Exploring The Twilight Zone, Episode #53: "Twenty-Two"
Nobody likes hospitals, especially strippers who are compelled to visit the morgue in the basement in the middle of the night.
The Twilight Zone, Episode #53: "Twenty-Two" (original air date 02/10/61)
The Plot: A professional dancer has difficulty distinguishing between nightmare and reality after she's hospitalized to rest and recover from overwork and nervous fatigue.
The Goods: Brassy blonde Liz Powell (Barbara Nichols), dressed in a clingy nightgown and talking with a definite Jean Hagen / Marilyn Monroe baby-doll lilt in her voice, is in good physical shape but has been suffering from nightmares. She imagines that she walks down to the hospital basement, directly to Room 22, which happens to be the hospital morgue, where a nurse flings open the door and intones: "Room for one more, honey."
Needless to say, Liz is unnerved. She's convinced that her dreams are real, that she wakes up in the middle of the night and finds herself drawn to the morgue. Neither her peppy agent, Barney (Fredd Wayne), nor her creepy doctor (Jonathan Harris) believe her, of course.
The episode is one of the half-dozen that were shot on video as a cost-saving measure in Season 2 and, once again, the much lower-quality picture is consistently distracting. And for this story, especially, the potential terror implicit in the premise is completely undermined; it needs shadows to predominate the visual scheme, but it just looks like a cheap soap opera, sorry to say. The performances aren't good enough to overcome the visual letdown. The story feels stretched out to fill the running time. Even the ending is a bit predictable.
Reluctantly, I grade this episode C. (Remember: Even an average TZ episode is better than most TV shows.)
The Trivia: Actress Barbara Nichols began as a model and burlesque dancer. While she never became a star, she worked steadily for many years before succumbing to liver disease at the age of 46 in 1976.
Jonathan Harris will forever be known as another doctor, namely, Dr. Zachary Smith in Lost in Space, which ran for 83 episodes from 1965-68. Before he won that role, he appeared in another TZ episode from Season 2, which we'll be covering the week after next.
The teleplay by Rod Serling is based on an anecdote by Bennett Cerf from his book anthology "Famous Ghost Stories," published in 1944. The anecdote is based on a 1906 short story by E.F. Benson.
On the Next Episode: "Passing through the sound barrier, a commercial airliner inadvertently travels back in time."
We're running through all 156 of the original Twilight Zone episodes, and we're not doing it alone! Our friends at Film School Rejects have entered the Zone as well, only on alternating weeks. So definitely tune in over at FSR and feel free to also follow along on Twitter accounts @twitchfilm and @rejectnation.