|Season 2, Episode 15. |
Originally aired January 27, 1961.
"This is one of the out-of-the-way places. The unvisited places. Bleak. Wasted. Dying. This is a farmhouse, handmade, crude. A house without electricity or gas. A house untouched by progress."
"This is the woman who lives in the house, a woman who’s been alone for many years. A strong, simple woman whose only problem up until this moment has been that of acquiring enough food to eat."
|"A woman about to face terror which is even now coming at her... from the Twilight Zone."|
"The Invaders" is one of those Twilight Zone episodes that takes a classic Hollywood star -
|Agnes Moorehead, one of the original Mercury Players and later rebranded even more enduringly - something that irritated her greatly - as Endora on Bewitched.|
and places her in the fantastic scenarios the series so often explores.
This undoubtedly worked to the show's advantage - much easier to accept said-fantastic-scenario if the face on the screen is the trusted celebrity of yesteryear. And unlike the faded-celeb-sploitation of later eras, the presence of so many classic Hollywood actors and directors - Mooerhead, Dana Andrews, Richard Conte, Buster Keaton, Ida Lupino, Jacques Tourneur, Ann Blyth, Mickey Rooney, to name some of the more prominent ones - in so many classic episodes only enhances their already considerable CVs.
In Moorehead's case, she gets to carry a mostly wordless episode where she communicates only via pantomime, hissing, and guttural moans. As the from AV Club notes: "(Her) performance almost completely lacks vanity, and it’s a wonder to behold. She thrashes around on the floor in pain. She lets drool drip from her lips in her one extreme close-up. She acts more like some strange creature than a human being."
|"And, of course, she is a strange creature."|
The story is simple. Moorhead's wordless character lives in this remote ramshackle home and hears something land on the roof. (Or, rather, crash through it.) She investigates to discover a flying saucer and two Michelin-men-looking spacemen, armed with ray guns. She knocks one of them down the hatchway, and the other shoots at her.
|These clever little spacemen adapt quickly, making good use of one of her knives to lay in wait and slash at her ankles.|
|They also trick her into reaching for the doorhandle to slash at her hands.|
Of course, things can end only one way:
As she smashes the ship, she hears something from inside - the final report of the last of the invaders, sending out an exhausted last transmission: "Gresham is dead... Incredible race of giants here. No counter attack... too powerful! Stay away! Gresham and I are…finished." At which point we pan over the only part of ship left intact:
"These are the invaders: the tiny beings from the tiny place called Earth, who would take the giant step across the sky to the question marks that sparkle and beckon from the vastness of the universe only to be imagined. The invaders, who found out that a one-way ticket to the stars beyond has the ultimate price tag. And we have just seen it entered into a ledger that covers all the transactions of the universe, a bill stamped 'paid in full,' and to be found on file…in the Twilight Zone."
As mentioned at the ol' vortex: "One of the most memorable features of this episode is the panic-laden score composed by Twilight Zone veteran Jerry Goldsmith. No doubt taking a cue from Bernard Hermann's famous score for Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, which was released the year before, Goldsmith uses mostly harsh strings and occasional piano arrangements which greatly add to the unsettling atmosphere in this episode."
Poor Bernard Hermann. In the days before sampling, his work for Hitchcock must have been lifted in a hundred different ways, but his work for Psycho - so much more than a score and more like contributing new vocabulary to all of cinema, still in circulation today - more than any. Not that I mind here - the score for "The Invaders" definitely elevates an already-great episode into the absolutely-essential.