If the Devil were trapped and asked you to set him free, would you do it? Of course not, you reply.
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
“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”
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.
“The Twilight Zone will be directed, written, produced, and acted by television’s elite.” —Serling before TZ premiered
I focus heavily here on the writing of Rod Serling and other talented authors — and rightly so. Their imaginative scripts were the launching pad for some of the most memorable and timeless television ever filmed.
But you need more than that to create a Twilight Zone episode. To truly bring the fifth dimension to life, you need first-rate actors in front of the camera, and a top-notch crew behind it.
I couldn’t help reflecting on the crucial role played by the head of that crew, the director, when I heard that James Sheldon had died on March 12. His many credits include six TZ episodes, three of which are bona fide fan favorites: “A Penny For Your Thoughts”, “Long Distance Call” and “It’s a Good Life“.* Read the rest of this entry
Religious content in The Twilight Zone? The sci-fi fantasy show about time travel, homicidal dolls and aliens with hostile intent? The idea may seem absurd at first.
Yet the deeper one looks for religious messages — and Lent certainly seems like a good time to do it — the more one finds them popping up, both directly and indirectly. (Spoilers ahead, casual Zone viewers.)
For starters, consider how often we see the Devil or one of his emissaries. In “Printer’s Devil”, for example, Burgess Meredith plays a man who helps a small-town publisher on the brink of suicide achieve financial success by ferreting out scandal stories that smash the competition. He then unfurls a contract stating that only by agreeing to relinquish his soul can the publisher cement this arrangement. Read the rest of this entry
“Please allow me to introduce myself,” goes the opening line of “Sympathy for the Devil.” An introduction is especially important if you’re a Twilight Zone fan. After all, the fifth dimension is home to no fewer than four different people claiming to be the Prince of Lies.
But which Beelzebub is best? That’s up to you. Not that it’ll be an easy choice. Each performance is a solid one, making this a diabolically difficult decision. In chronological order, we have …
Thomas Gomez (“Escape Clause” — November 6, 1959)
He may be going by the name “Cadwallader,” but when his newest
sucker client says, “You’re the Devil,” Gomez’s character gives a wicked grin and replies, “At your service.” You want immortality? Just sign the dotted line, relinquish your soul … and enjoy. Read the rest of this entry
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.”
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