"It's a Good Life" is the 73rd episode of The Twilight Zone.
"Tonight's story on The Twilight Zone is somewhat unique and calls for a different kind of introduction. This, as you may recognize, is a map of the United States, and there's a little town there called Peaksville. On a given morning not too long ago, the rest of the world disappeared and Peaksville was left all alone. Its inhabitants were never sure whether the world was destroyed and only Peaksville left untouched or whether the village had somehow been taken away. They were, on the other hand, sure of one thing: the cause. A monster had arrived in the village. Just by using his mind, he took away the automobiles, the electricity, the machines - because they displeased him - and he moved an entire community back into the dark ages - just by using his mind. Now I'd like to introduce you to some of the people in Peaksville, Ohio. This is Mr. Fremont. It's in his farmhouse that the monster resides. This is Mrs. Fremont. And this is Aunt Amy, who probably had more control over the monster in the beginning than almost anyone. But one day she forgot. She began to sing aloud. Now, the monster doesn't like singing, so his mind snapped at her, turned her into the smiling, vacant thing you're looking at now. She sings no more. And you'll note that the people in Peaksville, Ohio, have to smile. They have to think happy thoughts and say happy things because once displeased, the monster can wish them into a cornfield or change them into a grotesque, walking horror. This particular monster can read minds, you see. He knows every thought, he can feel every emotion. Oh yes, I did forget something, didn't I? I forgot to introduce you to the monster. This is the monster. His name is Anthony Fremont. He's six years old, with a cute little-boy face and blue, guileless eyes. But when those eyes look at you, you'd better start thinking happy thoughts, because the mind behind them is absolutely in charge. This is the Twilight Zone."
Six-year-old Anthony Fremont looks like any other little boy, but looks are deceiving. He is a monster, a mutant with godlike mental powers. Early on, he isolated the small hamlet of Peaksville, Ohio. In fact, the handful of inhabitants do not even know if he destroyed the rest of the world or if it still exists. Anthony has also eliminated electricity, automobiles, and television signals. He controls the weather and what supplies can be found in the grocery store. Anthony creates and destroys as he pleases, and controls when the residents can watch the TV and what they can watch on it.
The adults tiptoe nervously around him, constantly telling him how everything he does is "good", since displeasing him can get them wished away "to the cornfield", where they are presumably met by a less-than-happy ending. Finally, at Dan Hollis' birthday party, Dan, slightly drunk, can no longer stand the strain and confronts the boy, calling him a monster and a murderer; while Anthony's anger grows, Dan begs the other adults to kill Anthony from behind -"Somebody end this, now!"- but everyone else is too afraid to act. Before Dan is killed, he is shown, indirectly by his shadow, transformed into a Jack-in-the-box.
His widow breaks down, but no matter what happens, the people of Peaksville make sure to think only good thoughts and repeat "That's a real good thing what Anthony did!" and "It's a good life."
"No comment here, no comment at all. We only wanted to introduce you to one of our very special citizens, little Anthony Fremont, age 6, who lives in a village called Peaksville in a place that used to be Ohio. And if by some strange chance you should run across him, you had best think only good thoughts. Anything less than that is handled at your own risk, because if you do meet Anthony you can be sure of one thing: you have entered the Twilight Zone."
Preview for Next Week's Story
This is the lobby of an inn, in a small Bavarian town and next week, we'll enter it with a former S.S. officer. It's the first stop on his road back to relive a horror that was Nazi Germany. Mr. Joseph Schildkraut and Mr. Oscar Beregi demonstrate what happens to the monster when it is judged by the victim. Our feeling here is that this is as stark and moving a piece of drama as we've ever presented. I very much hope that you're around to make your own judgment.
Response and analysis
- The episode was adapted by Rod Serling from the short story "It's a Good Life" by Jerome Bixby. The story was first published in the 1953 collection Star Science Fiction Stories No. 2.
- The first sentence and a half of the Opening Narration from this episode is used in Disney's The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror attractions, in the pre-show video. The shot of Serling is cut short, and impersonator Mark Silverman does the voice-over. The original shot of Serling that is used reads "Tonight's story on The Twilight Zone is somewhat unique and calls for a different kind of introduction. This, as you may recognize, is a m..." it then cuts away from Serling to a "maintenance service elevator, still in operation, waiting for you." The shot of Serling is cut out of the original environment, and onto a shot of one of the Tower of Terror's Maintenance Service Elevators.
- "It's a Good Life" was parodied in "Bart's Nightmare (It's a Bart Life)", a segment of "Treehouse of Horror II", a third season episode of The Simpsons. In the parody, Bart plays the "monster" character who turns Homer into a jack-in-the-box when he has thoughts of murdering him. The segment ends on a much more upbeat (though more cynical) note than the original. Bart and Homer bond through counseling with Marvin Monroe, and Bart wakes up from his nightmare with a scream after sharing an uncharacteristically loving moment with Homer.
- This episode was also parodied in the Johnny Bravo episode "Johnny Real Good", in which Johnny, in order to gain money for a new car, babysits a toddler with godlike powers, and is put through complete and utter torture when he doesn't speak to the toddler nicely.
Notes and annotations
- This episode has a sequel in the third The Twilight Zone series, named "It's Still a Good Life", which tells the story of the town and its inhabitants forty years later. Bill Mumy and Cloris Leachman reprised their roles as Anthony Fremont and Mrs. Fremont respectively.
- This episode was remade into the third segment of 1983's Twilight Zone: The Movie.
- In 1974, creator Rod Serling finished a screenplay for a feature film version of this episode, but filming never took place on account of Serling's death in 1975.
- Jeanne Bates (Ethel Hollis)
- Alice Frost (Aunt Amy)
- Tom Hatcher (Bill Soames)
- Don Keefer (Dan Hollis)
- Lenore Kingston (Thelma Dunn)
- John Larch (Mr. Fremont)
- Cloris Leachman (Mrs. Fremont)
- Bill Mumy (Anthony Fremont; credited: Billy Mumy)
- Rod Serling (Narrator)
- Max Showalter (Pat Riley; credited: Casey Adams)
- Buck Houghton (producer)
- George T. Clemens (director of photography)
- Jason H. Bernie (film editor)
- Philip Barber (art director; credited: Phil Barber)
- George W. Davis (art director)
- H. Web Arrowsmith (set decorator)
- Ralph W. Nelson (production manager)
- E. Darrell Hallenbeck (assistant director)
- William Edmondson (sound; credited: Bill Edmondson)
- Franklin Milton (sound)
- Richard P. McDonagh (story consultant; credited: Richard McDonagh)
- Pacific Title (optical effects)
- Eagle Clothes (Mr. Serling's wardrobe)
- Stalmaster-Lister Co. (casting)
- This episode contains the longest opening narration of the series (or any The Twilight Zone series).
- Bill Mumy also appeared in the episodes "Long Distance Call" (from the second season) and "In Praise of Pip" (from the third season) from the first series. He would also return to play the character of Anthony Fremont in the third series episode "It's Still a Good Life".
- Don Keefer was featured in the first season episode "From Agnes-With Love" and season four's "Passage on the Lady Anne" in the original series.
- John Larch had already appeared in the first season's "Perchance to Dream" and would later be featured in the second season episode "Dust".
- Cloris Leachman reprised her role in the third series' "It's Still a Good Life".
- Main article: List of memorable quotes from the first series
- "It's Still a Good Life", a sequel to this episode.
Notes and References
- Marc Scott Zicree. The Twilight Zone Companion. Sillman-James Press, 1982 (second edition).
- Bill DeVoe. Trivia from The Twilight Zone. Albany, GA. Bear Manor Media, 2008. ISBN 978-1593931360.
- Martin Grams. The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic. Churchville, MD: OTR Publishing, (2008). ISBN 978-0970331090.
- "It's a Good Life" at the Internet Movie Database
- Wikipedia contributors. "It's a Good Life." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Version: August 11, 2009. Retrieved: August 17, 2009.
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