Thursday, September 15, 2016

And Then There Were Two

"You're very pretty, now that I see you clearly. But I'm afraid the only way I could convince you of my honorable intentions would be by force. And I'm terribly, terribly sick of fighting."

The Man (Charles Bronson)

Twilight Zone was known for many things — one of which was the number of guest appearances that were made by up–and–coming performers as well as many who may have been a bit past their primes. We're not talking about D–listers here, either. Robert Duvall appeared on Twilight Zone. So did Robert Redford and Agnes Moorehead and Buster Keaton. Burgess Meredith appeared four times.

The episode of Twilight Zone that first aired on this night in 1961, "Two," featured two people who could not truthfully be said to be at the beginning of their careers, but neither were they at the ends of their careers. It would probably be more accurate to say they were on the verge of reaching their primes. Perhaps this episode was what gave them their final nudges.

Elizabeth Montgomery and Charles Bronson played the last surviving combatants in an apocalyptic, presumably nuclear, war. Amid the rubble of a city, they encountered each other. Being the good programmed soldiers that they were, they continued to fight each other, even though there were no armies left, no other survivors.

Narrator Rod Serling more or less left it up to the viewers to decide who had been involved in the war. The signs and posters were written in English, he said, to make it easier for audiences to read them, and Bronson spoke his lines in English, but he never said which country he represented or which country Montgomery represented.

Montgomery, meanwhile, spoke only one word. I have been told it is the Russian word for beautiful. To put that in context, she said that when she and Bronson were walking down a street and stopped in front of a dress shop. Even though they couldn't carry on a conversation, it was clear both were speaking of a dress in the window. Bronson grabbed it from the window, tossed it to Montgomery and told her it was hers.

After awhile, their tensions eased, but not without a few more confrontations.

When one has been conditioned in a certain way, it can be difficult to shift gears — especially if that conditioning has involved following orders, not giving them.

But eventually, they did. Montgomery took off her uniform and put on the dress — but she kept her rifle and a knife handy; just in case, you know — and they walked off together while Serling told the audience this had been a "love story."

A love story by necessity, I suppose, as Bronson apparently was the last man on earth, and Montgomery apparently was the last woman on earth.

It was truly an unconventional love story, but Montgomery certainly became accustomed to unconventional as Samantha the witch in Bewitched, the hit TV sitcom that ran for seven years.

Bronson had been in movies and television for 10 years when he appeared on Twilight Zone. In the years immediately after his appearance, he had roles in several memorable movies that went a long way toward establish his reputation as an actor.

But on this night in 1961, there were only two, and it has been one of my favorite Twilight Zone episodes for many years.