Photo of the night: “THE MIDNIGHT SUN” Freezing nightmares care of ‘The Twilight Zone’
Photo of the night: DREAMS OF A “MIDNIGHT SUN”, Twilight Zone episode
Original air date: November 17, 1961. Starring Lois Nettleton and Betty Garde.
As the United States is experiencing an unusual ‘Artic Vortex’, the Twilight Zone TV series has thought of this already – sweet warm dreams?
The Earth has begun moving away from its usual orbit and is gradually rotating towards the sun. A prolific artist, Norma, and her landlady, Mrs. Bronson, are the last people in their apartment building. Everyone else has either moved north where it is cooler or perished from the extremely high temperatures. Norma and Mrs. Bronson try to keep each other company as they see life as they know it erode. They watch in terror as their water supply is turned on for merely an hour a day and their electricity is considerably reduced. Food and water are scarce. As mentioned by a radio reporter, all citizens are to remain indoors and be prepared for a looter rampage. The radio reporter also states that you can “fry eggs on your sidewalk and heat up soup in the oceans”.
As the temperature grows hotter the two women increasingly perspire. Mrs. Bronson’s mind cannot manage the psychological pressures any longer and she beseeches Norma to paint a picture other than hot topics such as a burning city, screaming deliriously, “Don’t paint the sun anymore!”. Footsteps are heard from outside the apartment door. Norma asks her landlady if she locked the doors of the apartment complex. Mrs. Bronson is uncertain if she did. They hear a knock on the door, and Mrs. Bronson starts to answer it as Norma screams for her to not open the door under any circumstances. Norma threatens the mysterious man with a gun and after a few seconds he says he will leave. Unfortunately, despite Norma’s warning to the contrary, Mrs. Bronson opens the door and the stranger forces his way into the apartment and drinks their supply of water. After several moments, he begs for their forgiveness and claims that he is an honest man and would never hurt them, and that he was driven to looting due to the heat. He goes on to describe the recent death of his wife due to complications of childbirth, as well of the death of their newborn child.
Feeling that her latest painting might cheer her friend, Norma displays a beautiful oil of a waterfall cascading over a lush pond, implied to be that of Taughannock Falls near Ithaca, New York (specifically inUlysses). Mrs. Bronson, unable to cope with the unbearable conditions of the raging sun, deliriously claims that she can feel the coolness and delightfully splashes in the imaginary water before she collapses to the floor and dies. The thermometer surges past 120 °F (49 °C), and eventually shatters. As her oil paintings melt, Norma screams and also collapses.
The scene cuts to the apartment at night with snow outside the window. The same thermometer reads −10 °F (−23 °C). Norma is bedridden with a high fever and is accompanied by Mrs. Bronson and a doctor. She was only dreaming that the Earth was moving closer to the sun. In reality, the Earth is moving away from the sun and will eventually freeze. Norma tells Mrs. Bronson about her nightmare, adding, “Isn’t it wonderful to have darkness, and coolness?” Mrs. Bronson replies with a sense of dread in her voice, “Yes, my dear, it’s… wonderful.”
Another big-reversal ending, but it works here because the episode is so remorseless. One of the best-acted and most powerfully photographed episodes of the series. The melting paintings, bursting thermometer and scream of the protagonist matches the best cinema moments, and the relation between the two main characters goes through subtle shifts and reversals. Makes me (almost) want to buy the whole series! Rod Serling was wonderful when the preachiness was under control.
July 8, 2016 at 6:21 pm