The Twilight Zone – “The Hitch-Hiker”

The Twilight Zone - The Hitch-Hiker

The Twilight Zone

Rod Serling’s Opening lines – “Her name is Nan Adams. She’s twenty-seven years old. Her occupation – buyer at a New York department store. At present on vacation, driving cross-country to Los Angeles California from Manhattan.

Minor incident on Highway 11 in Pennsylvania. Perhaps filed away under “accidents you walk away from.” But from this moment on, Nan Adams’ companion on a trip to California will be terror; her route – fear… her destination… quite unknown.”

“The Hitch-Hiker”

Season One

Directed by Alvin Ganzer

I love this episode. It is a paranoid filled road trip story of a woman who has only herself for company during a cross country ride from the east coast to the west coast. It provokes dread and fear perfectly as we ride along and witness a step by step descent into horror for the woman. The delicate but unflinching Inger Stevens (Hang ’em High) plays Nan Adams in this entry (based on a radio play) written by Serling himself and directed capably by Alvin Ganzer (Quincy and Lost in Space) Nan decides to brave the open road and drives from Manhattan headed for Los Angeles.

As she gets settled in she begins to see an odd, older gentleman in scruffy clothes trying to hitch a ride. Nan, being the conservative and cautious driver that she is doesn’t pick him up. In doing so, she begins a dreadful chain of events. Nan realizes that something is quite amiss since she begins to see this stranger over and over again on the various freeways and highways. Once even at a traffic accident. Nan even has a blow out and at a service station sees the stranger once again asking for a ride.

Stevens as Nan is amazing to watch in this entry as she runs the fearful gamut from anticipation, curiousity to flat out paranoia and terror. Ganzer perfectly cast her. The rest of the supporting cast like Adam Williams as a hitch-hiking sailor is pitch perfect. He settles in but eventually becomes afraid for and of Nan and her phantom hitch-hiker. Basically he freaks out and bails on her. Who could blame him?

“The Hitch-Hiker” is brilliantly written and absolutely involving and disquieting for the full 30 minutes. Serling pulls no punches here. We are along for the ride the whole way until the shocking ending which is an absolutely true mark of Serling’s prowess as a writer. Throughout the travelling scenes, Nan ponders and thinks about what is happening to her (ala Psycho) and it makes for very entertaining and suspenseful drama.

Leonard Strong as “The Hitch-Hiker” is non-descript and not very menacing at all. He almost appears calm, serene and welcoming. An above standard TV performance. “The Hitch-Hiker” is a subtle, terror filled episode that is among one of the best that Season One has to offer. Let’s not forget the best line in the show…

“I believe you’re…going my way.”

TZ is available on Netflix Streaming!

13 comments

  1. Nice write up. Love this show. Still to this day is as great as ever. Not sure if I have seen this one. I most likely did at some point. Regardless one can never go wrong with any episode for the most part.

    Rod Serling was a very gifted writer

    • I never tire of it. It is a constant in my Netflix queue. Serling was a pure talent and a master storyteller. Thanks for stopping in, Tim!

  2. Nice that you chose this episode. It was an episode that had not been aired much on TV for the past 25 years, I believe because of loss of quality, and had recently been remastered digitally. So some episodes are popping up that either most of us have never seen or have seen rarely making the series fun to watch again. Saw this one on the 4th of July Marathon – Scy-Fy Channel.

    • Growing up in NYC I remember this episode getting very little replay. TZ would air right after Star Trek TOS right at midnight. Then on the 4th of July or Thanksgiving, WPIX would run a marathon of episodes and even then “The Hitch-Hiker” would never air. All this was before SyFy was even a cable channel. I’m very happy that so many eps are now available. Thanks for the info.

      • There’s another one with a young blonde woman getting out of a hospital, boarding a plane and the flight attendant saying the same thing over and over, room #9 or something… It looks so unbelievably crisp in HD, you would think it was filmed yesterday. Only seen it once so I can’t exactly remember it.

      • Hmm sounds familiar. I’ll look it up. One episode that looks great in HD as well is “It’s a Good Life.” Stunning quality.

  3. “I believe you’re going…my way”? Six of the scariest words I ever heard come out of my tv when I was a kid! This episode still creeps the fuck outta me along with most TZ episodes. A true classic of the form and a great choice to write up Vic!

  4. I need to see some more Twilight Zone episodes. I got interested in the show when I watched the parodies on the old Simpsons “Treehouse of Horror” episodes and immediately grew to love it. Nice review.

    • Thanks you! If you have Netflix they have many episodes available for streaming. Enjoy them! I can’t wait for this year’s “Treehouse” either.

  5. Actually top 3 or 4. Halloween, Texas Chainsaw, Bride of Frankenstien and Night are my top 4. Not sure of the order.

    I remember as a kid watching this and hoping the ending would be different each time. First time I learned the hero doesn’t always win

    • yeah, brutal ending. very sobering. I surely did not see that coming. In Savini’s remake I was hoping that they’d change the ending lol. oh well…

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