Between science and superstition…

Perchance to Dream is a real good Twilight Zone episode directed by Robert Florey, written by Charles Beaumont and starring Richard Conte.

“This is terrifying! This is horrible!” declared Fiona during the first half. And it’s really bare-bones stuff, the cheap sets doing their work, sinking into the background so it’s all just Conte, a terrific, forceful performer, delivering Beaumont’s lines. A typical Zone scenario — an ordinary, innocent man, caught in a nightmare. In this case, maybe literally. The Lovecraft/Machen-like sense that our world is a facade behind which may lurk dreadful things seems to work really well with the pasteboard office environment. The New York we see from the window is a blow-up photograph. But what goes on behind it? Eldritch things, plotting our doom? Or Rod Serling, having a quiet smoke? And which is worse, from the point of view of Conte’s character?

In the second half, we get more of a clear sense of what Conte is so afraid of, and Florey gets to strut his stuff, with Dutch tilts, fancy diffusion, faux expressionist production design — and it isn’t remotely scary anymore. It’s seriously cool. But not scary.

Nevertheless: “That was a really good one!” declared Fiona.

But I had a hankering for the pop-expressionist second half to be grafted onto a whole new opening, and for the stark opening to be given a conclusion equally bleak and dowdy. Then we’d have TWO really good ones.

5 Responses to “Between science and superstition…”

  1. Ha! I’d like two too. This one must have been very Upstream of Tim Burton.

  2. GSPegger Says:

    Doctor, doctor, (pauses to light a cigarette) I am terrified of dying (lights another cigarette with the first one) because of my heart condition (inserts cigarettes in every orifice). This may be the surgeon general’s nightmare. Or, just a typical day in the 50s.

  3. Serling may not have written this one, but it does feel very… nicotine-y.

  4. Harry Stephen Keeler Says:

    You reminded me!!! I always wanted to screen this with Florey’s HOLLYWOOD EXTRA!!!!

  5. Of course! I ought to have mentioned that here, Florey is returning to his pop-expressionist roots.

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