Director: Jacques Tourneur
Writer: Richard Matheson
Cast: Gladys Cooper, Nora Marlowe, and Martine Bartlett
Composer: None (Stock Music)
Air Date: 2/7/1964
Production Code: 2610
After a violent storm, invalid Elva Keene (Gladys Cooper) begins receiving phone calls in the middle of the night. Upon tracking down the source of the calls, Elva discovers the identity of her nocturnal stalker—with a poignant outcome.
Combining the premise for “Long Distance Call” with a terrifying twist, “Night Call” earns its reputation as the creepiest entry of The Twilight Zone. Specifically, Richard Matheson (author of “Third from the Sun,” “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” and The Shrinking Man) deserves praise for using a common household object to elicit fear from the audience.
Forgoing copious gore in favor of suggestive horror, “Night Call” should be commended for employing tropes of a subtle but chilling variety. Especially effective are the wailing cries of an unidentified stranger, whose late-night stalking of a crippled, elderly woman will greatly disturb all but the most desensitized of viewers.
This episode also benefits from the performance of Gladys Cooper (“Nothing in the Dark”), whose expressions of torment, frustration, and helplessness will evoke sympathy for Elva—an otherwise difficult and demanding person.
“Night Call” may inspire criticism for its cruel and mean-spirited ending.
“Night Call” builds a haunting atmosphere from a simple concept. Other spooky highlights include shadowy branches, graveyard visits, and late-night thunderstorms—all reminiscent of a classic, black-and-white horror movie from the 1930s.
Overall Quality: 10/10
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