The Fountain of Youth AND Return to Glennescaul | Chicago Reader

The Fountain of Youth AND Return to Glennescaul

To promote the first volume of his two-part biography of Orson Welles, a fascinating if contestable book, actor, director, and writer Simon Callow is presenting a Welles tribute consisting of two half-hour shorts. Hilton Edwards's Irish ghost story Return to Glennascaul (1951), narrated by Welles (who also appears briefly, and probably directed the short bit that allegedy shows him filming Othello), won an Oscar when it came out and is still worth seeing. But the real gem in this program is The Fountain of Youth, Welles's first and best TV pilot—shot for Desilu in 1956, and first aired two years later. Based on John Collier's story “Youth from Vienna,” this dark period comedy about youth potions and aging —narrated by Welles, who also appears centrally as a kind of slide lecturer—is as innovative in some ways in relation to TV as Citizen Kane was in relation to movies; the pilot never sold but the brittle nastiness of the humor still carries a rude bite. Implicitly tweaking Welles's own narcissism as well as that of his characters—played by Joi Lansing (the lady who gets blown up in the opening shot of Touch of Evil,), Dan Tobin, and Rick Jason—while making novel use of still photographs and lightning-sharp lighting changes to mark shifts in space and time, this jaunt implicitly marks the medium of TV itself as a kind of mirror to get lost in. Don't miss.

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