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
#28 - A Murderous Impulse, from “In His Image,” season four, episode 103
Written by Charles Beaumont, directed by Perry Lafferty, starring George Grizzard
Charles Beaumont was the series writer most concerned with the internal factors of perception. How does our mind make sense of reality? What would happen if our senses began to fail us, if we were unable to differentiate between dream and reality? Over and over, Beaumont explored these questions in a series of nightmarish episodes of existential terror. After the most shocking opening sequence in the entire series, Rod Serling tells us: “What you have just witnessed could be the end of a particularly terrifying nightmare. It isn’t. It’s the beginning.” The allusion to a dream is no coincidence. Though Beaumont goes on to give us a modern science fiction riff on the Frankenstein story, what he is really exploring with “In His Image” is what he began exploring way back in the first season with “Perchance to Dream.” How do we know we are who we think we are? How do we know that we are really awake? How reliable is our perception of the world around us? Out of this Beaumont created one of the most violent and unsettling episodes of the fourth season, one that still retains its power to shock and provoke. The episode is also a triumph for George Grizzard. The Emmy and Tony Award-winning actor here displays an impressive range of dramatic skills.
-Charles Beaumont’s original short story was first published under the title “The Man Who Made Himself” in the February, 1957 issue of Imagination Science Fiction. The story was collected as “In His Image” in Beaumont’s 1958 story collection Yonder: Stories of Fantasy and Science Fiction.