Crossroads

TV classics: Crossroads

USA 1955-57, two seasons, 78 episodes, approximately 30 minutes each, ABC, black & white. Cast: Jeff Morrow, Douglass Dumbrille, Robert Carson, Frank J. Scannell, Robert Paquin, Pat O’Brien, Dorothy Green, Donald Woods, Philip Ahn, Jonathan Hale, Brian Donlevy, Richard Denning, Vincent Price, Dick Foran and many others

Plot summary: As a religious anthology series, Crossroads has a look at everyday challenges from a spiritual point of view.

Review: Focusing on the lives of clergymen from numerous denominations, predominantly Christian and Jewish, Crossroads presented a new story and cast each week to entertain and educate an audience from all backgrounds and age groups. Based on actual incidents, each episode offered answers to everyday challenges but also shed light on less common social environments and situations. In Lifeline, for example, broadcast on ABC on May 11, 1956, a young woman (Barbara Hale) seeks the help of Reverend Grumm (Regis Toomey) to salve her conscience and rescue her baby sister from the mob she herself has been working for for years. It’s stories like these that made this show so alluring and the actors who still make it worthwhile today. With selected episodes available on DVD, Crossroads is definitely not a show for agnostics, but it may fill a gap for those who are interested in spirituality and miss a certain sparkle of hope.

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Science Fiction Theatre

TV classics: Science Fiction Theatre

USA 1955-57, 2 seasons,  78 episodes, approximately 25 minutes each, Syndication, black & white, and color (season 1). Hosted by Truman Bradley. Cast examples: John Archer, Gene Barry, Dick Foran, Beverly Garland, Barbara Hale, DeForest Kelley, Otto Kruger, June Lockhart, William Talman, Bill Williams et al.

Plot summary: Introduced by host Truman Bradley, Science Fiction Theatre presented a case of factual science each week, taken one step further by the show’s writers to tickle the imagination of their audience.

Review: Shot in color in season one despite black and white only TV sets across America, Science Fiction Theatre was the forerunner of genre shows such as The Twilight Zone and Outer Limits. Presented by actor Truman Bradley, the anthology series aired on a weekly basis and offered a creative outlook on present-day science and its possible future.

Always written to entertain and educate, Science Fiction Theatre stimulated the mind of its viewers, young and old, and picked up topics such as telepathy, outer space and evolution. Introduced by the show’s host, each story was linked to a concrete example of the topic it focused on and cast with a decent cast of actors to make the plot believable. Often suspenseful and sometimes funny, each episode offered a new scenario of science in motion. “Mind Machine” with Bill Williams, for example, examined the infinite possibilities of the human mind while “The Hastings Secret”, with Barbara Hale, contemplated the abilities of termites.

Today, fifty-five years after going off the air, Science Fiction Theatre is still a joy to watch for anyone who likes to dive into science fact and fiction before starships and aliens conquered the genre. The episodes were short and crisp, and the actors beautifully chosen. If you get your hands on one of the unofficial boxsets, allow yourself to lean back and enjoy the quiet pace of this classic show. It will do wonders to your imagination, a rare treat on TV these days.

Please Murder Me

Talkie of the Week: Please Murder Me

USA 1956, 78 minutes, black & white, Distributors Corporation America. Director: Peter Godfrey, Written by David T. Chantler, Ewald André Dupont, Donald Hyde and Al C. Ward. Cast: Raymond Burr, Angela Lansbury, Dick Foran, John Dehner, Lamont Johnson, Robert Griffin, Denver Pyle, Alex Sharp, Lee Miller, Russell Thorson

Plot summary: Attorney Craig Carlson falls in love with his best friend’s wife and asks for his approval to marry her. When his friend is found dead a week later, his widow is accused of murder and Craig defends her only to discover her darkest secrets.

Review: In Please Murder Me, Raymond Burr was cast as attorney Craig Carlson who falls in love with Myra Leeds, his best friend’s wife, played by Angela Lansbury. That was in 1956, the same year he started working on the Perry Mason pilot before she show went on the air on CBS to be a great success from 1957 – 66. The movie was Raymond Burr’s test run as a successful lawyer and a way for him to prove his leading qualities. A supporting actor since 1946, he finally got the break he deserved and made the best of it. Always immersing himself in his parts, Raymond Burr brought a lot of ruthless energy to his performance and built up a beautiful chemistry with his female co-star.

Angela Lansbury, a Hollywood veteran since 1944, brought an eerie quality to her performance, creating suspense and sizzling moments with Raymond Burr. As character actors, they both took the plot and made the best of it by adding depth to this emotional drama.

As a “typical” film noir, it is hard to summarize the plot without giving too much away. It is safe to say however that this film won’t leave you untouched. Thanks to the profound talent and expressiveness of its two leads, the film takes the step from diverting to excellent. Angela Lansbury and Raymond Burr aside, Please Murder Me was blessed with a decent cast of actors who breathed life into their characters and made the story believable. The perfect film for this moody April weather and a rainy Sunday night.

Available on DVD and online.