The last episode under the Circle of Fear title, as well as the last appearance of Sebastian Cabot hosting as Winston Essex, “Time of Terror” is one of the darkest episodes in the series, based on Elizabeth Walter’s short story “Traveling Companion” and written by Jimmy Sangster and Richard Matheson.
Patricia Neal, who was in another Ghost Story, is Ellen Alexander. She has finally convinced her husband to take time away from his work and take her on vacation, but nearly as soon as they check in to a casino hotel, his bags are packed and he’s moved to another room. She can no longer find him and is horrified to discover a lottery in the main room where couples are tearfully split up forever when their numbers are called.
Beyond Neal, who is perfect in this, Craig Stevens is hotel manager, full of calm in the face of telling people the inevitable. He’s usually remembered for playing Peter Gunn, but he’s quite good here in a different role. Alice Ghostley plays a domineering woman who is struck down by the game, wondering why they planned and dreamed so much when her husband’s number is called. It was also great to see Lynn Hamilton, who was so good as Fred Sanford’s love interest Donna.
Director Robert Day started his career in England before coming to America, where he mainly worked in television. That said, his directed work is more memorable than many of his contemporaries thanks to his solid guidance of movies like Ritual of Evil, The Initiation of Sarah and Scruples.
This episode has stayed with me longer than any of the others in the series. If you’re going to pick just one of these to watch — or want to know which episode to start with — this would be it.
You can watch this on YouTube.