Tuesday, February 2, 2016


Charles Bronson and Elizabeth Montgomery at the
beginning of a new life.
Season Three, Episode 66
Original Air Date: September 15, 1961

The Man: Charles Bronson
The Woman: Elizabeth Montgomery

Writer: Montgomery Pittman (original teleplay)
Director: Montgomery Pittman
Producer: Buck Houghton
Production Manager: Ralph W. Nelson
Director of Photographer: George T. Clemens
Art Direction: George W. Davis and Phil Barber
Set Decoration: H. Web Arrowsmith
Assistant Director: Darrell Hallenbeck
Editor: Bill Mosher
Sound: Franklin Milton and Bill Edmondson
Music: Nathan Van Cleave

Rod Serling’s Opening Narration:
“This is a jungle: a monument built by nature honoring disuse, commemorating a few years of nature being left to its own devices. But it’s another kind of jungle, the kind that comes in the aftermath of man’s battles against himself. Hardly an important battle, not a Gettysburg or a Marne or an Iwo Jima. More like one insignificant corner patch in the crazy quilt of combat. But it was enough to end the existence of this little city. It’s been five years since a human being walked these streets. This is the first day of the sixth year—as man used to measure time. [Enter the Woman] The time? Perhaps a hundred years from now. Or sooner. Or perhaps it’s already happened two million years ago. The Place? The signposts are in English so that we may read them more easily, but the place—is the Twilight Zone.”

            We open on a deserted city, a city that said goodbye to the spirit of progress and the electric hum of bustling streets ages ago. A city that clings to a world forgotten, one ripped apart and abandoned by those who helped build it. A city whose buildings lay in ruin, whose streets are littered with debris, whose stores are empty. A lonely city.
            A young woman enters the city. She walks its streets and gazes at its buildings, she admires its artwork. Her clothes, a military uniform, are tattered and dirty, her hair unkempt. Her face is worn with exhaustion and caked with dirt and time. Still, she is beautiful.
She spots the remnants of a restaurant and makes her way to the kitchen. She rummages through trash and rubble and finds a sealed container of food. As she works to open it a young man appears in the doorway. He is also wearing a uniform, one different from hers. The woman immediately begins hurling objects at the man. He dodges them and approaches her. After a short struggle he knocks her unconscious. After searching around for food he wakes her up by dumping a bucket of water on her face. The woman jolts up and the man slides the can of food towards her. He tries to communicate with her but fails because she doesn’t understand his language. He continues talking anyway and tells her that since there are no more armies or governments left then there is no reason for them to fight. He waxes philosophically to himself for a moment then leaves.
The woman follows after him, cautiously. They walk through the city, rummaging through shops, taking what they need. They stop at a movie theater and admire film posters from another world. The man takes a wedding gown from a window display. He hands the dress to the woman encouragingly and she walks inside an abandoned recruiting office to change. While inside she spots a war propaganda poster in which her homeland is presumably portrayed as the enemy. Enraged, she grabs her rifle and charges outside. She fires at the man but misses. He stares back at her in disbelief and then walks away. Confused and embarrassed, she goes back inside the store.
She returns later and sees the man wearing a suit. He tells her to go away, that he is done fighting. She emerges from behind a bus wearing the wedding dress. Her face is apologetic and eager. She is ready to move on. The man looks at her for a moment and tells her she is beautiful and she smiles.
She joins him as they stroll quietly through the littered streets of the forgotten city, man and woman, on their way to another city and to tomorrow.

Rod Serling’s Closing Narration:
            “This has been a love story, about two lonely people who found each other…in the Twilight Zone.”

            For the Season Three premiere the producers chose this sweet, poignant story about love and survival in a post-nuclear world. It may not seem like a bold decision today, but “Two” was a risky choice for the season opener. There are only two actors in the entire episode, little dialogue, and basically no plot. And for the first time in the show’s history the producers chose an episode not written by Serling as the season opener, an episode penned by someone who had never written for the show before. The risk proved to be well worth it, however, and the result is a warm, well-crafted fairytale delivered in the show’s signature brand of pathos and wonder.
            Montgomery Pittman holds a unique spot in the show’s history. He is the only writer to direct his own episodes, which he did a total of three times. He also directed two additional episodes written by others. Considering the short time he was involved with the show, Pittman’s output is both impressive and significant. He seemed to appear out of nowhere at the end of Season Two and by the middle of Season Three he had disappeared just as quickly. He may have contributed much more to the show had he been given the opportunity. Unfortunately, The Twilight Zone would be one of his last projects. He succumbed to cancer in June of 1962. He was 45.
Although his career spanned only a decade or so, his body of work is impressive. He started on Broadway as an actor then moved to Hollywood where he turned his attention to writing and eventually directing. Pittman made the leap to directing his own scripts mostly due to his frustration with directors and networks altering his material. This may have been why he was attracted to a venue like The Twilight Zone, where the writer was often the star of the show and the producers took great care to preserve the original script. He was primarily known during his lifetime as a writer of western television, penning teleplays for Maverick, Sugarfoot, Cheyenne, and Lawman, among others. He had worked with Buck Houghton several years before as a writer on Schlitz Playhouse.
            While his two other writing efforts on The Twilight Zone are probably better representations of his style and personality, “Two” is Pittman’s crowning achievement on the show. The plot is simple and the dialogue sparse. He simply sets up a situation in Serling’s opening monologue and hides a few plot points in Bronson’s dialogue and in various set pieces. Explanatory exposition is always tricky for a writer and Pittman pulls it off brilliantly without saying hardly anything. This episode works because it appeals to many themes the show had already explored and would continue to explore until the end of its run. On the surface it’s a post-apocalyptic story about life after the big war. But it’s not a cautionary tale. It’s simply a story about loneliness and about two individuals who find each other in the aftermath of devastation. It’s warm-hearted but it doesn’t pour on the sentimentalism to the point of nausea like many of the lighter episodes do.
This episode is notable for featuring early performances from two actors who later became parts of Hollywood immortality. With little dialogue and only a vague concept of a plot it was largely up to the actors to make this story believable. If their chemistry wasn’t genuine then the entire episode was lost. To play the part of the Woman, Houghton enlisted a largely unknown actress named Elizabeth Montgomery, daughter of actor Robert Montgomery. This is several years before her iconic role on Bewitched and she is almost unrecognizable here as a brunette with tattered military clothes and a dirt smeared face. The part called for her to remain silent for nearly the entire episode. This meant that her thoughts and emotions had to be conveyed through physical mannerisms and facial expressions. She pulls this off nicely and there is never a moment in the episode where the audience is unsure of her thought process.
               Charles Bronson plays the part of the Man. This was an interesting casting choice albeit a brilliant one. At this point in his career Bronson had primarily made his living in television often playing a villain, vigilante killer, detective, or similar brutish-type character. But a year or so before this episode he landed a part in The Magnificent Seven where he played the role of Bernardo O’ Reilly, a hardened gunfighter who turns out to have a soft spot when he gives his life to save a group of small children. This role was a turning point for Bronson and it helped mold his on-screen image as the archetypal tough guy with a moral center. It’s this persona that he brings to his performance here. His physical appearance and demeanor give the audience the first impression of a brute without a conscience. But he turns out to be a sympathetic character. Pittman plays against gender stereotype here and Bronson’s character, the male, is the one resisting a confrontation while the attractive female is the aggressor. Bronson seems to understand this for he plays the character with an equal mix of wisdom, anger, and hope.
            Van Cleave’s score deserves a nod here as well for it also helps to convey the thoughts of both characters, particularly Montgomery’s. It's suspenseful when it needs to be, whenever the characters feel as though they are in danger, but mostly takes a sad stroll with them throughout the city. They are many scenes, however, that have no music or dialogue at all. It was most likely Pittman’s decision to leave these scenes with nothing but sound effects in order to convey how empty and still the city is supposed to be.
            The first time I saw this episode I found it enjoyable but forgettable. Over the years, however, I have developed an attachment to it. It has a refreshing quality that isn’t cheap or sugary-sweet like many of the show’s happier episodes. It’s a doomsday story without the same tired message that often accompanies such fare. Instead, it begins as one type of story and ends as another, leaving the audience with empathy for these two characters and quite possibly a better understanding of themselves.

Grade: B

Grateful acknowledgment is made to:

"A Somewhat Forgotten Figure to Some Extent Remembered: Notes on Television Director, Script Writer, and Occasional Actor Montgomery Pittman" by John Desmond. Bright Lights Film, October, 2010.

The Twilight Zone Companion, Second Edition by Marc Scott Zicree (Silman-James, 1989)

--Montgomery Pittman also wrote and directed Season Three’s “The Grave” and “The Last Rights of Jeff Myrtlebank.” He also directed Season Two’s “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?” and Season Three’s “Dead Man’s Shoes.” For a more in-depth look at his career check out this cool essay by John Desmond.
--“Two” was adapted into a Twilight Zone Radio Drama starring Don Johnson.
--This episode was shot at Hal Roach Studios in Culver City, CA where numerous influential comedy films were shot during the silent and early sound eras including those of Laurel and Hardy and early Harold Lloyd two-reelers. Part of the studio backlot was in disrepair and was about to be demolished. Houghton thought the decaying scenery would suit the episode well.
--Buck Houghton previously worked with Charles Bronson on the television series Man With a Camera (1958-1960).
--At the time this episode was produced, Elizabeth Montgomery was married to actor Gig Young, who'd previously starred in the exceptional first season episode, "Walking Distance." They divorced in 1963. Montgomery also appeared alongside Dick York, Agnes Moorehead, and David White on Bewitched, all four of whom appeared in episodes of The Twilight Zone. York appeared in "The Purple Testament" from season one and "A Penny For Your Thoughts" from season two, Moorehead starred in the highly regarded second season episode "The Invaders," and White appeared in "A World of Difference" from season one, and "I Sing the Body Electric" from season three.  



  1. Thanks for this interesting piece on "Two." I have always liked Pittman's episodes and did not know about his early death.

  2. Thanks, Jack. I feel like Pittman is the forgotten writer of the show even though he contributed three original teleplays. And two of his episodes are filled with well-known Hollywood stars. I think he just didn't have any stand-out fan favorites, although all of his episodes are enjoyable.