Blog Archives

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

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The Twilight Zone’s Dirty Dozen

“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.

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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 findOne for the Angelssweet 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.

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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

Finding Fright in the Fifth Dimension: Some TZs That Are Perfect for Halloween

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 Writing Man

In the field of science fiction and fantasy, few writers cast a larger shadow than that of Charles Beaumont. Only Rod Serling himself penned more episodes of The Twilight Zone, and Beaumont created many other memorable tales in books, short stories and movies.

How memorable? Had he not died so young, “he would be equal to me,” Ray Bradbury says. “People would know him all over the world.”

Charles Beaumont and Robin Hughes on the set of "The Howling Man".

Charles Beaumont and Robin Hughes on the set of “The Howling Man”.

I learned that, and many other things, from “Charles Beaumont: The Short Life of Twilight Zone’s Magic Man,” a feature-length documentary by Jason Brock. If you’ve ever wanted to know more about the unique mind behind such Zone classics as “Long Live Walter Jameson,” “The Howling Man,” “Perchance to Dream” and “Shadow Play,” I encourage you to check it out.

The film is packed with stories and remembrances, told by those who knew Beaumont best: Bradbury, Richard Matheson, John Tomerlin, William Nolan, Harlan Ellison and many others, including Beaumont’s son Christopher. They explain how his wild flights of imagination and tenacious spirit helped reshape their corner of the fiction world in profound ways. Read the rest of this entry

A “Dream” Come True

It’s not uncommon for writers to be unhappy with how their work is depicted on screen. So many things can go wrong — a bad actor, ham-fisted directing, a skimpy budget — that it’s a marvel, really, when things go right. The norm, unfortunately, is for something to go wrong.

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That certainly wasn’t the case when “Perchance to Dream” was filmed for season 1 of The Twilight Zone. Charles Beaumont’s first Zone script (the first non-Serling story of the series, in fact) is a bizarre, imaginative ride. Here’s what the author wrote shortly after production of the episode, which was based on one of his short stories:

Serling told me to dramatize it, but to make no changes. He advised me to forget everything I had learned about television taboos. They didn’t exist on Twilight Zone. I should do the script the way I saw it. Believing the instruction to be well-meant, but hardly to be taken seriously, I nonetheless did write the script precisely as I saw it.

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To my amazement, it was happily accepted. Nothing was changed. Not one line. Not one word. Not even the wild technical directions, which called for an impressionistic amusement park, a roller coaster ride and a car crash. Read the rest of this entry