Director: Montgomery Pittman
Writer: Montgomery Pittman
Cast: James Best, Sherry Jackson, Edgar Buchanan, Lance Fuller, Dub Taylor, Ralph Moody, Jon Lormer, Ezelle Poule, Jim Houghton, Helen Wallace, William Fawcett, Mabel Forrest, Vickie Barnes, and Pat Hector
Composer: Tommy Morgan
Air Date: 2/23/1962
Production Code: 4811
In a rural town, a young man named Jeff Myrtlebank (James Best) rises from the dead during his own funeral. Thereafter, Jeff’s fiancée Comfort Gatewood (Sherry Jackson) and the other townsfolk grow suspicious of the resurrected Myrtlebank—supposedly a malevolent figure impersonating the deceased.
“The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank” is a mildly amusing episode of The Twilight Zone. Nevertheless, this offering struggles to develop the limited, not to mention somewhat silly, story concept on which it operates.
James Best (whom fans of The Twilight Zone will recognize from “The Grave” and “Jesse-Belle”) and Sherry Jackson (known to science fiction buffs for appearing in Lost in Space and Star Trek: The Original Series) should be commended for their portrayals of Jeff Myrtlebank and Comfort Gatewood, the ignorant, uneducated qualities of whom reinforce the superstitious beliefs of both characters. (Viewers of a Southern background may, however, take offense to the crude stereotypes presented in this episode.)
This season-three entry fails to contain the narrative substance of a typical series installment, instead relying on a one-note gag to fill an episode of standard length. (The premise of a dead man crashing his own funeral might, however, have worked as a five-minute blackout sketch in Rod Serling’s Night Gallery.)
“The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank” is also marred by a monotonous, overly expository execution, which forgoes the compelling drama and riveting plot twists that many would expect of The Twilight Zone.
After a string of bizarre coincidences (e.g. freshly picked roses wilting in Jeff’s hand), the townspeople accuse the main character of being a demon and prepare to drive him from the area as a result—a commentary on how most people rely on emotions, presuppositions, and illogical impulses when making important decisions.
By combining tongue-in-cheek subject matter with an implied supernatural twist, this episode may appeal to fans of The Twilight Zone. “The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank” does, however, deserve criticism for employing copious filler to compensate for a lack of substance.
Overall Quality: 5/10
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