Long Distance Call
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|"Long Distance Call"|
|The Twilight Zone episode|
|Episode no.||Season 2
|Directed by||James Sheldon|
|Written by||Charles Beaumont and William Idelson|
|Original air date||March 31, 1961|
|“||As must be obvious, this is a house hovered over by Mr. Death, an omnipresent player to the third and final act of every life. And it's been said, and probably rightfully so, that what follows this life is one of the unfathomable mysteries, an area of darkness which we, the living, reserve for the dead - or so it is said. For in a moment, a child will try to cross that bridge which separates light and shadow, and, of course, he must take the only known route, that indistinct highway through the region we call The Twilight Zone.||”|
A boy named Billy communicates with his father's mother using a toy telephone that she gave him on his birthday before she died. His parents become concerned when Billy spends all his time having "pretend" phone conversations with his deceased grandmother. He says that she tells him she is lonely and misses him.
One day, Billy runs out in front of a car. The driver, who barely manages to swerve out of the way, reports that Billy said someone told him to do it. Later, his mother grabs the phone out of his hands and hears breathing on the other end, convinced that the telephone is a direct link to the dead grandmother. His father still thinks Billy is pretending. His mother takes the phone away, and Billy attempts to drown himself.
A paramedic informs the parents that Billy's chances aren't very good. Billy's father goes into Billy's room, picks up the toy phone, and begs his mother to give Billy back and allow him to experience life. The paramedics successfully revive Billy as his parents embrace.
|“||A toy telephone, an act of faith, a set of improbable circumstances, all combine to probe a mystery, to fathom a depth, to send a facet of light into a dark after-region, to be believed or disbelieved, depending on your frame of reference. A fact or a fantasy, a substance or a shadow - but all of it very much a part of The Twilight Zone.||”|
Five weeks into The Twilight Zone's second season, the show's budget was showing a deficit. The total number of new episodes was projected at twenty-nine, more than half of which (sixteen) had already been filmed by November 1960. CBS strongly suggested that in order to trim the production's $65,000-per-episode budget, six episodes should be produced and telecast in the cheaper videotape format, eventually transferred to 16-millimeter film for future syndicated rebroadcasts. The studios of the network's Television City, normally used for the production of variety shows and live drama, would serve as the venue. There would be fewer camera movements and no exteriors, making the episodes more akin to soap operas (and the network's Playhouse 90 anthology), with the videotaped image effectively narrowing and flattening perspective. Even with these artistic sacrifices, the eventual total savings amounted to only $30,000, far less than the cost of a single episode. The experiment was thus deemed a failure and never attempted again.
Even though the six shows were taped in a row, through November and into mid-December, their broadcast dates were out of order and varied widely, with this, the final one, shown on March 31, 1961 as episode 22. The first, "The Lateness of the Hour", was seen on December 2, 1960 as episode 8; the second, "Static", appeared on March 10, 1961 as episode 20; the third, "The Whole Truth" was broadcast on January 20, 1961 as episode 14; the fourth was the Christmas entry, "The Night of the Meek", shown as the 11th episode on December 23, 1960 and the fifth, "Twenty Two" was seen on February 10, 1961 as episode 17.
This was also the final episode sponsored by General Foods (Sanka, S.O.S Soap Pads), which ended its two-year primary sponsorship of the series. Beginning with the March 14th episode, the series' new alternate sponsor was Liggett & Myers, for Oasis cigarettes.
One of three episodes of the original series to star a young Billy Mumy.
Popular culture references
A replica of the little boy's toy telephone is on display in one of the gift shop windows at the Hollywood Tower Hotel in Disney's California Adventure park. The red toy telephone is described as "perfect for the children's room and those late night calls from grandmom."
The film Poltergeist II: The Other Side shows a scene in which Carol Anne Freeling receives a call from her grandmother the moment that she passes away.
- 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