Category Archives: Twilight Zone

Serling on Camera: Filming “the Star of the Show”

“Because there was no regular, recurring cast, he was, in essence, the star of the show.” — Billy Mumy on Rod Serling

“The Old Man in the Cave”

Billy has a point. Anthologies differ from other TV series in one important way: Every episode offers us an entirely new story, with a new cast. The only continuity is the quality of the series itself.

The Twilight Zone had that in spades, obviously. But it had something else: Rod Serling, on screen. Hinting at what we’d see in the episode ahead, then returning at the end (at least vocally) to offer some wry comment about what we had witnessed.

I don’t know about you, but his presence is one of my favorite things about the series. “I think it was a major factor in the success of the show,” William Self, the producer of “Where is Everybody?” once said of Serling’s narrations. Read the rest of this entry

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From Reel to Real: “The Sixteen Millimeter Shrine”

The Twilight Zone has a pretty straightforward moral code. The evil are punished. The proud are humbled. The good are rewarded. The forgotten are remembered.

True, there are some exceptions. “Time Enough at Last,” for example, appears to be a prime instance of Fate punishing an innocent. The earthlings in “To Serve Man” did nothing to merit becoming “an ingredient in someone’s soup.” But by and large, you deserve the ending you get.

And then there’s “The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine”.

It’s the earliest example in TZ of someone yearning for the past. It aired just before “Walking Distance”, which explored this theme so beautifully that it inevitably overshone its predecessor.

But Shrine‘s problem isn’t merely standing in the shadow of “Walking Distance”. I think this episode fails to really resonate with fans because the main character, Barbara Jean Trenton (played by the amazing Ida Lupino, who would later direct TZ’s “The Masks”), is a hard figure to sympathize with.

Read the rest of this entry

Spotlight on Season 4: “Passage on the Lady Anne”

The usual criticism of Twilight Zone‘s 4th season is familiar to most fans: Stretching the series from a half-hour to an hour meant bloat. Something was lost. Suddenly more added up to less.

“Mute”

Sure, the series still brought us the elements of fantasy that had served it so well throughout the first three seasons: time travel, space travel, horror, and loads of irony. But the extra length mean the writers inevitably drifted more toward drama. Instead of snap, there was sag.

But hey, we’re still talking about the amazing Twilight Zone. And we continued getting stories from Rod Serling, Charles Beaumont, and Richard Matheson. So we may have been denied the classic Zone formula, but we weren’t exactly getting junk.

Freed from the need to sprint to the finish line, the writers had room to explore their themes a bit more deeply. This meant padding at times, but on other occasions, it gave the material a chance to breathe and draw us more deeply into the world of the story. Read the rest of this entry

No Twilight Zone Marathon on July 4th? Say It Ain’t So, Syfy

This isn’t the Twilight Zone marathon blog post I thought I’d be writing.

I was sure I’d be continuing my late-June tradition of publishing the schedule for the Syfy channel’s July 4 line-up of TZ episodes. But we recently learned they won’t be airing a marathon that day – unless you’re counting their replacement: an all-day slate of “Nightmare on Elm Street” movies.

Hey, I enjoy some Elm Street action at times. But I think even Freddy Krueger would admit the real horror here is leaving people without their biannual fifth-dimensional fix.

It’s true that this isn’t unprecedented. In 2011, Syfy ran a Greatest American Hero marathon over the Fourth. Granted, that’s more thematically appropriate, but you mess with TZ fans at your peril. They complained – mightily – and TZ returned in 2012. Read the rest of this entry

“Eye of the Beholder”: The Face Under the Bandages

She starred in one of the most iconic Twilight Zone episodes of all time. And yet if you passed Maxine Stuart on the street, you probably wouldn’t recognize her.

That’s because she spent all of her screen time under a thick layer of bandages in “Eye of the Beholder”. Yes, Stuart played poor Janet Tyler, whose only crime was not upholding the standards of beauty in some skewed dystopia.

Of course, she wasn’t the only actress who played Janet Tyler. Once the bandages were off, we saw only the face of Donna Douglas (the future Elly May Clampett on “The Beverly Hillbillies”). So why the switch? Why wasn’t the part handled entirely by either Stuart or Douglas?

Primarily because of how director Douglas Heyes opted to handle this amazing script. He wanted the twist ending to land with a real wallop. That led him to stage it so that we never see the faces of the doctors and nurses until the big reveal.

It also led him, he later said, to audition the actors and actresses with his back to them. He knew their voices were key. So for the medical personnel, he picked ones with warm, caring voices, to make it all the more shocking when we see how they really look.

We’re supposed to assume that Janet Tyler is horribly ugly. Since her appearance is only talked about for the first three-quarters of the episode, we have to use our imaginations. So, to convey (at least aurally) the notion that she’s ugly, he cast Maxine Stuart at least in part for her somewhat rough-sounding voice. Read the rest of this entry

Is the Outer Limits Better Than the Twilight Zone?

There I was, scrolling along social media, when a headline jumped out at me: “The Outer Limits Was Better Than The Twilight Zone”.

Whoa, now. Back up the space ship. What’s that again? Perhaps Talky Tina was pulling my leg.

But no. There was a picture of Robert Culp, in one of his OL appearances, adorning a Nerdist article that dared to assert a preposterous second-place finish for Serling’s brainchild. I was aghast.

Okay, I’m playing up my reaction a bit. I don’t really tie myself in knots when I read an opinion I disagree with. It’s a big world, and lots of people like different things. But I was naturally intrigued by writer Kyle Anderson’s claim, and as an Outer Limits fan myself, I had to find out: Does he make a compelling case?

No, he doesn’t. But before you assume that’s simply my natural bias speaking, let me explain why I think so. Anderson actually makes some interesting points. I just don’t think they prove his premise.

Mind you, Anderson doesn’t dislike TZ. “I would never be so foolish as to say The Twilight Zone wasn’t great television, nor that The Outer Limits‘ 49 episodes were better across the board than the 156 made for Twilight“, he writes, then adds: Read the rest of this entry

The Lure of Forced Utopia: Twilight Zone’s “Number 12 Looks Just Like You”

Watching The Twilight Zone can sometimes seem like a Rorschach test. What seems obvious to you may not even occur to someone else — and what they see can leave you scratching your head.

Case in point: “Number 12 Looks Just Like You”. This Season 5 episode deals with a future society in which everyone must undergo a “transformation” when they reach a certain age. They browse a set of pre-arranged body types, select one of these attractive models by number, and one painless operation later, presto, they look like all the other people with that number (hence the title). Ugliness is a thing of the past.

In the episode, however, one rather plain-looking girl, Marilyn, rebels. She doesn’t want a new face, a new body — or the transformed mind that goes with it. But her mother, her friends, and the others in her social circle will have none of it. They cheerfully keep chipping away at her resolve. In the end, she’s simply forced into it, but now she doesn’t mind. She’s last glimpsed excitedly admiring the fact that now looks just like her friend Valerie. Read the rest of this entry

Syfy’s 2017-2018 New Year’s Twilight Zone Marathon — Full Schedule

Okay, ladies and gentlemen, lock your bank vaults and bomb shelters, pour yourselves a glass of Instant Smile, and feast your eyes on the full schedule for Syfy’s 2017-2018 New Year’s Twilight Zone marathon:

Sunday, December 31, 2017

4:00am – The Howling Man

4:30am – Where is Everybody?

5:00am – The Thirty-Fathom Grave

6:00am – Mirror Image

6:30am – The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank

7:00am – A Piano in the House

7:30am – The Bard

8:30am – The Rip Van Winkle Caper Read the rest of this entry

Syfy’s 2017-2018 New Year’s Twilight Zone Marathon Schedule — Part I

Good news! Here are times and titles for Syfy’s next New Year’s Twilight Zone marathon.

So what’s the bad news? The list isn’t complete — yet.

But at least you can get a jump on your NYE planning and find out if and when some of your favorites are playing. And if you don’t see them here, there’s always a chance they’ll be there when the rest of the list comes out!

So without further ado …

Sunday, December 31, 2017

4:00am – The Howling Man

4:30am – Where is Everybody?

5:00am – The Thirty-Fathom Grave

6:00am – Mirror Image Read the rest of this entry

The Twilight Zone Companion: A TZ Trailblazer Takes Us Behind the Scenes

Let’s admit it, fellow Twilight Zone fans – we’re pretty spoiled.

Want to watch an episode or two? Have at it. You can see them on DVD or Blu-ray. You can stream them on Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. You can purchase them on iTunes, or through CBS’s website — anytime, day or night.

And let’s not forget good old-fashioned reruns, which are still broadcast on Syfy, Me-TV, and other smaller channels (especially at marathon time, when I invite you to join me on Twitter).

What about books? There are plenty – ones about the show, ones about Rod Serling, ones featuring stories done in the TZ vein. There’s a movie. There was a magazine. There have been two revivals so far, and there’s talk of more to come.

In short, it’s not hard to get your Twilight Zone fix. But it didn’t used to be that way. Read the rest of this entry