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"The Twilight Zone" The Grave (1961)

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33 out of 34 people found the following review useful:

"We all know the dead can't really harm nobody"--right?

Author: mlraymond from Durham NC
3 January 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A brilliantly written and acted episode, with many familiar faces turning in some unusual performances. The mere idea of seeing Lee Marvin acting scared is fascinating enough to justify watching it.

There's a convincing, primitive feeling to the little shack where the men are gathered to drink and play cards a few nights after Pinto Sykes' burial. Odd touches such as the bartender wearing a derby, unusual names like Mr. Mothershed, and a tough gunslinger being referred to as "Connie" without a hint of humor, make this episode stand out. It has a strange atmosphere not like any other western I've ever seen. The pervasive sound of the wind, the nervousness of all present, so that they jump whenever the door bangs open suddenly, the repetitive guitar chords strummed by the talkative Johnny Rob, the sly way that Mothershed seems to exonerate Connie of not doing his job, while pointing it out at the same time, the clever dialogue that makes these characters sound oddly believable. There is much here to savor and enjoy.

When Connie makes his trip alone to the graveyard, notice the tension in his face as he sees the figure approaching over the hill, and the spooky little laugh that Pinto's sister gives when she leaves him. The way his hand pauses before opening the gate, the sweat on his face when he crouches for a moment. The way he looks at his six shooter, as if remembering Mothershed's mocking remark, " We all know you can draw your gun real fast, Connie, we seen it. But out in that graveyard, that gun ain't gonna be worth a copper cent." Perhaps one key line sums up the appeal to viewers of this unsettling story. When Connie angrily demands to know why everyone thinks he's afraid to go visit Pinto's grave, Mothershed responds quietly, " Because we'd be afraid." When Lee Marvin steps uncertainly into that lonely, isolated graveyard, we go with him.

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14 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

"The Grave" is haunting ghost story with a twist

Author: (chuck-reilly) from Los Angeles
8 August 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Prolific television director and writer Montgomery Pittman is the main force behind this Twilight Zone story set in the old west. Pinto Sykes, a notorious and feared gunfighter, is killed by a hail of bullets fired by the citizens of a small western town. One of the men who had hunted him relentlessly, Connie Miller (a mean-looking Lee Marvin), arrives too late to see his long-time adversary fall. Pinto is already buried in the local cemetery on a wind-swept barren hilltop. But there is a strange challenge awaiting Miller. Three of the town's citizens who keep their company together in the town's only saloon dare Miller to visit the grave in the middle of the night. The three men (Lee Van Cleef, Strother Martin and James Best) are convinced that Pinto's ghost haunts the area and that he can still reach out and kill his enemies if they're within striking distance. Already suspicious of Miller's belated entrance to the scene, the men are willing to bet a considerable amount of money that Miller is too frightened and cowardly to visit Pinto's grave-site. At first, Miller scoffs at the idea and feels insulted by the wager, but after some badgering and an exchange of harsh words, he decides to take them up on the bet. The wager is simple enough; to prove beyond a doubt that he has visited the grave, Miller must plunge a knife into the ground where Pinto's body is buried. If the knife is still there in the morning, the money is his. Sounds like easy money...except for the fact that the graveyard is in the Twilight Zone.

"The Grave" is one of the more atmospheric Twilight Zone stories and its high-quality can be attributed to the fine performances of the cast, especially Lee Marvin and Strother Martin. Elen Willard also makes an appearance as Pinto's rather psychic sister and she adds another touch of eeriness to the proceedings. At the end of this tale, the howling wind blows through Pinto Sykes' desolate grave-site, leaving viewers with a sudden chill and maybe a nightmare or two. And Connie Miller's knife?

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16 out of 23 people found the following review useful:

The origin of this story

Author: nutaitisf from United States
16 October 2007

The original story was entitled "The Path Through the Cemetery" written by Leonard Q. Ross. It has been adapted by many authors into various genres. The concept of the obsession factor in the TZ episode may come into play a bit, but I doubt that it was inspired at all by Moby Dick. The original story is set in Russia and involves some soldiers who pick on a local, shy, young man and mock him by calling him "Ivan the Terrible." They issue the challenge to walk through the cemetery and give him a sword to plunge into the ground at the center. There is no character like the character of Pinto. Ivan is simply a person afraid of his own shadow. However, the central theme is the same but the story ends with his death, not with anyone commenting upon the possibility of a supernatural occurrence.

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8 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

The wind does change?

Author: Spikeopath from United Kingdom
23 February 2014

Written and directed by Montgomery Pittman and starring Lee Marvin, Strother Martin, James Best, Lee Van Cleef, Stafford Rep and Ellen Willard.

The best of the Western themed Twilight Zone episodes finds Conny Miller (Marvin) returning to his local town after famed outlaw Pinto Sykes (Richard Geary) has been shot and killed by the townsfolk. Conny had been hired to track Pinto and kill him himself, but surprisingly he never got close to him, something Pinto took great delight in letting folk know that Conny was afraid of him and purposely kept his distance. A deathbed vow from Pinto is relayed to Conny, resulting in a challenge for him to go up to Pinto's grave at midnight and stick a dagger in the earth…

A ghostly Zone episode that begins in a blaze of gunfire frenzy but the settles into a moody slow build before revealing its wonderfully ambiguous finale. The cast list is a Western fan's dream, the crisp photography by George T. Clemens accentuates the feeling that there might be supernatural forces at work, and Pittman's unhurried direction proves to be a masterstroke. 9/10

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7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

'he'll reach up and grab ya!'

Author: darrenpearce111 from Ireland
31 December 2013

Far more of a western-ghost story than the usual style of TZ which tended to be ordinary people caught up in a sudden, weird turn of events. Pinto, a western bad guy is shot dead when the townsmen surround him and they fire eight bullets. So who shot him? No one wants to claim to have killed him, as their fear of Pinto transcends the rational. They only know that the hired bounty hunter Conny Miller (Lee Marvin) was not there to do it.

An intriguing ghost story, written and directed by Montgomery Pittman. Slowly but effectively building as Lee Marvin puts in a good performance as a tough guy who tries to shake off the implied suggestion of cowardice. The barfly townsmen tentatively dare Marvin's gunfighter towards visiting Pinto's grave late at night. Something they're afraid of themselves, especially as they don't know who's bullet killed him. One of them says that he reckons the dead Pinto knows now!

The supporting cast is impressive, Lee Van Cleef ('The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly'), James Best ('The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank',also series three), and Strother Martin (of numerous westerns).

Not an episode with a message, but one to be enjoyed late at night... unless...well...'unless maybe you ain't brave enough ?'.

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6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

All Star Cast* On This Twilight Zone episode

Author: rentatrip1 from United States
12 September 2012

Here we have , Lee Marvin, William Challee, Strother Martin , Lee Van Cleef, James Best & Stafford Repp...this may be one of the most illustrious of Hollywood's elite ever assembled on any of the Twilight Zone original TV episodes. William Challee always did have a dead on perfect Walter Houston, his imitation as seen in the first 7 minutes of this episode as a mirror image of old Walter (think Treasure of Sierra Madre & John Houston's Father) has to be what originally caught my eye as I have until now never seen this one. Marvin is, as always the somber and heavy protagonist as the over compensating mercenary / Bounty Hunter, even if his character seems to be the "good guy". This one is a very intense, well directed 30 minute "Western" with that "Serling Twist". It is now my favorite, without question TZ. Mark it down as one of the top ten all time Classic Twilight Zone's.

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7 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

The Grave

Author: Scarecrow-88 from United States
1 January 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

It's a major surprise to see such a rich cast of male actors who could make a theatrical western hum with excitement, featured together in a spooky Twilight Zone episode of twenty or so minutes. It features none other than Lee Marvin as a cranky and aggressive gunfighter paid by a frightened town to track a known and feared criminal to kill him. After a long period of time, Marvin's tracker, Conny Miller was not able to accomplish what he was paid to do(..with most, if not all, of the quiet little town believing Conny was afraid of the killer, Pinto Sykes)so the citizens surrounded Pinto in the street, gunning him down in the process. Entering town after Sykes had been buried(..perhaps a sign in itself that he was chicken of the quick-drawing gunfighter), Conny is looked upon by those still awake in the saloon, "blabbermouth" Johnny Rob(Jamed Best;Dukes of Hazzard), trembling Mothershed(Strother Martin)and "businessman" Steinhart(Lee Van Cleef), with quiet resentment, informing their tracker that Pinto was in fact dead, wagering him that he hasn't the guts to visit the murdered criminal's grave at Midnight. Angered at such a suggestion, Conny takes them up on it, although no matter how tough and rugged his appearance is externally, it's visible that he can not hide the fear lurking within. Bravely, Conny makes it to the grave by way of a path, notices Pinto's kooky(..and drunk)sister Ione(Elen Willard)after just visiting her brother, and decides to confront the demons which haunt him. All he has to do is plunge the bartender's knife into Pinto's grave, but will it be that simple?

First, the town is rendered quite eerie thanks to the way the wind sounds and blows the coats of the characters. The town itself looks quite different during Pinto's death at the hands of the tired citizens in the shootout and once Conny arrives. I think the scene in the saloon is about as good as you can make it if attempting to show men deftly afraid of a man's grave. One can sense that Pinto Sykes struck terror in this town and that his grip was firmly held for a long time no matter where he was at any present time. Marvin, Lee Van Cleef, James Best and Strother Martin all in the same scene together is enough to send a western fan into a frenzy, and for just a twenty five minute episode of Twilight Zone, it's quite a thrill. I like how Best and Martin are presented so cowardly and stricken with fear over Pinto Sykes and how Marvin pretty much causes them a bit of nervousness as well. What I particularly like is how, though, they ever so delicately question Conny's manhood, and almost place Pinto Sykes on a pedestal. Sykes' powerful hold over this town is etched so evidently on even Conny, even though he tries to hide under this menacing veneer, pushing weakling farm-boy Johnny Rob around when he attempts to challenge him on the dare to visit the grave. The graveyard itself is so threatening and creepy, the way dead trees surround tombstones and how the hill is so choppy, dark, and imposing. Still, without that wind, the show wouldn't have been as effective. The wind even plays a major part in Conny's fate, describing what seems obvious, explained by Steinhart(..who reasons a situation realistically, although he himself probably first felt that Pinto's ghost played a hand in it)and what is far more probable and chilling thanks to Ione who uses his own theory against him.

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Western Ghost Story

Author: AaronCapenBanner from North America
28 October 2014

Lee Marvin plays lawman Conny Miller, who has spent four months tracking down a wanted man, only to find that he was gunned down and killed by local townsmen. Frustrated at his failure, the locals(played by Strother Martin & James Best) offer him a bet that he isn't brave enough to visit the outlaw's grave that night, since he supposedly issued a curse on Miller. The outlaw's sister also defies and mocks Miller, who takes the bet and will plant his knife on the grave to prove he was there, but his mission ends most unexpectedly... Spooky ghost story set in the old west is well cast, written and directed, creating a most effective spectral nocturnal atmosphere.

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4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

"Keep the bottle on the bar Ira, I won't be long".

Author: classicsoncall from Florida, New York
15 May 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Wow, what a great lineup for Twilight Zone fans, especially if you're into Westerns. Lee Marvin, Lee Van Cleef, Strother Martin and James Best all in a single episode! I'm betting there's a theatrical Western out there that all of these actors might have appeared in together, but IMDb's revamped search feature has made finding it impossible; I just can't figure it out.

For a quick twenty five minute story, this episode of TZ did a better job than most at developing the characters so that we have a pretty good idea what they're all about. Conny Miller (Marvin) is painted as the reluctant gunslinger by the citizens who hired him to take out bad man Pinto Sykes (love that name!). Johnny Rob (Best) is a whimpering guitarist, Steinhart (Van Cleef) an opportunistic businessman. And Mothershed! - what kind of name is that? One that could only be portrayed by Strother Martin I suppose. But of all the neat touches thrown in by Serling and Montgomery Pittman, I think the best was the inclusion of crazy sister Ione (Elen Willard). Man, was she spooky! Just the idea of running into her in a cemetery at midnight is enough to give you the willies.

The one thing I would have done differently is allow the viewer to figure things out at the finale instead of that long winded exposition by Steinhart. I think we get the idea - Conny Miller died of fright, and positioned strategically, it would have been more satisfying to leave it to the imagination. Maybe muss up the dirt around the grave to leave a question mark. Then have crazy Ione laugh hysterically at the idea that Pinto's hand came out of the ground. Yeah, good old crazy Ione, that would have made the story.

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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Cast Compensates for the Sloppy Ending

Author: dougdoepke from Claremont, USA
19 December 2016

Too bad the ending is such a garbled stretch since the rest of the entry has suspense, atmosphere, and a great cast. So will gunman Conny (unusual name for tough guy) go up to the night grave of his recently killed enemy Pinto. The guys in the bar don't think he's got the nerve, so a bet is made. But will he since spooky rumors surround the dead man.

The bar guys should have noted that Conny is played by Lee Marvin, of all people, and as everyone knows he ain't scared of nobody. In fact, the cast's a fine rogues gallery of colorful types—Strother Martin, Lee Van Cleef, James Best, and of course Marvin. So despite all the talk, the first half is still entertaining. But stealing the entry in my little book is an unknown Elen Willard as the eerie Ione. Without an inch of make-up, her dark good looks and sinister smile are like nothing I've seen. To me, she is truly unsettling. Too bad her career was so short. Also, the graveyard of the second half is obviously a studio set, but is really well-done adding a lot of needed atmosphere.

All in all, the entry remains a rewarding half-hour, even if the "wind-direction" ending is in dire need of a re-write.

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