The Twilight Zone – Complete Series Review – Season 3 Episode 12 – The Jungle

Alan and Doris Richards are Manhattanites living on Central Park in a luxury apartment building.  By appearances they are very well off and shouldn’t have a care in the world.  But the Richards have just returned from central Africa where Alan is an engineer working on a large hydroelectric dam project.  When we first meet them, Alan is telling Doris the story of where he found his missing cuff link.  It was in her jewelry box but in addition to jewelry, he found a severed human finger, a vulture’s claw and several other voodoo good luck charms from the tribal culture that they were neighbors to in Africa.  When Alan threatens to throw the items in the fireplace Doris admits to keeping them and begs him to hold onto the items to protect him from the witch doctor’s wrath for interfering with the land used for the dam.  Alan tosses the items in the fire and heads off to his business meeting at the engineering firm he works for.

At the meeting we find out that Alan actually has a stronger belief in the power of the witch doctor’s spells than he let on to Doris.  When Alan tells the board what the witch doctor promised if the dam were built, they scoff.  In return he asks them about their own superstitions, a rabbit’s foot on one man’s key chain, astrology, knocking wood, not walking under ladders, the very building they were sitting in not having a thirteenth floor.  The board members are agitated but none plan to rescind the order to build the dam that will trigger the witch doctor’s curse.

In the next scene Alan is at a midtown bar drinking some scotch when he shows his friend a lion’s tooth that Doris has hidden in his jacket pocket to protect him from lions.  After scoffing at the superstitious talisman, he drops it on the bar and leaves.  But when he gets to his car it won’t start up.  He heads back to the bar and finds it closed and empty but on the bar, he can see the tooth.

He goes to a pay phone to call home but there’s no answer.  When he walks away the phone rings but when he picks it up all he hears on the line are jungle noises.  Now he starts walking toward home on the other side of Central Park but hears jungle drums and animals screeching and then a large animal in the tree above him.  At that moment a taxi appears and Alan jumps in the cab, gives his address and sits back in relief.  When the cab stops at a red light the driver slumps over dead in his seat and Alan retreats from the cab and starts walking home again in a near panic as the jungle noises get louder and louder.  A pan handler bums a ten dollar bill off him and Alan asks if the man will escort him home.  But when he asks the man about the jungle noises it must unnerve him because he disappears.

Now Alan runs home in full flight from the jungle drums and lion roars that surround him.  When he reaches his building, the sound reaches a crescendo and as he fumbles with the entrance door he falls to his knees in despair.  But suddenly the noises cease.  Relieved he enters the building and takes the elevator to his floor and enters his apartment where he pours himself a drink and exhales a sigh of relief.

But then he hears the sound of a lion grunting and quietly growling from his bedroom.  Alan walks over to the door, gathers his courage and slowly opens the door.  On the bed is a smashed but still lit lamp, the body of Doris and an enormous male lion.  We see the dazed expression on Alan’s face just before we are shown the lion leap from the bed and hear Alan’s death scream.

This is one of those goofy episodes that, depending on my mood, could be a D or if I feel sympathetic a B-.  In its favor Alan is played by John Dehner, one of my favorite Twilight Zone character actor.  He always contributes an aura of gravitas whether he is rescuing a marooned prisoner from an asteroid or selling resurrection (or insurance against) to the not quite mourning relatives of the dearly departed.  In the minus column is the spectacle of someone managing to be alone in midtown Manhattan.  Ah, let’s take the high road B-.