The Man Who Created TZ’s Opening Credits Looks Back

It’s hard enough to classify The Twilight Zone after you’ve seen it. Imagine trying to depict what it’s about before you’ve watched a single episode.

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That’s the task that fell to Sam Clayberger in 1959. At the time, he was an artist who worked for United Productions of America (UPA), the animation company that CBS hired to do the opening credits for a new TV show hosted by … Rod Serling. Read the rest of this entry

10 More Little-Known Facts About The Twilight Zone

“Where am I? What is this, some kind of a joke or something? I don’t know you. I don’t know any of you!” — TZ’s A World of Difference

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Such confusion can be fun when we’re enjoying a story from the fifth dimension. After all, reality can be boring … except, of course, when it comes to behind-the-scenes info about The Twilight Zone itself. Not all surprises took place in front of the camera.

You may have seen my other blog post with 10 little-known facts about TZ. (If not, click here.) So how about 10 more? Read the rest of this entry

“A Perfect Twilight Zone Opening”: Matheson’s “A World of Difference”

Rod Serling made a point of saying, even before The Twilight Zone debuted, that he wasn’t interested in settling for “second-best”. And it showed. He hired the best people, then turned them loose on some of the best scripts ever to grace the television medium.

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I focused in a recent post on the world-class directors who made their mark on TZ. It was hardly an exhaustive piece, but that was by design. You could fill a book with all the marvelous touches these talented visual storytellers brought to TZ.

So I focused primarily on James Sheldon’s work on “It’s a Good Life,” hoping to come back from time to time to spotlight other directorial highlights. Well, the recent anniversary of Richard Matheson‘s “A World of Difference” made me think of another: the shot that reveals to the lead character that he’s an actor on a movie set. Read the rest of this entry

“Light and Shadow”: A Look at Twilight Zone’s Directors

“The Twilight Zone will be directed, written, produced, and acted by television’s elite.” —Serling before TZ premiered

I focus heavily here on the writing of Rod Serling and other talented authors — and rightly so. Their imaginative scripts were the launching pad for some of the most memorable and timeless television ever filmed.

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But you need more than that to create a Twilight Zone episode. To truly bring the fifth dimension to life, you need first-rate actors in front of the camera, and a top-notch crew behind it.

I couldn’t help reflecting on the crucial role played by the head of that crew, the director, when I heard that James Sheldon had died on March 12. His many credits include six TZ episodes, three of which are bona fide fan favorites: “A Penny For Your Thoughts”, “Long Distance Call” and “It’s a Good Life“.* Read the rest of this entry

Rod Serling and Model Airplanes: Winging It

One of my favorite anecdotes from Anne Serling’s book:

My dad loved building model airplanes. He would sit at a wooden table and, although not very mechanically minded, assemble these tiny warplanes, gluing and painting them.

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Rod Serling and Inger Stevens

His brother remembered: “I was visiting Rod in California and [he] was building a replica of the Red Baron’s Fokker triplane. He couldn’t get the glue to hold on the top wing which kept flopping. Rod finally lost his patience, threw the model on the floor and stamped it into a few hundred pieces. ‘Rod,’ I asked, ‘why the hell do you even build those things if you get so frustrated?’” Read the rest of this entry

Finding Faith in the Fifth Dimension

Religious content in The Twilight Zone? The sci-fi fantasy show about time travel, homicidal dolls and aliens with hostile intent? The idea may seem absurd at first.

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“The Howling Man”

Yet the deeper one looks for religious messages — and Lent certainly seems like a good time to do it — the more one finds them popping up, both directly and indirectly. (Spoilers ahead, casual Zone viewers.)

For starters, consider how often we see the Devil or one of his emissaries. In “Printer’s Devil”, for example, Burgess Meredith plays a man who helps a small-town publisher on the brink of suicide achieve financial success by ferreting out scandal stories that smash the competition. He then unfurls a contract stating that only by agreeing to relinquish his soul can the publisher cement this arrangement. Read the rest of this entry

Serling’s Re-Zoning Efforts: “To Serve Man”

Remember how the Kanamits in “To Serve Man” looked? Short, fat and hairy, with pig-like faces. Three fingers on each hand. Walking around in green shorts. Hard to forget that image.

Wait, what?

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If you’re confused, it’s because you’re picturing the way the Kanamits looked in one of the most famous episodes of The Twilight Zone. The description I just gave was how they looked in the short story that Rod Serling based his script on.

My first two “Re-Zoning” posts showed how freely Serling would adapt his scripts from the source material. He wasn’t one to simply take the story as is and put it in script form. Oh, no. Turning an intriguing story into a true Twilight Zone often required quite a few changes. Read the rest of this entry

Rod Serling, “Hogan’s Heroes” and Bob Crane

If Rod Serling didn’t like something, you were going to hear about it. And he hated Hogan’s Heroes.

So you might conclude that Serling also BobCrane_Portraitdisliked its main star, Bob Crane. On the contrary, they enjoyed a friendship that began before the show and continued after it was over.

I knew that Crane, who first came to fame as a radio host, had appeared (voice only) as an announcer in The Twilight Zone‘s “Static”. I also knew that Crane had interviewed Serling on his radio show several times (most notably about “The Shelter”, which you can listen to here), and that he’d starred (post-Hogan’s Heroes) in Night Gallery‘s “House—With Ghost”). Read the rest of this entry

“You’ve Just Crossed Over Into … The Twilight Zone”

Twilight Zone marathons always bring an influx of new followers to my Twitter page, and this year’s extravaganza on Syfy was no exception. About 500 additional fans joined in the fifth-dimensional festivities, enough for me to break the 14,000-follower mark.

If you’re one of them, welcome! I thought a quick orientation post might help.

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“A Stop at Willoughby”

Why? Well, sometimes people express surprise that I tweet about anything other than The Twilight Zone. Some, in fact, are surprised that I tweet at all when there isn’t a marathon on.

But I didn’t create my Twitter page simply to live-tweet TZ marathons. I did it to share quotes and facts from ALL of Rod Serling’s works, and to do it year-round. They’re primarily from The Twilight Zone, of course — that’s his crowning achievement. But I also draw from Rod Serling’s Night Gallery (the horror series that followed TZ), as well as Serling’s pre-TZ teleplays, movies and books. Read the rest of this entry

George Clayton Johnson, Writer of “Wisdom Fiction”

I’ve written a blog post about Richard Matheson and his Twilight Zone episodes. I’ve written one about Charles Beaumont. I’ve even written one about Earl Hamner. And Heaven knows I’ve written plenty about Rod Serling.

But I’ve never written one about George Clayton Johnson. And now the news of his death at 86 is making me wish I had done so much sooner.

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True, I did spotlight one of his wonderful TZ episodes before now, “A Game of Pool” (twice, in fact – here and here). But no post yet about “Nothing in the Dark”? “Kick the Can”? “A Penny For Your Thoughts”? There’s hardly a Twilight Zone fan out there who doesn’t list at least one of those classics among his favorite episodes. Read the rest of this entry

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