Twilight Zone – Still Life (01/03/86)

tzstilllife1Becky sent husband Daniel to buy a new brass bed, but he has returned with a steamer trunk that even one of them couldn’t fit in.  He has purchased some antique photo-graphic gear which, however, might also be useful in the bedroom . . . wink wink, nudge nudge.  He examines the camera housing and the lens, but notes that that glass plates are broken.  The episode opened with Becky noticing a chip in a wine glass.  Connection — none that I can see.

Daniel assures her that it isn’t just the camera debris; the trunk itself is perfect for the restoration of their house.  He finds that the trunk has a false bottom.  In the secret compartment, there is a Kodak 100, the first camera to use roll film.  Dan notices that there is still film in the camera.  Becky says, “I have a feeling the hedge isn’t going to get trimmed this afternoon” which sounds dirty even if it’s not.

tzstilllife3Daniel develops the pictures.  The first one helpfully is a title card which states that the pictures were taken during a 1913 National Geographic expedition to the Amazon.  The pictures are of the Curucai Indians [1].  Becky is also amazed by the photos.  They want to show them to their old friend Alex, but it is almost midnight; so they kiss and go upstairs to trim the hedges.

The next day, after Daniel leaves to run some errands, Becky hears strange noises.  She had been chopping vegetables, so takes the knife with her to investigate.  Meanwhile, Daniel is talking to Alex who is literally an old friend.  Daniel describes the photos, but Alex says he was actually on that expedition and there can be no photos. The Curucai believed that to take their picture was to steal their souls.  They broke the scientist’s cameras and drove them out of the village.

Turns out the photographer had given his life to save this last batch of photos.  Daniel pulls them out to show Alex.  However, now there are no Indians in the pictures.  Daniel races back home and searches the house until he spots an Indian behind their ficus. As he runs, the house is booby-trapped [2] with forks, knives and broken glass.

tzstilllife5There is no point in giving a play-by-play.  Daniel continues searching for his wife.  Their pet parrots have been let out of their prison, so lend an air of wilderness as they make startling appearances.  The Curucai use a sound like the wind to communicate which is also unsettling.

As he is attacked, just like fellow photographer Jeff Jeffries, Daniel grabs a camera as a weapon. When he photographs the Indian, his soul is sucked back onto film.  So he stalks the Indians like a Gawker photographer, except he has a job.  He photographs all of them back into his camera until the last [3].  He has squandered his ammo by taking multiple shots. Becky saves the day with her Kodak Instamatic.

Like Shadowman, this is an episode that shows what TZ is capable of.  It isn’t like the old TZ, but it has an interesting concept, and follows up with some chills and suspense. There are minor quibbles to make, but my only real criticism is the score.  During the episode it is fine, but why bookend it with sappy, sentimental Lifetime movie music?  I suppose it is supposed to be a counterpoint to the darker middle scenes, but it just reminds me of how mushy many of the new TZ episodes are.

tzstilllife6I rate it 32 out of 35 mm.


  • [1] The Curucai seem to be a fictional tribe.
  • [2] Hehe, booby.
  • [3] The last Indian was covered in dark make-up except for his shoulders and feet.  Was that a tribal thing?  Or a no-people-of-color-in-the-stunt-man’s-union thing?
  • Alex and Daniel were played by father and son, John and Robert Carradine.
  • This was John Carradine’s last TV appearance.

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