Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Twilight Zone: My Top 10 Favorite episodes


      One of my favorite TV shows of all time is the 1950’s classic “The Twilight Zone”. Even though it’s years and years old, it’s still just as timeless as ever. The shows themes of Science fiction laced with horror, and deep, thought provoking concepts are still very intriguing, and in a way, I always feel a little smarter, or maybe a little wiser after watching an episode. There are hardly any other shows that can mix chills and intriguing subtext as well as this fantastic series. There’s no way I can do the show justice in a single review, because it really just needs to be experienced. However, I’ll go ahead and round up my personal top 10 favorite episodes, just to give you some small idea and maybe peak your interest. Also, I’m not going to spoil any of the twist endings.  

    

#10. Number 12 Looks Just Like You 



This episode takes place in a future where everything is way too perfect. Everyone is happy, no one learns things through books, and no one is ugly. There’s even a law that every young person must undergo a transformation that will make every man and woman look like the exact same good looking model without any flaws. However, a young woman resists having the surgery because she doesn’t want to lose her humanity. This episode reflects on how society tries too hard to perfect itself, when it forgets that it’s okay to just be OK. The lead girl in this episode is especially easy to sympathies with and it’s great to see her fight for her God given right to just be normal. While there isn’t a whole lot going on in this episode, it’s the subtext of the story that makes it one of my favorites.



#9. I Am the Night – Color me Black 



A man is to be hanged at sunrise for killing another man out of pure hatred, and now the towns people are all overjoyed to see this guy hang. But on the appointed day, the sun fails to rise and a strange darkness envelops the land. This episode has everything that makes a great “Twilight Zone” episode, there’s a mysterious phenomenon affecting a town, thought provoking themes and metaphors, plus some really tense, dramatic performances from the cast. Everything culminates into a simplistic, yet haunting metaphor regarding hatred and how it blackens the soul. It’s a chilling episode that leaves me thinking about humanity in general.  

  

#8. Living Doll 



This is one of the most classic episodes of the series, and one of the most haunting. A strict stepfather is physically threatened by his stepdaughter’s new talking doll. He’s a real jerk and causes lots of fuss with the family, but when he’s alone, that doll starts sending him some cryptic threats to clean up his act, or he’ll die. The tension in this episode is quiet effective, and the mystery surrounding the doll is ingenious. It really makes you wonder ... is the man losing his mind, is the family playing tricks on him or is Talking Tina really alive. One thing I’ll say is that despite all the Chuckey’s and Annabelle’s that have dominated the horror genera, the concept of a killer doll has never been more effective for me then in this episode. 



#7. A Passage for Trumpet 



Now here’s one of the more humble and beautiful episodes that the show has to offer. A down on his luck trumpet player has slowly lost his musical talents, has secluded himself from other people, spends most of his time drinking, and has basically become a no-body. His depression gets the best of him, and he tries to commit suicide by stepping out in front of a truck. He soon finds himself in limbo where no one can see or hear him, and thus he really discovers what it means to be a no-body. This episode is all about savoring the good things you have in life, and to make the most of what comes your way. Even when life seems to be at its worst, you can always climb out of the gutter and make something of yourself. It’s a wonderful message that’s conveyed very humbly and simplistically without ever coming off as preachy, and that’s something that this show always nailed.  

       

#6. The After Hours 



Here’s another episode with a very simple yet meaningful message. However, it’s the episodes atmosphere and style that make it a personal favorite. A woman makes a purchase on the ninth floor of a department store, but later discovers that the floor doesn’t even exist, because there are only eight levels on the building. The young lady soon finds herself locked in the store after closing hours, the phones don’t work, the doors are locked, and worse yet, she’s not alone. As she wonders through a maze of different shopping lanes, she begins to hear mysterious voices calling out to her. With a concept like this, it could have been very dull watching a single character walking around a department store, but it holds our attention very well, with some sharp editing, a foreboding mood, shadows and enough mystery elements to get you guessing what the outcome will be.



 #5. Jess-Belle 



In this special 1 hour long episode, a young woman named Jess-Belle has fallen in love with a young man who’s currently going out with another woman. Her jealousy soon leads Jess to a witch in the mountains who gives her a spell that will make the boy love her instead. However, this comes with a serious price, as every midnight Jess transforms into a killer leopard with a craving for human flesh. The premise is almost like a throwback to the 1942 horror movie “Cat People”, and it’s got all the best horror tropes that the show has to offer. The imagery is creepy, the atmosphere is heavy, and a feeling of impending dread just builds and builds to a thrilling finally. Anne Francis plays Jess-Belle and she really nails it, capturing the jealous rage, the somber regret and the fear of her unknown actions perfectly. This same actress was also the star of the previously mentioned episode “The After Hours”, and would be a big TV star for a while. Personally, I’ll always remember her best from the 1950’s Sci-Fi classic “Forbidden Planet”.  



#4. Eye of the Beholder 



Now here’s a very simple episode, it’s all about a bandaged woman in a hospital who’s going through some kind of surgery. There’s a lot of really sad moments as the lady fears she’ll be to deformed to be among normal looking people, and the setting never changes from the cold, and somber interiors of this hospital. It’s an episode full of great performances, some really crafty camera angles, and a twist ending that’s so simple, yet so profound that I dare not spoil any more. Trust me when is say that this episode represents “The Twilight Zone” at its finest. 


#3. The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street 



Here’s an episode that warns viewers about the most dangerous monster of all, and that’s human kind itself. A power failure causes the residents of a suburban neighborhood to suspect one another of being monsters from outer space, or creatures planning an invasion. It may sound like a really silly concept, but it’s very truthful about how paranoia, and the unknown can suddenly turn close friends against each other. It’s also very clever for including real monsters, but they don’t actually attack the humans ... because the humans are already doing that to themselves. It’s every bit as intriguing as it is suspenseful and dark. 



#2. Walking Distance 



While waiting for repairs on his car, an ad executive under pressure from his job decides to take a little walk, and pays a visit to his old hometown in which he grew up as a child. The catch is that nothing has changed sense he left, and soon he realizes that he’s stepped back in time to witness his childhood. He embraces everything with sentimental longing but the world of the past doesn’t except him back. There’s nothing scary or tense about this episode, but it’s something I relate to on a very personal level. Everyone at some point wants to return to their past, and relive that time which was cheerful and care free, but the moral of the episode is to live your life in the present without dwelling on the days long gone. It’s just a very touching episode, with a humble message and it’s always stood out as one of the most special offerings from “The Twilight Zone”. 


 
Before I reveal my #1 favorite episode, here are my Runner Up’s

Five Characters in Search of an Exit
Night Call
Stopover in a Quiet Town
The Odyssey of Flight 93
Twenty Two
Still Valley
The Hunt” 

Night of the Meek







#1. The Jungle 



While this episode’s message isn’t nearly a thought provoking as any of my previously mentioned episodes, it was still the first episode to really captivate me, thrill me, keep me in suspense and it still stands as my personal favorite. An engineer has a curse placed on him by natives objecting to his building a dam on their land. Back in the big city, he slowly finds the concrete jungle to be more wild and spooky then he remembers. On his way back from work, the man gets himself lost, he can’t find the way back to his apartment, and he has the suspicion that he’s being hunted by a ferocious predator. It may sound extremely simple, but I personally think it’s the eeriest, and most suspenseful episode of the whole series. With very little visuals, this episode still creates an extremely haunting atmosphere, all thanks to its heavy shadows, it’s labyrinth like setting, and especially for it’s frightening sound effects. It’s actually on par with “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”, when Ichabod Crane was alone in the woods while stocked by a shadowy creature. Also, just like that story, “The Jungle” delivers a twist ending in which the man’s most comfortable, and safest location actually becomes the most dangerous place of them all. It’s a great episode, with a memorable payoff, and it’s always the first episode that comes to mind when I think of “The Twilight Zone”. 
  

                                                                         The End



                           Stay Tuned because my annual October Marathon is coming up next.   
   

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