“ Genre: Crime/Thriller / Author: Earl Hamner / Audio book published 2011-01-10 by Falcon Picture Group „
A Twilight Zone audio adaption from 2010, this time Stopover in a Quiet Town. Stopover in a Quiet Town was originally broadcast as part of the final series of the classic sixties black and white Twilight Zone and written by Earl Hamner. Hamner was, alongside Charles Beaumont and Richard Matheson, one of the most notable contributors to the series aside from Rod Serling and later went on to be best known for his work on The Waltons. I love The Waltons!, but I digress. Although Hamner was one of the more whimsical writers on the show, Stopover in a Quiet Town is probably one of the creepiest of all the Twilight Zone episodes and might even make my top ten list. The original starred Barry Nelson (who once famously played James Bond in an early American television adaption of Casino Royale) and Nancy Malone and here their lead roles are taken by Stacy Keach and Stephanie Weir respectively for the audio version. A few bits and pieces have been changed but this is still essentially the same as the 1964 television version.
The story has a well heeled New York couple - Bob and Millie Frazier - groggily waking up in a strange house after a night of heavy drinking. They have no idea where they are or what exactly happened the previous evening, only that they remember a huge shadow appearing over their car at one point - but their memories fogged. They find the house they've woken up in is completely empty. Even stranger is the discovery that the house is filled with fake props like a television studio set. The cupboards are just glued on and the fridge is full of plastic replica food. The bewildered couple wander outside and find themselves in a small town that seems to be completely deserted. Where is everybody? Why does the grass seem to be made of papier-mâché? And why do they keep hearing a little girl laughing in the distance?
Stopover in a Quiet Town is 38 minutes long in this radio adaption and works very well as a two hander between the actors. What the story does very nicely here is set up a strange and intriguing mystery that slowly unravels as the characters get closer and closer to the shocking secret of the town. The twist here is enjoyably far out and daft (but very Twilight Zone) and it was actually pilfered in fairly shameless fashion for a great episode of Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense many years later. The couple in the story are fairly streetwise New Yorkers who have just had far too much to drink during a raucous night out and are most concerned now with the fact that they going to be late for work. Problems soon arise though because they've got no idea where they are and they can't find a single solitary soul anywhere. Knocks on doors are met with silence and even when they presume everyone must in the town church for some sort of service they find that completely empty too. 'Give me the big city any day!' says Bob. 'At least then you know you're being stared at!'
This is one of those Twilight Zones stories that uses isolation and a gradual sense of panic to create a wonderfully atmospheric and strange story. The fact that the couple are quite ordinary and are gently bickering with throbbing hangovers makes them easy to relate to and imagine what it might be like to be their predicament. There are some elements of that David Fincher film The Game here when they find out that the house they are in is full of fake props and the story really becomes gripping when they find that their attempts to leave the town always appear to be doomed. The cars in the street don't have any engines and when they - with great initial relief - find a train station and hop on a waiting train, it only takes them around in a complete circle back to where they started. While the actors in the original shows are often hard to beat (and Stopover in a Quiet Town is no exception) the two leads do a perfectly decent job here in their respective roles. Stacey Keach always has a slightly mournful quality I find and this is useful here for the deadpan humour in the script. Not sure who Stephanie Weir is to be honest but she's fine here.
The sense of atmosphere in Stopover in a Quiet Town comes from the fact that the town is eerily empty and abandoned with only a sense of stillness and quiet apparent. The spooky thing is that the town seems normal on the surface with no sign or panic or flight, it's just empty. This all works well in the audio version, as does the somewhat disconcerting sound of the little girl laughing, which the Fraziers keep hearing but can never actually pinpoint despite their best efforts. Isolation was often used to good effect in the series (Where is Everybody?, The Lonely) and Stopover in a Quiet Town is another good example of this recurring theme. There are though of course a few things they can't do here quite so well as the television version. The twist is rather visual in nature and so loses something and things like seeing a squirrel (and then realising it's a stuffed one that has been put in a fake tree) work better as things we see for ourselves rather than have conveyed to us by actors in a radio play.
This is another pleasant addition to this series of Twilight Zone audio adaptions and makes pleasantly eerie late night fun. You can buy this as part of an audio book collection or (at the time of writing) download it individually for not much more than a pound.