Thursday, July 5, 2012

"The After Hours"

Anne Francis as Marsha White, a mannequin turned flesh and blood.

"The After Hours"
Season One, Episode 34
Original Air Date: June 10, 1960

Marsha White: Anne Francis
Saleswoman: Elizabeth Allen
Elevator Operator: John Conwell
Mr. Armbruster: James Millhollin
Mr. Sloan: Patrick Whyte
Miss Keevers: Nancy Rennick

Writer: Rod Serling (original teleplay)
Director: Douglas Heyes
Producer: Buck Houghton
Production Manager: Ralph W. Nelson
Director of Photography: George T. Clemens
Art Direction: George W. Davis and Merrill Pye
Set Decoration: Henry Grace and Keogh Gleason
Assistant Director: Don Klune
Editor: Bill Mosher
Sound: Franklin Milton and Philip Mitchell
Music: Stock
Makeup Effects: William Tuttle

And Now, Mr. Serling:
"Next week you'll see our friends here along with Anne Francis and Elizabeth Allen in one of the strangest stories we've yet presented on The Twilight Zone. It's called 'The After Hours' and concerns the shadowy time when normal people go back to their homes and concurrently what happens to those who perhaps are not quite so normal, or perhaps not quite so human. Intriguing? I think you'll find it so, next week on The Twilight Zone."

Rod Serling's Opening Narration:
"Express elevator to the ninth floor of a department store carrying Miss Marsha White on a most prosaic, ordinary, run-of-the-mill errand.

"Miss Marsha White on the ninth floor, Specialties Department, looking for a gold thimble. The odds are that she'll find it but there are even better odds that she'll find something else because this isn't just a department store. This happens to be. . . The Twilight Zone."

            Marsha White is visiting a large, multi-leveled department store. She walks around the first floor looking at display cases but not finding what she wants. Moving to the elevators, Marsha stands with a small cluster of other shoppers waiting for the next available elevator carriage. Suddenly, the door to a service elevator a few feet away opens up and the uniformed elevator operator calls out the availability of the carriage. It seems as though only Marsha notices the available elevator and walks over.
            Inside the elevator, the operator asks Marsha what she is shopping for today. When Marsha tells the man she is searching for a gold thimble for her mother the operator informs her that it can be found on the ninth floor, Specialties Department. After they silently ride upwards in the carriage, Marsha comments on the strangeness of the situation, that she should be given a private elevator when all those other shoppers were waiting for one. The operator tells Marsha that this elevator is strictly an express elevator to the ninth floor.
            When they arrive on the ninth floor, Marsha quickly exits the elevator only to see that the floor appears to be darkened and sparsely filled with empty display cases. She turns to comment to the elevator operator but the man has already closed the elevator doors and left Marsha on the ninth floor.
            Marsha tries in vain to call the elevator back up and soon resigns herself to looking around the area. It seems to be an abandoned and unused floor until a voice speaks out from the darkness. From the shadows emerges a well dressed and attractive saleswoman that offers to help Marsha. Though taken aback by the woman’s sudden appearance, Marsha nevertheless tells the saleswoman what it is she is looking for and the woman says that they have something in stock that may be just what Marsha wants. The saleswoman leads Marsha over to a seemingly empty display case until the woman turns on an interior light and illuminates a single object on display: a gold thimble, just what Marsha is looking for.
            Though Marsha is clearly finding the whole encounter strange she agrees that this gold thimble is exactly what she is looking for and pays cash for the item. As she turns to walk back toward the elevator, Marsha says, "That's odd." To which the saleswoman replies, "What is, Marsha?" Marsha then goes on to explicate on the strangeness of her experience in the store, the solitary elevator ride, the seemingly empty floor devoted to a single item, the only item that Marsha was looking for, etc. Suddenly Marsha stops, realizing that the saleswoman has called her by her first name. She calls attention to this, stating that she has not given the woman her name nor has she seen the woman around the store. Marsha, now unnerved as well as annoyed, rushes to the elevator. The saleswoman calls out to her once more before Marsha reaches the elevator. "Miss White? Are you happy?" asks the saleswoman. Marsha looks back at the saleswoman, incredulous that this woman would ask her that question. To which Marsha finally replies, "It's none of your business." The saleswoman seems to find this response both hilarious and unbelievable. Marsha goes to the elevator which opens at her approach.
            Marsha, obviously relieved at being back in the elevator and going down to more crowded floors, is complaining to the elevator operator when she realizes that the gold thimble she has just purchased is both scratched and dented. The operator lets Marsha off at the third floor, Complaints Department. There, Marsha runs into a problem. When she complains of her encounter on the ninth floor and the purchasing of the gold thimble, both the department manager and the store manager tell Marsha that the store does not have a ninth floor nor does the store carry gold thimbles. Suddenly, Marsha spies the saleswoman that sold her the thimble and she calls out to the lady only to discover that it is a store mannequin with a terrifying and uncanny resemblance to the woman. Marsha has a near panic attack from this bizarre encounter and is allowed to lie down in the manager's office.
            Marsha falls asleep, the store workers forget about her, and she is inadvertently locked up in the department store after closing hours. The vast and empty building has now become a terrifying entity, alive with voices that seem to pursue Marsha as she runs from one end of the store to the other looking for a way out or someone to help her. The voices, she soon realizes, seem to be coming from the store mannequins, which seem to be scattered about on pedestals everywhere. Marsha runs, always to be confronted by another mannequin at every corner of the store. When one mannequin actually reaches out to her, Marsha loses it, panics and, crying, backs into an opening elevator. It is the express elevator to the ninth floor and when the doors open upon the carriage’s destination, the mannequin figure of the saleswoman who sold Marsha the gold thimble stands there, immobile. Marsha screams and sinks down to the floor of the elevator car. The Saleswoman suddenly moves to Marsha’s side to comfort her and leads Marsha out of the elevator, the whole time telling Marsha that she is overreacting and needs to get a hold of herself.
            As the saleswoman leads Marsha through the ninth floor, the two women pass by several display mannequins who individually come to life and climb down from their pedestals. They encircle Marsha. The saleswoman holds Marsha at arm’s length and implores Marsha to think, to concentrate and try to recollect why she is here in the department store. Recollection eventually dawns on Marsha's face and she remembers everything: she is a mannequin and was given a month to leave the store and live among humans as though herself were made of flesh and blood. Marsha overstayed her vacation and is returning to the store a day late. The saleswoman is the next mannequin scheduled to get a month long vacation out into the world of humans and Marsha has set her back a day. While the other mannequins follow the departing saleswoman to the elevator, all wishing her a wonderful vacation, Marsha and the elevator operator stay behind. The operator asks Marsha if she enjoyed her vacation and Marsha tells him she had so much fun. She had, in fact, completely forgotten who she really was.
            On the following day, the department manager of the store, the man that helped Marsha with her complaint about the damaged gold thimble, is walking through his department, keeping his workers on task when he passes by a mannequin that causes him to pause and give a double take. It is, of course, the mannequin image of Marsha White, on display.

Rod Serling's Closing Narration:
"Marsha White, in her normal and natural state, a wooden lady with a painted face who one month out of the year takes on the characteristics of someone as normal and as flesh and blood as you and I. But it makes you wonder, doesn't it? Just how normal are we? Just who are the people we nod our hellos to as we pass on the street? A rather good question to ask, particularly . . . in The Twilight Zone."

            Rod Serling's "The After Hours" stands as a creative high point not only for the first season but for the entire series. Along with a select number of other episodes, "The After Hours" has achieved the status of cultural milestone, the traits and characteristics of its plot and thematic effects recognizable even to those that have never seen the episode. It is a masterpiece of dramatic fantasy and displays the talents of some of The Twilight Zone's greatest creators in a tightly-written, superbly acted, frighteningly claustrophobic exercise in urban terror.
            From the production side of the episode, much of the advantage lies in the use of a single sound stage upon which director Douglas Heyes could set up any number of cameras to achieve the entire spectrum of extreme shots, from a close-up Marsha White (Anne Francis) calling for help from the other side of a frosted, pebbled glass door, to the high mounted grand perspective shots expertly utilized to display Marsha's panicked run through the empty department store. The set was inherited by the production staff on The Twilight Zone and converted from a previous set used for a large newspaper office into the department store set used for the episode. The jarring juxtaposition from act one to act two, from a busy shopping day during opening hours to the silent darkness of the store after closing hours, displays an unnerving contrast and creates a shuddering effect that makes the episode one of the most genuinely frightening ever produced for the series. Though few, if any, of us viewers have ever been locked inside an enormous department store after closing hours, it is not very difficult to image the terror that would grip you were you in that situation, alone in the darkness without a way out and without knowing your way around. And, of course, there are those voices calling out and those mannequin faces watching your every move.
            Director Douglas Heyes's previous two episodes for the show, "And When the Sky Was Opened" and "Elegy," were competent directing jobs but Heyes would, beginning with "The After Hours," begin to stretch his creative muscles and create the most memorable episodes of the entire series. His directing style is characterized by an intense focus on both character and mood. Heyes likes to move the camera around a great deal and he often experiments with angles and lighting effects to achieve a desired atmosphere. At the same time, Heyes knows well when to keep the audience's attention off the movement of the camera and to focus it upon the actor or actress at a critical junction in the plot. 
            Heyes also seemed to be the director called upon to work on technically challenging episodes. To that effect, Heyes was surrounded by some of the finest in the business with photographer George T. Clemens (a multiple Emmy Award winner for his work on The Twilight Zone) and Academy Award winning makeup artist William Tuttle, not the mention the lavish resources at MGM, where the series was filmed. Producer Buck Houghton expressed that his principle concern for the episode was the effectiveness in how much the mannequin doubles resembled their respective actors/actresses. The solution for veteran makeup artist William Tuttle and his assistant, sculptor Charles Schram, was to cast facial molds of the actors, Anne Francis, Elizabeth Allen, and John Conwell, in order to create life-sized plaster head models which were then painted with acrylics and mounted upon mannequin bodies. The effect, like most of Tuttle's work for the show, is convincing and frightening. For a full examination of William Tuttle's career, refer to the commentary on the earlier episode, "Long Live Walter Jameson."
            The supporting characters in "The After Hours" are capably handled. Elizabeth Allen is suitably unnerving as the saleswoman and veteran character actor James Millhollin offers some effective comic relief in an otherwise grim episode. His double-take of the mannequin and breaking of the fourth wall (looking directly into the camera) to end the episode is whimsical yet seems an apt fit for the odd nature of the episode and remains a perfectly memorable way to close out the play.
            The true acting triumph of the show belongs to Anne Francis as Marsha White. The success of the episode hinged on her performance and Francis brings it off in stunning fashion, marking one of the finest performances from an actress for the entire series. Though author Marc Scott Zicree, in his The Twilight Zone Companion (revised 2nd ed. Bantam, 1989), states that "As a rule, women in The Twilight Zone come across as drab, colorless, uninteresting," I disagree with this assessment. Some of the finest performances of the entire series belonged to actresses, think Inger Stevens in "The Hitch-Hiker," Vera Miles in "Mirror Image," Gladys Cooper in "Nothing in the Dark," Agnes Moorehead in "The Invaders," or Patricia Breslin in "Nick of Time," to name only a few. Anne Francis is another prime example of what a talented actress can do with an able crew and a well-written script. To be fair, Zicree does go on to commend Anne Francis’s performance for “The After Hours.” Francis comes off as fierce, independent, and strong, making the effect of her terrified pursuit and subsequent breakdown all the more shocking, increasing the unease of the episode. Director Douglas Heyes felt that Francis was excellent in the role and undoubtedly improved the episode's quality. Miss Francis often told interviewers that despite her more famous work on the 1956 film Forbidden Planet or the television series Honey West (1965-66) she was often approached by fans to tell her how much they enjoyed her on "The After Hours" and The Twilight Zone. Francis would go on to star as the namesake of writer Earl Hamner's season four episode, "Jess-Belle."
            Rod Serling's script for "The After Hours" is undoubtedly one of his best original teleplays for the series. Serling was well suited to adapt previously existing work and would often improve upon, or at least present an interesting take on, the chosen source material. See his work on "It's a Good Life," "To Serve Man," "The Hitch-Hiker," or "Five Characters in Search of an Exit." When it came to crafting the original teleplay Serling often found himself, no doubt because of his contractual obligation to write 80% of the first season's output, falling back on genre clich├ęs and often garnering calls of plagiarism from professionals in the field. Though there were calls of plagiarism concerning Serling's script for "The After Hours," most strongly by a pulp writer named Frank Gruber, who had submitted a teleplay titled "The Thirteenth Floor" to producer Buck Houghton and felt that Serling swiped "The After Hours" from this submitted teleplay, the claims are most certainly unfounded in the case of this episode. One of the stories most closely associated with this episode is John Collier's often anthologized short story "Evening Primrose." Other than the fact that both stories take place in a department store and that much of the action takes place after closing hours, the two stories are quite different in plot, mood, and resolution. There is no doubt that Serling was familiar with Collier's work and the idea for "The After Hours" may even have germinated in Serling's reading of Collier's story, but Serling took a suitably different approach when crafting his teleplay in order to avoid the plagiarism bug that pursued him throughout his time writing scripts for The Twilight Zone.
            Author Martin Grams documents Serling's feud with writer Frank Gruber over the similarities of Serling's "The After Hours" and Gruber's "The Thirteenth Floor" in his book The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic (OTR, 2008). Grams also notes in his commentary on "The After Hours" that Serling may have been exposed to the John Collier story from its adaptation on the radio show Escape, broadcast on November 5, 1947. Grams claims that Serling was a frequent listener of the show. Writer Frank Gruber made his name writing western and detective stories for pulp magazines, credited as having written over 300 stories for 40 different pulps under a variety of names besides his own, including Stephen Acre, Charles K. Boston, and John K. Vedder. Gruber had a script floating around titled "The Thirteenth Floor" and eventually submitted the script to Rod Serling's Cayuga Productions where it landed in the hands of producer Buck Houghton. Serling claimed to never have read the Gruber script at the time of writing "The After Hours" and the only real similarity in the scripts is that of the setting, a department store, and the plot element that a character ends up on a non-existing floor. In Gruber's script it is the thirteenth floor; in Serling's it is, in final draft form, the ninth floor. The likeness of the scripts ends there. Yet, Gruber took it a few steps further, spreading the word at social gatherings that Rod Serling was a plagiarist. Serling, obviously feeling the need to defend himself, went so far as to send Gruber the shooting script for "The After Hours," confident that the writer would see the obvious differences in the treatments. Gruber, however, replied to Serling in a ranting letter that both admitted the differences and defended Gruber's claims of plagiarism. After Serling sent one final reply to Gruber the situation seemed to end on its own as Serling heard no more from Gruber. Oddly enough, Serling seems to have been comfortable enough with the end of the Gruber feud to include a tale titled "The Thirteenth Story," concerning a hidden floor, in his 1963 book of stories: Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone (Grosset & Dunlap; written in collaboration with pulp writer Walter B. Gibson). This book was a mixture of original stories and adaptations of Twilight Zone episodes and was marketed as "13 new stories from the supernatural especially written for young people." 
              Another interesting aspect concerning plagiarism connects "The After Hours" to Charles Beaumont's marvelous fourth season episode "Miniature." Beaumont's episode was shown for its initial broadcast on February 21, 1963 and not seen again in syndication* due to a charge of plagiarism levied against the episode by the author of a script submitted for consideration during the fourth season. That script was titled "The Thirteenth Mannequin" and concerned a man who so preferred the company of mannequins to other people that the mannequins come to life. It is a story with a title taken from the Frank Gruber story and a plot nearly lifted from "The After Hours," with a bit of "The New Exhibit" as well. Needless to say, the suit was thrown out but the damage remained. "Miniature" was left unseen until the advent of home video packages of the series. The story is detailed in the entry for "Miniature" in Marc Scott Zicree's The Twilight Zone Companion (Bantam, 1989).
              It seems a shame to me that of the many Serling scripts that, whether consciously or not, borrow heavily from unacknowledged source material, such as "Nightmare as a Child" (Truman Capote's "Miriam"), "A Passage for Trumpet" (It's a Wonderful Life), "The Silence" (Anton Chekhov's "The Bet"), “The Obsolete Man” (Orson Welles's version of Franz Kafka's The Trial), or "A Thing About Machines" (Richard Matheson's "Mad House"), an issue would be publicly made for an episode that is suitably original in treatment and execution. Suffice to say that the science fiction and fantasy community of the 1950's and 1960's was a crowded field full of writers covering the same grounds in terms of theme and plot. It was inevitable that there would be similar stories floating around at the same time. Add in the fact that Rod Serling was creator and show runner of an well-regarded and popular television series and it's no surprise that other writers were calling for phantom credits. 
            "The After Hours" was remade quite effectively for the first Twilight Zone revival series. It originally aired on October 18, 1986, directed by Bruce Malmuth, adapted by Rockne S. O'Bannon, and starred Terry Farrell in the role of Marsha White. What made the remake effective is the successful updating of the tale to the styles and settings of 1980's film-making. The method of updating included setting the story in a modern shopping mall of the style which came into vogue during the late 1970's. The episode is one of the creepiest produced for the first revival series and plays upon the inherent body horror aspect of the story with some unnerving makeup effects simulating the transformation from human to mannequin. Though innovative makeup effects reached its zenith during the 1980's, the Twilight Zone revival series generally shied away from flashy displays of makeup effects (in contrast to, say, Tales from the Darkside). "The After Hours" is a pleasant deviation from that norm on the series. It remains one of the darker and more unnerving episodes from the 1980's series and comes recommended. 
            "The After Hours" stands as a creative high point for the series and justifiably remains one of the most popular episodes among fans of the show. The only element truly lacking from the show's production was a fine original musical score from one of the show's mainstay composers like Jerry Goldsmith or Bernard Herrmann. Still, this element does not take away any of the episode's dramatic effect and it remains a seminal piece of work.

*The same fate befell the fifth season episodes "Sounds and Silences," "A Short Drink from a Certain Fountain," and "The Encounter."

Grade: A

James Millhollin stands between Anne Francis and her mannequin likeness
--As stated above, Anne Francis also stars in the fourth season episode, "Jess-Bell."
--Director Douglas Heyes also directed some of the show's most famous episodes, including "The Howling Man," "The Invaders," and "Eye of the Beholder." In addition, Heyes contributed to three episodes of Rod Serling's Night Gallery, writing and directing the first episode, "The Dead Man" (based on the story by Fritz Leiber), and writing two additional episodes, "The Housekeeper" and "Brenda" (based on the story by Margaret St. Clair), both of which were written under the pseudonym Matthew Howard. Heyes reteamed with actress Elizabeth Allen for a classic episode of Boris Karloff's Thriller titled "The Hungry Glass." That episode also featured Zone performers William Shatner, Russell Johnson, Donna Douglas, and Clem Bevans, as well as Heyes's wife Joanna.
---"The After Hours" was originally broadcast with the rarely seen opening intro of a woman's open eye slowly closing and the following alternate introduction narrated by Rod Serling: "You are about to enter another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind, a journey into a wondrous land of imagination. Next stop, the Twilight Zone."
--"The After Hours" was updated and remade for the first revival Twilight Zone series. It aired on October 18, 1986 as part of the second season of the series. It starred Terry Farrell and was directed by Bruce Malmuth. Principle series writer Rockne S. O'Bannon updated Rod Serling's original teleplay. 
--"The After Hours" was adapted as a The Twilight Zone Radio Drama by Dennis Etchison, starring Kim Fields.

--Jordan Prejean


  1. This is an excellent article on "The After Hours." The show is not among my favorites and I have always considered it overrated, but that's just my personal opinion. I have never been very fond of Anne Francis, which may be part of it. Still, I really like Douglas Heyes's work. I have been a TZ fan for decades but this is the first I've heard of the plagiarism complaints. Fascinating!

  2. Once Serling entered the science fiction and fantasy field with the creation of the Twilight Zone, he was occasionally plagued by calls of plagiarism. Some of these calls were from the press, the press being the source of the plagiarism calls comparing "The After Hours" to John Collier's "Evening Primrose," but most were from other professional writers. Besides his feud with Frank Gruber, Serling also had a well known feud with Ray Bradbury, the latter of whom claimed that "Walking Distance" was too much like Bradbury's own fiction.

    Ironically, most of the claims of plagiarism concerned episodes that were suitably original to, in my mind, at least, be free of these claims whereas other episodes, like "Nightmare as a Child" or "A Thing About Machines," both liberally swiped from stories by Truman Capote ("Miriam") and Richard Matheson ("Mad House"), respectively, were all but ignored in this respect.

    The truth of the matter is most certainly that because Serling was obligated to contribute so much original material for the show (80% of all scripts) he found himself unintentionally recycling plots or ideas that he culled from his extensive reading of the current crop of science fiction and fantasy. A similar problem occurred in the comic book industry a few years previous when Ray Bradbury also called out E.C. Comics publisher William M. Gaines and editor Al Feldstein for swiping his stories without his consent or without royalty payments. Like Serling, Gaines and Feldstein were also obligated to produce a vast quantity of original material for their publications and found themselves using plots from well known stories quite unintentionally. I don't believe Serling was an intentional plagiarist because that man had a great respect for writers and treated his writers very well on the show but because he was new to the science fiction and fantasy field when he created his show he was apt to borrow heavily from genre cliches which, by this time, had become recognizable works by established writers in the field. As always, thanks for reading and stay tuned.

  3. I'm very fond of After Hours, which is extremely well made and nice to look at. The central idea isn't in itself all that intriguing but the execution is superb. It brings back memories of when department stores looked just like the one in the episode, and there was always something a little spooky about them, with their passageways between dressing rooms, bargain basements, storage rooms, service elevators, all sorts of "hidden places" that the public wasn't supposed to know about, or know much. It's all there in The After Hours. First rate all the way.

  4. Not to be cruel to another actress but I think we're fortunate that Anne Francis played the lead in The After Hours and not the somewhat similar looking Elizabeth Montgomery. The latter was a gifted light comedienne but I've never been all that impressed by her work as a straight dramatic actress. Or maybe I should say "yes, she can act, but she's just okay".

    In The After Hours Anne Francis was way more than okay, and her performance helps sell the already tall story. This was an episode that needed perfection in just about every department for it to work: art direction, lighting, casting; and it got it.

    Okay, so why come here and diss Miss Montgomery? I don't mean it to be nasty or disrespectful, but I've never seen her generate strong feelings in me or, my sense, viewers in general other than those generated by her smashing good looks and likable personality.

    Anne Francis was almost as attractive as Miss Montgomery, and she had a more sympathetic presence, could generate "audience empathy", something I've never seen the less "vulnerable" Montgomery do. Liz was a knockout, and people liked her.

    Anne was gorgeous, and yet one could also feel for her, as in a memorable Route 66 episode in which she played a woman dying from a dreadful disease that didn't make her look ill. She was riveting in it. In The After Hours she was riveting also. She made the viewer feel trapped, too. Her performance was a major factor in why the episode works as well as it does.

  5. What makes "The After Hours" the series winner that it is, is before the creepy atmospheric quality, the very idea of a woman locked within a dark building, and something latent, yet ultimately making a gruesome acquaintance with its' helpless prey. I don't directly REMEMBER seeing this at four years old, but I must have, because concurrent with my discovery of TZ then, and I paid for my fun having nightmares from it, I found myself fascinated for odd reasons by frightened women and girls locked within dark, disturbing scenarios, and it just didn't let up into my ninth birthday, where I even doodled a picture of a woman laying on the futon by the Ladies room at the local Sears store near my home, and found myself printing "The Twilight Zone" on the drawing I made. I used to wonder about this, but now I think I know. "The After Hours" plays on your fears of being alone in the dark,and more so if you're young and seeing this champion chiller for the first time.

  6. The single most relative clue I not only must have seen this at four, but it must have cast a pall, was an elemental dream I had at six walking down a dark passageway, until I came by a pebbled glass door, locked,and a woman behind it crying "LET ME OUT!!"