The Twilight Zone 4.7 – Jess-Belle

Did it just not occur to this girl’s parents that naming her Jess-Belle was asking for trouble?

A couple of nights ago, our son got intrigued by the preview for tonight’s story, which was written by Earl Hamner Jr., because it mentioned witches and showed a big jungle cat. I was interested because the jezebel in question is played by Anne Francis. If it’s 1963 and Anne Francis wants to buy a love spell and bewitch me, then I’m totally fine with her turning into a big jungle cat from midnight until dawn.

Hamner is best remembered as the creator of The Waltons and Apple’s Way, and he worked on the cartoon adaptation of E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web. He seemed to enjoy telling stories of folklore from the Appalachians and the Ozarks, or much farther away and and just set in an electricity-free Blue Ridge Mountains. These are God-fearing people, and they practice a faith that I believe is rarely seen on contemporary television, and as such, they are not likely to be very sympathetic to witchcraft. That said, it might seem a little odd that everybody simultaneously knows all about Jeanette Nolan’s character’s spells and potions and yet gets very concerned about the right way to kill witches. That’s the way in northeast Georgia. People will drive to church and buy salves from the wart witch in the gravel lot after the sermon. It’s only when people actually turn into leopards that there’s a problem.

James Best is fairly awesome as the fellow who’s been bewitched, and I really enjoyed seeing this story unfold and, like the last one we saw, stretch out and breathe and not follow the strict Zone formula, but our son felt a little bit betrayed. There was a whole lot less of people shooting at wild animals than he hoped, and a whole lot more smooching. The embraces, the kisses, the talking of marriage, the dancing… we’re lucky he sat as still as he did!