Today, February 23rd, This Day in Twilight Zone History and The Twilight Zone Encyclopedia celebrate the 1962 debut of writer/director Montgomery Pittman's "The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank."
James Best stars as the title character of this backwoods story of a man who one moment is laying peacefully in his coffin and the next he's up and quite cordial. Needless to say, this has a dramatic effect on the people attending his funeral, including his girlfriend, Comfort (Make Room for Daddy's Sherry Jackson), the local doctor who pronounced him dead (Petticoat Junction's Edgar Buchanan), his mother and father (Ralph Moody, Ezelle Poule), and the minister conducting the service (William Fawcett).
On the surface, this sounds like perfect Earl Hamner Jr. country, but this wild story was concocted and helmed by Montgomery Pittman, who also wrote and directed "Two" and "The Grave" and directed "Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?" and "Dead Man’s Shoes." James Best also starred in Hamner's "Jess-Belle" and co-starred in "The Grave."
Not only did this episode feature such western stalwarts as Edgar Buchanan and William Fawcett, but Dub Taylor takes on the role of Peters, a man who doesn't trust this resurrected ex-corpse. And Lance Fuller, whom many of us know as Brach, he of the high-forehead in This Island Earth, plays Comfort's equally distrusting brother, Orgram.
So let's once again toast in moonshine, a fine example of the macabre, country-style, a tasty morsel on the dinner plate we call The Twilight Zone. And any TZ fans who want to stop by Larry Edmunds Movie Book Shop on Hollywood Blvd. in Los Angeles tomorrow at 2PM, I will be there signing away. We will also have some surprises.