Twilight Zone, Episode 2.10: A Most Unusual Camera

Reviewed By Chris Parry
Posted 07/10/02 19:17:13

"Sporadically 'burst out laughing' funny, but mostly not."
3 stars (Average)

“A hotel suite that in this instance serves as a den of crime. The aftermath of a rather minor event to be noted on a police blotter, an insurance claim, perhaps a three-inch box on page 12 of the evening paper. Small addenda to be added to the list of the loot; a camera. A most unimposing addition to the flotsam and jetsam that it came with. Hardly worth mentioning really because cameras are cameras, some expensive, some purchased at five and dime stores. But this camera, this one’s unusual, because just a moment we’ll watch it inject itself into the destinies of three people. It happens to be a fact that the pictures that it takes can only be developed… in the Twilight Zone.”

A couple of philanderers that have just robbed an antique store bitch and moan about their haul, only to accidentally discover that the camera they swiped has the power to take pictures five minutes in the future. Cue greed and mistrust and a sticky demise as a third, and then fourth party, enter the picture.

Veteran TV helmer John Rich directs this entertaining romp through the minds of the sneaky, and he doesn’t let the side down. Having directed TV since the 50’s (Gunsmoke, The Rifleman, Bonanza), 60’s (That Girl, Andy Griffiths Show, Gilligan’s Island, Gomer Pyle), 70’s (Barney miller, Maude, Good Times) and all the way up until the 80’s and 90’s (Newhart, Benson, Murphy Brown), rich undoubtedly is one man who knows his way around a set, and he’s the business here.

Likewise the cast, including Fred Clark, Jean Carson and Adam Williams, hit all the marks they’re supposed to hit. Clark, who made a career out of playing the grumpy old man in movies such as Dr Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine, Sergeant Deadhead and How to Marry a Millionaire, takes no prisoners and looks every inch the 1950’s TV actor. With this episode being more comedy than anything else, it’s fitting that Clark should be playing opposite an actress that boasts her major career film credit as a role in I Married a Monster from Outer Space, and to her credit, Jean Carson is a hoot as the female element of the criminal clique.

Rounding out the big three of the story (the leads are joined by Jean Carson’s dull little brother part way through proceedings) is Adam Williams. A career TV bit player who managed to keep his head above water long enough to get in an appearance in North By Northwest and Helter Skelter, along with a number of lesser known films, Williams has the dubious distinction of having appeared once in just about every TV show in production between 1951 and 1970. He didn’t stick around on many, and though he put in a credible performance in the Twilight Zone classic, The Hitchhiker, when it comes to A Most Unusual Camera he goes for easy laughs as the cliché thickhead and only manages to dim the reality of the piece.

Rounding out the piece is Marcel Hillaire as the French waiter that becomes tangled in this mess towards the end. Hillaire is somewhat remarkable for the fact that, though he was actually German (his real name was Erwin Ottmar Hiller), for four decades of his career he nearly always played a Frenchman. Hillaire brings an unexpected twist to proceedings, but not an altogether realistic one in the end. Rod Serling’s screenplay is decent right the way until the very end, when it turns into one twist after another, none of them particularly brilliant, and all of them involving the infamous Twilight Zone window slip (which seems to happen in one in four episodes).

Is A Most Unusual Camera a fun time? Most assuredly it is, it’s a piece of competent comedy where the bad guys get theirs and the good guys… well, there are no good guys here. And perhaps that’s where the episode suffers – who the hell do we relate to?

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