Exploring The Twilight Zone, Episode #142: "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge"
An Academy Award-winning short film produced in France, this dreamy, nearly-silent dramatization of a story by Ambrose Bierce starts with a man about to be hanged over a river.
The Twilight Zone, Episode #142: "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" (original air date Feb. 28, 1964)
The Plot: A sentence of death is about to be carried out. On a bridge above a river, a noose is looped over the girders and a man (Roger Jacquet), bound by rope, awaits his execution. The plank on which he is standing is kicked out, he plummets downward, the rope tightens ...
... and then it breaks. Underwater, the man cannot believe he is still alive. He frees himself from the rope that ties his hands and swims away, eluding fire from the soldiers on the execution squad. He thought of his wife as he was about to die, and now he runs to her, her memory pushing him forward through the woods ... and to his fate ...
The Goods: For good reason, this episode was not a typical one -- see below -- but it certainly provides a breath of fresh air.
The Trivia: Written for the screen and directed by Robert Enrico, "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" filled a hole for the series. According to Marc Scott Zicree's book TWILIGHT ZONE COMPANION, 35 episodes of Season 5 had been completed, but the show was "significantly over budget."
Producer William Froug recalled seeing the short film, which won an award at the Cannes Film Festival in 1962 and the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film in 1963, and knew that it only had a few lines of dialogue and was just about the right length. He convinced reluctant executives at the CBS network, in large part because they were able to purchase TV rights for $10,000, which "immediately took care of the whole year's overage," and, in fact, put the show under budget for the entire season.
Another book, Martin Grams' THE TWILIGHT ZONE: UNLOCKING THE DOOR TO A TELEVISION CLASSIC, claims that the purchase price was $20,000, with another $5,000 spent to edit the short film to fit the normal running time.
The episode was not included in syndication packages.
On the Next Episode: A seemingly-ageless movie actress is interviewed by a journalist, who learns the secret of her youthful appearance.
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.