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.”
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!