The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank
|"The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank"|
|The Twilight Zone episode|
|Episode no.||Season 3|
|Directed by||Montgomery Pittman|
|Written by||Montgomery Pittman|
|Featured music||Tommy Morgan|
|Original air date||February 23, 1962|
Time, the mid-twenties. Place, the Midwest, the southernmost section of the Midwest. We were just witnessing a funeral, a funeral that didn't come off exactly as planned, due to a slight fallout from the Twilight Zone.
In the mid-1920s in a small rural town in the "southernmost section of the Midwest," a man, Jeff Myrtlebank, returns to life at his own funeral, causing the grievers to flee the church. The townspeople believe that the man must be possessed by a haint (country people's pronunciation of haunt, meaning a ghost or demon), even though the town doctor declares it was more than likely a medical condition that imitated death; his heart stopped days prior after fighting influenza. Jeff seems normal enough, yet he has changed: he has suddenly become a hard worker with exceptional strength, yet consistently eats less since his return.
Discussing the puzzle, his mother says she is real concerned at how he's behaving: "He's different. Not like he was at all,... And the way he goes at that hard work. Why, he was never that friendly with work before." His father agrees with her. "I recollect worrying many times that he leaned just a shade tow'rd this side of shiftlessness." "Not lazy, exactly, but..." his mother says, and his father completes her sentence with, "No, no, just uninterested." The townsfolk and doctor discuss it further, where the doctor reveals that not only did Jeff's heart completely stop, but that he did not respond in any way to a sharp pin prick. Everyone seems as interested in what transpired during the days Jeff was dead as in how he came back to life.
When he goes to visit his girlfriend Comfort, he takes a bouquet of roses, but the roses are all dead. Afraid, Comfort will not let him touch her after she sees them. As he leaves, her older brother confronts him and tells him to never come back, and they fight. Myrtlebank defeats him readily, punching him in his jaw. This is the first time that Myrtlebank has ever done so, after losing many past fights, and that gains Comfort's sympathy. "Poor Jeff," she says. "He hasn't got anybody."
After the fight, the townsfolk gather and start saying they need to take care of this evil amongst them. Comfort races off to warn Myrtlebank and to avow her love for him. He proposes to her, but before she can respond to his proposal, angry townspeople arrive to confront the demon they believe is possessing Jeff. They demand that he leave. He insists that Comfort answer his proposal first, and she tells him yes, and that she is willing to go anywhere to be with him. Myrtlebank then makes an inspired speech in which he tells them that they are wrong and have nothing to fear from him. He also slyly threatens that if they are right, it might be in their best interests to be nice to him. They nervously accept the wisdom of this, and promise to attend Jeff and Comfort's wedding.
After they leave, Comfort asks him, "You couldn't really do all that, could you?" He says he hated lying to them, but when something comes up, "You gotta cope with it." As he speaks, he pulls out a pipe and a match, which lights by itself. When Comfort asks how he lit the match, he laughs and says, "Comfort, honey, first thing you got to learn is not to imagine things." He puts his arm around her shoulders to take her inside. As they walk toward the house, the fence gate closes behind them on its own.
Jeff and Comfort are still alive today, and their only son is a United States senator. He's noted as an uncommonly shrewd politician, and some believe he must have gotten his education in the Twilight Zone.
- James Best as Jeff Myrtlebank
- Sherry Jackson as Comfort Gatewood
- Edgar Buchanan as Doc Bolton
- Lance Fuller as Orgram Gatewood
- Dub Taylor as Mr. Peters
- Ralph Moody as Pa Myrtlebank
- Ezelle Poule as Ma Myrtlebank
- Helen Wallace as Ma Gatewood
- Vickie Barnes as Liz Myrtlebank
- Jon Lormer as Strauss
- James Houghton as Jerry
- William Fawcett as Rev. Siddons
- Mabel Forrest as Mrs. Ferguson
- Patrick Hector as Tom
- DeVoe, Bill (2008). Trivia from The Twilight Zone. Albany, GA: Bear Manor Media. ISBN 978-1593931360.
- Grams, Martin (2008). The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic. Churchville, MD: OTR Publishing. ISBN 978-0970331090.