It's a Good Life (The Twilight Zone)
|"It's a Good Life"|
|The Twilight Zone episode|
|Episode no.||Season 3
|Directed by||James Sheldon|
|Written by||Rod Serling from the story "It's a Good Life" by Jerome Bixby. First published in the 1953 collection Star Science Fiction Stories No.2.|
|Featured music||Stock plus "Moonglow" and "Stardust"|
|Original air date||November 3, 1961|
"It's a Good Life" is an episode of the American television anthology series The Twilight Zone. It is based on the 1953 short story "It's a Good Life" by Jerome Bixby and is considered by many, such as Time Magazine and TV Guide, to be one of the best episodes of the series.
Tonight's story on The Twilight Zone is somewhat unique and calls for a different kind of introduction. This, as you may recognize, is a map of the United States, and there's a little town there called Peaksville. On a given morning not too long ago, the rest of the world disappeared and Peaksville was left all alone. Its inhabitants were never sure whether the world was destroyed and only Peaksville left untouched or whether the village had somehow been taken away. They were, on the other hand, sure of one thing: the cause. A monster had arrived in the village. Just by using his mind, he took away the automobiles, the electricity, the machines - because they displeased him - and he moved an entire community back into the dark ages - just by using his mind. Now I'd like to introduce you to some of the people in Peaksville, Ohio. This is Mr. Fremont. It's in his farmhouse that the monster resides. This is Mrs. Fremont. And this is Aunt Amy, who probably had more control over the monster in the beginning than almost anyone. But one day she forgot. She began to sing aloud. Now, the monster doesn't like singing, so his mind snapped at her, turned her into the smiling, vacant thing you're looking at now. She sings no more. And you'll note that the people in Peaksville, Ohio, have to smile. They have to think happy thoughts and say happy things because once displeased, the monster can wish them into a cornfield or change them into a grotesque, walking horror. This particular monster can read minds, you see. He knows every thought, he can feel every emotion. Oh yes, I did forget something, didn't I? I forgot to introduce you to the monster. This is the monster. His name is Anthony Fremont. He's six years old, with a cute little-boy face and blue, guileless eyes. But when those eyes look at you, you'd better start thinking happy thoughts, because the mind behind them is absolutely in charge. This is the Twilight Zone.
Six-year-old Anthony Fremont looks like any other little boy, but looks can be deceiving: he is a monster, a mutant with godlike mental powers, including mindreading. Early on, he isolated the small town of Peaksville, Ohio. In fact, the handful of inhabitants do not even know if he destroyed the rest of the world or if he whisked them away to some uncharted territory. Anthony has also eliminated electricity, automobiles, and television signals. He controls the weather and what supplies can be found in the grocery store. Anthony creates and destroys as he pleases (such as when he made and killed a "three-headed gopher"), and controls when and what the residents can watch on the TV.
The adults, including his own parents, tiptoe nervously around him, constantly telling him how everything he does is "good," since displeasing him can get them wished away into a mystical "cornfield," from which there is no return. At one point, a dog is heard barking angrily. Anthony thinks the dog is "bad" and doesn't "like [him] at all," and wishes it into the cornfield. His father and mother are horrified, but they dare not show it.
Finally, at Dan Hollis' birthday party, Dan gets two presents from his wife: a bottle of brandy and a Perry Como record. As he is eager to listen to the record, he is reminded by everyone that Anthony doesn't like singing. Getting slightly drunk from the brandy and complaining about not listening to Perry Como and no one singing "Happy Birthday" to him, Dan cannot take the strain anymore and confronts Anthony, calling him a monster and a murderer. While Anthony's anger grows, Dan yells for someone to kill Anthony from behind, and end his reign of terror. Aunt Amy (who isn't able to sing anymore because of Anthony) tentatively reaches for a fireplace poker, but no one has the courage to act. Anthony cries out to Dan, "You're a bad man! You're a very bad man! And you keep thinking bad thoughts about me!" and points at him. Dan is killed by being transformed into a jack-in-the-box with his human head, causing his now-widowed wife to break down. The adults are horrified at what Anthony has done, and his father begs him to wish it to the cornfield, which he does.
Because of Amy's earlier complaints about the heat, Anthony causes snow to begin falling outside. His father observes that the snow will kill off at least half the crops, and as he is about to confront Anthony about this, his wife and the other adults look on with worried smiles on their faces. The father then smiles and tells Anthony in a horror-tinged voice, "...But it's good you're making it snow. A real good thing. And tomorrow... tomorrow's gonna be a... real good day!"
No comment here, no comment at all. We only wanted to introduce you to one of our very special citizens, little Anthony Fremont, age 6, who lives in a village called Peaksville in a place that used to be Ohio. And if by some strange chance you should run across him, you had best think only good thoughts. Anything less than that is handled at your own risk, because if you do meet Anthony, you can be sure of one thing: you have entered The Twilight Zone.
Reception and Legacy
Rod Serling's map background intro which is seen at the beginning of this episode, was recycled and edited with a sound-alike voiceover artist to place him within the show and accommodate a service elevator theme. This new version serves as the library room pre-show introduction for Disney's Twilight Zone Tower of Terror attractions. The library room also contains other numerous episode artifacts from The Twilight Zone TV series such as Rod Serling's name engraved on a shelf, books titled with all the episode names from the series, and a broken pair of glasses from "Time Enough At Last," among many other things.
In a 1974 interview with Marvel Comics, Rod Serling said "I'm on my third draft of a feature film based on Jerome Bixby's short story, 'It's a Good Life'. We did it originally on Twilight Zone but now we're doing a full-length version. Alan Landsburg, who produced 'Chariots of the Gods?', is producing it. It's in the fantasy-horror genre." This was one of Serling's last interviews before his death in 1975.
An updated remake of this episode with a lighter ending written by Richard Matheson and directed by Joe Dante, was featured as the third segment of 1983's Twilight Zone: The Movie. Bill Mumy also made a cameo appearance in the segment.
In the 2002 revival series, a sequel to this episode was broadcast, entitled It's Still a Good Life. In the episode, Anthony is a middle-aged man who now has a daughter Audrey who has inherited his powers. Bill Mumy and Cloris Leachman reprised their roles from the original episode. Anthony Fremont's daughter, Audrey, is played by actor Bill Mumy's real life daughter Liliana Mumy.
- "Top 10 Twilight Zone episodes". Time. 2009-10-05. Retrieved 2009-10-09.
- TV Guide Guide to TV. Barnes and Noble. 2004. p. 667. ISBN 0-7607-5634-1.
- Rod Serling Recalls - 'Marvel Planet of the Apes' UK Issue 12 (1975)
- "Bill Mumy - Biography". Billmumy.com. Retrieved 2007-06-22.
- "The Twilight Zone | Episode Detail". Zap2it.com. Retrieved 2007-06-22.
- "The Twilight Zone Special Remake Episodes". Sci Fi Weekly. Archived from the original on 2007-08-06. Retrieved 2007-06-22.
Played by Mumy's real life daughter, Liliana Mumy
- Zicree, Marc Scott: The Twilight Zone Companion. Sillman-James Press, 1982 (second edition)
- 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
- Diaz, Junot. Penguin Books New York (2007) The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao p.g 224