Thursday, January 26, 2012

TZ Promo: “The Hunt” (1/26/1962)

Season 3, Episode 19 (#84 overall)
Cayuga Production # 4810

50 years ago tonight, a kindly hillbilly took his dog out hunting… and never returned.

“The Hunt” is writer Earl Hamner Jr.’s first Twilight Zone script (he would ultimately write eight episodes), but he’s best known as the creator of TV’s The Waltons. In fact, “The Hunt” exists squarely in that Waltons universe… hillbillies, hicks, log cabins, 'coon huntin'... the whole nine acres. Not exactly my jug o' moonshine, but whatever. It’s a downright homey tale of one man’s transition from life to death, infused with gentle humor and backwoods charm (you’ve gotta love those literal “gateways” to heaven and hell). It’ll never make my favorites list in a million years, but there’s really nothing to complain about here: “The Hunt” is a cute excursion into Hicksville.

Gangly ol’ hayseed Arthur Hunnicut stars as Hyder Simpson, and the play-actin’ he does is jus’ tolerable. He’d go on to play a farmer-turned-catatonic-zombie in the “Cry of Silence” episode of TV's The Outer Limits two years later, but his biggest claim to fame is probably his portrayal of Uncle Jesse in 1975’s Moonrunners, which spawned TV’s The Dukes of Hazzard. Oh, and speaking of The Outer Limits… well, stay tuned.

Jeanette Nolan, meanwhile, is plum delightful as Simpson’s wife Rachel, but she’ll achieve greatness as the (literally) bewitching Granny Hart in season four’s wonderful “Jess-Belle.”

“The Hunt” features an original musical score by Robert Drasnin, whom we discussed a few months back. The score predictably utilizes guitar and harmonica (what, no Jew's harp?), and... well, it's a long way from his wonderful exotica output, that's for sure. The score has never been included in the myriad Twilight Zone soundtracks that have been released over the years, but it’s available as an isolated audio track on Image Entertainment’s blu-ray edition of season three.

In his Twilight Zone Companion, Marc Scott Zicree calls “The Hunt” “naive, badly directed, (and) only tolerably acted.” Sheesh, what a grouch.

Extra cheese, please.

Funny Zicree story… when I was about 13, I’d just discovered The Twilight Zone and I was well on my way to wearing out my first copy of Zicree’s book. I had a question about something he’d written (I don’t recall the specifics at this late date), so I called information and got his (apparently published) Hollywood number. I dialed the number and, upon hearing Zicree himself answer, lost my nerve and promptly hung up. So hey Marc, if you remember getting what seemed like a crank call 29 years ago... well, it was me. But you know what? I’m not sorry.

Directly after the end credits but before the network ownership stamp (or whatever the hell it is), CBS usually aired a quick (we're talking 5 seconds or so) promo for other CBS series (Gunsmoke, Make Room for Daddy, etc), but every now and then they’d show a public service ad (The Red Cross, etc). After “The Hunt,” viewers were treated to a suggestion by the Ad Council that they attend church and “worship together.” Was this strategically placed to match up with this particular episode’s fundamentalist vibe? We may never know for sure. Say your prayers just in case, kiddies.

Next week: Western + comedy = aw shit, Rod’s trying to be funny again.


Joel Benedict Henderson said...

Earl Hamner seems to have an incredible difficulty writing for a medium less than one hour. His one good Twilight Zone is testament to that.

Joel Benedict Henderson said...

...which again reiterates my opinion that Season 4 is surprisingly better overall than Season 3... despite the padding (and No Time Like the Past).