Search This Blog

Friday, October 11, 2013


Lesson learned: If you're going to hold strange things at bay, you'd damned well better have a lot of firewood.

During a drive through an unspecified American wasteland, Andy and Karen Thorne (Eddie Albert and June Havoc) find themselves stranded in the middle of nowhere when their car inexplicably breaks down. In short order they find themselves menaced by apparently-living tumbleweeds, inexplicably animated brush that surrounds them and will not let them leave. Improvised torches only work to keep the tumbleweeds at bay for as long as the local supply of random branches lasts, and when that runs out the couple encounter the apparently crazy Lamont (Arthur Hunnicutt), a farmer who fills them in on how a meteor crashed nearby two weeks prior, after which the tumbleweeds, rocks, and trees began moving and held him captive. As the trio takes shelter in Lamont's house, they endure a night of abject terror as the aforementioned inanimate objects relentlessly converge. Adding to the waking nightmare is a barrage of a legion of large bullfrogs that dissolve into a milky substance when  they land in water. But exactly why is all of this happening?

Aggressive tumbleweeds may seem silly, but that imagery haunted my memory for over forty years and it still wields considerable creepy power.

When I was very young (around age five), I lived in South San Francisco and was addicted to reruns of old sci-fi and horror shows, with THE OUTER LIMITS being a favorite that I love to this very day. It was in many was the successor to THE TWILIGHT ZONE, with the allegorical content dialed down and the straight-up horror cranked up to 11, often within a science-fiction context, and its hour-long format allowed for richer character development and the slow building of rather intense (though TV-acceptable) terror. While not every episode was a gem, the program's two seasons yielded a good number of indelible cathode ray nightmares and of all of them that I absorbed at that tender age, "Cry of Silence" was the one that hit me hardest and stuck with me longest during the years before the series popped up in reruns in the Tri-State area during mu high school years. The story's creepy enough from an adult perspective, but it's especially scary to a little kid whose understanding that one cannot reason with menacing trees, rocks, tumbleweeds, and bullfrogs operates on the level of one who still harbors belief in the possibility of unknowable, sinister things living in the closet or under one's bed. Those tumbleweeds were a mute, faceless horror that attacked for no discernible reason, and those frogs... Oh, Christ, those frogs and the milky stuff they dissolved into... 

 When I finally saw "Cry of Silence" after over a decade, and again some three decades after that, it still held up and touched a very primal nerve that still remained in what left of that terrified six-year-old deep within my psyche. Its ending even works in a very unexpected way after all the horrific setup, and considering what the big reveal is, that's no mean feat. If you're new to THE OUTER LIMITS (vintage version), there are definitely stronger and more significant episodes that you should check out first — "Nightmare" being my vote for probably the most terrifying of the lot —but don't skip over "Cry of Silence" when it comes up in sequence during your recommended Netflix perusal.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great ep. Interesting to note that June Havoc was "Dainty June," sister of Gypsy Rose Lee.