The Twilight Zone (1961) – Long Distance Call, A Hundred Yards Over the Rim, and The Rip Van Winkle Caper

Paramount Pictures dares me to go deeper into The Twilight Zone: The Complete Series on blu-ray, and I took them up on it.

First up this week is Long Distance Call. Written by Charles Beaumont and William Idelson, this episode had its premiere on 31 March, 1961.

Young Bill Mumy (making his first of three appearances) stars in the last episode to be shot on videotape (thank goodness) as Billy Bayles. The lad loves his grandmother (Lili Darvas), who presents him with a gift, a toy phone. She tells him that the two of them will always be able to talk to one another through it.

When tragedy strikes, and Grandma Bayles dies, the family is devastated. But Billy is still having conversations with her on his phone. No one believes him at first, but when he insists on wanting to go with her and throws himself in front of a car, things take an even darker turn. Will the family be able to save Billy?

Grandmother obviously loves her grandson, but there is something controlling and almost manipulative about the way she uses her relationship with the young boy. So it’s not a surprise that the boy goes to extremes, to be reunited with her.

Of course, there has always been something spooky about a child talking to someone on a toy phone, and holding an actual conversation, and that idea gets a moment or two onscreen.

The extras accompanying this episode are an original production slate as well as a commentary with Bill Mumy and William Idelson.

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A Hundred Yards Over the Rim stars Cliff Robertson in a story by series creator Rod Serling. Airing on 7 April, 1961, the story follows Robertson’s Christian Horn.

Horn is leading a pioneering expedition in 1847, They are stuck in the desert, and many are ready to turn back, but Horn’s son is suffering from a fever and when he wanders away from the group, just over a hundred yards, in search of water, he stumbles into present day New Mexico.

The story is another variation on the man out of time that Serling seems to really enjoy, but the characters and the performances make this an exceptional iteration of the oft-told tale.

Robertson’s Horn is stunned and terrified by everything he encounters beyond the rim he mounts, from a tractor trailer to a juke box, everything is frightening, but he may just climb back over the rim with exactly what he needs to save his wagon train and his son.

John Astin makes an appearance in this episode as Charlie, one of the fellow pioneers.

I like the fact that for this story both sides of the time line try to figure out what is going on, and how it affects them, or will change them.

The extras include a commentary by Cliff Robertson, another by Zone fans and historians, Scott Skelton and Jim Benson, a 1978 interview with director Buzz Kulik, an isolated score by Fred Steiner, a sponsor billboard and a radio adaptation featuring Jim Caviziel.

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The final episode this week is The Rip Van Winkle Caper. With a broadcast date of 21 April, 1961, this episode was written by Serling and tells of a strange robbery.

A group of thieves have come up with what they think is the perfect crime. Stealing a gold shipment, they hole up in a cave and put themselves into suspended animation with a little help from science. The plan is to sleep for 100 years, and then when they wake, walk away free, and rich.

De Cruz (Simon Oakland) is scheming to keep as much of the gold as he can. Things get even stranger when they wake as De Cruz starts bumping off everyone else, but as the episode reaches its climax, the lone survivor isn’t ready for the revelation of when he is, but may not survive in the desert to see it.

The extras include a billboard, an isolated score and another commentary by Scott Skelton and Jim Benson.

The journey through the darkness continues next week with more from Paramount’s The Twilight Zone: The Complete Series, now on blu-ray.

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