Thursday, August 12, 2010

TZ Repeat: "The Hitch-hiker" (8/12/1960)

50 years ago tonight, CBS viewers were treated to an extraordinary half hour of television. Sure, it was a repeat, but The Twilight Zone is often better the second time around. You pick up things you might have missed the first time around. And speaking of picking up...

“The Hitch-hiker,” which premiered on 1/22/1960, reappeared for its encore telecast 50 years ago tonight. I’ve already covered the episode fairly extensively (see here), but I will say this: It’s a truly great episode (one of my top 10 favorites, in fact) with a truly unique history. It was originally presented as a radio show, which accounts for the large chunks of narration by the protagonist (radio was so much more internal than television). Character narration, a staple of police/detective shows (Dragnet in particular), was pretty uncommon on The Twilight Zone (since we had Rod Serling and all), but it did happen a few other times (“King Nine Will Not Return” and “The Long Morrow” come to mind; I’m sure there are a few others). The narrative device is particularly effective here: Inger Stevens’ anguished voiceover matches her onscreen performance quite well (the approach is much more elegant than, say, having one talk to oneself constantly, as in “Where Is Everybody?” or season five’s “The Last Night of a Jockey”). Her voice becomes a calm monotone when she realizes the true identity of her mysterious follower, and the lifeless expression on her face in the final shot is chilling.

Hey, it just occurred to me that the hitch-hiker himself would make a great bobble head… Bif Bang Pow!, are you listening? Maybe his THUMB could bobble…. or is that too silly?

Coming up: We’re only six weeks away from the start of season two! But for now, the summer repeats continue with an interesting tale of a plane that lands not so much in the wrong place, but in the wrong time…

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