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Saturday, May 27, 2006

2.11 --- The Convict's Piano

Directed by : Thomas J. Wright
Written by : Patrice Messina (story by James Crocker)
Starring : Joe Penny, Norman Fell, Tom O'Brien
First aired : 11th of December, 1986.

Rick Frost (Joe Penny, Jake and the Fatman), a wrongfully imprisoned piano player, is having troubles adjusting to the life behind bars. After hurting his hand in a playground tussle, he is relocated to another prison wing, where he meets Eddie O'Hara (Norman Fell, Bullitt, Three's Company), who spent the last 50 years at this place.

Eddie is busy with redecorating the prison chapel, so he asks Rick to help him, mentioning that he could also play "Ave Maria" for the prison mass. The two of them dig out an old, dusty piano, which was a special gift for Eddie by the infamous 20s mobster Mickey Shaughnessy. Turns out, Mickey and Eddie used to be good friends, but when they butted heads about one girl, Mickey framed Eddie with a murder and let him rot inside the state penn. Ever the joker, Mickey even sent him a piano, which used to belong to his "Shamrock" club in Chicago.

Rick sits down and starts playing an old song from 19th century, and is amazed when after a few bars he is transported back in time. Suddenly, he is playing a piano in some sort of a garden with a band, with people outside having fun. A girl approaches him and wants to give him a firecracker, but the moment he reaches out for her and gets his hands off the piano, he transports himself back to prison.

Intrigued by the idea, Rick experiments further - playing a song from 1917. gets him back to 1917 Chicago, this time inside a bar. While chatting with a young fellow who is presumingly ready to go across the Ocean and join the allies in fight against the Germans, he spots a box of matches carrying the "Shamrock club" insignia, which he tucks away in his pocket. Again, though, he loses concentration enough to lift both hands off the piano, and so returns to present.

Realizing how he can help Eddie even out his old score and release himself from unjust incarceration, Rick finds a piece from the late 20s, drags Eddie with him to the piano room, and starts playing. Now, he's at the Shamrock club, and Mickey Shaughnessy himself (Tom O'Brien, The Big Easy, The Accused) approaches him, fuming about his choice of music. When he requests George Gershwin's "'s Wonderful", Rick fakes ignorance, so Mickey sits down and starts playing himself - while Rick's hands are still on the piano. Carefully, Rick stands up and lets Mickey finish, who then lifts his hands...and materializes 50 years later at the state penn, where Eddie gives him a warm welcome in a shape of a swift punch to his teeth. Rick, on the other hand, is freed from all his problems, and his life can start anew - although in another decade.

***

Another time-travel story in The Twilight Zone, but this time with few original touches. There's the concept of a magical piano, which is additionaly enriched by the fact it will transport you back to an era related to the song you're playing. Joe Penny, while obviously faking his piano playing (check those hands), is nicely cast as the young con, though Norman Fell's Eddie reeks of stock "in it for life" prison wise man characters which tend to populate every movie/series located behind bars. At any rate, this episode is nothing special on the grand scale of TZ, but is still well over season 2 average so far. Good fun - that's about it.

Odd trivia : here's some Zone coincidence. Back in the 60s, Norman Fell had a role in an obscure Lee Marvin vehicle called Sergeant Ryker. Co-starring in that film was Charles Aidman, the man who provided narration for the first two seasons of the new Twilight Zone. And finally, the movie was directed by Buzz Kulik, who directed 9 classic Twilight Zone episodes. Fell and Aidman also appear together in Lewis Milestone's Korean war epic Pork Chop Hill.

Comments on "2.11 --- The Convict's Piano"

 

Anonymous Anonymous said ... (2:01 PM) : 

Who cares if the ep is not an original idea! Joe Penny looks absolutely YUMMY! In a scene in the prison yard, when he's walking away, you just CAN'T help noticing how those jeans fit him JUST SO! OH GOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

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