Ghost Story: Episode 1 “The Dead We Leave Behind”

Originally airing on September 15, 1972, the first episode of Ghost Story has Winston Essex telling us the story of ranger Elliott Brent (Jason Robards).

His wife Joanna (Stelle Stevens) is bored, so he buys her a TV set. But now, all she does is watch her stories and neglects their home. As they argue, Elliot accidentally kills her and buries her behind their cabin. But now, when he turns on that TV, all he sees is her and sees episodes of shows in which she’s been unfaithful to him.

And when the man who she’s been cheating — in video form from beyond the grave — shows up, well, Elliot has to kill him too, right? But after that, when he starts seeing bodies rising from the grave on the screen, things don’t look good at all.

Director Paul Stanley’s career was mainly in television other than the 1959 film Cry Tough, which starred a young John Saxon. This episode came from a story by Robert Sprecht, who created the show The Immortal, and was developed for the TV format by Richard Matheson.

John Kenneth Muir’s Reflections on Cult Movies and Classic TV has a great theory on this episode and how it influenced numerous Stephen King stories from Pet Sematary and The Shining to the “Something to Tide You Over” segment in Creepshow.

Robards — as always — brings up the level of anything he’s in. And Stella Stevens is great in this too. I kind of love how it starts in the middle of their story, which already seems to be spiraling into darkness.

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