Sunday, October 2, 2016

The Twilight Zone Vortex 2016 Halloween Countdown #30: "The Grave"

The Twilight Zone is an amazingly diverse program that offers stories of almost every conceivable theme and setting within the overall structure of intelligent modern fantasy. One area in which The Twilight Zone excelled was in the story of terror, exploring the darkest aspects of human existence in myriad ways. To celebrate the Halloween season, we’re counting down the 31 most frightening and unsettling moments from The Twilight Zone, one for each day of October. We’ll be revisiting some of the episodes we’ve already covered and looking ahead to episodes from the final three seasons of the series. Warning: Posts contain spoilers.                                                                                                                                    -JP


#30 - Conny Goes Down, from “The Grave,” season three, episode 72
Written and directed by Montgomery Pittman, starring Lee Marvin, Strother Martin, Lee Van Cleef, and James Best

“The Grave” is writer/director Montgomery Pittman’s take on an old European folktale in which a person must prove their courage by visiting a graveyard in the dead of night and sticking a knife or a stake into the soil of a grave to prove they’ve done the deed. Pittman’s triumph was to set the tale in a suitably spooky Old West setting and make use of the greatest ensemble cast of any episode of the show. The lighting and set decoration are excellent in this episode, successful despite the obvious fact it is filmed on a sound stage rather than a real location, and the Gothic shading of the setting could easily suit a tale set in a medieval European village. This gives the episode a storybook-come-to-life quality that is perfect for a pioneering work of the weird western. Conny’s walk to the graveyard and his ultimate fate remain a memorable moment of terror from the series. “The Grave” is a ghostly funhouse of an episode and perfect for Halloween viewing.

Trivia:

-This folktale has been handed down for untold generations and the original source of the tale has long been lost to time. Several folklorists who have included a version of the tale in collections of stories have been unable to trace the story to its roots. Perhaps the most well-known version of the story to my generation is “The Girl Who Stood on a Grave” from folklorist Alvin Schwartz’s influential 1981 volume Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (Lippincott).

-Lee Marvin, Strother Martin, and Lee Van Cleef also starred together in John Ford’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, which was most likely filmed directly after the three actors appeared in this episode of the show.

Read our full coverage of “The Grave” here.

2 comments:

  1. That's neat that Ford's film shared 3 stars with this ep and may have been filmed right after it! What a great movie.

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  2. Isn't that cool? "The Grave" certainly isn't the best episode of the series but it is likely the finest ensemble cast of the entire series.

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