Original Air Date: January 5, 1962
Writer: George Clayton Johnson
Director: Lamont Johnson
“I haven’t always lived like this. I was young once. People said I was pretty. I lived out in the sunlight. People said I’d spoil my fine complexion. I didn’t care. I loved outdoor things. I lived out in the sunlight. I have always hate the dark and the cold. I’m old. I’ve lived a long time. But I don’t want to die. I’d rather live in the dark than not live at all.”
“An old woman living in a nightmare, an old woman who has fought a thousand battles with death and always won. Now she’s faced with a grim decision—whether or not to open a door. And in some strange and frightening way she knows that this seemingly ordinary door leads to the Twilight Zone.”
An elderly woman lives alone in a lower floor apartment in a wintering urban city. Her name is Wanda Dunn (played by legendary actress of film and stage Gladys Cooper). She lives in fear with a few meager possessions which are piled up near the door. She is frigidly paranoid of anyone entering her apartment –is this an apocalyptic tale? Has a nuclear winter descended upon the world? Or is she merely insane?
Outside a police officer walks by her window, but he is shot and left for dead in the snow. Conflicted, Ms. Dunn ultimately decides to help him. She drags him inside her home and we learn that his name is Harold Beldon (played by the great Robert Redford). Ms. Dunn explains to Beldon her story –she has lived for years this way, in darkness and alone, in fear of the arrival of Death –a mischievous and deceptive figure.
Moments later, a demolition man forces his way into Ms. Dunn’s home. He informs her that the building is set to be demolished very soon. Distraught, she pleads with Officer Beldon to convince this man not to demolish the building. However, the man cannot see Beldon. Beldon is apparently only visible to the elderly Ms. Dunn. Suddenly, it dawns on her. Officer Beldon is in fact Death himself –she has fallen for his ruse. But after some gentle conversation Death persuades Ms. Dunn that he is not all bad. They touch hands and he leads her out of her apartment. In the end of this haunting episode we see the character of Death actually portrayed as a redeeming figure, a bringer of hope. Darkness is contrasted with light, and the weight of Ms. Dunn’s fears have finally been lifted.
“There was an old woman who lived in a room. And, like all of us, was frightened of the dark. But who discovered in a minute last fragment of her life that there was nothing in the dark that wasn’t there when the lights were on. Object lesson for the more frightened amongst us in, or out of, the Twilight Zone.”
The Twilight Zone Trivia:
- This is one of two episodes that were filmed during season two but held over for broadcast until season three, the other being “The Grave.”
- This was the first of three episodes featuring Gladys Cooper.
- George Clayton Johnson’s original title was “There Is Nothing in the Dark That Wasn’t There When the Light Was On.”
- The plot for this episode closely mirrored a story by Ray Bradbury, who struggled to get his work featured on The Twilight Zone, and it led to the decline of the relationship between Rod Serling and Ray Bradbury.
- Buck Houghton hired a new director for this episode, Lamont Johnson –an actor who previously performed the voice of Tarzan on the radio and later went on to work in many memorable films.