Wicked Wednesday: “The Midnight Sun” (1961)

I’ll gladly admit it: I’m a Wisconsinite through and through. I can handle all shades of pretty-fucking-cold, but as soon as it’s over 70 degrees/21 C – I’m over it. And living in Britain doesn’t help things. For one: they don’t use screens on their windows, and despite the fact that it gets hot here EVERY summer – not a single place has air con (minus some stores and restaurants).

And the heat is getting to me.*

To celebrate my good mood, I tried searching for horror movies about heat/heatwaves/hot weather. And nothing. Granted, I wasn’t exactly searching very hard. There was too many crap half-assed articles about ‘summer horror movies’ that I nearly fell asleep at my laptop.

But then I recalled The Twilight Zone episode “The Midnight Sun”.

My father raised me on ZZ Top, Hitchcock and The Twilight Zone. We’d sit and watch the marathons each New Years and Fourth of July, even if we had seen each episode more than half a dozen times.

“The Midnight Sun” is perhaps not one of the most mind-bending episodes, but its one that always stuck in my mind. In the beginning of the episode, Rod Serling introduces us to a situation where the Earth has changed its elliptical orbit and has begun heading closer to the sun every single day.

In New York, two women are the only ones left in their apartment block. Mrs Bronson and the young painter Norma only have each other’s company. They try their best to stay sane in a world of water shortages and people with increasingly-short tempers.

One day, the women hear a radio announcement telling them to keep their doors locked. Looters have taken to breaking in, and all the police have been called away to deal with the traffic heading north.

But one day, the heat causes Mrs Bronson to forget those locks. A man breaks in and takes a jar of Norma’s precious water. He threatens them with a gun before he shows his remorse. He tells them that he’s simply an innocent man in search of water, mostly driven mad by the death of his wife and his baby – neither of whom could handle the heat.

The man eventually leaves, and Mrs Bronson notices Norma’s painting of a waterfall. The older woman is thrilled to see the cool-looking painting. She sings her praises, and reminices about swimming by a waterfall before she collapses. Norma tries to help her, but she then notices the painting is melting from the heat. Then she herself collapses.

When Norma wakes up, she is in her reality: the Earth has moved off its elliptical orbit and has begun to move away from the sun. The days are nearly complete darkness. Norma tells Mrs Bronson of her horrible dream – unaware of her own reality.

It hardly feels so different from our own reality of extreme weather. Though I doubt we would be quite so pleasant as those characters in the episode. You only need to get on the Northern Line at rush hour on a hot day to realise that.

*So it rained on Tuesday and it was cool in the morning. That’s what you get for complaining: exactly what you want.

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