Serling-scripted film, discussion at Forum
It's in black and white and there are no special effects or high-speed chases. But the film is suspenseful, sometimes frightening, and the dialog crackles -- thanks to Serling, who never achieved the prominence in films that he earned as a television playwright and creator of "The Twilight Zone," but did excellent work in this adaptation of a novel by Fletcher Knebel and Charles W. Bailey.
The Serling touch is obvious when the fictional president describes the "enemy" he's facing: "The enemy's an age -- a nuclear age. It happens to have killed man's faith in his ability to influence what happens to him. And out of this comes a sickness, and out of sickness a frustration, a feeling of impotence, helplessness, weakness. And from this, this desperation, we look for a champion in red, white and blue. Every now and then, a man on a white horse rides by, and we appoint him to be our personal god for the duration."
The Cold War has long since ended, but the themes explored in the film -- the definition of patriotism, especially, but also the question of disarmament in a dangerous world -- remain salient today.
After the film, the audience can take part in a "talk-back" discussion about the film and Serling with Barbara Audet, journalism professor at Ithaca College, and Gary Ingraham of Cornell University's Educational Television Center.