Blog Archives

This Twilight Zone Actress Said She “Never Forgot” Serling’s High Praise

I often focus on the writing behind The Twilight Zone, and for a good reason: It’s the blueprint, the spine … in many ways the heart and soul of stories that resonate deeply with so many of us.

But a script can’t come alive without directors, actors and other crew members ⁠— and Serling attracted the best. I’ve highlighted some of TZ’s directors and big stars, but today I’d like to feature a lesser-known actress, one who took a single scene in the Season 1 favorite “The Four of Us Are Dying” and really made it her own.

The story concerns a man named Arch Hammer with a unique talent: he can change his face to look like anyone else. All he has to do is concentrate for a few seconds on how that person looks, and voila, he’s transformed into an exact duplicate.

This being the fifth dimension, Hammer has decided to use this skill for personal gain, no matter who else gets hurt. Part one of his scheme is turning himself into a dead ringer of a dead musician: Johnny Foster. That way he can reconnect with Johnny’s grieving girlfriend and make plans to run away with her after he has (unbeknownst to her) impersonated a slain gangster and stolen a lot of money. Read the rest of this entry

Black and White Vs. Color: Creating that “Twilight Zone Feeling”

Almost as soon as Jordan Peele’s Twilight Zone reboot was announced, some fans began asking, “Do you think they’ll film it in black and white?”

I didn’t blame them for wondering, though it seemed like a very remote possibility. Sure enough, the series debuted in color. And yet, as the first season of the reboot draws to a close, what do we have? All 10 episodes also available to watch in B&W.

“Nightmare at 30,000 Feet”

It’s a cool little gift to the show’s fans, no question. And it reminded me how lucky we are that the original series was filmed that way.

That’s right — lucky. The fact that the original Twilight Zone is in black and white wasn’t part of some master plan. In 1959, all TV shows were in B&W.

TZ stands out today, of course, in large part because its reruns look so different from the color shows around it. But back then, being a black-and-white show was commonplace. I’m sure that if color had been the standard when TZ first aired, it would have been in color, too. Read the rest of this entry

Serling’s Re-Zoning Efforts: “Execution”

“I was amazed at what Rod had done.” — George Clayton Johnson

If you’re a Twilight Zone fan, you know the work of George Clayton Johnson. He wrote some of TZ’s most beloved episodes, including “A Penny For Your Thoughts”, “Nothing in the Dark”, and “Kick the Can”, which was remade for “Twilight Zone: The Movie”.

But even before he sold his first script to TZ, Johnson was contributing to the series. Rod Serling adapted two of his short stories for the first season: “The Four of Us Are Dying” and “Execution”.

I’ve already outlined how drastically Serling overhauled a story that Johnson called “All of Us Are Dying”. The changes he made for the then-unpublished “Execution” weren’t quite as extensive, but still — he made it uniquely his own.

Spoilers lie just ahead, of course. If you’ve never watched “Execution”, I urge you to check it out before reading the rest of this post. (It’s on disc, of course, as well as streaming on Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime.)

If you have watched it, though, you know it tells the story of Joe Caswell, a criminal who lived in the Wild West. When we meet him, though, he’s not about to do much more living. His neck is in a noose. Read the rest of this entry

After the Zone-a-thon IV: More Missing Episodes

We had quite a treat last New Year’s, didn’t we, Twilight Zone fans? Syfy surprised us with an extended marathon of every episode, in order and in high-def. Talk about “what you need.”

What You Need

It did, however, put the kibosh on one of my favorite post-marathon activities: writing a blog post to highlight a few episodes that didn’t make the schedule. But I figured I’d have another chance when the July 4 marathon rolled around … and here we are.

Syfy aired 57 episodes this time out. That’s about a third of the 156 that aired during the show’s run, leaving me 99 to pick from. That’s a daunting task. Many worthy episodes didn’t make the cut. But here are five that I think merit a watch — or rewatch. (Note: I didn’t repeat any picks from my previous “Zone-a-thon” posts.) U.S.-based fans, click on any title to watch the episode on Hulu.

MR. DENTON ON DOOMSDAY

Season 1, Episode 3 – October 16, 1959

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You don’t have to be a Twilight Zone fanatic to know the fifth dimension is a place where bad things sometimes happen to good people. But it’s also a place where the down and out can catch a much-needed break. Case in point: this early episode, in which a mysterious peddler helps a former gunslinger find a better way to ease his guilty conscience than by drowning it in booze. Is another kill-or-be-killed situation in his future? Not if Rod Serling can help it. Read the rest of this entry

George Clayton Johnson, Writer of “Wisdom Fiction”

I’ve written a blog post about Richard Matheson and his Twilight Zone episodes. I’ve written one about Charles Beaumont. I’ve even written one about Earl Hamner. And Heaven knows I’ve written plenty about Rod Serling.

But I’ve never written one about George Clayton Johnson. And now the news of his death at 86 is making me wish I had done so much sooner.

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True, I did spotlight one of his wonderful TZ episodes before now, “A Game of Pool” (twice, in fact – here and here). But no post yet about “Nothing in the Dark”? “Kick the Can”? “A Penny For Your Thoughts”? There’s hardly a Twilight Zone fan out there who doesn’t list at least one of those classics among his favorite episodes. Read the rest of this entry

Serling’s Re-Zoning Efforts: “The Four of Us Are Dying”

Ever assume, when you first watched The Twilight Zone as a kid, that Rod Serling wrote every episode?

I’ve had a number of people tell me they thought that, and let’s face it: It is a logical assumption. He personally introduces each tale, and they all conclude with his distinctive voice wrapping up the proceedings with a memorably wry comment or two.

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But no, other fine writers contributed some terrific stories. Still, Serling wrote a staggering 92 of the 156 episodes, or nearly two out of every three. No wonder he admitted to feeling burned out as the series entered its home stretch.

Not every Serling script was an original, however. Sometimes he adapted the works of other writers. He’d pay for the rights to a story, then turn it into a Twilight Zone.

This might sound like relatively easy work, but it wasn’t. In many cases, he took the basic idea and turned it into a script that barely resembled its ancestor.

Such was the case when Serling turned George Clayton Johnson’s story “All of Us Are Dying” into “The Four of Us Are Dying” for Twilight Zone‘s first season. Read the rest of this entry