The Twilight Zone (1959–1964)
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The Old Man in the Cave 

In a post-apocalyptic settlement in 1974, the inhabitants' survival is dependent on the advice of an unseen man living in a nearby cave. This dependence is tested when a band of soldiers descends on their town.



(teleplay by), (based on a short story "The Old Man" by) | 1 more credit »

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Episode complete credited cast:
Josie Lloyd ...


Ten years after an atomic apocalypse, a small group of survivors manage to eke out a very difficult existence. They've managed to survive in large part due to the advice they receive from an old man who lives in a cave outside of the town. Goldsmith acts as the intermediary and the old man's advice on things like crops or the safety of a batch of old canned goods are usually correct. When four soldiers led by Major French arrive in the town, the social order is upended with the townsfolk attacking the old man's cave but not really prepared for what they find inside. Written by garykmcd

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Release Date:

8 November 1963 (USA)  »

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


This episode takes place in 1974. See more »


Goldsmith says, "The rest of the world have all died of radioactivity, strontium 90, plague." Strontium 90 is a radioactive isotope of strontium, making it redundant in this case. Strontium 90 is dangerous to humans because the human body treats it like calcium, and it's taken directly into bones. See more »


Goldsmith: When we talked about the ways that men could die, we forgot the chief method of execution. We forgot faithlessness, Major French. Maybe you're not to blame. Maybe if it weren't you, it would have been someone else. Maybe this has to be the destiny of man. I wonder if that's true. I wonder. I guess I'll never know. I guess I'll never know.
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User Reviews

Solid TZ
11 November 2016 | by See all my reviews

First-rate TZ, combining both suspense and worthwhile subtext. A small group of townsfolk survive a nuclear holocaust, apparently because they follow directives from unseen old man in a cave. His instructions are delivered through an imperious townsman, Goldsmith (Anderson), who is the only one to have seen him. Mainly, the old man instructs the folks on what to eat and not eat because of contamination. The survivors have grown thin but are still managing. Then, into their midst arrives a rogue army detachment led by a seemingly power-mad Major (Coburn) who's intent on displacing Goldsmith and the old man. So which faction will prevail.

Suspense is really heightened by not just the premise, but by powerful turns from both Anderson's forceful dignity and Coburn's aggressive authority. Their clash is unusually riveting for series TV. That there's a subtext seems obvious. Should people have faith in an unseen authority on matters of life and death. Also, should they trust intermediary, Goldsmith, the apparent voice of authority. The parallels with certain varieties of organized religion and faith in the unseen appear embedded in the subtext, particularly as they compete with pleasure pursuit which also becomes a factor.

The eventual reveal of the old man surprised me and seems particularly applicable to our day and age. Usually by the fifth year, a series is running dry. Not TZ. Check out the many memorable episodes including this one that characterize year five. For sure, Mr. Serling belongs in some kind of TV hall of fame.

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