The Twilight Zone (1960) – A Nice Place to Visit, Nightmare as a Child and A Stop at Willoughby

It’s time. Paramount Pictures guides me deeper into The Zone this week, as I explore another trio of episodes from The Complete Series Collection.

First up is A Nice Place to Visit. Written by Charles Beaumont this story aired on 15 April, 1960, and tells a rather entertaining tale. Henry Frances Valentine (Larry Blyden) is a bad guy, and when he is gunned down by the police after robbing a shop. He awakes to find himself on the Other Side, with the odd Mr. Pip (Sebastian Cabot) as his guide.

He gets everything he ever wanted, with no hard work, with no effort, his every desire is fulfilled. After realising he’s dead, he believes he’s in heaven, but when he and Mr. Pip try to investigate what good deed he may have done to arrive in what he thinks is heaven they find list upon list of his crimes.

As time passes, he realises he’s tired of getting everything he wants, there’s no effort to any of it. And if it doesn’t require anything from him, is it worth anything?

It slowly dawns on him where he really is, and what his actions and his fate has led him to.

Cabot is a lot of fun, and watching Blyden’s Valentine realise all his dreams, and what is really going on is great. A solid episode, though the twist isn’t much of one, as most will have seen what was happening from the off.

The extras on this episode feature an isolated score.

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Nightmare as a Child was written by Rod Serling and aired on 29 April, 1960.

Helen Foley (Janice Rule) is a schoolteacher who keeps coming across an odd young girl, Markie (Terry Burnham) in her apartment complex. As the two converse, things begin to take a turn for the very unnerving as through their interactions Helen begins to recall events from her past, as well as her connection to the little girl.

There is something very off-putting about this episode, it gets under your skin even as you try to figure out what is happening with Helen, and what is going on with her and Markie.

As events from her past, specifically a horrible night when she was a child, is brought back to mind, urged on by the visit of an old family friend, Peter Seldon (Shepperd Strudwick), Helen seems to begin a descent into memory and madness.

I quite like the twists and reveals that fill this episode. Sure the kid isn’t the best actor, but it doesn’t matter, the story steamrollers along, and makes for a ripping yarn. It’s a different kind of story but works nicely here in the Twilight Zone.

The bonus feature for this episode is an isolated score by Jerry Goldsmith.

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A Stop at Willoughby was penned by Serling, and had its premiere on 6 May, 1960. This one is a fanciful piece of whimsy as it follows a commuter, Gart Williams (James Daly) who is tired of his job, his wife, and his life.

When he falls asleep on his train home, he begins to dream of a pleasant little town, Willoughby. He begins to wonder if it is a real place, on his train route, or imaginary, and wonders, if perhaps he can find refuge there from the worries of his life.

As his life becomes worse and worse, the pressures and work piling higher and higher, his dreams of Willoughby, a town eternally set in a sunny July in the 1800s becomes more and more vivid, inviting him to stay.

He finally, after all the grief he receives, decides to get off at Willoughby next time he has an opportunity.

The episode has a bit of a downer ending, suggesting there is no real escape from the pressures and troubles of the modern world, and the reveal of where Willoughby’s name comes from is almost frightening.

The features include a commentary by film historian Gary Gerani, an interview with producer Buck Houghton, a 1977 promo used during syndication and an isolated score by Nathan Scott.

This continues to be a fascinating journey into darkness and oddness, and I can’t wait to see what happens next time as I continue exploring Paramount Pictures The Twilight Zone: The Complete Series on Blu-Ray.

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