Friday, March 19, 2010

Zoning Out...

So now you know. I'm a Twilight Zone addict.
Okay, maybe not an addict. I don't own it on DVD or anything, simply because the series is constantly played on television in syndication and at any random time you can find it on, quite often late at night, appropriately enough.
The SyFy channel in particular shows a few episodes nearly every Friday and Saturday night. So even if you're not home or don't stay up that late - set your DVR or Tivo or what have you to check out some of these gems. With over 155 episodes, you're bound to find one that strikes your fancy. Or if you have an extra couple hundred bucks, just buy the whole damn series. Whatever.

But to me, shows such as this one, along with oldies Night Gallery, Tales from the Darkside, and The Outer Limits are seemingly impossible to replicate. Oh, it's been attempted - inadequately at best. Some may say anthology shows such as the Friday the 13th series, Tales from the Crypt, and even the more recent Masters of Horror are just as exceptional - and those people would be wrong. While worthy additions to the television horror genre, they will never be able to duplicate the sense of uneasy fascination that shows like The Twilight Zone were able to give its viewers. In particular the black and white Zones - while somewhat dated at this point (some 50 years later!) - they still pack a punch in the chills department.
Running from 1959-1964, Rod Serling's creation, along with his own ominous voice overs that start each episode, has been unnerving and spooking people ever since.

So with this passionate endorsement, I give you the first in a random series of posts highlighting some of my favorite Twilight Zone episodes. Not a concise list or a countdown, mind you...just a meandering assortment, really.

And make no mistake - these posts will have spoilers. But hey, some the shows are over fifty years old, so sue me.

~Night Call~

Season 5, Episode 139
Original air date: 2/7/64

Elva Keene is a disabled elderly woman (Gladys Cooper) begins receiving disturbing phone calls late at night. A disembodied male voice keeps telling her he wants to talk to her.
When the frightening calls cease to stop, she contacts the phone company to complain. In the interim the calls continue until Elva screams into the phone to leave her alone (sounds like this is where the idea for When A Stranger Calls came from).

Soon they call her back to let her know she couldn't possibly be getting calls, because the calls are coming from a downed power line. The woman, terribly upset, argues with the operator until she finally tells the old woman the power line is in a cemetery.

The old woman pleads with her caretaker to give her a ride to the cemetery, where she indeed does see a broken telephone wire draped over the grave and going directly into the tombstone.

It is only then she explains that the grave is that of her fiancé, who had died in the same car accident she was crippled in. It was the week before their wedding, and she had been driving the car - because she demanded to and always got her way. She hit a tree and he was killed instantly.

Getting some comfort from hearing his voice again, and realizes he was only trying to get in touch with her, she is elated. She excitedly waits in her bed for him to call again, imploring him to do so. Finally the phone rings. Elva answers it but no one says anything. She begs him to speak, but when he does he tells her he won't bother her again, because she told him to leave her alone. And he always does what she tells him to. After all, she always gets her way...

*This episode was adapted by Richard Matheson's from his own short story, Long Distance Call (a.k.a. Sorry Right Number). It was scheduled to air on November 22, 1963 but was preempted by a major event in American history. The assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
It finally aired in February 1964.

*Buy it here.

HorrorBlips: vote it up!


*G*R*U*N*T*I*L*D*A* said...

The Twilight Zone was fabulous... such creative storylines that it never got boring.

But I didn't like the remake of the series they did a while back. That completely lost all the character and mood of the original.

Can't See Sheep said...

Yes! Love the old Twilight Zones. Some could be so unsettling & you didn't always realize right away exactly why or were surprised to the extent you'd been unsettled. Nothing dull about them.

I liked the other's you mentioned as well. Though did like the b&W Twilight Zones a good deal more than the colour ones.

James said...

This sounds like a great episode! I do love The Twilight Zone. Richard Matheson was a genius. Thanks for posting this Chris - looking forward to more Twilight Zone related posts. :o)