Originally aired on March 9, 1962 . The Fugitive offers up a bit of an unconventional Cinderella story, unsurprisingly from the mind of Charles Beaumont. Within the bubble universes of the Fifth DiMENSiON, Beaumont is more often credited with tales of horror and internal terror.
In some strange alternate, future universe where the Twilight Zone, Serling, and Beaumont lived on, I’d imagine Charles would be a great author to tap for retelling and indirectly commenting on some of the events we see unfolding around American politics. ( I write this on the First Day of Joe Biden’s Presidency. Which also happens to be the Last Day of President Cheeto Dick….I forget his. name.)
Back in the DIrector’s chair is Richard l. Bare (1913-2015). Perhaps most notably,Bare directed nearly every single episode of the television show “Green Acres”. The prolific filmmaker would also be a major contributor to The Twilight Zone-Directing timeless episodes like: “Third From the Sun”, “To Serve Man”, “Purple Testatment”, “Prime Mover”, “Nick of Time”, and “What’s in the Box” . James Sheldon ( who was hired to reshoot segments of Bare’s failed version of “ To Serve Man”) was originally scheduled to direct this episode. This may have been due to the production schedule being moved up from October to July.
Another anomaly to the production team was the addition of Jack Swain behind the camera. Traditionally George T. Clemens has brought the Fifth DiMENSiON to life as our crotchety German expressionist Director of Photography. But not on this show, Good People. The cinematography seems thoughtful and it’s very paired well with stock music cues to evoke the viewers feelings of joy, laughter, and a world of imagination to explore ( The opening of the episode does this splendidly with clean, wide open shots of the Children playing Baseball with Ben, played by J. Pat O’Malley. These scenes are then juxtaposed perfectly against the claustrophobic ambience of the tenement where our main character, Jenny, lives with her rough and gruff aunt, Mrs. Gann.
However, as great of a job that Jack Swain did with shooting this episode, it would be remiss of me if I didn’t mention how many small errors I noticed, that the usual cinematographer of the Twilight Zone seems to take notice of and not commit. Small things like hair in the gate creating excessive scratching in the film or short moments where the lens glass is not clean. Nothing to really bitch about, but hey…we’re diving deep people—and these are things I notice. I found it especially curious because the production value of season three episodes seemed much higher and executed with greater detail, compared to season one.
Occasionally the avid listener of IIYW is just a casual viewer of The Twilight Zone. If that’s the case and you didn’t get a chance to watch this delightful piece from the production team over at Cayuga productions, I offer a brief summary:
The episode opens on a group of Kids playing Baseball with an old man named Ben. We quickly learn that Ben has some special abilities. He can hit the ball clear out of the park and change his form. Jenny, one of the kids playing ball, wears a leg brace and is especially fond of Ben. Ben offers a warm, welcomed escape from the harsh reality that is Jenny’s life. Living as an Orphan with her single Aunt, Ben even tries to help Jenny be compassionate towards the woman who does not have the patience or compassion to raise a child.
Enter Two mysterious men looking for Ben. Old Ben reveals to Jenny that he’s from another planet and these two men are there to capture him. Ben explains has to flee to another world, but uses a strange alien gadget to heal Jenny’s leg. The two men confront Jenny and notice her leg healed. They use the same alien device ( which really looks like some type of modern kitchen whisker I’d use in my kitchen- the proto-neuralizer left much to be desired . Shame on the prop designer?) to make Jenny deathly ill. Their plan—to lure Old BVen back to heal Jenny.
Ben returns, healing Jenny and revealing himself to be a beloved monarch on another planet. The two G-Men—his subjects, wishing for the great king to come home, insist that Jenny can not come on the journey. Jenny hatches a plan. Ben turns himself into Jenny and the two subjects are forced to take them both back to Ben’s home world! And Finally our man Serling ( In a rare on screen ending narration) explains that OLD Ben is really YOUNG Ben, and Jenny will one day be his queen.
The closing narration and addition of ‘prince charming’ felt unnecessary and gross. Total Cringe as the kids say. Ben had been established as the best grandfather a kid could ask for. Why couldn’t he save Jenny, raise her as a princess and she’d eventually be the ruling queen- without having to be his wife. It’s two different types of love that they’re squashing together, and it felt awkward, and out of left field.
We’re all just supposed to ignore the old dude who’s basically “ putting in his time” until Jenny reaches a certain age, and then she’s just supposed to switch gears and love him as a hunk? It’s weird, Good People. And just one reason this episode isn’t one of the more well remembered Twilight Zone episodes. Other reasons include the silly Monster suit and Doohickies the G-men carry.
There are some redeeming factors in this show. Paul Tripp’s quiet performance as the Subject in search of Ben was particularly tickling. Paul actually got the roll by writing Serling a Fan Letter:
“Was so pleased to hear that your show had been granted a new lease on life. This is just a rather roundabout way of asking if there would be any chance of appearing in one of your shows while I am out there, next month or so. If it is possible, I shall be very grateful for the opportunity of not only working with you again, but also for the chance to show off my wares.”
“Good actors aren’t that easy to find and just betweeen you and me and Mr. Nielsen—Your Precisely that.”
Another notable moment in “The Fugitive” is the scene in Jenny’s bedroom when Ben offers compassion and understanding to the plight of Mrs. Gann:
“That isn’t very respectful, Jenny. You must remember that Mrs. Gann is a very nervous person, and she isn’t wholly responsible for her behavior.
“Then Who is?”
“Well I’m not too sure, but in any case, you try to forgive her.“
It’s my opinion that what we’re seeing here is a glimpse into the past troubled life of Charles Beaumont. Beaumont was eventually raised by his 5 aunts ( after a difficult beginning with his biological parents) and it has been written that some of the folks helping to raise Young Charles may have been more than a little rough around the edges. But it wasn’t all dread, as Beaumont credited his one dear aunt and her cynical sense of humor and pranks as the source of his wit. Beaumont has been noted as saying his early life was filled with “Football, baseball, and dime store cookie thefts…” while it’s been reported that early on his mother dressed him in girls clothes and threatened to kill his dog for punishment. “The Fugitive” presents a window to this world and gives the abused child the ultimate hope for escape.
Well, Good People, I do believe there is more to say . But I’ve gone on long enough. Tomorrow is a new day, we move forward together through discussion and acceptance of Truth and Fact.
I truly Love you all.