Thursday, June 10, 2010

TZ Promo: "The After Hours" (6/10/1960)

Her name is Marsha White. She's at a shopping mall, looking for a gift for her mother. She encounters a rather abrupt elevator attendent and a rude saleswoman, and things go from mildly uncomfortable to downright nightmarish.

Fifty years ago tonight, "The After Hours" aired for the first time, and even when held up against the embarrassment of riches that comprise the first season of The Twilight Zone, the episode stands out as a true masterpiece. Bizarre and terrifying, we watch as Marsha's entire world --- her perception of reality --- disintegrates before her eyes. A flawless script by Rod Serling and innovative direction by Douglas Heyes support a nuanced and intense performance by the beautiful Anne Francis (who would turn in another brilliant performance a few years later in season four's "Jess-Belle"). It's one of the series' most blatant excursions into the surreal.

In reviewing my top 40 all-time favorite episodes, I was shocked to discover that this episode ... well, isn't on it. An egregious oversight on my part. "The After Hours" is one of the show's finest episodes. It may be time to update that list....

"The After Hours" was remade in 1986 on the 80's revival Twilight Zone series. Predictably, it can't hold a candle to the original. It starred Terry Farrell, better known as Jadzia Dax from TV's Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. She's a beauty in her own right, but she's got nothing on Anne Francis. I should also mention that the luminous Ms. Francis lit up the screen alongside Robby the Robot in 1956's Forbidden Planet, a film with many Twilight Zone connections.

Next week: As we near the end of the first season, the quality is something akin to a roller coaster. Great episodes are checker-boarded with... well, not so great ones. Next week's is unfortunately in the latter category. It's certainly nowhere near as awful as last week's "Mr. Bevis," though, and if you like baseball, you might just enjoy it. Batter up and tune in.

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