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A Hundred Yards Over the Rim is a radio adaption from 2009 of a famous 1961 television episode of The Twilight Zone written by Rod Serling. The year is 1847 and Christian Horn is part of a small wagon train heading across the desert from Ohio to California. His son though is laid up in one of the wagons and has become very ill. Horn needs to find medicine, food and water as soon as possible and leaves the party to head off alone and look for a town or some help. He sets off and eventually stumbles over a sandy hill rim where he is astonished to suddenly see telephone poles and a huge motorway (or highway as the Americans would say). A huge lorry thunders past and scares the life out of him. The bewildered Horn spots a small roadside diner and walks over but once inside the owner is shocked by the clothes Horn is wearing and the fact he is clutching what appears to be an antique rifle. All is revealed when Horn notices a calendar on the wall that says the year is 1961. Yes, his journey over the sandy rim has somehow catapulted him over a hundred years into the future...
This is regarded to be one of the top ten episodes of The Twilight Zone television series by many fans and it works relatively well as a radio drama. It's a good example of what the series did best; setting an ordinary scene and then suddenly making it extraordinary. One minute you are in the Old West and then the next minute Christian Horn has entered a strange world of power lines and monster trucks that he can't make any sense of. The television series is possibly most memorable for a fantastic performance by Cliff Robertson as the perplexed Horn (Robertson was wonderful at looking confused and out of place!) and here the role is taken by Jim Caviezel. Caviezel is the biggest star I've noticed in on of these radio adaptions so far and I think he's generally well cast. Caviezel always sounds rather sedate and bewildered by everything anyway and his slow drawl could believably have just emerged from a distant era. If you've ever seen Caviezel interviewed you'll note that he usually appears to have been hypnotised and injected with vast quantities of Ovaltine and the spacey, jet-lagged vacuity that he projects (presumably without even noticing) is a decent enough fit for a humble wagon trainer who has fallen into the Twilight Zone.
He's supported by Stacey Keach as usual. Keach is a regular in this radio series and also does the famous Twilight Zone introduction monologue. I've always quite liked Stacey Keach and he's a good solid dependable presence in these supporting roles to the guest stars. The only drawback to his presence here is that, sadly, as this is radio you don't get to see the remarkable Stacey Keach mustache that he frequently sports. The vast majority of A Hundred Yards Over the Rim takes place in the small isolated roadside diner and therefore is relatively suitable to be adapted into an audio format. The core of the story is Horn gradually realising what has happened to him and the reaction of the diner's owner. 'There were three wagons,' says our befuddled Old West hero. 'And I looked around and I... what is that? What is that? That looks just like... oh, God in heaven, how could that be? That says September 1961 when it's 1847! Who are you? Who are you and where am I? Where is this place? Where am I?' There are some Back to the Future style twists in the story too with Horn changing the past and making his presence felt in the future at the same time. Although not an awful lot happens in the story it wraps up in a clever and satisfying way and is essentially an interesting and absorbing fish out of water tale with a big dose of fantasy and science fiction.
I like the understated music in these adaptions too. It's nicely atmospheric but never pours it on too thick like a generous dinner lady who is superglued to a ladle. There are a few appropriate twangs to reflect the Old West setting at the start and then the spookometer is turned up a few notches when we plunge into the far distant space age future of, er, 1961. Problems with the adaption? Well, I suppose the most obvious one is that nothing in this audio incarnation can replicate the moment when Cliff Robertson (with a great top hat and tails by the way!) clambers over the sandy hill and we get a shot of the strange new world as he sees it. It's a great visual moment when we suddenly see a landscape of power lines and an endless road and for a moment we are Christian Horn too on his trip into the Twilight Zone. This all has to be conveyed instead with narration and dialogue here and whatever they do they are never going to get the same effect as the source material. These radio adaptions do not follow the televisions episodes in 100% fashion and there are always one or two modifications but I've never encountered one that has drifted so far as to become pointless.
This is not the best or the worst of the Twilight Zone audio adaptions I've listened to so far but fairly agreeable on the whole and enjoyably atmospheric in places. It's 37 minutes long in duration and nicely played by Keach and Caviezel. At the time of writing you can buy this as part of a bumper Twilight Zone audio cd collection or download it for £1.19. If you go to the website home for this series (type in 'Stacey Keach Twilight Zone' and it will be one of the first things that comes up) you can listen to sample clips and even download a few episodes for free as a taster.