Original Air Date: January 6, 1961
Writer: Rod Serling
Director: Douglas Heyes
“There was a village. Built of crumbling clay and rotting wood. And it squatted ugly under a broiling sun like a sick and mangy animal wanting to die. This village had a virus, shared by its people. It was the germ of squalor, of hopelessness, of a loss of faith. With the faithless, the hopeless, the misery-laden, there is time, ample time, to engage in one of the other pursuits of men. They began to destroy themselves.”
Somewhere in the old west we find a man named Luis Gallegos (played by John Alonzo) who is set to be hanged for accidentally killing a little girl while drunk. The decision to execute this young man is plaguing this small town. A shifty traveling salesmen named Sykes (played by Thomas Gomez) enters town. He sells the sheriff a brand new rope for the hanging.
When Mr. Gallegos (played by Vladimir Sokoloff who appeared in many Hollywood classics including The Magnificent Seven and For Whom The Bell Tolls) pleads with the townspeople to forgive his son. Sykes, seeing an opportunity to exploit the old man, sells him “magic” dust to help save Luis. However, when the moment of execution comes the rope breaks and Luis is spared. The townsfolk label it a divine miracle and allow Luis to live. In complete befuddlement, Sykes gives away the money he took from the elder Gallegos to a group of children.
“It was a very small, misery-laden village. On the day of a hanging. And of little historical consequence. And if there’s any moral to it at all, let’s say that in any quest for magic, and any search for sorcery, witchery, legerdemain, first check the human heart. For inside this deep place is a wizardry that costs far more than a few pieces of gold. Tonight’s case in point – in the Twilight Zone.”
“Dust” is a nicely paced episode that captures a brief moment in time during the 19th century, infused with a bit of superstition and magic. Jerry Goldsmith delivers a wonderfully haunting score for this episode which crescendos as the viewer feels the desperation, superstition, exhaustion, and perhaps dehydration of the townsfolk in this remote Southwest town.
The Twilight Zone Trivia:
- Director Douglas Heyes found himself put to work on “Dust” after being pulled from an un-produced episode scripted by Charles Beaumont titled “Acceleration” according to radio and television historian Martin Grams, Jr. in his book The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic. Of “Dust” Heyes said the following: “‘Dust’ was about a town that sunk into the dust, in effect. It had no energy. the people there were listless. They were going to allow this man to be hanged simply because it was easier than not doing that.”
Click here to return to my survey of The Twilight Zone series.
Click here to read my reflections on Rod Serling’s short story “Dust.”
Dust earns my respect for how a such a profoundly written story can work with a fairly ambiguous resolution, but with just a hint of optimism that its miracle can be real. This was a triumph for Rod Serling.
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