With the entire original run of The Twilight Zone available to watch instantly, we’re partnering with Twitch Film to cover all of the show’s 156 episodes. Are you brave enough to watch them all with us?
The Twilight Zone (Episode #99): “Young Man’s Fancy” (airdate 5/11/62)
The Plot: A newly-minted husband brings his wife to his childhood home to make plans to sell it, but a powerful force is drawing him back to his late mother and the house she kept exactly as it was when he was in short pants.
The Goods: This very well may be the second cruelest episode. Aside from the wicked heartlessness of Time Enough At Last, it rings out with a kind of empty meanness that doesn’t teach a lesson while it tortures an innocent bystander at her weakest point. Sometimes life can be that way, and Virginia Walker (Phyllis Thaxter) learns that the raw way.
Virginia has only added Walker to her name in the last hour, marrying Alex Walker (Alex Nicol) at the courthouse and hurrying for a pit stop at his family home before heading out to a honeymoon in unnamed parts. As she tries to be brisk about getting him to pack, he continually loses his train of thought, starts fooling with an old radio and clock in a wistful attempt to reclaim what’s been lost, and finally starts playing with his old toys.
Written by Richard Matheson, the pacing here is perfection. What we see in the beginning is the surface, and although Alex begins acting strangely as soon as he walks in the door, the history of his relationship with Virginia and his deeply-tethered connection to his mother is revealed piecemeal as he explores the house with Virginia tugging at his shirtsleeve.
The most startling moment comes as she urges him upstairs to pack while she calls the realtor. When she has a second alone with a portrait of his mother, she speaks to the image, announcing that she can’t have her son anymore. That he’s hers. That he will be forever.
It’s a jarring scene that cements Virginia as the villain of the story (a foundation that Matheson takes a jackhammer to later). After all, why is she so insistent that they can’t spend some real time reminiscing while they pack up the old place?
As Alex grows more and more irritable at the thought of selling, broken household items begin working again. Then things long gone start reappearing – including the late Mrs. Walker.
When the true source of what’s holding Alex there is revealed, it’s painful – mirroring the same kind of hopelessly hopeful relationship that someone battling addiction or depression might represent. The final words and final act are what sting most of all, and Virginia runs screaming out of the house, forever losing a man she’s loved and waited for to a world that no longer exists.
What do you think?
The Trivia: Phyllis Thaxter also appeared as Ma Kent in the 1978 version of Superman.
On the Next Episode: Mechanical Grandma.
We’re running through all 156 of the original Twilight Zone episodes over the next several weeks, and we won’t be doing it alone! Our friends at Twitch will be entering the Zone as well on alternating weeks. So definitely tune in over at Twitch and feel free to also follow along on our Twitter accounts @twitchfilm and @rejectnation.