Friday, Oct. 02, 2009

The Eye of the Beholder (1960)

It's a story told almost exclusively through dialogue, unfolding with the patience of a radio drama. We hear the voice of the woman lying on the hospital bed, her head wrapped in bandages after the 11th surgery to correct her apparent facial disfigurement. She pleads with the doctors to remove the bandages to see if the procedure was a success — if she now looks like everyone else. But with the very first glimpse of her face, we know that our assumptions about her, and her condition, are way off.

The Eye of the Beholder was not only bold in its structure, refusing to look any of its characters in the eye — anyone but Rod Serling, that is — but the visual payoff waiting at the end of the journey was both shocking and poignant. Like all the great Twilight Zone moments, the visceral rush of this particular episode was followed soon after by a philosophical one. These were scares you could learn by.