Friday, October 07, 2016



S01E16 – The Hitch Hiker

“A young woman driving cross-country keeps seeing the same hitchhiker on the roadside and, unaware she has bigger worries, fears he wants to kill her.”

In a twist worthy of the series, while the Twilight Zone generally stuck to science fiction and fantasy, some of its more memorable episodes were actually the ones that cranked up the creep factor. Take The Hitch Hiker for example, which consistently ranks among the top ten episodes of all time in just about every poll you can pull up. Adapted from a radio play (the only episode to bear that distinction) originally starring Orson Wells, The Hitch Hiker is a terror tale perfectly suited for the Halloween season.

It seems almost a modern miracle in this age of CGI, but director Alvin Ganzer manages to squeeze every ounce of tension possible out of nothing more than a few well placed cameras. The titular hitch hiker, played mostly silent by dependable character actor Leonard Strong, is always sliding into frame, showing up over Nan’s shoulder or in the reflection of the car’s mirrors. He never makes a menacing move or utters a threatening word, but the fact that you never quite know where he is going to appear is enough to keep things on edge.

Ganzer’s clever camera placement almost led to disaster though, at least according to Marc Scott Ziree’s Twilight Zone Companion. For the scene in which Nan’s car stalls on the railroad tracks, the budget didn’t allow for the show to actually rent a train. Instead, they simply set up the shot and waited for one to come along, not realizing just how fast the local locomotives passed through this particular crossing. Go back and rewatch the episode and decide for yourself whether it looks like the car barely makes it off the tracks or not before the train comes barreling through. Ah well, nobody was hurt, and the scene definitely adds to the growing sense of peril for poor Nan as the episode progresses.


Most of what I could say about The Hitch Hiker’s twist ending I have already discussed in my review of Carnival of Souls, a movie I adore, but one which blatantly rips off this episode for everything it can. One big difference in the stories denouements, however, is the way in which the two women confront their final fates. In Carnival of Souls, Mary goes down kicking and screaming, whereas in The Hitch Hiker, once Nan realizes what is happening, their is almost a sense of relief on her face. Nan is ready for death, while Mary is not.

Perhaps this is because in Carnival of Souls, Mary is shown to be something of a wild child at the beginning of the film, getting plastered with her girlfriends and engaging in dangerous drag races. Nan, on the other hand, is just a hard worker enjoying a well deserved vacation before her tire blows out. At the risk of over-simplifying, the narratives give us enough clues to suggest Nan is a good girl, while Mary, if not necessarily bad, is at least living in some grey areas. This is important because, as the old Catholic Encyclopedia notes, “spiritual writers are as one in declaring that ordinarily the only adequate preparation for death is a righteous life.”

Nobody in their right mind is in any rush to die, but a Christian with a clear conscience doesn’t shy away from the experience when they know the time is nigh. Heck, we even have a prayer ready for the occasion…

O Lord, my God, from this moment on I accept with a good will, as something coming from your hand, whatever kind of death you want to send me, with all its anguish, pain, and sorrow.  Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, I give you my heart and my soul.  Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, assist me in my last agony.  Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, may I sleep and take my rest in peace with you.

It’s a good prayer. May it be a long time before you ever have to use it.

Twilight Tidbits: When Nan goes to the gas station, the pumps are branded with the name of the Magnum Oil Company. This is the same name which appears on the gas truck in the biplane attack sequence in North by Northwest. While probably a coincidence (Magnum was a real company after all), one can’t help but wonder if this was a subtle dig at Alfred Hitchcock, who had been trying to buy the rights to The Hitch Hiker for his own show before Serling snapped them up.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016


Pulp Catholicism 044

As today is the feast of St. Francis, it seemed like a good time to dust off this old cartoon about the patron Saint of all animals and spruce it up with a bit of color. As for the subject matter, well, if St. Columba could allegedly chase off Nessie, then certainly St. Francis could preach to her. And no doubt he would be happy to do so. Writing about St. Francis, G. K. Chesterton would say…

“He never forgot to take pleasure in a bird as it flashed past him, or a drop of water as it fell from his finger: he was, perhaps, the happiest of the sons of men.”

And how did Francis maintain such a happy disposition? In a later work, Chesterton would speculate…

“In a…cynical sense…men have said ‘Blessed is he that expecteth nothing, for he shall not be disappointed.’ It was in a wholly happy and enthusiastic sense that St. Francis said, ‘Blessed is he who expecteth nothing, for he shall enjoy everything.’ It was by this deliberate idea of starting from zero…that he did come to enjoy even earthly things as few people have enjoyed them.”

Now, one Saint’s key to enjoying life might not sound like that big of a deal, but remember that the Catechism tells us how the desire for happiness is not only a natural one, but is of divine origin. “God has placed it in the human heart in order to draw man to the One who alone can fulfill it.” So if nothing else is working, don’t be afraid to try out a start-from-zero approach. It’s St. Francis approved.

Sunday, September 18, 2016


Now Showing Marquee 4

My futile efforts to catch up at my day job continue so, while the cruel taskmaster of circumstance keeps my nose firmly pressed to the grindstone, why not take some time to check out what some other folks are saying about religion and movies around the blogosphere.

I did manage to catch a couple of movies. For SCENES I revisited the excellent hillbilly horror parody, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, while for Aleteia I braved the newest installment in the Blair Witch series. It’s okay taken by itself, but don’t expect another classic.

While you’re over at Aleteia, you might want to take a gander at 5 Great things to watch on Netflix now (from a Catholic guy) which Tommy Tighe has dug up. Sister Rose at the Movies seems to like Netflix too, at least those shows and movies on it that shine the light of grace in human stories. Both Tommy and Sr. Rose seem to be particularly fond of Netflix’s original series Daredevil, a show which I may have a few things to say about as well.

Not everything is on Netflix, though. Over at Suburban Banshee, M. S. Obrien has a post up touting what he considers one of the best SF movie he’s seen all year, Space Trucker Bruce. It’s definitely worth a watch, especially if you don’t mind watching movies made by amateurs with a $10,000 budget and filmed in the director’s basement. I caught it on Amazon Prime, but the filmmaker has also made the entire movie freely available on YouTube.

Less recommended is the recent animated adaptation of Batman: The Killing Joke. If you haven’t already heard about it, five minutes on the Internet should be enough to let you know everything it does wrong. However, despite its faults, Speculative Faith’s Mark Carver managed to make it through the whole thing and he came away with some interesting thoughts on just what he thinks the Joker represents.

Speaking of divisive things, SuperversiveSF’s Anthony M. takes a brief look at conflicting excerpts from the works of Nick Cole vs. Naomi Kritzer regarding artificial intelligences and God and chooses a side.

And that should be plenty of reading to keep you busy while I keep slogging away at work. Honestly, I’m beat. I could really go for a nap right about now.


Saturday, August 27, 2016


Pulp Catholicism 050

If you've spent any time mulling around the Catholic blogosphere over the past few days, you've probably stumbled across the kerfuffle surrounding two well known Catholic bloggers who recently lost their writing positions at a well known Catholic publication due to various comments they've made online. You won't find any commentary on that particular situation here because that's not what we do at The B-Movie Catechism. What you will find, though, is this old cartoon I whipped up a few years ago which acknowledges the fact that St. Blogs can be a testy place from time to time, and pretty much always has been that way.

You know, the Catechism doesn't directly address blogging or comment sections on websites. It does, however, have a section on the use of social communications media where it notes, "It is necessary that all members of society meet the demands of justice and charity in this domain." So yeah, based on that, it's reasonable to assume that we're expected to watch our virtual tongues when we're interacting online. Anonymity doesn't excuse us from the demands of our faith. Now, of course, you're free to disagree with that conclusion, and if you do, by all means leave a comment below. But, you know, do it nicely.

THE JUKEBOX HERO HYMNAL: Hymn 029: God, Love & Rock N' Roll by Teegarden & Van Winkle

We haven't added a song to the Jukebox Hero Hymnal for a while, but after being reminded recently of the old one-hit wonder, God, Love & Rock N' Roll (on Gilbert Gottfried's Amazing Colossal Podcast! of all places), I knew it had to go in. Originally starting out as The Sunday Servants, the Detroit duo of David Teegarden and Skip Knape (aka Van Winkle) worked steadily throughout the 60s and 70s, even spending some time with Bob Seger, but they only made it onto the charts once with this little jaunt into Jesus Rock. Gospel fans will probably catch on quickly that God, Love & Rock N' Roll borrows liberally from the traditional spiritual Amen, but the results are so catchy that it's hard to get too worked up over it.

Like most Jesus Rock, the lyrics to God, Love & Rock N' Roll are fairly innocuous. Typical of popular music produced at the tip end of the Vietnam War, there are the usual calls to "still the fires" and "give peace a chance." The majority of the tune, however, is a simple invocation to each of us to reaffirm our belief in God and love and... rock n' roll? Obviously that last part is a bit problematic theologically speaking. We're not supposed to put our faith in any earthly thing, especially not a style of music whose name is often preceded by the words "sex and drugs and..."

However, it's unlikely that's the kind of rock music Teegarden & Van Winkle are warbling about here. The Rev. Basil Nortz, O.R.C., not a big fan of rock n' roll, once noted that while "bad music tends to absolutize the passions, making their pleasure or hate a good in itself, such that right reason more and more loses dominion with the result that the individual falls victim to the passions... good music will stimulate the emotions in such a way that these faculties of the soul, under the guidance of reason, are made to more effectively pursue the good of the individual and his neighbor."

Given the context of the song, that second type of music is most likely what Teegarden & Van Winkle are extolling in God, Love & Rock N' Roll. They're professing a belief that a good tune can stimulate our emotions in such a way that we turn away from destructive behaviors and turn towards those things which can have a positive effect on ourselves and the world around us. Sure, Rev. Nortz is correct that there's plenty of songs out there that do just the opposite, but when it comes to God, Love & Rock N' Roll at least, it's hard not to get a big old happy grin when you listen to it.