One of the most memorable episodes presented on The Twilight Zone was written by Rod Serling and first seen on television in October of 1959. "Walking Distance" features Buck Houghton as producer, Robert Stevens as director and George T. Clemens as director of photography. This finely written story stars Gig Young in the lead role along with a superbly chosen supporting cast, beautiful sets from MGM, and a superlative musical soundtrack composed by Bernard Herrmann.
Themes of Remembrance, Travel & Time
Rod Serling grew up in Binghamton, New York and fondly remembered his childhood experiences at Recreation Park, especially the magnificent carousel and ornate bandstand. There are moments of wistful remembrance enshrined in this remarkable episode, reflections upon travel & transportation, realizations of how distance and time may change our perspectives, and a yearning to rediscover the innocence & vitality of youth.
Cars, Territory & Memories
In the first scene of "Walking Distance" we see a sports car rapidly driving directly toward the camera, just about to bypass a country gas station in a relatively rural area. The driver comes to an abrupt halt off-camera and then quickly backs up to the vicinity of the gas pumps at the station. There is a bit of dust flying in the air as Martin Sloan (Gig Young) impatiently honks the horn for service, trying to gain the attention of the busy attendant in the background. We can sense this businessman's competitive spirit, his tight schedule of preordained appointments and his somewhat edgy demeanor in dealing with the tasks at hand. Rod Serling's voice-over speaks about Martin Sloan "looking for sanity up the road," seeking an "exodus" but finding something a bit different from what might be expected. The attendant says it will take about an hour to do an oil change and lube job, to which Martin responds "I'm not in a hurry." As Martin gazes toward a sign which says "Homewood - 1.5 miles" across the street on the side of the road, he rather wistfully states "Grew up there. Haven't been back in 20/ 25 years." 1.5 miles is walking distance from the location of the gas station, a trip which he decides to undertake while his car is being serviced.
The Vortex of the Past
The next scene features the soda fountain/ drug store which we associate with small-town America in the 1930's/ 1940's. While an overhead fan circulates in steady fashion, Martin enters this fascinating place, glancing at the fully stocked shelves, taking notice that he is the only customer in this magnificent emporium. A soda jerk emerges from behind the fountain just as Martin reminisces that the town still looks "exactly the same," a picture postcard of historic preservation. "It's funny, how many memories you connect with a place," says Martin as he enjoys an ice cream soda. He thought that everything would be changed, but it's as if he just left yesterday, "Just as if I'd been away overnight."