Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Book to Movie: Little Girl Lost 1962

Book to Movie: Little Girl Lost
The Twilight Zone, Season 3 Episode 26
Teleplay by Richard Matheson based on his short story
Original Air Date: March 16, 1962

By the third season of The Twilight Zone, Richard Matheson had established himself as a master of the craft of writing for television, having contributed some of the show’s most memorable episodes such as The Invaders and And When the Sky Opened. The show had set a high standard for insightful and relevant writing, refuting the claims of television critic Newton Minow that television was a “vast intellectual wasteland.”

In 1962, Matheson adapted his short story, Little Girl Lost, for the show and created another of the show’s most memorable episodes.

Matheson’s teleplay is nearly a straight retelling of the short story. The set and blocking are different, but the story is essentially the same. A man and woman hear their little girl crying out for them. Instead of a roll away bed attached to a couch, the girl has a room of her own. They can hear her, but can’t find her even though it seems as if they are right next to her.

Dad calls his friend who is a physicist (played in a very Shatneresque manner by Charles Aidman) who determines the little girl has passed through to another dimension. They move the bed and the physicist maps out the size and shape of the door on the wall. As he is doing this, the family dog plunges headlong into the void to find the little girl.

In the end, it is dad who passes through, fights his way through the disorientation, and brings his daughter home.

According to the liner notes provided with the Twilight Zone DVD, Matheson was inspired to write this story after a real life event. Late one night, Mr. and Mrs. Matheson awoke to hear their daughter crying. Matheson went to his daughter’s bedroom, but did not see his daughter in the room, despite the fact that he could hear her. The girl had fallen into the space between the bed and the wall.

If you have children and have known the primal, urgent fear that comes when they misplace themselves, then this episode will grab your attention. The cast is small, just three adults, a young girl, and a dog. But deft directing by Paul Stewart and intense acting by the cast make you feel that primal tension.

On a personal note, my nine year old daughter discovered The Twilight Zone about a year ago. She had been at a slumber party and she and her friends decided to watch some of a Twilight Zone marathon on SyFy. She came home all excited about this great television show she had watched “in gray and white.” She could not recall the name of the show, but when she described Little Girl Lost I knew that the show had transcended another generation.

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