A “Nightmare” Role

Q: One of the actors who starred in The Twilight Zone‘s “Twenty-Two” found the experience particularly frightening. Who was it?

A: It wasn’t who you’d think. Most people would guess that it was Barbara Nichols, who played Liz Powell, the stressed-out dancer who’s in the hospital recovering from a breakdown. After all, she’s the one who keeps encountering that spooky nurse who emerges from the morgue and solemnly tells her, “Room for one more, honey.”

Arlene Martel - WB2

In fact, it was the nurse herself, played by Arlene Martel, who found herself most affected by the episode:

I had nightmares for about half a year after I got that part. It really scared the hell out of me. Every time Barbara Nichols would scream, I was terrified. It had an impact on me to embody that kind of alluring, enticing, negative energy, a sort of angel of death. That really affected me because of the story and because I was experiencing the character within me. It was like everyone’s nightmare of being lured to their death before they’re ready to go.

Martel had already appeared once on The Twilight Zone (“What You Need”), and she went on to star in many more TV shows, including Mannix, McCloud and Columbo. But let’s face it: It’s hard to top the “angel of death.” Especially when you play it so well that you not only scare millions of TV viewers, you scare yourself.

***

Photo courtesy of Wendy Brydge. For a daily dose of Serling, you can follow me on TwitterFacebook or Pinterest. You can also get email notifications of future posts by entering your address under “Follow S&S Via Email” on the upper left-hand side of this post. WordPress followers, just hit “follow” at the top of the page.

Hope to see you in some corner of the fifth dimension soon!

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About Paul

Hard-working, hard-playing fan of all pop culture, especially the Twilight Zone. Which led to a Twitter page. And then to a blog. And then to ... stay tuned. Yes, that's a picture of Rod Serling, not me. You can find the real me under the "Your Host" tab on my blog, along with biographical details that, while 100 percent accurate, sound kind of boastful and braggy. Sorry.

Posted on 02/29/2012, in Twilight Zone and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 21 Comments.

  1. The thing that really strikes me about this episode is that the nurse is portrayed as downright sexy. She makes death both tempting and terrifying. And even though this is probably pretty callous, I have to admit I enjoy the irony of her having nightmares about it!

  2. Seems appropriate, though, doesn’t it? The push-pull effect of temptation, you could call it. We’re drawn to it despite the danger. It makes me think of Edgar Allan Poe stories like “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Black Cat” and “The Imp of the Perverse,” where we see characters fighting a strong impulse to do the very thing that will condemn them.

  3. An “Angel of Death” who dies in her own vehicle, n’est-ce pas? I mean the show DOES show her locking the cabin door and raising an eyebrow at the weirdness of it all (unless a cut scene/script tells us otherwise)….

    Pardon my literalmindedness, but it appears to me that it was merely a precognitive dream Liz Powell experienced, with the stewardess (so-called then) taking on the surreal role in the dream, like so many other daily images do. But cool to learn that backstory about Arlene Martel! Thanks!

  4. I’m not surprised she scared herself. As far as TZs go, this one is SPOOKY!

  5. Barney Beers

    I read that Arlene Martel dated James Dean during their early acting days in New York.

    His tragic death shocked and saddened the world. She felt its impact personally.

    This could have something to do with how perfectly cast she was for “Room 22.”

    • Really? How interesting. It certainly could have. Something obviously helped Martel create a very chilling “angel of death,” as she put it. Thanks for the comment!

  6. It always amazes me that there are so many ways to be scared or so many kinds of being scared, but this show brought them all out. This was different than Talky Tina scary and different from The Dummy scary (both of which still scare me).

    • Very true, Dan. In fact, that’s one thing that impressed me about both Twilight Zone AND Night Gallery — the fact that both series didn’t rely solely on “conventional” scares.

      Take “And When the Sky Was Opened.” Now, I enjoy a good haunted-house story as much as the next person, but to be arbitrarily erased from existence? That’s far more terrifying, if you ask me!

  7. Mike Poteet

    Hey, she was T’Pring in Star Trek (Amok Time)! I never before realized. Thanks for another interesting post, Paul.

  8. Wow that’s awesome stuff to hear. Never knew that at all. Loved her role on The Twilight Zone.

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