The Twilight Zone Episode 4: The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine

Technical Specs

Director: Mitchell Leisen

Writer: Rod Serling

Cast: Rod Serling, Ida Lupino, Martin Balsam, Jerome Cowan, Ted de Corsia, and Alice Frost

Composer: Franz Waxman

Air Date: 10/23/1959

Production Code: 173-3610

 

Overview

Instead of moving forward with her career, aging actress Barbara Jean Trenton (Ida Lupino) isolates herself from the outside world by continuously viewing films in which she starredTwilight-Zone-Sixteen-Millimeter-Shrine during the prime of her life. Hoping to encourage Barbara, agent Danny Weiss (Martin Balsam) arranges for his longtime client and friend to meet with a studio executive who needs someone to play a motherly role; however, Barbara’s vanity prevents her from accepting such a part. Barbara is once again left unable to detach herself from the past, this time in a more literal manner than one would likely assume.

“The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine” offers a decent, albeit obvious, lesson regarding the importance of valuing the present and future over that which cannot be relived or altered. That being said, a lack of justice may irritate viewers who wish for Barbara to be punished as a result of her spiteful and selfish behavior.

 

Pros

Ida Lupino should be commended for embodying the delusional qualities that have thoroughly warped and corrupted Barbara, even though the conceited reasons behind her self-imposed plight hardly make her a sympathetic character. Also worth mentioning is Martin Balsam’s portrayal of Danny, whose generosity only seems to further aggravate Barbara in every instance; a realistic reaction given her egotistical tendencies as outlined above.

 

Cons

While a more delicate approach to the central character might have elicited compassion from audiences of a sensitive inclination, such an outcome is undermined by Barbara’s mean-spirited and downright vicious responses to those who make every effort to lift her spirits. At one point, Barbara responds to the aforementioned studio executive by insulting him rather than declining or accepting his kind offer with a gracious attitude. Sometime later, Barbara’s rudeness and lack of poise reach new levels upon reuniting with a former costar, whose impromptu visit is met with astonishing belligerence when courtesy and gratitude would have been more appropriate. Despite her hateful qualities as indicated through these examples, Barbara never faces any consequences for her actions and instead seems to be rewarded after entering The Twilight Zone.

 

Analysis

Twilight-Zone-Sixteen-Millimeter-ShrineIn addition to emphasizing why individuals should accept life’s natural changes with an open mind, “The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine” inadvertently stresses the importance of never taking a true friend for granted. Perhaps if Barbara had abandoned her fantasy existence long enough to realize and cherish those people who cared deeply for her personal satisfaction, a perpetual retreat into the past would have never been necessary for her to lead a fulfilling life.

 

Concluding Comments

By highlighting the atrocious personality of its primary character, “The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine” provides a resonating message on why the inevitability of change should never frighten or upset those fortunate enough to possess nostalgic sentiments concerning past memories. Though a bizarre twist ending potentially detracts from the poignancy of Rod Serling’s premise, this episode will no doubt appeal to fans of The Twilight Zone for reasons stated earlier.

 

Overall Quality: 7/10

 

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2 thoughts on “The Twilight Zone Episode 4: The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine

  1. When I see this episode i think of Carol Burnett as Norma Desmond and Harvey Korman as her butler. Of course, the episode is ruined by these images, but they are more entertaining than the episode itself. As you noted, this one’s fine, but not remarkable. The endings good and creepy.

  2. I agree with the fact that Barbara Seen Trenton has an unnecessary arrogance which makes it more difficult to sympathize with her yearnings to go back to her younger days of her prime. Her friend Danny tries to help her and she’s rude to him, snapping at him unnecessarily. Her old agent, he’s not the nicest person to her, and Danny stands up to him for her when he talks to her rudely. The agent will only get her bit parts playing the heroin’s mother, but Barbara refuses to accept that her days playing the young heroin herself are gone. That, I can sort of understand Barbara’s reaction, but people still need to learn to accept aging as a part of life. Barbara’s most dispicable behavior comes when Danny reunites her with a visit with her leading man old flame Jerry who co starred with her in several films during her glory days. But Barbara is so nasty to him just because he looks older than he did 25 years earlier. Yeh, most people will look older 25 years later. There was no decent excuse for the way she treated Jerry, especially since he greeted her so warmly and nicely. He was also someone aging who was now past his prime who once was an admired young lead just like Barbara, but he obviously handled it better. This just shows how people can go two different directions when moving on in life from youth; Jerry handles it by keeping it together, moving to a new career to suit one’s changing status (he managed grocery stores now), and staying content and confident. Barbara handles it by hiding away, going into complete denial, refusing to except changing life status that comes with aging, and refusing to accept others around you who also change with the passage of time and aging. It all takes away the ability to really care for her.
    The other problem was that they seemed to make Barbara look almost exactly the same 25 years later as she did during her prime. They made Jerry look noticeably older, I don’t understand why not Barbara.

    I believe that if they made Barbara actually look 25 years younger in her early scenes, and if they made her into a nicer character, this episode would’ve been wonderful. It would have been easier to really feel her pain during the episode, and it would’ve been even more touching and easier to feel her joy at the end of the episode too when she got her wish.