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Monday, December 19, 2005

1.02 --- A Little Peace and Quiet

Directed by : Wes Craven
Written by : James Crocker
Starring : Melinda Dillon, Greg Mullavey
First aired : 27th of September, 1985.

Penny (Melinda Dillon, Slap Shot, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, A Christmas Story) is an overworked housewife, tending every day to four children and a husband (Greg Mullavey). She is seemingly able to cope with stress of it all, however the incredible noise around her is slowly taking its toll (hey, this rhymes).

One day, while working in her garden, Penny digs out a little chest containing a gold medallion in a shape of a sun clock. She starts wearing it, thinking it's just a nice piece of jewelry, but soon enough she realizes it carries certain powers. Namely, while wearing it, Penny can freeze time - which she discovers as the frustration eventually gets the better of her and she yells out a big "SHUT UP !" while surrounded by her family members. They promptly freeze, just like everybody but her, and are only reactivated upon Penny saying "start talking".

Realizing the power she's suddenly wielding, Penny starts living a more relaxed life, freezing time as she sees fit, either to silence people around her, or shop for groceries without checking out. Her mild-mannered personality also takes a turn for the sinister, as she pulls a cruel prank on a couple of young anti-nuclear activists who ring her doorbell.

However, it's all for naught. The very same night, as she's comfortably relaxing in her bathtub, Penny is summoned to the bedroom by her frenzied husband - the nuclear armament negotiations, which are the subject of all radio and TV broadcasts featured during this episode, have broken down, and Russia has launched the first nuclear missile towards the US. Realizing those are their very last moments, they hug each other, but just as the missile is about to strike, Penny yells "SHUT UP !" and freezes the whole thing. She then walks outside - amidst scores of people and cars frozen in time, and walks to a nearby movie theater, calmly observing the nuclear missile in mid-air which can be seen above.

***

Craven's second entry in the Twilight Zone opus (and there was a fair few of 'em) is an improvement compared to Shatterday, if only a minor one. Melinda Dillon is pretty convincing in her role of a frustrated (desperate ?) housewife on the brink of mental collapse, who slowly transforms herself into a self-styled bitch as the episode progresses. Yet, even with her fine performance, the episode is somewhat inconclusive - there is no hint given if Penny is willing to resume life in a frozen world, or just undo her spell and let it all finish in one blow. Some set pieces in this episode are rather impressive - most notably the ending, in which Craven pulls a tracking shot around the main city square, with plenty of frozen people and cars, all looking very, very real. The nuclear missile could've looked better though.

Worth noting that the movie theatre at the end of this episode is showing a double bill of Fail Safe and Dr. Strangelove, both movies dealing with nuclear destruction.

Comments on "1.02 --- A Little Peace and Quiet"

 

Anonymous Something_Wicked_451 said ... (9:11 AM) : 

I saw this episode the other day. It didn't make a heck of a lot of sense (why a sundial? At least in "A Kind of Stopwatch" the object seemed logical), but I really liked the ending. The missle looked fake as anything though. Still, pretty intense stuff toward the end.

 

Anonymous Anonymous said ... (11:13 PM) : 

This episode is shares some similarity with Arthur C. Clarke's short story 'All the Time in the Word' (except that one had time-travelin', museum robbin' aliens to boot)

 

Anonymous drumboy said ... (8:42 AM) : 

This is the weaker half of the formal episode, and one of the first season's very weakest links, period. The direction is nothing special (the missile at the end looks perfectly awful); the script is practically borrowed from Serling's 'A Kind of a Stopwatch'; and the performances, particularly that of Melinda Dillon, are awful. Dillon is shrill, irritating, bland and lousy, and then some. And was I the only one who noticed the fact that the "still" people were moving rather blatantly?

My rating: 1/10

 

Blogger Rish Outfield said ... (1:06 AM) : 

I don't know how I can adequately express how affecting this episode was to me as a little boy. I'm just old enough to have experienced air raid drills and ever-increasing nuclear stockpiles, and in seeing it, I was delighted by Melinda Dillon's ability to stop time, coming up with my own scenarios of the fun I would have with that power, only to be slapped in the face by the end of the world in the final shot.

As a little boy, I pondered with horror what would now happen to her: spending the rest of her life in a frozen-in-time world, or simply restarting things and dying with everyone else.

The other posters may not have appreciated this episode, but I sure did, and in the twenty-two years since I first saw it, it's the episode of "New Twilight Zone" that I most vividly recall.

Great stuff, bad special effect notwithstanding.

 

Anonymous Duc in altum said ... (2:44 PM) : 

Un ton léger et une idée parfaitement grisante qui, pour n'être pas originale, n'en est pas moins assez bien traitée. L'épisode rappelle que les pouvoirs improbables qui sauraient réaliser nos voeux secrets nous faciliteraient la vie en même temps qu'ils nous isoleraient et nous couperaient du monde. Et que stopper l'agressivité sonore des autres, stopper la violence des hommes, c'est aussi figer la vie et s'enfermer dans l'infinie solitude.

 

Anonymous Big Kev said ... (3:22 AM) : 

I've not seen this in years and reading this brought me back in time I remember seeing this episode years ago when i was a kid..the ending blew my mind.. I used to wonder what she would do :(

 

Anonymous Anonymous said ... (10:24 AM) : 

I think the ending is left ambiguous on purpose. Think back to the scene where the two anti-nuclear activists were at Penny's door, urging her to attend the meeting ... and Penny thinks she's being hounded by two college students who have nothing better to do. If she had taken an interest in the topic of the meeting, Penny might have shared the secret of the amulet and perhaps used it as a tool toward peace. Instead, Penny is apathetic and plays her prank on the two volunteers. Would the nuclear disarmament talks have reached a peaceful resolution had Penny taken an interest in the world around her and used the ability to freeze time for good, rather than hoarding her secret for her own selfish interests (fleeting peace and quiet, to get away from a harried world)? Instead, now we have the ending where we hear a panicked newscaster declaring that "This is the end," frenzied people trying to flee to the nearest bomb shelter, her crying husband and young son, and what we realize is a mammoth explosion just a split second before Penny yells out "Shut up!" for the final time. If only Penny had cried that out at a world peace conference. I see this episode as having a few morals: 1. Take an interest in the world around you, because you might hold the key. 2. You have been given a gift, so use it for good and not selfishness. Penny's ignorance to these virtues results in a world that teeters on nuclear holocaust. Oh, as for the ambiguous ending? Sparked a discussion, eh? Indeed, she could have unfrozen everything to die, or "enjoyed" her new life of solitude and silence ... or somehow reversed everything and gotten the American and Russian powers-to-be together to make one last effort the hell won't have it to resolve their differences, because this is what's happening.

 

Anonymous Anonymous said ... (1:19 PM) : 

it was on chiller recently. This episode was one of the scariest. The final scene with the missle close up, was not the original final scene but done cause there were too many complaints the original was disturbing. The original ending was after she sees the missle in the sky (no close up) she walks further down and around a corner and sees a missle about 9 feet from hitting the ground. Penny then screams Nooooo and then the scene goes to black.

The moral is when you get a gift it should not be wasted on selfishness.

 

Blogger Álvaro said ... (9:55 AM) : 

I saw that episode when I was 12 years old and I was impressed. My uncles commented on of the final scene, everything frozen. And also about the size of the missile, that could not have such a powerful load to be the end of the world. Noticing that I and my cousins were frightened my oncle said: They left the end for us to define. Then she catches her husband, kids, some parents and friends and put all in a big bus. She drive the bus to a distant place that it would not be reached by the missile. There should be some problems because only a few chapters come to exibition on TV in Brazil. I bought all DVD of the new twilight zone and subtitles in english for second and third season. I cann't find subtitles for the first season anywhere.

 

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