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. -JP
#23 - Mother is Here to Stay, from “Young Man’s Fancy,” season three, episode 99
Written by Richard Matheson, directed by John Brahm, starring Alex Nicol, Phyllis Thaxter, Helen Brown
Richard Matheson’s “Young Man’s Fancy” is undeniably one of the most disturbing episodes of the series. Matheson works from the familiar premise of a grown man who is unable to get on with his adult life and out from under the shadow of a domineering mother only to sideswipe the viewer with a truly unexpected and unsettling twist ending. Matheson was always interested in subverting the viewer’s expectations and he manages to do so brilliantly in this episode. Phyllis Thaxter gives a strong performance as the young woman attempting to pull her new husband away from what she believes to be the grip of his dead mother. Her emotionally wrought performance heightens the horror of the final revelation. Matheson was the master of the domestic horror story and found a number of ways to illustrate the horrible things that occur in the “normal” household. “Young Man’s Fancy” also bears repeat viewings as Matheson places many subtle clues to the story’s final twist within the narrative. Prolific Twilight Zone director John Brahm is once again at the helm for his episode and his steady, understated style is perfectly suited to the mournful tone of the story.
-The twist ending to “Young Man’s Fancy” is just one of the Richard Matheson’s many exception twist endings for the series. Other Matheson episodes with memorable twist endings include “The Invaders,” “Nick of Time,” “Mute,” and “Spur of the Moment,” the latter of which may be the finest, and most unexpected, twist ending of the entire series.
-Rod Serling’s opening narration for “Young Man’s Fancy” is unusually long, perhaps the longest of the series besides the introduction to “It’s a Good Life.” Rod Serling’s introductions were frequently rewritten and often shortened before filming and many of the original introductions can be found in Martin Grams’ book The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic (OTR, 2008).