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Not sure why this episode had such a low vote. This episode is obviously a play on the early "Twilight Zone" series. This story boils down to a town that has no courage to stand up to crime and corruption. Instead they want to hire one man as the sheriff and have him defend the town against a gang of outlaws. In this Twilight Zone type episode called "Twilight Town" Little Joe has to push the town people who made him sheriff into being MEN and standing up for what they believe in. Not only does this eventually heal the wounds of this long forgotten ghost town but we are led to believe that the ghost of the towns people can finally rest in peace with dignity, self worth. The whole story is a very symbolic episode about courage, dignity, self worth, self respect, protecting family, preservation and believing in one's self. I give this episode a 10. Maybe the other voters just didn't get the same message I did.
This episode is my near favorite of any and all of the Bonanza episodes ever made. Why? Because it goes beyond the typical warm and fuzzy show revolving around good versus evil, good wins out, Pa and the lads ride off into the sunset. The show also leaves you thinking about it afterward, reliving the episode in your head over and over, while questioning yourself as to rather you actually got it right or not. Also, as far as I know it's the only episode that definitely contains a supernatural element to it. I guess another way I could best describe this episode would be for me to say I would not have been surprised if the list of guest stars had included Rod Serling!
The episode is a supernatural western episode, replete with values of love, family and gaining courage to fight for what you believe in. Little Joe is left for dead in the desert after having his horse stolen. He wakes up and sees a ghost town, Martinville, void of people one day, but the next day people are attending to his needs. Upon recovering his strength, he is not allowed to leave town, for the townspeople want to make him sheriff. A job which comes with a price: He must protect the town from a gang of marauders who have driven livestock out of town and terrorize the town at will. The men are afraid to fight, and Little Joe must restore their courage and protect their families. At the end, he leads the men into a cavalry charge with victory, Ben and his other sons having finally found him, Joe explains about the mysterious town. His father replies that the town has been deserted for many years, and the legend went that until they found a leader to free them from the marauders, and gain revenge for the sheriff that was slain, they will roam the earth. His father tells him though, that if a man believes in something, nobody can take that away. Everything vanishes like a bad dream, as tumbleweeds once again roam the streets of Martinsville with its memories and peaceful souls restored. There is much food for thought here, and acting is hypnotic.
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This episode is to me one of the most memorable of the Bonanza series.
It reflects a successful mixture of two very distinct genres: Western
and Supernatural Mystery. This is very unusual for Bonanza, and perhaps
works so successfully because the locus of the intersection is a
classic locus for this kind of intersection of Mystery and Western: the
Another commentator says that this episode is partly a reflection of the then contemporary Twilight Zone series; hence, for example, the title of this episode, Twilight Town. That could be: this episode certainly show many elements in common with Twilight Zone.
In any event, I think special kudos are due to writer Cy Chermak. I see that this is the only episode he is currently credited as having written for the Bonanza series. He appears to have had a very successful career as both a writer and a producer, especially, in the latter role, for the TV series Ironsides.
Back to "Twilight Town," this entire episode is a really near-perfect jewel of its kind. The eeriness of the town of Martinville begins with Joe's discovery of this ghost town, of classic appearance: full of dust, banging shutters, and tumbleweed. The music throughout provides a sense of eeriness. The episode opens with several angle-shots at the beginning in the ghost town, helping to throw our expectations out of line. There's a really almost palpably strange comparison between the visual unreality of Martinville, contrasting with the dusty, bustling realism of the Cartwrights' interactions with other "real" towns and places as they look for Little Joe. There's a powerful and frightening intensity to Mme O'Brien's prophecy of doom, said with such conviction that the confidence of Little Joe visibly flags in his face as he hears her tell the story of the betrayal and death of her husband, the previous sheriff. Doris Dowling does a splendid job of portraying the widow O'Brien by the way. Near the end, there's the shadowy depiction of Matthews face. The penultimate scene, with townsfolk led by Joe attacking up the hill near the end, has a sense of unreality even as it unfolds. The battle ends with Little Joe once again unconscious, and coming to with the Town once again reverting to a Ghost Town. There are several twists near the end that really leave us wondering: was it real? Or not? What happened? And: if it happened, was the town released from its terrible curse? Or did it continue its fatal course? This is what makes a Curse so eery of course: its imposition of a Doom, a Destiny, a Fate that is ineluctable, inescapable, and very, very unpleasant. This episode gives us this sense of Doom and of ghostly fatalism with a relentlessly unsettling sense of ritualism, from beginning to end, that make this almost a perfect gem of its kind.
Kudos again to Cy Chermak and to all associated with this superb episode of Bonanza.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I think Twilight Town was the best in the Bonanza series. It mixed reality with unreality so well that to me it did not matter whether it was a western or a ghost story. It made me feel like Martinville had something going for it,something that I needed and wanted. A surreal existence with the same friendly peaceful people who were living in a dream world where everything had slowed down. Where life continued unabated except for the incursion of some bandits every now and then.I think Doris Dowling did and excellent job of warning Little Joe about the weakness of the towns people. I also thought Walter Coy did an excellent performance as one of the people living in the town. In summary, I wondered if the town would go on forever or find its final end. I guess I was hoping that it would go on. It seemed to me to have earned the right to keep going, where people could go for some out of the way experience if only in a dream. I definitely would rate this a 10.
The episode itself proves that souls 'cursed' have a lesson to learn. In any respects, the town had to learn courage, Little Joe had to teach that lesson in order for him and the town to 'grow up' on the path of life. I realize at the end, when Little Joe's love interest tried to tell him the truth of their existence it was all to late. Mrs O'Brien realized Little Joe was different, and he lead the town to courage which her husband had failed to do. Out in the desert, out in the wilderness, we have to truly appreciate the mysteries that happen along the way. Twilight Zone or not, this episode reflects our own mysteries of life. Why was the horse stolen and why did Little Joe go through this situation? That's really the big question I wanted to know, of Little Joe's adventures why this? Was he the chosen one for the redemption of this 'cursed' town? Perhaps! Little Joe had to grow up himself, and prove his worth to those 'trapped' as he is a man they can vouch for in the afterlife.
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