October 10, 2010

My Five: Favorite Twilight Zone Episodes by Charles Beaumont

Aside from Rod Serling, there are two writers who have shown to be driving forces behind the quality of stories told on The Twilight Zone: Richard Matheson and Charles Beaumont. Each of these writers contributed so much to the show that when originally deciding on my five favorite TZ episodes, I found there to be an embarrassment of riches. So, I opted to pick my five favorite episodes each of them--Beaumont, Matheson, and Serling.

Here are my 5 favorite episodes written by Charles Beaumont:

#5 "A Nice Place to Visit" (Season 1) - I wonder what Hell looks like. Oh look, it's a labor camp. I should've known. I like this episode so much because of its blend of parable fantasy with hard-boiled gangsterism. It's just an amusing combination to me. Plus, throwing in a protagonist named Rocky Valentine is icing on the cake. This episode is a bit like a macabre, cynical version of It's a Wonderful Life.

#4 "Valley of the Shadow" (Season 4) - A journalist stumbles upon a small town while driving, lost, and finds the behavior of the townsfolk to be strange. Especially when his dog disappears before his eyes because of a strange device in the possession of a little girl. As his reporter instincts kick in and he investigates, he discovers the town is inhabited by people with astonishingly advance technology. But, then they won't let him leave for fear of his latent human savagery ruining them. Yeah, humanity sucks.

#3 "The Jungle" (Season 3) - Ah, John Dehner. The guy has a unique kind of gentleman quality that suits the characters he plays. In this one, he's a businessman with ties to a dam being built in Africa is cursed by a witch doctor, but he refuses to believe in such superstition. As the night wears on after returning to his home city from Africa, he starts to wonder if maybe there is something supernatural stalking him.

#2 "Perchance to Dream" (Season 1) - What if you were afraid you would die if you fell asleep, because your nightmares would scare you to death? The guy in this episode has such a problem and does the ol' I'm-not-crazy routine with a psychiatrist. The whole idea of the crazy man being right all along doesn't often play well on television shows, but in this episode I thought it was done to great effect. Maybe not a very sophisticated plot, but it worked for me.

#1 "The Howling Man" (Season 2) - For me, this is one of the most iconic Twilight Zone episodes ever. Is that man imprisoned within the bowls of a monastery really the Devil as the monks assert, or is he the victim of an archaic superstition and rampant paranoia? The wayward traveler's dilemma when he winds up at the monastery's doorstep is all too palpable, as the monks warn him of the prisoner's deceitful nature and the desperate pleas of a captive claw at his good nature.

What do you think of this list? Is there a Beaumont episode you think is conspicuous by its absence? I'll bet there's at least one of you wondering where "Living Doll" is? Well, that was #6 on my list.

1 comment:

  1. OK, you've hit on one of my favorite authors. I hope you've read his collection THE HOWLING MAN (same story he adapted for TZ). Great stories, and it is such a huge tragedy how his life turned out. One of the great what-ifs is what stories he might have written if his writing career didn't end in his mid-30s.