Continuing on with my Halloween theme, here are five episodes of this classic TV series that I consider to be very scary indeed. If you’ve seen the series you will know that it was a blend of Science Fiction and Horror, and was very famous for its twist and shock endings. I love the Science Fiction episodes, but I really love the creepy episodes the best.
I also think that these five episodes would have each made a good horror film.
1- The Grave (Season 3, episode 7 )
This episode is set in a rundown town in the old west. This is a superb, creepy ghost story and it looks at how our superstitions can lead us to fear. Pinto Sykes is a notorious killer. When Pinto is shot dead by gunman Conny Miller (Lee Marvin), he puts a curse on Conny and says that if he ever sets foot on his grave, then he will die there. Conny at first pays no heed to these words.
When a group of Conny’s friends (including Lee Van Cleef) dare him for a bet to go there, things turn seriously creepy and weird. Great acting throughout, a really creepy story, and a terrifically spooky ending all combine to make this one scary episode indeed. I love the atmosphere created with most of the story taking place at night, and in a stormy,windswept location. I think it’s also one of the best episodes of the entire series. Lee Marvin is terrific. Special mention must go to the excellent Elen Willard as Pinto’s seriously otherworldly sister, Ione.
2- The Hitch-Hiker (Season 1, episode 16)
This is one of the best remembered of the series many episodes. This is also the first episode that I ever saw, and it is one that made a lasting impression on me due to its creepy story. It is this episode which also made me a fan of the series.
Nan (Inger Stevens)is driving and keeps seeing a mysterious hitchhiker at various stages of her journey. She begins to get more and more frightened as he keeps appearing. A revelation later in the episode will scare her even more. The way this one is shot means we become as scared as she is, as we take this unsettling journey with her. Creepy stuff indeed.
3- The Howling Man (Season 2, episode 5)
This episode looks at the cost of the human instinct of going and doing the exact opposite of what we are told or advised to do. David Ellington (H.M. Wynant) is on a hiking tour, he gets lost and arrives at a secluded monastery. He seeks shelter there on a dark and stormy night. The monks there agree to give him shelter.
He is warned by Brother Jerome (David Carradine) to have no contact with the man in a locked room who howls and yells. Curiosity gets the better of Ellington however, and he is soon disregarding the warnings he has received in order to speak to the stranger, and then he lets him out of the cell…
When you learn the identity of the howling man I think that the episode become seriously scary. When you also come to understand the cost of Ellington’s actions the episode becomes very powerful. You also respect the monks who made it their mission to keep that man locked away. The episode is all about the dangers of curiosity and not heeding warnings. Very spooky indeed, and it has a creepy atmosphere and setting.
4- Deaths-head Revisited (Season 3, episode 9)
The Holocaust is a seriously disturbing subject. Realising that the monsters who brought about this atrocity were not actually monsters at all, but were only just men and women makes it even more disturbing. This episode tackles these horrors head on, and it is one of the most disturbing dramas I’ve ever seen.
Former SS officer, Captain Lutz (Oscar Beregi) returns to the Dachau Concentration Camp, which he was once in charge of. At first he seems overjoyed to be revisiting this site from his past, and he seems proud to remember the horror he oversaw there. Then all that changes. Why the change? He sees the ghost of former inmate, Alfred Becker(Joseph Schildkraut), a man who Lutz knows for certain died in the camp. Lutz is soon put on trial by all the former inmates of the camp for his crimes against humanity.
There are many disturbing images in this episode, and Lutz’s attitude towards his crimes is truly sickening to watch. The justice he gets from those he killed and tortured fits his crimes, but it is also very disturbing.
After all, what could be more disturbing to realise that someone you thought was a monster was actually human after all? Lutz learns there is no greater horror than ones own conscience making you see and feel the truth of what you have done.
5- The Thirty-Fathom Grave (Season 4, episode 2)
The crew of a navy ship become seriously freaked out when they hear tapping coming from inside the hull of a sunken submarine. Eerie apparitions are seen by some crew members and hysteria soon abounds aboard ship. This episode has a realistic look about it thanks to using real ships and not being studio bound. Simon Oakland is superb in this as the captain of the navy ship.
This is one of the best episodes from the much maligned season 4. Many fans complain about this season for its longer episodes, which saw the 30 minute format they grew used to changed to an hour instead. This season has many fine episodes including: Miniature, Printer’s Devil, On Thursday We Leave For Home, The Parallel and The New Exhibit.
I’m in the minority of fans who like this season and think season 5 is actually the weakest. I think 5 is weak because many episodes feel like they are similar to earlier episodes, and there are sadly many rubbish episodes and only a handful of good ones.
Here are some honorable mentions to other episodes in the series which are also scary: Twenty Two (surely the inspiration for the Final Destination films?),Nightmare At 20,000 Feet, The Dummy, It’s A Good Life, Night Call and Living Doll.
What are your views on the five episodes I’ve discussed? Which episodes from this series do you find the scariest?