Director: Douglas Heyes
Writer: Charles Beaumont
Cast: John Carradine, H.M. Wynant, Robin Hughes, Frederic Ledebur, and Ezelle Poule
Composer: None (Stock Music)
Air Date: 11/4/1960
Production Code: 173-3642
Following the end of World War I, a hiker named David Ellington (H.M. Wynant) seeks refuge in a mysterious compound known as the Hermitage. Despite the warnings of Brother Jerome (John Carradine), David is persuaded by the humble appeals of the Howling Man (Robin Hughes)—an imprisoned incarnation of the Devil whose façade can, if convincing enough, result in perpetual misery for the human race.
“The Howling Man” should be commended for combining the atmospheric devices of a black-and-white horror film with Charles Beaumont’s penetrating symbolism. Also relevant are any theological undertones contained in this episode, which serve as a unique vehicle through which to analyze the easily manipulated yet remarkably defiant nature of mankind.
When David enters the Hermitage, a number of tropes (e.g. castle walls reflecting flashes of lightning, tilted camera angles, and the bloodthirsty cries of a wild animal) establish a foreboding atmosphere not unlike that of a classic Universal Monster movie. Though a tad melodramatic, John Carradine’s portrayal of Brother Jerome—a figure whose extraordinary tales and uncanny resemblance to a certain biblical character would undoubtedly perturb all but the most resolute of men—works to further accentuate the incredulous, fearful reactions of David, a simple traveler who lacks a thorough knowledge of philosophical matters and thereby falls prey to the machinations of a malevolent supernatural entity.
By growing horns and a goatee after escaping confinement, the Devil effectively transforms into a cartoonish stereotype of himself—an undesirable outcome when considering the already fantastic premise on which “The Howling Man” operates. (That being said, one cannot help but infer a subtle tongue-in-cheek vibe from Beaumont’s metaphorical subject matter).
A commentary on how the devil (note the lowercase “d”) can assume a variety of forms when appealing to human vulnerabilities, “The Howling Man” proposes the frightening notion that, contrary to what many would prefer to believe, the most evil acts are often committed with benevolent intentions at heart. Especially remarkable is the level of nuance employed by Beaumont while exploring his central thesis; specifically, David makes a retrospectively obvious blunder that becomes realistic due to the charming, sympathetic manner with which the Howling Man pleads his case to a compassionate but painfully naïve individual, whose proneness to temptation culminates in a relatable character whereby an otherwise unambiguous moral lesson is conveyed.
An iconic episode, “The Howling Man” earns its reputation as one of the greatest and most memorable installments of The Twilight Zone. Series enthusiasts and dedicated viewers alike will therefore enjoy this offering for its suspenseful, if somewhat predictable, narrative.
Overall Quality: 10/10
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