Twilight Zone – Shadow Play

★★★★★  May 5, 1961  Season 2 Episode 26

If you want to see where we are…HERE is a list of the episodes.

This one is a Twilight Zone classic. Dennis Weaver stars in this episode as Adam Grant. Weaver has always been a favorite of mine. He starred in the movie Duel, as McCloud, and in the first 9 seasons of Gunsmoke as Chester. Again and again The Twilight Zone cast these episodes perfectly.

This one is about a nightmare that Adam Grant finds himself trapped in. Grant has created this world with many of the same faces but different characters. It starts with him in a court room being convicted of first degree murder. We don’t see the crime…just Adam being thrown in jail and on death row…but something is off and he knows it. This episode is one of the must see Twilight Zones.

The writer Charles Beaumont once again explores a nightmare in Shadow Play as he did in Perchance for a Dream.

From IMDB: The title refers to the ancient art of shadow play or shadow puppetry using opaque figures that cast shadows on clear curtains. Such entertainment is known in countries throughout the world and is presented in theaters and by traveling troupes.

This show was written by Charles Beaumont and Rod Serling

Rod Serling’s Opening Narration: 

Adam Grant, a nondescript kind of man, found guilty of murder and sentenced to the electric chair. Like every other criminal caught in the wheels of justice, he’s scared, right down to the marrow of his bones. But it isn’t prison that scares him, the long, silent nights of waiting, the slow walk to the little room, or even death itself. It’s something else that holds Adam Grant in the hot, sweaty grip of fear, something worse than any punishment this world has to offer, something found only in – The Twilight Zone.

Summary

When Adam Grant is found guilty of first degree murder and sentenced he lashes out telling everyone that he will not be murdered again. Grant claims to be having a recurring nightmare where he is found guilty and executed. The characters around him change and so he argues that all of them will vanish if he dies. It leads newspaperman Paul Carson to question what is real and what might just be a figment of someone else’s imagination. DA Henry Ritchie visits Grant in jail and decides to try and do something about his claims, no matter how far-fetched his claims might be.

Rod Serling’s Closing Narration:

We know that a dream can be real, but who ever thought that reality could be a dream? We exist, of course, but how, in what way? As we believe, as flesh-and-blood human beings, or are we simply parts of someone’s feverish, complicated nightmare? Think about it, and then ask yourself, do you live here, in this country, in this world, or do you live, instead, – in The Twilight Zone?

CAST

Rod Serling…Narrator
Dennis Weaver…Adam Grant
Harry Townes…District Attorney Henry Ritchie
Wright King…Paul Carson
Bernie Hamilton…Coley
William Edmonson…Jiggs
Anne Barton…Carol Ritchie
Tommy Nello…Phillips
Mack Williams…Father Beaman
Gene Roth…Judge

Duel 1971

Duel was a TV movie that came out in 1971. It’s a great suspense movie that will keep you entertained.

It was Steven Spielberg’s first full-length movie. It came out as a TV movie in the US but after some scenes were added it was released in theaters in Europe and Australia. It starred Dennis Weaver. This is a very good first movie by Spielberg. It had some grit to it that some of his movies lack…probably because of it’s low budget.

Duel was much better than your regular TV movie. Dennis Weaver was superb in it. Another star was the Truck itself. It had its own personality. This is one of the best TV movies ever made.

Steven Spielberg told Dennis Weaver at one time that he watches this movie at least twice a year to see what he did as far as techniques.

The story is simple but effective. It still works today.

It’s about a man who is driving to a business meeting and part of his journey is through the desert. He starts being followed by an ugly as hell diesel Peterbilt truck. The truck starts passing Weaver and then starts bumping him later on. The suspense in this movie is great. You cannot see the truck driver but he has plates from all over the US that makes you think he picks random people out and starts harassing them.

It reminds you of a Hitchcock film. The suspense builds and builds and you feel Dennis Weaver’s fear.

Weaver is run off the road by the truck and he sees a diner.

He stops at a diner and phones his wife about a fight they had the night before… He gets off the phone and thinks he finds the truck driver that’s been targeting him for miles inside the cafe…

If you like suspense movies the movie is worth a watch.

Gunsmoke the Early Years

I grew up watching the hour-long color episodes (seasons 12-20) of Gunsmoke in reruns and I liked the show. Now I’m watching the first 6 seasons…they are black and white and very different. There is no Festus or Newly…we have Chester (Dennis Weaver) and he is a refreshing character. They just never played these episodes on television when I was younger. There still is Doc Adams  (Milburn Stone)and a very young good looking Kitty Russell (Amanda Blake).

These episodes dealt with murder, rape, human trafficking, and plenty of Matt Dillon (James Arness) decking bad guys with his fist or the butt of his gun. They are 30 minutes long which is great. They got to the point quickly. Some of the stories were grim but it matched the look of the series.

I was surprised at how rough, violent and authentic they were and that is not knocking the later episodes but there is a difference. The violence was toned down as the series continued.

The later color episodes centered more around the guest stars and the old black and white ones centered more on the local cast of Dodge City.

Have Gun Will Travel was also on CBS along with Gunsmoke. You will see some of the same character actors and sets. Some Have Gun Will Travel scenes were filmed in a redecorated Long Branch… Too bad there wasn’t a crossover at least once.

Chester…I’ve always liked Dennis Weaver as an actor…in McCloud, Duel and anything he was in… He brings his character Chester alive as a real person. Chester had a limp on the show and Dennis Weaver said he would take yoga classes so he could do things like putting on a boot look believable with a bad leg…he also put a pebble in his boot on his right foot so he would not forget which leg was lame.

Chester could be lazy but he was invaluable and loyal to a fault to Matt Dillon. Dennis Weaver left the show after the 9th season with no explanation on what happened to Chester as was the way back then with TV shows.

If you are a fan and have seen only the later episodes…check these out.