Sunday, January 19, 2014

TC Television Review: The Top Five Episodes of the Alfred Hitchcock Hour, by Amber Doll Diaz. Ep. 5 - 'The Jar'

A Review of “The Jar”, Alfred Hitchcock Hour.
Amber Doll Diaz

Episode title - “The Jar
Director – Norman Lloyd
Series - The Alfred Hitchcock Hour
Broadcast date - 14 February 1964
Teleplay by - James Bridges
Based on - “The Jar” by Ray Bradbury
First print appearance - Weird Tales November 1944

Good Evening. Within the first five minutes of this popular installment of Alfred Hitchcock Hour entitled “The Jar”, you will suppose you are witnessing an account which merely pries at the mystery of a grim sideshow extraordinaire. Instead, it assumes a much more psychosomatic cast as it chronicles the nightmarish realities of a simple country life unexamined, a marriage not infallible, and the death of innocence. Originally penned by Ray Bradbury, and featured in Weird Tales in November of 1944, “The Jar” was later reprinted in Hitchcock’s anthology Fear and Trembling in October 1963. Without surprise, the episode garnered teleplay writer James Bridges an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Writing Achievement in Adapted Drama the same year. Lacking the win, “The Jar” regardless remains stellar in its effectiveness, certainly rivaling even the best of The Twilight Zone, a deservedly decorated feat all on its own.

Charlie Hill, played by Pat Buttram, is a discontented jellyfish of a Southerner who seems Faustian in his willingness to bargain for his deep rooted desires. Craving the admiration of his peers and the reigniting of his perforated marriage to the attractive but vain and insolent Thedy, Charlie makes an unusual purchase while visiting the carnival near his home. A sign there reads, “The Magic Jar... What Is It?” and thus he happens upon a standard mason jar, filled with inky water, which houses a strange amorphous creature. The glossy, seemingly tentacled, unearthly-eyed being within is indiscernible, captivating all who come into contact with it- including the viewer. Charlie convinces the sideshow barker to sell it to him for twelve dollars.

Many of the townsfolk and neighbors Charlie shares his simple life with are entranced, and flock to his home by nightfall to have a fellowship centered on guessing what exactly is in the jar. In an interesting plot point, each citizen gazes into its ghoulish waters and begin to vent while projecting their own personal misfortunes, fears and sorrows upon the jar. For a time it is something therapeutic for all who attend, especially Charlie, who is grateful and relishes his find, but not for the jealous and disgusted Thedy, who fumes in a corner.

This disturbing, atmospheric episode featured a fairly impressive cast, with Collin Wilcox (1935-2009) playing Thedy, the cunning, self-involved young wife of Charlie Hill, and who very deservedly becomes the episode’s “center of attention”. Collin Wilcox is remembered largely by fans of the iconic The Twilight Zone episode “The Number 12 Looks Just Like You”, but instantly recognized by myself as the young actress who portrayed Mayella Ewell in To Kill A Mockingbird (1962). A truly convincing and capable actress, and by golly, she sure did have a knack for playing conniving southern tarts!

Much like the backwoods low-life social commentary of Stephen King’s first novel Salem’s Lot, "The Jar" affords viewers a glimpse into the existence of darkness in prosaic men. Evil often goes hand-in-hand with banality, be it a lifestyle or mindset. Charlie and Thedy lead lives of such uneducated mundanity and longing, which ultimately drives them hellwards. Fans of Hitchcock seeking their noir fix will delight in the star-crossed pair’s mutual internal corruption as well as the deep disillusionment Charlie feels – a function of his lowly communal standing.

“The Jar” is a masterwork of character development, but mostly where it doesn't really count. It seems the more minor townspeople were given further reflective monologues than the three leads, including a cringe-worthy scene in which a character sinks in quicksand while a slave-like farm hand drones on and on about what he believes the innards of the jar to be, rather than assisting the victim at hand. I am certain this was meant to be an attempt at generating suspense, but it more irritated than captured me. Not to impugn his work too harshly, but perhaps if Hitchcock had directed in place of Norman Lloyd, (a fantasy, I know, with only 17 out of 268 Alfred Hitchcock Presents episodes directed by him, and but one Alfred Hitchcock Hour episode: “I Saw The Whole Thing” starring John Forsythe) this scene might have properly intensified the overall tension.

On a side note, happily I have found through research that the actual jar prop remains perfectly intact (albeit dusty) and never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting upon a collector’s nightstand. In my estimation, Bradbury's original short story is a crowning achievement of psychological horror, and supersedes this adaptation in terms of excellence as more than a matter of principle. I remain spellbound by his nebulously twisted imagery and often philosophical ability to describe a physical object of horror. However “The Jar”, when re-published in his 1955 collection The October Country was tossed to and fro by contemporary reviewers. The critical reception of the story was polarized when articulated by Carlos Baker for the New York Times, who harshly cataloged Bradbury as “a gifted writer making a play for the designation of the poor man's Poe…” and with Time Magazine calling him “the arrived monster-monger” and “fit replacement for August Derleth, eldritch statesman of the well-informed witchlover”. Typically I’d begin to lead you astray, Reader, with my absolute opinion on the silly matter of “replacements” for August Derleth, but for you I shall leave that door ajar.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Publishing News: Short Story 'Clean' Published in New Monthly Literary Journal The Fog Horn, Now Available Globally via iTunes App

Issue #2 Cover by Bryan Flynn
I'm incredibly pleased to announce the publication of my short story "Clean" in Issue #2 of the exciting new publication The Fog Horn, a monthly literary journal described as "curated short stories for the modern reader."

I love the way that sounds, and the emphasis on care and quality conveyed by that statement.  And judging this magazine by its (actual) cover, combined with the way they have treated me throughout the submission, acceptance, and publication process, one is quickly convinced that publisher Quinn Emmett and his crew at The Fog Horn are living up to their promise on the page while also prioritizing the treatment of their authors in general.

I mention the latter as this is, without question, one of the best markets going today, in terms of global distribution reach (something-something about an iTunes app), quality of layout, and especially compensation.  None of us (or very few of us, I should say) write Weird/Horror/Dark Fiction for the money, but it is quite refreshing when a publisher pays what I think authors are worth.  Writers are always the first martyrs to jump in front of the spendthrift bullet, volunteering for self immolation by offering to ply our trade for free, just as long as the finished product sees the light of day.  While this is noble (and something I have done in the past, and will probably continue to do if the situation calls for it), very few other creatives do this in the artistic marketplace.  We scribbling scribes must be a self deprecating lot, or just suckers.  But whatever the reason, it is - as noted above - a nice change of pace to get paid decent money for doing the work we love.  A blessing, to be sure, but one that shouldn't be as rare as Southern California rainfall.

As for the story itself:  I don't think I'm alone in that writers like/enjoy some of their own stories better than others.  Sometimes, in the journey from the initial spark of inspiration, to the mulling process, to the final pressing of the letters into the clay, a story just doesn't turn out the way you wanted it to (much like the structure of that sentence).  "Clean" is one of my favorite pieces.  It ended up exactly the way I envisioned it, and I like the pared down quality of the prose, which up to the time of its completion, was a bit of a departure for me in terms of style, and also tone, and even genre, marking an evolution in my writing, however small.  It's set in the real world, or very close to it.  It could happen.  It does happen, but maybe not in the same exact way.

Regardless, I am happy with "Clean," and very excited to have it out living in the wider world.  Please stop by The Fog Horn website and/or blog, even if you don't purchase a copy of Issue #2, to check out a literary journal done right, and a preview of what will most likely be the future of literary publishing, as more and more readers move away from traditional timber and ink journals and books, and embrace the popularity of e-readers and page turning by phone.

Oh, and for a bit o' fun, get a load of my illustrated self, done by the talented The Fog Horn Art Director Bryan Flynn (creator of the gorgeous cover above), who manages to make me look grizzled, smug, and dissipated all at the same time, which pretty much sums up the man:

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

TC Editor Interview: Brian M. Sammons and Glynn Owen Barrass Discuss Release of Lovecraftian Cyberpunk Anthology 'Eldritch Chrome,' Now Available from Chaosium, Inc.

Cover art by Daniele Serra

I'd like to share a recent interview I conducted with authors/editors Brian M. Sammons and Glynn Owen Barrass, on the occasion of the release of Eldritch Chrome, an anthology bristling with 18 tales of Lovecraftian Cyberpunk penned by some of the finest names working in Speculative Fiction today.

If you like your punk cybernetic, your future dystopian, and you tentacles biomechanical, this is the book for you.  Pull up tight your vinyl sheets, strap on your kinked out breathing apparatus, and settle in for an unsettling read.

Please enjoy my chat with Brian and Glynn, and thanks to the lads for sitting down with The Cosmicomicon.

First of all, let’s set the table and give a little background on each of you.  

Glynn: I took up writing rather late I suppose, in my late 30s, but have always been a fan of the written word. Since I first read Lovecraft, at the age of 13, I always wanted to be a writer, and when I graduated university, again late in life, I took pen to paper and began in earnest. Lovecraft, Ramsay Campbell, Raymond Chandler and the Cyberpunk genre are heavy influences in my work. I’ve written over a 100 short stories, most of which have been published in America, England, and Japan.

Brian: I've always been a story teller and that’s why I started running role playing games as a youngster. It allowed me to make up and tell tales to my friends. So as a RPG nerd and a lover of all things horror, I started writing for the Call of Cthulhu RPG in the late 1990s. I then took a long hiatus (not by choice) and when I returned to my keyboard, I started focusing on fiction. While my mainstay has always been horror, I have dabbled in many subgenres such as Lovecraftian, weird, splatter, and I have dabbled in sci-fi, action, and fantasy. I still do game work today and I am currently working with a film company on the screenplay for one of my stories they have optioned to turn into a movie and that’s a real kick.

You both write as well as edit.  Do you value/enjoy one over the other?  

Glynn: Both have their thrills, and I enjoy editing greatly as it gives me a chance to read awesome fiction! Creating fiction is excellent too, the process that goes into bringing a story to life, so this is a tough question. Right now – I enjoy creating a little bit more than editing, but that may change depending on what I’m working on.

Brian: I also prefer to write, because I have that insatiable need to create and tell stories. That said, I do really enjoy editing anthologies and I seem to keep adding more editing projects to the ‘to do’ pile every day. I think I like doing them so much because then I can make the books that I would want to read that no one else seems to be doing. It is a lot of work, and it’s never fun when you have limited space in a book and twice that in great stories to choose from. Rejecting good authors is easily the thing I hate most about being an editor. But to build a book from the ground up, from the initial concept, to selecting all of its contents, to doing all the finishing touches, well that’s what makes all the hard work worth it.

How did you two come together to work on Eldritch Chrome, and from whence did the project arise?  Did the anthology originate from inside Chaosium, or did you take it to the publisher and sell them on it?

Glynn: At the time I was writing a lot of crossed genre Cthulhu Mythos/Cyberpunk stories, and I was chatting to Brian about it one day and just asked him: ‘Wouldn’t it be great to do a book as a collection?’ Brian loved the idea, we put the pitch together, and he was straight on to Chaosium with it, on the condition: ‘Sure man, but I have this great Cthulhu/Steampunk idea that we have to do next.’ Chaosium snapped both ideas up, and a few more besides.

Brian: Glynn and I met on the internet and soon discovered that we had a lot in common. One day while kicking around thoughts about books and stories, he came up with the idea for a Lovecraftian horror meets cyberpunk anthology. I had a long relationship with Chaosium thanks to my Call of Cthulhu writing, and I knew they were looking to jumpstart their slumbering fiction line. They were very interested in the book and so we were off and running.

The cover features artwork by Daniele Serra, a favorite of mine and a name well-known in Weird Fiction circles.  How did you hook up with Dani as the cover artist?

Glynn: We have admired Dani’s work for a while, and when it came to choosing an artist he was our first choice. It was as simple as sending him an email, as Dani loves painting as much as people love admiring his work.

Brian: This was the first time we worked with Dani, but it would not be the last. He also did the cover for this book’s unofficial companion anthology, Steampunk Cthulhu (another collaboration between Glynn and I), and I tapped him again for an amazing cover for an upcoming horror western book called Edge of Sundown. Dani is amazingly talented and just a great guy to work with, so I am sure we will be working with him again and again.

How many submissions did you receive?  Was the volume and quality of the subs about the same as past projects?  What was the most surprising part of the process (if anything)?

Glynn: This was a closed project, so we received about 25 stories. Also this was our first editorial project together but being familiar with the authors already, we knew we would receive quality work.

Brian: Yes, for our first effort together, we decided to go with the authors we were familiar with. Those that we were already fans of. The book that followed it, Steampunk Cthulhu, would be an open call and for that one we read over one million words in submissions! But that’s another story. As for the quality of submissions on Eldritch Chrome, they were all excellent, and perhaps the most surprising part of the process was the number of great stories we got for the book. Of course that meant that many good stories had to be rejected just for lack of space. The one upside to that is that the only best of the best will be found between the covers of Eldritch Chrome, and that makes me very happy.

What can readers expect to find in Eldritch Chrome?  To whom would this anthology appeal?

Glynn: Readers can expect to find unique takes on Cyberpunk and the Cthulhu Mythos genres – the writers here really have excelled in their craft. Really, this anthology will appeal to a lot, we’re not just saying that! Fans of Cyberpunk and Cthulhu, of course, Horror fans, and fans of the individual authors are in for a treat.

Brian: The criteria for making it into this book were twofold. The stories had to be great Lovecraftian/Cthulhu Mythos tales, and they had to be excellent examples of the cyberpunk genre. The authors had to have a strong grasp on both types of tales and those that got the thumbs up from us had that in spades. So if you enjoy reading about the creepy, cosmic horrors that H.P. Lovecraft gave to the world, this book will be for you. If you’re a fan of the dark, dystopian future of cyberpunk, then you’ll also dig Eldritch Chrome. If you are a fan of both, as Glynn and I are, then you’ll love the book.

As editors with a (rapidly growing) track record, what advice can you give to writers seeking to place their work in anthologies such as yours?

Glynn: Heh, well... First of all, read the guidelines well as we are very particular about what we’re looking for. Whatever you do, don’t take an old story and just tack on something to make it match the theme we’re looking for – that stands out terribly and we reject stories like that. Also, proof and edit the hell out of your work before sending it to us. Stories with typos every paragraph rapidly get rejected, but thankfully, the authors we go to are so good at their craft we get stories near hand perfect, which makes an editor’s job far easier.

Brian: Read everything Glynn just said again. And then once more. Got that? Good. The only other thing I could think of to add would be for you to know the genre(s) and the type of stories we’re looking for intimately. If we would do an anthology of Robert E. Howard-like, two-fisted adventure tales set in the world of Alice in Wonderland, then you had better know both R.E.H. stories and the fantastic world that Lewis Carroll crated like the back of your hand. Not having a good understanding of the genre(s) we’re looking for is the surest way to get rejected.

What sort of books would you like to see more of in genre fiction, as writers, editors, and readers?

Glynn: That’s a difficult one. Hmm, more books by us for a start (Laugh, Out, Loud). But seriously, there are some great authors out there that deserve a lot more recognition than they have so far, people that work hard, produce consistently quality work, that we hope we are helping to introduce to a wider audience.

Brian: Glynn beat me to the punch, as he often does, with the answer to what books we would like to see published as writers and editors: books by us, of course. As for what books I’d like to see as a reader, well I have a few more ideas for anthologies that I would love to read. That’s how I usually come up with ideas for the books I edit, so I think I’ll keep those idea to myself for right now. In addition to that, anything by my favorite authors or perhaps more of a return to form from some of my old favorites. Stephen King jumps readily to mind in that regard, although I must confess, I still have yet to read his Doctor Sleep.

What’s next for both of you lads, both individually and as an editing team?

David Lee Ingersoll
Glynn: As a team, there are three more anthologies coming out in the near future: Steampunk Cthulhu and Atomic Age Cthulhu (both from Chaosium) and another project that is sort of a secret that you, Ted, are appearing in with a truly brilliant piece of work. Brian has also written some Call of Cthulhu RPG campaigns that I am proud to have contributed to. Solo-wise, I have a novel being released early 2015, based on the King in Yellow Mythos, and also various Call of Cthulhu and anthology appearances. Brian and I are also soon to be pitching a new Cthulhu Mythos anthology to publishers.

Brian: Since Glynn nailed our team-up projects, I’ll just list some of my other efforts. I am currently working on a novel with an author I admire the hell out of, Jeffrey Thomas. I am editing another Lovecraftian anthology called The Dark Rites of Cthulhu for the brand new publishing house, April Moon Books. I will be co-editing another anthology called The Legacy of the Re-Animator (three guesses as to what that’s about) with the very talented writer, Pete Rawlik. I will be overseeing and editing a collection/shared world anthology for my good friend, C.J. Henderson. I have two ‘straight horror’ (read as: non Cthulhu Mythos) anthologies that I will be starting up soon. I am working on a screenplay for a film adaptation of one of my stories. I continue to write short fiction and scenarios/books for the Call of Cthulhu RPG game. And somewhere amidst all that I try to have a life.

Any closing thoughts?  Prescient insights?  Favorite casserole recipes?

Glynn: Well first of all, thank you kindly for this interview Ted – it has been a pleasure answering your questions. I was thinking of saying something controversial as a closing thought (‘Reptoid Freemasons run the country!’ ‘Recycle your pets!’), but instead I’ll leave you with this: “My brother, knows Karl Marx, He met him eating mushrooms in the people’s park, He said 'What do you think about my manifesto?' I said 'I like a manifesto, put it to the test-o.” (Thank you, Sultans of Ping, F.C.)

Brian: Oh dear, it seems Glynn has gone off his meds again. Well before I give him a hand with that, I will also echo his thanks regarding you and this interview, Ted. You’re one of the good ones, I don’t care what everyone else says. But seriously, I hope people out there enjoy Eldritch Chrome and all the other books Glynn and I busted out butts on to bring out. I hope they also stick around to see what we do next, as it’s going to be pretty damn cool.

From the Chaosium, Inc., website:

Unquiet Tales of a Mythos-Haunted Future

DURING THE DECADES since H.P. Lovecraft first wrote of the Cthulhu Mythos, many authors have crossed his themes into other genres, enhancing his original vision with stories taking place in the distant past, in the far-flung future, and in myriad places in-between.

Cyberpunk tales are written in dark, gritty, film-noir styles. Their protagonists live and die at the bottom echelon of an electronic society gone awry. They may be seedier, poorer, and less inclined to make moral judgements than stoic Lovecraftian New Englanders, but in Cyberpunk-Cthulhu tales they encounter the same horrors as their more-genteel predecessors.

Confronting monstrous entities and fiends from beyond space and time, the Cyberpunk-Cthulhu hero may wield high-tech weapons and have other advances at his or her disposal. To beings where time has no meaning and whose technologically is so advanced that their actions seem supernatural or powered by magic, no human finds an advantage.

This is the Cyberpunk-Cthulhu world—mythos horrors lurk at the edge of society, mythos-altered technology infects human beings, dark gods lurk in cyberspace, and huge corporations rule society while bowing to entities inimical to humankind.

Selected and edited by Brian M. Sammons & Glynn Owen Barrass. Cover art by Daniele Serra. 272 pages. Trade Paperback.

ISBN-10: 1568823894
ISBN-13: 9781568823898

The Tales Included:

"Obsolete, Absolute" by Robert M. Price
"The Place that Cannot Be" by D.L. Snell
"The Battle of Arkham" by Peter Rawlik
"The Wurms In the Grid" by Nickolas Cook
"SymbiOS" by William Meikle
"Playgrounds of Angolaland" by David Conyers
"Sonar City" by Sam Stone
"The Blowfly Manifesto" by Tim Curran
"Flesh & Scales" by Ran Cartwright
"Inlibration" by Michael Tice
"Hope Abandoned" by Tom Lynch
"Immune" by Terrie Leigh Relf
"Real Gone" by David Dunwoody
"CL3ANS3" by Carrie Cuinn
"Dreams of Death" by Lois Gresh
"The Gauntlet" by Glynn Owen Barrass and Brian M. Sammons
"Indifference" by CJ Henderson
"Open Minded" by Jeffrey Thomas

Sunday, January 12, 2014

TC Television Review: The Top Five Episodes of the Alfred Hitchcock Hour, by Amber Doll Diaz. Ep. 4 - 'Final Escape'

A Review of “Final Escape”, Alfred Hitchcock Hour.
by Amber Doll Diaz

Episode title - “Final Escape
Director - William Witney
Series - Alfred Hitchcock Hour
Broadcast date - 21 Feb. 1964
Teleplay by – John Resko, Randall Hood, and Thomas H. Cannan Jr.
Based on – Reprieve by John Resko

Good evening. If you are a claustrophobic, an alcoholic or a convicted criminal, perhaps this is not the episode for you. However, if you are as bold and dare-deviling as our alliterative lead man Paul Perry (Edd Byrnes) then by all means, don’t bail on this one. Impressive in dynamic, but simpler in plot, “Final Escape” is a very straightforward episode, and thus gives me little leeway for detailing too many plot-points. That said, there will be just a handful of expository sentences here forth. I would gladly sacrifice length and points of interest in the hope that I should never spoil what is perhaps the strongest end reveal in Alfred Hitchcock Hour history.

Opening with a very Hitchcockian, divergent shot of an idyllic wooded lake, Paul Perry is apprehended by police after having recently escaped from prison. A notorious multiple bank robber, Perry is taunted by officers and then tossed back into the darkness from whence he came- along with an additional year added to his initial ten year sentence. Afterwards, we meet the elderly Doc, a “lifer” working the prison infirmary who also handles burial detail for all the convicts when they manage the age-old magic trick of making it out while still within. Doc suffers with alcoholism and the frailty of his polio-stricken niece Lisa. The warden, who despises Perry, puts him to work alongside Doc and it is then that they share their stories. Mutual compassion for their respective dilemmas makes the complacently sad Doc and the desperately wily Perry fast but unlikely friends, with something to offer on either end.

The dialogue here is balanced and clear, and character development is something of a dream for viewers, as it brings no confusion or vague allusions in terms of each individual’s motivations. Doc’s need for Perry’s money stems from the profound love that he feels for his ill niece, and this includes a tellingly heart-wrenching scene with the sickly girl during visiting hours. The warden despises Perry’s insubordination because it undermines his reputation of callous authority; and of course Perry longs to escape because he has clearly contemplated his own disdain for mundanity:

“That world out there Doc…it’s got a little more to offer me than what I can find in here.” 
“[in reference to the warden criticizing his ingratitude] Appreciate what?! The next ten years of mush, beans and sow bellies?!”

As compelling as the episode itself are the traumatic and true autobiographical events teleplay writer John Resko utilized when writing the episode. In 1930, John Resko and his accomplice had been tried and convicted for the murder of a store-owner during a botched robbery. Less than a year later, he found himself shaven and sweating in Sing Sing’s electric chair, quite literally moments away from execution when word came in of his pardon by President FDR. He was just nineteen years old. Friends and family had written tirelessly upon his true favorable nature as well as the mental hold his devious accomplice had on him. He was then transferred to the extremely crude and horrifying fortress-like Clinton Prison in New York, where he would be freed years later. Resko went on to publish a memoir entitled Reprieve in 1956, having spent decades painting and writing behind bars. He had gained a significant amount of notoriety as well, for on his behalf Groucho Marx once wrote: “Sir, I would be glad to sign a petition to have this artist released from the penitentiary. I agree with you that he has paid his debt to what is loosely called society.”

Certainly the most fundamental element of noir is the entwinement of disillusionment within the seedy annals of criminal activity, and if “Final Escape” can be described in any way it is in those terms. If events such as what befell John Resko don’t make for the ideal assist in crafting a noir installment, then I am no longer at liberty to say what might, and it is my defeated summation that a tale as potent as “Final Escape” is only further exalted by credible writing and writers. Having been drawn for the most part from actual happenstance, this episode is that much more memorable and well executed.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

TC Television Review: The Top Five Episodes of the Alfred Hitchcock Hour, by Amber Doll Diaz. Ep. 3 - 'Consider Her Ways'

A Review of “Consider Her Ways”, Alfred Hitchcock Hour.
by Amber Doll Diaz

Episode title - “Consider Her Ways
Director - Robert Stevens
Series - The Alfred Hitchcock Hour
Broadcast date - Dec 28, 1964
Teleplay by - Oscar Millard
Based on - “Consider Her Ways” novella by John Wyndham
First print appearance – Consider Her Ways and Others (1961)

Good Evening. Perhaps you have heard the expression, historically and often applied to either gender: ‘Men. You can’t live with ‘em, and you can’t live without ‘em’. If you find this turn of phrase to be personally relevant, please refer to this emotionally charged installment of Alfred Hitchcock Hour, knowledgeably titled “Consider Her Ways” by John Wyndham, and directed by Robert Stevens. You’ll be in for a timely change of heart.

“Consider Her Ways” begins with a short, celestial opening monologue which both captivated and mesmerized me upon first viewing.  Later plot events prove the reaction highly called for, as it usefully deepens the viewer’s experience whilst we connect with our protagonist, a young woman named Jane Waterleigh who undergoes a hazy, otherworldly ordeal. We first meet her as she awakens from an apparently medically induced slumber in a hospital bed, being tended to by two peculiar women, albeit a doctor and nurse. Curious enough is the unfortunate bodily state she then finds herself in as she reaches for a glass of water. Jane faints upon noticing her arm is hugely corpulent, along with the rest of her body, and thus we are to assume this is far from her typical understanding of herself. Curiouser still, is when Jane must be hand-carried by exclusively small people servants (as she cannot move properly under her own newly massive size) and brought to a palace or hall of Bizarro-world proportions.

Entrance ways around her are slanted as if leaning slightly; and one with a cinematically experienced eye might be thrilled to connect such interior architecture with the twisted expressionist dreamscape from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920). This atmosphere I found most welcome, as more and more was revealed about who Jane is, and why she was in such a nightmarish place. Reluctantly and helplessly she settles in to what must be her home, accompanied by two similarly morbidly obese women. They, along with others, inform Jane that she is what is known as a “Mother”, illiterate bed-bound women whose sole purpose is to bear children, and that they live peacefully in a post-apocalyptic world where men have been globally extinct for as long as anyone present can remember.

With a brilliantly dynamic plot design, I was thoroughly engrossed and pleasantly surprised to find the mystery of it all as unpredictable as can be. Typically as I watch television shows first aired nearly a half century ago, I find myself automatically and involuntarily solving the reveals as soon as the fifteen minute mark has passed. This was not the case here, and it is this masterful timelessness that I appreciated above all. However, not all was fair as I was let down by a separate but equal issue. Ultimately, this episode just about misses the mark for me, but on a thematic level. When I expected Jane to experience internal growth and closure after her personal loss is described along the way, there was no transition from innocence to experience. The focal character ends up flat and static, even derelict, unlike the persona we expected of her, after her initial admissions of nobility in her education and profession. Jane’s strong sense of self is entirely diminished and a mentally unhinged, clingy side of her is revealed in scope as large as a Mother.

Barbara Barrie, who played protagonist Jane, was an exceedingly adept actress, following closely the melodrama written for the scenes but not overpowering them. Fans of Hitchcock will enjoy this tentatively feminist piece for its trepidation riddled twists and turns, but others might only find it thematically confusing even if interesting. I was left hanging as to the overall emblematic message, but for many this is irrelevant to their enjoyment of the episode, as the literal plot is quite comprehendible and tense.

‘Consider Her Ways’ is based upon a 1961 John Wyndham novella, published within a collection entitled Consider Her Ways and Others, alongside short stories. Having read the online text, I am pleased to report the television version very similar to its ink and paper cousin, even down to exact dialogue ripped straight from the pages of origin. Enjoy the episode, and just before bed, remember to lend an embrace or handshake to the man nearest you, because how awful it would be to awaken and forcibly realize their transience.