The Twilight Zone 5.22 – An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

Three points come to mind about tonight’s very interesting episode. “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” was unlike everything else made for The Twilight Zone, as it was a short film made in France by the director Robert Enrico, based on the influential short story by Ambrose Bierce that has caused several generations of high school students to throw their textbooks at the wall because comic books had long before taught us that “gasp! it was all… a DREAM!” is a bogus ending. I don’t know very much about French new wave cinema, but I have seen seven or eight films by Truffaut, and while Enrico does not appear to be listed among the directors usually credited as part of the French new wave, this beautifully-photographed film is nevertheless just about the most early sixties French thing I’ve ever seen.

The second point is that this one didn’t resonate with our son at all, mainly because he was so baffled and intrigued by the mechanics of the hanging that he never got past it. Imagine watching this whole thing and asking “Now, why were they trying to hang him?”

The third point is that one day in the fall quarter of 1990, some publicity company or marketing crew brought a preview copy of the Adrian Lyne film Jacob’s Ladder to UGA for an advance screening. When it ended, I went “Ha! Owl Creek Bridge!” and everybody else in the theater threw their metaphorical textbooks at the walls. It remains the only time I’ve ever seen a movie and the audience boo it. I swear I was the only person in that crowd who didn’t boo it. My date booed it. Then she booed me for defending it. Jacob’s Ladder was a box office flop, in large part because everybody had either read crappy comics or watched “Attack on Cloudbase”.

For what it’s worth, though, Enrico’s gorgeous film went on to win the Best Live Action Short Film at the 1963 Oscars. It may have been dated hokum in 1963, but it looked amazing.


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