‘The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine’ – Season One – Oct. 23, 1959
In a tribute of sorts to ‘Sunset Boulevard,’ this early episode plays like a short film. The multi-talented Ida Lupino (who directed the episode ‘The Masks’) plays Barbara Trenton, an aging film actress who gets no work and passes the time by watching old movies of herself from her 1930s heyday.
Martin Balsam plays her agent, Danny, who tries to get Barbara to come around to more realistic parts and open her curtains for a change. But she refuses, and Barbara somehow winds up in a film of a reunion party of dead movie stars in her own living room. Her maid’s scream upon spotting her on the screen is one of the most chilling in the series.
‘Ring a Ding Girl’ – Season Five – Dec. 27, 1963
While we’re on the subject of movie stars, this episode centers on a starlet named Bunny Blake who randomly drops by her hometown to see her friends and relatives. Clearly, Hollywood has gone to her head, but she’s still perfectly nice and seems to enjoy her family.
For some reason, she insists that everyone she knows attend a one-woman performance in the high school auditorium, even though the town’s summer picnic is at the same time. As it turns out, a plane crashes on the picnic grounds, but luckily for the town, most people choose Bunny’s performance. As it turns out, though, Bunny was on the plane and perishes.
Confusing? A little, but it’s ‘The Twilight Zone,’ after all. And the scene in which Bunny disappears into the falling rain is one of the series’ most haunting.
‘Long Live Walter Jameson’ – Season One – March 18, 1960
Seekers of immortality are sure to love this one. Kevin McCarthy plays Walter Jameson, a professor who revisits periods of history so convincingly, you could swear he was there. As it turns out, he was.
His age is never revealed, but after taking a potion from an apothecary, he says he was around in the days of Plato. He seems afraid of death, even though he doesn’t age. His soon-to-be father-in-law, who is 70, catches on. The man’s past finally catches up with him, when a wife he abandoned decades ago recognizes him and shoots him to prevent further strife among abandoned wives.
What makes this episode memorable, aside from the sensitive performances, is the final scene in which Walter seems to age on camera. This was achieved through changes in lighting, clever camera cuts, and perfect age makeup.