A CASUAL TZ EPISODE GUIDE
The following text represents my own thoughts and musings about each of the one hundred fixty-six episodes of the original "Twilight Zone" TV series, by season. The episodes are not in chronological order of airdate. This is strictly intentional. I tend to think of the episodes individually, but when I think of them by season, I know which episodes come from which season but I don't know all the original airdates so that's why they're slightly out of order. Please do not take any of what I say as the last word. They are just my own notes for each episode. This is not a self-aggrandizing effort. Yes, I have this website but I am not an authority on TZ...at least I don't think of myself as such. If you like TZ, or any TV show for that matter, you can write your own episode guide. You will notice that I mention "Perry Mason" a lot within this commentary. It's because I love that show as much as I do TZ, and since it was also a CBS show, as TZ was, and filmed on the same lot in Culver City, well...as you can imagine, a good percentage of TZ actors also appeared on "Perry". In fact, most of the episodes of "Perry" have a TZ actor or two or three in them.
SEASON 1...It begins.
"Where Is Everybody?" - I can't think of any other kind of story that would've been more appropriate in which to open the TZ saga. The opening shot pulls us right into the series. Mike Ferris symbolizes Tom Joad, walking down the long road - no idea if this was intentional on Serling's part but if it was, it would make complete sense. The music by Herrmann was one of his best and it was used to great effect in some other episodes ("The Last Flight" and "The After Hours", among them). The storyline is pretty prosaic, when it all boils down, and actually Serling conceived it about 8 years before it was filmed. But look at what an impact it makes... Holliman had an enormous task, carrying the storyline all by himself - it's like a 20 minute monologue. Perfect casting there. The ending...a little corny but it sold the series, and changed the world.
"The Hitch Hiker" - truly remarkable in every regard. One of the most chilling endings comes from this episode. Adam Williams and Lew Gallo are so cute, and so good in their roles - which is probably why they both came back again for more episodes in the years following. Inger Stevens was one of the women that Serling liked to write for because he knew she had the ability to play it well, and he got working on "The Lateness of the Hour" for her within the next year. I think it would have been more spooky though if the director set it up so that Nan's car barely made it across the tracks but then cutting away so we don't know for sure until a second or two later. The way it was done, with the car going backwards, is not very good. Most brilliant shot in the episode - when Inger Stevens looks into the mirror of her makeup case and sees the hitchhiker, then closes the lid immediately. Oh my, so frightening. Alvin Ganzer was definitely one of the underrated TZ directors. He knew how to spook out the viewer. The guy who played the hitch hiker was a creepy dude - "just a silly looking scarecrow man", and that's exactly how he looks. Those over-narrations of Inger's as she's driving are great too.
"Nightmare as a Child" - Alvin Ganzer directed this episode as well. Terry Burnham was the holy grail of TZ. This episode easily makes my personal top 20. Terry knew her role very very well and somehow I think it came back to haunt her later.... Markie's walloping speech to Helen was really quite something. Every time I watch it, I get the same chill. "He caught her. And he choked her. HELEN? REMEMBER? HE CHOKED HER." She just delivered it so perfectly and the words hit so hard. Unfortunately, Janice Rule and Shepperd Strudwick make no real impression. Rule is too soft and Strudwick, though competent, fails to hit the mark. His character, Selden, is indeed a creepy guy and he has a few good lines here and there. The ending of this episode is another issue, which is probably why it's not really remembered despite Burnham's virtuosity. The discourse between the doctor (played by Michael Fox, who was a regular on "Perry Mason" as an autopsy surgeon) and the cop (played by Joe Perry), as they summarize the situation for us, is hilariously awkward. No matter though, I can overlook it. Jerry Goldsmith, who could always be counted on for appropriate music, worked out a very spooky score. I must relate, I had a classmate in college who sounded exactly like Terry Burnham's character Markie. This rather nerdy girl's name was Becky. I knew her for 2 years, we had almost all the same classes together, and she was as weird as some elements of this episode. Every time I heard Becky talk, I thought of Markie. Look for the scene where Markie is telling Helen that her mother isn't going to be wondering where she is. "No, she won't be worried..." I swear, Becky once said ALMOST that very same thing and I thought 'oh my god that is hilarious, she must be related to Terry Burnham.' Becky had German roots, and Germans typically not known for their sense of humor...
"One For the Angels" - The scenes with Dana Dillaway laying on her back in the street and DP George Clemens having it go dark when she sees Death, were especially well done. As can be said of dozens and dozens of TZ episodes, this whole episode was very well shot. The shot of Dana where she's laying in bed and suddenly wakes up, having escaped death, outside the clock tower rings midnight, and the toy robot's arms and legs moving on the nightstand next to her, is quite remarkable too. Murray Hamilton, who would later play Mr. Robinson ("The Graduate"), was a fine actor who usually got rotten roles but this one really suited him and you can tell he had fun with this part. Ed Wynn....he nearly killed Serling's "Requiem for a Heavyweight" a few years earlier. Serling even said so. But Ed came through in the end and completely turned his performance around, oh lord did he ever come through. Serling knew that writing a show for Ed Wynn would help distinguish Twilight Zone. Dana Dillaway: "I was eight years old during the summer when I did that episode. And how lucky I was to work with Ed Wynn." Two other beautiful shots - Ed and Murray walking down the street, with the old round street lamps prominently part of the shot...they'll soon dissolve and go on up to Heaven, and Maggie and the other children will forever miss, and remember, Louis J. Bookman. They never saw him again after that day. He just disappeared.
"Mr. Denton on Doomsday" - and now we start to see the future stars. Martin Landau, who had just finished working on "North by Northwest" for Hitch, was starting to do TV. Not hard to see why he succeeded - he had everything needed for a brilliant career. Jeanne Cooper - Mrs. C, Katherine Chancellor, of "YR" (The Young and the Restless, of course), not yet aged. But she aged very well. In those days, she was an unknown!! Veteran character actor Malcolm Atterbury, a frequent and familiar face on TV...and a young and sultry Doug McClure as the young gunfighter. Once again, Herrmann's music makes it all the better...and touching. It's a western fairytale. Bill Erwin, who was "old" even then, was still working in showbiz nearly fifty years after this episode was shot. He usually played lemonsuckers on TV, and had a very brief role here as a nice guy. Bill, I miss you a lot, but I'm glad you lived 96 long and wonderful years. The shot that closes the teaser, of Dan Duryea laying on his back on the street in the blazing sun, is a beaut.
"The Sixteen Millimeter Shrine" - Ida Lupino and Martin Balsam, two of the greatest film actors of their time, are now doing television. Ida would go on to become one of TV's greatest directors...in fact, she was already a director at the time she did this TZ episode. And of course, she went on to direct a TZ episode herself, four years later. The story is superlative in every regard - and actually, in her later years, Ida lived a life somewhat similar to that of Barbara Jean Trenton - she spent most of her later years in her decaying Brentwood home, often watching her old films, in less than perfect health. She was retired by age 59. She was a bit of a recluse, no longer wealthy due to bad financial management, but she remained one of the more revered old Hollywood personae and she did continue to act sporadically. Marty Balsam, a great actor, unfortunately had trouble with both of his two TZ performances. He seems to be reciting lines more than acting. However, you can tell that he really does feel the part, even if the performance isn't perfect. The set design of Barbara's house and her projection room are amazing. Mitchell "Mitch" Leisen, who was once a big director, started doing TV too. And he did quite well with the few TZ episodes he directed. Despite a struggle with the part, Balsam delivers the last line of the episode nicely - "To Wishes, Barbie...to the ones that come true." I will relate a personal story - I had a boss once whom I did not like very much, but I did want to let him know that I was doing well. After I left the company and moved to Los Angeles, which I'm sure he never dreamt I'd be able to do, I sent him a photo and an L.A. postcard saying, "To Wishes, Larry. To the ones that come true." I'm sure he didn't understand it, but it was good for a chuckle on my end. Maybe if he watches this episode sometime, he'll get it. haha
"Escape Clause" - A very simple story with vastly entertaining performances by the two leads. Those who remember the old commercials will spot Dick Wilson aka Mr. Whipple, playing an insurance adjuster. And of course, Virginia Christine as Mrs. Olsen the coffee lady. This episode has one of the greatest of closing narration lines spoken by Serling, "Every man is put on this earth condemned to die, time and method of execution unknown." FYI - the TZ closing narrations were very difficult to write. Rod and the other writers often struggled with them and rewrote them so they were as perfect as possible. David Wayne and Thomas Gomez are great, perfectly cast. An odd thing - Gomez lacked his two frontmost teeth, as can be clearly observed in the camera close-ups of him in "Dust" in Season 2. The missing bicuspids actually helped make his character, Cadwallader, very effective in "Escape Clause." The lisp actually sounds very debonair and sophisticated. And, it worked equally well later in "Dust" when he played the fatass Mr. Sykes.
"Perchance to Dream" - One of the top ones, for sure, in terms of being true to the TZ format and in terms of production quality. Charles Beaumont was the grand master of TZ stories and this was one of his finest entries. Richard Conte and John Larch submit very believable performances. Buck Houghton, in his book "What a Producer Does", talks about how in the very earliest days of the show, when they were having in the huge stars like Ida Lupino, Ed Wynn, Richard Conte, and others, they often were a bit uncertain of what they were doing. TV was a new medium then. Most of them had not done television before - and because TZ was done on such a grand scale, instead of the way the quiz shows and goofy comedies and crime shows were, the actors often didn't know what to expect...or even what to do. Buck had to simply tell them, "you've just got to trust us, we know what we're doing and it will work" - and they did, and it did. There is a small element that kind of makes it special for me. When Maya and Hall are in the funhouse, there is a glimpse of a barrel or crate, in the background, which is stamped with "PORTLAND" in white letters. I always thought that was cool, because I was born and lived in one of the Portland's for 20+ years.
"What You Need" - A bit ho-hum but enjoyable. It aired on Rod's 35th birthday and somehow its atmosphere lends itself well to Christmas Day. Steve Cochran was given some good lines, "Here's a tip, don't play with matches!" as he kicks the bellboy out his hotel room door. And get a load of the old fashioned elevator lift in the hotel...love it! I wish stuff like that still existed. Read Morgan, playing 'Lefty', was a very cool guy, I'm so glad he came to the TZ conventions. He retired from showbiz long ago but he was a very good actor.
"And When the Sky Was Opened" - There was a time when I didn't like this episode as much because disappearing acts never have appealed to me, nor have movies and episodes of TV with dream or flashback sequences. Later I came to appreciate this episode more and realized how strong it is. Had this episode NOT been produced, I'm sure my life would not have taken the course that it has. I'll talk about that some other time though. Thank you, Gloria Pall. A million times over - thank you. Rod Taylor...what to say about him? Great actor. Great, great actor. I think he could've and should've gone farther. Ditto for Jim Hutton, who had a tragically short life (but produced Timothy Hutton, a very, very fine actor). Charles Aidman was one of the finest TV actors out there...I think his role in "Sky" was better than the role he did later in "Little Girl Lost", although his performance pretty much saved that episode, the other actors were terrible. The part of the bar scene with Aidman and Taylor where they are talking near the phone booth is spine-chilling..."my old man told me that he didn't want any practical joker bothering his wife...he said he didn't have any son at all!!" Brilliant...brilliant.
"Mirror Image" - A remarkable piece of science fiction. Rod wasn't a scifi writer, nor did he pen many scifi entries, but this one is a polished gem. One of the finest 24 minutes in TV history, it is superlative in every regard. Interesting aside, Rod never was good at writing female roles. He was a very masculine writer. While almost all of the TZ episodes have a resolution, a few don't, and this is one of them, and it makes for a chilling, unresolved situation. Vera Miles - 1960 was a good year for her. She did "Psycho" and this episode of TZ, which were the highlights of her career. Marty Milner...thankfully he had a few really good roles like this before he did "Adam 12". One of the most chilling moments in all of TZ comes near the end of the episode, when the smarmy bus station attendant (played to perfection by Joe Hamilton) says to Paul Grinstead, "Get her off alright?!" right after Millicent is taken away by the cops. It's as if he knew it was going to happen. Then all is suddenly quiet. Grinstead removes his jacket and unloosens his tie, preparing to get a few hours of sleep. He goes to the water fountain, and swallows deep and long. As he raises his head, he sees his briefcase gone and the last couple footsteps of a darting thief. Pretty disturbing...and directed and filmed amazingly well. Bravo, John Brahm, and Bravo, George Clemens.
"Mr. Bevis" - Rod had a weakness for guardian angel stories like this. The material is very broad, very limp. Orson Bean and Henry Jones were both fine comedic actors and Jones is one of my favorite old movie actors, with his nasal, raspy voice. Ditto for Charles Lane, who lived to be 102... The '24 Richtenbacher auto that Bevis drives would never in a million years pass a vehicle emissions test!! I always have to laugh at the scene with the shifty-eyed Aunt Jemima clock (what a sign of the times...and I can only imagine how much that clock would be worth nowadays). And the bit where Bean whistles for the kids to give the car a push start, and they do... Then of course there's old Bill Schallert - then younger - one of the most familiar faces on TV, playing the sheriff attending when the car flips onto its side. I did have the pleasure of several times meeting Ms. Colleen O'Sullivan (1930-2009), who played Michelle in the one-line part, "Good morning, Mr. Bevis" (and later, just "Good Morning") at the Sportsmen's Lodge here in Studio City. In later years she changed her name to Penny McGuiggan.
"The After Hours" - Another near-perfect TZ episode. Not a completely original story but that was always TZ's forte - taking ordinary stories and making them extraordinary. I'll always be glad I knew Anne Francis. Luckily, in her early career she got a lot of plum roles. Anne was one of the very very few "real women" on Twilight Zone. Marsha White, in human form, was ahead of her time. The masterful Act II, choreographed eloquently by Douglas Heyes, is among the best footage in all of Twilight Zone, and probably in all of television. I don't watch this episode hardly at all - not because it appears so chopped up in reruns, but because it really is so moving and every once in a very long while I like to feel the same magic I did when I first saw it many years ago. James Milhollin was kind of a one-trick pony when it came to acting, but his one trick was always a good one. Some people have referred to him as Don Knotts' cousin, and he certainly lives up to that title. I remember, ages ago, I read a review of this episode online and in addition to the perfunctory "one of the best" remarks, it also said "this episode is a textbook on how to build tension layer by layer." Very true. I think the most frightful moment comes when the mannequin of the elevator operator falls to the floor after Marsha bumps into it in the midst of her hysteria...it looks EXACTLY like John Conwell, who played the real-life one.
"Long Live Walter Jameson" - Kevin McCarthy, you were a jewel... This was the episode that started my TZ career, in a way. My friend Jeff had gotten in touch with Kevin McCarthy after contacting the CBS photo department archive. Jeff represented himself as Kevin's agent, and I know Kevin did not mind his doing so - because otherwise, Kevin would never have seen those photos. Anyhow, Jeff had probably 25 copies made of various photos and had Kevin sign some, and some were given to him for his records. Whenever Kevin did autograph shows, he'd always bring along a big stack of various photos from his career and lay them out on the table in no particular order. Then, fans could choose what they wanted and he'd basically give them the photo and sign it for a cost of $5 or even less. If one of Kevin's fans wanted his autograph, he gave it to them, and although in his later years he never signed for free, I seriously think he'd sign an autograph for as little as one cent. Kevin also had the original air date memorized! As far as the episode itself, it's one of the most convincing. We're really made to believe that Walter Jameson is two thousand years old. Had it been directed by a lesser director, and acted by less competent actors, it would never have come off. Edgar Stehli turns out an equally remarkable performance as his almost-but-never-to-be father in law. He knew the truth about Walter from the get-go and the moment it is confirmed, he is visibly shaken by it. Tremendous acting. He had a small, uncredited part in Serling's "Requiem for a Heavyweight" a few years earlier, playing the doctor who tells Mountain McClintock (Jack Palance) that his career as a prizefighter is over. I'll always be stoked by the fact that Mr. Stehli and I share the same birthday.
"The Big Tall Wish" - This episode has its flaws, but Rod took a piece of what he did in "Requiem for a Heavyweight" and brought it into TZ. The performance of Steven Perry is outstanding. Today, on better prints of the episode, the flaws of Ivan Dixon's makeup are apparent, and Ivan himself even mentioned this in later years. Walter Burke, playing Bolie's trainer, was a veteran character actor who got better roles as he got older - he was hilarious in "The President's Analyst" as Henry Lux, who orders James Coburn to be shot! The director, Ron Winston, who died at a very young age but was even younger when he directed this - made sure that a bonafide boxing ring was built and the photography is outstanding. He came back to TZ once more, four years later, to direct the more memorable "Stopover in a Quiet Town" near the very end of the run. Kim Hamilton, who submits a sensitive performance as Perry's mother, would go on to team up with another TZ actor from this season, Charles Aidman, as Lionel Jefferson's short-lived in-laws in the "All in the Family" episode "Lionel's Engagement". Sadly, they were replaced by other actors for the very long-running "The Jeffersons". That always irritated me, as I never liked the actors they chose for those roles and Kim and Charles would've probably done a much better job as Jenny's 'zebra' parents (jeepers, George Jefferson was a terrible man!)
"Walking Distance" - It's been talked of forever, so I won't say much about it. I was amazed at how Rod criticized his own writing of this episode many years later. Let's just say that whatever faults there are, they're barely noticeable - or easily dismissed - because everything in this episode is so perfect. The closing narration of this episode is probably the best, and most touching, in the entire series. If I had a buck for every teardrop that the ending of "Walking Distance" has jerked (and also the bit near the end with Frank Overton and Gig Young), I'd have a very healthy second savings account! Oh, I must make mention of Frank Overton. He was an unsung hero in Hollywood. I think he started off as a coffee boy or stagehand...a best boy?? It was Ethel Winant who discovered him. Thank God she did. His career wasn't long, but it was a marvelous one, his best role of course being Sheriff Hector Tate in "To Kill a Mockingbird."
"A World of Difference" - A high velocity episode in the same way "Perchance to Dream" is. Brilliantly directed by Ted Post. Ted, I'm so glad I knew you, even for a brief time. And I'm glad you thought your two lead actors were outstanding. I agree. This is of course the famous episode where a businessman is in his office and suddenly there's a voice that yells "CUT!" - he's not a businessman, he's an actor on a movie set. The home of Gerald and Nora Raigan is on Ventner Rd. in Woodland Hills, California. My oldest TZ friend, Jeff Zentner, just about had a heart attack the first time he saw this episode and heard Duff saying "VENTNER Road in Woodland Hills" because Jeff himself grew up in Woodland Hills! Matheson undoubtedly chose Woodland Hills because he lived there for over 50 years. Funny anecdote - Howard Duff, then married to Ida Lupino (in a terrible marriage) was often referred to by Ida as "Howard Duffel Bag" because he rarely spent time at home. Eileen Ryan - I can't leave her out. Great lady, great actress - played that horrible golddigging bitch of a wife so perfectly.
"A Stop at Willoughby" - A remarkable episode in the same way that "Walking Distance" was - a very sad story, but the fact that Gart Williams got to leave the world that really didn't want him, I perceive as a happy ending. I'm glad one person from this episode, Mr. Jason Wingreen, was someone I crossed paths with. He said, "we knew that episode had a very special quality to it when we were filming it." And Patricia Donahue playing the second-biggest trophy bitch wives on TZ...just perfect. "And just where would you be if it weren't for my *appetite"?!", she says with a snarl. My heart totally goes out to Gart Williams when he punches that mirror in...and what a great line he says to his secretary, "yeah, get me a chart of the human anatomy showing all the major arteries!" Poor guy, he just had to get the hell out of the world, because it sure didn't want him here. But he got to go off to the Twilight Zone, and live the kind of life he wanted to. Rod really beared his soul with this episode - he went through all of those things that Gart Williams did - except for the mirror punching. And, he had a good marriage.
"A Nice Place to Visit" - The set designs are wonderful, as is Sebastian Cabot. Other than that, it's a yawner. Charles Beaumont was SO not a comedy writer and this fact is evident in "A Nice Place to Visit." Larry Blyden was a good actor but he didn't get good roles on Twilight Zone.
"The Fever" - the brilliant acting of Everett Sloane and Vivi Janiss carries an otherwise mediocre story. I love the shot where Sloane is laying on the bed with the sparce lighting on his spooked and sweaty face. The sequence at the end with the slot machine chasing Sloane was good, but then suddenly fails when he crashes through the window and falls out. They should have just left the window open, because there's no way his body weight could have broken through even the thinnest window glass. And of course, the slot machine has the last word as it wheels up to Franklin's dead body and spits out his last silver dollar.
"The Mighty Casey" - enjoyable, but not gripping. Jack Warden is at his usual best. He, along with Abraham Sofaer (Casey's inventor) and Johnathan Hole (the doctor who discovers the truth about Casey) were among that certain company of character actors who got like every good role that came along because they were just so good. And you have to admire them all for coming back 8 months later and re-doing their parts after Paul Douglas died. Paul was great though, and it would be fascinating to see the original film, I'm sure he did equally as well as Warden. Bob Sorrells - what a nice man he was. I can't even begin to fathom what would cause him to commit murder...just a couple weeks before the 2004 TZ con. I have a very spooky story connected with that, which I will sometime relate, but not in print.
"The Lonely" - TZ was known for its impeccable casting, and they got exactly the right two people for this rather prosaic story of Serling's. Jean Marsh, in those days, really did look like a mannequin! She had perfect skin and bone structure. John Dehner came back twice more during the run of the series; always a pleasure to watch him. And poor Ted Knight, a whole eleven years before he'd win the world's hearts with Ted Baxter, didn't even get screen credit! Neither did Jim Turley! After trekking all the way to Death Valley, they certainly should have!
"Elegy" - Doc Baker as an astronaut?! Eh, probably not...but Kevin Hagen was a fine actor. He was one of those actors who chose to move to Oregon upon retirement, which I always thought was kind of cool because I lived very close to Grants Pass, where he lived the last years of his life (3 or 4 other TZ actors including Wright King and Jack Elam also retired in Oregon). Jeff Morrow, a legendary Shakespearean and stage actor, wasn't real convincing either. Don Dubbins' excellent performance balances it out, though. Cecil Kellaway - cousin of the great Edmund Gwynn - he was great in everything he ever did. He did a number of other roles in TV and film that were similar to the character of Wickwire (or "Wirewick"?) The final line of the episode "and while there are men, there can be no peace", is, to quote another fan, "one of the more memorable ones in TZ history." The final shot of Cecil grinning ear to ear is a hoot...and perfect. Van Cleave's piccolo-and-clarinet duo theme for Wickwire was a hoot too...and also perfect. Kellaway appeared as a drunken owner of a pet store, accused of murder, in an episode of "Perry Mason" around the same time he worked on TZ and he's HILARIOUS in the part. A funny story, once back in 1998-99, prior to my 'TZ career', I was watching this episode with my dad. The early scene where Don Dubbins crosses the bridge and goes down to the old fisherman and asks, "How they biting?" and then Dubbins touches the guy and he falls over. My dad said, "Isn't that Walter Brennan?" This marks the first episode with the double-sun gimmick...although he didn't write this particular TZ episode, Serling must have thought it was cool and used it in "The Little People" and "On Thursday We Leave for Home."
"The Chaser" - Thank the gods that George Grizzard got another, far better, part in TZ 3 years later. Patricia Barry was never one of my favorite TV actresses. She did get some better roles on other shows around that time, including one very memorable episode of Karloff's "Thriller." On TZ, she basically played the same character twice - or pretty close to it - in "The Chaser" and in the hour long (and far less good) "I Dream of Genie" 3 years later. What makes "The Chaser" barely pass was the superlative set design, and John McIntire's usual brilliant acting. He always played the crusty old guys expertly. The script has some special meaning for me in a way because I got to publish the script for it, written by Robert Presnell, the husband of legendary silver screen actress Marsha Hunt. I've always liked Marsha, she's an amazing lady. She was going to go through her husband's files, as I recall, to try to find the original script, but she said she had too many years' worth of paperwork, so "go ahead and publish whatever you have." And she appeared in TZ herself, in TZ's less-popular "Spur of the Moment.". Barbara Perry, who appears at the very beginning of this episode as the lady in line waiting to use the phone, had completely forgotten that she had any dialogue in this episode. She thought she was an extra! I reminded her, "no, you had a few very cute lines!" Hopefully she managed to see it again.
"A World of His Own" - I've never liked it. It's like the actors are trying too hard to make it work. Keenan Wynn's is a contrived performance, and Phyllis Kirk isn't much better (perhaps because she fumbled a lot of the dialogue that Matheson wrote, and Matheson never forgot about it!) Mary LaRoche looks much better here than she did 3-4 years later in "Living Doll" and actually she kind of serves as the glue that holds it together here. And poor Rod...he wasn't an actor. But from this point onwards, he decided that he wasn't going to let the camera get in his way and would introduce the rest of the stories, and a few months later when the opening of "King Nine Will Not Return" was shot, he looked anything but ill at ease.
"The Purple Testament" - This was Rod Serling through and through. He lived through practically everything that was written into this episode. In the leads, Dick York and Bill Reynolds are fantastic. Little did anyone know that Dick's career would be over in less than a decade. Bill Reynolds is such a nice guy in person, and he's also very soft-spoken like Lt. Fitzgerald. Ditto for Michael Vandever, who played Smitty, the hospital guy who dies just minutes after Fitz pays him a visit. WHO is that last guy who jumps off the truck at the end of the opening teaser? They had his face stay on the screen for about five seconds after Serling's narration concludes with "and these are the faces of war" or whatever the dialogue is. One person I used to know joked, "that guy must've been a neighbor of Serling's and was hoping Rod could launch his career!" The little guy in the platoon who rails on Fitz about his uncanny abilitiy - "hey, everyone says you know who's gonna get it!", is a kick... I believe his name is Marc Cavell - had a similar kind of part in "Cool Hand Luke" later in the 60s. And this episode marked the first of four TZ's for Barney Phillips - his best known of which was the three-eyed counterman, Haley, a year or so later in "Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?" And let's not forget (S.) John Launer, delivers one of the more memorable TZ lines, "Man, war stinks..." John was a frequent judge on "Perry Mason". I remember one particular episode where the great Cecil Kellaway (star of TZ's "Elegy") played a drunk and came to court absolutely sloshed and made a complete ass out of himself and the whole court started laughing, and the judge - played by John - just rolled his eyes and called "order!" In 2004, I remember Arlene Martel told me that she ran into him in a barbershop, a couple years before he died. By then he was quite old. She mentioned that she was going to be attending our TZ Convention the next month and he then reminisced about his role on "The Purple Testament".
"People Are Alike All Over" - Who doesn't love Roddy McDowall? He kept his boyish face for many years, and his accent was one of the most BEAUTIFUL English ones out there; he was a master of diction and his delivery of lines was always perfect. He was on the screen practically his whole life and he was apparently a very nice person. I remember one of his old friends, I think Doris Roberts, talking about how Roddy used to have big, parties at his home in the Hollywood Hills, and all different kinds of people would attend them. Not all of them were rich folks from showbiz. Some had fallen on hard times, some had just struck it rich, but all were very accepted. Paul Comi, too, was nice in the same kind of way. Anyhow, "People are Alike" has the atmosphere of a fairytale, and the punchline....oh, what a slap in the face Roddy (Sam Conrad) got...twist endings like the one Serling worked up for this installment set the stage for many other shocking and unpredictable things to come in TZ land. I do have to laugh though at the visual of the crashing spaceship - on 1959 television screens, it probably looked very real but today it of course doesn't. Susan Oliver left us way too soon.
"Execution" - Albert Salmi was one of the greatest actors to appear on "The Twilight Zone", which is why they hired him for three episodes, alongside Jack Klugman, Burgess Meredith, and a few others who had starring roles in two or more. Salmi had very few peers when it came to his acting ability - he was a brilliant chameleon who could play literally any part convincingly. George Clayton Johnson has said more than once that he liked certain things that Rod did with his story, especially the part where Professor Manion (Russell Johnson) tells Caswell (Salmi) that he has to send him back to 1880, and how there's no way in hell that he'd ever go back to that miserable existence. George's story is a fine one, but the ending was indeed weak and that's really what kills the episode. Serling tried to make it better, but didn't really succeed, with the burglar who chokes Caswell - who has been fighting all his life - with drapery cords and then "stumbles" into the time machine. Nonetheless, the finale is chilling, particularly John Lormer's delivery of "Did we hang the wrong man? I hope not, I pray to God not" (Lormer became another TZ regular who appeared in two other western TZ tales.) Russell Johnson gets a warmup on his professorial "Gilligan's Island" role, you might say... and director David Orrick McDearmon hired him back for another episode, Serling's "Back There", the next year - I think that was one of the very few times on TZ that the same director and starring actor worked on two episodes. Oh yes - I mustn't forget about the stunt bump. If an actor does his or her own stunts, they get more salary. In those days, it might've been 50 bucks more that Johnson and Salmi got by doing their own fight (although the lamp that shatters into a zillion pieces was quite obviously not enough to kill Manion!) Today, the actors would each be paid tens of thousands of dollars, and chances are that they would not even be allowed to do it. Such was TV in 1959.
"The Four of Us Are Dying" - "Superlative acting overcomes merely average story ideas and writing", something that TZ did so many dozens of times, and so very well. Everyone is at their best in this episode. George Clayton Johnson - "Rod took my story - a windshield - and stuck a new car under it." And George's story was a brilliant one. But the majority of the credit goes to Harry Townes, Ross Martin, Beverly Garland, Bernard Fein, Phillip Pine, Don Gordon, and Peter Brocco, who bring it to a much higher level. John Brahm, directing, got much more out of his cast than could ever have been hoped for. And taking it to an even higher level was the perfectly-matched accompaniment of Jerry Goldsmith. One of my favorite episodes. I will always, always be glad that I met TWO people from this one - Beverly, and Phil Pine.
"Judgement Night" - It was one of the first episodes I saw. Fantastic, tons of good actors in it. Nehemiah Persoff is definitely an underrated talent who should've been more famous. I think James Franciscus should not have tried to use an accent at the end, although it doesn't really matter and his looks more than make up for it. Most know him from the second "Apes" movie. And he died way too young, of course. Serling's closing narration about "comeuppance" and "justice meted out...THIS IS JUDGEMENT NIGHT, in the Twilight Zone" is a memorable one.
"A Passage for Trumpet" - Jack Klugman is not only one of my favorite actors, he's one of the most flawless actors in TV history. If there's anyone in Hollywood who truly earned his paychecks and deserved his wealth, it is Jack Klugman. The script is the epitome of Rod Serling the writer and the kind of story that he, and only he, wrote the best - the little man gets another chance. And John Anderson is very much Klugman's equal. My lab partner for a year or so in college, his name was Faron, reminded me a lot of the angel Gabriel, played by Anderson. His voice was almost exactly the same and he was never perturbed or disturbed, always very mellow as Anderson's Gabriel is, and extremely intelligent (which is why I was lucky to have him as a lab partner!) It really does look like John Anderson and Jack Klugman were playing the trumpet - if not, they did a damn good job on their homework of learning how to finger it with vibrato!!
"I Shot an Arrow Into the Air" - I've never liked this one much. Edward Binns is good as Col. Donlin, but the flaw of the story is so obvious! Donlin and the others should have recognized immediately that the ship never got into orbit. The fact that he doesn't perhaps makes him, and the other men, seem like total idiots. What would have really been good is if the space agency tracked them on radar and the cops found them and said "jeez, our tax dollars paid for this whole mess and you guys didn't even have the brains to realize that you never left Earth?!" All this aside, I am really glad I managed to communicate with Dewey Martin, who played Officer Corey, and had him sign a number of photos from it. And all else aside, the punchline is a pretty good one.
"The Last Flight" - Truly amazing from start to finish. I love it, a lot. Matheson draws us into the story right from the get-go and with much momentum. Wonderful dialogue, and red-hot intensity in the scenes with Kenneth Haigh and Simon Scott. All, or nearly all, of the music heard in this episode was by Bernard Herrmann and much of it was recycled from the score to "Where is Everybody" and worked equally well for this story. I always get a chill when I hear that last line of Decker's, before he flies off - travels backward in time to 1917 just in time to save the airborne Mackaye from the Germans. He yells at the General, "Well, then fire! I'd *rather* die!" "The Last Flight" is one of those TZ episodes that gets the viewer emotionally involved with the story, in a way that few if any other TV shows had the power to do. The guy who played the present-day marshal Mackaye was good too. The reaction when he sees and beholds Decker's dog tags and passport is...wow. A shocker! The quote of Mackaye's about "heaven" and "devil" - he has the two extremes, Heaven and Hell (referring to The Devil). I thought that was interesting. Also interesting was his acceptance of the fact that they were indeed Decker's dog tags, and that he really had been there and was now in Heaven. But then, a moment later, he doesn't want to accept it or the logical part of his brain kicks on and he lashes out with the devil remark. Subtle writing that could only have come from a great writer like Matheson. And the closing narration "Dialogue from a play, Hamlet to Horation...dialogue written long before men took to the skies", WOW. Probably the best in the entire series, next to "Walking Distance" and a few others.
"Third From the Sun" - The story itself is alright but not especially interesting - family packs up and needs to get off their planet because it's going to be blown up. But the way it was directed and acted was truly remarkable. The casting was perfect - Edward Andrews was always the perfect slimy businessman. I've said it before and I'll say it again, he was one of the greatest and most recognizable character actors ever to work in Hollywood and I only wish I could've shaken his hand. Those who know Matheson's short story of the same title - which bears little resemblance to this episode can appreciate just how good Rod Serling was at spinning gold out of straw. The card sequence is one of the most suspenseful in the entire series...they know that Carling is on to their plans but they have to proceed 'as if' and just try their best to escape. The short segment where the two families are in the car "driving" to the air base is kinda cool. Very good visual of it, anyway. And then they "park" it, and get out...and poor Mr. Andrews, he gets tackled and knocked out! And that ringtone on their landline (with the futuristic Ericsson phone!) oh my, how I miss landlines. I want one just like that and I want it to have THAT ringtone!
"Monsters are Due on Maple Street" - I've never liked it. I know it's a classic and some of the acting is good, and it certainly makes its points. It's a little too contrived though, and the actors seem to be working too hard, even overacting. Listen for veteran character actress Amzie Strickland's line to Tommy's mother, "Martians from outer space? Shit, you'd better get that boy upstairs and put him to bed!" The four letter word apparently wasn't caught by the film editor. The closing Serling narration really hits home though. One of the most powerful. The shot at the beginning where Akins is holding the garden hose and looking up at the sky as the meteor passes is a classic one.
SEASON 2...it establishes itself...
"King Nine Will Not Return" - I've never liked it. Bob Cummings' performance is just boring, and his off-camera voiceovers all sound like he's reading off a cue card. Bob was better on "The Bob Cummings Show", doing what he did best, alongside the great Ann B. Davis. But of course, this episode marked the very first where Rod came on camera for his opening narration. I think he really surprised everyone with his ability as a narrator. Rod was not an actor, he was a writer. But his sincerity, his genius, and his feeling for and belief in the stories that were being produced by the show that was his creation, were what made him that much more of an icon. I do remember story editor Del Reisman - who was on location for the shoot, as story editor - telling me that almost every night, the crew and Cummings (plus what few other actors were around for the scenes where Cummings imagines he's seeing his platoon members) would go to a very greasy diner. "That was one of maybe two restaurants out there in the desert," he said. "And Bob Cummings was a real health freak, a vegetarian who literally dined a lot of the time on vitamins and water. He'd say to me, as I was chowing down on this greasy food that we were eating, 'Del, you are what you eat, just remember that!'"
"Eye of the Beholder" - Well, I think enough has been said about it. No doubt, it is unequivocably one of the finest half hours of television ever produced. Instead of talking of the story or the production, I'll remark on a few of the performances. Maxine Stuart - excellent of course...but there was one individual associated with the episode (and out of respect for the person's wishes, I will never say who it was, so don't ask me!!) who told me once - and I agree - that they did not really feel that the performance matched the character. "It sounded like an old woman doing that part, and then the bandages come off and it's Donna. I never have liked it." Nonetheless, Maxine's depth and the feeling she infused into Janet Tyler are unforgettable. William D. Gordon - I have never seen any of his other work other than "Nervous Man in a Four Dollar Room", which I don't think he was good in. He was one of the very few people who starred in two episodes during the same season (Jack Warden was another, in Season 1.) But he was a perfect choice for the part of the concerned and caring doctor...who of course displays a good amount of intensity in the magnificent lounge scene. The scene in the lounge, with Gordon and Jennifer Howard is, I think, what makes the episode such a masterpiece. Gordon was also a sometime writer, and his episode/script "The Storm" for Karloff's "Thriller," produced right around the same time, was and still is sensational. Jennifer Howard - an outstanding talent, not very well known unfortunately. But she had an unmistakeable voice which was perfect for the part of the head nurse. She appeared on many episodes of "Perry Mason", where we actually see her face. I remember when I later saw her on "Perry Mason", it was the voice I recognized, as I didn't know what she looked like for many years. And although she was far from being an ugly woman, her facial structure underneath the makeup certainly lent itself well to the mold of the hideous-looking nurse. An interesting aside - Jennifer Howard was the mother of four children, produced during her marriage to Samuel Goldwyn, Jr. Two or three of the four went on to substantial careers in Hollywood. Donna Douglas - well, she'll always be known for the role of the revealed Janet Tyler. She was a perfect choice for it, needless to say. Maxine Stuart was already well into her 40s at the time, and although she was a lovely person, she was not a beauty queen so they had to use Douglas. Edson Stroll - he put the star on the Christmas tree. He lends so much sensitivity, compassion, and love to the part of Walter Smith, in the mere two or so minutes he spends on camera. If you listen to Edson's delivery of his mere three or four lines, you'll see why he went on to such a distinguished career behind the camera. He was a master of diction and just plain had an amazing voice. I will always be very, very grateful for the time I spent with him. I once met someone from "showbiz" who said to me, "Nobody can do voiceovers like Edson Stroll." True statement. An admission: I did not really care for this episode during the first maybe 2 years of watching it. Although I didn't find it "predictable", I didn't find it nearly as interesting as many other episodes. And indeed, it's a bit on the side of slow. I think I kept watching it over and over though because of Edson's part...and because of the lounge scene. Mind you, Maxine Stuart was a great actor who I was already familiar with from her later work...and I'm glad Maxine became one of the longest-living TZ actors. It took a few years before I really realized how really, truly remarkable a piece of art it really is. A friend of mine, who is an English teacher, said that whenever he shows it to his classes, he always has one smartass student, or more, who predict the ending. I think that's kinda too bad. Here's the thing - if they'd unwrapped the bandages and the face had been as truly UGLY as the masks they had on Jennifer Howard and the other actors, it really would've been scary. But isn't that a testament to how truly horrifying the TZ folks did in creating them? I think it is.
"Dust" - While "Eye of the Beholder" was [director] Doug Heyes' best episode, "Dust" was undoubtedly his least. It's not one that is ever really discussed, probably because the story is a really old and tired one. And for some reason, no one except Thomas Gomez's character, the corpulent fatass Sykes, has much energy. I always liked the guy who played the prisoner, Gallegos. They should've had him back for more episodes. I've met guys like the Sykes, who are best referred to as "a waste of flesh!" John Larch had to take quite a step down from the character he did in "Perchance to Dream" - but he got his turn at the wheel again the next year in "It's a Good Life" in what was undoubtedly the best of his three TZ roles. Doug Heyes Jr., I'm glad I made contact with. He is an avid athlete and gave up an event just so he could attend the last Twilight Zone Convention. When I told him who my favorite TZ director was (his father), he said, "He's my favorite one too, and not just because he was my dad!"
"The Obsolete Man" - I'd say I like the courtroom more than anything else...that was an amazing set - the huge doors and the lecterns. The story is average, but Elliot Silverstein did well with it. Meredith's reading of the Lord's Prayer has got to be some of his best acting. Very few people know that Burgess Meredith was also a fine director who directed Broadway plays. Fritz Weaver was always reliable as a leading man. He had such a unique look, and a wonderfully frightening speaking voice. I've always wondered if he was somehow related to the actor Vincent Schiavelli (if you don't know who him by name, Google him and you'll recognize him instantly - he did tons of TV and movies, it was sad when he died prematurely some time ago.) The appearance of Serling at the beginning and end of the episode was an odd choice...maybe it made sense, given the kind of story it was. Ahhh, the ending...literally, 'Ahhhhh'!! The way those crazy people growl at Fritz was....crazy. I am in full agreement with Silverstein - it wasn't very good. The 'late' chancellor was killed by the congregation, but I would've liked to see them lead into it a bit more, instead of sliding him across the table. My favorite moment of the episode is the look on Meredith's face just before the room explodes...Romney Wordsworth doesn't care anymore, he's put his life in God's hands, and will thankfully soon be gone from that truly Godawful place!!
"A Most Unusual Camera" - Very average. I think the ending weakens it a bit, but the story is very close to home and it's an enjoyable watch. Definitely a collection of kooky characters, led by Jean Carson and her unmistakable baritone voice... she was a great lady. She was a heavy smoker throughout her life but she said on many an occasion that her deep voice was not from smoking, it was just always that way from childhood. Fred Clark was always a delightful player of thugs/jerks, on many sitcoms. And Adam Williams...a gem of a character actor who had a very sexy New England accent. Rod wrote it for Jean Carson, and some have said "well, he could've come up with a better script for her!" But Jean was so good at comedy and working on a lot of comedy shows at the time, and Rod wasn't really a comedy writer but I think he did as well as could've been expected. "It was up my alley," she said. And despite not getting along with the director, she called it "a delightful shoot."
"Static" - I don't think I've seen it more than about five times. I don't dislike it, but just have not paid much attention to it over the years. I'm glad Alice Pearce was in a TZ episode...this was done about 4 years pre-"Bewitched", where she stalwartly portrayed Mrs. Kravitz for two seasons while dying of cancer. It was the role of a lifetime for her and she knew it, and she knew she had to do it. Prior to it, when she was doing this episode, she was pretty much unknown. And like her co-stars Mr. York and Ms. Montgomery, she left us far too young. "Static" was very prosaic for Charles Beaumont. It's a fantasy story, but nothing too fantastic. The lead actors were definitely good choices for the part. "Static" compliments "Kick the Can" and is superior to it I think. Steven Talbot, the actor who plays the kid at the beginning of the episode, went on to a substantial career as a documentary producer. I seem to remember reading that he hated Hollywood though. Not surprising.
"The Lateness of the Hour" - The storyline isn't outstanding but the actors all are. Rod was a great admirer of Inger Stevens - and actually there's a well-known publicity photo of the two of them, showing Inger in one of the brighter moments of her rather tumultuous life. The production staff actually made a very good job of the rain and thunder outside, it probably looked great on TV screens of 1960.
"The Whole Truth" - I don't know if it was supposed to be a comedy, but the actors were almost all comedians. So, I guess it was. I had a professor in college who reminded me very much of the character of Honest Luther Grimbley, played by Loring Smith. This professor looked and acted much the same way. He was about 70 years old and actually our Physical Chemistry ("P Chem") class was the last one he ever taught. I remember he told us on the first day of class that he was an expert on all the material we were covering because he'd published papers on all of it over his long career. But a good researcher is often not proportional to their teaching ability, and such was the case with this professor. He made countless errors in class and it often times got quite humorous as the brighter students corrected him. Two of Honest Luther Grimbley's lines to Harvey Hunnicutt in the episode were "why, you sharp-shootin' sharpie!" and "you clever little cookie, you!" and although the professor I had didn't say exactly those lines to students, he came very very close on a couple occasions with a young lad who sat near the front of the room. And naturally, my mind immediately went to Twilight Zone during class. Good times. I always have wondered why the guy who played Nikita Khruschev was not given any lines, yet was given screen credit in the episode. The guy who played Khruschev's Aide made news headlines around 2010 - I think he's always lived in England - he was apparently arrested for a gay hate crime (assaulting his gay neighbor or destroying property). The guy must've been 85 years old yet apparently couldn't contain himself. Crazy!
"Long Distance Call" - The first of the three Bill Mumy episodes. Bill was a great child actor, one of the best working in the biz at that time. I didn't really care for the casting of his parents though. The actors were too old. The mother may not have been too old but I had in mind someone like Sue Randall (who was a regular on "Leave it to Beaver" at the time). But Lili Darvas...a brilliant choice for Grandma. And that line of hers, when she's serving him the birthday cake..."I have the shovel and you dig the hole", what appropriate black humor. I really wish they'd been able to use that footage of Mumy floating face down in the pond!! This is, to me, the best of the videotape episodes. I think it works well on videotape, and the reason is this: birthday party footage is often filmed well with camcorders. Usually, a designated guest at the party - usually someone kinda shy/antisocial - is given the job of shooting the footage. In this episode, we of course start with the birthday party and work upwards...as if that person stayed around the Bayles house and shot the whole story. Now, even though I didn't care for the parents casting, Patricia Smith (later a regular for the first season of the first Bob Newhart Show some 12-13 years later) does well in the moment where she grabs the phone and hears Grandma's voice. Her delivery of the line "I heard her! She was there!" was really, really good. Then she gets hysterical again and...mehh...
"Twenty-Two" - You either like this episode, or you don't. I think Serling made a good choice by buying Bennett Cerf's short story (or the story appearing in one of Cerf's volumes) but on screen, it didn't work as well as was predicted. The atmosphere is indeed spooky and videotape certainly adds to that. But the characters are simply all too weird and the acting is substandard (save for Arline Sax, with her classic delivery of "Room for one more, honey.") The visual of the exploding plane has been discussed many times earlier, so I won't comment on that. But the ending of Serling's script is indeed utterly pointless, and that's really the thing that kills it (for those of us who don't care for this particular segment.)
"The Trouble With Templeton" - One of the best in the series, no question about it. Although nobody really remembers it, which I find quite disappointing. Jack Neuman was an extraordinary writer; he was a friend of producer Buck Houghton for over four decades and by rights he should have written more, but if he had to do one entry and no other, this was IT. The first half is touching in its own way, a little slow, but suddenly it gains a lot of momentum. It's like a great, short film. It doesn't feel like television, somehow. It would've taken the top prize for Short Film at Cannes and lord knows how many other festivals. The second half is quite, quite miraculous. The look on Brian Aherne's face when he's told that his long-dead wife is alive is unmatchable. No other actor could've done it so convincingly. As the doors to the smoke-filled Freddy Iaccino's open, we're transported right into the scene along with Booth Templeton - the director, Buzz Kulik, really knew what he was doing. It's perfect. You can smell the smoke and taste the chops and beer, and feel the heat even if you're sitting in a freezing cold room. And as the scene concludes, it is unexpectedly very saddening as the lights go off in 1927 and Templeton returns to the present. I hope over time this episode becomes more popular, and only wish that Neuman had been able to write more for TZ, because he most definitely knew how to write for it. Says John Furia Jr., "Jack was also a very good critic of others' writing - you'd show him something [you wrote] and he'd give it to you straight with no sugar coating [about how good or bad it was]."
"Shadow Play" - Also one of the best in the series, and I say that even though this episode is not a personal favorite. A masterpiece, that could only have come from the pen of Charles Beaumont. This episode is definitely one of a few where the characters are so "real" that if we had to, we could almost have a conversation with them. Harry Townes, Anne Barton, Wright King, and of course Dennis Weaver are all outstanding. Wright...thanks for being there. He was the first TZ actor I ever met and how fortunate that he happened to live in the same town I did at the time. I took him for lunch on his 79th birthday - January 11, 2002, at the old Heathman Hotel and we had a wonderful conversation. I asked him, "Is today, by any chance, your birthday?" and he said, bashfully, "I wasn't going to say anything, but...yes! And jeez, I'm old!" But he was one of the liveliest 79 year olds I'd ever encountered. We talked about Harry Townes and Anne Barton and Dennis Weaver, all in detail...Harry was a very good friend of his, and he'd just died the year before. Wright talked to him right before he died. Anne died later that year, and he praised her acting. He also mentioned the names of many other TZ actors including June Dayton, who he remembered because his own wife had the same name. There's a bit of similarity between "Shadow Play" and "The Trouble With Templeton", with everything going dark in one world and returning to 'another world'. Serling's closing narration for this episode is undisputably among the best in the entire series, "...do you live here, in this country, in this world, or do you live instead, in The Twilight Zone?" I think that was the only narration of Rod's that actually ended with a question. Yup, I think so. One final remark on the actors in the episode - the ones in the prison are equally good. William Edmondson, as Jiggs, is a real kick in the pants...very believable. So too is Tommy Nello as Phillips, to whom Jiggs says, "Phillips, shut your face!!!" Funny. The guy who plays Father Beeman is very good too. I think my reaction to this episode initially, as it was one of the first ones I ever saw, was, "Wow. No wonder Twilight Zone is such a permanent part of pop culture...it's because of episodes like this. There's no TV show that's better."
"The Invaders" - The first TZ episode I ever saw. This was the one that hooked me - wisely, "Columbia House" chose it to appear as the very first episode of their VHS tape subscription set, probably because of how truly striking Rod's opening intro is - and this is one of the very few episodes where Rod appears onscreen WITH the actors, as they are acting. I watched this episode with my dad, who did remember when it was first broadcast, but he thought Agnes Moorehead's shrieking and cries were stupid. I'd have to disagree with Matheson himself, about the robots - I know he never liked them and felt they weren't sinister enough. But look at the damage they caused the poor woman and her house! As far as it goes, "The Invaders" doesn't have much of a story - it's more like an expertly-choreographed ballet, as this nameless woman moves from one part of the house to the next.
"A Penny For Your Thoughts" - How appropriate that we saw 'Endora' the previous week, and Darrin this week! And of course, Dr. Bellows (from "Bewitched"'s competing sitcom!) Nothing overly special about this episode storywise, telepathy was something explored in other episodes which were perhaps more interesting (Matheson's "Mute" comes to mind), but it's a delight from start to finish. Cyril Delevanti, a TZ regular, never fails to please and the guy he plays in this episode, Mr. Smithers, is a kick...his delivery of the lines is perfect as usual. June Dayton, playing Ms. Turner, was in Serling's "Patterns" back in 1955 and did a lot of TV. Let's hope that Hector B. Poole married Ms. Turner! I love the opening intro of Rod's, standing on the busy street, "Flip a coin and keep flipping it...Mr. Hector B. Poole, a bright human coin on his way to the bank."
"The Mind and the Matter" - I think Shelley Berman was sometimes confused for Paul Lynde. And like Paul, he was a fine comedian. This episode...very average. Nothing too interesting about it. One of my old friends once met Jack Grinnage (the guy who played Henry the coffee guy) at a convention. Afterwards, everyone in our group of friends asked "is he gay?!" (although I didn't ask the question because I really don't care). He is pretty fem in the episode though, and it's actually somewhat cute. That friend also sent Grinnage a gift basket in his hotel room at the con after meeting him...I guess he liked him!! I remember the friend also reporting that Grinnage was still downhill skiing well into his 70s!
"The Rip Van Winkle Caper - This was/is one of my dad's favorite episodes, at least of the ones he remembers seeing as a kid. It's one of those episodes that has a very simple storyline but the gritty dialogue of Serling's and the punchline make it stay in the minds of the millions. John Mitchum... I wish I'd gotten to meet him. He was quite ill by Y2K when I first made contact with him - he'd been doing conventions in recent years and receiving accolades for his work of long ago. I remember I sent a photo from the episode out for his autographing and his agent called me (looked up my number in the phone book!! - sign of the times) and asked how I wanted it signed. We talked for a long time about the old days of TV. Once things got going for the 2002 convention, I called the agent back and said "I'd love it if John came down to Los Angeles next summer for it" and then the agent returned my call saying that he'd had a stroke and died. Anyhow - on a completely different note, Shirley O'Hara... she's the lady at the tail end of the episode, who drives up with her husband in the modern vehicle and asks her husband, "Didn't they used to exchange gold for money?" Well, Shirley was a great comedic actress - she had a few side-splittingly funny guest roles in some 70s sitcoms and I wish she'd done even more.
"The Silence" - A beaut. I think the story is pretty average...a damn shocker of a punchline, but the atmosphere - set entirely inside the men's club - is so great. The TZ episodes with only a single set/setting tend to get the viewer more involved with the story itself. Dear old Johnathan Harris, he had one of the best voices in Hollywood...and I always loved his tagline, "Don't give it away, sell it!" I don't think he was a great actor but he sure knew how to deliver lines and like many old actors, was very skilled at diction. When we announced TZ Convention #1, Johnathan was the first one or two to come onboard. I'll never forget him.
"The Howling Man" - Miraculous. Amazing from start to finish. And the fact that H.M. Wynant and I became good friends makes it that much more miraculous. C.B. (Charles Beaumont) was the greatest of them... and Doug Heyes was the greatest of them too. And so was George Clemens. Robin Hughes...I've seen him in some other things, and I'm ashamed I can't name them - I know he did a "Perry Mason" episode but I can't remember the premise of it. A fine actor, to be sure. You can really hear the passion in his voice when he's behind bars - and then the pure evil radiating from his body as he's let loose upon the world. I completely and totally disagree with the negative reviews of Hughes passing down the corridor behind the columns and the makeup changes. It's completely convincing - and back in 1960, it definitely couldn't have been done any better. H.M. Wynant's story, which he related to me more than once, about shrugging it off when he passed Buck Houghton on the MGM lot, is amazing in itself. "It was just another job and in those days, no one ever even thought about reruns. Fifty years later, *everyone* still remembers it."
"Night of the Meek" - Well, who doesn't love Art Carney?! And who doesn't love John Fiedler?! Val Avery, Robert P. Lieb, Burt Mustin, and Meg Wyllie are all superb as well. The old prints of this episode are quite poor, and it actually looks like a Playhouse 90 kinescope. I watch this episode every Christmas Eve if I can...with emphasis on 'if I can', as I'm a very busy guy. I must remark on Burt Mustin (1884-1977) - he was the crown jewel of character actors - he started his career only about 10 years before this episode was done and if I'm not mistaken, he rose to be so familiar to audiences that he even gave a commencement address at a university. And he worked right up until he died. By the time he was doing episodes of "All in the Family", he was already into his 90s and still as vivacious as ever, although he had almost no body fat!! But Burt was really terrific.
"The Man in the Bottle" - "Joseph Ruskin is an actor whom I always have admired," said H.M. Wynant. And like Wynant, Ruskin had amazing vocal ability and was working in the biz well into his eighties. But Ruskin's marvelous performance as the genie is the only thing of note in this run-of-the-mill story of Serling's. Luther Adler and Vivi Janiss are superb as well, although the performances are a bit on the side of forgettable...Janiss was better in "The Fever", and it's a shame that Adler wasn't invited back for other episodes because he really was an oustanding talent (from the famous Adler family - Stella, the old acting pedagogue who was later spoofed by Carol Burnett on her show as the unforgettable 'Stella Toddler', and Jay Adler, who appeared in "The Jungle" in a VERY convincing role as a derelict, and in "He's Alive" with Dennis Hopper.) One of my accounting class teachers was telling us about his newborn grandson and he said "right now he looks like Luther Adler...anyone in here know who he was?" And of course I said "I do!!" Despite the ho-hum storyline, the ending is just beautiful. The director, Don Medford, was not a specialist in storylines like this one; his genius came with more intense episodes like "Death Ship", "A Passage for Trumpet", and "Death's Head Revisited"....all episodes about death!
"Mr. Dingle, The Strong" - Pleasant but corny story. Not a whole lot of substance, but Burgess was always great at playing geeks and underdogs... Don Rickles needs no intro...he looked the same way 40+ years after he did this episode! For some reason every time I see/hear Harlan Ellison talk, I think of Rickles...not sure why. James Millhollin...probably not a good choice for Mr. Abernathy (similar to Mr. Armbruster which he played to perfection last season, a case of 'repeat' casting - and they had him back again to play a very similar character in "I Dream of Genie" in Season 4.) The stunts...they're pretty damned good given that this episode was shot in 1960. And they still look good today. Bravo, Virgil Beck (special effects manager). The siamese robots at the end, well...there's this photo of them that has been sold on ebay over the years. The two kids they used for their fellow martians were quite cute though.
"Nick of Time" Not a favorite of mine, but it's excellent in its own way. The "oh, stop treating me like a retarded child" line of Shatner's is a bit weird, and I know many people have commented on it over the years. "Oh, stop treating me like a complete idiot!" would've had more of an impact. But that's neither here nor there. This episode has a unique feel, unlike any other episode. Not sure why. Patricia Breslin was much better in it than she was in "No Time Like the Past." And this episode was done during Shatner's best period in Hollywood, when he was a new kid in the culdesac, before he was even remotely rich and when his acting was still top-flight. I'd like to see a 21st century remake of this episode...with some really good but unknown actors. I've seen some remakes of a couple episodes on Youtube, by college kids...they weren't half bad actually.
"Back There" When I first saw "Back There", I realized that Rod Serling was not a tall man. Check out his opening intro and you will see why! I have to agree with what has been said about this episode by some others - it does not succeed, and by a lot. The acting is quite bad, save for a few of the actors who had smaller parts (this episode had a comparatively very large cast, one of the largest of any episode.) The problem with this episode is that the punchline - or, the resolution to the problem - is that Peter Corrigan changed the future by going into the past, but it wasn't for the better. It's left on a very disconcerting note. Now, the one good thing that came out of this episode was the music, from the pen of none other than Jerry Goldsmith. I'd say it worked far better in other episodes in recycled form - and in fact, it was used for episodes of at least three other television series on TV at that time.
"Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?" Bill Erwin's episode! Well, his most significant role of the three he's credited with. A very delightful 'comedrama' by Serling. The casting was particularly good...even the guys who played the two cops were pretty equal to the principal cast who are in the diner the whole time. The outdoor sets were very convincingly done - we never see Tracy's Pond or the bus going "kerplunk, right into the river" but even today, they still look great...but, a particularly big piece of "snow" hits Rod's head while doing the intro and never quite melts! The third eye on Barney Phillips...never bothered me as much as many who thought they did an inferior job with it. Don't forget, folks, this was pre-CGI! But the three-arm sequence that John Hoyt does with the coffee and the cigarette are absolutely perfect. But then that's all quickly deflated when Phillips reveals that he's got the upper hand, and that laugh of his is quite wicked. But Bill Erwin, what a dear old guy he was, and he was not at all acerbic as the guys he often played. Who was the guy who played the husband of the young husband-wife team? I can't remember his name...Ron Kaplan, I think?! Ron Kipling, I just checked. He's adorable.
"The Prime Mover" - The characters are all very believable and it's an entertaining episode...kind of low-key, slow-paced, but enjoyable. George Clayton Johnson's stories have that quality. Buddy Ebsen and Dane Clark, alongside the superb Christine White, make for a wonderful trio. Nice to see Buddy Ebsen in a role other than the "Welllll Doggies!" one he did for so long.
"A Hundred Yards Over the Rim" - Wouldn't most people agree that Cliff Robertson's two TZ episodes were the best things he ever did in his career? I think even Cliff himself agreed, otherwise he would not have come to our first TZ convention. Cliff greatly admired Rod Serling, and vice versa, and was always grateful to him for those parts. And what a truly nice man Cliff was. In 2002 I think he'd just finished doing the Spiderman movies and his popularity was greater than it had ever been. "How can it be nineteen hundred and sixty one when it's eighteen hundred and forty seven?" Spine chilling. Ed Platt was very good as the doctor - the things he says about Christian Horn really make you believe that he's not from the present day. "Even Freud would have something to gnaw on here." Oddly enough, John Crawford, who played Joe, the owner of the diner, didn't have a good time on this episode. He talked to some of my colleagues about it and said it was not one of the more enjoyable experiences in Hollywood. But he was so well cast in the role, along with Evans Evans (also known as Mrs. John Frankenheimer, wife of the famed director, who was good friends with Serling.) But everything about this episode is perfect...a handful of TZs were that way, thanks to Buck Houghton and how expertly he produced everything. He had all of Serling's genius and their partnership was nothing less than extraordinary. Even today, you can still say that about many of the episodes Buck produced. The premise, the storyline, the acting, the music by Fred Steiner (one of TZ's finest scores), the sets, and of course the best "set" was Lone Pine, California. Very small incidental note - of the nearly 70 episodes that Robert L. McCord appeared in, this is one of maybe three where we hear his voice. He plays the cop who chases Christian Horne in the car in this one...and he almost catches up to him...before he stumbles back over the rim, just 100 yards from where he started.
"A Thing About Machines" I recently got an email from a loyal watcher of TZ, who has a very rational basis for the ending of this story - Finchley very likely was a machine himself - he abhorred mechanical contrivances because he didn't want to admit that he was one, or had become one over time, as a shallow, insecure misanthrope. Indeed, we never see him eat or drink (just shots of an empty flask of bourbon) and that's probably why he sunk to the bottom of the pool! After many years of watching this one, it does make some sense. I'll miss Barbara Stuart. She was an intelligent actor. She and TZ alum George Grizzard played the bride's parents in "Bachelor Party" 20 years later, and of course Barbara has that great scene in the strip club where she...um...has a hot dog in her face for a second or two. Anyhoo, this episode - not really much in it. The special effects are merely average, and the car chase at the end just about kills it, it was not done well at all, and it's one of the few earlier episodes where the main character ends up badly, although in this case it was definitely for the best. I do like Serling's opening narration, which mentions "tart sophistry" to describe the main character, and also "he was born too early or too late in the century" is a good description. I should add, now that Barbara is sadly gone, that she never liked this episode, and she forgot about it soon after it was done. "The leading guy...what was his name...Hayden? He was very distant, we didn't talk hardly at all. I didn't even know that Margarita Cordova was in it...I thought the whole thing was just him and me. And my hair...I thought [the hairstyle] was just yucky!" Well, Barbara, you did good in it. And you had some good lines that you delivered very well. "This mortal combat between you and the appliances...I HOPE YOU LOSE!" Funny, funny...
"Nervous Man in a Four Dollar Room" - It's a jewel...except for one element - the casting of William D. Gordon. I think he was all wrong for the part. The rest is absolutely, absolutely amazing. My God. Why can't there be anything even one-tenth as good as this on television today? I don't think many people had contact with Joe Mantell in his later years but I would have loved to have had a conversation with him about this part, and also "Steel". He was surely one of TZ's best talents.
" The Odyssey of Flight 33" - Paul Comi's second of three TZ entries, and John Anderson's second of four. I can't say that the "TZ airplane episodes" are high on my list, but this episode is so realistic that it is always a pleasure to watch. Betty Garde, who plays the old lady on the plane, got a much better part the next season in "The Midnight Sun" but she got a warmup here as a chatty passenger!
SEASON 3...it peaks...
"The Arrival" - I concur with what Marc Zicree stated in his book: "it sets up a nifty mystery, but then cops out by turning the whole thing into a hallucination on the part of the main character." The performances by Fredd Wayne, Noah Keen, Bing Russell (father of Kurt) and Harold J. Stone are all bland and forgettable. The beginning is quite suspenseful, when they find the just-landed airplane empty...suppose you were a runway attendant and the same thing happened to you - I know I'd be scared shitless! Harold J. Stone was a veteran character actor lived well into old age and not long before he died, he said, "I doubt there is a character I haven't played." Another memorable role, which came about twenty years after "The Arrival", was mafia man Mr. Bustamente on "Threes Company." Jack Tripper borrows 300 dollars from a loan shark - Bustamente - for only 3 hours - but he's still required to pay the 25 percent interest (or be killed or dismembered!) He gets out of paying it by giving cooking lessons to Bustamente's much-younger wife. Although, Stone didn't look much different on "Threes Company" than he did on "Twilight Zone."
"A Quality of Mercy" - I've always wondered how the hell Dean Stockwell could suddenly become Japanese like that, with no makeup and perhaps just a tilt of the camera and slight wardrobe change. Pretty spiffy. "Mercy" has less of an impact than "The Purple Testament" but it's great. And somehow, the announcement that the war is over, with the whooping and whistling in the background, is quite believable, even for an episode of TV. The whole thing takes place on what is basically one set - a few other TZs are like that ("Five Characters in Search of an Exit" comes to mind...) That guy who plays the Japanese soldier was really good - he was also in "To Serve Man" -Jerry Fujikawa..."Offhand, Lieutenant Yamuri, I would say all of them! Whether it's the first day of the war or the last day of the war, we destroy them!" Leonard Nimoy did a commentary on this episode for the Definitive Edition DVDs which I think lasted like 2 minutes yet they paid him 500 bucks for it! No comment. I'd much rather have heard what Stockwell thought of it. I wish they'd given Albert Salmi a better role for this one - somehow he doesn't seem right as a second banana. He was a true 'leader' in every respect.
"Five Characters In Search of an Exit" - Some people call it one of the best episodes. In Seasons 1-3 TZ officially did two Christmas episodes ("Night of the Meek", and "Changing of the Guard"), but "What You Need" and "Five Characters" definitely fit the bill as holiday episodes. In Seasons 4 and 5, there were no holiday episodes. Windom kinda steals the show, but no matter. Murray Matheson was also a great talent who excelled at diction...if I ever trick-or-treat again in this lifetime, I want a clown costume exactly like what he wears, facepaint and all. Murray was another TZ actor who appeared once or twice on Karloff's "Thriller", but in not-nearly-as-good roles. The climb-out sequence is quite miraculous...I always meant to ask Bill [Windom] about that - climbing over the other actors - but have always forgotten. And those dolls at the end...wow. They're perfect. That teardrop that falls from the ballerina [Susan Harrison]'s doll is quite cool. And I'm sure it's made at least a couple girls cry too over the years. Having Rod leaning over the edge of 'wherever the heck they are' resulted in one of his best, and most suspenseful, open narrations. Good job, Lamont Johnson (director).
"The Gift" - Return it to the store for a full refund!!! No receipt required. The sets don't even look like Mexico! Vladimir Sokoloff (the blind guy) and Cliff Osmond (the bartender) do well but everyone else pretty much sucks. I think Rod Serling had a lot on his plate at the time he wrote this script.
"The Shelter" - It's last on my list. Literally. If you look closely at it, you'll see that it lacks many of the elements of most of Rod's other scripts, as well as almost any other TZ episode. It's basically a repeat of "The Monsters are Due On Maple Street", which was an average script at best, only a lot of hatred was thrown in. The actors in are really about all it has to offer; they're all excellent. Many people know veteran actor Peggy Stewart, who did a lot of western TV and film, as well as Larry Gates, who was on "Guiding Light" for years. And of course, Sandy Kenyon and Mary Gregory, TZ semi-regulars, who really ice the cake in this segment with their racial insults. But I don't think such a thing really had a place on Twilight Zone. As the episode's director, whom I exchanged some email with sometime before he passed away, mentioned to me and a few others over the years, "I think Rod was just pissed off when he wrote it."
"The Jungle" - In my personal top 20-25. William Claxton built a Hitchcockian level of suspense with this segment. Great from start to end. John Dehner delivers his usual fine performance as Alan Richards, as does Walter "Plastics" Brooke as his colleague, Chad. Also noteworthy are the two Jays - Adler and Overholts. The former, as a very convincing bum who gets offered a ten-spot to walk with Richards back to his apartment, then promptly vanishes into thin air; the latter, as a cab driver who has a quick and fatal heart attack/brain hemorrhage seconds after Richards gets into the car. I've said this before and I'll say it again - the syndicated prints of this episode quite irritate me; they cut out the whole scene, and continue just as Richards has gotten back out of the cab and is walking along the sidewalk, and the viewer is left to wonder what that cab is doing there, with its blaring headlights in the background. The few seconds with the African spearhunter in the window are some of the scariest in all of "Twilight Zone." They probably should have added one more freaky thing - Richards takes about 60 seconds too long to get back to his apartment, and the tribal noises just get annoying. The tail-end of the episode...and I do mean 'tail'...well, they did as best they could with the animal but it's not wholly convincing. The musical cue, as they quickly pan up to the stars after the lion kills Richards, was taken from Fred Steiner's score for "King Nine Will Not Return" and it was a perfect fit. I'd have to say that "The Jungle" is one of the more subtle scripts of TZ, in addition to being one of the more frightening ones. The punchline is almost given away at the very beginning when Richards' wife says "You'll never be back." She knows she's going to die too. Charles Beaumont, you were a genius.... Okay...so why did I call him Walter "Plastics" Brooke? Google "Walter Brooke plastics" and you will see why. One of the most memorable - unintentionally memorable, I might add - lines in all of film history.
"The Changing of the Guard" - It was the last one aired in Season 3, in the spring/early summer of 1962, but it's a Christmas episode!! No matter though, it's all very touching. Tom Lowell, who played Artie Beechcroft, attended all three of the Los Angeles TZ cons, and one of the east coast ones, and he's a very nice guy who went on to become a fine acting teacher. Donald Pleasance was not nearly as old in actual life as was Professor Ellis Fowler. I have to wonder though - was this really the way classrooms used to operate back in the early years of the 20th century and before? Nowadays the atmosphere is more lax than ever - my high school was about as casual as they came, but luckily in my university days, we had a good number of 'serious' classrooms.
"The Passersby" - Excellent. Great atmosphere; it feels like 1865. Great acting from everyone, especially Joanne Linville (who went on to become an acting teacher of the Stella Adler method). Is the punchline obvious from the get-go? Perhaps, although I don't think it's a big deal; Serling's script is very well written. The eyeless horseman...yowza!! Very well directed and staged. The guy who plays Lincoln at the end is very convincing. But I'm partial to the guy at the beginning who played Charlie Constable. Is James Gregory too old for the role? Yah, but Jim was such a superlative actor that it's easily forgotten. Again, the old TZ adage, 'great acting overcomes all!'
"The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank"- A great one. Very authentic. Everyone was very well cast in their roles and they all did superbly. Watch for producer Buck Houghton's son, Jim, who plays one of the barefoot boys. Recently, I saw Jim in an old horror movie from the early 80s (on VHS tape!) where he engages in date rape with some gal in the front seat of a car. This was in a sense a good prologue to what he went on to do later as a staff writer for "The Young and the Restless" (which, like TZ, is also a CBS network show.) Ahem. My favorite character in "Myrtlebank" is Orgram Gatewood, played perfectly by Lance Fuller. What an idiot! The fight scene between him and James Best was a little...pathetic though! James Best was one of TZ's greatest talents and I know he felt fortunate to have worked on TZ three times.
"Young Man's Fancy"- It's not well-liked by most people. It's a very creepy story and I think the director succeeded in that regard. Some very good sets were used for the Walker house. I guess in 1962 there were a few more ancient household appliances from the thirties still floating around. The regression of Alex back to his boyhood days does strike a certain wicked chord. I think the reason it's not a popular episode is because the characters are basically bland and forgettable. Alex Nicol and Phyllis Thaxter are too soft in the leads (and they should have changed the name of the main character so it was not the same as that of the lead actor). Phyllis did a better job than Alex I think, and she does have some good moments. I'm not sure why some people think the ending of the episode killed it; it makes an impact, even if it's not a powerful one. Wallace Rooney, who appeared in a few other TZs ("in His Image" and "The Rip Van Winkle Caper" among them), was no Mickey Rooney as far as his acting abilities, and he's at his worst here as Mr. Wilkinson, the annoying real estate agent who insists on saying "Fine and dandy!" over and over again, and who is understandably pissed off at all the commission money he suddenly realizes he will be losing when Alex decides not to sell the house. But, he does give them both a good snarky look at the end, as if to say, "You jerks, why the hell did you waste my time?! Hope you get a divorce and then maybe you'll call me again when you're dividing up your assets." Some people just never do sell their homes, or decide to prematurely end the listing after it's already on the market... and Alex Walker's reason for backing out is quite a bit more far-fetched than the average homeowner, making "Young Man's Fancy" a most appropriate TZ episode.
"One More Pallbearer" - It's just too cold-blooded for me and the story isn't very interesting. The three actors who played the old schoolteachers had some really good roles on "Perry Mason", better than the ones TZ offered them. Gage Clark - poor guy, you could tell he was inches away from the grave as a result of lung cancer. Katherine Squire returned a short time later that year (1962) to expertly portray the religious fanatic who gets shoved in front of the train in the opening teaser of "In His Image." I knew someone who lived in the same apartment building as Joseph Wiseman for a number of years in New York. She said he never spoke a word to anybody in the building. Nice guy!
"The Little People" - A weird one. Even the music is weird. Serling's script, which kinda feeds off of "I Shot an Arrow Into the Air" (which was also filmed in Death Valley) is too far fetched. The performances by Akins and Maross are excellent but the story is very average. I always wondered why the little people attached a bunch of dental floss to the statue of Maross before pulling it down (GREAT statue of him though, isn't it?!) Wouldn't they get crushed by the cement?! They'd have been better off using their "magic powers" and having it dissolve into dust. The ending, with the astronauts who throw Maross back, as if he were a small trout pulled out of a stream, is a very memorable TZ scene that many people remember. "I'm the God!!!!"
"Still Valley" - Hardly anyone likes this one but it's always been an episode that I've enjoyed watching. The ending is harsh and a trifle awkward, although the main criticism of "Still Valley" over the years was the frozen people, and I'm not sure why because they do a very credible job. Gary Merrill and Ben Cooper are wonderful - the bit where Paradine slaps Dauger is quite real, you can feel the sting and smell the odor of the leather and pine trees. Vaughn Taylor is at his best once again, as old man Teague, who is the seventh son of the seventh son (!) The atmosphere Jim Sheldon (director) gave it was fantastic. It feels like 1863. Ben Cooper was a great guy with a tremendous sense of humor and tons and tons of old Hollywood stories. He says, "I loved every minute of working in showbiz, and I'm quite serious about that!"
"A Game of Pool" - George Clayton Johnson's finest TZ episode, just my opinion. Great from start to finish. Wonderful 'Serlingesque' dialogue and a beautiful two-character piece. Jonathan Winters was not quite the actor that Jack Klugman was, but his performance is faultless. Those of us who were fortunate enough to meet George know that this episode in many ways epitomizes his insight and intellect. George could easily be called a polymath and he understands human beings on an even deeper level than Rod Serling did. "A Game of Pool" is an episode for everyone and I've never heard of anything bad said about it, except by George himself. The original ending, of course, had Jesse Cardiff (Klugman) losing the game. I think it could've worked well either way though because the rest of the story up to that point is unassailable.
"I Sing the Body Electric" - Rod was right in his assessment of Ray Bradbury - "he's a very difficult guy to dramatize." In reading some of Bradbury's other efforts for TZ (which were bought but never produced), it's not hard to see that Serling was correct. Thankfully, Bradbury was always appreciative of his many fans who liked both his story and the episode, however bad he thought it was. Indeed, lot of muck and dreck occurred, from full scenes being deleted or significantly altered, the re-shoots, to the change of directors and beyond. And by 'beyond', I mean it...it was this episode that broke whatever straw there was between Bradbury and Serling. The two men had nothing to do with each other after it aired. Although it is unlikely that Rod had much, if anything, to do with the script, Buck Houghton was Rod's right hand and Buck was undoubtedly responsible for changing a good portion of what ended up in the final cut. All in all, the episode works fine, it's very credible. What was deleted probably did not work well, and I definitely defer to Mr. Houghton on that issue - if something worked, it stayed in, and if not, out it went. I'd say the only major weakness comes from the scene in the Facsimilie Limited factory - at the the time it was probably a bit more believable but today it really doesn't wash. Veronica Cartwright was very well cast as Anne, as was Josephine Hutchinson as grandma. James Sheldon went on record long ago, and has since repeated that Hutchinson was all wrong for the part - the casting directors hired her, and he didn't have any choice but to use her. He remarked that she was too "earthy" and that is perhaps true. Nonetheless, she did as well as could be expected. The other actors - David White (who was usually great), Dana Dillaway, Vaughn Taylor (also usually great), and Charles Herbert leave no impression.
"Nothing in the Dark" - Wonderful, wonderful... I never really liked the whole "Mister Death" thing, surely it could've been done with more subtlety. Redford has gotten a bad rap over the years regarding his performance...frankly, I love it. He was perfect for the role and Gladys Cooper knew it too.
"Once Upon a Time" - Like "I Sing the Body Electric", it had its share of trouble, and apparently money was the reason. Even in those days, the average total cost of a TZ episode was far higher than any other shows on TV. They also had to produce the material very fast - three days maximum - and as Houghton openly admitted more than once, "in TV, you usually can't go back and give it another shot later", you have to make do with what you were able to do. And like "Electric", it also had two directors and had to be patched up significantly before it was aired originally, although unless someone had told me that, I'd never have known. Matheson's script had a lot that wasn't done. The 1962 sequence was greatly enhanced by adding Jesse White as the fix-it shop proprietor ("Don't touch my tools!!!" and "Don't holler! Don't holler!") Stanley Adams and Buster Keaton worked quite well together, another plus. The opening and closing silent sequences were fantastic. The middle was just not spicy enough and lacked urgency and I think that's what killed it...for some people, but not me, I think it's great. Buster Keaton was a tough guy not to like. You can tell he smoked like a chimney and I'm sure all the physical stuff wore him out but forty years past his prime, he was still able to bring it. Ya gotta love that.
"The Midnight Sun" - Everyone loves it, and how can they not? Not a pleasant situation, and it ends with no resolve, and as has been pointed out many times before, as a piece of scifi it's not airtight. But when everything else in it is just so good, that's easily dismissed. Lois Nettleton was one of New York's finest stage actresses for decades - and unlike many working actresses at that time who simply wanted the work, she was selective about the parts she accepted. I think she had that mentality throughout her long and distinguished career. She clearly climbed into the body of the character Norma, and lived it for the three-day shoot. Ditto for Betty Garde, who reminds us of every nosy, slightly neurotic old landlady; but at the end, she's a bit more rational, and she got to deliver the last line of the episode..."yes, my dear, it's...wonderful." Tom Reese did an outstanding job as well, even though he was on camera for only about four minutes. I was amazed a few years ago when a lady contacted me through my website and told me that her aunt, an set artist for MGM, left her one of the paintings used in "The Midnight Sun" and sent me a photo of it. I really felt a warm glow, appropriately enough. And now let's talk about the music...is it or is it not one of the greatest scores ever written for a TV episode? It is, without a doubt. And isn't Rod's opening narration among the finest in the series? "It's high noon, the hottest day in history, and you're about to spend it in The Twilight Zone." Just the way he delivered those words, with the dissonant chords on the piano in the background...wow. Even typing it right now, I get a hot flash.
"The Dummy" - An ultraclassic. While the dummy and his ventriolquist are usually a happy thing, this episode has just about everything but levity. "He says things I don't say, he throws me bum cues, he's alive Frank..." At the 2002 TZ Convention, Cliff Robertson spoke on the actor panel about "The Dummy." One of the audience members said, "The one with the dummy was incredible...how did they - pardon the expression - make a dummy who resembled you?" Cliff's reply, "Well, I look dumb, you know! They got a puppetteer to come in and take it from the camera." Then Cliff launched into the story, which before then was not known to the public, about saving his own life by not taking the scheduled flight from New York, where he lived, to Los Angeles, which crashed. He called up the airline and got a later flight. All I can say to that is THANK THE GODS. Frank Sutton is also amazing as Frank, Jerry Etherson's manager. Sadly, he died far too young. But the majority of the credit for the episode's timelessness has to go to Abner Biberman and George T. Clemens, and also to the film editor (not sure of his name.) The actors are just one component of a film or an episode of TV. The production folks give the thing its look and the flow from one scene to the next. The spooky alley scene where the crazed Jerry nearly rapes the chorus girl...igh!! Unintentionally very scary. And if that wasn't scary enough, the confrontation between Jerry and Willie really makes the blood run cold, doesn't it?! The actor who played Willie-turned-human...well, he was an interesting fellow. Let's just say I'm glad I never met him in person though.
"Four O'Clock" - Mehhh. Never really cared for it. Theo Bikel was of course legendary, but I personally am not a fan of his work, however legendary he is/was. However, there have been times in my life when I have wanted to do exactly what Crangle does, and call up the employers of certain people I've known or crossed paths with and told them about how rotten they were to either myself or others. Angela Lansbury's mother plays the landlady! I love it! And dear old Linden Chiles, he was a kickass, and often badass, actor. I love his voice, it's very corporate-sounding and that made him a favorite of casting directors. He was in my favorite movie (during my childhood years), "Cloak and Dagger", playing the airport security chief, alongside TZ alums John McIntire and Jeanette Nolan, whom he called "wonderful people, wonderful actors."
"To Serve Man" - I'll keep this one very short. It's a one-of-a-kind 23 minutes of television, and everyone knows and loves it. But I'd like to acknowledge Lloyd Bochner. What a gentleman he was. I don't think he realized how much he was appreciated, and I think he thought of himself as just another working actor. I do wish Lloyd had gotten to see Richard Kiel again. Lloyd was looking forward to Richard's attending the 2002 TZ Convention, and then Richard was unable to attend. I don't think Lloyd appeared in public much, and I think the two TZ conventions were special to him because he got to talk to people face to face who had followed his career for decades. He talked on the actor panel in 2004 and made mention of the fact that "[the early days of television] were better times. Today we live in a world of cruelty, of crudity, and I don't mean to be down, but I have faith that those times will someday return." I hope so too, Lloyd.
"The Hunt" - I've always been dismayed that "The Hunt" gets far less than it deserves. It's a superb story with a great atmosphere and fine acting. Arthur Hunnicutt and Jeanette Nolan are wonderful as The Simpsons. Perhaps its position on the totem pole is due to its lack of urgency, it's a bit slow-paced, meant for a Sunday afternoon. I always have a good chuckle when I come to the dog-burying scene with Titus Moede aka Titus Moody the porn star!! lol I can only imagine the porn of that time.
"Cavender is Coming" - I think I'm one of like six people on this planet who do like it, but I do like it. The laugh track version is much better than the prints that everyone sees nowadays, on DVD or from the SciFi channel. It's not really funny, and the story is well below average. But anything with Carol Burnett is automatically good. Anything. If she's in it, it's worth watching. Most people don't realize what a genius she is. I hope she gets a few more plum roles before she hits very old age. And Jesse White...ditto, if he's in it, it's that much better. They were both comedians who had that rare gift of just being automatically funny. TZ of course was not comedy, and humor wasn't the objective. But if a few comedy episodes had to make their way into the mix, one of them should definitely have Carol Burnett in it. And one did.
"Hocus Pocus and Frisby" - A hoot. Very few TZ episodes can be described as such. It was Rod's version of 'never cry wolf' I suppose... It would never have worked as well as it did, with other actors. Andy Devine is outstanding. When I was growing up, one of my friends lived on a small farm near our house. His father (let's call him Homer), was a farmer and his mother was the breadwinner, an exec at a big company downtown. A weird combination. Anyhow, as Serling's narration describes Frisby, "he has all the drive of a broken camshaft and all the aggressive vinegar of a corpse" and that described Homer perfectly too. He was pretty 'out there', in terms of not being in touch with the real world. He did come to our school events and even to some of our orchestra concerts around town and he'd always insist on talking with me. I was an above-average violinist in those days and he thought I had some in-depth knowledge of the instrument. After one concert, he came up to me backstage and shook my hand and, in Frisby-like style, and said to me "My gosh, Andrew, the way you bow that thing....how do you match up your fingers and all those notes?" And being 11 or 12 years old then, I probably just said "I dunno!" ANYHOO, Rod wrote a very funny script. If to most people "Cavender is Coming" bit the dust as a comedy, "Hocus Pocus and Frisby" made up for it. I need to acknowledge Milton Selzer as well, he fit in perfectly with this episode and also "The Masks" later on because he looked weird and talked weird. I think he was a very intelligent man too, and was very devoted to the trade of acting. I think he may have even taught acting at one point in time. The guys in Frisby's store were all veteran character actors and they add a great deal to the frame of the story. Dabbs Greer of course would go on to play a 108 year old man in "The Green Mile" and Howard McNear was of course Floyd the Barber on "The Andy Griffith Show" (he suffered a terrible stroke not long after this TZ episode was made, although he kept acting in spite of it.) Clem Bevans was inimitable. He just kicks ass. I love friendly old men like him. Clem was a great old time character actor and the guy he plays looks like he's a few hundred years old. I hate to keep mentioning "Perry Mason" but he played a murderer named Captain Hugo in a great episode starring Christine White (of "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" TZ fame). Check it out.
"Person or Persons Unknown" - A fine Beaumont script, and an identifiable one at that. Beaumont's scripts are usually a bit more fantastic but this one isn't - Chuck's range as a writer was huge. He could really write anything, I think. How many writers can we say that about? More than once, employees have returned to the office to find the lock changed on their office door, the password to their computer changed, and their desk cleared out or occupied by someone else. But to - really - wake up next to a person you don't know, or who doesn't know you, is (to me) one of the scariest things that could happen to a person. Our hearts go out to David Gurney (expertly, and I do mean that, portrayed by Richard Long) as he makes his way through the day trying to prove to everyone that he is who he says he is.
"The Grave" - Superb. Perfect casting. James Best is at his usual best as Johnny Rob, the biggest village idiot of all time. I love how he's got that goofy guitar in hand and strums chords intermittently...what a goof! "I knowed it, I knowed it, I got a man killed!" The other bar guys, Bill Chalee and the great Lee Van Cleef (as Steinhardt, the intelligent member of the bunch) are very well cast too. Elen Willard - she was another one who disappeared from Hollywood but her performance as Ione is perfect, and she did a bang-up job in the final scene, one of the great TZ shock endings.
"Two" - Montgomery Pittman was the only TZ writer to both write and direct his episodes, and he also directed other episodes on top of that. "Two" is a drab storyline, but with virtuosi Liz Montgomery and Charles Bronson playing the parts, what more could you ask for?
"It's a Good Life" - One of the most popular, and surely one of the most horrifying. I don't watch it anymore though. Not sure why. Perhaps it's just too cold. James Sheldon was (unjustly) never identified as a major director of TZ, probably because this was the only episode he did that remains popular, with "Long Distance Call" a distant second. I think the character of Aunt Amy is the most interesting...she's described as "a smiling, vacant thing" and that's a perfect description. The poor gal has the chance to knock off Anthony but she doesn't. A weird thing about Alice Frost...I *think* she had an uncredited, non-speaking part as a passenger on the bus that Dustin Hoffman and Katharine Ross hop onto at the tail end of "The Graduate" - she gives them this weird look. I think it's Alice but not completely sure. Cloris Leachman...Cloris, you were one of a kind. Whenever you were on screen, the scene was yours. Back in the 50s and 60s, including Serling's "The Rack", she was still playing the wholesome homemakers...and by the 70s, she became the zany homemaker (Phyllis) and started getting into wackier roles, which suited her much more.
"Dead Man's Shoes" - Original story and fine acting. Joan Marshall gives a standout performance. I remember watching this episode with Arlene Martel once, she was a great friend of Joan's. Arlene, who was from the New York Actors Studio, praised Joan's performance. If I ever own an apartment building, I will name it The Chateau Beechwood! Warren Stevens was a nice guy - I don't think he was great at playing sinister roles. Nonetheless, he does quite well in the lead; he took a deadpan approach to it that did work. This episode is yet another one that is overlooked because of the way it was reviewed in The Companion - "[etc etc]...and this is death for Dead Man's Shoes." As I've said elsewhere, this episode is one of those TZs that can only be watched at night. Never during the day.
"Kick the Can" - The ending is quite touching but it's not my kinda episode. It is of course a well-known one, if for no other reason than it was remade into a segment of "TZ The Movie" but I've never liked the sentimental TZ episodes much...I prefer the gritty dialogue and rough-hewn storylines. Maybe when I'm 80+ years old I'll like this one more. Although I hope I don't live to be 80+ years old!
"A Piano in the House" - Great performances from everybody, especially Cyril Delevanti. I like the set they used for the Fortune apartment...I'm thinking Earl Hamner set this story in the early 20th century, although the year is never mentioned. Very good exchange at the beginning - the curio shop owner tells Fortune "You're taking up a lot of my time here", to which Fortune replies "You're taking an equal amount of mine." I'll have to use that sometime! haha
"Showdown With Rance McGrew" - Yes, it's all quite tongue-in-cheek. But in a good way. Arch Johnson was not a good choice for Jesse James, though. He was a good actor but he's completely unconvincing here. Dear old Bob Cornthwaite - it was a pleasure knowing him, just briefly. He and I are both from Portland, Oregon (about sixty years apart!) I think I said earlier that Larry Blyden didn't get good roles on TZ and that's really true. Not many TZ actors could complain about the parts they were offered, but if Larry ever did, I wouldn't blame him.
"Little Girl Lost" - It's a classic, one of the few truly fine scifi TZ installments. However, Charles Aidman is about the only thing of note in it, other than the fitting score by Bernard Herrmann. I don't think Matheson wrote the parents to be real intelligent, and the actors don't help things any. I do like the scene where Sarah Marshall goes to the radio in the living room - or maybe it's a cabinet or something - listening for Tina's voice. I guess the doorway to the fourth dimension was quite large. A very spooky sixty seconds or so. The chalkmarks on the wall, seen when Rod is doing the intro, have been discussed for years do elicit at least a chuckle - I think George T. Clemens was asleep at the switch when he and his boys were filming it!
"The Trade Ins" - Unh unh. Nope. Like "Kick the Can", done not too much earlier, here is another story for the elderly, and this one reeeeeally doesn't work. Yet it was one of Rod's favorites. Go figure. As I said earlier about "Kick", perhaps when i'm 80, I'll like "The Trade Ins" better than I do right now.
"The Fugitive" - Nancy Kulp really puts the crown on this fine 'for kids only' episode of TZ. Mrs. Gann (Kulp) reminds me a lot of a certain character called Eunice Harper-Higgins who was born about 12 years later on "The Carol Burnett Show." Wesley Lau was more frequently seen on "Perry Mason" in those days, as he was having to gradually replace the great but ailing Ray Collins. J. Pat O'Malley, what a great old guy - even 20 years after this, he was still working. He must've done 1000 episodes of TV and a ton of movies as 'the old man' yet we never got tired of seeing him. Oh gosh. I miss you a lot, Susan. You were terrific...
SEASON 4...It changes, and goes deeper...
"In His Image" - Masterpiece. A work of genius, no question about that. And in the end, so touching. It is probably my favorite of them all. At some point it comes very close to ceasing to be an episode of television - that's how good the writing is. It's curious that "In His Image" is rarely if ever discussed, probably because it was out of syndication for so long and/or perhaps the hour episodes just don't get mentioned much. Outside of ardent TZ fans, I've never met anyone who remembers it. Hopefully that will change in time. I will forever be grateful that I was acquainted with both George Grizzard and Gail Kobe. Actors like them indeed made "The Twilight Zone" what it was. It wouldn't have worked even half as well with any other actors. They are just simply magnificent - as Gail recalled in 2004 at the convention, "He and I had a sympatico - we could answer each other's lines, that's how good our rapport was." And it shows. Katharine Squire, although her screen time as the elderly hag was ever so brief, also gives an Emmy-winning performance. The story...the first act consists of the bizarre, and the second act is the slow resolution in grand, eloquent TZ style. The scenes with Grizzard playing both parts are miraculous - and completely convincing. This was one of the very last episodes I saw before I'd seen all 156, and I had to watch it a few times before I realized how good it was. At first, I didn't really get it. Five decades hence, it has not dated a single day and despite technology being about a thousand times what it was then, we still haven't constructed artificial humans, so there ya go. It was "In His Image" which made me realize that Charles Beaumont was not only the greatest TZ writer, but one of the greatest writers of all time. He wrote this script in the nick of time. Within a matter of about eight months after he finished it, he wasn't writing anymore. I'm shaking my head right now. Had he lived out his life, lord only knows what other stories might've come out of him. "In His Image" is not an episode to be criticized; rather, its existence is to be rejoiced at. And it could only have come from the desk of one Charles Beaumont.
"The Incredible World of Horace Ford" - I think this was the only TZ episode, other than "The Hitch Hiker" from Season 1, which had been done before. Art Carney (in the Studio One version) and Pat Hingle (in TZ) both did an outstanding job, although I have not seen Carney's performance so I can only go by the reviews, and in general, I'm no fan of reviews. So, why am I writing one right now?! Good question! It's fun to write them, but of course they're only the words and opinions of one person. Anyhow, "Horace Ford" is outstanding. Vaughn Taylor, Phil Pine, and Ruth White are all perfect. Nan Martin...she was one of those actors who was not as well known as she should've been. I don't think she aged very well and consequently, she was playing a lot of older women even when she was not that old. She was a fine actress, this notwithstanding, and she and Hingle played husband-wife both before and after this. Not surprising. Abner Biberman, director, was never billed as a major TZ director but should have been. His episodes were all top notch.
"The Thirty Fathom Grave" - I don't think Rod realized how truly boring this one would turn out, but that's unfortunately what happened. At 23 minutes, it would probably have worked. At 52, it doesn't. Perry Lafferty succeeded very greatly with his flawless direction of "In His Image." I don't want to say that he failed with "The Thirty Fathom Grave" but it's one of the several most forgettable episodes in the series. I think Serling's script was just not there. Oddly enough, I have heard a number of remarks about the hot sailors onboard the ship over the years...I always thought that was funny. And I guess there's some truth to it. John Considine plays one of them - most fans of 60s TV know of John and his brother Tim. I never did meet John but I did meet Tim once. Nice guy. I wish he and his brother had done more TV as they got older.
"Of Late I Think of Cliffordville" - Although Albert Salmi, Wright King, and John Anderson were all virtuosic actors, this one falls into the same category as "The Thirty Fathom Grave". It's too long and the original story had too much in it to pack into a television episode.
"On Thursday We Leave for Home" - Well, there is no Thursday in outer space! I used to like this one a bit more than I do now, I suppose. Not sure why. Maybe because I don't find the story all that interesting. Tim O'Connor was a very nice man. I remember talking to him about this episode and some of his other work.
"The Parallel" - I've always liked this one quite well. Jacqueline Scott said to me "When I came onto the set and saw Steve, I said, 'Wow, I get to play that gorgeous guy's wife? How lucky am I?!" Yes indeed, Ms. Scott, you were very lucky! Ok, ok, enough about that. "The Parallel" is an intriguing story. It expands upon "Mirror Image" and given that it had to fill up a whole hour of time, it's not too bad. There are a few points where it gets a bit long-winded and the director could have spiced it up quite a bit more, I think, but I think it's one of the better of the 18.
"No Time Like the Past" - Although it's definitely one of the weakest, I actually enjoy watching it on occasion, mainly for the supporting cast. The Japanese guy at the beginning is cool, as is dear old Robert Cornthwaite as the long-winded Hanford, who picks a fight with Paul Driscoll at the dining room table. And Marjorie Bennett, God love her...I think she and Cornthwaite got the best parts in the episode! Someone told me that this episode had something like FIFTEEN drafts - apparently the story editors and/or Rod went back over it many times trying to get it workable. Dramatically, it's got some potholes but it somehow works itself out.
"Jess-Belle" - The 'TZ: Southern Style' episodes were...good. "The Grave", "Mr. Garrity and the Graves", "Jeff Myrtlebank", et al. This script of Earl Hamner's, written in just a few days, ended up fitting beautifully into one hour. It's a fairytale done in very grand style. It never lags, and there's not a weak performance in it. Jeanette Nolan had the honor of being the only TZ actor to appear in two of eight Earl Hamner segments. She was a virtuoso actress, undoubtedly one of TZ's greatest. Virginia Gregg, in the same way, could do any part that was put in front of her. Fantastic.
"I Dream of Genie" - It didn't work. Howard Morris displays none of his comedic gifts and Patricia Barry adds nothing to it. I did publish the script by John Furia Jr., with his permission and John was a very nice man and the script does read well. But - you never know how these things are going to turn out until they go in front of the camera.
"Valley of the Shadow" - A good sci-fi episode. The characters are all pretty cold though, which I think is why it's not that popular. Ed Nelson was quite a good actor; somehow, though, I picture a younger actor in the part of Philip Redfield, maybe a fetching young lad in his mid 20s. Some good characters though - the Peaceful Valley officials are interesting. Dabbs Greer was a superb character actor who had a long career. I wish I could've met him.
"Death Ship" - One of the top-most TZs. Spectacular. As with "In His Image", I can't criticize it. TZ had its fair share of episodes 'for men only' and this is definitely one of them. The hour episodes were expensive to produce, and I think that's why a lot of them don't really shine. But I think they really splurged for some things on "Death Ship" and it most definitely paid off. The actors they chose were exactly the right people for the parts. Of the three leads, I find Frederick Beir the most interesting. His is a very impassioned and touching performance. I've said it before and will say it again, "Death Ship" is character study on Capt. Paul Ross (Klugman), and on the fact that man can not accept things that he doesn't have the power to accept. How many of us have had to work with a superior who could not admit, even over their own dead body, that they were incorrect? A great many!
"Mute" - In some ways, it's excellent. But it's gotten a very bad rap over the years and not many people remember it, and even fewer people really like it. Matheson's short story is far less acrerbic than the teleplay was, and the actors are largely responsible for that. Today, it emerges as very old-school and dated. But the performances of Ann Jillian and Irene Dailey (and to a lesser extent, the parents played by Frank Overton and Barbara Baxley) are excellent, and that's reason enough to watch it. Ms. Dailey - a born thespian - plays MISS Frank to a tee. You can almost smell witch hazel and the pungent perfume. She's right up there with Gart Williams' wife ("A Stop at Willoughby"), and Mrs. Gerald Raigan ("A World of Difference") in terms of bitchiness. I would heartily encourage everyone to decide for themselves whether or not the outcome is good or not, and to not be biased by things that have been written about "Mute" over the years.
"He's Alive" - I can watch it. It holds my attention for the entire 52 minutes. The storyline is very bleak, though, and it never leaves me 'glad I watched it.' I always need to wash it down with another episode. Clearly, Hopper has a lot of talent, and Ludwig Donath did quite well in the part of Ernst, and Bernard Fein (last seen in "The Four of Us Are Dying" as a mafia-like fatass) has an even better role here - he got to toss tomatoes at Dennis Hopper and was paid to do it! But that's not enough to save it.
"Passage on the Lady Anne" - Enjoyable. Hardly anybody remembers this one nowadays - it's another "Kick the Can"-type episode, for the older folks, and the younger folks can relate to the predicament of Alan and Eileen Ransome. Plenty of couples out there, who never took a honeymoon and are long past the 'honeymoon period' in their marrage, need a voyage like that of the Lady Anne to save their partnership. I always have to laugh when I see Dame Gladys Cooper in the life jacket... One of my dear friends was Alan Napier's agent (Alan played one of the elderly passengers) and looked after him in his even-later years.
"The Bard" - I was never a big fan of Jack Weston's work, but he's quite good in this ultra-tongue-in-cheek TZ installment. Great intro from Rod at the beginning, "...and while Mr. Julius Moomer may not ever get a writing credit on The Twilight Zone, he is soon to become an integral character in it." Burt Reynolds. Wow, what a hunk. And he wasn't a bad actor, either. John Williams ("the other one"), of "Dial M for Murder" fame, was the perfect choice for Shakespeare. Doro Merande, who plays the bookstore owner at the beginning, was a familiar face on TV and she had a great role in a Boris Karloff "Thriller" episode alongside Edward Andrews. Be sure to read Cloris Leachman's autobiography about her experience co-starring with Doro in a play directed by Burgess Meredith on Broadway. Let's just say that Burgess and Cloris did NOT like Doro, and for good reason. And that's my bit of gossip for today!
"Printer's Devil" - Wonderful. It's another one of those TZs that should only be watched at night, perhaps because the beginning of the story takes place in the evening. Camille Franklin (Molly) became a treasured friend after I was connected to her by Gloria Pall. I never cared much for Patricia Crowley's performance but she does alright I suppose. Once again, Meredith steals the show, but is supported well by Robert Sterling. Beaumont's wicked sense of humor is evident in the script and clearly, Meredith has a good time with the part. My favorite aspect of this one is that Beaumont, and ultimately the director, wisely avoided making this a tongue-in-cheek piece, as could easily have been done.
"The New Exhibit" - I don't like it much. Marty Balsam was a fine actor but I don't think he did his best work on TZ. The opening Murderer's Row tour was done splendidly, and Will Kuluva is excellent as Mr. Ernest Ferguson. Maggie Mahoney (aka Sally Field's mother!) plays the typical bland housewife. But the guy who plays her brother, William Mims, was in one of the truly scariest moments in the series, as he gets stabbed by Albert W. Hicks! And, our French maitre d', Marcel Hillaire, from "A Most Unusual Camera" makes yet another appearance...he got a new job and is now a museum tour guide! Oh yeah, check out the guy who plays Jack the Ripper - his mouth keeps changing. Sometimes he's smiling big, and sometimes not as big. An interesting factoid...the music playing quietly in the background for the intro, the tour of Murderers Row, is a piece by J.S. Bach called "Ich ruf' zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ" ("I Call To You, Lord Jesus Christ"). This was one of Bach's great masterpieces, a heartwenching and tragic interlude for organ, written the night after his own wife died. I don't think writer Jerry Sohl (ghost-writing for Charles Beaumont), who incidentally was a tremendous lover and performer of classical music, indicated in his script that this music be used, but it was certainly chosen appropriately enough. The irony is actually in the title of the piece. Martin Senescu didn't murder the victims of Murderers Row, but he's giving a tour of it. It is quite clearly a call for help and a dark foreshadowing of things to come, as Senescu is caught an irreversible downward spiral of obsession over the wax figures. His marriage will collapse, his wife will be murdered, and so will he. I can't tell if the wax museum had the music playing in the background themselves, or if it was a general accompaniment to the TZ storyline. Either way, "Ich ruf' zu dir" was a most appropriate musical background to open "The New Exhibit."
"Miniature" - Robert Duvall always got the best roles, and I can't think of anyone who deserved them more. Gregory Peck on Duvall's performance in "To Kill a Mockingbird", done only a couple of years earlier: "It really was an acting lesson, watching him play Boo Radley, and how much he conveyed, with no words." On TZ, he got a pretty good part...he had to play a geek named Charley Parkes - even the spelling of the name kinda says it all about the guy, and Duvall played him perfectly. This guy has remained stuck in childhood well past the age of 30, and it's quite clear that either he pissed off God and/or the world just plain doesn't want him around. And he got his wish...in true Twilight Zone fashion, he got a second chance, and a figurative bus ticket out of it. I always applaud at the end of this episode. I have to comment again about that short scene at the beginning where Charley runs into the people on the museum tour coming down the stairs...it's subtle, but it makes its point so very well. Now, let's not forget the other boys and girls...Bill Windom, who has been discussed earlier, a genius as well; and the great Barbara Barrie and Lennie Weinrib as Myra and Buddy, a very loveable couple. At least Charley has a sister who can actually talk to him, unlike his crazy mother, played to perfection by Pert Kelton. The gal who plays Harriet, her name escapes me...is it Joan Chandler? Chambers? She's hilarious. Walter E. "Wally" Grauman did a splendid job - the sets for the dollhouse and the choreography of the actors within it were great. Sadly, this was one of Chuck Beaumont's last scripts, and one of the most touching things he ever wrote. All I can say to that is...DAMN.
SEASON 5...there are a few more fireworks, it fades somewhat, but never quite concludes.
"Living Doll" - The first time I saw it, in March 1995, I could feel my blood run ice cold at the end, when June Foray says, "My name is Talky Tina...and YOU'D better be NICE to me!", followed by the slow-mo of Annabelle tossing the doll aside. Erich wasn't lying. Talky Tina was alive...and she killed him, just as she promised she would. Not even the ending of "To Serve Man" or some other memorable episodes truly 'hit me' like the ending of "Living Doll" did.
"Sounds and Silences" - "In a manner of speaking...consider yourself DUMPED!" Great line. I'm one of a few people who doesn't find this one unwatchable. It could possibly be because I am a fan of John McGiver. Amidst the long-winded speeches Serling gave to McGiver and Penny Singleton, there is some humorous dialogue. Some older men like Roswell Flemington just get fixated on certain things, and the obsession only gets worse with age. In summation - "it's alright." It's a weird one and lacks anything prophetic. But is it interesting? Yes. Reason enough to watch it.
"The Masks" - well, it woulda been nice if they'd credited the marvelous old Bill Walker, who played the butler, and also the lady who played the maid. The Harpers sure are a rotten bunch of drips, aren't they?! Obviously they've lived out their lives solely for the day when dad drops dead. This was one of the last of the great Serling scripts. Ida Lupino created a very nice atmosphere. And Ida is my idol. Alan Sues - well, he was an interesting man. A very funny guy and kind person. He never looked his age. You know, he was 38 when he did this part but he was playing a schoolboy (you can hear Virginia Gregg remarking "oh Wilfred's doing well in school, he made the football team!") Alan came to the first of our conventions and by then he was in his 70s but still looked 50. Milton Selzer was an odd looking man, with an odd voice. His exchanges with Robert Keith are just downright hilarious ("Well, father, it appears that we're somewhat at odds here." "Not really, Wilfred...") There's that one scene where Wilfred Jr. is biting his nails and Wilfred Sr. kinda slaps his hand. Haha. Virginia Gregg - she was always, always fantastic. She could've been a huge star I think, but instead, she either opted to focus on TV and smaller roles, or was unjustly passed over by directors. I'm not sure if Ida Lupino cast the roles or not, but if she did, she picked exactly the right people. I think Brooke Hayward was married to Dennis Hopper at the time and she didn't work much either before or after this. I think they chose her because she was as odd looking as Selzer.
"Mr. Garrity and the Graves" - Stanley Adams was good at playing bigmouth fat guys. He even played one in Serling's "Requiem for a Heavyweight", as the wrestling trainer Pirelli who wants to make Mountain McClintock into a wrestling star after he's forced to quit boxing. I think Stanley was uncredited in Requiem though. "Garrity" is not a great script but it's amusing. Percy Helton (who plays the little guy with the high-pitched voice) is always fun to watch. Kate Murtagh, who plays Zelda Gooberman at the very end (amongst those who rise from the graveyard) was a really sweet old lady - I am not sure if she's still around but she lives/lived near me in the San Fernando Valley. She lost weight in her later years. She wrote me a couple really nice notes, I know Herman Darvick invited her to his conventions after I managed to reach her by mail. She commented on my handwriting, with the flattering remark of "it's beautiful and I love how it simply dances across the page". And my handwriting is actually not very good but I guess she saw something in it. She mentioned that she was an amateur graphologist or something like that.
"Stopover in a Quiet Town" - I think it could be even more famous than "Where is Everybody?"!! Nancy Malone has a few very memorable seconds on camera, particularly the one after she comes out of the church and is staring around the town with a "where the hell in this universe are we?" expression on her face. Here's a very weird thing - and whoever is reading this, please don't think me too much of a geek. Ron Winston, the director, also directed "The Big Tall Wish" 4 years earlier. The opening musical cue for "Stopover" actually came from the score of "The Big Tall Wish", written by the great Jerry Goldsmith. And somehow it works even better here than there. Goldsmith's incidental music from "Back There", which I've always considered the best of his scores for TZ, is also heard in "Stopover." On a different note...the Centerville train! Earl Hamner really made a good decision to put that into the story. After I saw this episode for the first time in 1996, I decided to get into model trains myself. I got as far as building a table for it, and buying a train and tracks. Then somehow my life got very busy and I couldn't devote enough time to the construction of my own personal Centerville, and ended up selling it in the classifieds. As far as the episode - it's top notch. Is it a ripoff of "Where Is Everybody" or other episodes? I don't think so. Earl Hamner was not that kind of writer, nor was he a staff writer for TZ. If you look closely at the two stories, you'll see their obvious differences. The world of "Stopover" is, of course, very much different - and the characters aren't there as part of a dream - they're really there!! And the brilliant performances of Malone and Nelson, plus the direction, combine to make it one of the most popular episodes of TZ. Trivia: Nancy Malone was only paid about half of the fee that Barry Nelson received ($3,500) for his performance in this episode!! Frankly, I think that is awful. They both did superbly, but Nancy's performance is the more memorable. I think Barry Nelson was a long-time contract player for the big studios, and Nancy was newer to the business at the time. Nelson's agent was probably ruthless too, as they usually are.
"Last Night of a Jockey" - No thanks. A repeat of "Nervous Man in a Four Dollar Room", only not as good. And, it has a very unhappy (and weak) headshaker of an ending. Mickey Rooney...great actor. Funny old man. Seemed like at some point he got very sick of living. And those news reports about his stepson and elder abuse...poor guy. Thankfully, Rooney got a chance to do some real Serling material with "The Comedian" 7 years earlier, and in 'the non-Jack Palance' version of "Requiem for a Heavyweight"
"The Self Improvement of Salvadore Ross" - I considered publishing this script in my "Gems" series. I decided against it because the story did NOT read well at all. And it doesn't play much better on screen, although the actors are superb. The guy who plays Albert, the delivery boy who sells a year of his life to Sal, is tremendously cute. Doug Lambert was his name. Sadly, he died of AIDS back in the mid 80s, before the days of effective ARV prescription drugs. :-( At my current workplace, there is a guy who is a dead ringer for Lambert. I mean, like 99 percent. Even his smile looks exactly the same. The wonders of DNA.... And now I must mention Gail Kobe yet again. Wow. She really knew how to act. You can feel her emotions...even more so than in "In His Image." One of the great TZ actresses, maybe the greatest! Someone once made a comment to me that "her hair looked much better in "Sal Ross" than it did in her other two episodes...her hairdo in "In His Image" just didn't really work." I concur!
"What's In the Box" - "Ya been blowin' it on that...FLEABITTEN FLOOZY!" "GET OUTTA HERE!!!" "You BET I will!!!" I love it all. I am not ashamed to say that it's one of my favorites, in my top ten. Why? Because my grandparents were almost carbon copies of Joe and Phyllis Britt. I loved them dearly. Every time I watch it, I remember the many weekends I spent with them as a child. My grandfather drove a truck instead of a cab, but he had the same sort of lifestyle. I first saw it in about 1996 - a rerun, of course, on the Scifi Channel. I didn't see it again for probably another two years. But I remembered it as a very dark, weird story about a haywire TV set and these two people who were exactly like my grandparents, yelling and degrading each other. It wasn't typical TZ fare at all, but I liked it. Although this episode is very far from popular, it succeeds, and that's why I knew I had to publish the script. Once I finally saw it again, around mid-1998, I was so intrigued by it that I started writing out the dialogue on paper, and I typed it up and read it over and over. Seriously, I did that. And although this was long before my first TZ script book got published, I knew I wanted to see the script of that episode in print. Flash forward 7 years...Martin Goldsmith's wife, Estela (also known as Stella, she was the sister of Anthony Quinn), gave me permission. She sent me the original script that, as I remember, looked like it came right off of her husband's typewriter. I photocopied it at Kinkos, sent it to my publisher, and mailed it back to her. The dialogue is very spicy. Watch the opening narration of this one - look for the smirk on Rod's face. I don't know if he thought the story was funny or if someone on the set had just told a really lewd joke or something, but obviously something was making him laugh. Richard L. Bare, who was primarily a comedy director (but proved his worth with "To Serve Man", "Third From the Sun" and "Nick of Time", and others) was a good choice to direct it. Although the script has a pothole or two, it has a good atmosphere. Three simple sets - a kitchen, bedroom, living room. And, a few other sets for the scenes that play out on the TV set. Other reviews, from those who don't like it - and understandably so, because it is a far cry from the the early TZ episodes that had now played in reruns for a few years - have basically all said the same thing - that if Phyllis had given Joe a second chance, it would've worked. No. It wouldn't have. It would've ruined the final punchline, or at least made it much weaker. Sterling Holloway was perfectly cast as the TV repairman. If I could, I would give a hearty handshake to both Mr. Bare and to the story editor who came up with the "Yonkers, Yonkers, Yonkers!" bit that leads into the final fight where Phyllis goes out the window. Very early in my TZ travels, on a message board, a hater of this episode made the comment, "WHO wrote that script?!! Sheesh!"
"In Praise of Pip" - well, if it has Klugman in it, it's automatically good. I will always be proud that I had a hand in getting The Two Pips (Messrs Bob Diamond and Bill Mumy) in the same room together, forty-six years after the fact. They'd never met, and didn't share scenes in the episode. My only heartbreak is that Klugman wasn't there with them. Well, not heartbreak so much as 'really really wishing he had been.'
"A Kind of Stopwatch" - Although I always enjoy Richard Erdman's acting (he played tons of nitwits like McNulty in other films and TV shows), Doris Singleton is mostly why I watch this episode nowadays - she was just good in everything she ever did on TV. By this point, her days as Lillian/Carolyn Appleby were long over and she'd gotten some better roles, like this one. Herbie Faye was a delightful old character actor too - he always plays the same kinds of people and he has an instantly recognizeable voice. When the Scifi Channel used to do New Years Eve TZ Marathons with far fewer commercials and more network bumpers, they had a clip of Faye saying "On New Years Eve" that I thought sounded really cool (it was extracted from this episode.) John Rich, God love ya...you were one of the greatest directors ever to grace the soundstage.
"Uncle Simon" - most of Rod's later episodes were short on action and high on strained-sounding dialogue, and this was of course one of them. But it's not without its total charm. Hardwicke and Ford both play the parts to a T. The second half is a bit of a challenge to get through, and the lawyer who comes on the scene is an irritating bastard ("and how is young master Polk, hmmmmm?") Hardwicke died less than a year after this episode was filmed - you can pretty much hear his emphysema! Put yourself in Barbara's shoes - can you imagine caring for this guy for 25 years? And now she's rich, but trapped caring for his double. Some of the lines Serling gave them really were funny though, and I'm sure they had a good time doing them. I always have to laugh at the point where Ford opens the window and pulls the curtains and screams, "I'm back, world! I'm really back!" Not for long though. Connie Ford was fortunate enough to get a lot of juicy roles on TV and she excelled at playing really bitchy women.
"The Bewitchin' Pool" - It was a great story that, like some other season 5 episodes, fell victim to slipshod production. I don't know why they had so much trouble with it, having surmounted so many other episodes with great aplomb. The director did not even shoot enough film to fill the entire 23 minutes. It should have been scrapped, and included many years later as "the TZ episode never originally aired." I'm sure it would be much more popular if that had been done! The actors who played the husband and wife are absolutely terrible - I think the casting people got Mary Badham for the lead, and did not think anything about any of the other actors. The lady playing Aunt T was not nearly as colorful as Aunt Bee Taylor (of "The Andy Griffith Show", which aired on the same network) but she was good in her own way. Similarly, Sport and Jeb were nowhere nearly as interesting as Scout and Jem of "that other production" that Mary Badham was in a few years earlier. Overall, the episode leaves no real impression. Weeks after it aired, the network decided that TZ was not to continue. All good things must end.
"Queen of the Nile" - Pretty average, not bad. I've heard a number of comments about Ann Blyth's hair - 'helmet hair', 'way too much hair', and so forth. The moment when Viola (Celia Lovsky) reveals that she is Pamela's daughter, is pretty horrifying. The guy who plays the newspaper boss - Frank Ferguson is his name - somehow helps in moving the plot along in an upbeat way. Otherwise it would really have been too morbid a story, and in Season 5, there were plenty of "downer" episodes...although let's look at it realistically, even the downer's were so "up" compared to anything on TV nowadays.
"The Fear" - Rod was clearly worn out when he wrote this one, but it's not without its appeal. If it's "Twilight Zone", it's never bad. The scenes in the log cabin aren't bad, Richman and Court do a credible job. The weaknesses lay in the outdoor stuff...fingerprints sprayed on a police car door?! And the one-eyed martian clad in hip boots?! Crazy stuff. Oh btw, the shot of the spaceship taking off was extracted from "Death Ship". One of the very few times when TZ fed off itself as far as using filmed footage for a second time. I'm glad I kinda got to know Peter Mark Richman, and have been on his Christmas card list for a long time. what a talented guy - in addition to being a fine actor, he also was very good at writing and computer art. He and his wife Helen introduced me to Eileen Ryan, mother of Sean and Chris Penn (and TZ alum as the bitchy Mrs. Nora Raigan in "A World of Difference"). This was in 2004, right around the time "Mystic River" came out. I talked to Eileen on the phone and she asked if I was into films. She was working on "Project Green Light", which I hadn't yet heard of and she said, "Oh, aren't you into films? I thought you might be" and I said "Well, I don't really go to them much, but I just saw "Mystic River" last week. Sean's performance was quite special." I'm sure she's heard that a million times from people, but I'll always be glad I got the opportunity to tell Sean Penn's mother how much I enjoyed his acting.
"You Drive" - I'm lovin' it. Edward Andrews is one of my favorite actors and I have a signed portrait of him that hangs in my living room. He was so good at playing sleazy jerks involved in underhanded dealings (his two appearances on Karloff's "Thriller" were as good or even better than his two TZ appearances.) He later said in interviews that "the Twilight Zone episode about the car" was the one he heard about the most often from fans. A less competent actor than Andrews would merely have gotten "pissed off" at the car during those great scenes in the garage - instead, you can hear his breath taken away as the machine puts its guilt trips on him...his fear is very palpable. The actress who plays his wife, Hellena Westcott, is also very good, and enhances things that much more instead of being another bland housewife. I think the production crew spent a great deal of time with the scenes with the car. They're pretty darned flawless. Another reason I like this one a lot is because I used to live in some small cities in Oregon that were very similar to the one in "You Drive" - minus the palm trees. In fact, the exteriors were all shot out in Culver City near MGM studios, where it is very flat, so I'm sure that worked well.
"Ninety Years Without Slumbering" - They should've put Jimmy Callahan and Carolyn Kearney in another episode. Anyone remember Jimmy for his role as the teacher (I think it was) on "Charles in Charge"?! Haha Carolyn Kearney. Oh gosh. She was a sweetheart. Left us too early. I was introduced to her by a close friend of hers, just 18 months before she passed away. During those final months, she attended our second TZ convention, gave a wonderful interview for the DVDs, and signed a number of photos from her career in showbiz - she did a lot of TV. I remember she came into the convention and was kind of wondering what she should do. Within minutes, many fans were coming to her table and talking to her about TZ and "The Time Element", in which she co-starred. It was a very good day for her. Back to the episode though... Ed Wynn? Well, he's always great, but his lone appearance 4 years earlier was enough. A grandfather clock is a good thing to listen to as you're going to sleep...and ironically, this episode is so slow-moving and the plot so limp that the clock actually helps put me to sleep whenever I (try to) watch it. I think George Clayton Johnson was so turned-off by the story they came up with that he didn't even want his name on it - so they made up the name of 'Johnson Smith', to whom the original story, from which Richard DeRoy wrote the teleplay, is credited. On a similar note - the TZ titles. It needs to be addressed. In season 1, the titles were never displayed. In Season 2, they only came at the end of the episode (the best possible choice; for the kind of show that TZ was, keeping us 'out of reality' until the ending credits was the best thing they could've done - they should've kept this format.) In Season 3, they came at the beginning and at the end, and kept the same format for the remainder of the series. It's always irritated me, although I've come to accept it. Incidentally - the TZ Radio Drama version of this episode is GREAT. Personally I never cared much for the radio adaptations (40 minutes long, expanded versions of the TZ episodes) but they did an excellent job on about six out of the one-hundred-fifty-six TZ episodes. Bill Erwin played Ed Wynn's part and he does it far better than Wynn. Check it out!! I think it can be purchased as a download for 99 cents on Amazon.com.
"Come Wander With Me" - Had it been done three years earlier, and with the proper attention that the story definitely deserved, it could've worked. As it stands, it really, really doesn't cut it, as most people will agree. But despite that, it stands as one of the most original TZ stories in the series. The script actually reads well and that's why I published it. Despite the negativity, let me just say this in its favor - it's a satire on what does happen in some form or other to some Hollywood stars. Maybe not in the backwoods, but writer Anthony Wilson's point is well taken.
"Probe 7 - Over And Out" - Somehow this one has remained somewhat well-known due to the 'Adam and Eve' thing. It's not bad. Basehart does as well as he can, and Antoinette Bower is excellent. Harold Gould...well, he had many other better roles. I think this was one of his first jobs, during his transition from academic professor to prolific actor. It sounds as if he came into the studio, read his lines off a cue card (with his head tilted to one side!) and these were projected later in Basehart's scenes.
"Black Leather Jackets" - welllll....it's a great group of actors who DO know how to act, and they do much better than expected with a very weak storyline. Irene Hervey was a regular in Anne Francis' "Honey West" series in 1965-66, she played Anne's aunt. And dear ol' Michael Conrad, he was a fine actor who excelled in comedy roles. He doesn't appear until the end of the episode, but that goofy hairpiece and the keychain...you can't help but laugh at it. It's all so bad that it's good. Conrad of course went on, many years later, to do "Hill Street Blues", and died during its run. But before that, he guested twice on "The Bob Newhart Show" as Mr. Trevesco, one of Bob's patients, who gives him a friendly whack on the back and ends up paralyzing him temporarily. That episode was hilarious. Conrad was a huge guy of about 6'4". The 'other' Michael in this episode was Michael Forest, a heckuva nice guy who has worked in the biz forever and was also very tall. He also had a good voice for line delivery and was a good choice for the lead.
"Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" - A lot has been written and discussed about this episode over the years, and I really have nothing more to say about it...but one of those episodes that I've seen so many times that I really don't care if I ever see it again, great though it is. Definitely one of Shatner's best performances, and Christine White was a fantastic actress whose career was far too short. Asa Maynor...what a doll. She was a model, but she was also a good actress and got some decent parts on TV. I'm glad I met her. In later years, she got into the securities business - undoubtedly a good choice. She was also married at one time to another actor named Edd Byrnes, who has always been known as "Kookie Byrnes".
"The Jeopardy Room" - In a way it's like a stage play. As most people have noticed, it violates the TZ format. I think by this time Rod had written so much in the realm of fantasy that he simply ran out of ideas. The writing is very good but it just isn't really Twilight Zone per se. Landau was of course very well cast yet again. Has there ever been another actor who had the ability to look as violent on screen as Martin Landau?!
"The Old Man in the Cave" - not a great story, but the acting of Coburn is good and that of John Anderson is great. The ant-eyes goggles that Coburn and his men wear are a hoot.... Somehow, despite a drab storyline, John Anderson (I think) turns in the best of his four TZ performances. James Coburn was always a thinking actor, an intense actor who excelled at diction and thus always gave excellent line delivery. The bit where he pretends that the vegetables had poisoned him is always good for a laugh. The ending...well, a bit disappointing, with those goofy styrofoam rocks they throw at The Old Man, but the sequence following, showing the dead bodies, is somehow very touching, and John Anderson's closing speech is actually kind of touching. Overall, one of the better Season 5 installments.
"From Agnes With Love" - it starts off shakily, it fizzles, and it sinks. There's nothing really worth mentioning. The musical sounds that come from Agnes are kinda cute though. I don't know if those were written by Nathan Van Cleave or not? The writer didn't get the gist of how to write for TZ. But, let me share an anecdote I once read in a book called "Wake Me When Its Funny" by Garry Marshall, the great comedy writer and later producer/exec producer. Garry Marshall came into the writers' office of "The Odd Couple" in 1973 and told his writing partner Jerry Belson that Wally Cox had died. Belson replied, thinking that Marshall was joking, "What happened? Did Cox fall out of his box?!" He was of course referring to Cox's regular guestings on The Hollywood Squares.
"Night Call" - a wonderfully effective horror story. My dad had an old newspaper section from 1963 that he dug up some time ago, and in it was a listing for the upcoming TZ episode. The reviewer said, "the plot is stretched bit thin but finale is chilling." A good description of it. I wish the director who directed this episode had directed some more, although he should've been utilized earlier in the series because most of Season 5 was merely average. I guess Gladys Cooper was a semi-regular on TZ, this being her third episode. I like her much more in this one than I do in "Nothing in the Dark."
"The Brain Center at Whipples" - Richard Deacon, you were one of the great ones. Despite the acid roles he was always given, apparently 'Deac' was a very, very kind person. He was so photogenic, looked so good on camera, even when his weight ballooned in later years. The part he got on this episode wasn't a great one, but perhaps Serling wrote it for him because he was a fellow Binghamtonian (from Binghamton, NY, Serling's hometown). Deac was a very busy man in those days of course, playing Mel Cooley on the Dick Van Dyke Show. For my money, he was one of the greatest of comedy actors working at that time. He died way too young at the age of only 62. Ted DeCorsia, who played hundreds of heavies on TV and in film, turns in a virtuoso performance as Dickerson, the factory foreman. A small but very rich part, he had. "When you're DEAD AND BURIED who'dya get to MOURN for ya?!!!!" What do the following nine people have in common: Ron Winston, Martin Landau, Don Gordon, Ida Lupino, Ted DeCorsia, Ted Post, Robert Florey, Edward Andrews, Ivan Dixon? See below for answer.
"The Long Morrow" - Fine acting by Lansing and Hartley, but it definitely needed a couple rewrites, which it never got. Somehow, though, the weaknesses don't manifest themselves and are easily dismissed because the show was brought off in such grand style. TZ could get away with such things!! Mariette Hartley - an amazing woman and a magnificent actor. She has had a good career but I wish she'd appear in a big film. If I was a director/producer, she'd be the first person I'd hire for a film. I will never forget seeing her one-woman play "If You Get to Bethlehem, You've Gone Too Far". It was great.
"The 7th is Made Up of Phantoms" - Another episode that deserves more than it usually gets. It's a good and interesting story - and one of the more ingenius ones of the season. Warren Oates always played a good village idiot, or in this case, a not-very-intelligent trooper. He has some funny lines, particularly the jabs the gives to McCluskey. "Other than the fact that you read a map upside down and you couldn't navigate a steer across a bar room, you've got a lot of potential!" (or whatever the exact dialogue is!) Randy Boone, what a nice guy - I wish I'd gotten to know him better - he lives out in North Carolina, I think he retired from acting long ago. In "Phantoms" he reminds me of a young but less handsome Jeff Bridges. Somehow Jeff's 'Duane Jackson' from "The Last Picture Show" reminds me of Randy's character in this TZ episode.
"The Encounter" - I talked to George Takei quite a bit, at one time, about appearing in "the banned Twilight Zone episode." Needless to say, he loved doing it, despite the fact that it only aired one time, but felt very grateful when it hit DVD and suddenly people started talking about it more. Yes, the storyline is pretty abrasive, both on paper and on film. And since this was a Martin Goldsmith script, I'm happy I got to publish it alongside "What's In the Box". Neville Brand was himself a war veteran with purple hearts, not to mention one of the most convincing heavies ever to grace the screen. I haven't watched this episode more than maybe five times. It is actually a fairly solid story, despite the historical inaccuracies. Frankly, I'm surprised it still hasn't had a rerun. Three or four other TZ episodes took over 20 years to get into syndication - the legal stuff that kept them on the shelves for so long were finally forgotten. Hopefully "The Encounter" will one day make its way back too.
"Number 12 Looks Just Like You" - It just might have been because of our Stars of the Zone Convention in 2002, that writer John Tomerlin saw this episode for the first time in early 2003, almost forty years after he wrote the script. He announced publicly that he'd never seen it, on a panel of TZ writers that included George Clayton Johnson, Earl Hamner, as well as Marc Zicree. It's a very nice complement, albeit a bit less realistic and a little more plastic than "Eye of the Beholder." Collin Wilcox of course was a bravura actress - she got a few plum roles over the course of her career, and in later years turned to directing. I'm glad I knew her, if only briefly. In my opinion, she was one of the best actors out there. Suzy Parker is surprisingly good. She does better than others I've known who were in fact trained actors. Collin was a perfect choice for the part - she was a very average-looking lady...and in fact, that was one of her lines in the episode is "I'm not pretty, but I'm not ugly."
"A Short Drink from a Certain Fountain" - oh Ruta, you're such a kick in the pants!! I think Ruta Lee is one of the most natural actors to appear in TZ or any TV show. She did everything from bimbos to real estate saleswomen splendidly. She may have only gotten hired on TZ once, but she was on "Perry Mason" six times, a testament to her talent. The story of "Drink" is not great. It's a very old and tired one. The makeup on Patrick O'Neal is horrid, but the fine acting of the three actors (Walter Brooke being the third) is enough to overcome this and a couple obvious plot holes, the main one being that Flora is in fact never told of Harmon's being subjected to the experimental serum of Raymond's.
"Caesar and Me" - "The Twilight Zone" has never pissed me off. On the contrary, it's been very, very good to me in so many ways. But this episode is one that does annoy me. Why would the producer allow his secretary to take what Rod (and Cliff Robertson, and Abner Biberman) did so brilliantly with "The Dummy" 2 years earlier, and make "Caesar and Me"? Silly and pointless. Apologies to Jackie Cooper and Morgan Brittany, who did well in spite of it.
"Spur of the Moment" - I have not seen this one more than about 6 times thus far. When I do watch it, I watch it for Marsha Hunt, who is a truly amazing lady. Phil Ober, who plays Diana Hyland's father in it, was always good at playing tight-assed assholes because he actually was one. Most people don't know that for many years he was married to Vivian Vance, aka Ethel Mertz. Lucy had no problem relating in later years that "Viv used to come in to work with shiners [which her husband had given to her] and our makeup lady, [Irma Kusely], would have to cover it up." Luckily, Viv divorced him and lived out the next two decades with a far nicer man. "Spur of the Moment" is of course a marriage episode too, and in it, Matheson reminds us that love does not equal lust, and that we must carefully choose who we marry.
"I Am the Night - Color Me Black" - a semi-weak storyline, which comes off excellently thanks to the actors, in typical TZ fashion. One person said to me, "that actress who plays Michael Constantine's wife seemed very oversexed." George Lindsey, God love him - the guy had acting talent!! He was perfect for the part of idiot Deputy Pierce. A refreshing change from that goof Goober Pyle that he played for so many years. And Ivan Dixon has another good role as the Reverend. Paul Fix, as the snoopy newspaper man, was a huge talent, he must have appeared in like five hundred films and a thousand TV episodes.
"Steel" - Brilliant. Wonderful. Every moment of it is just fantastic. Lee Marvin: "You're gonna help me...or I'm gonna beat your brains out." Joe Mantell: (wisftully) "You'll get killed, Steel." Marvin: "Then I will." Point of fact - this episode is one of the best in the series. However, you have to dissect it a bit in order to realize this. It has all the ingredients of any of the best TZ episodes, which is why it's surprising that it's not generally remembered by the public.
"Ring a Ding Girl" - I can say that this rarely discussed episode is a favorite. Earl Hamner came up with a very original idea that came off exceedingly well. Maggie McNamara, well...her portrayal is pretty broad, but it's easily overlooked by her final few moments on camera when she says "Goodbye, Hildy" and walks out the door into the rain...miraculous. Mary Munday is excellent as Hildy - the shot at the end where she picks up the ring, which once gleamed but now the stone appears black and burned out, signaling Bunny's death, is quite touching. I'm glad I got to know David Macklin, who played Bud, ever so briefly. He was truly a fine actor, and he knows showbiz (and I mean EVERY detail of it, as revealed in his book) inside and out. Sadly, he didn't like this episode much. Although the director did splendidly with it, he apparently did not treat David well that week - I think David's words were "like a cheap piece of meat." I fully agree with David about the final shot - the director should have done close shots of both David and Mary Munday at the very end, instead of a long shot. Nonetheless, this segment is special, but that's just my own take on it. Wouldn't it be wonderful if someone could come back just long enough to say their goodbyes before a major catastrophe? In the book "The TZ Scripts of Earl Hamner", commentator Tony Albarella makes mention of 'bilocation' as an ancient story device. I think it was also used in "The Seventh is Made Up of Phantoms", maybe in one or two other episodes to some extent.
So that's it! If you've read this far, thanks for staying with me! I hope you've found something interesting here in these rather perfunctory comments. Answer to the trivia question above: those nine people are known as the 'Bread Nonet.' They worked on TZ in Season 1, but didn't work on the show again until Season 5. 'Bread' as in sandwich bread.