Thursday, 27 June 2013

Episode Analysis - S1 E30 Incident on a Bridge

Incident on a Bridge (16 Jun. 1961)


Writer: Stirling Silliphant
Director: David Lowell Rich
Director of Photography: Jack A. Marta
(Details from http://www.imdb.com/ - click on the episode title above for more cast and crew)

Screencaps are from the Shout Factory edition of the series.

This is a beautiful episode about wordlessness and communication, about beauty and the beast, about preconceptions and misconceptions. About how we judge, and should not judge. Russian versus American. And then there’s the setting. A juxtaposition of progress and tradition. There are bridges and roads stretching everywhere – the railway and the larger roads that take people and goods in and out of the city. Then there are the smaller roads, cobbled roads, the Orthodox Russian church and the little board houses. The roads that take you nowhere but to the next corner in the neighbourhood, the church brooding over it all.

This episode very much stars Lois Smith and Nehemiah Persoff. Tod and Buz facilitate the telling of the story, but they could be replaced by any other character to tell the story and orchestrate some of the events. I’m always in love with Lois Smith in her Route 66 episodes, but she performs wonderfully here. She is a mute, and doesn’t have a word to say in the entire episode, but it doesn’t matter. Everything is conveyed wonderfully through expression and action. And then there’s Nehemiah Persoff, the ineloquent, ungainly outcast, the ‘monkey man of Russian Hill,’ and he’s barely recognisable as the same man who starred in First-Class Mouliak. This is the final episode of Season One, and one of its best, I would say.



What a beautiful bridge to start with. But this is not the bridge. This is not the gritty central point of this Cleveland tale...



This is the bridge. Much more menacing and imposing and powerful. An opening bridge that lets boats up the river and trains across. As the central section lowers down there’s something menacing about it, as if it is a weight lowering to crush what lies beneath.

And while were talking about the bridge lowering, here's a snippet from an NPR interview with Maharis about the series where he mentions this episode - "We never saw the schedule," Maharis says. "It was week-to-week. We didn't know where we were going and sometimes we wouldn't know what the script was until two days before shooting." In fact, sometimes, it might take a little longer than that to actually get the scripts, since they were sometimes in a city where they wanted to shoot more than one episode, but not all the scripts were done yet. "I remember we were in Cleveland doing the one with Nehemiah Persoff about the Russian Hill, and we were standing on the bridge, and we had no pages — we didn't know where to go yet. Luckily, they had to raise and lower the bridge, and in the meantime, the plane landed in Cleveland, and a car took the script and brought it to us, because we didn't know what clothes we were supposed to be in."



Here are our boys, rather beautifully shot by a gradually approaching camera that must be mounted on the rails. The intro music gives way to jazz on a record player – an odd and rather incongruous thing in this bleak and cold setting.



I just like this. The record player on the ground, and all the feet.



‘Almost worn clean through,’ the detective says of the record.

‘It was the only one she had,’ Buz tells him. He looks right holding a record.



Tod’s looking rather nice too, especially with Gormless there next to him. He does have a spot on his coat, though, but this is the end of an Event, we can tell, so we can forgive him the spot. This is one of those retrospective episodes. The plot’s already happened. We’ve caught the tail end, and soon we’re going to be sent on a journey back through time. Something momentous and odd has happened. ‘She’ carried the record player way up to the top of the bridge. It’s the kind of poetic mystery only Route 66 can explain.



They’re both looking chilly. The detective’s asking them why she carried the record player up to the top of the bridge when she was trying to get away from someone. They tell him they don’t know, but it’s obvious there’s more to it.



Buz has a withering look when the detective asks him if he knows why. Buz is cagey, Tod is defensive. The detective’s not stupid, and knows there’s more to it.



Not only is Tod pretty here, but you’d never guess there was a policeman entirely hidden behind him.



See?

Tod is nicely poetic about it. ‘I thought about Jack and the Beanstalk. I thought maybe he just took her with him and they climbed up that ladder and they kept climbing till they vanished into thin air.’

‘I’ll try that theory on the commissioner,’ the cynical detective replies. Poor guy. He didn’t bargain for poetics.

Buz is more pragmatic. ‘They’re gone, aren’t they? And that’s all that’s left?’



Look at that railway stretching off into the distance through the dark cage of the bridge (and the slight Buz-lookalike guy on the left. At least, lookalike from behind. He looks nothing like from in front.)



I’m sorry, but they’re just pretty here. The detective thinks it’s a clear cut murder-suicide case, If course it isn’t. This is Route 66.



Buz is in withering mode when the detective finds out how short a time Tod and Buz knew the man and the girl for.

‘Look, you can’t measure everything with a clock or a calendar,’ Buz says. ‘Either you dig it, or you don’t, Lieutenant.’

The Lieutenant tells him to not play cute, but Buz can’t help being cute. I’m not sure why the detective’s being so antagonistic, to be honest, unless it’s just because he’s a cynical cop.



Tod can’t help being cute either. Tod doesn’t believe that the girl, Anna, or the man, Dvorovoi, are dead. (What a mellifluous name.)



End of scene. The railway stretches away forever. Possibilities are endless.



Cue the flashback! They even do the wavy camera thing as the car rolls in along a street far below the camera.

And look at that! It’s industry, industry, industry. Nickel Plate Road. This must have been a era that made America proud.

‘We came to Cleveland last Thursday,’ Tod says in voice-over, ‘over the central viaduct, the flats below and around us. Every kind of industry you can think of, all going full blast. It made me feel small, somehow – and I said so to Buz.’



Buz, of course, has a differing opinion – which is what makes their relationship so great. They get along without always having the same point of view, widening each other’s minds. (I’ve just come off the back of all the Tod/Linc episodes, where this agreeing to disagree is never so harmonious or beneficial.)

‘The more we travel around, the further away the horizon looks and the taller the buildings seem,’ Tod opines.

‘It’s just the opposite,’ Buz says, always one more for internal personal growth than external wonder. ‘The more we travel around, the bigger we get. Sooner or later, if we keep rolling like this, we’ll be giants, because you’ve gotta match the scene.’

Tod humours him with a little laugh (in a nice way). Best of friends. Buz is suddenly reminding me, with his philosophical bent, of Chris from Nothern Exposure.



All of Cleveland is industry and bridges, it seems. A great place built on steel, built on building things. What optimism there is in a place like this.



Look at that. The almost-natural against the angular skyline, the gravel heap that resembles a mountain, swamping a telegraph pole like a natural force. The earth comes together with human hands and machinery and builds great things. (Sorry if I’m getting carried away with this. But what a bright and optimistic place America still seems to be at this time. What sadness and disillusionment must have come later.)



This is where they first meet Mr Volovich (Muni Seroff), Anna’s father. He seems amazed that these two guys are the ones who have come for the job.

‘This is job for gorillas,’ he says.

But he seems genial enough, offering them lodgings at his boarding house and accepting that they are crazy enough to want the job. But we’re already establishing that this episode is about human nature and animal nature, brute force and intellect, basic needs and philosophical thinking. It’s about how all those things can be put together in one person, and perhaps you see a gorilla and miss the thinker beneath, as with Dvorovoi, or see a thinker and miss the gorilla, as with Tod and Buz.



Then drama erupts as a man drives up and approaches with, perhaps deliberately, a rather gorilla-esque walk, asking, ‘Where is he? He bothered her again.’

All the unnamed, unidentified people. ‘He’ becomes a monolith.



Our heroes sense trouble! Go Buz! Go Tod!



There he is, the seemingly gormless, monobrowed ‘he,’ a man surrounded by rough work and noise that drowns out all else, and apparently unconscious of anything but his job. It’s Nehemiah Persoff, being awesome.



He turns the equipment off, only to hear his name being yelled in the silence.

‘Dvorovoi!’

So this is Dvorovoi, the possible murderer named at the start of the episode.

Tod and Buz take up the rear, just in case...



It’s the other guy who’s the attacker, though. The one who strides up, warning Dvorovoi not to touch ‘her,’ and who attacks him without Dvorovoi making a movement or word in defence. It’s clear from the start that it is not Dvorovoi who is the animal.



It’s certainly clear to Tod and Buz, who look rather disgusted at this turn of events. But not surprised. It’s not an uncommon occurrence for them on their first day in a new job.

The scenery almost looks painted behind them, it’s so perfect.



That tiny, subtle change of expression on Volovich’s face that marks him out as a sadistic observer, a controller. He enjoys standing there watching someone else exerting power over Dvorovoi.




Buz sees both fighting men as gorillas, drawing no distinction between the attacker and Dvorovoi. But Tod exclaims, ‘He’s trying to kill him!’

Buz goes to help out. But Dvorovoi wants no help. He is ineloquent and looks like a brute, but his actions are pacifist, not brutal. He lets his attacker compress his chest until he falls unconscious.



Underlining who is the brute again, who is lacking in humanity, Dvorovoi’s attacker puts him on the belt and turns the machine on. There isn’t a lot to say, really. It’s very obvious, in a good way. First appearances tell you nothing about the man. It’s actions that count.



Yay, fist fight! Man that isn’t George Maharis pretending to be Buz while Tod goes to switch off the machinery! It’s not quite ten minutes in, to their job and the episode, and they’re already throwing punches!



Dvorovoi regains consciousness on the belt and, when Tod stops it, leaps from it onto a pile of gravel. It seems as if he has no fear.



Now he’s angered, it seems, while Buz is on the receiving end of the other man’s violence. He picks up a wrench and goes after the fighting men. He throws Tod off as if he’s a fly. Gorilla or intellectual? Perhaps the two can co-exist.



It takes both Buz and Tod to hold him. (Buz is pleasingly grubby.) But he’s told by Volovich that he’s through at the gravel works. ‘You’re through. You’re evil.’



He looks stunned. He’s just as ineloquent as before, grunting rather than speaking, mouth gaping open.



‘I’ll take care of him, with a pitchfork,’ the other man (Orlov) says. Of course Tod and Buz – and we – assume he means violently. It has overtones of lynch mobs. But no, it’s a custom, to put a pitchfork in the fence of the house.

‘Why should I tell them anything? Who are they?’ Orlov asks when Volovich tells him to explain. It’s very much us and them, their customs, their community, as something alien to Tod and Buz.

‘In the old country a dvorovoi is an evil spirit,’ Volovich tells them. ‘It comes from nowhere, like this one I send away now, and it brings the dark with it, and the evil.’ You put a pitchfork in the fence to keep the evil spirit out.

‘I don’t believe any of that stuff, see,’ Orlov tells them. His accent is conspicuously American. ‘But I’ll do it anyway, just to show the neighbourhood that I got rid of him.’ But if Dvorovoi comes back after that, Orlov threatens to get rid of him ‘my way.’ Presumably the violent way, rather than sticking safely to custom and ritual.



‘Listening to Volovich and Orlov, I felt that something had torn loose,’ Tod muses in voice-over. ‘Something no longer planned. Something already out of control, pulling all of us towards some unspeakable and savage end. I wonder what would have happened if Buz and I had left right then and there. I wonder if things might have been any different if we hadn’t stayed.’

Is this about culture clash – about problems that are unleashed when two cultures rub up against each other like plates on the earth’s crust? Would everything be all right if it weren’t for the interference of outsiders? It’s an interesting possibility – that Tod and Buz are not the helpers this episode, but the agitators.



As Tod speaks in voice-over, Dvorovoi walks a lonely path out of the yard...



The gravel yards blend into something very obviously foreign – a Russian church, it seems, as Dvorovoi walks up to Russian Hill. It’s up to Tod to imagine what might have been going on in Dvorovoi’s mind – but even he doesn’t give voice to it. There are two kinds of muteness in this episode.

I this is now "St. Theodosius Russian Orthodox Cathedral is a Russian Orthodox parish located on Starkweather Avenue in the Tremont neighborhood, on the near west side of Cleveland, Ohio." (source: Wikipedia)

St. Theodosius Russian Orthodox Cathedral, image from Google Maps. I believe the Route 66 image was from the other side, where there are still trees obvious.


Just a tiny moment of 'then and now' here - you can see the railings unchanged, and the step with the same gate as when Nehemiah Persoff walked past. There are a lot of very excellent then and now comparisons on the Ohio 66 page (which needs to be the first stop for anyone interested in Route 66) which show, among other things, how Saint Tikhon Street (Saint Tikhon Avenue) used to curve down over the hill, but is now cut off just past this point to make way for a new Interstate that wiped out most of the street and its houses. The rooming house no longer exists.




‘People in the neighbourhood who saw him that morning, going in to pack, going in to get his few things and his one suitcase, told the others later on that he walked like a dead man,’ Tod’s voice-over tells us. It’s so clearly a ‘foreign’ neighbourhood in the middle of an American city. Everyone is Russian here.



Lois Smith, who always carries with her an undefinable beauty. What a beautiful shot this is. She moves with an ungainly grace. Inside the house, in the half-light, half-dark, shadowed in the stairwell.



There’s something very much of Cinderella about her as she watches Dvorovoi walking up the stairs. Tod says it’s clear that Anna is terrified of him. But is anything that clear in this episode?



‘The loneliness and desolation of her life were beyond belief,’ Tod says in narration, ‘though she herself must have been unaware of just how lonely and desolate it really was. From six each morning until late every night she cleaned and cooked and laundered and tended house, for her father, her young brother, and whatever boarders Volovich managed to bring home. She lived by the clock, seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year as far back as she could remember. There are those in the neighbourhood who’d ask, What else should a woman expect? I guess in her own way she’d never let herself think too much about anything else, never dared to look out at the world beyond Russian Hill. She’d – adjusted,’ he finished with a kind of sickened tone.

Wow. What a speech. This is a kind of intensified version of the plight of women through the ages. Anna isn’t just muted by society – she’s physically mute, an actual realisation of a metaphorical state – a fairytale situation. She has no voice and no choice about how she lives. Is it just a coincidence that her only family is male? All the boarders seem to be male, too. She does have a Cinderella existence, but she isn’t oppressed jealously by privileged females as in the fairy tale – she isn’t even deliberately oppressed, it seems. This is just the way things are. She isn’t thought of, isn’t considered. She isn’t a beautiful princess-in-waiting kept down because of her beauty. She’s just a woman, and as such, she serves men. And she’s given voice here by a man, too. No matter what Tod’s intentions, it is he who is speculating as to her life and her thoughts, looking on her as a male outsider. Anna has nothing.



She hides in the darkness of the understairs as she hears Dvorovoi coming down again. She is sexualised by his presence, it seems. What does she really think of him? Are her only roles worker or sexual conquest?



Dvorovoi is looking for her. Such a powerful image as he looks over from above, in the light, and she is standing there pressed against the wall in the dark.



Dvorovoi can see where she has been by the puddle of water on the floor, and can see her feet as he looks over the bannister. Cinderella’s fur slippers? Dorothy’s silver shoes? They are pointed and relatively glamorous compared to the rest of her.



In the face of the mute Anna, Dvorovoi gains the power of speech. He stays above her on the stairs, perpetuating the fiction that she is hidden and he can’t see her, much as you would with a child or a frightened animal.

‘If – if someone would hear me – if someone would listen, from(?) these walls, the stairway, I would tell them I do not want to leave,’ he says, hesitantly, stuttering, looking to the walls and the stairway as if he really is addressing the house. Anna is the house, it seems. She has become part of it. ‘I’m sick to leave. This house, the walls, the stairway, my room, I will miss, I will miss bitterly. Who cares if my windows are broken, or the wallpaper is stained from old rainstorms? There is beauty here. I am sick to leave,’ he says. ‘Why do we live, do you know? Wall? Stairway? Do you know?’

This reminds me of First-Class Mouliak in Season 2 (also starring Persoff, so different he’s unrecognisable) when Eva addresses the possessions in her best friend’s room to tell them she is dead.

‘I will tell you. To keep hope inside always, to keep hope burning. Things will be better. We live for this. We say it every day, and we never forget it. Things will be better. Goodbye. I go now.’



In the dark of the understairs, you can see that Anna is considering this, listening, but still so constrained with fear that she can’t think freely.



With his parting ‘goodbye,’ Dvorovoi tries to catch just one glimpse of Anna. There has been nothing threatening in his behaviour. Nothing monstrous. The only ‘monstrosity’ he displays is his appearance, and his inability to speak with confidence.

‘Always I will remember this place,’ he says, and for place, we read Anna. ‘Anna, Anna,’ he says very quickly as he leaves the house, almost as if saying the word were taboo, and he says it and leaves before anything can happen.



So now she goes and looks after him. Is it, as Tod might interpret, to be sure he’s really gone, because of her fear? Is it because her thoughts are changing about him after that speech? She can’t tell us.



And outside there is the pitchfork in the fence, and a crowd of men, silent and threatening.



Her shock at the sight betrays a very real fear, not of Dvorovoi but of the implied violence of the custom of the pitchfork and the men. Superstition is very real and solid.



Dvorovoi looks stunned and disappointed by the actual presence of the pitchfork, as if he had expected to be able to leave quietly, without harassment. Of course he wouldn’t be. This is like any kind of bullying. It isn’t rational or fair.



The men watching impassively in the foreground, women in the background. Everything is divided according to the sexes here.



It is Orlov who is the ringleader of all this, no matter how much Anna’s father tries to take prominence in the matter. It’s all about sexual jealousy. And Orlov always seems to be the most conspicuously un-Russian. He is using traditions, but only to further his own motives, a very American motive of getting what he wants no matter who is hurt.



Dvorovoi grabs the pitchfork, and for a moment it looks as if he’s going to attack the men with it – but he doesn’t – he smashes it against the fence, breaking the fence and the pitchfork. It’s the malicious custom he is destroying.



That crowd of accusing eyes... The passivity and muteness that runs through this episode, that is so threatening and potent despite its silence.



In his ungainly way, Dvorovoi walks away with his tiny suitcase, as a bell tolls out in the air. He hasn’t been violent to anyone through all of this, despite his ‘monstrous’ status.



The church looms over everything, impassive as the men. The symbol of mother Russia? The symbol of patriarchal oppression? Of tradition overwhelming all? I didn't realise until I looked at Google Maps and looked up the address they give later in the episode that Anna and her family really do live in the shadow of the cathedral, right next to it, it seems. It looks like the area has changed - buildings pulled down to make a car park, typically, but there's still a little white-boarded house in the shadow of the cathedral.



We’re back at the looming metal construction of the bridge (industry is the god of the new country?), back in the ‘present’ of the start of the episode. Back with Buz looking a little windswept and Tod looking contrite. The detective is berating them for not calling the police straight after the fight in the gravel yard.

‘Orlov goaded him on,’ Buz points out, quite rightly, ‘started the whole thing. Dvorovoi was – angry – that’s all. Haven’t you ever been angry at anybody, Lieutenant?’

Still, there doesn’t seem to be an acknowledgement by the Lieutenant that anyone was to blame but Dvorovoi.



The police diver’s there, in a lovely looking diving suit (sarcasm alert). The lieutenant’s thinking they’re down in the mud somewhere. We’re hoping they’re not.



The diver asks Tod where they jumped from – Tod is testy, telling him he told the lieutenant, he didn’t see them jump. Tod’s hoping they’re not at the bottom of the river, too.



Buz is whistling, and throwing stuff – gravel, maybe? I’m thinking he’d rather be in the car, going somewhere, or doing something, than standing on the edge of a river being treated like a naughty little boy.



Now it’s Buz’s turn to narrate, ‘about the records, and how that happened...’



Buz gets to drive the car, picking up the laundry and taking it back to the house while Tod’s working overtime for more money. How sweetly domestic.

‘That’s when I got a double zinger,’ Buz says. ‘I heard the record coming from Anna’s house, and it hit me how out of place it was here in this neighbourhood, and I saw Dvorovoi. He hadn’t gone away after all.’



This is really because Buz and the car together are just so very pretty.



There’s Dvorovoi, lurking behind the picket fences. ‘He didn’t have his suitcase with him, so I figured he must have found another place to stay, somewhere close, I remember thinking, so he could be near Anna.’



Again, this is because – shiny car, shiny Buz. Prettiness.

‘Call me a kook, but I felt sorry for the guy,’ Buz says. ‘If they saw him back on the block, it might be rough, I thought, so I’d tell him he’d better leave. Then I remembered the times I’d hung outside some chick’s place, wanting to be noticed, so I figured, he’s a big boy, he can handle it, and I went inside to find out about the music.’

Buz is like one of the pied piper’s children with music. He has to follow it to its source.



So Buz runs and skips up the path being lured by the music and all it means to him.



To Dvorovoi the music means Anna, the only voice she has.



Look at the anticipation on Buz’s face at the thought of making a connection with good music. So much of his character is summed up here.



Anna’s reaction at Buz’s ‘Hi!’ as he walks into the room. She swings round as if she’s been stung, but she doesn’t look as scared as you might expect. Rather, she seems disappointed that she’s been disturbed.



Buz blathers on, introducing himself, asking the name of the song, obviously wondering why she doesn’t reply...



This is when the little brother runs in, as carefree as Anna is inhibited.



To let Buz know what the song is called she has to stop the music. This seems telling in a way. She has to curtail her enjoyment to answer a man’s questions. The record has been played so often it’s worn – but her little brother tells Buz it’s the only one she has. She got it by saving box tops.



Here Buz’s innate generosity shines through. Tod is working overtime, so presumably they’re not overburdened with money, but he offers to buy her, a girl he hardly knows, a whole stack of records to listen to.



Anna has a slightly bewildered gratitude at Buz’s offer. She’s not as timid as one might expect her to be. She just doesn’t have a voice (and Buz still doesn’t realise this yet.)



‘She can’t talk,’ the little brother explains in his lisping, childish way. But he only talks for her when their father isn’t there – so she’s denied even this much voice in the presence of her father.



‘Anna Volovitch was a mute,’ Buz says in voice-over. ‘Right away I started feeling sorry for her.’ Well, that’s refreshingly honest. ‘Standing there in the middle of that old-fashioned dining room, holding a broom in one hand, like it was part of her, and the record in her other hand. But I’ll tell you something. I couldn’t see any self-pity in her eyes, Lieutenant. Not a bit.’



All that matters to her is putting the record on again and having the music start again.



So Buz offers to buy her the whole store. ‘I’ll buy you some – um – some rhythm and blues, and some, er, swing, and some dixieland, and some vocals, and I’ll even get you some symphonies. That’s to go with your long hair. How about that?’

But, ‘Papa won’t like it. He only lets her play the record once a day, from twelve o’clock to one o’clock, when he’s not here,’ her brother tells Buz. ‘And Nicolai will be very angry.’



It’s the mention of her father and the constraints that he imposes, and of Nicolai, who will ‘marry Anna some day, maybe,’ that finally brings shame and bitterness onto Anna’s face. Without them, she’s free, even in her drudgery.



That brings the angry-handsome-prince expression onto Buz’s face. He isn’t keen on the idea of Nicolai (Orlov) getting his hands on Anna.



‘No strings,’ Buz promises. But we didn’t get much of a sense of there being strings attached. It seemed more as if it was Buz sharing a love of music and a need to be generous than that he was trying to seduce Anna.

‘Besides, that’s tomorrow’s problem,’ he adds, rather naively. Buz can always move on, ‘tomorrow,’ like the Littlest Hobo. Anna has nowhere to go.



Anna looks overjoyed at the prospect of all this music.



As Buz drives off, Dvorovoi is still waiting nearby...



‘That was Friday,’ Buz says, ‘But I still remember Dvorovoi’s face, like I’m seeing it right now, and it sure wasn’t the face of a killer. It was the face of truth. A man who cared about people, a man busting inside from keeping his feelings locked in. A man who loved.’



Always the church, and the tolling bell, keeping watch over these scenes. What exactly is meant by it? The scene moves on with this to Sunday, and a religious ceremony. The church keeping guardianship over the people – remote, though. Remote from Dvorovoi, certainly.



It’s Willow Sunday, ‘with the kids carrying candles home and what they call catkins, blessed by the priests.’ (‘what they call catkins’? What else do you call them?) Of course, Orlov pushes through all this as if it means nothing to him.



Tod and Buz are enjoying breakfast? lunch? together, snuggled together at one corner of the table, despite the fact there’s no one else there to take up space. Aww. The day is full of maybes. ‘Maybe if the timing had been different, if Anna hadn’t come home just in from church, maybe if Tod and I had been by ourselves when Orlov had arrived, none of it would have happened,’ Buz says in voice-over.



‘I don’t know. She was like a kid with a dozen candied apples just from looking at the records we brought her, but she never got to play them. Not one of them,’ Buz says. How sad this is.



She looks so happy. Perhaps it’s her happiness that overwhelms her caution. Perhaps she doesn’t realise how cautious she has to be, because she’s never had anything to be cautious with.



Orlov comes in and snatches the records from her. He sounds drunk. ‘You don’t care who stays under your roof,’ he slurs at Volovich, who looks angry, but also ashamed. ‘Any old trash from the street.’



Tod and Buz don’t appreciate being called trash from the street. Particularly Buz, it seems, who it probably hits closer to home.



‘I warned you not to bring that monkey man here,’ Orlov continues. ‘now you bring these two. They come with records, to turn Anna’s head and make her foolish.’

There’s a shuddering tension in his hands. He’s already broken one record in snatching them from her.



Anna may not be able to speak, but her breathless fear for the records in Orlov’s hands is quite obvious.



‘You leave her alone,’ he rants at Tod and Buz. ‘She’s mine!’



Tod and Buz don’t appreciate this, either. Tod’s staying very still, but he’s like a coiled spring. Buz is itching to get up and slug him.



Anna’s concern is not for Orlov or Tod or Buz or the conflict between them. The only thing that terrifies her is her records being in Orlov’s hands – so she is the one who breaks and jumps for Orlov, trying to snatch the records back from him.



Of course her attempt to get them makes him smash them maliciously into the wall. Her only thought then is for the remaining records. She runs out with one, Orlov follows...



Buz leaps up, but Volovich catches hold of him. ‘Don’t interfere,’ he says. ‘He will be her husband.’

‘That doesn’t give him the right to push her around,’ Buz tells him in a wonderful realisation of how marriage is changing.



So Tod and Buz race off after the pair. Our heroes.



It doesn’t take long for Orlov to catch Anna. What a marvellous suitor he is. Tender and understanding and forgiving. (Sarcasm alert.)



So he smashes the one record she rescued to the ground and tramples it into the cobbles maliciously. Her face says it all. She doesn’t need to speak. He is a man of incredible cruelty, and if he can destroy the one thing that gives her joy, what does he want from her as a wife? Presumably just her body, as a worker and a sexual object.



Can anyone really sympathise with Orlov here, as Dvorovoi leaps onto him? Morally, there seems to be a case for reasonable cause. Orlov may not have been attacking Anna physically, but he was causing her more pain than he would with his fists. Dvorovoi is stopped a man who would cause someone such unutterable grief.



This is the turning point. Dvorovoi deliberately breaks Orlov’s neck. He’s already on the ground, subdued. This is the point where it turns from legitimate defence to murder. But without this action Orlov would continue to cause Anna unforgivable pain. It wouldn’t stand up in court, but in the world of passion, in the gorilla world, so to speak, Dvorovoi’s actions are justified.



Tod and Buz are just too late. There’s something very inevitable about this story, a rather Romeo and Juliet quality. They have to be too late. Orlov has to die by Dvorovoi’s hands.



What is there in Volovich’s face? I can’t imagine there would be much grief for Orlov except as a person who was going to take Anna off his hands.



Tod has that guarded, regretful look. He knows that things have gone too far now. There’s no going back.



Dvorovoi knows it too, it seems. He’s taken the one action that will truly condemn him. Until now, he’s committed no crime.



Buz is looking at him anew too. There’s something like condemnation in his eyes. A kind of disgust passes over his face.



And Anna? There’s something like a moment of wonder mixed in with her horror. She’s free of Orlov. Dvorovoi has sacrificed himself to free her.



He reaches out his hand to her – and then the horror seems to really take over, and she runs, from all these men who are trying to influence her fate.



What an incredible scene, the hill curving away and her figure disappearing over the crest, all the passers-by frozen in the moment.



Here’s a shot of the ambulance removing the body, for those people interested in these things, hot on the heels of some nifty Chevrolet police car product placement, lest the sexy fins of the ambulance lure us away from our favourite brand. Other cars may be fast enough for hauling away the dead, but for the police, give us a Chevrolet every time!

(Not being male or American, I can’t tell you instantly what make the ambulance is. It might even be a Chevrolet too. Who knows? Anyway, on the side it reads ‘Cleveland Ambulance Service. Inc. E.N.1-0770’)

(According to my husband, who isn’t American but is male, it’s the same as the Ghostbusters car, which makes it ‘1959 Cadillac Eldorado Miller-Meteor limo-style combination (hearse/ambulance/station wagon) endloader.’)



So this is where the Lieutenant starts his crabby berating of them, in his disbelief that three of them let the murderer just run away. But could it have been any other way?



Tod is reproachful, as we might expect. I mean, if he’d wanted to wrestle Dvorovoi to the ground, I’m sure he and Buz could have. Don’t berate him for it.

‘But who will marry her now?’ is Volovich’s only question, warm-hearted, caring man that he is. ‘With Nikolai gone, who will marry her now?’

To be fair, he is concerned with who will ‘take care’ of her when he dies, but does he really take care of her now? She has shelter, but does she have care?



Tod is disgusted, as well he might be.



Buz, as always, is pretty reluctant to get involved in police matters.

‘One minute he was there,’ Tod says in his shocked-voice, ‘the next minute he was gone. So sudden. So – quiet.’

Tod seems quite shaken by the fact he’s just seen a man have his neck broken. The poor Lieutenant is pretty pissed off by this, though. All he wants is a straight statement, and instead he gets a father who’s only worried about who will marry his daughter, a shellshocked Tod, and a recalcitrant Buz.



‘What difference does it make why he did it?’ Buz asks, and the Lieutenant looks like he wants to hit someone. I think he needs a partner, so he can rant about blasted civilians and how they have no idea about the due process of the law.



‘We gotta know what we’re dealing with here, don’t we?’ he asks. ‘There are killers – and killers. And he’s a psycho. And who else would kill a man over an 89 cent record? We’ve gotta know that.’

Buz’s nod here is more one of knowing over the Lieutenant’s psyche than agreement with him. The Lieutenant is completely missing the point as to what those 89 cent records meant.

‘Once a madman’s loose on the street and he’s tasted blood, there’s no telling how many people he may kill before we run him down,’ the Lieutenant says confidently.



‘Lieutenant, Dvorovoi is no madman,’ Tod insists. ‘My guess is he did it to try and set Anna free.’

There’s a wall up here, a lack of communication. The Lieutenant has no interest in listening to motivations for the crime, because he thinks it’s motiveless. But really it’s more motive-driven than he can guess.



‘Set her free from what?’ Volovich asks hopelessly.

‘From human bondage,’ Buz says with vitriol. ‘From cooking nine thousand more meals. From – from wringing sheets with her hands and making beds for people she doesn’t even know. From living in a dump like this where nobody will give her a dollar eighty-five to fix a radio or let her play the only record she has except from twelve till one. To set her free from nowhere. From you, Mr Volovich, and the whole stinking household you – you head up. And if you’re gonna say we’re fired, forget it, because you haven’t got the guts. Because you don’t want to lose that fifteen dollars a week we pay you for that closet you set us up in.’

‘You sound like the attorney for the defence,’ the Lieutenant says. ‘Like you’re in favour of what happened.’

So many people who don’t listen to a word that is said. No wonder Anna is mute.

‘Yeah, well, I’m – I’m sick about what happened,’ Buz says. ‘I’m sick and I’m shook. But you keep asking why, and I’m telling you why. Dvorovoi was – was trying to help Anna bust out, even if it meant sacrificing Orlov’s life – and his own. Let’s face it – when he killed Orlov, he killed himself too.’

And that’s all the Lieutenant is concerned about. He’s certain Dvorovoi won’t get away. He’s certain he will be dead too. Every emotional angle on this case just washes straight over him. As far as he’s concerned, a madman killed an innocent man. That is all.



And then the Lieutenant says a curiously ironic thing to Tod and Buz. ‘A word of advice. Don’t put your sympathies in the wrong cheering section. We’re all of us dead for a long time, and nobody – but nobody – has the right to hurry any of us on our way, no matter what the reason is.’

So nobody has the right to hurry Dvorovoi along, too?



So the wake is going on in Volovich’s house. And the mirror (I assume, or painting?) is covered over with a sheet, a Jewish custom mentioned in Shoulder the Sky, My Lad. So is this, in fact, an Eastern European custom?



It is a place full of shadows and bars. Very telling, as are Volovich’s words when he asks his son where Anna is. The boy says she’s gone to her room. ‘But why?’ Volovich asks, ‘Why has she stopped serving?’



From Anna’s room, music suddenly bursts forth. The party downstairs, with no music, but the sharing of food and chatter, is appropriate, whereas Anna in her room, crying and listening to music, is not. The guests are like mongooses, craning their necks to look up the stairs as Volovich bangs on her door.



Evidently Tod and Buz have not been thrown out.



‘Nicolai was right,’ Volovich tells them. ‘This is your fault. Turning her head. Spoiling her.’

Buz has a look of giving no fucks.



There’s defiant fire in Anna when she opens the door.



I could take a lot of screencaps of this scene. Suffice to say, both Tod and Buz are gallant, making sure that Volovich doesn’t end up getting Anna alone in her room.

‘She can’t talk back,’ Tod spits. ‘And tonight – especially tonight with everybody burying the dead – she needs a voice.’

I should cap Tod saying this, and Anna’s grateful smile in response, and her father’s furious look. But I’ll cap Anna defending her record player against her father’s anger. He slaps her, and starts to blame himself for spoiling her. It’s Tod or Buz or himself. He cannot even accord her responsibility for her own actions.



‘Out of pity for you, and shame for your – your deformity – I made it too easy for you,’ he tells her. ‘Well, now we shall have more discipline in this house. No more music for one thing – because the devil himself, Anna, is in that record. Now you stand away and you give me that record and that machine or I will smash it right here in front of you.’



Tod and Buz aren’t having any of that.



Volovich tells them to leave, so Tod chooses the moment to tell him some home truths. He manages to start his speech in a surprisingly unempowered way, but it still works.

‘This is your house, and Anna’s your daughter, and we don’t have any rights here, but before we go I wanna tell you something. The only thing Anna has to take her out of it, to let her escape, even for a few minutes, is the sound of music. In a whole wide world of glib people, she has to stay silent. You call that a deformity. I say it can teach her to search for the heart of things, the secrets the rest of us never hear because we’re all too busy talking. So you go ahead, Mr Volovich. You break that record, just the way Orlov smashed the others. We won’t break your neck. We don’t have to. Because any man who would do a thing like this is already dead.’



‘You keep listening, Anna,’ Tod tells her. ‘Don’t ever stop listening.’



After that speech all Buz can say is, ‘Goodbye. I’m sorry we can’t do more.’

He seems defeated, finally overcome by the rules of society and the patriarch of the house they were staying in. It’s up to Anna now to act.



Alone in her room, after her father has left, promising to settle it his way, when everyone is gone, Anna seems defeated.



But then there’s a kind of Romeo and Juliet moment as Dvorovoi appears at her window... Anna seems terrified, and the scene ends.



Tod and Buz are driving through the night, looking for a new place to stay. I love this scene of the city in black and white, shown up only by its illuminations.



They’re rather beautiful in the dark. I’d quite like to take running screencaps of the whole scene. This is when they hear the news bulletin saying that Anna Volovich, age 24, of 4213 St Tikhon Street has disappeared. (A real address, which is lovely.) Even on the radio Dvorovoi is described as ‘the mad monkey man of Russian Hill.’ So much for impartial news coverage.



And here she is, in a warehouse somewhere with Dvorovoi.

‘I wish I could give you a mountain top, way up high, so you could play your music whenever you wanted to, as loud as you wanted to,’ he tells her. ‘But – all I can offer you is this.’

She is scared and distrustful. He is naïve, much as he loves her. He has killed a man and come into her room at night and taken her away. There is something of madness in him, but not as the world sees.



Her expression is wild and terrified as he asks if he hurt her, and explains how he had to grab her in case she ran like she did ‘in front of the church on Sunday.’



‘I had to bring you here. You see, my life is – finished,’ he explains to her. ‘I have killed. If I could die as easily as going to sleep I would just – lie down and die. But – so I’ll – I’ll run, keep running until somebody catches me and does me the final favour and kills me.’



‘Oh – I’m sorry. I forgot how I must look to you,’ he suddenly realises, covering his face and moving into the shadows. He is more crippled by his appearance than she is by her muteness.



He gives her an envelope of money. He wants her to go to New York, to a school where they will teach her to talk with her hands. You can see her starting to soften in her opinion of him. He wants her to find work and friends she can speak to.



Soft focus. She’s definitely coming around to him.

‘You must have a great deal to say after so long a silence,’ he tells her. She has lost her fear, and he seems to gain eloquence with this. His voice becomes more fluent. Of Orlov’s murder, he says, ‘That is the only way a wrong could be righted. And remember of me, that I cared for you not as a man ordinarily cares for a woman, but for what I see hidden in you. Remember, it was not your lips that I loved, but the smile I know that they held, and it wasn’t your eyes, but the light the I know will come to shine through them.’

So finally, someone seeing her as not a drudge, not a sex object, but a human being with a mind.



He doesn’t seem to know what to do as she comes to him and touches him with forgiveness, and kisses his cheek.



You get the feeling that he feels pressured by her acceptance of him – he never expected that. He’s never had that acceptance before. So he runs.



But she follows him with the kind of proud determination that seems to have marked a lot of her actions in this episode.



They live in a world of bridges. This bridge before them, a kind of iron gantry behind them. The world seems to be full of ways passing over, and they live beneath them, never leaving.




From the bridge (of course from the bridge, from the above, where the blessed and free live) a police car spots him running.



Look how the world below is dwarfed by these bridges.



And of course Tod and Buz, driving around, hear the sirens.

‘Even though you told us to stay out of it, Lieutenant, we didn’t stop to analyse which was the right side and which was the wrong side,’ Tod says in voice-over. ‘All we knew is, that we cared about what happened to Dvorovoi and to Anna. We cared enough to stay out all night and keep looking.’

So it’s the story. They’re following the story. For a moment Tod steps out of the scene and becomes the viewer.



Everything is so huge here. Industry and progress dwarfs human lives. Dvorovoi slips away as a policeman takes a shot at him.



Anna can hear all this, of course, but she’s still determined to follow Dvorovoi.



Go, boys!



And Anna is still following. Finally he accepts her presence and her smile lights up her face. It seems fitting for her character that although he offers her his hand, she climbs over the fence largely by her own effort.



Gratuitous shot of our boys getting out of the car and preparing to enter the fray.



And so, the bridge. That bridge. The bridge of the title. Will it be a bar or a gateway?



Her plea to continue with him is wordless on both sides, and beautifully done. The only sound is the constant drone of industry in the background. No music. Just sound.



Run, boys!



I have to say, American trains are pretty impressive. This one is rolling slowly down the track ready to cross the railway bridge.



It acts as a perfect bar to stop Tod and Buz getting over the track. All they can do is stand in the blasting sound, and wait.



Tod looks pretty as he waits. He suits light like this.



Buz doesn’t look bad either. He’s frustrated. He’d probably jump over the train if he could.



And this is it. The monolith of the bridge, empty and defeating. Where have they gone?



This is our hope, and Tod and Buz’s hope too, it seems. The train passing away into the distance, leaving the city behind. At last, we hope, Anna and Dvorovoi have got onto one of the paths out of this place.



‘That was the last we saw of Dvorovoi and Anna,’ Tod tells us as the screen goes all shimmery again.



So, we’re back where we started, the record player on the ground, Buz staring up at the bridge, Tod being prosaic.

‘When the train had finally passed we climbed the ladder, but there was no sign of either one of them. Just Anna’s phonograph, and the record.’

Now, that’s telling. Wherever she jumped to, she thought she had a chance. If she’d been jumping to her death she would have taken it with her. But she gave up the record player for a human being.



The Lieutenant’s assistant tells him there’s no sign of them anywhere, but they could have jumped from the train at some point. But the Lieutenant has a completely different reading of the phonograph.

‘Don’t you get it? The phonograph! There’s your answer, right there. Now, you heard Stiles’ story. She wouldn’t take a step without it. Now, if they’d gone for the train, she’d have taken it with her.’



‘I don’t know, Lieutenant,’ Tod tells him. ‘The way she was running after him I had the feeling she didn’t need anything any more – except him.’ (He looks extremely soppy here. I don’t think he looked that soppy in action.)

But that’s what the Lieutenant misses. He has no idea of the human qualities of forgiveness and love despite difficult circumstances. Dvorovoi is a monster, and no woman would want that.



So, off our boys wander, to their next adventure.



As the camera pans away, over the gravel flats and up towards the city and a rather New York-esque skyscraper, you can’t help but wonder if that’s a final hint to the resolution of Anna and Dvorovoi’s tale.


1 comment:

  1. This episode was on Me-TV tonight, I liked it so much that I looked it up and found your excellent recap-- thanks for adding to my enjoyment of "Incident on a Bridge"! A couple of things I noticed: Orlov is played by Alice-the-maid's boyfriend Sam-the-butcher (from the Brady Bunch, if you're not as ancient as I am), so at first I found it difficult to believe him as a malevolent character. But Allan Melvin did an excellent job being hateful-- and did you catch his simian arm swings as he ran? Nice touch. I also smiled at the radio announcer's segue after the "monkey man of Russian Hill" newsflash: "We now return to the music of Nelson Riddle." heh. Thanks again, and I'll be checking out the Ohio 66 site, as well!
    Cheers,
    Jean

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