Monthly Archives: March 2020

The Perils and Pitfalls of Social Distancing … in the Twilight Zone

“Social distancing” is a new skill for most of us. Even many introverts are finding the new norms to be a bit much.

But in the fifth dimension, it’s a different story. Keeping your neighbors at arm’s length isn’t all that unusual.

Just ask astronaut Mike Ferris. He spent most of the Twilight Zone pilot, “Where is Everybody?”, wandering around an empty town. The closest thing he found to another human being was a store mannequin.

Or how about the prisoner in “The Lonely”? Poor Corry was not only in solitary confinement, he wasn’t even on Earth. Weeks would go by before anyone showed up to bring him supplies.

Then there was Henry Bemis in “Time Enough at Last”. Nothing like a little nuclear blast to ensure you get some major “me time”. Read the rest of this entry

Identity Crisis: Figuring Out the End of Twilight Zone’s “A World of Difference”

There are times when watching The Twilight Zone is something of a Twilight Zone experience itself.

Actually, it’s not the watching that does that. For me, it’s apt to happen when I’m discussing an episode with other fans, and I find that their explanation of an episode differs completely from mine.

Take Season 1’s “A World of Difference”, which stars Howard Duff. I recently took note on my Twitter page of its March 11 anniversary. As always, I gave a brief synopsis: “An actor whose real life is a mess decides that the idyllic role he’s playing is reality.”

I’m used to hearing people say they like or don’t like an episode. But this time, I also got reactions like this:

  • “Wait, he’s the actor? I thought the real guy just fell into the Zone and had to get out.”
  • “I still don’t know how to interpret the ending.”
  • “It always made me unsure which was real and which wasn’t, but I suppose he was only playing the role he believed to be his real life.”
  • “Wait…for real?! He was really the actor all along? I’m so confused!”

At this point, they weren’t the only ones! It honestly never occurred to me before that the episode could be viewed in any other way. Read the rest of this entry

Tommy From “The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street” Looks Back on a TZ Classic

Even if you’re the biggest Twilight Zone fan in the world, there’s a good chance you’d give me a blank look if I asked you about Jan Handzlik.

But once I said, “He played Tommy in The Monsters are Due on Maple Street”, I’ll bet a light bulb would immediately go on.

Of course, few Zone fans are fond of his character. He did get the paranoia flowing with his comic-book talk about aliens, after all!

But hey, Tommy meant well. He was only 12. And he was just making some innocent observations. Besides, it’s not as if the adults around him needed much prodding to turn on each other.

I bring up Jan because I recently read a 2018 interview with him on a pop-culture website called Noblemania. Although he had some other acting credits in his short career (most notably in the Broadway production of Auntie Mame), the interview focuses quite a bit on his Twilight Zone experience. Here are the highlights:

How old were you when you were cast in The Twilight Zone?

About 12.

Any funny anecdotes about the experience?

All I can remember [is] that Jack Weston was hilarious on stage and off. He’s a terrific actor. As I recall, he kept things pretty light. Read the rest of this entry

Night Gallery’s “The Devil is Not Mocked”

Where would the horror genre be without vampires and werewolves? And where would World War II stories be without Nazis? They’re staples of many chilling accounts.

Ah, but what if you could combine them all in one story? It wouldn’t have to be anything too ambitious or sprawling. One tight little tale might do the trick.

Perhaps that thought is what prompted American writer Manly Wade Wellman (1903-1986) to pen a story called “The Devil is Not Mocked”. Night Gallery fans will likely recognize the name, as it was adapted during the second season into one of the show’s more memorable short segments.

(If you don’t want the story spoiled, maybe bookmark this page before checking it out on NBC.com or on DVD? I’ll be here when you come back.)

Wellman opens with a Nazi commander, General von Grunn (played by Helmut Dantine), being driven along a road in the Balkan countryside, en route to a castle that he’s been told is the headquarters of a secret resistance movement. (I love some of the cars they had in the late 1930s/early 1940s. The godforsaken Nazis did NOT deserve such fine automobiles.) He and his troops plan to take over the castle and convince the inhabitants that their rebellion is futile.

The television version begins with a different scene entirely. Gallery scribe Gene Kearney starts with a man (played by Francis Lederer) talking to his grandson. He tells the boy he’s going to relate what he did during the great world war: “For while many are the terrible charges made against our ancestors, let no man deny our patriotism.” The scene shifts, and we’re with von Grunn, moving along the road. Read the rest of this entry