010 – Judgment Night

Original air date – 12/4/59

Written by Rod Serling  |  Directed by John Brahm

Starring Nehemiah Persoff, Ben Wright, Patrick MacNee, James Franciscus, Deidre Owens

The noirish Judgment Night (watch here on YouTube) takes place in 1942 on a passenger ship that has lost its convoy. Carl Lanser (Nehemiah Persoff) finds himself on the deck of the ship, but doesn’t seem to know who he is and what he is doing there.

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When asked by inquisitive passengers on the ship, the two things he remembers are his name and that he was born in Frankfurt, Germany. Other passengers take interest in Lanser who seems to possess a great deal of knowledge about U-boats.

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When Lancer can’t find his passport, the captain of the boat (The Sound of Music’s Ben Wright) sends a steward to search his cabin. Instead of finding his passport, the steward finds a German naval officer cap which bears Lancer’s name.

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Gradually, Lancer begins to piece together the puzzle of his history. Panicked by discovery of who he is, he warns those around him that they will be attacked and killed at 1:15. All he sees are the ghostlike passengers looking at him expressionless.

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*Spoiler alert*

Out on the deck, Lancer sees a German U-boat ready for attack of the ship he is on. Looking through a pair of binoculars, he sees the commander of the U-Boat on the topside of the sub, and is shocked to find the man is his doppelganger. Just then, the U-boat sinks the passenger ship by the order of Captain Lieutenant Carl Lancer.

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Later, inside the U-boat, a lieutenant expresses remorse to the unmerciful Lancer. He asks Lancer if, by killing the innocent kids and women without warning, they will be judged by God. Lancer cannot care less.

Unknown to Lancer at the time the lieutenant’s question, he is fated to relive for eternity the panic and confusion felt by the innocent passengers during the sinking of the ship.

John Brahm, who directed Time Enough at Last, returned for the second time to direct another TTZ episode. Rod Serling wrote this episode himself. Having served in World War II for two years. Judgment Night is a combination of the repercussions of war and the legend of the Flying Dutchman ghost ship (not to be confused with the In-N-Out’s secret menu of the same name). I’m the type that watching anything militaristic that involves submarine puts me instantly into REM sleep. So it goes without saying that this episode isn’t one of my favorites. But the scene with the ghostly passengers in the hallway vacantly looking at Lancer never fails to creep me out every time I see it. Here you can judge for yourself again.

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