Blog Archives

How to Keep The Howling Man From Escaping

If the Devil were trapped and asked you to set him free, would you do it? Of course not, you reply.

But what if he were disguised as a man, and a very sympathetic man at that? Doesn’t matter, you answer. You’d see right through him.HowlingMan

We all like to think we would. But if you’re a Twilight Zone fan, and you’ve watched the classic episode “The Howling Man,” you may not be so sure. Get too cocky, and you could wind up sprawled on the floor, watching him escape through the nearest window.

That was Mr. Ellington’s fate. He didn’t believe Brother Jerome, who insisted that the prisoner was a liar. He probably thought, like any of us would, that he was too smart to be deceived.

So what did he do wrong? Having watched the episode more than a dozen times once or twice, I think I know. And I have Marc Scott Zicree to thank for it. 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

After the Zone-a-thon III

Ring in the new year without The Twilight Zone? Most fans of the fifth dimension would sooner think a bad thought around Anthony Fremont.

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No, we were all there, and fortunately, the Syfy channel didn’t disappoint. They ran a terrific slate of episodes this time. Sure, Season 4 was largely neglected, but the 87 episodes that DID make it were well-chosen. (Of course, it helps that TZ has so few duds.)

But even so, there were some solid episodes that didn’t make this year’s marathon. I’ve highlighted a few of them below. You can click on any of the titles to watch the episode in question on free Hulu.

ELEGY

Season 1, Episode 20 – February 19, 1960

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If you were an astronaut who discovered people frozen like statues on some far-flung planet, how would you explain it? The trio of explorers who star in Charles Beaumont’s “Elegy” come up with quite a few theories, but it takes the only person who does move around — a 200-year-old robot caretaker, to be precise — to reveal the startling truth. Read the rest of this entry

False Alarm at a Funhouse

To say it takes a writer with a fertile imagination to write a Twilight Zone is an understatement. Rod Serling and others could spin a spellbinding story from remarkably ordinary circumstances.

Take a trip to a funhouse. Ever been through one? Nearly everyone has. But for Charles Beaumont, the writer of nearly two dozen Twilight Zone episodes, it wasn’t the same experience it is for the rest of us.Perchance to Dream Funhouse TicketBooth

I’ve always loved Beaumont’s “Perchance to Dream”. It’s such an enjoyably frightening TZ that I’ve written not one, but two previous blog posts about it. And with Halloween approaching, I wanted share one of my favorite behind-the-scenes stories about Beaumont, as related by Marc Scott ZicreeRead the rest of this entry

The Case of the Missing Twilight Zone Season

“This is the way the world ends,” T.S. Eliot wrote in his poem The Hollow Men. “Not with a bang but a whimper.” Surely, though, the same fate should not befall The Twilight Zone?

Alas. 50 years ago today, on June 19, 1964, the last episode of the fifth season aired: “The Bewitchin’ Pool.” Even fans of this episode (and my most recent post showed that I’m not one) wouldn’t call this one a bang. Sorry, but this was no way for Rod Serling’s ground-breaking foray into the fifth dimension to conclude.

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But that’s the thing: It wasn’t supposed to end at that point. At least not as far as Serling was concerned. He’d already been mapping out plans for a sixth season, and I can’t help but feel that the way he talked about it suggested an awareness that TZ needed a return to form of sorts after an interesting but uneven Season 5.

On February 5, 1964, at the mid-point of Season 5, Serling wrote to Aldon Schwimmer of Ashley Steiner, the talent agency that represented him, with what he planned to do for the new season. According to author Martin Grams: Read the rest of this entry

After the Zone-a-thon II

Henry Bemis and his all-too-breakable eyeglasses? Check. Talky Tina? She was there. Agnes Moorehead, battling two tiny aliens who crash-land on her roof? Front and center. A gremlin on an airplane wing? He flew in just for the occasion.

Yes, the roster of fifth-dimension All-Stars was long at the Syfy channel’s annual two-day Twilight Zone marathon this New Year’s. From the tension-filled houses on Maple Street to the lush cornfields of Peaksville, Ohio, hardly anyone missed the festivities.

But although the schedule was packed with fan favorites, a few gems were conspicuously absent. We all would have been better served if replacements for clunkers such as “What’s in the Box” and “Caesar and Me” had been pulled from the following list:

MIRROR IMAGE

Season 1, Episode 21 – February 26, 1960

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Parallel planes. Disappearing doppelgängers. It’s a metaphysical mind-trip of the first order, one that definitely deserved a spot on Syfy’s schedule. I’m blaming Vera Miles’s wily twin for making this classic vanish from the marathon. Read the rest of this entry

A Series for Storytellers

Recently I was contacted by a reporter working on an article about the latest release of The Twilight Zone on DVD. We talked about many aspects of the show, but the first thing he asked was why I thought it continues to have such lasting appeal.

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It’s a fair question. I mean, it’s been 50 years! TV shows come and go by the truckload. In an age of digital streaming and CGI wonders, what accounts for the popularity of some black-and-white series that premiered back when Dwight Eisenhower was president?

There are many ingredients you can point to: the acting, the photography, the twist endings. And quite rightly; TZ was a first-class affair from top to bottom. Read the rest of this entry

Finding Fright in the Fifth

It’s a Halloween staple that ranks right up there with spooking trick-or-treaters, carving pumpkins and wearing outlandish costumes: watching a scary-movie marathon.

But in an age of digital streaming and high-quality DVDs and Blu-rays, why limit yourself to movies? Why not program a few chills right from the fifth dimension?

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True, The Twilight Zone is generally considered a science-fiction series (although I think it’s so unique that it defies easy classification). And yes, the stories dreamed up by Rod Serling, Richard Matheson, Charles Beaumont and other TZ writers were usually designed more to intrigue and edify than to disorient or frighten viewers.

But every now and then, the series gave us some old-fashioned scary moments that might cause even your favorite vampire to glance over his shoulder. So here, in the spirit of October 31st, are 13 Twilight Zones that may make you think twice about turning out the light (click any title to go to the Hulu link and watch it):

LIVING DOLL

Season 5, Episode 6 — November 1, 1963

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Some tips for those who find themselves near Talky Tina: If she says she hates you, don’t laugh at her. If she threatens you, don’t mock her. Erich Streator (a pre-Kojak Telly Savalas) did, only to discover that Tina is very serious about protecting her young owner. DEADLY serious. Beaumont (aided by an uncredited Jerry Sohl) gives us a creepy tale that does to dolls what Hitchcock did to birds. Read the rest of this entry

The Lost Art of Aging Not-So-Gracefully

Say you want to age 2,000 years in two minutes. What’s the best way to do it?

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There are two different ways:

1) Take the approach used by the title character in The Twilight Zone’s” Long Live Walter Jameson”. Find an alchemist, pay him to experiment on you, and wake up to discover that you are, in fact, immortal. Then survive without an accident for two millennia. Sure, it takes a degree of luck normally reserved for mega-jackpot winners, but it’s possible.

2) Use the relatively simple make-up technique that William Tuttle used on actor Kevin McCarthy to create the illusion that Mr. Jameson was beginning to turn to dust before our eyes. Read the rest of this entry

“Something I Imagined”

Because many of the hour-long Twilight Zone episodes lack the snap of their half-hour counterparts, they’re often unfairly dismissed. As I’ve pointed out before, though, several of them are quite entertaining. And a few contain some of the finest writing in the series.

One particularly touching moment occurs at the end of Charles Beaumont’s “Miniature.” (As usual: spoilers ahead). Charley Parkes, played by a young Robert Duvall, is convinced that the characters he glimpses inside a large, ornate dollhouse at a local museum are real. He is particularly drawn to Alice, a beautiful woman in Victorian attire.

At one point, he’s arrested for trying to break into the dollhouse after witnessing Alice fend off the advances of an unwanted suitor. In an effort to cure Charley, his family has him committed to a rest home. A psychiatrist named Dr. Wallman patiently tries to persuade him that it’s all in his head.

Charley improves — or so it seems — and is released. But it turns out he was faking. He returns to the dollhouse, sees Alice in tears, and says: Read the rest of this entry