"The place is here, the time is now, and the journey into the shadows that we're about to watch could be our journey."The first televised Twilight Zone episode was this tale of a man (sweaty, unshaven Earl Holliman) who finds himself in a town completely devoid of people. (Actually, it's the Universal Studios backlot, where Back to the Future was later filmed. Fans will recognize the town square.)
Stylishly directed by TV vet Robert Stevens, the Rod Serling teleplay is typically verbose even though Holliman has the only speaking part for most of the episode. Holliman wanders around the seemingly deserted town of Oakwood, almost getting trapped in a phone booth and a jail cell, poking around in an ice-cream parlor and a movie theater, and keeping up a running monologue. He can't remember who he is or how he got here. He keeps finding evidence that people may have been here recently: a smoldering cigar in an ashtray, a whistling coffee pot. He thinks he's dreaming. Fifty years later, after all the Twilight Zone episodes and shows/movies influenced by them, we think there might possibly be a twist in store.
Compelling stuff, with lots of Dutch angles and a solid Heston-lite performance by Holliman. The Sci-Fi Channel has offered this episode for free to schools due to its focus on the effects of isolation on human beings.Fun facts: Look closely at the paperback spinner in the ice-cream parlor and you'll spot William Goldman's 1957 debut novel "The Temple of Gold." The other book displayed prominently, of course, is "The Last Man on Earth," which was the title of a later movie based on "I Am Legend" by future "Twilight Zone" contributor Richard Matheson.