Director: Jack Smight
Writer: Rod Serling
Cast: Inger Stevens, John Hoyt, Irene Tedrow, Tom Palmer, Mary Gregory, Valley Keene, Doris Karnes, and Jason Johnson
Composer: None (Stock Music)
Air Date: 12/2/1960
Production Code: 173-3652
Jana (Inger Stevens), the daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Loren (John Hoyt and Irene Tedrow), lives in a house maintained by her father’s perfectly obedient robots. Unsatisfied with the shallow comforts afforded to her, Jana provides her parents with an ultimatum: either Dr. Loren must deactivate and dismantle his creations, or Jana will reside elsewhere lest she and her family become totally dependent on said robots.
The first episode of The Twilight Zone recorded entirely on videotape, “The Lateness of the Hour” is hampered by budgetary constraints. Nevertheless, an air of tension stems from Inger Stevens’ compelling, tormented portrayal of a woman suffocated by her home environment.
“The Lateness of the Hour” succeeds in evoking and sustaining a sense of unease from the viewer. In the opening sequence, for example, Jana’s claustrophobia is accentuated by certain noises (e.g. the constant patter of outside rainfall and the pleasure-induced moaning of a pampered mother) which, when coupled with the creepy manner of Dr. Loren’s robotic house servants, work to simultaneously unnerve and irritate the audience—an outcome that should allow sensitive fans to relate with Jana and, perhaps more importantly, understand her seemingly irrational desire to be freed from a life of luxury.
There are times when a “soap opera” effect results from the videotape on which this episode was filmed, thus undermining the dramatic impact of certain pivotal moments.
“The Lateness of the Hour” demonstrates why a life without conflict would grow insufferably tedious over time, a commentary that—in light of modern strides toward automation as a substitute for human labor—seems more relevant now than ever before.
A fascinating study on human nature, “The Lateness of the Hour” is an underrated episode of The Twilight Zone. Especially commendable, an impactful twist ending serves to challenge the boundaries between animal and artificial intelligence—a testament to the prescience of Rod Serling.
Overall Quality: 7/10
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