|"An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge"|
|Episode no.||Season 5|
|Directed by||Robert Enrico|
|Written by||Robert Enrico, based on a short story by Ambrose Bierce|
|Original air date||February 28, 1964|
Roger Jacquet (Peyton Farquhar)
La Rivière du hibou (French, "The Owl River"; English title: An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge) is a 1962 French short film, almost without dialogue. It was based on the American short story "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" (1891) by American Civil War soldier, wit, and writer Ambrose Bierce. It was directed by Robert Enrico and produced by Marcel Ichac and Paul de Roubaix with music by Henri Lanoë. It won awards at the Cannes Film Festival and the Academy Awards. It was also screened on American television as episode 142 (season 5, episode 22) of The Twilight Zone on 28 February 1964.
A handbill posted on a burnt tree, dated 1862, announces that anyone interfering with bridges, railroads or tunnels will be summarily executed. Union troops prepare a civilian prisoner, Peyton Farquhar, for death by hanging from a rural railroad bridge. The soundtrack contains only bird noises and brief military orders. As the rope is adjusted about Farquhar's neck, a vision of his home, wife and children flashes before him.
As Farquhar falls, the rope breaks, and he drops into the river. In an underwater sequence he frees himself from his bonds, kicks his boots free and swims downstream as soldiers fire at him. Farquhar is swept through rapids and crawls ashore exhausted but laughing with relief. Glimpses of tree branches, sky and crawling insects are interrupted by a distant cannon shot which sends him running through a forest, then along a linear and orderly lane. Finally arriving at the gates of his home, he pushes his way through foliage. Farquhar reaches open lawn and runs toward his wife as she walks toward him, smiling and weeping.
Just as the couple are about to fall into each other's arms, Farquhar stiffens and his head snaps back. The scene cuts back to his body hanging from the bridge, his entire escape and reunion with his wife revealed to be an illusion experienced in the moment of the drop.
Two years after its production, the film was screened on American TV as part of the fantasy/science fiction show The Twilight Zone. Producer William Froug had seen the film and decided to buy the rights to broadcast it on American television. The transaction cost The Twilight Zone $25,000, significantly less than the average of $65,000 they expended on producing their own episodes; however, Froug's purchase allowed for the film to be aired only twice (the first airing was on February 28, 1964). Consequently, it is not included on The Twilight Zone's syndication package (although it is included on Image Entertainment's DVD box set of the original series, on the DVD Treasures of the Twilight Zone, and on Netflix and Amazon Prime).
The episode's introduction is notable for Rod Serling breaking the fourth wall even more than usual, as he explains how the film was shot overseas and later picked up to air as part of The Twilight Zone. The introduction by Rod Serling is as follows:
Tonight, a presentation so special and unique that for the first time in the five years we've been presenting The Twilight Zone, we're offering a film shot in France by others. Winner of the Cannes Film Festival of 1962, as well as other international awards, here is a haunting study of the incredible from the past master of the incredible, Ambrose Bierce. Here is the French production of "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge."
Serling's closing narration states:
An occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge: in two forms, as it was dreamed... and as it was lived and died. This is the stuff of fantasy, the thread of imagination... the ingredients of the Twilight Zone.
Marc Scott Zicree's The Twilight Zone Companion incorrectly states the French film was purchased for $10,000. This mistake has been reprinted in a number of books since the 1984 publication. The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic by Martin Grams correctly verifies the purchase price as $20,000 plus $5,000 additional costs for re-editing.
According to Zicree, "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" was the last episode of the classic Twilight Zone to be "produced" (presumably referencing the re-editing and the addition of footage of Rod Serling, as production of the series was cancelled afterwards). It was not, however, the last episode of the series to be broadcast.