I Am the Night—Color Me Black
|"I Am the Night—Color Me Black"|
|The Twilight Zone episode|
|Episode no.||Season 5
|Directed by||Abner Biberman|
|Written by||Rod Serling|
|Featured music||Stock from "Where Is Everybody?" by Bernard Herrmann|
|Original air date||March 27, 1964|
|List of Twilight Zone episodes|
Sheriff Koch (Michael Constantine) can't sleep the night before the execution of a man, as he feels conflicted about the situation. Ella, his wife (Eve McVeagh) is no comfort as she snarls, "What time do they string him up; you know what I mean...what time does he get hung?" Her attitude represents the hateful sentiment of the town that looks forward to the fate of Jagger (Terry Becker), a man who is to be hanged after being wrongfully convicted of killing a bigot in self-defense. On the day of his execution, the sun does not rise in the morning.
There is still some dispute as to whether Jagger is guilty. However, Jagger is hanged anyway, much to the delight of the town. The town reverend (Ivan Dixon) steps in and says the sky is black because of all the hatred in the world, namely the hatred surrounding Jagger's execution. The sky becomes even darker after the execution. Later, a radio broadcast reveals that the town is not the only place where this disturbance is happening. The sky has turned dark over North Vietnam; a section of the Berlin Wall; Chicago; a street in Dallas; Birmingham, Alabama; and other places of hate around the world at that time.
Serling wrote this script primarily as his personal reaction to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. Indeed, mention is made in the story of "a street in Dallas, Texas" (where Kennedy was murdered as his motorcade traveled down Dallas's main street) as being enveloped by the strange darkness.
The episode is similar to "Many, Many Monkeys", a script written for Twilight Zone by its producer, William Froug, but never shot. In that script an epidemic breaks out in which afflicted persons' eyes seal shut as folds of flesh grow over them. Though a nuclear explosion is initially blamed, one character proposes that it is a physical manifestation of hate that is blinding them. The network bought the script but then shelved it, possibly finding its subject matter too disturbing, but it was eventually produced in 1987, during the first revival of Twilight Zone.
Years earlier, Serling had written a teleplay for Playhouse 90 called "A Town Turned To Dust", about the 1870 lynching of an innocent Mexican in a Southwestern town. This story was based on the Emmett Till case, and Serling had to deal with executive interference and network censors before the show could air.
The date that this episode occurs on is May 25, 1964, even though there had not been a legal public hanging at that time in the United States since 1936. However, at the time of the episode's initial 1964 broadcast, Richard Hickock, Perry Smith, George York and James Latham were on death row in the state of Kansas, and were scheduled to die by hanging. (All of their sentences were carried out: Hickock and Smith on April 14, 1965, and York and Latham on June 22, 1965. The last person hanged in the United States was Billy Bailey in 1996, and the punishment remains an option in two U.S. states: Washington and New Hampshire.)
- Gould, Jack. "Prejudice Dissected", New York Times; June 20, 1958; pg. 47. ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times (1851–2006)
- DeVoe, Bill. (2008). Trivia from The Twilight Zone. Albany, GA: Bear Manor Media. ISBN 978-1-59393-136-0
- Grams, Martin. (2008). The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic. Churchville, MD: OTR Publishing. ISBN 978-0-9703310-9-0
- Zicree, Marc Scott: The Twilight Zone Companion. Sillman-James Press, 1982 (second edition)
- "I Am the Night—Color Me Black" at the Internet Movie Database
- "I Am the Night—Color Me Black" at TV.com