"The Twilight Zone" Judgment Night (TV Episode 1959) Poster

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Forever and Ever Repeated
Hitchcoc26 September 2008
This is an archetypal plot. The idea that those who commit horrible acts are punished by being made to live through them for eternity. This has the often used Twilight Zone character who finds himself in a place he can't explain. He knows he has a connection, but he can't figure it out. He is treated with kindness and is, himself, in many ways, kind. But as a commander for the Third Reich he is everything evil. I can think of at least two other episodes (there may be more) where a character finds himself switching locations, the hunter becomes the hunted. This episode is rather bleak and slow moving. The Nazi self is assured and pompous. However, he is made to see what he has done over and over, and the question of God delivered by James Franciscus is what it's all about. Serling placed numerous characters in their own personal hell. This is another. It is well acted and intense, but it doesn't have quite the spark that some others did.
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A decent episode which picks up considerably in its second half
phantom_tollbooth21 February 2007
Warning: Spoilers
It would be impossible for 'The Twilight Zone' to keep up the standard it set with the trio of episodes that preceded 'Judgment Night' and so it falls to this episode to finally end a run of classics. Which is not to say 'Judgment Night' isn't a good episode, it just suffers by comparison.

In common with 'Where is Everybody', 'Judgment Night' features a main character who cannot remember the details of his own life but this time he has more pressing matters to consider. Aside from being the only German on a ship of Brits during WW2, Carl Lanser is also sure that there is an enemy submarine stalking the ship but he can't explain why he is so sure of this fact. The terrible truth is that he was once the commander of that enemy submarine and he is now in hell, reliving the fate of the passengers on a ship he sank for eternity.

The script, despite having some impact, drops in too many obvious clues pointing to what is going on so the twist comes as little surprise. The first half is slow and full of tedious nautical dialogue and most viewers will have probably worked out what is going on by the end of the first act. Despite this, the second act is executed brilliantly with Lanser becoming more and more frantic in his attempts to save those around him. The image of the ghostly crew staring blankly at him as he yells at them to get to the lifeboats is the most enduring moment of the episode and the actual attack is a thrilling little action sequence. However, Serling lays it on a bit too thick with the scene that follows in which a camply evil Lanser discusses damnation with James Franciscus, an actor in possession of the least convincing German accent in the world. Franciscus's dire performance drags down an already unnecessary, time-filling scene which is the equivalent of Serling with a megaphone yelling "Do you get it? It's hell! He's in hell!"

Despite its shortcomings, 'Judgment Night' is still an effective episode, Lanser's chilling fate of an eternity of confusion and death proving a hard-hitting climax despite its predictability. Nehemiah Persoff turns in one of the most over-dramatic performances I have ever seen but thankfully John Brahm's slick direction of everything else overcomes this sometimes hilarious problem. 'Judgment Night' is an episode that sometimes drags and is dogged by poor performances but when it comes to life in its second act all this is easily forgivable. It is an old fashioned ghost story crossed with a war film that works a treat once it quits toying with the viewer and gets to the meat of the story.
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Flying Dutchman, TZ Style
dougdoepke10 July 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Man (Nehemiah Persoff) appears mysteriously aboard English freighter at beginning of WWII.

Beautifully mounted cautionary tale that must have cost the producers a bundle, since the effects are much more elaborate than usual. In fact, it's the attention to shipboard detail that lends additional impact to the story line. We believe those aboard are actually at sea and in mortal danger from U-boats. Suspense builds nicely as Persoff's disoriented passenger wanders frantically around the decks in search of own identity. Persoff delivers an energetic and persuasive performance, however, coming close at times to going over the top. The atmospheric touch comes from director John Brahm, who was perfectly at home with fog-shrouded mists as his Gothic-movie career proved. Upshot comes as perhaps no surprise (especially since IMDb has broken their own rule with an Episode List spoiler), but is a satisfying one, nonetheless. This is one of the real winners from that magical first year.

(Why has the site sponsor forced a warning on this blurb when in no way have I implied the ending?)
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Voyage of the eternally damned
Coventry14 May 2016
The second of a total of twelve "Twilight Zone" episodes directed by the masterful but criminally underrated John Brahm, and yet another very intense and macabre story! These are exactly the type of "Twilight Zone" tales I prefer: ominous atmosphere from start to finish, a claustrophobic and inescapable setting, steady but non- stop tension building and a depressing but righteous conclusion. The plot is very familiar and the denouement is fairly predictable, but I can hardly blame the episode for that. All the movies or TV-shows that I've seen with a similar or even downright identical plot were made long after this "Judgment Night" and thus once again this series proves itself to be a trendsetter. During a misty night in the year 1942, a man inexplicably finds himself on board of a ship called S.S. Queen of Glasgow without any recollections whatsoever. He only knows that his name is Carl Lanser and that he was born in Frankfurt. Through contact with the other passengers and the crew, Lanser discovers that he has a vast knowledge of the maritime, particularly U-boats, and he also has increasing premonitions of a tragic event that is about to happen. You'll know quite early in the episode in which direction the plot is heading, but the climax nevertheless still sent cold shivers down my spine, mainly thanks to a couple of breathtaking sequences and a strong performance from Nehemiah Persoff.
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Over & Over
AaronCapenBanner25 October 2014
Nehemiah Persoff stars as Carl Lanser, who finds himself aboard the British ship Glasgow during World War II, unsure of who he is, or how he got there, but has an ever-increasing feeling of dread about the imminent fate of the ship, which he is certain is about to be torpedoed by a German U-boat. Of course, the passengers and crew don't believe him until it is too late, but only then will Lanser discover the truth of his identity, and the reasons behind his ordeal. Patrick Macnee and James Franciscus costar. Reasonably effective tale is not that surprising really, but nicely put across, and has an authentic feel for the sea and its nautical setting.
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First there was Tantalus, then there is Sisyphus...
Gabriel Teixeira18 December 2013
In 1942, in the middle of WWII, a man finds himself on a ship with no memory of who he is or how he got there. However, he is sure that there is danger coming towards them...

Another excellent episode. This is the kind of thing I had been expecting when I first started with 'The Twilight Zone': an eerie, moody tale that unfolds with a twist that catches the viewer in surprise. Well acted by Nehemiah Persoff, to the point that even when overacting it still comes around as fun instead of amateurish.

If 'Time Enough at Last', another great episode, was an adaptation of the Tantalus myth, 'Judgment Night' skillfully adapts yet another Greek myth; the myth of Sisyphus.

Sisyphus was punished for his acts by the Gods, by being forced to roll a giant rock up a mountain; only for, when reaching the top, the rock to fall back to the base, forcing him to repeat the task for all eternity.

This eternal cycle of repetition as punishment is more used than the Tantalus one, and I liked the way this episode further enhances the metaphor with the 'hunter becomes hunted' trope it also employs. A great, surprisingly intelligent little plot.

Seeing this episode made me remember a recent film, another Sisyphus-based, hunter/hunted duality, twisted mystery/horror that is one of my favorites. If you enjoyed this, check out 2009's 'Triangle' as well.
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Doomed to Relive a Tragic Night for the Eternity
Claudio Carvalho22 January 2014
In 1942, Carl Lanser (Nehemiah Persoff) is a lonely passenger without recollections that is traveling in the cargo ship "S.S. Queen of Glasgow" from London to New York. Lanser meets the captain and the other passengers and soon he recalls that he is the captain of a U-Boat that will attack the ship in a few moments.

"Judgment Night" is an engaging episode of The Twilight Zone" with the story of a man doomed to relive a tragic night for the eternity. The plot is based on the myth of King Sisyphus, punished for trickery and forced to roll a huge boulder up a steep hill; but before he reaches the top, the rock would always roll back down. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): "Além da Imaginação: Judgment Night" ("Beyond Imagination - Judgment Night")
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The Twilight Zone-Judgment Night
Scarecrow-881 January 2011
Warning: Spoilers
The haunted look on Nehemiah Persoff's face introduces us to a dilemma his character will forever face, his Lanser caught in a spider's web of foggy amnesia, trying to deduce where he is and why. On board a ship bound for the States, Lanser gets to know the crew and passengers on board before they encounter a U-boat somewhere lost in the mist, danger on the horizon. So the murky plot becomes more and more clear as Lanser pieces together what troubles him and the ultimate mystery is finally unveiled..not to Lanser's delight, however. This episode allowed Rod Serling a chance to critique the German Nazi party by placing one of their own in a unique kind of hell, felt from the victims' side. Thanks to John Brahm, an absolute master in fog and shadow, with an ability to create a mood of doom to match the performance of Persoff, compelling in how the shroud is lifted bit by bit until we see Lanser for the man he really is. The result adds a perspective which changes how we look at Lanser's situation; such a great episode.
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Torpedoes -- loss!
Robert J. Maxwell28 March 2013
Warning: Spoilers
One of Serling's message movies but a pretty spooky one at that. Like so many other characters in this series, Nehemiah Persoff finds himself in a strange situation -- he's aboard a small freighter with a couple of other passengers in the middle of the Atlantic in 1942 -- but he can't remember anything much about himself. He knows his name, he knows it's on the passenger manifest, but he doesn't know how he got aboard or why he's there.

The others find Persoff's tentative stumbling around, his eyeballs bulging, his stuttering premonitions of impending doom, a little exotic. Then, too, every once in a while when someone makes a remark about the threat of U-boats, Persoff seems to switch to personality B and make some curt correction regarding submarine doctrine.

He has a right to be worried. A blinding searchlight engulfs the ship. It's a U-boat. The last thing Persoff sees as he rushes frantically to the rail is the captain of the submarine giving the order to fire on the ship. And the Ka El of course is Persoff himself.

When the ship is blasted to bits and everyone -- man, woman, and child -- are dead, the scene switches to the wardroom of the U-boat where a troubled young man confesses to Persoff, now the captain, that he feels guilty about killing these people without warning. He wonders if there is a special place in hell for people like the U-boat's crew, where they may be doomed forever to make the same voyage aboard the doomed ship for all eternity. Persoff scoffs.

Considering that it's a half-hour television show and everything must be hurriedly sketched in -- the characters and settings -- without becoming to expensive, it's rather gripping. As the anxious passenger, Persoff gives off a convincing odor of sour fear. (When he snaps into his Kapitan Leutenant role, he overplays it and barks out his lines.) The English woman aboard is Dierdre Owens and she's unusually sympatico. Patrick Macnee is the Executive Officer whose career as Mr. Steed, one of "The Avengers", was just about to be launched.

It's a thought-provoking story, as well as a spooky one. Yes, the submariners may be doomed to go through the agony of their victims for all eternity. Fortunately, our bomber crews who blitzed places like Hamburg and Nagasaki will not go to the same place, will they?
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A Special Hell
bkoganbing14 May 2013
One of the lesser episodes of the Twilight Zone finds guest star Nehemiah Persoff cast as a U-Boat captain stalking the North Atlantic in 1942 for ships who might stray from a convoy. But there's something wrong as Persoff finds himself on the very ship he was stalking one fateful night.

If you've ever seen the fine British film Pursuit Of The Graf Spee you know that some captains of surface vessels gave quarter gave quarter to the enemy. But Germany practiced unrestricted submarine warfare in World War I and Hitler saw no reason to change.

Poor Nehemiah he seems to know what is going to happen and that alarms all the other passengers on the British vessel. It all becomes clear to him when he sees himself giving orders to fire on the British ship.

I'm not sure what kind of message Rod Serling was trying to say other than we make our own special hells given what we do in life. I have to consign this one to one of the lesser Twilight Zone stories as it even doesn't quite come to grips metaphysically speaking.
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