The Twilight Zone Episode 109: Jess-Belle

General Information

Director: Buzz Kulik

Writer: Earl Hamner Jr.

Cast: Anne Francis, James Best, Laura Devon, Jeanette Nolan, Virginia Gregg, George Mitchell, Helen Kleeb, Jim Boles, and Jon Lormer

Composer: Van Cleave

Air Date: 2/14/1963

Production Code: 4855

 

Overview

Unwilling to let her ex-boyfriend Billy-Ben Turner (James Best) marry the daughter of a wealthy farmer, dark-haired beauty Jess-Belle (Anne Francis) approaches The Twilight Zone Jess-BelleGranny Hart (Jeanette Nolan)—a local witch—for assistance. After drinking a potion and winning back the affections of Billy-Ben, Jess-Belle pays a terrible price for Granny’s magic.

Reminiscent of a Night Gallery segment, “Jess-Belle” will appeal to horror buffs with a taste for the supernatural. Specifically, this episode should be commended for its creepy witch character, spooky black-and-white cinematography, and ominous depiction of someone afflicted by an evil curse.

 

Pros

The Twilight Zone Jess-Belle“Jess-Belle” deserves praise for its topnotch acting and rural setting, which make credible the ignorant, superstitious beliefs of each character—none of whom react incredulously toward the concept of witchcraft.

Also worth noting are the motives of Jess-Belle (likely a pun on the name Jezebel), who, having been rejected by the love of her life, comes across as a sensitive and sympathetic villain—much in contrast to Roger Shackleforth (a similar character from “The Chaser”), whose annoying, entitled personality may prevent the audience from rooting for his happiness.

 

Cons

Marred by copious padding, “Jess-Belle” fails to maintain the chilling, suspenseful atmosphere that many viewers would expect of a supernatural horrorThe Twilight Zone Jess-Belle tale—undoubtedly a consequence of the hour-long format adopted by season four.

(Spoilers beyond this point)

Plagued by the spirit of his former lover, Billy-Ben pays Granny Hart for a quick and easy solution to the Jess-Belle hauntings. In addition to its anticlimactic execution, the conclusion of “Jess-Belle” sends a dubious message on how one should resolve difficult or complex moral problems.

 

Analysis

The Twilight Zone Jess-Belle“Jess-Belle” contains a worthwhile lesson on letting go of painful relationships and preventing thoughts of vengeance from corrupting the soul—themes that compensate for a morally ambiguous ending.

 

Concluding Comments

Featuring stand-out performances from Anne Francis (“The After Hours”) and James Best (“The Grave” and “The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank”), “Jess-Belle” is a haunting and well-acted episode of The Twilight Zone. This offering may, however, evoke criticism for its underwhelming climax and superfluous running time.

 

Overall Quality: 7/10

 

If you enjoyed this post, please enter your email address in the subscription box to stay tuned for more updates.

Please note: Comments that are malicious, offensive, or excessively profane will be removed. Off-topic messages belong in the About section.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *