Director: Jack Smight
Writer: Rod Serling
Cast: Barbara Nichols, Jonathan Harris, Fredd Wayne, Arline Sax, Mary Adams, Norma Connolly, Wesley Lau, and Angus Duncan
Composer: None (Stock Music)
Air Date: 2/10/1961
Production Code: 173-3664
While recovering from exhaustion, dancer Liz Powell (Barbara Nichols) has a recurring nightmare in which, upon visiting the hospital morgue, she encounters a frightening and unfamiliar nurse (Arline Sax). The next morning, Liz explains to her doctor (Jonathan Harris) just how realistic the dream was. In spite of his initial skepticism, the doctor begins to change his mind when Liz, a patient with no access to restricted areas of the hospital, recounts the room number (22) of the morgue.
“Twenty Two” is an ominous, low-budget episode of The Twilight Zone. Exceptionally commendable, the terrified reactions of Liz Powell make credible the foundation for Rod Serling’s narrative (i.e. a nightmare from which one cannot escape).
Though normally problematic, the use of videotape instead of traditional film works to the advantage of this episode. Notably, a surreal, dreamlike atmosphere stems from a low recording quality, thereby accentuating the nightmare sequences in a manner that could not have been achieved through conventional cinematography.
Also worth praising is the performance of Jonathan Harris, whose creepy laughter contributes to an already unpleasant situation. It should also be noted that the doctor played by Harris, incongruous and offensive though his manner may be, never comes across as campy or intrusive—much in contrast to the Lost in Space character of Dr. Smith, the role with which Harris is most commonly associated.
Despite explaining the nightmare showcased in a prior scene, the conversation involving the doctor, Liz Powell, and agent Barney Kamener (Fredd Wayne) drags on a tad longer than necessary.
By employing physical devices, characters, and situations to embody an uncanny aspect of human intuition (i.e. the ability to sense when death is near), “Twenty Two” generates intrigue/terror from an otherwise simplistic, unremarkable concept. Especially haunting is the nurse portrayed by Arline Sax, who serves to warn the protagonist of impending doom; but does so in a vaguely sinister, not benevolent, fashion—a unique and disturbing twist on the premise originally explored in season one’s “The Hitch-Hiker.”
A vivid, chilling, and effective piece of experimental television, “Twenty Two” will appeal to fans of psychological horror. The tension that results from an eerie hospital setting is, however, interrupted by a slow-moving sequence filled with expository (albeit essential) dialogue.
Overall Quality: 9/10
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