|The mysterious Flight 107|
Wednesday, February 10, 2016
Tuesday, February 2, 2016
|Charles Bronson and Elizabeth Montgomery at the|
beginning of a new life.
Charles Bronson plays the part of the Man. This was an interesting casting choice albeit a brilliant one. At this point in his career Bronson had primarily made his living in television often playing a villain, vigilante killer, detective, or a similar brutish-type character. But a year or so before this episode he landed a part in The Magnificent Seven where he played the role of Bernardo O’ Reilly, a hardened gunfighter who turns out to have a soft spot when he gives his life to save a group of small children. This role was a turning point for Bronson and helped mold his on-screen image as the archetypal tough guy with a moral center. It’s this persona that he brings to his performance here. His physical appearance and demeanor give the audience the first impression of a brute without a conscience. But he turns out to be a sympathetic character. Pittman plays against gender stereotype here and Bronson’s character, the male, is the one resisting a confrontation while the attractive female in the short skirt is the aggressor. Bronson seems to understand this for he plays the character with an equal mix of wisdom, anger, and hope.
Sunday, January 17, 2016
Writer George Clayton Johnson began selling his original teleplays to the series with the second season's "A Penny For Your Thoughts" and "The Prime Mover" (written with Charles Beaumont, credited only to Beaumont) after sustaining himself chiefly as a contributor of story material through the first and second seasons. Johnson would produce his finest scripts for the third season with the classic episodes "Nothing in the Dark," "A Game of Pool," and "Kick the Can." Richard Matheson also began adapting his own short stories into teleplays with "Little Girl Lost," based on his 1953 story first published in the October-November issue of Amazing Stories. Adapting his own previously published material was something Matheson had resisted during the first and second seasons, only going so far as to allow Rod Serling to adapt two of his short stories. Matheson would quickly warm to the idea and adapt more of his previously published short fiction in the fourth and fifth seasons, including the classic episodes "Death Ship," "Mute," "Night Call," and "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet," but would also continue to a steady output of original material, including "Once Upon a Time" and "Young Man's Fancy" from the third season.
On the other hand, Charles Beaumont returned to crafting original teleplays for the third season after spending the second season working with other writers (OCee Ritch, George Clayton Johnson) or adapting his previously published short fiction ("The Howling Man" and "Shadow Play"). These original efforts include the excellent "Person or Persons Unknown" and the disappointing "The Fugitive." Beaumont would continue his excellent adaptations of his influential body of short fiction as well with "The Jungle" from the third season, a story that first saw light in the December 1954 issue of If: Worlds of Science Fiction.
The third season episode "The Hunt" marked the first appearance of writer Earl Hamner, Jr. Hamner would continue as a regular contributor to the series right up until the final broadcast episode, "The Bewitchin' Pool." Hamner also contributed "A Piano in the House" to the third season. Also making his debut on the series was director Lamont Johnson, who would direct many of the finest episodes of the third season. It was fortunate for the series that a director like Johnson could step in after the departure of Douglas Heyes, who was easily the consistent director of quality episodes to that point, and perhaps in the show's entire production run.
--Brian Durant & Jordan Prejean
Saturday, January 2, 2016
|Mr. Romney Wordsworth (Burgess Meredith) stands|
ready to be judged by jury and Chancellor (Fritz Weaver)
--This marks the second and last time that Serling appears on screen at the end of an episode. The first time was the Season One closer "A World of His Own."
Thursday, December 24, 2015
George Clayton Johnson passed away on December 25, 2015. He was 86 years old. If you are a fan of The Twilight Zone or a reader of this blog then you know his importance both to the show and to us personally. He was a highly gifted writer and delivered some of the most enduring episodes of the Zone. Johnson had 8 total credits on the show, four for story and four more for story and teleplay. Despite his relatively low volume of output, his contributions to the show were of such high quality that his presence looms equally large as those of his personal friends and professional colleagues Richard Matheson and Charles Beaumont, both of whom were principle show writers. Below are Johnson's credits for the Zone:
"The Four of Us Are Dying" (adapted by Rod Serling)
"Execution" (adapted by Rod Serling)
"The Prime Mover" (adapted by Johnson and Charles Beaumont, credited soley to Beaumont)
"Ninety Years Without Slumbering" (as "Johnson Smith," adapted by Richard de Roy)
Story and Teleplay:
"A Penny For Your Thoughts"
"A Game of Pool"
"Nothing in the Dark"
"Kick the Can"
"A Game of Pool," "Nothing in the Dark," and "Kick the Can" must be rated as among the most successful episodes of the show. Johnson broke into writing for television through Rod Serling and the Zone. After selling some of his stories to Rod Serling's Cayuga Productions, Johnson's friend and Zone writer Charles Beaumont challenged Johnson to not only sell the story that became "A Penny for Your Thoughts" but to also write the teleplay. It took some negotiation with show producer Buck Houghton but Johnson was eventually allowed to write the script himself. The episode was a success and Johnson launched his career as a freelance television writer. Twilight Zone was his most steady outlet and he would contribute exceptional episodes over the following two seasons. Serling acknowleged Johnson's contribution to the show by name when delivering his acceptance speech for Twilight Zone's Emmy Award for writing. Rod Serling accepts Emmy Awards for Twilight Zone.
George Clayton Johnson co-wrote (with William F. Nolan) the famous 1967 dystopian novel Logan's Run, later turned into a cult movie, television show, and two comic book series. He wrote the story treatment that became the 1960 film Ocean's 11, starring Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis, Jr., which was remade in 2001 starring George Clooney and Brad Pitt. He also wrote the first episode of Star Trek, "The Man Trap." Johnson also has writing credits on Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Route 66, Honey West, and Kung Fu. He assisted Ray Bradbury in turning that writer's short story "Icarus Montgolfier Wright" into an Academy Award nominated, animated short film. View the short film.
Johnson credited Ray Bradbury and Theodore Sturgeon as two of his mentors as a developing writer. His many short stories can be found in the books Twilight Zone Scripts and Stories (Streamline, 1996) and All of Us are Dying and Other Stories (Subterranean Press, 1999). A book length profile, George Clayton Johnson: Fictioneer, by Vivien Kooper, was released by Bear Manor in 2013.
Below are some photos from when George visited the set for the filming of "Nothing in the Dark." Follow the links to Johnson's episodes we've covered here in the Vortex. We'll miss you, George. Thanks for the stories.
|Robert Redford and George Clayton Johnson on the set of "Nothing in the Dark"|
|George Clayton Johnson and Gladys Cooper on the set of "Nothing in the Dark"|
"The Prime Mover"
"A Penny For Your Thoughts"
-Jordan Prejean and Brian Durant
Friday, October 2, 2015
|"Where is Everybody?"|
Today marks the anniversary of the premier of the Twilight Zone on CBS television with the broadcast of the episode "Where is Everybody?" on October 2, 1959. This episode, written by Rod Serling and starring Earl Holliman, remains a fan favorite and did much to establish the look and feel of the show. Below are portals to our coverage of the genesis of the show and the episode guide to "Where is Everybody?"
The Premier of the Twilight Zone
Episode guide to "Where is Everybody?"
Thursday, October 1, 2015
-Here's a short article about the high quality short fiction anthologies from the pages and press of Playboy in the 1960s and 1970s. Many of The Twilight Zone show writers were featured as well as writers that influenced the look and fell of the show.
Beginning in 1966, with The Playboy Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy, Playboy Press, the magazine's book publishing arm, began publishing a series of paperback (and occasionally hardcover) anthologies that would mine the magazine's accumulated collection of short form horror, crime, and science fiction. The fiction editor at the time was Ray Russell, himself a notable fiction writer of modern Gothics (Sardonicus and Other Stories; The Case Against Satan), who had, since the beginning of the '60s, bought fiction from the finest genre (and non-genre) writers of the time.
The production of genre anthologies from Playboy Press began slowly. 1966 saw the release of The Playboy Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy and The Playboy Book of Crime and Suspense in hardcover. It was followed the next year with the hardcover The Playboy Book of Horror and the Supernatural. 1968 saw all three books reprinted in paperback editions. Playboy's Stories of the Sinister & Strange, a paperback, followed in 1969. These titles, especially The Playboy Book of Horror and the Supernatural, are still highly sought after items, noted among fans for the quality of the fiction. It became apparent that the anthologies were popular and also that the magazine held the publishing rights to a number of other extraordinary stories. They prepared to commit to book form nearly every science fiction, fantasy, horror, and crime story in the young magazine's considerable possession.
After a quiet 1970 in which Playboy Press published no genre anthologies, nine paperback anthologies appeared in 1971, most of them under the banner title Playboy Science Fiction, which also published science fiction novels and single author collections under the same banner. Most of the stories contained within the anthologies seamlessly blended variations of the established elements of science fiction and horror, a type of genre mash-up that was particularly popular at the time. Stories of psychological alienation and of man's diminishing importance in the face of an infinite universe proliferated. A self-conscious, modern form of the horror story matured in the pages of the magazine and were later reprinted in the anthologies. These horror stories were set in a recognizable middle class milieu, where monstrosity, murder, and mutation were as likely as after dinner cocktails. The single editorial demand imposed upon the writers was for high quality fiction.
The anthologies were occasionally themed ("10 Stories of Space Flight," etc.) and usually took the book title (The Dead Astronaut, The Fiend, etc.) from the title of the lead story within. A list of notable authors represented in the anthologies are too many to completely list here, but include such luminaries as J.G. Ballard, Arthur C. Clarke, Charles Beaumont, Frederik Pohl, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Robert Sheckley, Robert Bloch, Algis Budrys, Gerald Kersh, Ray Bradbury, William F. Nolan, Dennis Etchison, Anthony Boucher, Theodore Sturgeon, Norman Spinrad, Henry Slesar, Richard Matheson, Fredric Brown, Avram Davidson, William Tenn, Damon Knight, Italo Calvino, Arthur Porges, and the list goes on and on.
After that fruitful year of anthologies, the production of that type of book from Playboy Press abruptly slowed down, undoubtedly due to the depletion of available genre material in the magazine's possession. 1974 saw an anthology of crime stories, Murder, My Love, but Playboy Press had begun to concentrate their efforts on works of original fiction and on non-fiction books consisting of reprint material, such as Beyond Reason: Playboy's Book of Psychic Phenomena.
It is interesting to note two further related events. In 1980 Playboy Press published the retrospective volume Galaxy: Thirty Years of Innovative Science Fiction in hardcover. It is a celebration of the best of Galaxy Science Fiction Magazine with stories from the magazine's archives and memoirs from the writers that contributed to the magazine. It was also available through the Science Fiction Book Club.
The later Playboy fiction editor, the venerable Alice K. Turner, compiled a hardcover volume in 1998 titled The Playboy Book of Science Fiction. It is a fine volume of stories and an excellent companion to the Ray Russell-edited volume from 1966.
Most of the volumes discussed are affordable if not downright cheap to purchase either online or at quality used bookstores. I highly suggest the original trilogy of paperbacks: The Playboy Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy, The Playboy Book of Crime and Suspense, and The Playboy Book of Horror and the Supernatural. Complete lists of contents can be accessed at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database, which provided the cover images.
Here are the anthologies:
-Most of the anthologies were compiled by regular Playboy fiction editor Ray Russell and credited as by "The Editors of Playboy." It is noted below where Russell was not the editor.
The Playboy Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy
The Playboy Book of Crime and Suspense
The Playboy Book of Horror and the Supernatural
The Playboy Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy (paperback)
The Playboy Book of Crime and Suspense (paperback)
The Playboy Book of Horror and the Supernatural (paperback)
Playboy's Stories of the Sinister & Strange
Transit to Earth
Last Train to Limbo
From the "S" File
The Dead Astronaut
The Fully Automated Love Life of Henry Keanridge
The Future is Now (edited by William F. Nolan)
Murder, My Love (edited by Eric Corder)
Galaxy: Thirty Years of Innovative Science Fiction (edited by Frederik Pohl, Martin H. Greenberg, and Joseph D. Olander)
Shadows (edited by Charles L. Grant)
Horrors (edited by Charles L. Grant)
Galaxy: Vol. 1 (paperback)
Galaxy: Vol. 2 (paperback)
Death (edited by Stuart David Schiff)
Terrors (edited by Charles L. Grant)
The Playboy Book of Science Fiction (edited by Alice K. Turner)