The Twilight Zone

Season 5 Episode 22

An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

Aired Unknown Feb 28, 1964 on CBS
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Episode Fan Reviews (5)

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8.7
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  • A haunting exercise in film-making from the subjective point of view of a man soon to be hanged during the American Civil War.

    9.5
    Technically, however you slice it or dice it - this IS NOT A TWILIGHT ZONE EPISODE. It is a French short subject film and it's hard to understand how people could ignore the truth of its origin since it won awards for best short subject at Cannes in '62 and the Oscars in '63! It wasn't until the next year that it appeared on the Twilight Zone.

    Also its real name is not "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge." That IS the title of the late 19th Century story on which it's based. The true title of this film is, "La Rivière du Hibou." I'm not being a smartypants here nitpicking about a language change. No, my grasp of French tells me the actual translation is, "The River of the Owl." One could argue that it's not such a big difference, yet distort any five word title into a six word title, retaining only one of the original words and you'll realize you're repackaging the work. When the French produced this movie, I think it's safe to assume, it never entered their minds that it would ever appear on an established American TV series.

    This all said, I do love the film. As so often happens with well-made psychological tales, black and white is the preferred format. The production has a definite French experimental feel. Yet its dearth of dialogue lends itself to being accessible by someone of any nationality.

    Even though this is an episode review, I am reluctant to go into any real depth about the story, as it holds so much more strength through its misty unfolding. Robert Enrico, the director, chose to offer a bit of storytelling where the action is solely performed by people, yet nature provides much of the sound we hear. On one level we watch and follow the actors realizing the forest, water and wildlife are very pervasive. Then upon further reflection, Enrico was probably trying to depict the opposite rationality, namely that humans are but passing figures largely irrelevant to nature on any given day. Our dreams, travails and troubles are aggrandized because of our subjective mentality, where we either think of ourselves as outside the natural world or above it. As for the quality of the film, the approach befits the subject matter. The cinematography and lighting seem to ally with the sound, making the actors seem wispy. Your attention is well kept and by the end you realize you've watched something special.

    On a personal note, I first saw this movie as a young child and really didn't think of it or cognitively remember it. Then in my junior year of high school we watched it during a literature class. I realized I had seen it before, but it must have when I was very young because it became familiar as scenes passed; my mind not recalling what would happen next. It was a sensation akin to déjà vu . It sort of heightened the eerie effect of the film. One last personal note: we watched two movies that day in high school. The other one was "The Fatal Glass of Beer" starring W. C. Fields. Now how's that for eerie?
  • In the midst of the Civil War, a Confederate spy is about to be hanged off a railroad bridge by Union soldiers. However, the rope breaks and he falls into the river. The man manages to survive a hail of gun and artillery fire and escape. Or did he?

    10

    This episode was originally used as source material for The Twilight Zone television series. It's influence can be seen in other episodes of the series ("The Invaders" for example, which features a lead character who never speaks.). After viewing this episode any fan of the show can see why the late Rod Serling thought so highly of this Oscar winning short film. It's extremely entertaining, very well written and even a little scary. The condemned man's journey back to his home is very exciting. The music used in this episode adds to the episode's appeal. This is "An Occurrence" you should see!

  • A Classic Episode in the Twilight of the Series

    10
    In its very essence, this is the quintessential "Twilight Zone" episode. I was confused from another review on this page claiming this episode to be uncharacteristic of the series and people blatantly ignoring its roots. It's impossible to watch the episode without appreciating the homage, hence Rod Serling's very unique introduction.



    Now, this episode may have a different approach than the rest of the series, but that doesn't make it any less a "Twilight Zone" themed episode; as Rod Serling always said: "This is the dimension of imagination" - and that truly is this episode's theme. When real cinematic flavor is added, corny acting removed and the real genius of Rod Serling coming to life in a brilliant homage to a spectacular French short film, you have the culmination of a series presented to you in a way never experienced.



    It may not be my favorite episode, and it may not be yours, but it is certainly worth watching. I hope this review was helpful.
  • Not really a review, just a comment

    9.0
    This short film, I think, portrays the pathos of execution almost just as well as Kubrick's Paths of Glory. But this has one up on Paths of Glory, unless you see the twist coming (unfortunately, I did). The audience knows the prisoners aren't getting away in the Kubrick film; it's really more about the psychological torment of knowing exactly when you're going to die. In this, the audience's emotions are played with; there is a sense of hope that he really is escaping. Hope is natural human reaction to an indifferent world where anybody could die meaninglessly at any moment. The end of the dream and the crushing of that hope expresses the reality of the human condition fantastically. Like an EMS medic telling someone they're going to be okay when they know they aren't, it's so pathetically human. Serling, in his own right, was brilliant, but the fact that he used his show to share something he thought was brilliant was admirable, to say the least.
  • A Perfect Fit!

    9.0
    In actuality this is not an episode of "The Twilight Zone" but the French film La rivire du hibou, that won the Palme d'Or for Best Short Film at the Cannes Film Festival in 1962. Bill Froug, producer of the "The Twilight Zone," had seen this film and was impressed by it. He convinced CBS to purchase the television rights to it for $10,000 to bring the series under budget. The title was translated, the film itself was shortened by several minutes, Serling's introduction and conclusion were added and it was aired on television in the same manner as a "Twilight Zone" episode. Variety magazine praised it as "a fascinating and eerie Ambrose Bierce tale, it fits perfectly into the Zone. They were right.



    "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" is very gripping, such as when Peyton Farquhar (Roger Jacquet) plunges into the river with his hands and legs bound. The shots of him struggling to untie himself underwater are hair-raising as all around him you see the bottom of the river-a place where no human has any place being. Then things only get worse after he outswims Yankee gunfire and gets swept away in the rapids. Once he washes up on shore he seems to be safe, but he still must run to his homestead, and he must do so barefoot because he had to remove his boots on the bottom of the river to surface. Finally, he does reach his home but before he and his wife can embrace he finds himself back at Owl Creek Bridge hanging by the neck dead, leaving us to ponder the final thoughts of those condemned to death. In all, this film does justice to the short-story by Ambrose Bierce and was worthy of its Palme d'Or as well as the Oscar it won for Best Live Action Short Subject in 1963.