Thursday, November 17, 2011

TZ Promo: “The Midnight Sun” (11/17/1961)

Season 3, Episode 10 (#75 overall)
Cayuga Production # 4818

50 years ago tonight, The Twilight Zone offered yet another glimpse of the end of the world. It wasn’t a nuclear war, or a worldwide plague, or even a planet-wide uncreation courtesy of Anthony Fremont. No, this was something new.

“The Midnight Sun,” written by Rod Serling and directed by Anton Leader, finds the earth losing its celestial bearings and settling into a collision course with the sun. Predictably, society disintegrates quickly as people prepare for a fiery end. Our story focuses on one woman, an artist named Norma, who opts to wait it out in her high rise apartment.

Ms. Nettleton, sweatin' to the oldies.

Lois Nettleton is fine in the lead; unfortunately, her efforts are undermined by the terrible acting by everyone else. Most offensive is Betty Garde, who is awkward and grating as Norma’s landlady and friend to the end (her death scene is embarrassingly bad). Even the radio announcer, who loses his cool live on the air, is completely unconvincing.

100% pure ham. Pre-cooked for your convenience.

What does work, besides Nettleton’s performance and Serling’s script, is the clever way in which the oppressive heat is depicted. Aside from the usual spray-on sweat and drenched clothing, special effects are employed to drive the point home: a mercury thermometer explodes before our eyes, and Norma’s oil paintings melt right off their canvases.

I'll stop the world and melt with you.

Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble.

And that twist ending ---- pure genius. The following picture is as close to a spoiler as you're getting outta me.

I’ve historically counted “The Midnight Sun” in my top ten favorites, but I’m not feeling quite as warmly toward it these days (har har). It’s definitely got a lot to offer, but when truly great episodes like “The Lonely” and “Mirror Image" (not to mention “Eye of the Beholder"!) are rated LOWER on my list…. yeah, it might be time for some further revisions.


“The Midnight Sun” is one of six season three episodes adapted into short story form by Rod Serling in New Stories from The Twilight Zone (the third in a trilogy of such books). As previously recounted, I acquired these paperback gems shortly after discovering the series in the early 80’s, so in several instances I read the after-the-fact story version before I ever saw the actual episode. “The Midnight Sun” is one such case.


Nathan Van Cleave (year unknown).

“The Midnight Sun” is graced with an excellent original score by Nathan Van Cleave. Employing a small five-piece ensemble (bass flute, two organs and two pianos), Van Cleave creates an eerie dread-tinged soundscape that gradually builds to a near-frenzy as the sun finally overtakes the earth (or, at least, appears to). Like many excellent TZ scores, “The Midnight Sun” has never been released on vinyl, tape or CD… but it CAN be acquired, thanks to the isolated music track Image Entertainment included in both the season three Definitive Edition DVD and blu-ray sets. It’s on my iPod, playing as I type this.

Next week: Nothing says Thanksgiving like… black magic?


ColScott said...

How did you GET it on your ipod? I have the Blu Rays, all of them, I have the ipod and I have a mac- what do I do?

Thanks in advance.

Craig Beam said...

I have a blu-ray drive, and I use a program called Total Recorder for capture. TR records the PC audio in WAV format, then I edit in Adobe Audition, then save as mp3. I actually acquired most of my TZ scores from the earlier Definitive Edition DVD sets (but used the same approach).

Craig Beam said...

...not sure if TR will work on a Mac, though. You could of course simply hook up a blu-ray player to your Mac using a composite connection and record the audio using whatever program came with your Mac. That's a bit cumbersome, though.

Drop me a line at and I'll see if I can help you out.

Bill Huelbig said...

50 years ago tonight, little 7-year-old me decided he'd much rather die by freezing rather than burning. Didn't matter that they were all still doomed and Mrs. Bronson would have to die all over again - what a relief! "Yes my dear. It's wonderful."

I've never liked hot weather. I wonder if that's a result of seeing this show?

Anonymous said...

Believe me, this episode got strong reactions during the "waterfall" scene when I played it for group discussion at Ithaca College....

Enjoying your blog -
David Jessup

ColScott said...

I still have the definitive editions and no blu ray drive- if they are isolated on that I can just record and port to Itunes then right?

Craig Beam said...

Yeah, that should work. You might need to do some editing (since there'll be long gaps in between cues).