The Twilight Zone (1963) – Valley of the Shadow, and He’s Alive

It’s time to venture further into The Twilight Zone, as I delve deeper into season 4 of The Complete Series on blu-ray now available from Paramount Pictures.

First up this week is Valley of the Shadow. Written by Charles Beaumont, this story sees reporter, Philip Redfield (Ed Nelson) finding himself stuck in a strange small town, when this episode aired on 17 January, 1963.

He arrives in Peaceful Valley, a less than friendly place, where his dog vanishes before his eyes when he chases a cat. It seems there is an incredible amount of technology here, in fact it seems there is something in the town that won’t let him leave. Things get even more mysterious for Redfield when he bumps into the town mayor, Dorn (David Opatoshu).

It seems he won’t be allowed to leave.

Lucky for him, he is appealing to young woman Ellen (Natalie Trundy) who runs the local hotel, so he works on escaping. What will it take? and what will it cost him?

It’s a fairly interesting story, but I couldn’t quite find my way into it. There was just no reak hook for me, or perhaps I had seen variations on that theme far too many times.

The extras for this episode include an isolated score, sponsor billboards, a commentary by Zone historian Marc Scott Zircee and Jaime Paglia, co-creator of the series, Eureka which was influenced by the episode, as well as an interview with Morgan Brittany, who played the little girl in the episode.

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The next episode, He’s Alive, features Dennis Hopper, and was penned by series creator Rod Serling and aired on 24 January, 1963.

Peter Vollmer (Hopper) is the floundering leader of a struggling neo-Nazi group in a big city, but when a mysterious figure begins to influence and guide him, the group begins to garner more attention.

Spouting hate speech, Vollmer is pushed further and further to extremes by this unseen mentor and the story follows him.

There’s also an interesting relationship between Vollmer and a Holocaust survivor, Ernst Ganz (Ludwig Donath). Ernst is compassionate and forgiving towards Vollmer, in spite of the hate the young man spews, despite the fact that similar thoughts and men put him in a camp.

As Peter’s power grows, will Ernst be able to stop him? And will it be enough for Peter to face his shadowy mentor? Or will it lead to more terror?

The subject matter is dark, it’s handled smartly, and explores the concepts of fascism, control and hatred. It’s actually very frightening, and talks about the lingering hatred, bigotry and prejudice that still permeate society.

That’s an important message, and one told very well through this story.

The extras on this one include an isolated score, billboards, and a Rod Serling blooper. There’s more next time, as the journey through Paramount Pictures’ The Twilight Zone; The Complete Series on blu-ray, continues.

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