Friday, September 9, 2011

Twilight Zone - Episode 142 - An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge -- Original Air Date - February 28,1964

Winner of the Cannes Film Festival 1962, and winner of many other international awards,  An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge opens with a special introduction by Rod Serling.  According to Mr. Serling's intro the film was shot in France by "others", and is a "haunting study of the incredible". 

 The "others" that Mr. Serling was referring to were Ambrose Bierce, whose short story the episode is based on, producers Marcel Ichac and Paul de Roubaix, and director Robert Enrico.

First off the cinematography is incredible.  The camera sweeps across a forest of barren trees to a small railroad bridge that crosses a creek.  A squad of union soldiers march a prisoner (Roger Jacquet) across the span and prepare to hang the confederate collaborator. 

The entire episode has a nightmarish quality to it, especially when the camera switches to the prisoner's point of view showing him looking from one end of the bridge to the other, only to see soldiers standing guard at any possible route of escape.  The camera pans down to show him standing on a plank, with a soldier standing opposite him holding down the other end of the plank preventing him from falling, suspended above the water below and the noose carefully being placed around his neck.  The suspense builds to an almost intolerable level as the soldiers bind the prisoner's legs and feet,  his hands already bound behind his back, and the sun rises and day breaks slowly over the hillside.  The condemned man closes his eyes and with a tear running down his cheek sees visions of his wife and children.

At this point I was about to reach for my anxiety medication when the Union officer gave the command, the soldier stepped off his end of the plank, and the prisoner plummeted down into the river below trailing the broken rope behind him as he sank deep into the water.  Struggling below the water's surface, he manages to untie himself and make his escape down river evading the enemy gunfire, caught in swirling river waters, and swept downstream.  The man pulls himself up on to the riverbank delirious that he is alive and has avoided being captured.  But the feeling is short lived as he realizes the soldiers are in pursuit.

Of course we're talking about the Twilight Zone here, a world of imagination and fantasy where nothing is as it seems.  The story was purchased for $25,000 by producer William Froug, but the purchase allowed the film to be aired only twice.  According to Marc Scott Zicree's The Twilight Zone Companion  "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge was the last episode of the classic Twilight Zone series to be "produced" (presumably referencing the reediting and the addition of footage of Rod Serling, as production of the series was cancelled afterwards.) It was not, however, the last episode of the series to be broadcast".

This is one of my favorite episodes and classic Twilight Zone from start to finish.


  1. I remember this short film well, from when I saw it on TWILIGHT ZONE as well as in high school on 16mm. An excellent ZONE episode to review and well-done!

  2. Hey Rick - I remember it from school also, great episode, definitely one of the "best of the best". I wish they wouldn't show the same episodes again and again every time there's a Zone marathon ... There are so many great episodes that are very rarely seen ...

  3. I remember this episode, but vaguely. Must've seen it only once (!)...This post has given me the thought that a blogathon of favorite "Twilight Zone" episodes could be very interesting as well as great fun. There's one in particular I've always wanted to write about. Meanwhile, I'll have to revisit this episode.