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From Tombstones to Extra-Terrestrials: A Closer Look at TZ’s Montgomery Pittman

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:

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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.

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Take “Two”: TZ’s Powerful Season 3 Opener

As someone who runs a Twitter page that quotes The Twilight Zone daily, I shouldn’t be a fan of “Two”, should I? The Season 3 opener, after all, is largely silent.

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On the contrary. I may not place it in my top 25, but I actually rate it quite highly. For an episode that doesn’t have much to say, “Two” says a lot.

It’s anti-war, but not in a preachy, haranguing way. It’s a quiet look at the futility of engaging in an all-out nuclear holocaust with people who, in the end, are a lot like us. And by not shouting, it conveys that idea more powerfully. Writer-director Montgomery Pittman, who also did “The Grave” and “The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank”, deserves a lot of credit.

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“Two” is a marvel of set design. True, TZ crew members had the good fortune to film it at the Hal Roach Studio (home of the Little Rascals), which was already abandoned and decaying. But they still needed to create the illusion of years of neglect, and they did it perfectly. Read the rest of this entry