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Good observations, folks, and I agree, however the 'old woman', Elva Keene, was played by Gladys Cooper (who was also great in "Nothing in the Dark", where a young Robert Redford portrays death in the guise of a police officer). I think Nora Marlowe, as the compassionate but skeptical nurse, Margaret, also did a great job. This is one of those 'TZ' episodes that certainly ventured into terror; the disembodied voice on the telephone scared the hell out of me when I first saw it (granted, I was only 9). Interesting also was the fact that, as the story developed, and Miss Keene's phone rang (at least during the day), you were forced to wonder whether it was the groaning man, or the officious-sounding Miss Finch from the phone company. One of the better episodes of the series, IMHO.
Unlike most of the creepier Twilight Zone episodes, Night Call terrifies me as much now as it did when I was much younger. I still can't watch this one late at night without feeling a little uneasy at what might be lurking just beyond the blinds in the window. Night Call is brilliant on several levels. First, it's a masterpiece of storytelling by the legendary Richard Matheson, who's written some of the most unnerving short stories ever published. The characters, the situation, and the final explanation are all superbly realized--I've seen the ending twist repeated in a number of short films or generic "scary tales for children"-esquire compilations. Jacques Tourneur's direction is extraordinarily atmospheric, the visual equivalent of a lonely wind rustling through a dark forest. We as viewers feel every bit as alone and frightened as the woman when she picks up the phone and hears nothing but moans from the other end. Watching the episode is a bit like lying in bed in the middle of the night and thinking you heard a noise downstairs. Yet, in spite of all this, the ending manages a complete 180, from terrifying to tragic, that works extraordinarily well. Kudos to the writer and director for giving the Twilight Zone an ingenious entry for its final season.
Perhaps not, but it has to be in the top three, if pure tension, terror and mystery are any measure of the best The Twilight Zone had to offer during its relatively short original run. Adapted from the tightly wound short story 'Long Distance Call', penned by the legendary Richard Matheson (who wrote 15 other TZ episodes, most notably 'Nightmare at 20,000 Feet'), 'Night Call' packs a wallop of fear. Everyone knows how jarring a phone call can be in the wee hours; the quiet of the evening suddenly jangled out of rest by the ringing we normally find a minor annoyance in the daylight. Our nerves are shot for a moment, and then we begin wondering, before we've gotten out of bed to answer the ring... "Who could it be? Is everything alright?" But to find... no one? Silence? Then, a few rings later... an unearthly moaning? The full meaning of the story only becomes apparent in the last few minutes, as is typical for the average TZ episode, but it also packs a punch, turning fear to pathos. The acting is superb, Ms. Cooper really was a fine actress and was perfectly cast here. Her face is so expressive, her fear so palpable that we have no choice but to 'fear' right along, until we find out who... or what... has been calling. And why. This is my personal favorite, for its subtlety and atmosphere. No aliens, no monsters (well, not conventionally), no spaceships, no end of the world preaching, just a good story well told. One you'd hear (or if you were brilliant enough, tell) around a campfire. Simple, clean, and terrifying.
It's really hard for me to claim this or that as the best ever, or my favorite, simply because it's so limiting and something always pops up sooner or later, to prove me a liar. In this case, however, I MUST say, I have seen all of the "Twilight Zone" episodes, half and full hour-long and of any of them, this is the one I always recommend. Directed by the vastly underrated Jacques Tourneur (whose "Cat People" revolutionized horror films as we know them, and has resonance even today), this is a story which simply plays on our fears and messes with our minds. A crippled old woman sits in her lovely cottage home, aided only by a nurse. Alone and miserable, she begins getting strange nightly phone calls from somebody who makes odd sounds and leaves her terrified. Is she senile? Her maid seems to think so, but as you might expect, there's much more here than meets the eye. I won't go into details more than to say that the ending won't disappoint and Martine Bartlett, as the old woman, is likable and sympathetic. I saw this recently and yeah, it's still scary. Is it the best "Twilight Zone" episode, though? Well, if you like creepy irony, then yeah, this one is the best, ever.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Night Call" is one of those stories which is more like a "Tales From
the Crypt".There was an old lonely woman who has lived in denial of her
old boyfriend's death just before being married many, many years ago.
She became a very lonely woman who has denied herself of one moment of happiness her entire life. Suddenly(after being confined to a bed and wheelchair)she gets a phone call (actually a series of calls). The only problem is that its late at night and the caller only breathes in the telephone. This person would not identify themselves but the calls seem urgent. She thinks they are prank and asks the telephone company to investigate (If she only had CALLER ID huh?)They tell her a Cable wire from an electrical storm snapped and fell/somehow penetrates her old boyfriends grave.Her dead boyfriend is calling her from his gravesite
Now she can't WAIT for the call because she wanted to talk to him (in whatever way or form)and it would put an end to all this suffering. The call does come but the caller changes his mind and indicates that"you asked me not to call you anymore and I always do what you ask". The old woman knows she'll never get a call from him again and the last shot has her weeping in bed OK.Fine. It was a bit of a downer but in his closing remarks Serling surmised that this woman "made her own bed and now must lie in it" Come on Rod!! Would anyone in the world act any differently if they were getting calls all the time late at night with the person never identifying themselves? If she knew those calls were from a person she loved she would have reacted differently and she must of said "who is this" a god awful number of times.The episode had a chill and was very well acted and I truly felt bad for the woman in the end but for one of the very FEW times Serling's closing remarks were completely heartless. Maybe there is a"Poetic Justice" element here but this woman deserves all the pity in the world and Rod was a little to harsh on her on this one.
I have seen almost ALL of the original TZ episodes, and this one "Night
Call" is always the one I recommend.
Beautifully photographed: Embittered and lonely Elva Keane endures unending telephone night calls from her telephone; The phone becomes an instrument of terror-when Elva is trying to get some sleep you can actually SEE the shadow's of the branches on her face from the trees outside-a beautiful touch! Miss Finch: (The telephonist) "About those call's you say you've been receiving Miss Keane.." Elva: "SAY I've been?"... NO spoilers for those yet to see-the pace and suspense never let up until it's heartbreaking conclusion.
on the lonely lady living in her cottage. Is it just her imagination,
is she senile, or is this really happening?.
I will have to get the complete collection of these older episodes- each story was so unique and original- no one comes as close as Rod Serling, when creating suspense, irony and horror. Everyone has different favorites.
This story was also noteworthy because of the performance of Martine Bartlett, who portrayed Sally Field's abusive mother in "Sybil". She has such remarkable film presence. This story is still frightening,and next time you are home alone on a dark night, be careful if you answer the phone, and are speaking to a person who lives down the street- at the local graveyard!.
There are probably less than 10 episodes of TZ that I really like and
this is one of them. I saw this as a child in the 70s and again just
recently on Sci Fi. I think Sci Fi actually uses an edited version in
order to fit in more commercials, but I cant be certain.
Gladys Cooper, who reminds me of my own mother in her looks before she passed was wonderful. She died in 1971 but had a great acting career. Perfectly cast for this episode.
Her performance here is done in such a way that you really feel sorry for her and will make you wish you could just go and visit this old lady to make her feel better.
No special effects, just a suspense drama that's right up there with works by Hitchcock.
...i would recommend "Consider Her Ways", an episode in season III of
"Alfred Hitchcock Hour". I saw that episode maybe 20 years ago, but
seeing Gladys in tonight's TZ episode reminded me of "Consider Her
Ways". After 2 decades, I remember Gladys from a single Hitchcock Hour
episode? yea, it is that good.
It was startling, frightening, and perverse.
and Gladys Cooper was amazing in that show, too, as in "Night Calls". She was very convincing.
im sorry, this is not a review as much as my trying to share a gem of classic television.
Once upon a time, before cells and mobile phones there was something
called a party line, which was a cost effective way for low income
people to maintain telephone service without having to pay a lot. The
solution was simple: share the expenses (and the monthly charge) with
someone else. The only problem would be that one could not make or
receive calls if the other person was on the line.
In this Twilight Zone episode, Night Call, the elderly, invalid Elva Keene, who lives alone, cared for only by a nurse, starts to receive phone calls from someone who sounds far away. It's a man's voice but she can't quite hear what he's saying. He tends to call her late at night, when she's alone, and these calls frighten her. As we learn a thing or two about Miss Keene's past we begin to understand her, as we come to realize that she has a bad conscience, and for good reason. These unsettling phone calls are bringing back memories, as she recalls experiences from her youth; and hers is not a party line.
This is one of the few entries in the Twilight Zones series that plays like a pure horror from start to finish. Not a violent or gruesome horror; more like a ghost story. Written and directed by masters, Richard Matheson and Jacques Tourneur, splendidly acted by Gladys Cooper in the lead role, it ends on a note of sheer terror. No axes come crashing through doors, there are no vampires, werewolves or monsters, just an image and no more. Those who keep their phones next to their beds might want to think twice about leaving them on after watching Night Call.
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