12.27.2016

The Twilight Zone: Queen of the Nile

Next up:
Originally aired March 6, 1964.

"Jordan Herrick, syndicated columnist, whose work appears in more than a hundred newspapers. By nature a cynic, a disbeliever, caught for the moment by a lovely vision. He knows the vision he's seen is no dream; she is Pamela Morris, renowned movie star, whose name is a household word and whose face is known to millions. 

"What Mr. Herrick does not know is that he has also just looked into the face -
 
"...of the Twilight Zone."

Today's selection again features a movie starlet as a principal character. If you're wondering how many Twilight Zone episodes had characters whose vocation was acting, the answer is five, about half as many as those featuring astronauts (ten) or soldiers - at least eleven, but I think I'm missing a couple.

(Robots? Eight. Aliens? Seven. I thought that last one would be higher, myself.)

"Queen of the Nile" is another TZ that would fit comfortably in the pages of Vault of Horror or other classic EC. Simplistic but satisfying. 

Jordan Herrick - great name- is a cynic, according to Rod's intro up there. He doesn't seem too cynical throughout the rest of the episode, but okay. He has been invited to the home of Pamela Morris, famous movie actress, in his official capacity as a journalist, one with a reputation for digging for the truth and not giving up until he finds it. And the truth he seeks is Pamela's actual age.

He's ushered into her study, and as he waits for her to finish her swim, he looks at her various portraits around the room, particularly the oil portrait hanging on the wall. 

Although the portrait is dated 1940, she still looks exactly the same in 1964.
Well, when she's not making faces.

An older woman (Mrs. Draper) appears and is reproached by the actress. ("Didn't I tell you to stay in your room?") She retreats, but not before saying "I'm not going to stand by and watch it happen this time."
Later, Mrs. Draper (whom Pamela introduces as her mother) joins them for tea, but when Herrick asks to interview her, the actress dismisses her, telling him "her mind wanders."
Mrs. Draper catches Herrick before he leaves. She tells him Miss Morris is not who she claims and that she (Mrs. Draper) is actually the daughter of the actress.

The actress flirts aggressively and seduces him - to a point. This was '64, after all, so just a lot of touching and kissing and dinner and what not. It has its intended effect, as Herrick falls more and more under her spell, even telling her what Mrs. Draper mentioned. 

His journalistic instincts aren't completely dulled, though, as he asks his editor to look up some inconsistencies in her story, as well as Queen of the Nile, Pamela's first film.

His editor tells him there have been two Queen of the Niles, the first being an old silent film that ended with the tragic on-set death of the leading lady, Constance Taylor. Intrigued, Herrick begins to yank the threads of the various stories he's been told, eventually unraveling the impossible truth that Pamela Harris and Constance Taylor are somehow one and the same.

Confronted with the accusation, Pamela promises to tell Herrick the unvarnished truth.
 
Alas, the truth is that the actress is an ancient Egyptian queen who survives by getting men off their guard and then stealing their life essence with a magical scarab.

"Viola, if you want to live another day, get rid of it quickly."
At episode's end, another handsome young columnist comes to interview her, and it appears as if the cycle will begin anew.

"Everyone knows Pamela Morris, the beautiful and eternally young movie star. Or does she have another name, even more famous, an Egyptian name from centuries past? It's best not to be too curious, lest you wind up like Jordan Herrick, a pile of dust and old clothing discarded in the endless eternity...

of the Twilight Zone."

The inspiration for "Queen of the Nile" would appear to be the infamous Cleopatra with Liz Taylor (whom the episode's star resembles) and Richard Burton. Though the film almost bankrupted 20th Century Fox, it - or rather, its massive cost overruns and the torrid extramarital hi-jinks of Burton and Taylor - fascinated the public and ensured further immortality for the last native ruler of Ancient Egypt. A Cleopatra-infused episode of The Twilight Zone was just smart business in 1964.
Yet "Queen" doesn't seem to be one of the TZ's most popular episodes, nor was it as far as I can tell a ratings bonanza. I'm not here to tell you it's one of the series' best episodes, but, like "Black Leather Jackets" or some of the others covered in these pages, it's stuck with me over the years as a nice and particularly-Twilight-Zone-y little story. 

I like this sequence of the scarab's stealing Herrick's vital energies:
 

THE CAST

A long career in Hollywood appears to have come to an end with a 1985 episode of Murder, She Wrote.
Gave up acting for directing in the 70s.
The former Mrs. Peter Lorre was also T'Pau of the Vulcan High Command.

And as mentioned here:

"This was the final writing credit for Charles Beaumont, though it was his friend Jerry Sohl who conceived of the idea. 'I had a scarab ring many years ago,' Sohl told The Twilight Zone Companion author Marc Scott Zicree, 'and knew that the scarab ring was the symbol of fertility and immortality in Egyptian times. ... After about half an hour we had the story worked out. I just went home and did it, sent it in, and they shot it the way I wrote it.'

Beaumont was ailing from an illness that was, most likely, Alzheimer's Disease, and had lost the ability to concentrate sufficiently to complete any work. His friends pitched in to help out Beaumont and his family, with Beaumont receiving sole screen credit, though the fees were split. Beaumont died three years later, at the age of 38."

~

3 comments:

  1. I haven't seen this one before, yet even a simple description is enough to tell me this episode is more or less playing with the EC formula.

    By that I mean Serling sometimes tells his tales in a manner reminiscent of "Tales of the Crypt" and the like.

    The reason why not many people like these episodes could be that they can't reconcile the two styles, or something like that.

    It's sad to think this was Beaumont's last work. I ran across a great (so far, the only) full length documentary about Chuck Beaumont:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T0ezeb32CcA

    ChrisC

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    Replies
    1. Glad you agree on how easily this story would exist in the EC universe.

      Beaumont was a great writer for sure - glad he has something quasi-immortal like the Twilight Zone attached to his name, he deserves it.

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  2. "Touching and Kissing and Dinner and What Not" would be a great title for somebody's memoirs.

    I thought I recognized Mrs. Draper, but I wasn't able to place her. T'Pau! Wonderful.

    Charles Beaumont died at age 38 of what might have been Alzheimer's? Man, that's a bummer. Alzheimer's worries me. I hope they invent a cheap cure for that, and soon!

    I put together the Taylor/Cleopatra connection based on the screencaps. Not exactly advanced-level sleuthing on my part, but I'm glad that I'm on the episode's wavelength even when merely reading about it.

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