Blog Archives

Serling’s Re-Zoning Efforts: “Time Enough at Last”

How could I not have started my series of posts reviewing Serling’s Twilight Zone adaptations with “Time Enough at Last”?

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We’re talking about a huge fan favorite — one that is arguably the most well-known episode. It’s also the first non-Serling tale that aired, after seven originals opened the series in the fall of 1959.

I guess I was too intrigued to chronicle what Serling had done to stories by such legendary TZ scribes as Richard Matheson and George Clayton Johnson. His changes there amounted to a complete overhaul. And it was fun to examine the remarkable work he did to bring Damon Knight’s “To Serve Man” to the screen.

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But before he turned to those scripts, he choose to adapt Lynn Venable’s short story about a poor man who … well, as she put it: Read the rest of this entry

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Séances and Surrealism: Another Night Gallery Tour

Come in, everyone. Glad you could make it. Ready to see some lovely, flower-filled meadows? Contemplate a few peaceful, rustic landscapes?

Sorry to hear that. Because you’ve entered … the Night Gallery.

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As founder Rod Serling once said, “In this particular salon, we choose our paintings with an eye more towards terror than technique.” That explains the dark, dusty halls. The chilly drafts that whistle down the corridors. The long shadows that offer numerous hiding places for … well, let’s get started. The night won’t last forever.

Perhaps you joined us on our first tour of the Night Gallery. You may have even tagged along for round two. If so, I can understand why you’re glancing around nervously. But remember, fright doesn’t always take a familiar form. Tonight’s selections prove that there is as much to dread in the brightest day as in the darkest night.

So without further ado, here are 10 more sinister selections for your enjoyment (click on any title to watch the episode it’s part of on Hulu): Read the rest of this entry

A Perditious Poll: Who’s the Best Devil on Twilight Zone?

“Please allow me to introduce myself,” goes the opening line of “Sympathy for the Devil.” An introduction is especially important if you’re a Twilight Zone fan. After all, the fifth dimension is home to no fewer than four different people claiming to be the Prince of Lies.

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But which Beelzebub is best? That’s up to you. Not that it’ll be an easy choice. Each performance is a solid one, making this a diabolically difficult decision. In chronological order, we have …

Thomas Gomez (“Escape Clause” — November 6, 1959)

He may be going by the name “Cadwallader,” but when his newest sucker client says, “You’re the Devil,” Gomez’s character gives a wicked grin and replies, “At your service.” You want immortality? Just sign the dotted line, relinquish your soul … and enjoy. Read the rest of this entry

Time Enough at Last: “The One That Haunts People”

Of all the episodes of The Twilight Zone, perhaps none has left more of a mark on viewers than “Time Enough at Last.” The episode that struck fear in the hearts of book-lovers everywhere — and inspired horrified glasses-wearers to opt for a back-up pair — turns 55 today.

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In a 1984 article for Twilight Zone magazine, star Burgess Meredith recalled how the episode excited writer Rod Serling himself:

He had just seen some rushes of the show, which made him very enthusiastic. He said, ‘Hey, you’re wonderful. Let’s do more shows with you.’ After that, Rod wrote a Twilight Zone for me each season. Our relationship wound up lasting a long time. And of course, later in our careers, we both did a lot of voice-over work.

Not quite EACH season, as it turns out. Meredith did “Time Enough at Last” in the first season, “Mr. Dingle, The Strong” and “The Obsolete Man” in the second, and “Printer’s Devil” in the fourth. But the fact remains that Serling clearly enjoyed writing for this talented man. Read the rest of this entry

Mr. Meredith, The Versatile

Time for a few introductions, Twilight Zone fans. Recognize these four men?

Burgess Meredith

The meek one with the mustache and the Coke-bottle eyeglasses? That’s Henry Bemis. Next to him is a smiling, nervous, bow-tied vacuum-cleaner salesman named Luther Dingle. Over there, books in hand, is the unassuming but dignified Romney Wordsworth. And the man with the crooked cigar, the leering expression and the unsettling grin? Mr. Smith.

Four of the fifth dimension’s most distinct and memorable characters, each brought to life by one man: Burgess Meredith.

The legendary actor was grateful for the opportunity TZ gave him. “Rod used to have a part for me every season,” he said, “and every one of them was extraordinary.” He would go on to star in two episodes of Serling’s follow-up series, Night Gallery, livening up “The Little Black Bag” and “Finnegan’s Flight”.

But which of his TZ roles is the greatest? Let’s get a little spoiler-y and meet the candidates: Read the rest of this entry

TZ: The Best of Season 4

“Ours is the perfect half-hour show. If we went to an hour, we’d have to fleshen our stories, soap opera style. Viewers could watch fifteen minutes without knowing whether they were in a Twilight Zone or Desilu Playhouse.”

That was Rod Serling speaking, a couple years before The Twilight Zone spent one season as, yes, an hour-long show.

Why? Primarily because Twilight Zone was briefly off the air following Season 3, then brought back as a mid-season replacement — and the show it was replacing was 60 minutes. Besides, if the show was a hit at 30 minutes, why not expand it to 60 and give the audience twice as much show?

It soon became clear why: Fantasy stories, especially ones that depended on a twist ending, were more ideally suited to the half-hour format. In 30 minutes, they could get in, set up an intriguing premise, and then deliver the payoff. But when you double that length, the effect is ruined. The longer the expected payoff was delayed, the more the suspense and tension was dissipated.

Take “The Thirty-Fathom Grave,” for example. It’s a story about a modern Navy ship discovering a sunken World War II submarine — and hearing a mysterious tapping sound coming from inside. For the sake of those who haven’t seen it, I won’t ruin the ending, but suffice it to say that the story, despite the usual quality touches you’d expect on a TZ, is simply too padded. Several other Season 4 episodes were also stretched out a bit too long. Read the rest of this entry