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
You know, there’s actually something of a drawback to The Twilight Zone being such a well-written series. Sometimes there are so many good lines, you can overlook a few gems.
Take a scene in my all-time favorite episode, “Eye of the Beholder“. It occurs just before the famous unveiling, so I’m not surprised it tends to be overshadowed.
The doctor has just finished explaining to Janet Tyler that if this final operation to make her beautiful isn’t successful, not to worry — she can still live “a long and fruitful life” among other people who are similarly, well, afflicted. Read the rest of this entry
Have you watched Black Mirror? Heard it described as a modern-day Twilight Zone?
For reasons I explained in a previous blog post, I can’t quite agree. Yes, they’re both trippy anthology series that take a hard look at the human condition. But there are some basic differences that — for me, at least — make the comparison ring hollow.
But I’ve said my piece. I’m bringing up Black Mirror today for a different reason. I’m writing this not so much for my fellow Serling fans as I am for anyone who’s watched Black Mirror, but not The Twilight Zone (or perhaps watched it a long time ago) and who’s wondering if some black-and-white series from the 1960s is worth checking out.
So my purpose here is simple: to recommend a few episodes that I think you, as a fan of Black Mirror, will enjoy — or at least find interesting. So without further ado … Read the rest of this entry
Most people can decide for themselves whether or not to watch an address by the head of their country. The unfortunate residents of The Twilight Zone‘s “Eye of the Beholder” aren’t so lucky.
I’ve described in a previous post why I consider this Rod Serling’s finest work. But on this 54th anniversary of the episode’s first airing, I wanted to highlight the full address given by “Leader” in the climatic scene.
We hear some of it as poor Janet Tyler is trying to run away. But we miss most of it, and believe me, it’s worth quoting in full: Read the rest of this entry
“We had some real turkeys, some fair ones, and some shows I’m really proud to have been a part of. I can walk away from this series unbowed.” — Rod Serling
Turkeys? Serling may have been his own harshest critic, but he wasn’t entirely wrong here. Even a series as distinguished as The Twilight Zone, with a hit-to-miss ratio that most TV producers would kill for, had a few misfires along the way.
But which ones missed the mark? It’s entirely subjective. One man’s gem is another man’s junk. Bring up “The Bewitchin’ Pool,” and you’ll hear from people who consider it a delightful fantasy, and others who think it’s a clunker. Many people find “One for the Angels” sweet and charming; others can’t get past the fact that Ed Wynn is hardly convincing as a fast-talking pitchman.
I even spoke to a man once who’d been going through TZ in order and said he had finally hit a dud. Curious, I asked which one. His reply: “The Invaders,” which nearly everyone hails as a Zone classic.
But these debates are part of the fun. It’s interesting to compare notes, as we do with our favorite TZs, and discuss what we don’t like — and why.
Here are the 12 episodes you’ll find at the bottom of my list. Now, I’m not saying every one is an irredeemable time-waster. Even the worst TZ is better than much of what you’ll find on TV; they fall short mainly when measured against TZ’s routine excellence. And there are some aspects of nearly every episode below that I do like.
But for my money, the fifth-dimensional flops include: Read the rest of this entry
“I want to belong,” pleads a woman whose face is swathed in bandages. “I want to be like everybody.”
Nearly all of us do at one time or other. The desire to fit in can exert a seemingly irresistible force. “Conform or be cast out,” Geddy Lee sings in the Rush song “Subdivisions.” The question is, how far will we go to do so? What will it cost us? And what happens if we fail?
Perhaps more importantly, who sets the standard?
Enter Rod Serling, and an episode of The Twilight Zone called “The Eye of the Beholder.” His 25-minute tour of a world where ugliness is a crime presents us with a terrifying specter: a society where peer pressure has been given the force of law, and conventional notions of beauty are turned on their head. Read the rest of this entry
“What’s your favorite Twilight Zone?” It’s a question I hear frequently from new followers of my Twitter page. Others want to know what my top 10 episodes are.
It’s tough to answer, though. It’s like picking a favorite child. You love ’em all (or nearly all — sorry, kiddo) for different reasons. Narrowing it down even a little bit feels like you’re making some of them walk the plank.
In fact, I couldn’t leave it at a top 10. So here are my top 25 episodes: Read the rest of this entry