"Whimsical, Profound Christian Allegory"
What You Need To Know:
“The Hunt” is written by Earl Hamner, creator of THE WALTONS. It’s a marvelous TWILIGHT ZONE allegory about the Afterlife. Arthur Hunnicutt and Jeannette Nolan as Hyder and Rachel deliver engaging, heartwarming, poignant performances. Dexter Dupont has a great cameo as a wise angel. “The Hunt” has a strong Christian, biblical worldview. It teaches several profound, whimsical lessons. It cites the deceitfulness of demons and the gullibility of men. It also contains short statements of faith. Finally, it extols marriage and promotes strong love between husbands and wives. “The Hunt” is truly a must-watch TWILIGHT ZONE episode.
“The Hunt” is one of the lesser known TWILIGHT ZONE episodes. However, it’s one of MOVIEGUIDE®’s favorite TZ episodes, where a man from the backwoods gets a taste of what Heaven and Hell are like. Written by Earl Hamner, the man behind THE WALTONS, “The Hunt” is a wonderful TWILIGHT ZONE allegory about the Afterlife with a strong, whimsical Christian worldview that delivers several important, profound and heartwarming lessons for families.
The episode stars the great Arthur Hunnicutt, famous for his brilliant comical roles in THE BIG SKY, which earned him an Oscar nomination, and EL DORADO, two marvelous westerns by Howard Hawks. In “The Hunt,” Hunnicutt plays Hyder Simpson, an old man who’s chopping wood outside his log cabin somewhere in the backwoods, with his trusty raccoon dog, Rip, by his side. His wife, Rachel (Jeanette Nolan), opens the door for him because his arms are full of wood. She complains about the mangy flea-ridden mutt coming into the house all the time. Hyder stands by old Rip, and the two engage in some friendly banter, which ends with Hyder giving his wife a kiss on the cheek.
Rachel has supper ready for her husband. Through their conversation, its revealed that the couple’s 50th anniversary is just around the corner, in October. They both marvel at the good life they’ve had together all those years.
After supper, Hyder informs Rachel that he and Rip are going out that evening to hunt racoons. Rachel doesn’t want him to go, however. She says she’s seen two bad omens. For example, one day, a bird flew into the house and landed on Hyder’s side of the bed. Hyder dismisses Rachel’s talk of signs, grabs his rifle and goes out the door with Rip.
That night, Rip drives a raccoon up a tree, but when he gets to the tree, the raccoon goes down the tree on the other side. Hyder laughs at the way the racoon has fooled Rip.
However, Rip is soon chasing the raccoon again as it runs across a tree limb toward a pool of water in a stream. The racoon jumps into the water and goes under the water. Rip jumps into the water after him. Worried that the racoon is trying to drown his dog, Hyder jumps into the pond to save him. He dives under the water.
Cut to next morning. Rip is trying to wake Hyder, who’s asleep by the large tree that sits by the pond. Hyder wakes up and says they better get home to Rachel right soon because she’s probably hopping mad.
Along the way home, Hyder and Rip approach two men digging a small grave. A small casket lies beside the grave. Before Hyder gets within earshot of them, the two men talk about how sad it will be without Hyder Simpson around the area. They also talk about burying Hyder’s dog, Rip. Better dig more than three feet down, one man says, because Rip was the kind of dog that wouldn’t give up.
Hyder tries to talk to the two men, but they don’t answer him. At first, he’s mad that they’re burying something on his land. However, he realizes they’re burying their own dog, and he figures they’re too grief stricken to answer him.
Hyder enters his log cabin. His wife, Rachel, is sitting in the rocking chair, dressed in widow’s garb. He tries talking to her, but she too doesn’t answer. At that moment, Rachel’s pastor exits the back room. Rachel thanks him for coming, even though Hyder didn’t belong to her church. “I could never get him to go,” she adds. The pastor says he realizes Hyder wasn’t a religious man, but fells that Hyder still deserved a Christian burial. Hyder tells them they better ask him about how he feels about being buried first, but they don’t answer. When Rachel starts sobbing, Hyder tries to comfort her. He says this is all a dream, and they’ll soon be waking up. Hyder is startled just then when four men enter the log cabin, go into the back room and bring out a coffin. “Who’s in that coffin?” he demands to know.
Hyder and Rip follow the burial procession out the cabin door and over the hill to the cemetery, but suddenly a fence blocks their way. Thinking that he must have taken a wrong turn somewhere, Hyder starts walking along the fence. It seems to take a long time to find an opening in the fence. Hyder and Rip eventually, however, come to a gate and a guardhouse with a man inside. In the near distance, some smoke rises from behind a small hill.
The man scurries out of the guardhouse and welcomes Hyder. The man is super friendly. He informs Hyder he’s dead and has been walking along Eternity Road. After a brief conversation, he invites Hyder to enter the gate so he can see the “Celestial Palace, where the Old Master has his headquarters.” “Come on in and meet your heavenly reward,” the man says. Hyder starts to enter, but Rip starts whining and growling and refuses to enter. This stops Hyder in his tracks. The man says that dogs aren’t allowed through the gate. Perplexed and upset, Hyder starts questioning the man. What kind of place doesn’t allow dogs?
Will the man convince Hyder to enter the gate without Rip? The answer to that question can only be found in the Twilight Zone.
“The Hunt” is a marvelous, whimsical TWILIGHT ZONE allegory about the Afterlife. The story isn’t occult, because the people don’t hear the dead man and can’t respond to him. Arthur Hunnicutt and Jeannette Nolan as Hyder and Rachel deliver engaging, heartwarming, poignant performances. Dexter Dupont and Robert Foulk are also great as the two characters that Hyder meets along Eternity Road. The episode’s climax and ending are perfectly realized and even profound.
Despite a few comments that imply some borderline theology if taken literally, “The Hunt” has a strong Christian, biblical worldview that makes several wise, profound, whimsical statements. At one point, Hyder tells an angel, “It would be a Hell of a place” without dogs like Rip. “You ain’t far wrong,” the angel replies. “That IS Hell.” At another point, the angel tells Hyder that the demons in Hell will always lie to a person. “They don’t never give up,” he adds, “always trying to get folks in there right down to the last minute.” When Hyder asks the angel why the demons don’t want any dogs in Hell, he says, “You see, Mr. Simpson, a man, he’ll walk right into Hell with both eyes open, but even the Devil can’t fool a dog.” MOVIEGUIDE® isn’t quite sure about that second part to that sentence, but the first part is one of the greatest truths ever uttered in any place at any time, in or out of the pulpit. “The Hunt” also contains short statements of faith by Rachel and her pastor. The episode also extols long marriages and promotes strong love and friendship between a husband and a wife. The relationship between Hyder and Rachel is a great love story.
“The Hunt” is truly a must-watch TWILIGHT ZONE episode. As such, it really holds up on multiple viewings and may remind some Christian viewers of the kind of Christian allegory that C.S. Lewis achieved in his acclaimed novella, THE GREAT DIVORCE. The main characters in “The Hunt” are more engaging, however. Christian writers, filmmakers and producers looking for a great example of superb writing, acting, directing, and producing for their next project would be well-served by following the pattern established by Producer Rod Serling, Writer Earl Hamner and Director Harold Schuster in “The Hunt.”
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