The Twilight Zone: Season 5, Episode Thirty-Six “The Bewitchin’ Pool”

Original Air Date: June 19, 1964
Writer: Earl Hamner Jr.
Director: Joseph M. Newman

Rating: 3 out of 5.

In this final episode of The Twilight Zone, Earl Hamner, Jr. offers a story that was heavily influenced by rising divorce rates and accompanying negative impacts on children. Marc Scott Zicree quotes Mr. Hamner as describing himself in somewhat “puritanical” terms as he was watching growing numbers of affluent people from the East Coast move westward and he also used the growing popularity of personal swimming pools

“A swimming pool not unlike any other pool, a structure built of tile and cement and money, a backyard toy for the affluent, wet entertainment for the well-to-do. But to Jeb and Sport Sharewood, this pool holds mysteries not dreamed of by the building contractor, not guaranteed in any sales brochure. For this pool has a secret exit that leads to a never-neverland, a place designed for junior citizens who need a long voyage away from reality, into the bottomless regions of the Twilight Zone.”
-Rod Serling

Sport Sharewood (played by Mary Badham who was nominated for an Academy Award as Scout in To Kill A Mockingbird) and her brother Jeb (Jeffrey Byron) are young children living with their parents at a vast palatial Southern California mansion. However, their pugilistic parents have decided to file for divorce, and in doing so ask which parent the children prefer to live with. Sport and Jeb hang their heads in disappointment and walk over to the pool where suddenly a young boy appears in the deep end named Whitt (Kim Hector). Whitt, a. straw-hat wearing farmboy, describes a fantastical paradise for children which is free from troublesome things like parental divorce.

“Introduction to a perfect setting: Colonial mansion, spacious grounds, heated swimming pool. All the luxuries money can buy. Introduction to two children: brother and sister, names Jeb and Sport. Healthy, happy, normal youngsters. Introduction to a mother: Gloria Sharewood by name, glamorous by nature. Introduction to a father: Gil Sharewood, handsome, prosperous, the picture of success. A man who has achieved every man’s ambition. Beautiful children, beautiful home, beautiful wife. Idyllic? Obviously. But don’t look too carefully, don’t peek behind the façade. The idyll may have feet of clay.”
-Rod Serling

As in Peter Pan, Sport and Jeb decide to swim to the bottom of the pool with Whitt and they surface on the other side in a mysterious pond at the edge of an unfamiliar Appalachian wood filled with happy children and a kindly old woman named Aunt T. (Georgia Simmons). However after spending some time here, Sport and Deb decide to return to their parents. When they resurface in the pool, Sport and Jeb’s parents demand to know where they have been. Now, the opening scene repeats and the Sharewoods announce their impending divorce amidst a string of sneers and bickering with one another. Not wanting to deal with this unpleasantness, Sport and Jeb jump back into the deep end and escape to live with Aunt T. forever.

“A brief epilogue for concerned parents. Of course, there isn’t any such place as the gingerbread house of Aunt T, and we grownups know there’s no door at the bottom of a swimming pool that leads to a secret place. But who can say how real the fantasy world of lonely children can become? For Jeb and Sport Sharewood, the need for love turned fantasy into reality; they found a secret place—in the Twilight Zone.”
-Rod Serling

“The Bewitchin’ Pool” is a somewhat sad and somber fable. It tackles uncomfortable themes involving children and their rather nasty parents who are divorcing. In this episode, there is a noticeable tension between Sport and Jeb’s parents who are unpleasant, wealthy, urbanites whereas Aunt T. is a kindly, warm, and innocent rural cabin-dweller. The latter being preferable to the former. At any rate, “The Bewitchin’ Pool” is a bit of a disappointing episode to conclude the series on –it was plagued by casting, editing, delays among other issues.

This post officially completes my review of The Twilight Zone!

The Twilight Zone Trivia:

  • This was the final broadcast episode of The Twilight Zone, but not the last episode to be filmed. The last episode to be filmed was “Come Wander With Me” and the last episode to be edited was “An Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge.”
  • This episode was originally set for release on March 20, 1964 but it was plagued by delays and backroom issues. In fact, “The Bewitchin Pool” was dogged by so many production problems that footage is repeated to pad out the runtime, and Mary Badham’s has her voice dubbed on some scenes by June Foray, the voice of the squirrel from Rocky and Bullwinkle as back-lot noise rendered much of the outdoor dialogue unusable and they were unable to afford the cost of a flight for Mary Badham to return to the studio for voice dubbing recording (she had already flown home to Alabama). The change in Sport’s voice is unfortunately starkly noticeable.
  • Earl Hamner, Jr., developed the idea for “The Bewitchin’ Pool” while living in the San Fernando Valley region of California and witnessing rising divorce rates. Marc Scott Zicree notes that this episode was one of the first shows on television to address the problem of divorce in a unique escapist fable. Mr. Hamner expressed disappointment with the final product of this episode as did Producer William Froug who apparently blamed Director Joseph M. Newman for the episode’s shortcomings.
  • No Twilight Zone episode was broadcast on June 5, 1964. Instead CBS played a program commemorating Dwight D. Eisenhower and the historic events of D-Day. On June 12 a repeat Twilight Zone episode (“Steel”) was played before “The Bewitchin’ Pool” finally aired the following week.
  • The working title for this episode was called “The Marvelous Pool.”
  • The pool set was a re-used MGM lot was also featured in the Season 5 episode “Queen of the Nile” and the Season 2 episode “The Trouble With Templeton.”
  • The bickering parents were played by Dee Hartford and Tod Andrews.

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The Twilight Zone: Season 5, Episode Thirty-Five “The Fear”

Original Air Date: May 29, 1964
Writer: Rod Serling
Director: Ted Post

“Maybe the next place they land, they can be the giants.”

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A state trooper named Robert Franklin (Mark Richman) arrives at a remote mountain cabin in the woods. He is responding to reports of strange lights which were made by Charlotte Scott (Hazel Court), a New York fashion magazine editor who is recovering from a nervous breakdown at her cabin.

“The major ingredient of any recipe for fear is the unknown. And here are two characters about to partake of the meal: Miss Charlotte Scott, a fashion editor, and Mr. Robert Franklin, a state trooper. And the third member of the party: the unknown, that has just landed a few hundred yards away. This person or thing is soon to be met. This is a mountain cabin, but it is also a clearing in the shadows known as the Twilight Zone.”
-Rod Serling

Shortly after Trooper Franklin arrives, a blinding light appears and Franklin’s car radio goes dead along with Ms. Scott’s landline. After exhausting all other options, Franklin decides to stay the night and sleep on the couch while strange noises are heard on the roof and enormous fingerprints can now be spotted on the side of his car.

In the morning, Franklin and Ms. Scott discover a giant footprint which leads them to an open plain where they spot a huge, 500 foot tall, one-eyed alien. Ms. Scott screams in terror. However, the alien appears to be unresponsive, thus rather than running away Franklin (a World War II and Korean War veteran) decides to shoot his gun at the creature. The bullets merely pierce the skin of the alien causing its skin to deflate. It turns out the alien was little more than a large, inflatable balloon. Franklin and Ms. Scott then discover a tiny spacecraft parked nearby. Inside are a cohort of terrified miniature aliens who are radioing back to their superiors, notifying them that the humans have failed to be frightened of their ruse and they beg for the chance to return home or else face being crushed. Their ship takes off and departs earth’s atmosphere as Franklin wonders if the aliens’ next destination will allow them to become the giants. Ms. Scott wonders what might happen in the future if truly giant aliens arrive on earth, but Franklin bets she will simply spit in their eyes. The episode ends as they smile at one another.

“Fear, of course, is extremely relative. It depends on who can look down and who must look up. It depends on other vagaries, like the time, the mood, the darkness. But it’s been said before, with great validity, that the worst thing there is to fear is fear itself. Tonight’s tale of terror and tiny people on the Twilight Zone.”
-Rod Serling

These scenes of gigantic inflatable aliens have since become iconic images of The Twilight Zone, however this episode clearly shows a fatigued Rod Serling at the end of his signature series. “The Fear” recycles certain themes found in earlier episodes, such as the idea of miniature aliens invading earth as found in “The Invaders” or even “The Fugitive” to an extent. Nevertheless, I thought it was a unique installment despite bearing certain shortcomings.

The Twilight Zone Trivia:

  • This was the last episode Rod Serling wrote for The Twilight Zone marking an incredible run as the lead writer and host for the program.
  • The original working title for this episode was “The Fear Itself.”
  • Mark Richman (1927-2021) was a celebrated television actor who appeared in many different shows such as The Outer Limits, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and later Star Trek: The Next Generation. His true name was Peter Mark Richman. He died in 2021 at the age of 93.
  • Hazel Court (1926-2008) was a celebrated horror actress. She was the wife of actor and director Don Taylor (her second husband) whom she met on the set of an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Rod Serling initially met Ms. Court in 1959 (he wrote to his brother about it) with plans to hopefully work together in the future.
  • The police car in this episode was the same prop used in the earlier Season 5 episode “I Am The Night – Color Me Black.”
  • Trooper Franklin’s state is never actually acknowledged, though it is strongly implied to be New York state.

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The Twilight Zone: Season 5, Episode Thirty-Four “Come Wander with Me”

Original Air Date: May 22, 1964
Writer: Anthony Wilson
Director: Richard Donner

Rating: 3 out of 5.

“Come Wander With Me” is a bit of a bewildering episode. It concerns Floyd Burney, or the “The Rock-A-Billy-Kid” (Gary Crosby), a flannel-wearing folk-rock musician a la Bob Dylan. He is in search of authentic folk music which has brought him to a rural backwoods community.

“Mr. Floyd Burney, a gentleman songster in search of song, is about to answer the age-old question of whether a man can be in two places at the same time. As far as his folk song is concerned, we can assure Mr. Burney he’ll find everything he’s looking for, although the lyrics may not be all to his liking. But that’s sometimes the case – when the words and music are recorded in the Twilight Zone.”
-Rod Serling

Burney enters a nearby store and interrogates an old man when he suddenly hears an entrancing song –it is a sad yet haunting ballad. Burney wanders through the woods right past a grave stone bearing his own name (which he fails to notice) until he comes upon a young woman named Mary Rachel (Bonnie Beecher). They play the song together on a guitar and they also play the tune on a strange tape recorder Mary Rachel carries, all the while they are falling in love, even though the song “Come Wander With Me” is apparently forbidden to sing by a local family known as the Rayfords.

Suddenly, Mary Rachel’s betrothed Billy Rayford appears carrying a rifle. Burney and Rayford get into a scuffle until Burney clobbers Rayford with his guitar, killing him. However, Mary Rachel is now dressed in mourning garb and her tape recorder plays the song with new lyrics about Burney being killed! He rushes back to the old man’s shop but he is too late. The Rayfords show up to kill him and the episode closes with a shot of Burney’s grave stone.

“In retrospect, it may be said of Mr. Floyd Burney that he achieved that final dream of the performer: eternal top-name billing, not on the fleeting billboards of the entertainment world, but forever recorded among the folk songs of the Twilight Zone.”
-Rod Serling

While I think there are some wonderful Appalachian folkloric ghost story elements infused in this episode, the plot is unfortunately mostly incoherent. It simply has too many vague or incomplete ideas –the circular nature of time, the true identity of Mary Rachel, why she seems to know Burney and that he will die (again), the location and purpose of this strange purgatory, an explanation of why the song is forbidden, and so on. Later, producer William Froug admitted this episode was “too soft” and “just didn’t work” and I have to agree.

The Twilight Zone Trivia:

  • Apparently, Liza Minnelli auditioned for the role of Mary Rachel, but was so nervous during the audition she was rejected. episode director Richard Donner stated he thought Bonnie Beecher “was going to become a very important actress” and asserted that he (not producer Bill Froug) selected Beecher over Minnelli for the role because he thought she was “incredible.”
  • The song “Come Wander With Me” was composed by Jeff Alexander and Anthony Wilson.
  • Writer Anthony Wilson was the creator of Land of the Giants and The Invaders, and he adapted Planet of the Apes for television.
  • Although this was the third-to-last episode broadcast, this was the last episode in the series to be filmed.
  • Director Richard Donner had just seen Sunday in Seville and wanted to emulate a heavy smoke-filled atmosphere in this episode.
  • The grave marker bearing Floyd Burney’s name was re-used from “Mr. Garrity and the Graves” (his name was actually written on the back of the grave marker in “Mr. Garrity and the Graves”).
  • A bridge and several prop guitars in. this episode were also featured in The Outer Limits.
  • This episode marked Bonnie Beecher’s television debut (1941-Present), as of the time of this writing she is still alive. In the 1960s, Ms. Beecher dated Bob Dylan –her voice can be heard on some of his demos and bootlegs, and speculation abounds as to whether or not Bob Dylan wrote the song “Girl From The North County” about Ms. Beecher. She also appeared in an episode of Star Trek –“Spectre of the Gun”– in which she played Chekhov’s love interest. Shortly thereafter, she got married and retired from acting while adopting the name Juana Romney. She and her husband have run a summer camp for children in the performing arts near Mendocino, CA for decades.
  • Gary Crosby (1933-1995) was the son of Bing Crosby. He appeared in a variety of television programs and later wrote a highly critical biography of his father.

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The Twilight Zone: Season 5, Episode Thirty-Three “The Brain Center at Whipple’s”

Original Air Date: (May 15, 1964)
Writer: Rod Serling
Director: Richard Donner

Rating: 4 out of 5.

In the wild futuristic year of 1967, Wallace V. Whipple (Richard Deacon) is the pompous owner of a vast Midwestern manufacturing company which he inherited from his father. He frequently strolls about the factory swinging a key while lecturing employees about the need for increased mechanization. In order to save money and increase efficiency, he decides to install a machine named the “X109B14 modified transistorized totally automatic assembly machine,” which will knowingly lead to mass layoffs.

“These are the players — with or without a scorecard. In one corner a machine; in the other, one Wallace V. Whipple, man. And the game? It happens to be the historical battle between flesh and steel, between the brain of man and the product of man’s brain. We don’t make book on this one and predict no winner….but we can tell you for this particular contest, there is standing room only — in the Twilight Zone.”
-Rod Serling

Despite eliminating the employment for many people, Mr. Whipple remains defiant and calloused. He fires his foreman Mr. Dickerson (Ted de Corsia) who is distraught over losing his job so he gets drunk and attacks a machine one night until Mr. Whipple takes a policeman’s gun and fires, but Dickerson survives. Nevertheless, Mr. Whipple is unfazed, and soon his chief engineer Mr. Walter Hanley (Paul Newlan) regrettably resigns before he can be replaced by machines. Soon the machines begin to turn on Mr. Whipple and he begins to panic inside his echoing, empty factory.

Later, a disheveled Mr. Whipple shows up at a local bar. His demeanor has clearly changed. Now, Mr. Whipple somberly speaks with Mr. Dickerson about his pathetic life –he has no family nor children and sees his livelihood as little more than a cog in a machine. It turns out that Mr. Whipple himself has been dismissed by the Whipple Company board of directors! The factory has now been transformed into a fully mechanical factory. In the closing scene the new factory robot (“robby the robot”) is shown whimsically swinging a key on a string, just like Mr. Whipple once did.

“There are many bromides applicable here: ‘too much of a good thing’, ‘tiger by the tail’, ‘as you sow so shall you reap’. The point is that, too often, Man becomes clever instead of becoming wise; he becomes inventive and not thoughtful; and sometimes, as in the case of Mr. Whipple, he can create himself right out of existence. As in tonight’s tale of oddness and obsolescence, in the Twilight Zone.”
-Rod Serling

To this day, Mr. Wallace Whipple remains a supremely disagreeable character. Unlike his father before him, Mr. Whipple seems to have no empathy for is employees. In an age where advanced technology has displaced millions of jobs, “The Brain Center at Whipple’s” has shown itself to be a prescient episode. Throughout The Twilight Zone series, we have seen a great number of brilliant little stories bearing skepticism of the fruits of modern technology –and with good reason.

The Twilight Zone Trivia:

  • The robot that ultimately replaces Mr. Whipple in the factory is “Robby the Robot,” a prop originally featured in Forbidden Planet (1956). “Robby the Robot” previously appeared in Season 1’s “One for the Angels” (as a miniature toy) and memorably in Season’s 5 “Uncle Simon.”
  • The machine “X109B14 modified transistorized totally automatic assembly machine” is the same giant computer prop used in the earlier Season 5 episode “The Old Man in the Cave.”
  • The W.V. Manufacturing Corporation has 283,000 employees, however the machine leads to 61,000 layoffs and saves $4M in profit. Eventually, though, all the employees are laid off.
  • Rod Serling’s initial working title for this episode was “Automation.”
  • Apparently, scenes in this episode were featured in a Smithsonian exhibit focused on technology and the information age which ran from 1990-2004.
  • Richard Deacon (1922-1984) plays William Whipple in this episode. He was born in Philadelphia, PA but raised in Binghamton, NY where he first met Rod Serling. After serving as a medic in World War II, Mr. Deacon began his acting career where he appeared in television shows such as The Dick Van Dyke Show, Leave It To Beaver, and The Jack Benny Program along with minor roles in films such as Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) and Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963). This was his only episode in The Twilight Zone series. He was known to be a skilled gourmet chef and remarkably charitable as well as a closeted homosexual all his life. He died of cardiovascular issues in 1984.

Click here to return to my survey of The Twilight Zone series.