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An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

Discussion in 'Book & Movie Review Tent' started by Robtweb1, Apr 15, 2012.

  1. Robtweb1

    Robtweb1 2nd Lieutenant Retired Moderator Civil War Photo Contest
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    A short story by Ambrose Bierce which has been made into several radio plays and on tevelevison - Alfred Hitchcock Presents and the Twilight Zone to name a couple. I had the pleasure to hear one of the earlier radio versions on satellite radio tonight. Very spooky.

    http://fiction.eserver.org/short/occurrence_at_owl_creek.html
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  3. Jojotater

    Jojotater Private

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    Loved that story, first read it in school yeeears ago.
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  4. phil1861

    phil1861 Corporal

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    I think I've seen the black and white version of his short story, it must have been the twilight zone episode.

    Bierce was present at Chickamauga and his short story of that battle through the eyes of a little boy is haunting; it is too bad Crane's Red Badge of Courage has wider acceptance over Bierce's works given Bierce was a veteran and actually present for what he described.
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  5. Glorybound

    Glorybound Major Retired Moderator

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    5.22 "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge"
    Season 5, Episode 22
    Written & Directed by: Robert Enrico

    [​IMG]

    An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge makes for an unusual twenty five minutes of American television, given its sophisticated sense of visual poetry and near total lack of spoken dialogue. It uses long, lyrical passages to play with the nature of time, memory and imagination, as well as employs unconventional grammatical devices, such as surprising subjective shots, a protracted reverse tracking shot, and provocative jump cuts characteristic of the French New Wave.

    That only seems appropriate, given that the short film, which won awards at both Cannes and the Oscars under the title La Rivière du Hibou, was originally an independent French production not intended for American television; it was sold to the producers of The Twilight Zone for $10,000—less than a sixth the cost of an average episode—under the stipulation that it could only be shown twice. Like The Encounter then, but for different reasons, it was subsequently dropped from future syndication; yet the film, based on a late nineteenth-century short story of the same name by Ambrose Bierce, has maintained a beloved popular and critical reputation—short and sweet, it's become a standard fixture in Middle Schools everywhere, a marvelous way for passive educators to kill half an hour.

    Appearing to be set during the American Civil War, a man (Roger Jacquet) of curiously Gallic features is set to be hung off of the Owl Creek Bridge by a small group of soldiers. (His crime is only vaguely alluded to by a sign that begins the episode, declaring that anyone who attempts to block or destroy the bridge will be executed.) When the plank that suspends him is kicked out, however, the absurdly long rope, rather than snap his neck, plunges him into the river below; the man loosens his binds, surfaces to the water and swims to safety amid flying bullets and cannon fire. As forces continue to pursue him, he runs into the forest and attempts to make it home to his beloved.

    There are some marvelous moments here, such as the unbearably tense sequence in which he races to remove his noose underwater, the prolonged opening sequence in which he nervously awaits his fate, and the idyllic flashback of his lover on a verdant, sun-soaked estate. Our protagonist rolls around in the sand, smells the flowers, and watches such trivial events as a spider construct its web, all gorgeously photographed to underscore how beautiful the world is, and what a gift it is to be alive. (This is also not so subtly underscored by a soulful ballad called "A Livin' Man" that plays throughout.) Even as he teeters above the water, when not daydreaming of his sweetheart or mustering courage he spends his time listening to the chirping birds and observing something as simple as a twig floating in a river (which also foreshadows his imminent fate), seemingly saying goodbye to the world with the clinging reluctance of a teenager at the airport, incessantly kissing her sweetheart as he pulls away, en route to Europe for study abroad.

    But more to the point, An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge is an artistic experiment that examines the credulous nature of the average spectator's relationship to his narrator, and it packs a wollop of an ending; even if I were spoil for you (which I won't), you would still leap with surprise. "My heart literally stopped beating," declares a poster on the IMDb message boards. It is a cruel, shocking and violently sudden finale to an impressive and elegant short, an episode of The Twilight Zone in name and spirit but in neither form nor style.

    http://twilightzoneproject.blogspot.com/2007/05/522-occurrence-at-owl-creek-bridge.html
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  6. donna

    donna Lt. Colonel Forum Host

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    I have the book "The Civil War Writings of Ambrose Bierce Shadows off Blue & Gray". "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" is one of the stories. " Shadows of Blue & Gray" is a collection of all of Bierce's Civil War stories and also includes six excerpts from his Memoirs recalling his experiences on the front lines.

    It was one of my great finds at a library sale.
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  7. phil1861

    phil1861 Corporal

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    I had this inkling from memory that it was bereft of all dialogue, much like the short story was all stream of conciseness from the condemned man's perspective.
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  8. Nathanb1

    Nathanb1 Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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    This just irritates the *&^^ out of me......

    Jeez Louise......
  9. phil1861

    phil1861 Corporal

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    Odd, I didn't even bother to read the blurb until you pointed that out.

    I suppose active educators would fit out their classrooms in period gear, march them around the school grounds with broom handle weapons and reenact Pickett's Charge?
  10. Glorybound

    Glorybound Major Retired Moderator

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    I can't tell if that's a thinly disguised slap at educators or the film. To be honest I only skimmed the article before I posted it, then locked on to the last paragraph which is fairly complimentary of the film. I missed that little gem that you quoted. He seems to be fond of the term 'marvelous' for some reason.
  11. Union_Buff

    Union_Buff 1st Lieutenant Forum Host

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    I've read that story several times before, plus I have seen it on the Twilight Zone, and it is amazing :smile:
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  12. Nathanb1

    Nathanb1 Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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    Technically I suppose we'd act out a military execution (hanging). "I regret that I have but one life to give for my school mascot....."
  13. pamc153PA

    pamc153PA 1st Lieutenant Forum Host

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    There's a newer version called Ambrose Bierce: Civil War Stories on DVD. Besides "Occurrence" it also includes "Story of a Conscience" and "One Kind of Officer." The in-between stuff with Ambrose Bierce (played by Campbell Scott) is kind of cheesy, but the stories themselves are fine.

    And it's also in color, for those of us in education who like to kill that half and hour without the students complaining the movie is in black and white! :smile:
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  14. Nathanb1

    Nathanb1 Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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    I happen to love Bierce, his writing (way ahead of his time, IMHO) and this particular story....and my students have written some excellent essays after reading and watching. So there. Hmph.

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