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Impact

The Prudential Family Hour of Stars

Impact

Mar 06 1949 



CAST:

FATHER MICHAEL, priest

COLONEL MENDOZA, dictator

GONZALES, aide

GARCIA, informer


NOTE: This is a transcript of the play only, omitting announcements and commercials. 




MUSIC: ... INTRODUCTION ... THEN BEHIND MICHAEL--


MICHAEL: (NARRATES) The scene of this story is not important -- because you might find a Colonel Mendoza almost anywhere in the world. He might call himself Adolf or Benito. Or, if he preferred quiet profit to public glory, Mr. Smith. 


But you know the type. It's a type which doesn't think of people as human beings. It thinks of them in terms of child bearing, bayonet practice, and loud cheers in the plaza. This is a mistake. And, one after the other, they all make it. Dictators don't learn. They just find things out. Not always the hard way, but often enough to keep up the faith of people who believe in people.


So meet Colonel Mendoza -- behind his half-acre desk in his two-acre office; in his bullet-chipped, lizard-infested pink plaster palace. The time? Maybe tomorrow, maybe next month. Who knows?


SOUND: TICKING OF OFFICE CLOCK, IN BG ... BUZZ OF INTERCOM


MENDOZA: Yes?


GONZALES: (FILTER) Father Michael to see you, colonel. He said you sent for him.


MENDOZA: I did. Send him in.


GONZALES: (FILTER) Yes, sir.


SOUND: CHAIR SQUEAKS AS MENDOZA RISES FROM DESK 


MENDOZA: (GRIM, TO HIMSELF) Now we shall see.


SOUND: MENDOZA STEPS TO CLOCK AND WINDS IT ... KNOCKING AT DOOR


MENDOZA: (CALLS) Enter!


SOUND: DOOR OPENS AND SHUTS ... MICHAEL'S STEPS TO MENDOZA


MICHAEL: Beunas tardes, colonel.


MENDOZA: Beunas tardes, padre.


MICHAEL: You sent for me?


MENDOZA: Yes.


MICHAEL: Why?


MENDOZA: Don't you know?


MICHAEL: Not definitely.


MENDOZA: But you have a feeling?


MICHAEL: Will this be a brief interview, colonel, or may I sit down?


MENDOZA: Sit down. I want you to stay until-- (BEAT, CHUCKLE) Stupid, isn't it?


MICHAEL: Is it?


MENDOZA: (SNAPS) Father Michael! Do I understand that you are a party to this nonsense?! That you are in sympathy with it?!


SOUND: MICHAEL SITS AWKWARDLY IN CHAIR


MICHAEL: (LIGHTLY) Well, this, er, chair is uncomfortably low for a long-legged priest. But I don't mind looking up to people -- some of them.


MENDOZA: This is not a matter for jest!


MICHAEL: I agree with you. To answer your question of a moment ago, I - I'm neither a party to it, nor am I in complete sympathy with it. I desire no man's death.


MENDOZA: Even mine?


MICHAEL: Particularly yours. (DRY) Spiritually, colonel, you're in no condition to die.


MENDOZA: You have never feared me, have you, padre? Why? Your own courage or faith in the power of the church to protect you?


MICHAEL: There are very few authenticated instances of a crucifix stopping a bullet, colonel. You might murder me -- and, in certain circumstances, I think you would. But fear of such a thing wouldn't help to avert it, so-- No, I'm not afraid of you.


MENDOZA: Your frankness is refreshing. And a little dangerous.


MICHAEL: Did you call me here to discuss my feelings toward you, colonel?


MENDOZA: No! I want to know what you know about this ridiculous plot; this conspiracy against me.


MICHAEL: If you think it's so ridiculous, why have you surrounded the building with soldiers? Sharpshooters on the roof? Why have the police cleared the streets for half a mile in every direction? You appear to be taking this, er, "ridiculous" thing rather seriously.


MENDOZA: I've only lived this long, padre, because I've never made the mistake of underestimating an enemy. I want you to answer a question. (EXPLODES) Who originated this fantastic idea?! Who started it?! Who is behind it?!


MICHAEL: I don't know who started it, colonel. But so far as I've been able to learn, almost everybody is behind it. (BEAT) You are not a popular man.


MENDOZA: (WITH CONTEMPT) Popularity. I do not need popularity! I have power!


MICHAEL: Have you? Against this?


MENDOZA: You believe that I am going to die at one forty-two this afternoon?!


MICHAEL: What I believe has nothing to do with it, colonel. But just as you have never underestimated an enemy, neither do I underestimate the power of prayer.


MENDOZA: Prayer! You have the audacity to--?! You would dignify the wish for my death in terms of prayer?!


MICHAEL: In this case -- yes, I think so.


MENDOZA: Why?


MICHAEL: Colonel, when three hundred thousand people almost spontaneously agree to wish a man dead at one forty-two o'clock on a certain day, there's not a matter of a plot or a conspiracy. It's a demonstration. In your case, it's a demonstration of hatred.


MENDOZA: Hatred. The hatred of half a million ingrates! Who gave them efficient railroads, good schools, a sense of pride in the nation and in their blood?!


MICHAEL: And who bled them with taxes to build the railroads they can't afford to ride on? What can our children learn in your schools except the gospel according to Mendoza?


MENDOZA: Be careful, father. I will not tolerate--


MICHAEL: (INTERRUPTS, WITH CONTEMPT) A sense of pride in their nation and their blood. The blood they've spilled in your senseless campaigns against unprepared neighbors on trumped up charges!


MENDOZA: Quiet!


SOUND: MICHAEL RISES


MENDOZA: Sit down!


MICHAEL: (POINTEDLY) Colonel, you'll either listen to what I have to say in a matter which you yourself introduced -- or you'll let me go back to my work.


MENDOZA: (BEAT, QUIETLY) Sit down, padre. (BEAT, DEEPLY FELT) Please. I - I must talk about this to somebody and there is--


MICHAEL: (INTERRUPTS, UNDERSTANDINGLY) Nobody else you can trust to neither flatter you nor knife you. Very well, colonel. Troubled souls are my business.


SOUND: MICHAEL SITS


MENDOZA: Thank you. (BEAT, EVENLY) Father Michael -- please tell me all you know of this affair.


MICHAEL: I probably know very little more than you, colonel. It seems to have started some weeks ago, after the affair at Del Rio.


MENDOZA: (DISMISSIVE) Del Rio? A back country revolt, quickly subdued!


MICHAEL: At Del Rio, they didn't consider it a revolt, colonel. They considered it a - a protest against the methods of your soldiers. Confiscation of food, clothing, and horses is one thing. The abduction of girls and women is another.


MENDOZA: Absurd! The drunken antics of a few soldiers who have since been reprimanded.


MICHAEL: Reprimanded? Does a reprimand restore the lives of one hundred and forty-two people who were assembled and machine-gunned for resisting the stealing of their wives and daughters?


MENDOZA: They should have complained directly to me. They were taking the law into their-- (REALIZES SOMETHING) Wait. You said my men shot a hundred and forty-two?


MICHAEL: Yes.


MENDOZA: And theoretically I am to die at one forty-two today. (BEAT) It is significant, I presume?


MICHAEL: (YES) According to what I have heard. (RESUMES) Colonel, it is not just Del Rio. It is Del Rio, plus Santa Muntana, plus the Rincon, plus the late editor of The Liberator, plus a number of other things. Del Rio is merely a culmination, a symbol.


MENDOZA: Go on.


MICHAEL: As I know it, the story of Del Rio spread swiftly. Where the idea of a mass wish for your death originated, I don't know. I doubt if anyone knows. But given the "Del Rio Hundred Forty-Two" and a fierce resentment which has smoldered in this land for many years, it was a matter of spontaneous combustion. 


MENDOZA: All right, I understand the "one forty-two." But why did they select today?


MICHAEL: It's your seventh anniversary in office, colonel. Seven has a magic significance to people everywhere.


MENDOZA: (AMUSED) So -- at one forty-two, three hundred thousand people join minds and concentrate on my death. Heh! Fantastic!


MICHAEL: (DRY) It's at least a novel method of extermination.


MENDOZA: I prefer the term "assassination." "Extermination" seems to connote vermin. Did you choose the word advisedly?


MICHAEL: It just sprang to mind, colonel.


MENDOZA: Under the circumstances, father, I think I am permitting you a great deal of liberty in this conversation.


MICHAEL: You can afford it.


MENDOZA: Why?


MICHAEL: If you were to die, it's a generous gesture. If you live, I'll be here to be punished.


MENDOZA: (IMPRESSED BY THE LOGIC, THOUGHTFUL) Yes. Yes. Very true. If I live. If I am to die-- (POINTED) Father? In all honesty, what do you think of my chances for survival?


MICHAEL: Colonel, in all honesty, I - I don't know. The impact of three hundred thousand minds [focused] intensely on a single objective -- I respect the possibilities.


MENDOZA: Well, I think it is a trick! A ruse! You may respect killing by concentration, but I have more respect for lead and steel and-- (REALIZES SOMETHING) --and poison. This water jug, for instance. Fresh, every morning. And I haven't touched it.


MICHAEL: A needless caution, I think.


MENDOZA: But - I'm very thirsty. (EXHALES SHARPLY, SLY) Are you thirsty, father?


MICHAEL: Not particularly.


MENDOZA: Oh, you must be. This has been a long task.


SOUND: JUG PICKED UP


MENDOZA: Here. Have some water.


SOUND: JUG ON GLASS ... WATER POURED INTO GLASS ... JUG SET DOWN


MENDOZA: (BEAT, CHUCKLE, WHISPERS) Afraid?


MICHAEL: (BEAT, NOT AFRAID) Give me the cup. (BEAT, DRINKS) Thank you.


SOUND: EMPTY GLASS SET DOWN


MICHAEL: (UNCONCERNED) Now -- what were we talking about? Or rather -- what phase of it?


MENDOZA: (BEAT, UNCERTAIN) How - how did it taste?


MICHAEL: A bit brackish. But I think it's safe. Perhaps you'd better wait a few minutes, however.


MENDOZA: (BEAT, SLOWLY) Yes. Yes. I'll wait!


MUSIC: FIRST ACT CURTAIN ... A STEADY POUNDING OF DRUMS OMINOUSLY BEATS OUT THE TIME [...]


[COMMERCIAL OMITTED]


MUSIC: SECOND ACT INTRODUCTION ... STEADY POUNDING OF OMINOUS DRUMS ... THEN FADES OUT


SOUND: TICKING OF OFFICE CLOCK, IN BG 


MENDOZA: You know, padre, there are times when I wish you were on my side.


MICHAEL: We've often wished that you were on our side, colonel. By the way, may I ask how the news of this, er, "idea" reached you?


MENDOZA: It may puzzle you to hear there are people who are loyal to me, father. And they should be; they are well paid for it. Three days ago, one of my police--


SOUND: BUZZ! OF INTERCOM


MENDOZA: Yes?


GONZALES: (FILTER) Garcia, colonel.


MENDOZA: Send him in.


MICHAEL: Aren't you, er, taking chances seeing visitors?


MENDOZA: No, this is Garcia, my best informer. I trust him implicitly. Besides, I will have him covered every minute with a gun under my desk and he knows it. If you--


SOUND: DOOR OPENS AND SHUTS ... GARCIA'S STEPS IN ... WALKS BRISKLY TO DESK AND STOPS


MENDOZA: Report.


GARCIA: Nothing new, colonel. Just more of the same. Places of business are closed. Streets are deserted. There was a small group of men in the Flores Cantina who resisted arrest. Three of them are dead.


MENDOZA: And the rest?


GARCIA: Held for questioning.


MENDOZA: Good. I'll help with that myself the first thing in the morn-- (STOPS SHORT, BEAT, UNEASY) First thing in the morning. (SHARPLY) Anything else?


GARCIA: No, colonel. Except the fiesta at Del Rio tomorrow.


MENDOZA: (EXPLODES) There'll be no fiesta at Del Rio tomorrow or any other time for any reason! See to that, Garcia!


GARCIA: (TAKEN ABACK) Y-yes, colonel. Is that all, sir?


MENDOZA: That is all. No! Tell Gonzales I'll see no one else until - one forty-five.


GARCIA: Yes, sir.


SOUND: GARCIA'S BRISK STEPS TO DOOR, WHICH OPENS AND SHUTS AS HE EXITS


SOUND: IN AND THEN IN BG ... OMINOUS PULSING PERCUSSIVE RHYTHM


MENDOZA: This clock says one twenty-nine, padre. Is that correct?


MICHAEL: My watch is quite accurate, colonel. It says one-thirty exactly.


MENDOZA: Then I have--?


MICHAEL: Twelve minutes to live.


MENDOZA: (CHUCKLES QUIETLY AT FIRST ... THEN GRADUALLY LAUGHS UPROARIOUSLY)


MUSIC: UP FOR TRANSITION ... ORCHESTRA SWEEPS IN TO JOIN DRUMS ... THEN ORCHESTRA FADES OUT ... THEN DRUMS FADE OUT FOR--


SOUND: TICKING OF OFFICE CLOCK, IN BG 


MICHAEL: Ten minutes, colonel.


MENDOZA: Ten minutes. Ten minutes! This is insane. Two grown men sitting here watching a clock and believing that one of them can be wished to death.


MICHAEL: Then you do believe it?


MENDOZA: Let us say that I concede the very remote possibility.


MICHAEL: (DRY) It's a handsome concession.


MENDOZA: Let's also say the possibility is so remote that I'm already considering my answer to those responsible for this - this act of -- what is it, padre? -- treason!


MICHAEL: It depends on the viewpoint, colonel.


MENDOZA: And your viewpoint is--?


MICHAEL: My viewpoint is that better men than you have tried reprisals against thinking. Look, Colonel Mendoza--


MENDOZA: Yes?


MICHAEL: For six of the seven years you've maintained yourself in office, you've been utterly ruthless in eliminating opposition. You've resorted to kidnapping, assassination, torture, suppression of every form of personal freedom.


MENDOZA: The condition of the country demanded strong measures.


MICHAEL: You're not talking from a balcony now, colonel. Your people are gentle, industrious, and, shall we say, thinking. They needed wisdom; you gave them force. They needed faith; you gave them disillusionment. They wanted a leader to love and respect and you gave them one to fear and hate. And in-- (CHECKS WATCH) --seven and a half minutes, that hate will be a living, driving thing.


MENDOZA: Hate. In twenty-four hours, somebody will feel mine.


MICHAEL: I find this a most interesting, but dangerous experiment. If it works, it will be tried again. In the hands of some unscrupulous manipulator of public psychology--


MENDOZA: You mean like Mendoza?


MICHAEL: No, colonel, I do not. You are sufficiently unscrupulous, but not a good psychologist. You have only one inflexible approach to problems -- and it's muscular, not mental.


MENDOZA: Hm. You were saying that in the wrong hands this mass mental projection of power might be turned to evil purposes. Aren't you making a theory out of a fact? (CHUCKLE, LIGHTLY) 'Twas fairly successful in Germany.


MICHAEL: No, colonel, this is a different thing. This isn't capitalizing on a carefully stimulated hysteria. This isn't a long-range plan. This isn't an action to be spread out over a period of time. This is a matter of one devastating moment. For probably the first time in history, a tremendous group of people is coordinating itself to achieve a certain objective at a predetermined instant. A voltage of a single aimless thought has been registered medically, colonel. How will the mind, sensitive enough to register one of its own involuntary thoughts, react to the impact of three hundred thousand, fused together like an invisible projectile?


MENDOZA: (EXPLODES) Ah, that clock! It annoys me!


SOUND: CRASH! OF CLOCK SMASHED ON THE FLOOR ... TICKING STOPS


MENDOZA: (QUIETLY UNEASY) It was - too loud.


MICHAEL: (CALM) It was also running too fast, possibly. But my wristwatch is accurate. I can keep you informed. You have about-- (CHECKS WATCH) --six minutes.


MENDOZA: (EXPLODES) Will you please stop telling me how long I have?! (BEAT) Are you trying to break me down?! Do you want me to die?!


MICHAEL: No. Your living or dying is a minor consideration, colonel.


MENDOZA: Not to me!


MICHAEL: I know. ... But I've come to realize the larger aspects of this thing. It was thought that there was no defense against the atomic bomb. If there is one, maybe it won't be found in time. But an atomic bomb is at least tangible, colonel. It can be seen, handled, and its manufacture halted. 


MENDOZA: What you're getting at, padre, is that, with this mass mental attack, there will be no control and no defense.


MICHAEL: Exactly. It is invisible, undetectable. It is more dangerous by far than nuclear fission. In the wrong hands, or minds--


MENDOZA: (BEAT) How much time?


MUSIC: SECOND ACT CURTAIN ... STEADY OMINOUS RHYTHM OF ORCHESTRA KEEPING TIME


[COMMERCIAL OMITTED] 


MUSIC: SECOND ACT INTRODUCTION ... STEADY OMINOUS RHYTHM OF ORCHESTRA ... THEN BEHIND MICHAEL--


MICHAEL: (NARRATES) "How much time?" asked the colonel. For a million years man has been trying to stretch his allotted days, trying to gain an added minute, seeking to halt the shadow on the sundial or slow the grains of sand in the hourglass. And the hands of the clock, like the pointing finger of a recruiting poster, inescapably come around to point at me -- and you -- and Colonel Mendoza.


MENDOZA: Answer me, priest! I said, "How much time?"


MICHAEL: (CHECKS WATCH) Four minutes. (BEAT) Would you rather I talked?


MENDOZA: Yes, go ahead and talk. Say something. Amuse me.


MICHAEL: I don't find this amusing any more. When I was thinking of it in terms of a defense against--


MENDOZA: Mendoza?


MICHAEL: --the Mendozas of the world, I [was intrigued by that?] idea. But in terms of aggression -- a weapon of offense -- it's disturbing.


MENDOZA: I think you are alarming yourself needlessly, padre. I believe this whole thing has been built up to misdirect my attention.


MICHAEL: You think it's to divert your attention from an attack in some other quarter?


MENDOZA: Exactly! [This office has been?] gone over for wires, explosives, poisons. The building is amply guarded against bombs, dynamite, undermining, snipers! There are anti-aircraft guns on the roof! (BEAT, LOW) Have I overlooked something?


MICHAEL: (SHRUGS, HELPFUL) Traitors in the household?


MENDOZA: That has been considered. (BEAT) How much time?


MICHAEL: (CHECKS WATCH) Three minutes.


SOUND: AN AIRPLANE APPROACHES AND ROARS OVERHEAD ... THEN FADES INTO DISTANCE


MENDOZA: (WHISPERS) Mine. (EXHALES WITH RELIEF, BEAT) Padre? I think I may have overlooked something.


MICHAEL: What is that?


MENDOZA: You! Stand up quickly; I want to search you.


SOUND: MICHAEL AND MENDOZA RISE ... RAPID PAT-PAT-PAT AS MENDOZA SEARCHES MICHAEL


MENDOZA: (BEAT, SLIGHTLY DISAPPOINTED) Well-- It was a thought.


MICHAEL: (AGREEABLY) From your standpoint, a good one.


MENDOZA: Sit down.


SOUND: MICHAEL AND MENDOZA SIT


MENDOZA: (BEAT) How much?


MICHAEL: (CHECKS WATCH) Two minutes, approximately.


MENDOZA: (BEAT, INCREASINGLY UNCOMFORTABLE) Padre, I've always been a soldier. I've spent more time in the saddle than I have at receptions. My - my manners may be a little rough.


MICHAEL: An understatement, colonel.


MENDOZA: Nevertheless, I - I wish to thank you for spending this afternoon with me. And - and for the next, er--?


MICHAEL: Minute and a half.


MENDOZA: --for the next minute and a half. I shall look back on this day with mixed feelings.


MICHAEL: From wherever you are?


MENDOZA: From wherever I am, priest.


MICHAEL: (BEAT) Why are you watching me so closely, colonel?


MENDOZA: You are the only living thing within striking distance. And we have only--


MICHAEL: One minute.


MENDOZA: Only one minute to go. 


MUSIC: GENTLY FADES IN DURING FOLLOWING ... TYMPANI QUIETLY BEATS THE TIME, IN BG


MENDOZA: I'd be a fool to take my eyes off you. In fact -- and I hope you excuse this one final precaution -- I think I'll have a pistol under my hand!


SOUND: DESK DRAWER OPENS ... PISTOL TAKEN FROM DRAWER, COCKED, AND PLACED ON DESKTOP


MICHAEL: Strange in what different things different men find comfort.


MENDOZA: (TENSE WHISPER) The time?


MICHAEL: Forty-five seconds.


MENDOZA: Count it out.


MUSIC: TYMPANI BEATS THE TIME, IN BG, GROWS INCREASINGLY LOUD BEHIND--


MICHAEL: (SLOWLY) Forty. -- Thirty-five. -- Thirty. Twenty-five. -- Twenty. -- Fifteen. -- Ten. -- Five.


MUSIC: TYMPANI UP FOR FIVE SECONDS ... THEN SHARPLY OUT


SOUND: MENDOZA RISES ABRUPTLY


MENDOZA: (TRIUMPHANT) So! (LAUGHS) They thought they could--!


MICHAEL: (QUICKLY) Look out! Your pistol-- You're knocking it off the--


SOUND: PISTOL HITS FLOOR ... GUNSHOT!


MICHAEL: (SHOCKED) Colonel!


SOUND: MENDOZA SLUMPS TO FLOOR BEHIND--


MENDOZA: (STUNNED, WOUNDED) I-- I--


SOUND: BEAT ... OFFICE DOOR OPENS ... GONZALES AND SOLDIERS' HURRIED STEPS IN


MICHAEL: (TO GONZALES) The colonel-- The colonel is shot. Get a doctor.


GONZALES: The priest did it!


MENDOZA: No.


GONZALES: Grab the priest!


MENDOZA: No! No! Stop. (GASPS, WITH DIFFICULTY) I-- Accident. Pistol - fell - off desk. (STRUGGLES TO BREATHE, IN BG)


GONZALES: Let me help you, sir.


MICHAEL: (SHARP, TO SOLDIERS) Move back, please. Give him room. (GENTLE, TO MENDOZA) Here, let me loosen your collar, colonel.


MENDOZA: No--


MICHAEL: Easy. Easy now.


MENDOZA: (DYING, SLOWLY, WITH DIFFICULTY) No. Never mind, padre. No-- No use. I-- (GASPS) Anyway-- (CHUCKLE) They - didn't do this. They - didn't-- (EXHALES DYING BREATH)


MICHAEL: (BEAT) Didn't they, colonel?


SOUND: SILENT PAUSE ... FOR CURTAIN ...

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