Twilight Zone Faves: The Sixteen Millimeter Shrine
I’m a film nerd, a movie buff and an all-around geek when it comes to all things film. From the making of films to the actual movie itself and back, I love it all. The entire process seems like a dream to me. This applies to tv shows as well. I’m in love with the idea of creating something that gets shown on a screen. Big or small, it doesn’t matter to me. So the fourth episode of The Twilight Zone revolving around an actress obsessed with her old life is right up my alley. And because it is after all The Twilight Zone, the twist gives the episode that extra boost that put the series as a whole above the rest.
In this episode, we watch as Barbra Jean Trenton isolates herself from the world and spends her days in a dark personal theater watching her old films. Once upon a time, she was a big movie star, but time has passed as it always does and Barbra Jean older now. Her movie star status has faded away though she still clings to it. However, it’s not as cut and dry as Barbra makes it out to be. Her agent, Danny, has found a role for her. She need only accept. When she learns that the role is that of the mother to the main character, Barbra Jean becomes wildly offended and storms out of the meeting. If she’s not the star of the movie then she doesn’t want to be in it. Danny won’t give up on her though and brings her old co-star Jerry into town to see her. Barbra Jean is excited, finally, someone who will understand, only once again she’s disappointed. Jerry has aged just like her, he has no interest in making movies anymore and has settled into regular life happily. The world has left Barbra Jean behind and she’s desperate to return to the past, so desperate she’d do anything.
As a whole, there’s nothing particularly special about this episode. It’s an interesting story with a good but not shocking twist. From the moment she appears on screen, it’s clear what our protagonist’s goal is. Her journey there, however, is where the real story lies. Barbra Jean is so mean to those around her that it’s hard to feel sorry for her, even though the woman is clearly hurting. We watch as she takes her grief of aging out on people closest to her and we watch as she spirals further into denial. Everyone around her at a loss of how to help her.
To me, this was the first episode that someone willed themselves into the Twilight Zone. Most episodes consist of people trying to escape it, but Barbra Jean is embracing it with open arms. She would rather spend eternity playing the same part over and over than having to experience life as a journey with a beginning and an end. I can relate to that in a sense, a routine is comfortable and clear. When you have a routine that doesn’t ever change, or you wish for a routine that doesn’t ever change; a person can get caught up in how comfortable that routine is. Or seems to be. Barbra Jean wanted to go back to the time when she was a leading lady because it was what she knew. The comfort of the days of old outweighed the possibilities of the current times.
I really like this episode just because Barbra Jean had such a strong determination that The Twilight Zone accepted her request. She wanted something so badly that it was given to her, despite the fact that from the outside it looks like a harsh thing to ask for. To outsiders, Barbra Jean getting placed in one of her actual old movies could seem a bit too much. After all, some therapy probably would have done her wonders. But when a person wants something so much, nothing but the thing they so desire will ever satisfy them. The only possible outcome for this episode was for Barbra Jean to get what she wanted. Because what she wanted was twisted in a way that only the Twilight Zone could provide.