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Twilight Zone Miniature

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1 Review

Listening Length: 44 minutes / Publisher: Falcon Picture Group / Release Date: 7 Jan 2011

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      09.01.2013 19:04
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      "To the average person, a museum is a place of knowledge, a place of beauty and truth and wonder. Some people come to study, others to contemplate, others to look for the sheer joy of looking. Charley Parkes has his own reasons. He comes to the museum to get away from the world. It isn't really the sixty-cent cafeteria meal that has drawn him here every day, it's the fact that here in these strange, cool halls he can be alone for a little while, really and truly alone. Anyway, that's how it was before he got lost and wandered into... the Twilight Zone."

      This is a 2011 radio adaptation of a classic 1963 Twilight Zone episode called Miniature written by Charles Beaumont. The story was originally written for the one-off expanded hour long season four and so this audio incarnation is longer than usual too at 44 minutes. Charley Parkes (voiced by eighties Brat Pack relic Lou Diamond Phillips) is a shy middle-aged bachelor who still lives at home. Charley doesn't like his office job much and has failed miserably to make any connection at all with the world around him. During his lunch break, he usually visits the nearby museum as he likes the peace and quiet and they have a cafe too if he feels like some grub. But one day, completely by accident, he ends up being bustled along in a tour group which leaves him in a part of the building he is unfamiliar with. When he is alone he finds himself in a room looking at a beautiful and intricate nineteenth century dollhouse. He peers inside and is understandably astonished to see a lifelike doll that looks like a real woman expertly playing Mozart's Piano Sonata A Major on a miniature harpsichord. He asks the museum's security guard about the house and the doll and is puzzled when the bemused employee tells him the doll is made from wood and certainly can't play music!

      The meek Charley is then fired from his office job and is forced to go out and look for work. But while his family (who are very worried about his solitary tendencies and inability to ever engage with the real world) think he is out looking for a job, Charley is secretly visiting the museum every single day instead. He is completely entranced by the dollhouse and has fallen in love with the doll - who appears inanimate to everyone else but is anything but to Charley. This is one of the greatest ever Twilight Zone episodes in the famous sixties television series. A beautiful and highly unusual love story. But in that incarnation we had Robert Duvall (who played Charley Parkes about as perfectly as any actor could ever hope to) and we could also watch the entrancing and elegant pantomime as the woman in the dollhouse plays music and is served tea by her maid. I find that spooky Twilight Zone stories like Nightmare at 20,000 Feet and The Thirty-Fathom Grave make the best audio translations so does a more fantasy and character driven story like Miniature survive the adaption with its charm and the gentle and delightfully strange spell it casts intact? Some of the poetry is definitely lost and Lou Diamond Phillips is certainly no Robert Duvall but the story is strong on atmosphere and manages to claw back some of (unavoidable) lost ground with this factor alone. The silence and murmurs of the museum, the pretty (but given the circumstances) slightly unsettling music that plays when Charley first discovers the dollhouse.

      I like the music cues in this radio series too and they are a definite plus to this radio production. Nicely understated and almost anachronistic, setting the right mood for the story. Charley begins to unravel even more when he woman in the dollhouse starts to be visited by a (miniature of course) male suitor who may not have the most noble intentions. It's a shame really that we can't see the intricate dollhouse for ourselves (in the television version a wonderful full size interior replica was built for actress Claire Griswold to play the doll) but your imagination can be just as potent as anything you do see for yourself and so this is not a huge pitfall. The story becomes about whether or not Charley has gone mad and is merely imagining everything or if the dollhouse really is magical and allows those who want (or even need) to see it do so. Diamond Phillips manages to bring a decent amount of vulnerability to the part of Charley although the palpable frozen unresponsive hesitancy of Duvall is hard to beat. I missed some of the supporting characters from the television version here though and wished it could have been more of a full on full cast production at times as Charley's family plays such an intrinsic part in the original. Ultimately, Charley is a man who just can't face reality and this central theme at least is nicely captured.

      Although the story is moving and about loneliness and not being able to find your place in the world as much as anything, it is by its very nature very weird too and this quality is also a strength that translates across the mediums. Charley is reluctant to talk about the dollhouse not only because people might think he has gone bonkers but because it's his own little Willoughby. His own secret world and the place where is happiest. Will there be a happy ending for Charley? Is the woman in the dollhouse real? You'll have to listen to find out but please consider watching the television version first too. I liked the radio adaptation of Miniature on the whole but I felt that it suffered in comparison to its illustrious television counterpart (I suppose this is less of a problem for Twilight Zone radio dramas where the television episode wasn't considered to be one of the best they ever made) and that the story was a difficult one to convey through this medium, given the visual nature and style of the original. It's still solid enough though. At the time of writing you can buy this as part of one of the Twilight Zone radio collections (Stacey Keach takes on the Rod Serling narrating duties in all of these) or download it individually for £1.19.

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