Sometimes, you got's to pay attention to your old lady, especially when it comes to coon hunting and hound dogs. Cuz otherwise, you might end up dead and that just ain't no good. Well, unless you got your dog with you.
The Twilight Zone, Episode #84: "The Hunt" (original air date January 26, 1962)
The Plot: She calls him "Old Man" and he calls her "Old Woman." They are Hyder (Arthur Hunnicutt) and Rachel (Jeanette Nolan) by given name, a loving couple, married for more than 50 years, and sharing a basic but comfortable little house in a rural area. He's determined to go coon hunting one night with his hound dog Rip, despite the old lady's superstitious fears.
While hunting, Rip jumps into a river after his prey, and the old man jumps in to rescue him. They don't surface for a long time. In the morning, they awaken and head home. They come across two men digging a ditch on his property, but they don't seem to be able to hear Hyder when he speaks to them. Either that, or they're ignoring him. After that strange encounter, they mosey along home, only to find Rachel in tears, dressed in black.
Soon enough, it's explained to Hyder that he and his dog have died, and it is time to mosey along to their new place of abode.
The Goods: It seems like The Twilight Zone could riff an infinite number of times on death, a favorite theme of the series. In the hands of writer Earl Hamner, later the creator of The Waltons, it's all about the tone and the characters, who all feel authentically down-home and true to a certain time and place.
Beyond that, there's not much to say. There's a minor twist, but it's not a big deal, one way or the other. It's simply a pleasant way to spend 25 minutes, and it's nice to see Arthur Hunnicutt, a veteran supporting player, take the lead in the episode.
The Trivia: Hunnicutt's playing a character who says he's "about 70," but the actor had not yet turned 52 at the time of the first broadcast. Born in Arkansas, he became a familiar face from the multitude of Westerns in which he appeared, starting in the early 40s. He earned an Academy Award nomination for his performance in Howard Hawks' The Big Sky in 1952.
Nolan was about the same age as Hunnicutt, but in her case, it does seem as though they aged her for the role. She returned to the series for an hour-long episode in Season 4, again written by Hamner.
This was the first of eight TZ episodes written by Hamner. Spencer's Mountain, a movie version of his novel starring Henry Fonda, would come out the following year, and that would serve as an entry point for The Waltons, which he created for television in 1971. Interestingly, there's a references to Wales Mountain in this episode.
On the Next Episode: "The star of a Western TV series suddenly finds himself transported back in time to the real Wild West, and face-to-face with the real Jesse James."
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 @ScreenAnarhcy and @rejectnation.