Original Air Date: January 26, 1962
Writer: Earl Hamner Jr.
Director: Harold D. Schuster
“You see, Mr. Simpson, a man well he’ll walk right into hell with both eyes open -but even the Devil can’t fool a dog!”
“An old man and a hound-dog named Rip, off for an evening’s pleasure in quest of raccoon. Usually, these evenings end with one tired old man, one battle-scarred hound dog, and one or more extremely dead raccoons, but as you may suspect, that will not be the case tonight. These hunters won’t be coming home from the hill. They’re headed for the backwoods—of The Twilight Zone.”
An elderly man named Hyder Simpson (Arthur Hunnicutt) lives in a rural mountain community with his wife Rachel (Jeanette Nolan who also appeared in a number of classic Orson Welles, Fritz Lang, and John Ford films and she also performed as the voice of Norma Bates in Hitchcock’s Psycho). Together they live a quiet but happy existence. One evening, Hyder takes his dog Rip out to go raccoon hunting but Rip falls into a ravine so Hyder jumps in after him.
The next morning, Hyder and Rip awaken and walk home but strange things begin to happen. Hyder sees a pair of young men digging a burial plot on his land, and when he attempts to speak to them they are unresponsive. He also finds Rachel dressed in black speaking with a Reverend, despite the fact that Hyder is not a religious man. Somehow no one is able to hear Hyder so he walks along a road until he arrives at a gate where the gatekeeper records his name and tells Hyder he has died while pointing out over the Elysian Fields. However, Hyder is skeptical and refuses to cross the gate when he sees smoke in the distance and learns that dogs are not welcome. Later, while resting in the shade, a man claiming to be from Heaven arrives and asks Hyder and Rip to join him. He says the former gate was to Hell, and that dogs are not welcome in Hell because they sense danger. The man says Rachel will be along shortly and he leads Hyder and Rip out along the Eternity Road.
“Travelers to unknown regions would be well advised to take along the family dog. He could just save you from entering the wrong gate. At least, it happened that way once—in a mountainous area of the Twilight Zone.”
This episode offers a rare portrayal of rural American mountain communities, and it continues religious folkloric mythology pertaining to death and the afterlife. While the idea behind this episode is intriguing, the execution is sadly ultimately flawed, and “The Hunt” falls among the less memorable episodes in the series.
The Twilight Zone Trivia:
- The cabin used in this episode was the cabin as found in The Beverly Hillbillies.
- The dog’s name “Rip” is an allusion to “Rest In Peace.”
- Hamner was born in Schuyler, VA and raised in the Blue Ridge Mountains. He had a particular affinity for the impoverished mountain folks.
- Earl. Hamner Jr. wrote an earlier version of this story which was featured on NBC’s Kate Smith Hour entitled “The Hound of Heaven.” Hamner met Serling through their joint work in radio program writing years prior.
- This was the first of Hamner’s Twilight Zone contributions, but he would remain involved until the end of the series.
- Hamner later expressed dissatisfaction with Hunnicutt’s performance in this episode.
- This was the only episode for which Robert Drasnin created a Twilight Zone score –by all accounts it is a delightfully somber and melodic score.