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
#29 - Tina Vanishes, from “Little Girl Lost,” season three, episode 91
Written by Richard Matheson, directed by Paul Stewart, starring Robert Sampson, Sarah Marshall, and Charles Aidman
Richard Matheson’s “Little Girl Lost” is perhaps the episode with the greatest claim as a story of “hard” science fiction, a mode of storytelling which the show generally shied away from. Much of the episode revolves around a meditative conversation on physics and the nature of reality. What prompts the conversation, however, is every parent’s nightmare: the inexplicable disappearance of a child. The disembodied voice of the young girl and the strange, otherworldly dimension beyond a bedroom wall are some of the most disorienting effects accomplished for the show. The special effects still hold up quite well, especially the scene in which Twilight Zone veteran Charles Aidman, in the role of Bill, the family friend, taps his hand along the wall until he discovers an area in which his hand simply passes through. The simple construct of the other world, a fog shrouded, sparsely furnished set embellished with tilting camera angles, remains highly effective.
-There are noted similarities between Matheson’s story and Steven Spielberg’s 1982 film Poltergeist, which features a young girl traveling to another dimension through her television set. Spielberg worked with Matheson several times throughout their careers. Spielberg’s first full-length film was the television film Duel (1971), based on Matheson’s teleplay adapting his short story published in April of that same year. Spielberg also produced and directed a segment of Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983), of which Matheson wrote the majority of the screenplay. Matheson also contributed to Spielberg’s underrated fantasy television anthology series Amazing Stories (1985-1987).
-Matheson’s original short story was first published in the Oct/Nov, 1953 issue of Amazing Stories and was collected in Matheson’s 1957 story collection, The Shores of Space.