 original episodes of The Twilight Zone and 2 from the first season based on his short stories and adapted by Rod Serling. Matheson's scripts for the series featured interesting and eerie stories which gave the actors and directors scope for creativity, and audiences something to remember.


Nick of Time debuted in the second season on November 18, 1960 and was directed by Richard L. Bare, a prolific director of television, and short films with George O'Hanlon often featured on TCM. The cinematographer, George T. Clemens was nominated for a Primetime Emmy three times for The Twilight Zone, winning in 1961.

Rod Serling

"The hand belongs to Mr. Don S. Carter, male member of a honeymoon team en route across the Ohio countryside to New York City. In one moment, they will be subjected to a gift most humans never receive in a lifetime. For one penny, they will be able to look into the future. The time is now, the place is a little diner in Ridgeview, Ohio, and what this young couple doesn't realize is that this town happens to lie on the outskirts of the Twilight Zone."

Patricia Breslin, William Shatner

Don and Pat Carter are delayed on their honeymoon trip to NYC by car trouble. The mechanic (Stafford Repp) allows as how it will take three or four hours to get the necessary parts. Ridgeview is a small town and with nothing much to do, the couple heads over to a diner. They order sandwiches against the advice of the waiter (Guy Wilkerson) and indulge in a little superstition and consumerism.

A mechanical mystic seer at their booth, like the mechanical mystic seer on the counter, will answer a yes or no question upon the insertion of a penny. Don is pleased when the seer correctly predicts that he will get the work promotion he has been fixated on during the trip. From that moment, Don places complete faith in the factory created Nostrodamus.

Don does have a rabbit's foot and a four leaf clover on his key chain, but many of us will do likewise without giving more than a passing thought to the habit. When Don determines that the seer advises they remain until 3 o'clock to avoid disaster he dawdles over their stale sandwiches and ice cream. Pat is dismayed to see this illogical behavior and tries to leave before the allotted time. Close to the top of the hour, the couple steps outside and are almost in a car accident. Coincidence, Pat says. Don is not so certain and wants to consult the mystic seer.

Once again, to Don's mind, the machine predicts good fortune confirmed by the mechanic that their car is ready ahead of time. Don is becoming obsessed with the idea that his future is being foretold. Pat asks her own questions in order to expose the randomness of the machine but the answers only seem to confirm Don's faith.

Patricia Breslin, William Shatner

Pat: "You're just a stupid piece of junk, aren't  you?"
Seer: "It all depends on your point of view."

In the space of a couple of hours in a smalltown diner, the Carters are taken on a journey to the future and a journey into their future. A penny diversion in a diner tests the strength of their relationship as it becomes Don's obsession and Pat feels she must fight for reality.

Pat: "It doesn't matter whether it can foretell the future. What matters is whether you believe more in luck and in fortune than you do in yourself. You can decide your own life. You have a mind, a wonderful mind. Don't destroy it trying to justify that cheap penny fortune machine to yourself. We can have a wonderful life together ... if we make it wonderful ourselves. I don't want to know what's going to happen. I want us to make it happen together!"

The magnitude of the battle for Don's mind becomes clear to us in the epilogue.

Dee Carroll, Walter Reed

Rod Serling: "Counterbalance in the little town of Ridgeview, Ohio. Two people permanently enslaved by the tyranny of fear and superstition, facing the future with a kind of helpless dread."

Patricia Breslin, William Shatner

"Two others facing the future with confidence --- having escaped one of the darker places of the Twilight Zone."

Richard Matheson took a mundane setting and combined it with a foolish mechanical moneymaker to create suspense and anxiety for relatable characters, as well as some fresh food-for-thought for his audience in a classic episode of The Twilight Zone.











27 comments:

  1. Everyone remembers the other Shatner episode but not enough people remember this, and I always thought this was better. It's more of a head trip, almost like something that could happen in real life to a certain kind of person. Shatner is more believable to me in this one.

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    1. I agree with you wholeheartedly. Consultation with Janet found her thoughts along your lines as well.

      Although when I showed baby sister Tracey Nightmare at 20,000 feet when she was a kid, the first sight of the thing on the wing made her jump! Good times!

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  2. This is one of my favourite episodes. I like how we get to make up our own minds whether the events that happen are more than coincidence or not. It's so weird to me that this episode never seems to get discussed that much. Thanks for showing this one some love.

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    1. I'm pleased to hear this is one that has stayed with you as well. I would not have thought about writing this piece if not for the blogathon.

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  3. I loved the Twilight Zone, and I couldn't agree more about how this episode gets overlooked because of the airplane/gremlin episode.

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    1. It's as if Nick of Time is the older brother/sister forgotten by the cute new baby, Nightmare at 20,000 Feet. So many remakes and spoofs of the airplane episode have left an impression on folks.

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  4. I remember watching Shatner in his cop series T.J. HOOKER on Saturday evenings on ABC. It was produced by the very successful AARON SPELLING. It also starred HEATHER LOCKLEAR, and three men-ADRIAN ZMED, JAMES DARREN and RICHARD HERD as Captain Sheridan who is the father of Locklears character. The Twilight Zone episode (Nick Of Time) is certainly different than most episodes of that series. It will be 59 years old this year. Shatner was only 29 then.

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    1. I wasn't a fan of many of the Spelling programs although I admired his tenacity and success. I may have done myself out of something I would have enjoyed simply from that prejudice.

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  5. I love Shatner in this one. Shows what a good actor he could be when he wasn't hamming it up. But its strange that a show that is based on fantasy and space aliens should come out against believing in unreal machines. BTW, My own personal T-zone favorite is "Hocus-Pocus and Frisby" with the great Andy Devine.

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    1. I look upon Nick of Time as showing how we can create our own Twilight Zones. Eeek! We are often the source of our difficulties, although I like to blame Old Man Fate.

      I love the atmosphere and the actors in Hocus-Pocus and Frisby. A favourite Twilight Zone is difficult for me to pin down. The Shelter comes to mind easily. My not-so-inner western fan adores Dr. Denton on Doomsday. Oh, and ... never mind, once I thought of Dust and then The Grave and then Showdown with Rance McGrew ... I'll be here all day. Dead Man's Shoes stands out for me as well.

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  6. Richard Matheson was a brilliant writer and this TZ episode serves as a testament to that. One of Matheson's gifts was to take a routine situation and extrapolate it to something gripping. The incident with the trucker in DUEL is one example, but this one is even better. Shatner and Breslin are both excellent. Awesome pick for the Matheson Blogathon!

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    1. Thank you. It was a pleasure to revisit such excellent television and to add my, ahem, two cents.

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  7. Some TWILIGHT ZONE trivia-ED NELSON did an episode VALLEY OF THE SHADOW, an hour-long one and LEE PHILIPS was in QUEEN OF THE NILE with the lovely ANN BLYTH. First Lee played Michael Rossi in the movie PEYTON PLACE with LANA TURNER then Ed played Michael Rossi in the series PEYTON PLACE with DOROTHY MALONE.

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  8. Shatner and TTZ - what could be better?

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  9. I read that a lot of people didn't like the hour-long episodes. What did you think? Also did you watch the ALFRED HITCHCOCK shows?

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    1. I find something in all the years of The Twilight Zone to enjoy. I was a big fan of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, etc. Anthology shows appeal to me for their versatility and creativity.

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  10. Many years ago, Brazilian TCM used to airb reruns of The Twilight Zone on weekends. Now it doesn't anymore and I'm upset. Maybe I can catch this episode in a box set? Well, I only know that you made me curious to watch it!
    Kisses!

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    1. It is so easy for me to get used to certain programming and it bothers me when changes are made. One of the joys of owning DVDs is that we are our own programmers. Take that, corporations!

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  11. More trivia-HOWARD DUFF & IDA LUPINO, who each guest starred on TZ, were married at one time. I read that IDA was the only woman to direct an episode of TZ. Also GIG YOUNG & ELIZABETH MONTGOMERY also were guest stars. They were also married once. Finally JACK WESTON & MADGE REDMOND, another married couple, were guest stars in the same episode. So that was three couples. I don't know if they were any more at the moment. Also did you like the episodes that had comedy in them?

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    1. I meant I don't know if there were any more at the moment.

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    2. New fact for me. I hadn't realized Jack Weston and Marge Redmond had been married. Who knows what else we'll discover in time.

      I prefer the dramatic Twilight Zone episodes, but I always appreciate the humour. I particularly like The Shooting of Dan McGrew with Larry Blydon.

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  12. Today is WILLIAM SHATNERS birthday. He is 88! Being you like westerns, as I do, I want to ask you if you know Shatner for any of his western movies or his guest appearances on western shows like GUNSMOKE.

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    1. I always enjoy watching Shatner. I remember him guesting on The Big Valley, and The Virginian as well as one time on Gunsmoke. I thought his series The Barbary Coast was fun and was disappointed it was so short-lived.

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  13. I first saw the reruns of THE FLYING NUN in 1984 (on USA). When I saw MARGE REDMOND I thought she had been Madge on the PALMOLIVE commercials(Youre soaking in it),but I later found out it was an actress named JAN MINER. Marge had been on the COOL-WHIP commercials as SARAH.

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    1. Some of those long running commercials almost feel like sitcoms in my memory.

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