0 comment Saturday, May 24, 2014 | admin
Directed by Douglas Heyes
Written by Charles Beaumont, Based on his short story
Starring H. M. Wynant, John Carradine, and Frederic Ledebur
On today's episode of "It Came From The Devil Box," we offer up a tale that, well, actually has to do with some devils. This episode comes from Rod Serling's immortal program "The Twilight Zone." For those of you who haven't seen at least one episode of this incredible piece of television, do yourself a favor by experiencing the spectacle that is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, this glorious dimension of imagination. As a matter of fact, wary traveler, it wouldn't be a bad idea to start with the story up for examination today...
David Ellington stands before a window while a tempestuous storm rages in the night outside. He looks desperately to an unseen figure, pleading them to believe the wild and unimaginable tale he has to tell. The storm outside has special significance for the old man, as it was on an evening just like this that his story took place. It took place sometime shortly after the first World War. Ellington was on a walking trip through Europe when he became hopelessly lost in a storm.
Ellington comes upon a lighted castle and bangs upon the oak door for salvation. A giant, bearded man answers the call but is hesitant on letting Ellington inside. Promising just to stay for a short period until the storm passes and he has time to rest, Ellington is able to gain entry into threshold. As he stumbles about sick with fever, Ellington is told by the giant that he will consult with Father Jerome to discuss David�s stay. While the hermit is gone, Ellington hears an anguished howl ring out through the hallowed walls.
The giant tells David the sound was only the wind blowing and then takes him into the private quarters of Father Jerome. The elderly hermit vehemently denies allowing a stranger to spend an evening in the castle and instantly orders Ellington to return to the coldness outside. Before he can even make it to the door, David collapses onto the floor from the sickness brought on by the harsh weather. The hermits gather around his prostrate form and silently agree to shelter the lost soul.
Waking from his feverish stupor, David begins walking through the shadowy corridors of the hermitage, the ghastly howls incessantly shattering the silence. Seeking the source of the noise, Ellington is drawn to a heavy door with a small, barred opening. Looking inside, Ellington spots a haggard young man who rushes over to him, pleading to be saved from the mad hermits. The man tells Ellington that he is a prisoner of the castle, locked away after Jerome caught the man kissing his own wife in the village and then thrown into the dungeon on account of his "sin."
Jerome interrupts the scene to take Ellington away into his offices. Ellington demands Father Jerome to explain why there is a prisoner in the hermitage, but the old man denies there being any man imprisoned in the castle. The priest�s resistance causes Ellington to threaten to go to the police and expose the dark doings of the hermitage. Jerome finally concedes and promises Ellington that he shall explain the story behind the prisoner. Just then a piercing howl causes Jerome to cover his ears; he admits to hearing the howls, as they have tortured him for the past five years. He then delivers a startling declaration to Ellington: it is no mere man that is locked away in the hermitage� but the very Devil himself!
According to Jerome, the ordeal began when the hermitage was given the rotting castle as a donation from an esteemed European family. While there the brotherhood would tend the vineyards and guide the castle�s inhabitants in prayer. After the Great War had ravaged the land, it seemed the entire world was in chaos and despair. The only exception seemed to be the village directly below the mountains, a hamlet that was happy and blissful despite the turmoil occurring around them. The town was ripe picking for Satan and he sought to break the town�s spirit with sin and lies. The Devil had underestimated Jerome�s power and was soon imprisoned in the castle, kept under guard by the Staff of Truth that serves as the door�s lock.
Jerome begs Ellington to believe his story, asking him to observe how the Earth has been free from great plagues and war for the last few years. Ellington pledges his allegiance to Jerome and swears that he will not speak a word of the matter to anyone. After he is let out of the office, Ellington goes to the man�s cell to discuss the exchange with the prisoner. The man laughs at Jerome�s devil theory, musing on how a devil�s greatest dream is to catch the Devil. Ellington confesses that he doesn�t actually believe the old man and before he can promise the man that he�ll set him free, the giant Christophorus takes Ellington away to his room, locking him in for his own protection.
As Christophorus dozes, Ellington slips the key from around his neck and makes his escape, grabbing a cloak before leaving the room. After locking the hermit inside, Ellington goes over to the dungeon where the man waits ecstatic at the sign of release. The prisoner tells Ellington that he must first lift the staff that is barring the door in order to let him out. Ellington is perplexed; the man could very well have dislodged the staff himself. Goaded by the man�s frantic pleas, Ellington removes the staff from the door as Christophorus screams from the room.
Ellington hands the man the cloak as he steps from his prison. Just as they are about to make a run for it, the man raises his hand in the air, causing Ellington to convulse and fall to the ground. Smiling wickedly, the man casually walks to the other side of the room, finally transformed into his true terrible form when he turns to look back at Ellington. Giving one last triumphant sneer, the howling man disappears in a cloud of hell-spawn fire and smoke. Jerome can only lament as the stupefied Ellington solemnly promises to himself to right the wrongs he has done by tracking the Devil down again.
Back in Ellington�s apartment, it is revealed that the person he is speaking to is a meek maid. He excitedly shows her that he has indeed recaptured Satan and is keeping him locked away with a smaller staff. Ellington has to leave in order to make the arrangements to have Jerome reclaim his prisoner and instructs the maid on a few fine points before he leaves. He warns that under no circumstances must she open the door and advises to simply ignore the howling. After he departs, the maid is startled by a frightening cry that emanates from the locked room. Her curiosity piqued, she lifts the staff from its place and the door swings open�
"The Howling Man" is an exemplary episode from the outer reaches of "The Twilight Zone." It is one of their more horror-geared stories to boot. The stranger stumbling upon the foreboding castle one dark and stormy night is genuine Gothic goodness. The camera twists marvelously throughout the episode, each distorted frame adding to the feeling of Ellington's confusion over who is telling the truth. I can watch this episode over and over and still be thrilled and mystified by the story. That is a true testament to the resilience and vitality of this incredible series. The howls that the man (or is it?) cries out will continue to resonate in your mind long after the credits roll. Just whatever you do... DON'T OPEN THAT DOOR!