Thursday, January 24, 2013

Evil Lives

Rod Serling: Where will he go next, this phantom from another time, this resurrected ghost of a previous nightmare — Chicago? Los Angeles? Miami? Florida; Vincennes, Indiana; Syracuse, New York? Anyplace, everyplace, where there's hate, where there's prejudice, where there's bigotry. He's alive. He's alive so long as these evils exist. Remember that when he comes to your town. Remember it when you hear his voice speaking out through others. Remember it when you hear a name called, a minority attacked, any blind, unreasoning assault on a people or any human being. He's alive because through these things we keep him alive.

Most of the episodes in the original Twilight Zone series were half an hour long.

But the episodes of the 1962–63 season were an hour long. There were only 18 of them (it's a long story); all the episodes in the other four seasons were half an hour in length.

For the most part, I didn't think much of the hour– long episodes. That was really too much for the type of show Twilight Zone was — most of the time.

An exception to that rule was the episode that aired 50 years ago tonight, "He's Alive."

Dennis Hopper played a wannabe fascist, trying to win popular support but failing. He was visited by someone who was always in the shadows but who offered seemingly knowledgeable advice on how to build a political movement.

And Hopper's character followed the advice, apparently never realizing the identity of the source.

But the shadowy figure told the story of the rise of Adolf Hitler. And he told it with authority — for the shadowy figure was Adolf Hitler.

He told Hopper all the things he needed to do to consolidate his base and his power. He knew those things would work because they had already worked for him.

Ultimately, though, Hopper was fatally wounded, and the shadowy figured slinked off, presumably in search of a new protege to mold.

The message was that, no matter how much one may want to imagine otherwise, prejudice and hate will always be with us.

That wasn't an uplifting message, but it is one that is always worth repeating.

Because there are always those naive souls who, like Hopper's character, think hostile movements end because leaders die.