Twilight Zone – Dead Run (02/21/86)

Johnny Davis (Steve Railsback) is driving like a maniac.  Unfortunately for a little convertible and several bicyclists, he is doing it in a semi. He passes the convertible and several of the cyclists run off the road to avoid getting what they deserve.  This is enough for him to have his insurance canceled.

He meets his father’s old friend Pete at a strip club.  Johnny could work with Pete, but Pete tells him it is a terrible job, a real last-resort gig.  Johnny has had 4 accidents in two years, so jumps at the opportunity. The very next day, they are rolling down some unfamiliar roads to a camp.  The gates are opened by guards wearing visors.

Johnny is disturbed by the shambling, moaning prisoners being herded onto the truck. The guards are visored, scarred brutes who are able to light cigarettes with their palms which troubles Johnny because who smokes anymore?  He goes to help a woman being whipped.  Pete holds him back, telling him these people are not alive.  He proves it by repeatedly knifing one of them.  The man has no reaction which makes me wonder how effective that whip was.

Pete tells us in China and India they have trains, in Russia they have tram-lines, in Mexico it’s old buses — all used to take deliver wretched souls from the Annex to Hell Proper.  When they enter Hell, Johnny is surprised there are no flames.  Pete explains that “Management” doesn’t care if they suffer — the goal is to keep them away from decent people.

They pull into the warehouse which is abuzz with activity.  It is like a multi-level prison, with people running all about.  If I saw this as a kid, I would have never forgotten it . . . unless I did see it and forgot it.

Their cargo breaks the rails on the truck and escapes — maybe before they got to Hell would have been a better plan, though.  Some of the damned tell him why they are there. A woman says it is because she was self-centered, a man says it is because he is dull, another woman says she was a bad mother.  Another man says he is there for not believing in God.  Johnny is heart-broken that he can’t help these lost souls or find hookers on the bill of lading.

There are prison-riot style disturbances in Hell as people are being damned for minor infractions.  A corporate lackey tells Johnny that the Boss isn’t making the decisions anymore, so things have gotten fouled up.  He tells Johnny he can help and gives him the location of “The High Road.”

When Johnny is spotted talking to the man, he is taken to meet Management.  Johnny tells him that he has met many people that didn’t deserve to be there.  Management tells him he has “been taken in by a lot of secular intellectual propaganda.”  He says his predecessor was not a religious man; that he thought there could be some discretion in who went to Hell.  Under new Management, the rules tightened to include not only murderers and rapists, but everything from jay-walkers to pornographers.

When hauling his next load, Johnny pulls over and questions his cargo.  The first man “offed a cop,” the next was a rapist and an arsonist.  From there, the infractions get a lot tamer.  An old librarian is there for stocking books by Vonnegut, Salinger and Huxley.  Another woman is a junkie.  There is also a draft-dodger and a gay dude.  Johnny opens the truck gate and lets those last four out.  Luckily the cop-killer and the rapist draw the line at a little pushing and shoving to escape a trip to Hell.

What a vault!  If only there were some way to escape this truck to Hell.

He gives them directions to The High Road which might lead to Heaven.  Johnny tells them about the time between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection [1] when Jesus was in Hell rescuing the righteous that did not belong there.  He’s just trying to do the same.

He re-locks the truck gate, sealing in the remarkably well-behaved group of doomed souls on their way to eternal Hell.  Although, not to nit-pick, but there was no roof on that transfer truck — these thugs could climb out and escape anytime.  Show some initiative, sheeple — you’re on a Highway to Hell!

I’m a sucker for a good Hell / Purgatory story, especially when live humans are enablers.

I rate it 660.

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