Today, June 10th, This Day in Twilight Zone History and The Twilight Zone Encyclopedia celebrate a real corker of an episode: “The After Hours.”
The first TZ episode listed in my book, this really cool first season Rod Serling-written story stars luminous Anne Francis as befuddled department shopper Marsha White, a woman in search of a gold thimble present. An accommodating elevator operator (John Conwell) takes her to the 9th floor, but Marsha soon discovers herself in a dark, completely deserted section of the store. Then, suddenly, a stern clerk (Elizabeth Allen) appears out of the blue and shows her the thimble she was looking for. It's the only thing in her case. How convenient! Marsha purchases it, gets back in the elevator, and soon discovers that it’s scratched. How inconvenient! However, when she complains to the store manager (James Millhollin), she's informed that there is no 9th floor. Cue TZ theme music.
This is one of those episodes that stays with you forever. How many television series have episodes that stay with you forever? For me, I remember great shows, but seldom great specific episodes. Okay, maybe the candy assembly line episode from I Love Lucy!
Anne Francis, one of Hollywood's truly underrated talents, is just terrific as Marsha. Fortunately, she would return in the equally mesmerizing "Jess-Belle." Kudos also to TZ directing genius Douglas Heyes for supplying the unusual angles and atmosphere to this episode.
So next time you walk into a department store, think of thimbles, Marsha White, and the section just above you – way above you in The Twilight Zone.