I’ve written about Twilight Zone’s writers. I’ve written about its directors. So how about TZ’s only writer-director?
I’m referring to Montgomery Pittman. Don’t know him? I can guarantee you know his work. That is, if you’ve heard of a TZ episode called “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?”
No, Pittman didn’t write that one. Everyone’s favorite extra-terrestrial whodunit was penned by the incomparable Rod Serling, of course. Pittman also directed one other TZ ep scripted by a writer other than himself (Charles Beaumont’s “Dead Man’s Shoes”).
But the other three episodes he helmed were his own stories — memorable tales that many TZ fans list among their all-time favorites:
Season 3, Episode 1 – September 15, 1961
At a time when TV scripts tended to be pretty talky (many early TV writers, after all, had gotten their start in radio, Serling included), this near-silent look at the aftermath of what appears to have been an all-out nuclear war shows the power of pictures. An American male soldier and a female Russian one somehow manage to put aside their suspicions and find peace amid the rubble.
For anyone who thinks of Charles Bronson only as a violent vigilante in “Death Wish”, or of Elizabeth Montgomery as a button-cute witch in “Bewitched”, this episode is an eye-opener. Pittman showed they were capable of much more.
The Twilight Zone is famous for its twist endings. But for me, the real cherry on top of our inter-dimensional sundaes is Rod Serling’s closing narrations.
Surprisingly, some critics deride them as unnecessary. How dense are we, right? Can’t we figure out the lesson without having it spelled out by an omniscient referee? Perhaps, but that’s not the point.
The conclusions aren’t there because we’re slow. They serve an important purpose. Sometimes they tie up loose ends, sometimes they lay on a little irony, and sometimes they make a wry comment on the proceedings.
In short, they’re there to make the stories more enjoyable. Hearing Serling introduce and wrap up each episode, with his trademark voice and poetic language, is the perfect framing device. I’m convinced the show wouldn’t be as beloved without them. Read the rest of this entry
“I dare you.”
Even after we become adults, the old school-yard taunt never quite loses its power.
Oh, we find more sophisticated ways of expressing it, if only to reassure ourselves that we’ve grown up. We’re not kids anymore. But the sting of being thought a coward is still so abhorrent that shaking off a dare isn’t easy at any age.
Just ask Conny Miller. I wouldn’t expect a quick answer, though, now that he’s buried in the old cemetery near Pinto Sykes. Dead … because of a dare. Read the rest of this entry
James Best is best known for playing Rosco P. Coltrane on The Dukes of Hazzard. But he’d much rather be remembered for the three episodes he did for The Twilight Zone — “The Grave,” “The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank” and “Jess-Belle.”
“The Twilight Zone was probably one of the best showcases for future stars. It was terribly enjoyable to me because generally they had good sets, which they used from major feature pictures. I was a big fan of the show. I think I enjoy The Twilight Zone as much if not more than anyone.
“I did The Dukes of Hazzard series for seven years and we had a chain of writers over there — there was so much nepotism they wouldn’t have allowed any good writers to come in other than their own, which is unfortunate. So consequently, I worked seven years for writers who had the imagination of a banana. The material was so hackneyed we did the same show for seven years.
“Now on Twilight Zone, it was really a pleasure working on something that had the quality and the marvelous writers. I was very fortunate that I got to work on The Twilight Zone three times.
“I am going to go to my grave with ‘Rosco P. Coltrane’ on the headstone. I’d much rather go to my demise with ‘He’s in The Twilight Zone‘!”
Photos courtesy of Wendy Brydge. For a daily dose of Serling, you can follow me on Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest. You can also get email notifications of future posts by entering your address under “Follow S&S Via Email” on the upper left-hand side of this post. Hope to see you in some corner of the fifth dimension soon!