"The Grave" is the seventh episode of the third season of The Twilight Zone, and was first broadcast in October of 1961. It starred Lee Marvin as bounty hunter Connie Miller, and Lee Van Cleef, Strother Martin and James Best as a trio of townspeople.

The Twilight Zone has had a few episodes with a Western theme, ranging from the predictable Mr. Denton on Doomsday to the dark Dust. This is perhaps the most Western of the Western episodes, with the cast all being well known names in the Western genre. Although I am not well-versed in the history of Westerns, this episode had many of its stars in a transitional period between the television Westerns of the 1950s, which could be somewhat campy, and their later work in the movie Westerns of the 1960s, which were much more epic.

The plot of the episode follows a group of townsfolk who have finally managed to shoot and kill an outlaw named Sykes who has been terrorizing their town. Connie Miller, a bounty hunter who they hired to find and defeat the killer, comes into town shortly afterwards. His search had been futile, and they taunt him for being a coward for not being able to catch Sykes. After some time, they offer him a wager that he can't go to the grave of the recently dead Sykes. He heads out into the cold and windy night to visit the grave of his rival, and as usual, there is a twist as to what happens.

One of the good things about The Twilight Zone is that because it was not a straight horror program, there is always some ambiguity about what is happening. This is one of the many Twilight Zone episodes where nothing supernatural needs to have happened at all. But the real ambiguity came earlier in the show, when Miller first discusses with the trio of townspeople why his mission to find Sykes was unsuccessful. He says that he searched as hard as he could, but Sykes ran from him, while the rumor is that he was afraid of confronting Sykes. At least to me, it was ambiguous who was telling the truth, and whether Miller was a competent and tough man trying to explain his actions to petty people, or whether he was a swaggering bully who was trying to cover his own fear.

Given the strength of the cast, and how much drama the episode held in just a few scenes, this is one of many Twilight Zone episodes that comes across as a feature film bottled up into 25 minutes.

2014 Horrorquest

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