Original Air Date: March 16, 1962
Writer: Richard Matheson
Director: Paul Stewart
This classic episode opens with a little girl named Tina as she is crying late at night in her room so her father Chris Miller (Robert Sampson) arises to comfort her. However when he arrives in her room he cannot find her. His daughter can be heard but not seen.
“Missing: one frightened little girl. Name: Bettina Miller. Description: six years of age, average height and build, light brown hair, quite pretty. Last seen being tucked in bed by her mother a few hours ago. Last heard: ‘ay, there’s the rub,’ as Hamlet put it. For Bettina Miller can be heard quite clearly, despite the rather curious fact that she can’t be seen at all. Present location? Let’s say for the moment, in The Twilight Zone.”
Chris Miller and his wife Ruth Miller (Sarah Marshall) begin to panic over their lost child. Chris calls his physicist friend Bill (Charles Aidman), and the family dog also disappears while in Tina’s room. Bill locates a strange doorway along the wall that appears to be a portal into another dimension. He follows the invisible doorway with chalk to mark its outline. Shortly thereafter, Chris tries to reach into the portal to retrieve his dog but he accidentally falls inside where he becomes intensely disoriented. The cinematography here is particularly jarring as the camera displays wide, blurry, oblong imagery. Bill urgently tells Chris to hurry, so Chris calls to the family dog who leads Tina to her father and they are all pulled out of the hole with only moments to spare. Once back in Tina’s room, Bill explains that the portal was rapidly closing and they had only a matter of seconds to spare. Bill says that despite Chris’s perception from inside the portal, half of his body remained outside in Tina’s room. The closing of the doorway would likely have cut him in half: “Another few seconds and half of you would have been here and the other half…”
“The other half where? The fourth dimension? The fifth? Perhaps. They never found the answer, despite a battery of research physicists equipped with every device known to man, electronic and otherwise. No result was ever achieved, except perhaps a little more respect for and uncertainty about the mechanisms of The Twilight Zone.”
This episode plays upon a terrifying theme for parents of young children: the thought of losing a child in the night. It is part horror and part science fiction –as in other Twilight Zone episodes an ordinary, safe, suburban middle class neighborhood is struck by aa strange, inexplicable phenomena in “Little Girl Lost.” With a classic Bernard Herrmann score and a notably short story by Richard Matheson.
The Twilight Zone Trivia:
- This episode features another eerie, unsettling score by Bernard Herrmann.
- The voice of Tina in the alternate dimension was played by voice actor Rhoda Williams, who was then 32 years old, and physically played by Tracy Stratford, though both actresses performances are uncredited. Tracy Stratford appears again in the famous “Living Doll” episode.
- The idea for this short story came to Richard Matheson after a traumatic experience in which his infant daughter rolled off her bed and briefly could not be located. He used the real names of his wife and daughter for the episode.
- This plotline was later lampooned by The Simpsons in a “Treehouse of Horror” episode: “Treehouse of Horror VI.”
- Episode director Paul Stewart played the investigator in the first film Herrmann ever scored, Citizen Kane.
- This episode is almost certainly the inspiration behind Steven Spielberg’s 1982 film Poltergeist.
Click here to return to my survey of The Twilight Zone series.