"Walking Distance" is the fifth episode of The Twilight Zone, originally airing in October of 1959. It starred Gig Young as stressed advertising executive Martin Sloan. It also featured Ron Howard in a small part that was one of his first acting roles.
This episode has a similar introduction to the first Twilight Zone episode, "Where is Everybody?: a man at a 50's style gas station, outside of a small town. And just like in that episode, when he enters the small town, he quickly realizes that something is amiss: it does not appear to have changed since his boyhood. At this point in the story, I suspected that it was telling the same story as the later "A Stop At Willoughby", where a stressed career man escapes to the idyllic America of the past. I was partially right, although the story did (of course) twist a little towards the end.
There are two things I noticed about this story. First, while I am not an expert on the television of the 1950s, this show seems to be technically superb. The cinematography focuses on many close shots, the camera angles switch in a way that helps to build up the suspense, the editing and pacing makes the story seem to be more drawn out than it is. The episode also features a unique score by Bernard Herrmann, who wrote both the main theme for the Twilight Zone and the scoring for most of Alfred Hitchcox's films. The episode is very sophisticated in the tricks it uses to build up suspense in the audience. And I think in a way this suspense continues until the end: it would be easy to either write a saccharin tale about the fun of childhood, or to dismiss the desire to return to the past as an escapist fantasy. But the suspense in this episode remains until the end: whether the eerie events helped Sloan cope with his present is very much left up in the air. This episode has been critically acclaimed as one of the best episodes of the Twilight Zone, and I agree that it is very well told.
13 O'Clock: The 2013 Halloween Horrorquest