Today, January 22nd, This Day in Twilight Zone History and The Twilight Zone Encyclopedia celebrate the 1960 premiere of a classic episode, "The Hitch-Hiker."
Gorgeous Inger Stevens portrays Nan Adams, a woman traveling alone cross-country who begins to see a creepy hitch-hiker (Leonard Strong) dogging her route. No matter how far or how fast she goes, he always seems to be there.
This was one of Rod Serling's best Season 1 episodes, adapted from a radio play by Lucille Fletcher. Not only did it introduce Inger Stevens to TZ fans (she had been working in network television since the mid-1950s) but it placed her in a very relatable situation. Just as Jaws changed the way we all look at the surf and Dressed to Kill changed the way we view elevators, "The Hitch-Hiker" cast a suspicious eye on hitch-hikers and traveling alone.
Stevens was given able support by Leonard Strong, a wonderful character actor who plays the creepy thumb-rider. Get Smart fans will remember him as Maxwell Smart's nemesis, 'The Claw.' And TZ regular Lew Gallo played the sympathetic gas station attendant who starts the show rolling by fixing Nan's car.
So let's raise a Route 66 lunch counter phosphate to everyone involved in "The Hitch-Hiker" and the wild ride it took us into The Twilight Zone.