Favortie TV Episodes: Route 66 "Lizard's Leg and Owlet's Wing"

SWC75

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ROUTE 66 10/26/62 “Lizard’s Leg and Owlet’s Wing”

This is another attempt at combining old movie nostalgia with humor, much like “Journey to Nineveh” but this one works much better. It has its flaws, but it’s entertaining. The boys pull into the O’Hare Inn and somehow immediately get jobs as “convention coordinators”, basically concierges for different groups. One of them is a convention of executive secretaries, all of them pretty. Buz is delighted to have that job. Tod gets assigned to the ‘Society for the Preservation of the Gerenuks’. A Gerenuk is a gazelle who looks like an antelope with the neck of a giraffe, Peter Lorre explains to Tod. They are endangeed and if the Gerenuk goes, the human race can’t be far behind!

Actually, Peter is playing himself- sort of. He’s depicted as an aging star of horror movies who is to meet there with two other old horror stars in the same predicament- Lon Chaney and Boris Karloff. Times are changing and people just aren’t scared by the old monsters any more. They need to come up with new ones to keep their careers going. Or so Karloff thinks. Lorre and Chaney like the old ways.

The ever helpful Tod comes up with a plan: they could dress as their old characters and see if they can scare Buz’s executive secretaries in them. They succeed and it convinces the “society” that the bold monsters still work. We see scenes of Chaney and Karloff in their classic disguises- Frankenstein, the Wolf Man, the Mummy- running through the halls of the hotel, causing the poor women to faint in their tracks. The old monsters still work!

One of the problems with the episode is that the s e xist attitudes of the period really come to the fore here. The women, presumably efficient businesswomen- they are, after all, executive secretaries- not just typists- are leered at and shown as mentally weak when faced by the “monsters”, (and their make-up is not nearly so good as in the original movies- they look like they are their way to a Halloween party).

The other one is Peter Lorre. He’d played some pretty weird characters but didn’t play monsters, although he did a couple of films for Roger Corman based on Edgar Allan Poe stories after this episode. For that reason, he has no costume in the final sequence. He’s obviously standing in for Bela Lugosi, who had died in 1955, (which didn’t prevent him from appearing in Ed Woods’ camp classic, “Plan Nine From Outer Space in 1959). Lorre orders a coffin to be the center piece of the society’s meeting. But’s not dressed like a vampire. Apparently, his normal appearance is supposed to be scary. Early in his career he was thin and those big eyes and sing-song voice somehow made him intimidating is a sort of oily way. But by 1962, (two years away from his death from a stroke), he was fat, baggy-eyed and jowly. He looks pathetic, not scary. What an episode this could have been with Lugosi, Chaney and Karloff! Lorre, Chaney and Karloff just aren’t the same.

By the way, they assume the names Mr. Retep, Mr. Nol and Mr. Sirob when pretending to be concerned with Gerenuks. And, no Gerenuk doesn’t mean anything when spelled backwards (kunereg).

One apparently mundane scene I liked because it underscores the difference between this series and others is a scene where Tod is making a call from the hotel kitchen. In the background we see the kitchen workers making the meals that would be consumed by the residents of the hotel, (probably including the company of “Route 66”) that evening. With Route 66, you are there, exactly where the episodes are supposed to be taking place. Talk about reality television!

IMDB: "Route 66" Lizard's Leg and Owlet's Wing (TV Episode 1962) - IMDb

You-Tube: The whole episode for free!
 
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