Director: Douglas Heyes
Writer: Robert Presnell Jr.
Cast: John McIntire, Patricia Barry, George Grizzard, J. Pat O’Malley, Marjorie Bennett, Barbara Perry, and Rusty Wescoatt
Composer: None (Stock Music)
Air Date: 5/13/1960
Production Code: 173-3636
A hopeless romantic known as Roger Shackleworth (George Grizzard) falls madly in love with an unattainable beauty named Leila (Patricia Barry). After Roger’s unrequited feelings drive him insane with desire, a creepy old professor by the appropriate title of A. Daemon (John McIntire) sells Shackleworth a love potion, but warns him of its dire effects. To Roger’s surprise, Leila changes her attitude when she consumes the professor’s mysterious concoction. However, Roger soon realizes that even unconditional love comes at a cost.
Whereas the Tales from the Crypt episode based on the same story falls flat because of its heavy reliance on raunchy humor and obnoxious character development, “The Chaser” offers a cuter approach that will appeal to fans of lighthearted Twilight Zone stories. Unfortunately, this entry fails to pack the same punch as many season one installments due to its predictable ending and otherwise clichéd elements.
While nothing in particular stands out about the performances of George Grizzard and Patricia Barry in their respective roles as Roger and Leila, the late John McIntire portrayed Daemon with enough mystery and humor to carry the scenes that feature his character. On one hand, the professor initially conducts himself as a wise albeit jaded individual. In a seemingly benevolent display, Daemon warns Roger of the love potion’s volatile nature before making the sale. Of course, upon Roger’s return visit, this goofy character reveals his true colors by exploiting the foibles of his foolish young customers. By giving the professor an intriguing edge despite his limited role, McIntire proved his talents as an actor while simultaneously boosting the quality of this lackluster episode.
In addition to its underwhelming premise, the irritating attributes of the Leila character never quite reach the point where viewers could potentially sympathize with Roger’s attempt on her life. Though murder should repulse morally decent audiences regardless of the circumstances, Roger’s viewpoint might have at least been somewhat understandable if Barry had portrayed Leila’s clinginess by endowing her with a more grating personality.
In this case, the moral lesson is quite obvious. By excusing Leila’s shallow characteristics in favor of her external beauty, Roger makes for a classic example of a man who would rather pursue trivial relationships over meaningful interactions with the opposite sex. Likewise, the fate of this buffoonish character should serve as a lesson to those who tolerate disrespectful behavior from either gender, yet lack the insight to realize why their problems only compound with time.
“The Chaser” contains a mildly amusing narrative that contrasts with the dark and depressing themes of many Rod Serling presentations. Some fans may appreciate the levity offered in this episode, though one can safely assert that Douglas Heyes’ execution of a timeless concept lacks the memorability of The Twilight Zone’s usual installments.
Overall Quality: 6/10
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