Tuesday, October 06, 2009

You are entering... The Twilight Zone

One of the most creative series ever to run on TV celebrated its 50th anniversary on October 2.

Watched it, loved it, was haunted by it as a child. The effects are cheesy and the acting uneven, but it holds up remarkably well.

Twilight Zone boasted some soon-to-be-famous actors. Before checking out this listing, see how many you can remember.

TZ wasn't very liberal, nor very politically-correct. In fact, it had a libertarian streak to it.
FreeRepublic had a thread where commenters discussed their favorite episodes. Right off, the second reply listed the one that usually springs first to my mind, since it haunted my childhood — and early teenhood, for that matter. (Here's a hint — the image that kept my drapes drawn at night.)

What episodes scared you, provoked you, entertained you?

Did you see a Christian or anti-Christian subtext to any?


Fred Butler said...

I particularly liked the episode with Captain Kirk and the flying teddy bear man on the airplane. I like the way the teddy bear man wasn't even effected by the wind and speed of the plane. I mean, he walks all over the wing like it was a movie set or something.

To this very day, any time I fly I want to shout about mid way through the flight "THERE'S A MAN ON THE WING!!!" But wisdom prevents me.

The Simpson Halloween episode that parodies this particular TZ episode is also a favorite of mine.

JackW said...

I was not a big fan, but I did like the episode that had Mr. Wickwire in it because, well, it's such a great name.

Solameanie said...

I had a hard time getting past Rod Serling. He scared me to death, especially his stiff upper lip delivery.

How about "The Outer Limits?"

Anonymous said...

Time Enough at Last is one of my favorites. Burgess Meredith plays a bank teller who is a bookworm. One day during a lunch break...

Well, I wouldn't want to spoil the ending.

It's the stuff nightmares are made of, at least for book lovers.

DJP said...

I watched The Outer Limits, and it definitely had memorable episodes (the ones with Martin Landau and Robert Culp spring to mind) - but I just never took to it like TZ. Seemed more dour, humorless, negative. TZ was very varied, from the whimsical to the happy to the (if you think about it) terrifying.

Mike Westfall said...

My favorite episode foretold of the present, when the liberal do-gooders came To Serve Man.

Jay said...

Nothing in the Dark was a great episode, featuring a very young Robert Redford as Death and the incomparable Gladys Cooper as a lonely shut-in.

Also have to love Agnes Moorehead in The Invaders.

DJP said...

Yep; that was very imaginative, great punchline, and quite a tour-de-force from Moorhead.

NoLongerBlind said...

Too many "favs" to single any out;

I recall all-day TZ marathons back in the early 80's, annually on Thanksgiving Day, IIRC (pre-salvation for me, mind you!).

Talk about too much TV makin' you weird!

James Joyce said...

One of my faves is "A Nice Place to Visit"
A small-time criminal Rocky Valentine is killed and transported to a world where all of his desires are immediately gratified. After a while he becomes so thouroughly bored with every whim being satisfied he requests to be transferred to the "other place". A blonde haired Sebastian Cabot plays "Pip", Rocky's guide.

DJP said...

...played by Larry Blyden, later a game-show host.

Unknown said...

I don't know if I'd call them favorites, but the ones that are memorable because of the way they scared me were:

Night Call
The Hitch-Hiker
The Dummy
Living Doll

One that is a favorite for sure is "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street."

Aaron said...

Mine was also "To Serve Man." "It's a cookbook!"

It reminds me of the show "V" which was one of my favorite miniseries. And which is apparently being redone. I hope they don't ruin it.

DJP said...

Ohhh, "Night Call" -- is that the one where the widow is getting what she thinks are prank calls?

Oh, yeah, THAT one is a chiller!

CR said...

Star Trek: The Next Generation; Babylon 5; Voyager; Battlestar Galatica (orginal and new version); Seinfeld, Everyone Loves Raymond; King of Queens; All in Family; 24; CSI Miami

I didn't look for any Christian or anti-Christian sub texts albeit clearly some of these had/have their agenda. I looked mainly for entertainment.

Kay said...

Over here it was more Tales of the Unexpected that effectively chilled - but they were largely written by Roald Dahl.

I recall seeing TZ episode where people didn't have any mouths and it messing with my head.

Becky Schell said...

I was thinking Twilight Zone, but we watched Outer Limits too; this could be from either one, but I am pretty sure it was TZ.

A fisherman catches a mermaid and falls in love with her. Somehow, he is granted a wish and with it, he wishes that the bottom half of her would be human. He gets his wish, but the kicker is that her top half is a fish. I remember my little brain being totally shocked by it. Do, do, do, do...That show creeped me out. They both did.

Fred Butler said...

It reminds me of the show "V" which was one of my favorite miniseries

Was mine too. Our next door neighbor played "Martin" on "V." That's the closest thing we have come to rubbing up against Hollywood.


threegirldad said...

I don't remember the names of any episodes, not even the three that stick out in my mind. And of those three, I remember nothing more than the tail-end of two of them. Not really even sure about the memories; I might have things jumbled up. Maybe someone can help out.

One was about a guy who was addicted to slot machines (I think). He dies at the end -- heart attack? -- because he hits the jackpot, but the machine doesn't pay up...? You see him laying on the floor, and the slot machine wheels itself over to his body and spits out a token, which rolls around and falls over next to his hand. The machine starts repeating the guy's name in this screechy, mechanical voice: "Franklin! Franklin! Franklin!"

A blabber-mouth is told that he can't stop talking, and makes a bet with someone that he can go for an entire year without saying a word. Whoever wins the bet wins a serious chunk of change ($100K?). When the year is up, and the blabber-mouth has managed to pull it off, he walks up to the other guy, and holds out his hand, demanding payment. The other guy confesses that he never dreamed of losing, and doesn't have the money, whereupon the blabber-mouth writes a note confessing to having had his vocal chords severed in order to guarantee winning the bet.

A young guy who has scoffed at the traditional idea of Hell talks about looking forward to seeing if it really exists, and what it's really like if it exits. When he dies, he ends up in a 50s-era house with a retirement-age couple -- and there's no "escape." It turns out that "Hell" is a place where he will spend forever forced to keep their company and watch their insipid home movies.

Logan Paschke said...

Honestly, the single Twilight Zone episode I remember watching was the one where this guy is all alone on an apocalyptic world and is able to read books all day.

Then his glasses break.

I thought that was classic.

Perfect mix of humor and tragedy.

As far as Sci-Fi: Star Trek DS9 and Red Dwarf.

Red Dwarf is a little anti-Christian in a few episodes (out of many) but these are British Science-Fiction writers who write in the context of Douglas Adams.

It's not abrasive like other shows, "Lie to Me" being an example where their first episode is animosity against Christian sexual ethics. THE ENTIRE EPISODE.

And I really wanted to like that show. oh well, not interested anymore.

Star Trek has always pushed liberal agendas, but do I really take it seriously when a man or woman in prosthetics is doing an ethical lecture against marriage or something.


I have a friend who's mom used to tell him that Calvin and Hobbes pushed anti-Christian philosophies.

Of course, he being of the same faith as his parents, did not seriously listen to a young boy and his imaginary tiger's views on morality, death, and philosophy.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Dan...I think that this is the hardest question that I've ever had to answer from you...lol.

My dad got me hooked on the Twilight Zone from an early age, and, even though the effects weren't the greatest, and, as you said, the acting was uneven, it still captured me every time I watched it as a kid. And, to be honest, it still does today.

There are too many TZ episodes I love to pick an absolute favorite. I love "An Occurrence at Owl Bridge Creek," which was about a Civil War civilian who escapes a hangman's noose and attempts to run home to his wife. I saw that episode as a young boy, and the ending shook me. I also loved "The Masks," "Night Call," "He's Alive" (always reminded me of what the antichrist would be like), "To Serve Man," "A Game of Pool," "The Shelter," and "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street."

I guess I loved any episode that accurately displayed the depravity of humanity. TZ, while not very biblically accurate on personal eschatology and angelology, usually nailed anthropology.

MJ said...

To this day I have an extra pair of glasses because of the episode, "Time Enough at Last" with Burgess Meredith. 'Nuff said.

Loved "To Serve Man" which, these days, doesn't seem all that fictional.

As cheesy as it was, "Eye of the Beholder" is a standout TZ episode.

DJP said...

That Burgess Meredith ep is a big winner. Probably a mark of what readers all y'all are.

Mike Westfall said...

Other stand-out episodes:
Living Doll -- "I'm Talky Tina, and I don't think I like you!"

It's a Good Life -- "You're a bad man! You're a very bad man!"
Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up? -- The cook has a 3rd eye under his hat!

Susan said...

Oh, no, you got me started....I don't necessarily remember all the titles correctly, mind you, but I can describe them! In random order, I present you a few of my most memorable ones (possible spoiler alerts):

1. "The Hitch-Hiker": That was freakiness at its best, especially when the shabby man finally got into the girl's car with that plain yet weird expression on his face. It made me afraid to go to sleep afterward.

2. "Room For One More": This one was also freaky, all the more so because I've heard of a real life story about someone deciding not to get on an airplane because of some terrifying visions. The suspense leading up to the climax was brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr....

3. "The Cornfield"--or, as Mesa Mike points out, "It's a Good Life": That little boy was frightening!!! (Great acting, though. Hope it didn't ruin him for life!!)

4. "Talky Tina": Think twice before you buy a doll for your daughter....

5. The episode in which Burgess Meredith played a prisoner of this totalitarian, Big-Brotheresque society. Again he was reading a book--the Good Book. I enjoyed watching his outwitting the dictator!!

6. "To Serve Man": Classic. Makes one wary of aliens.

7. "Nothing in the Dark": Robert Redford was really good-looking. ;) The story also kind of reminded me of Brad Pitt in "Meet Joe Black". (Didn't they used to compare Pitt with a young Redford?)

(Dinner time--will return later....)

Solameanie said...

You had to love "The Outer Limits" introduction, though.

There is nothing wrong with your television. WE are in control."

Hmmm. Why do I hear Obama's voice when thinking of that line?

CR said...

Ooops, were you just asking favorite TZ episodes? I saw someone mentioning Outer Limits and I thought this was a free-for-all on which series we like. Sorry.

Chuck said...

To Serve Man and Time Enough at Last are wonderful, as well as the cook with the third eye.

I also love the one about newspapers, when Burgess Meredith plays the devil (can't remember the title). And how about Telly Savalas in the Talky Tina episode? Or the episode where the guy ends up in an alien zoo?

I also used to love 3rd Rock from the Sun. One of the funniest tv moments ever has to be when John Lithgow (who played in the Twilight Zone movie and saw the monster on the wing) goes to pick up Shatner at the airport. "You too!?" Priceless.

jmb said...

"Eye Of The Beholder" scared me the most. I kept turning the TV on and off.

"It's A Good Life" is probably my favorite. God as a 10(?)-year-old boy. This is the most frightening to my adult self.

"Room For One More" caused me to believe for years that 22 was my unlucky number. When I believed such things.

The one where Gig Young goes back to his home town and speaks to himself as a boy. I believe this was Serling's favorite. Other TZs had the theme of a return to a simpler life - apparently very meaningful to Serling.

The b&w photography had a great deal to do with the show's effectiveness, I think. Brought an eerie quality. And Bernard Herrmann's music, of course; not only the theme, but for some of the episodes. All in all, probably the best TV series ever.

Unknown said...

Re: Christian sub-text

"The Gift" has an interesting dialogue towards the end when the alien is talking to Pedro.

Pedro asks the alien, "I wonder...if God were to come to earth, would they find Him so strange...that they would be afraid and shoot him (like they have the alien)?"

The finale of that episode is also interesting, but I won't spoil it for those who haven't seen it or don't remember.

You can watch the whole episode here:


Susan said...

Guess my dinner took longer than expected!!


8. "The Gift": Thanks, David. I didn't remember the title of the episode, but I had snippets of the episode in my head. The ending was interesting and sad at the same time. It was like an "Aw, man!!" moment, IMHO.

9. The episode in which two people find themselves in a ghost town where trains and trolleys run but there was absolutely not a soul in town, and then they find out why....

10. All right, guess this will be my last one for now: "The After Hours". A woman went into a department store and entered an elevator that went up to the 9th floor, but when she got out she discovered that there was absolutely nothing except for an odd woman and the exact item she was looking for. When she took the elevator down she discovered that the item was damaged, so she was advised to go to the third floor for complaints. That's when things took a really bizarre turn (but I won't spoil it for you!). This episode was pretty freaky when I first watched it--it still kind of gives me goosebumps right now....

Anonymous said...

Too many favorites here, and still watch them occasionally now on DVD...
Some clearly had an occultic (non-Christian world view), such as "Long Distance Call," which I see as much more similar to the later "Child's Play" movie than the Talky Tina show... young Billy Mumy contacts his dead grandmother through a toy telephone, and the grandmother is encouraging the child to commit suicide to join her in death.

Some favorites: time-travel greats like "Walking Distance" with Gig Young, and "A Hundred Yards Over the Rim," "Odyssey of Flight 33," and "The Last Flight"
From the hour-long ones, several great ones including the one with Burgess Meredith as the "Printer's Devil," also "Jess Belle" and "Death Ship."
Other great ones: Kick the Can, Shadow Play, Third from the Sun, The Fugitive, and the Billy Mumy episodes "It's A Good Life" and "In Praise of Pip" -- which was a great episode about Jack Klugman the repentant bookie regretting the lost years with his son who's now a soldier dying in Vietnam, and he gets to spend an evening with his son as a boy again, and finally offers himself (to God) to die, in place of his son.

~Mark said...

I always loved the episode where the woman had facial reconstructive surgery and all the docs and nurses promise she'll look fine. At the end of the episode as her bandages are removed she and the med staff freak out a little.

They show her face and she's beautiful! To us. However every living person around her has what to us is a misshapen face.

Making her beauty, the oddity.

DJP said...

"No change! No change at all!"

The actress was the lovely Donna Douglas, who later played Ellie Mae on The Beverly Hillbillies.

~Mark said...

That was Donna Douglas? I never realized that! D'OH!

I have 4 CDs of Twilight Zone radio productions that are great for that ride to the lake on Saturday mornings. Among them are the one about the guy in the bank vault when his world is destroyed and he finally has time to read but breaks his...(don't wanna ruin it for anybody).

Another in which Jason Alexander portrays one of last librarians, deactivated by a government which believes artistic though to be a waste of time. Hmmmmmm...

I wuz gonna just give you a description link, but it looks like there's a whole series! I thought it was just the four.Here you are: http://www.amazon.com/Twilight-Zone-Radio-Dramas-Vol/dp/1591711002

SUPERB radio productions.