The Twilight Zone (1960) – The Hitch-Hiker, The Fever and The Last Flight

Paramount Pictures takes me deeper into The Twilight Zone this week as I continue my exploration of The Complete Series on Blu-Ray.

First up this week is the ominously named, The Hitch-Hiker. This episode had an original airdate of 22 January, 1960, and was written by Rod Serling, based on a radio play by Lucille Fletcher.

Nan Adams (Inger Stevens) is on a cross-country journey, driving alone from Manhattan to Los Angeles. Everything seems to be going well at first, until the same man (Leonard Strong) begins to appear on the road before her, over and over again, always hitch-hiking, and no matter how many times she passes him by, he’s always there, just ahead, on the shoulder of the road… waiting.

There are a couple of really spooky moments, like when the hitch-hiker steps into frame looking right into the camera. It’s rather unnerving. That, added to the fact that he’s always there, trying to get a ride from Nan.

Not only does she avoid the hitch-hiker, she eludes death a number of times, both of these things weigh on her mind, pushing her to the edge of sanity as she wonders what she can do.

No one else has seen this hitch-hiker, not gas station or rest stop attendants, not even a Sailor (Adam Williams) on his way back from leave that catches a ride with her.

What’s going on? Is she crazy? Is the hitch-hiker real?

The ending is a bit of a shock, and it plays well, even now. This is a strong, well-written episode, wow.

The special features that round out this episode is a commentary by the author of The Twilight Zone Companion, Marc Scott Zircee, an isolated music score, and a radio adaptation starring Kate Jackson.

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The Fever aired January 29, 1960, and was written by Serling. The story follows Franklin Gibbs (Everett Sloane), an aged man becomes obsessed with a slot machine that he believes is calling his name.

The Gibbs, Franklin and Flora (Vivi Janiss) have won an all expenses paid trip to Vegas. Franklin is less than thrilled to be there at first, until he starts hearing the one-armed bandit calling to him.

Following on the heels of the previous episode, this one seems a little silly, and light, but it still feels very much like the Zone. There’s just no real point to the story. Franklin becomes obsessed with the machine, and it’s really just a story about gambling addiction.

For the most part, this episode is a clunker, there’s not a lot of substance to it, and it just doesn’t have the hook of other episodes.

Oh well, they can’t all be winners.

This one features an isolated score, and I have to say I love these tracks, the music is gorgeous, as well as radio version starring Stacy Keach and Kathy Garver.

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The final episode for review this week is The Last Flight. Richard Matheson, who has always had a talent for storytelling, penned this script that first took off on 5 February, 1960.

A World War I fight pilot, Lt. William Decker (Kenneth Haigh) comes in for a landing, only to discover he’s landed on an American base, 42 years in the future!

He tries to understand what is going on, and the base C.O. George Harper (Alexander Scourby) believes that this is all an elaborate hoax, though he can’t figure out to what end.

Decker must confront his own past, and that of the world he finds himself in, before deciding what he must do. His own past isn’t as brave as he leads on, he admits to cowardice, and is afraid to meet with someone from his past, who may remember him.

He realises he may be the only chance for the very man he fears to meet may only be alive if he can go back to his own time and save him!

This is a fairly straight forward story, it doesn’t really have a twist, or any big surprise, it’s just a simple time travel tale.

This episode features a radio adaptation starring Charles Shaughnessy, and an isolated music score.

That is all this time, next time Paramount Pictures and I continue or exploration of the strange, mysterious and terrifying as I delve deeper into The Twilight Zone – The Complete Series on Blu-Ray.

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