Sunday, August 13, 2017

Reading Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine, part 3

In which we take a closer look at each issue of the magazine. For our capsule history, go here. 

Volume 1, Number 3 (June, 1981)

Editor: T.E.D. Klein
Cover Illustration: Darrelyn Wood, for Stephen King’s “The Jaunt”
The magazine’s story contest is now advertised at a $2,000 prize

TZ Publications, Inc.
President & Chairman: S. Edward Orenstein
Secretary/Treasurer: Sidney Z. Gellman
Executive Vice Presidents: Nils A. Shapiro & Eric Protter
Executive Publisher: S. Edward Orenstein
Publisher: Nils A. Shapiro
Associate Publisher/Consulting Editor: Carol Serling
Editorial Director: Eric Protter
Editor: T.E.D. Klein
Managing Editor: Jane Bayer
Contributing Editors: Gahan Wilson & Theodore Sturgeon
Design Director: Derek Burton
Art and Studio Production: Georg the Design Group
Production Director: Edward Ernest
Controller: Thomas Schiff
Administrative Assistant: Eve Grammatas
Public Relations Manager: Melissa Blanck-Grammatas
Public Relations Asst: Jeffrey Nickora
Accounting Manager: Chris Grossman
Circulation Director: Denise Kelly
Circulation Assistant: Karen Wiss
Circulation Marketing: Jerry Alexander
Western Newstand Consultant: Harry Sommer
V.P. Advertising Director: Martin Lassman
N.Y. Advertising Manager: Louis J. Scott
Advertising Production Manager: Rachel Britapaja
Advertising Assistant: Marina Despotakis


Contents:

-“In the Twilight Zone” (editorial) by T.E.D. Klein
-Other Dimensions: Books by Theodore Sturgeon
-Other Dimensions: Screen by Gahan Wilson
-Interview: Robert Bloch, conducted by Tom Collins
-“The Jaunt” by Stephen King
-Boucher Back-to-Back, “Summer’s Cloud” & “The Way I Heard It” by Anthony Boucher
-100 Years of Fantasy Illustration by Stephen DiLauro
-“The Assignment” by Mitch Potter
-“The Dreamshattering” by Mary Kittredge
-TZ Screen Preview: “Outland” by Robert Martin
-“The Fireman’s Daughter” by Phyllis Eisenstein
-“Waiting for the Papers” by Alan Ryan
-“The Inn of the Dove” by Gordon Linzner
-“Deadline” by Mel Gilden
-“Scenicruiser and the Silver Lady” by Peter S. Alterman
-Show by Show Guide: TV’s Twilight Zone, Part Three by Marc Scott Zicree
-“The After Hours” (teleplay) by Rod Serling
-Looking Ahead: “In July’s TZ . . .” 

-“In the Twilight Zone” by T.E.D. Klein
Subtitled: “An Exceedingly Wide Range . . .”
-Here Klein gives brief biographical details about the contributors. Some contributors are featured in thumbnail images.


-Other Dimension: Books by Theodore Sturgeon
Sturgeon comments on the following:

-The Trouble With You Earth People by Katherine Maclean
“. . . a brilliant and highly original writer who writes only when she has something important to say. . .”

-Transfigurations by Michael Bishop
“as complex, as carefully thought-out, and as compelling an sf novel as you’ll find anywhere, ever.”

-Songs from the Stars by Norman Spinrad
“. . . marvelous melding of plot and real feeling. . . “

-The Beginning Place by Ursula K. LeGuin
“. . . the kind of fantasy, I’m sure, that lived so urgently in Rod Serling’s heart.”


-Fiction of the Absurd: Pratfalls in the Void edited by Dick Penner
“. . . zooms into sardonic and hilarious and provocative fantasies that most pure fantasist wouldn’t – couldn’t – dream of.”


-Shallows of Night by Eric van Lustbader

-The Wall of Years by Andrew M. Stephenson
“. . . he’s done a lot of homework.”

-The Demu Trilogy by F.M. Busby

-Find the Changeling by Gregory Benford and Gordon Eklund
“I found the premise incredible but enjoyed the chase.”

-Birth of Fire by Jerry Pournelle
“. . . complete with insurrection, revolution, social commentary, and battle.”

-Time Out of Mind by Richard Cowper

-Firebird by Charles L. Harness
“. . . to pile wonder upon wonder can cause the collapse of wonder.”

-Re-entry by Paul Preuss
“. . . swift and ingenious.”

-Optiman by Brian Stableford
“I like the scholarly, subtle Stableford rather better than this kind of intellectualized mayhem.”

-The Golden Barge by Michael Moorcock
“I recommend it.”

-Cosmic Crusaders by Pierre Barbet
“. . . wonderful, wild patchworks of sf and historical drama. . .”

-Project Pope by Clifford Simak
“. . . it’s a lovely book.”

-The Devil’s Game by Poul Anderson
“. . . an engaging book; Anderson doesn’t know how to tell a story badly.”

-Wheelworld by Harry Harrison
“. . . a hard-driving adventure tale with some highly inventive and believable off-Earth effects.”

-Came a Spider by Edward Levy
“Don’t bother.”

-Yellow Peril by Richard Jaccoma
“. . . don’t buy it.”

-A Different Light by Elizabeth A. Lynn
“. . . it has the strength and tenderness and yearning that a true love story needs.”

-Chronolysis by Michel Jeury
“The writing is beautiful, with a wondrous sensuality to the images. . .”
-Sturgeon wrote the introduction to this edition of the book

-The Berkeley Showcase, Volume 3 edited by John Silbersack and Victoria Schochet
-Contains an interview with Sturgeon

-The Great SF Stories #4 edited by Isaac Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg
“The entire set will be a landmark when it’s done.”

-The Best of John Sladek by John Sladek
“. . . outrageous, hilarious sf fantasies . . .”

-Valis by Philip K. Dick
“There is no way to describe or even to review this book with any accuracy; all one can do is to turn you loose on it with the injunction that it will give itself to you to the exact degree that you are able to give to it.”

-Other Dimensions: Screen by Gahan Wilson
Wilson reviews two films: The Formula (1980) and Scanners (1981).

-Wilson generally dismisses both films. The Formula stars Marlon Brando and George C. Scott and concerns the mining of coal to produce oil and its secret formula being kept from the public by an evil corporation. Wilson disparages Brando’s appearance and performance as well as George C. Scott’s uninspired turn as a police investigator. The Formula is now almost totally forgotten expect by those who enjoy poor filmmaking.

-Wilson is even harsher on the now-classic film Scanners from director David Cronenberg. Wilson’s judgment is chiefly founded on his view that Scanners lacks convincing characterizations and is too similar to Brian de Palma’s earlier film, The Fury (1978), based on the 1976 novel by John Farris. Posterity has proven that Wilson is off the mark on this critique as Scanners is now considered a classic of the horror/sf film, remembered chiefly for its impressive special effects from legendary makeup artist Dick Smith and the villainous performance from actor Michael Ironside. Wilson is correct that Scanners is very similar to The Fury and was likely inspired by the earlier film but the film has since surpassed The Fury in both critical esteem and cultural longevity.

-Interview: Robert Bloch, conducted by Tom Collins

-Robert Bloch, born 1917, was the prolific author of many works of horror, mystery, and science fiction, far too numerous to list here, and should be familiar to most readers of this blog. He was a professionally published author while still in his teens whose career spanned from the late pulp era to the early 1990s, encompassing radio, film, television, short stories, novels, and even stand-up comedy. He was a noted correspondent of H.P. Lovecraft, was a recipient of Grand Master awards from the World Fantasy and World Horror conventions, and was a favorite raconteur on the convention circuit. Bloch is renowned as the author of the novel Psycho, the basis for Alfred Hitchcock’s film. He also wrote many film and television scripts, including several of the great Amicus anthology films (adapted from his short stories) and films for William Castle, as well as teleplays for Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Star Trek, Thriller, and many more. He died in 1994. Bloch never wrote for The Twilight Zone in any of its television incarnations but did write the novelization of the 1983 film, Twilight Zone: The Movie. You can read our history and review of that publication here.

-Tom Collins, interviewer, is described by editor T.E.D. Klein as “a writer and researcher based in Manhattan” who is Klein’s choice to play Mycroft Holmes based on Collins's appearance. Collins is a very occasional short story writer but whose chief contribution to the genre is as an essayist on subjects of fantasy and science fiction.

-The interview with Bloch begins on solid ground but ultimately ends up mired in an examination of Bloch’s pseudo-psychological views on modern society. In the early 1950s, Bloch began to write what is now labeled the psychological thriller and his interest in related subjects endured throughout his life and colored much of his work. At the time of the interview Bloch had recently finished his long-awaited novel Psycho II. It was released in September, 1982. A rather enjoyable film, Psycho II, was released in 1983 but was not connected in any way to Bloch’s novel other than the shared title. Bloch discusses the genesis of his 1959 novel Psycho, his move to Hollywood to work in films, and his brief encounter with Alfred Hitchcock at a preview screening of Psycho (1960). The interview concludes with Bloch addressing his admittedly antiquated views on violence and sociological subjects. Overall, the interview is rather underwhelming, particularly in relation to the two previous interviews in the magazine with Stephen King and Peter Straub. Whereas those interviews focused on creativity and the writing process, interviewer Tom Collins seemed to be primarily interested in challenging the ideas on human psychology found in Bloch’s work. For a much more edifying encounter with Bloch, see the collected edition of Bloch’s interviews, The Robert Bloch Companion: Collected Interviews, 1969-1989, compiled and edited by Randall D. Larson for Starmont House in 1989.

-“The Jaunt” by Stephen King

Illustrations by José Reyes
“It was a journey only sleepers survived.”

-In the far future, a family of four prepares to take a teleportation journey to Mars as the father recounts the invention of teleportation in the 20th century. Grade: B

-“The Jaunt” is Stephen King in a relatively rare science fiction mode. Though I am not in a position to critique his use of science I found the story to be engaging despite the unusual narrative structure. King's gift for propulsive narration is evident in nearly everything he writes, particularly from this period. King can’t help turning his subject toward the grisly and horrifying, however, and the ending of “The Jaunt,” though predictable, remains effective. According to T.E.D. Klein’s editorial, King was inspired to write the story after reading William F. Temple’s 1949 novel The Four Sided Triangle, which was expanded from Temple's 1939 novelette for Amazing Stories and filmed in 1953 by Hammer Films and director Terence Fisher. “The Jaunt” was included in King’s 1985 collection Skeleton Crew (in my view, his strongest collection of stories), as well as in the first, and only, annual issue of the magazine, Great Stories from Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine (1982). King was a frequent contributor to and supporter of the magazine throughout its run, which roughly corresponded to the most fertile and productive period of his career. He is cover featured on several issues and contributed a handful of stories and interviews.

-King is a stated fan of the original series Twilight Zone (though he all but calls the show overrated in his 1981 survey of horror in the mass media, Danse Macabre) and contributed a story to the first revival Twilight Zone series, “Gramma,” taken from the aforementioned Skeleton Crew after its appearance in 1984 in Weirdbook 19. “Gramma” concerns a young boy who is left alone to care for his bedridden grandmother who happens to practice black magic and needs a fresh young body into which she can project her consciousness. The story contains elements of H.P. Lovecraft’s “Cthulhu Mythos” and was adapted for television by Harlan Ellison.

-For King's constant readers, there is one bit of trivia which may have gone unnoticed. In the story, during the experimental phase of teleportation, the United States government selects a convicted murderer to take the jaunt while awake in order to study the results. The mass murderer they select is named Randall Foggia, who comes through the jaunt horribly aged and muttering, “It’s eternity in there.” Foggia is likely an avatar of King’s the Man in Black, a villainous character who features in many of King’s works, such as The Stand and The Dark Tower series. The character and his many avatars are typically identified by the initials RF.

-King's then-upcoming novel, Cujo, is promoted in T.E.D. Klein's editorial. That novel was released in September, 1981. On a final note, the film rights to “The Jaunt” are currently held by writer/director Andrés Muschietti, the director of the current adaptation of Stephen King’s 1986 novel IT. Time will tell whether we get a film of “The Jaunt” but it would have made an intriguing episode of the Zone revival series.

-Boucher Back-to-Back; “Summer’s Cloud” and “The Way I Heard It” by Anthony Boucher
Illustrations by Thomas Angell

-Two short-shorts. “Summer’s Cloud” concerns a tourist who falls victim to a vampire. “The Way I Heard It” concerns a ghost story and the differing versions of it heard by a group of people. It is revealed that one of the party is the subject of the story. Grade: C

-Anthony Boucher, born 1911, was the pen name of polymath William Anthony Parker White, remembered for his fantasy and science fiction stories, his mystery novels, and his reviews of mystery fiction under the name H.H. Holmes (a name taken from an infamous 19th century American serial killer). He was co-founder of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, where he served as editor and published many of the writers who would later write for The Twilight Zone. Boucher provided editorial work for Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, in which he provided translations of such writers as Jorge Luis Borges, as well as for Judith Merril's annual The Year's Best SF. Boucher was also a prolific writer for radio, particularly in the mystery genre and such programs as The Adventures of Ellery Queen. An annual mystery convention, Bouchercon, or The Anthony Boucher Memorial World Mystery Convention, is held in his honor. He died in 1968.

-The two short-shorts presented here were originally published in The Acolyte, a semi-professional magazine remembered chiefly for its dedication to the works of the circle of writers who gathered around H.P. Lovecraft. Both stories can be found in The Compleat Boucher from NESFA Press (1999).

-100 Years of Fantasy Illustration by Stephen DiLauro

-DiLauro is described by T.E.D. Klein as “. . . a New York-based writer specializing in art history.” DiLauro would provide two additional essays for the magazine, both written in collaboration with Don Hamerman, “The Gargoyles of Gotham” and “A Glimpse of Ghostly Britain.” Here DiLauro provides images and capsule comments on a wide-array of fantasy artist ranging in time from Gustav Doré to Edward Gorey. The artists include: Gustav Doré, Aubrey Beardsley, Sidney Sime, Arthur Rackham, Heath Robinson, Frank R. Paul, Max Ernst, Stephen Lawrence, Virgil Finlay, Rick Griffin, Lee Brown Coye, and Edward Gorey. Presumably due to space limitations DiLauro leaves out a number of important artists, particularly Maxfield Parrish, Edmund Dulac, J. Allen St. John, and Hannes Bok. It is nevertheless an enjoyable look at this rich field and it is the type of edifying article which would separate the publication from similar magazines in the field.

-“The Assignment” by Mitch Potter

Illustration by Charles Waller
“Why was the old lady so interested in odd ways to die?”

-A junior college student believes his substitute teacher is one of the Fates, women of Greek myth who control the lives and destinies of all humankind through threads which are woven into existence and cut at the time of death. Grade: D

-This appears to be Potter’s sole short story contribution to the fields of science fiction and fantasy. Unfortunately, the story does not utilize its unique plot in any original or innovative way and is further hampered by an entirely predictable ending.


-“The Dreamshattering” by Mary Kittredge
Illustration by Frances Jetter
“How do you cure an epidemic of nightmares?”


-A woman discovers that her husband is working on a classified project at a nearby military installation that is adversely affecting the lives of the residents in  a nearby town. Grade: C


-Mary Kittredge published a single fantasy novel, The Shelter, in 1987, written in collaboration with Kevin O’Donnell, Jr. She has also produced a handful of short stories and an essay of interest, “The Other Side of Magic: A Few Remarks About Shirley Jackson” for Discovering Modern Horror Fiction, edited by Darrell Schweitzer (Starmont House, 1985). “The Dreamshattering” was her first professionally published work of fiction. It possesses a very interesting premise in which the government is developing “bombs” which can cause nightmares and insanity in its victims. However, the idea struggles to the find the depth of exploration it deserves in the short story form.

-TZ Screen Preview: “Outland” by Robert Martin
-The color portion of the issue takes a look at the 1981 science fiction thriller film Outland starring Sean Connery, Peter Boyle, and Frances Sternhagen. The bulk of the article is an interview with director Peter Hyams. The article is accompanied by several color stills from the film.


-“The Fireman’s Daughter” by Phyllis Eisenstein


Illustration by Arthur Somefield

“The power was there for the asking. You just had to want it enough.”

-A young woman discovers that her best friend possesses the ability to put out fires using only her mind. This girl uses her ability to assist her firefighter father. Grade: B

-I enjoyed this story from Eisenstein, who has been nominated for nearly every award the field of professional science fiction has to offer, including multiple Hugo, Nebula, and Locus Award nominations. She won the now-defunct Balrog Award for her 1979 short story collection, Born to Exile. Eisenstein is also a prolific novelist and a frequent essayist. She uses the very clever concept of reverse Pyrokinesis, which is the ability to mentally create fire, made very popular by Stephen King in his 1980 novel Firestarter, itself inspired by the writings of Charles Fort, to craft a tale of friendship, trust, and, ultimately, tragedy. There is also a satisfying, if easily foreseen, twist ending. It is one of the stronger stories in the issue.

-Eisenstein's 1978 short story, "Lost and Found," was adapted by George R.R. Martin for the second season of the Twilight Zone revival series.  


-“Waiting for the Papers” by Alan Ryan

Illustrated by Bon Neubecker
“Some men face the end with a struggle, some with a cry . . .”


-A young man faces the end of the world with a group of old men in an old fashioned candy store. Grade: D

-This tale about a young man relating his experiences with a group of old men in a candy store while the fallout from a nuclear attack moves toward them is little more than a mood and character piece, largely draped in ambiguity. As such, it feels like a scene out of a longer work instead of a self-contained piece of short fiction. Ryan is a highly accomplished writer of horror and this story does not display his considerable talents. “Waiting for the Papers” is included in Ryan’s 1988 collection, The Bones Wizard. The phrase, “waiting for the papers,” refers to the way in which the old men at the candy store wait for the early edition of the next day’s paper to be delivered. When the delivery truck does not arrive it is a symbol that the end is truly near.

-Alan Ryan is a horror and dark fantasy writer who came to prominence during the horror boom in publishing in the late 1970s. During the 1980s he produced a substantial body of work including novels, short stories, poems, essays, and editorial work. His novels include Dead White (1983) and the highly regarded Cast a Cold Eye (1984). His short fiction has been featured in all the major magazines and anthologies of the period and he won the World Fantasy Award for his 1984 short story “The Bones Wizard.” It is perhaps by his editorial work that Ryan has left the most lasting mark upon the field. He compiled the first volume of the Night Visions anthology series (1984) along with the anthologies Halloween Horrors (1986), The Penguin Book of Vampire Stories (1988), and Haunting Women (1988), all of uniformly excellent quality. Ryan’s most recent novel, The Slave Tree, was published by Cemetery Dance in 2016. 

-“The Inn of the Dove” by Gordon Lizner
Illustrated by José Reyes
“The Innkeeper’s story had no ending – until two strangers entered.”

-In feudal Japan, an innkeeper who has suffered a personal tragedy is given an opportunity for revenge by a fortuitous course of circumstance. Grade: D

-This story, though obviously an attempt to write in the style of a Japanese fable, comes off as flat and uninvolving. It features only the barest glimpse of a speculative element (concerning the dove of the title) and presents a rather predictable tale of revenge with a ponderous and unconvincing climactic fight scene. Only the interest of period detail saves the story from total disappointment.

-Gordon Lizner is best known as the longtime editor of Space and Time magazine, an American speculative fiction magazine. Lizner edited the magazine from its inception in 1966 until the end of 2005. The magazine resumed publication in 2007 under new editorship and continues to be published biannually today. Lizner’s editorship of Space and Time culled two Balrog Award nominations in the early 1980s.


-“Deadline” by Mel Gilden

Illustrated by Randy Jones
“Any old writer has a muse. John Blakesly Hardin had a demon!”

-A dying novelist attempts to ward off a troublesome demon so that he can complete his final novel. Grade: B

-This was a slight yet amusing short-short featuring a different spin on the deal-with-the-Devil story, a story type which The Twilight Zone traded in repeatedly to differing levels of success. “Deadline” was reprinted a few years later in 100 Great Fantasy Short Short Stories, edited by Isaac Asimov, Terry Carr, and Martin H. Greenberg (Doubleday, 1984). A native of Chicago, Gilden applied his talent in combining humor and horror on the children’s book market in the late 1980s and early 1990s, most notably on the Fifth Grade Monsters series. He has continued to write books for younger readers into the new century with his most recent book, The Coincidence Couch, appearing in 2017 from Wildside Press.

-“Scenicruiser and the Silver Lady” by Peter S. Alterman
Illustrated by Bob Gale
“A fatally erotic encounter just off the highway to eternity”

-A washed-up former baseball player takes to cruising the New York highways at night to ease the pain of his crumbling life when he encounters an avatar of Death who travels the same roads and possesses an insatiable appetite for destruction. Grade: A

-Despite the terrible title, this long story by Peter S. Alterman is a bleak little gem written in an engaging hard-boiled style. It was my favorite story in the issue and moved twice as fast as the shorter stories in the issue. It is the type of story which would come to symbolize the “dark suspense” movement which saw its greatest flourishing in the pages of Cemetery Dance magazine later in the decade. The story was reprinted only once, again by T.E.D. Klein, in the Summer, 1985 issue of Night Cry, with artwork by Frances Jetter. Alterman appears to have been active in the science fiction and fantasy community in the late 1970s and early 1980s, writing several essays, introductions, and reviews for books and magazines. He published only one other speculative story and seems to have left the field behind entirely. It’s a pity this story isn’t better known as I think it has strong appeal to fans of William F. Nolan, Joe R. Lansdale, and Norman Partridge.

-Show-by-Show Guide: TV’s The Twilight Zone, Part Three by Marc Scott Zicree
-Zicree closes out the first season of the series with this third part of his ongoing guide to the series. The episodes he covers are: “Execution,” “The Big Tall Wish,” “A Nice Place to Visit,” “Nightmare as a Child,” “A Stop at Willoughby,” “The Chaser,” “A Passage for Trumpet,” “Mr. Bevis,” “The After Hours,” “The Mighty Casey,” and “A World of His Own,” all of which we have covered here on the blog. You can find links to those episodes by finding the title in the Directory section on the sidebar.  

-TZ Classic Teleplay: “The After Hours” by Rod Serling
-Includes the shooting script for Serling’s masterful first season episode, including an unusual variant of Serling’s opening narration. “The After Hours” was directed by Douglas Heyes and starred Anne Francis as a young woman who experiences a unique kind of haunting at a New York department store. It contains what I feel is the single scariest sequence of the entire series when Marsha White (Anne Francis) awakens after a fainting spell to find herself alone after closing hours in the darkened department store. We rated the episode an “A,” very near our highest rating. You can read my review of the episode here.

-This was a very up-and-down issue in terms of fiction. The stories by Phyllis Eisenstein and Peter Salterman were clearly the strongest, despite appearances by such notable writers of the period as Stephen King and Alan Ryan. Though I enjoyed the King story it is not generally considered among his stronger efforts, even by his most ardent admirers, and it has rarely been reprinted. The article on fantasy illustration was nice and having one of Rod Serling’s finest teleplays is always a pleasure. Marc Scott Zicree is cruising through his coverage of the series, needing only three issues to get through the first season. As the magazine continued its run it would look to retain the “Show by Show” guides by covering other series such as Night Gallery, The Outer Limits, and ‘Way Out. Keep an eye out for our coverage of the star-studded July, 1981 issue in a few weeks.

-JP



Thursday, July 27, 2017

"Four O'Clock"

Theodore Bikel as Oliver Crangle, counting down to four o'clock

“Four O’Clock”
Season Three, Episode 94
Original Air Date: April 6, 1962

Cast:
Oliver Crangle: Theodore Bikel
Mrs. Lucas: Phyllis Love
Agent Hall: Linden Chiles
Mrs. Chloe Williams: Moyna MacGill

Crew:
Writer: Rod Serling (based on the story by Price Day)
Director: Lamont Johnson
Producer: Buck Houghton
Production Manager: Ralph W. Nelson
Director of Photography: George T. Clemens
Art Direction: George W. Davis and Merrill Pye
Set Decoration: Keogh Gleason
Assistant Director: E. Darrell Hallenbeck
Casting: Robert Walker
Editor: Jason H. Bernie
Sound: Franklin Milton and Bill Edmondson
Music: stock
Optical Effects: Pacific Title
Serling’s Wardrobe: Eagle Clothes
Filmed at M.G.M. Studios

And Now, Mr. Serling:
“Next week an exceptionally fine actor named Theodore Bikel portrays a misguided kook who fancies himself some kind of guardian of law and order. He decides that it’s his mission in life to eradicate evil the world over. Now, this one is told very far-out but considering the nature of the times it happens to be very close-in. Next week an exercise in insanity. It’s called ‘Four O’Clock.’ Set your watches and come on in.


“This cigarette, Chesterfield King, gives all the advantages of extra length and much more. The great taste of twenty-one vintage tobaccos grown mild, aged mild, and blended mild. No wonder they satisfy so completely.” 

Rod Serling’s Opening Narration:

“That’s Oliver Crangle, a dealer in petulance and poison. He’s rather arbitrarily chosen four o’clock as his personal Götterdämmerung, and we are about to watch the metamorphosis of a twisted fanatic, poisoned by the gangrene of prejudice, to the status of an avenging angel, upright and omniscient, dedicated and fearsome. Whatever your clocks say, it’s four o’clock, and wherever you are, it happens to be The Twilight Zone.” 

Summary:

            Oliver Crangle has one mission in life: to expose all the evil people of the world. His view of evil, however, is fluid and morally ambiguous. His personal judgment of his fellow man is corrupted by deep-seeded prejudices and a profound lack of empathy. From within his cramped apartment, Crangle compiles documents on his fellow citizens and spends his days making phone calls to employers and law enforcement offices to cry warnings about those citizens he deems subversive.
            Crangle is visited by Mrs. Lucas, the wife of a doctor whom Crangle has vigorously attempted to ruin. The doctor in question failed to save the life of a grievously injured woman and Crangle therefore considers him an evil person. Mrs. Lucas offers a prophetic warning, that Crangle is truly evil, that his judgments are unfair and his attempts to ruin lives are cruel. Crangle arrogantly dismisses the woman.
            Crangle fastens upon an idea. At four o’clock, this very day, he will mark all the evil people of the world in a way that will uniquely identify their terrible inner natures. After abandoning a number of unfeasible ideas, Crangle decides that he will make every evil person in the world one third their size, or roughly two feet in height. He calls an F.B.I. agent to his apartment to tell him that at four o’clock law enforcement had better be prepared to arrest all the diminutive people. Hall, the F.B.I. agent, questions Crangle’s sanity before dismissing his crank idea and leaving.
            Undeterred, Crangle gazes out of the window, counting down the minutes until four o’clock. When the moment arrives he rejoices the in exaltation of his efforts. He turns again to the window and the terrible realization that he is only two feet tall.     

Rod Serling’s Closing Narration:
“At four o’clock an evil man made his bed and lay in it, a pot called a kettle black, a stone-thrower broke the windows of his glass house. You look for this one under ‘F’ for Fanatic and ‘J’ for Justice in The Twilight Zone.”

Commentary:
            “Four O’Clock,” the short story by Price Day, originally appeared in the April, 1958 issue of Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. It appeared in book form the following year as part of Alfred Hitchcock Presents: My Favorites in Suspense, a Random House book ghost-edited by Robert Arthur, a prolific short story writer, creator of The Three Investigators series of children’s mysteries (to which Hitchcock lent his name for a time), and the co-creator of The Mysterious Traveler radio program. Arthur compiled several Hitchcock anthologies for both adults and young readers in the late 1950s and 1960s before his untimely death in 1969. He is underrated as an editor and his anthologies come recommended. “Four O’Clock” appeared in paperback in 1960 in Alfred Hitchcock Presents: 14 of My Favorites in Suspense from Dell. It is included in The Twilight Zone: The Original Stories, edited by Richard Matheson, Martin H. Greenberg, and Charles G. Waugh for Avon Books in 1985.

            A brief aside. An additional connection exists between Alfred Hitchcock and “Four O’Clock,” at least as far as the title goes. Hitchcock filmed a now well-regarded segment titled “Four O’Clock” for the anthology program Suspicion in 1957. It concerns a man (E.G. Marshall) who, believing his wife is unfaithful, plants a bomb in his home to kill his wife and her lover. The bomb is set to detonate at exactly four o’clock. Not only is the man mistaken about his wife’s infidelity, he is attacked by burglars in his home and tied up in the basement, forced to sweat out the minutes counting down to four o’clock and the detonation of the bomb. This segment was remade in 1986 for the revival Alfred Hitchcock Presents series. The basis of both segments is Cornell Woolrich’s 1938 story, “Three O’Clock.” The title change appears to have been a perfunctory move on the part of the production.
            Price Day, author of the short story, is best-known as a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist. He tried his hand at poetry and fiction early in his career before turning to journalism. He placed poetry with The New Yorker in 1931 and, though “Four O’Clock” is by far Day’s most famous work of fiction, he wrote several short stories for Collier’s Weekly in the late 1930s and early 1940s, many in collaboration with Charles Bradshaw, though none approach the subject or tone of “Four O’Clock.”
Day was born in Plainview, Texas in 1907 and attended Princeton University. He began his journalistic career as a cartoonist and occasional freelance contributor to newspapers in New York and Florida. Day was a reporter for the Fort Lauderdale Times in 1942 and moved to the Baltimore Evening Sun that same year before becoming a reporter for the Baltimore Sun in 1943. Day was a war correspondent for the Sun and as such was one of the first civilians to witness and report upon the conditions of the liberated Nazi death camps. Day was the only reporter from an individual newspaper to witness the German surrender at Reims. In 1949, Day received the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting for his feature in the Sun, “Experiment in Freedom – India and Its First Year of Independence.” He served as Editor-in-Chief of the Sun from 1960-1975. Some of his Sun columns were collected as The Spillway: Columns from the Baltimore Sun, 1956-1960 (Baltimore Sun Press, 1997). Day’s sole film credit is for one of his stories with Charles Bradshaw, which was adapted by other writers into the 1939 film The Lady and the Mob, a film which featured a young Ida Lupino, star of “The Sixteen Millimeter Shrine” and director of “The Masks.” Price Day died in 1978.
Though Rod Serling remained remarkably faithful to Day’s story, the brevity of the original story require Serling to pad out the tale in order to bring it up to running time. As such, the episode comes across as dialogue heavy, particularly since the setting is so constrictive. It doesn’t help that “Four O’Clock” is a story which exists only to serve a twist ending. It is a memorable twist ending (it just cracked our Top 20 best of the series) but episodes which live and die by the twist ending often have little besides which to recommended them.  
Serling’s attraction to the material should appear obvious as the story confronts the idiocy and intolerance of modern American society, a fight against which Serling built his entire creative career. Although The Twilight Zone is frequently portrayed as the series Serling had to create so he could say the confrontational things being muffled on the more prestigious anthology programs, the series never really attempted to convincingly camouflage these type of confrontational efforts. Any viewer of “The Shelter,” "The Mirror," or “The Obsolete Man” who does not see beyond the trappings of the thriller or the science fiction story is an unsophisticated viewer indeed. In a rare instance of calling direct attention to the show’s attempt to confront these issues, Serling speaks of “considering the nature of the times” in his preview narration.
The internal time of the short story consists of thirteen minutes, as it begins at 3:47. Price Day provides the bulk of exposition in flashback. Serling could not utilize this method and instead pushed the time back to the morning in order to develop the narrative over the course of the day. As such, Serling needed to create characters for Oliver Crangle to interact with. The short story contains only the single character, Crangle, unless one considers Pet, the parrot. Serling’s creative mastery was in character development and he effectively creates three foils to Crangle’s madness, the simple-minded and long-suffering landlady, the desperate spouse of one whom Crangle has attempted to ruin, and, perhaps most important, the F.B.I. agent, who represents a rational enforcer of the law and the only character to directly question Crangle’s sanity.
Some additional interesting symbolic representations are present in the episode, particularly in the construction of Crangle’s apartment, which manages to be both obsessively organized and chaotically cramped at the same time, a useful symbol for the mental workings of Crangle himself. The series excelled in the story told in a single or highly constrained environment. This was likely due to budgetary limitations but the production crew, particularly the art directors and set decorators, rose to the challenge again and again to create interesting and engaging set design which often mirrored the theme of the tale. There is also the use of the parrot as a pet for Crangle, which is obvious in its symbolic representation as a communicative animal that can only repeat back what is spoken to it. The short story uses the parrot in a more interesting way than the episode, as well. Throughout the story, Crangle is repeatedly feeding the bird nuts and only realizes he has shrunk down to two feet when he tries to feed the bird a nut and his hand comes up short. In the episode, a shot is utilized to show Crangle unable to reach the bowl of nuts. Serling, in an unusual touch, presents a moment in which Crangle consults Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address for moral support. It is an expert illustration of the dangerous way in which the morally reprehensible can favorably twist the meanings of dogmatic writings to suit their purposes.

The logical problems of the story are presented to the viewer in the form of complete ambiguity. The result is that some natural questions arise in the mind of the viewer. From whence does Crangle derive his information? His power? His income? Where does this story take place? Leaving such questions unanswered is undoubtedly an attempt to give the story the feeling of a moral allegory but it can be frustrating for one who requires a base line of logic even in tales of fantasy. The short story offers a marginal bit of explanation about Crangle’s power and seems to suggest it is a divine gift. Day writes: “. . . since that morning three weeks ago when, as he sat on a bench in a park, looking at the pictures in the clouds across the lake, it came to him that he had the power to do this thing, that upon him at that moment had been bestowed the gift of putting a mark on all the bad people on earth, so that they should be known.”

            There is also the issue of the mental state of Crangle as portrayed by actor Theodore Bikel. Near the end of the episode the true severity of Crangle’s delusion is revealed in language making reference to gallows and electric chairs. Crangle strikes the viewer as suffering from both a psychotic disorder as well as a severe social anxiety disorder, one characterized by obsessive and repetitive behavior, unusual mannerisms and use of language, and an inability to engage in normal social behavior. Bikel’s performance is frequently dismissed as over-the-top and manic but it is a far more nuanced performance than it is given credit for.
            Theodore Bikel was born in Vienna in 1924 and studied acting with both an Israeli company and at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London before moving to the United States in 1954. He is likely best-known for his stage role as Tevye the milkman in Fiddler on the Roof. Bikel is also known for his role in the film My Fair Lady (1964), his long career as a folk music singer, and for his political activism. Despite the fact that Bikel was frequently cast as a shady or outright villainous German or Russian character, he was capable of great versatility, illustrated in one instance with his role as a Southern sheriff who pursues Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier in the 1958 film The Defiant Ones. That film was made at the height of the Blacklist era, co-written by a blacklisted writer (Ned Young) whose script won the Academy Award, and whose story and theme perfectly shadowed in film what Rod Serling was continuously doing in television. There is little doubt that a politically active humanitarian like Bikel relished the opportunity to play the bigot Crangle in “Four O’Clock.” Bikel did little additional genre work but was memorable in the Alfred Hitchcock Presents adaptation of Thomas Burke’s Jack-the-Ripper inspired story, “The Hands of Mr. Ottermole,” from the second season of that series. In an interesting, and not altogether successful, choice, Bikel was selected to narrate Serling’s short story “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street” for Harper Audio Books in 1993 as part of a series featuring actors/actresses from the original series reading Serling’s short story adaptations for the audio book market. I highly recommend Tom Elliot's podcast episode on those audio books, which can be found here.  Bikel died in Los Angeles in 2015.
            As the above commentary indicates, “Four O’Clock” is a fascinating episode layered with symbol and interpretive meaning. The story cannot, however, sustain itself under the weight of the immense amount of circular dialogue leading to a rather predictable twist ending. Bikel’s performance is a rewarding one but it is the only element of the story which repays repeat viewings. Perhaps the story feels too familiar. After all, the series traded in “bully gets comeuppance” quite often and would continue to do so well into the fifth and final season. One need only look to “The Last Night of a Jockey” to see this point illustrated in a particularly relative way. All in all, “Four O’Clock” is par for the course.
            One final note. “Four O’Clock” was selected to be read on the NPR program Selected Shorts when that program featured a Twilight Zone special in October, 2016. “Four O’Clock” was read by actor Zachary Quinto in a crowd pleasing performance. You can read our review of it here.      

Grade: C

Grateful acknowledgement to:

-The Internet Speculative Fiction Database (isfdb.org)
-The Internet Movie Database (imdb.com)
-Unz.org publication database
-Who’s Who of Pulitzer Prize Winners by Elizabeth A. Brennan and Elizabeth C. Clarage (Greenwood Publishing, 1998)

Notes:
-“Four O’Clock” by Price Day originally appeared in the April, 1958 issue of Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine.
-Theodore Bikel narrated Rod Serling’s short story adaptation of “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street” for Harper Audio Books in 1993.
-Director Lamont Johnson was at the helm for some of the most memorable episodes of the series, including “Five Characters in Search of an Exit,” “Nothing in the Dark,” “Kick the Can,” and “Passage on the Lady Anne.”
-“Four O’Clock” was adapted as a Twilight Zone Radio Drama starring Stan Freberg.

-JP

Friday, July 14, 2017

Reading Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine, Part 2

In which we take a closer look at each issue of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine. For our capsule history of the magazine, go here.

Volume 1, number 2 (May, 1981)

Editor: T.E.D. Klein
Cover illustration by René Magritte (“The Pleasure Principle”)

for Tanith Lee’s “Magritte’s Secret Agent”

TZ Publications, Inc.
President & Chairman: S. Edward Orenstein
Secretary/Treasurer: Sidney Z. Gellman
Executive Vice Presidents: Nils A. Shapiro & Eric Protter

Executive Publisher: S. Edward Orenstein
Publisher: Nils A. Shapiro
Associate Publisher/Consulting Editor: Carol Serling
Editorial Director: Eric Protter
Editor: T.E.D. Klein
Managing Editor: Jane Bayer
Contributing Editors: Gahan Wilson & Theodore Sturgeon
Design Director: Derek Burton
Art and Studio Production: Georg the Design Group
Design Consultant: Steve Phillips
Production Director: Edward Ernest
Controller: Thomas Schiff
Administrative Assistant: Eve Grammatas
Public Relations Manager: Melissa Blanck-Grammatas
Public Relations Asst: Jeffrey Nickora
Accounting Manager: Chris Grossman
Circulation Director: Denise Kelly
Circulation Assistant: Karen Wiss
Circulation Marketing: Jerry Alexander
Western Newstand Consultant: Harry Sommer
V.P. Advertising Director: Martin Lassman
N.Y. Advertising Manager: Louis J. Scott
Advertising Production Manager: Rachel Britapaja
Advertising Assistant: Marina Despotakis

Contents:


In the Twilight Zone, editorial by T.E.D. Klein
Other Dimensions: Books by Theodore Sturgeon
Other Dimensions: Screen by Gahan Wilson
Peter Straub Interview conducted by Jay Gregory
“In the Sunken Museum” by Gregory Frost
“Blood Relations” by Lewis Shiner
“And I Only Am Escaped to Tell Thee” by Roger Zelazny
“Chronic Offender” by Spider Robinson
“Seven and the Stars” by Joe Haldeman
TZ Screen Preview: The Hand
“Drum Dancer” by George Clayton Johnson
“Brief Encounter” by Michael Garrett
“How They Pass the Time in Pelpel” by Robert Silverberg
“Magritte’s Secret Agent” by Tanith Lee
Show by Show Guide: TV’s The Twilight Zone by Marc Scott Zicree
TZ Classic Teleplay: “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street” by Rod Serling
Looking Ahead: “In the June TZ . . .”

--In the Twilight Zone by T.E.D. Klein
Subtitle: “Rewriting the Legends,” here Klein gives a rundown of the careers of the fiction contributors at the time of publication. It is interesting to see some writers, such as Lewis Shiner and Tanith Lee, at an early stage of their long and successful careers.

--Other Dimensions: Books by Theodore Sturgeon
After a perfunctory column in the premier issue, Sturgeon is back to provide his first in-depth book review column for the magazine. He reviews the following:

-Zelde M’Tana by F.M. Busby

-Wild Seed by Octavia Butler, which Sturgeon labels the best SF novel of 1980. Wild Seed is part of Butler’s Patternist series and received near universal acclaim from literary critics upon its release. Many critics still hold the opinion that it is Butler’s best book.

-Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas R. Hofstader. This nonfiction study of the art of the three subjects of the title won both the Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award upon its release in 1979.

-The Time Falling Bodies Take to Light by William Irwin Thompson, a book which Sturgeon claims will be running through is head for the rest of his life.

-Orbit 21 edited by Damon Knight. Sturgeon laments the final volume of Knight’s series of original sf. The Orbit series began in 1966. The Best from Orbit appeared in 1975 and covered the first 10 volumes of the series. The series is known for its literary quality.

-Shadows 3 edited by Charles L. Grant. Sturgeon suggest the Shadows series as a worthy replacement for the Orbit series. Though Shadows mainly featured horror fiction, Grant was open to science fiction and dark fantasy as well. The Shadows series ran to 11 volumes, with the last volume, Final Shadows, appearing in 1991. The Best of Shadows appeared in 1988.

-The Last Defender of Camelot by Roger Zelazny. The title story of this collection was adapted for the first revival Twilight Zone television series as episode 24 of season 1.

-Fundamental Disch, a collection of stories by Thomas M. Disch, who would later review books for Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine.

-If All Else Fails by Craig Strete

-Far from Home by Walter Tevis. This is a collection of Tevis’s speculative fiction. Sturgeon was a passionate admirer of Tevis and it is displayed in this review.

-King David’s Spaceships by Jerry Pournelle

-An Island Called Moreau by Brian W. Aldiss

-The Claw of the Conciliator by Gene Wolfe, part of Wolfe’s series The Book of the New Sun.

-A Fond Farewell to Dying by Syd Logsdon. Part of Pocket Books’s then-new science fiction line, Timescape, which ran from 1981-1984.

-Conan and the Spider God by L. Sprague de Camp

-Nightmares, edited by Charles L. Grant

-Jack Vance, edited by Tim Underwood and Chuck Miller. Literary essays on the writer. Part of a series which was edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Joseph D. Olander.

--Other Dimensions: Screen by Gahan Wilson
Wilson reviews two films: Flash Gordon (1980) and Altered States (1980). He urges filmgoers to approach Flash Gordon without taking it too seriously as it is clearly a throwback to the cartoonish science fiction comic strips of yesteryear. Wilson generally praises Altered States, especially the acting and special effects, but feels that the filmmakers completely dropped the ending. The special effects makeup artist on Altered States was Dick Smith. You can look back on our essay detailing the early television makeup work of the Academy Award-winning Smith here.

--TZ Interview: Peter Straub, conducted by Jay Gregory
The interviews with the leading proponents of horror and suspense are the gems of these early issues. This excellent interview with Straub details how he first became interested in reading and writing, how he made his way into writing supernatural fiction, and details the writing of each of his books to that point, including Ghost Story and Shadowland. Straub was in the process of writing Floating Dragon at the time of the interview and an adaptation of Ghost Story was currently being filmed. I highly recommend reading this interview for fans of Straub or of horror fiction in general. If you have never read Straub, he was one of the giants of the horror boom of the late 1970’s and 1980’s but unlike so many who capitalized on the public’s sudden taste for horror, Straub stayed relevant and carved out a very nice career for himself. He collaborated with Stephen King on two novels, The Talisman (1983) and Black House (2001) and his association with the popular writer has perhaps overshadowed Straub’s own notable achievements. Like T.E.D. Klein and a few others of the period, Straub was strongly influenced by the classical form of supernatural fiction, notably the works of Henry James and Arthur Machen, and, as such, his work is marked by a fine literary style rather than the more debased cinematic style adopted by many other horror writers of the same period. All of his work comes highly recommended. 

--“In the Sunken Museum” by Gregory Frost

Illustration by Frances Jetter
“Surely this was hell – or a fever-ridden nightmare. But then he learned the truth: that he was trapped”

-Edgar Allan Poe awakens in an impossibly vast and concealed domain which contains exhibits dedicated to his macabre literary masterpieces. Grade: A

-On September 27, 1849, Edgar Allan Poe intended to leave Richmond, Virginia by train for New York. He never made it. Last seen by his friend Dr. John F. Carter, Poe vanished for five days. He was found in Richmond on October 3, 1849 in a state of delirium. He died on October 7 having never recovered state of mind enough to tell what had become of him during the missing days. One of his last words spoken was “Reynolds.” This set of circumstances has baffled historians in the succeeding years. Where had Poe been? Who was Reynolds? What was the true cause of Poe’s death? From these elements Gregory Frost weaves a startling, surprising, suspenseful, and affectionate look at Poe’s whereabouts during his missing five days. The story is a treat for fans of Poe as it references Poe’s well-known works and is written in a pleasingly brisk style. By the climax the story does get very far-out but it does not diminish the charms of the tale. Highly recommended. Gregory Frost has worked in virtually every aspect of science fiction and fantasy, from novelist and short story writer to writing instructor and film actor. He has been nominated for every major award in the field and continues to occasionally produce short fiction.

-T.E.D. Klein reprinted “In the Sunken Museum” in the Fall, 1985 issue of Night Cry.

--“Blood Relations” by Lewis Shiner
Illustration by Arthur Somerfield
“There was a monster on the farm – and perhaps it was a member of the family”

-Someone or something is brutally killing the livestock on a struggling farm and soon sets its sights on to humans. Grade: C

-Shiner employs a lot of misdirection and plenty of bloody set-pieces in his story but it doesn’t add up to a satisfying tale and the rather juvenile ending just solidifies the overall underwhelming effect. Shiner went on to much better things. He is well-regarded as a writer of science fiction and fantasy, being closely identified with the Cyberpunk movement and winning a World Fantasy Award for his 1993 novel Glimpses.

-T.E.D. Klein reprinted “Blood Relations” in the first issue of Night Cry. 

--“And I Only Am Escaped to Tell Thee” by Roger Zelazny

Illustrated by Bob Gale
“All men pray for rescue – but who will save the rescuers?”

-A seaman on a cursed ship dives into the sea upon sighting another vessel. He is rescued but is revealed to be a portent of doom. Grade: B

-This short, enjoyable, if not terribly original, tale by Zelazny bears a strong resemblance to two Rod Serling stories, “Judgment Night” from the first season of The Twilight Zone and “Lone Survivor” from the first season of Night Gallery, as well as dozens of other such tales. Zelazny, of course, was one of the titans of mid-century science fiction and fantasy, with a shelf full of Hugo and Nebula Awards to show for it. His most famous work is the series of novels known as The Chronicles of Amber.

-Despite its brevity and derivative nature, Zelazny’s story has been reprinted a number of times, including in Terry Carr’s Fantasy Annual V, Carr’s, Greenberg’s, and Asimov’s 100 Great Fantasy Short Short Stories, and Peter Haining’s The Ghost Ship: Stories of the Phantom Flying Dutchman. 

--“Chronic Offender” by Spider Robinson

Illustrated by Steven Guarnaccia
“In which Harry the Horse takes a gander at the present – and almost gets caught in a pair of ducks”

-A time traveling gangster from the Depression finds himself in the 1980’s and devises a scheme to get rich with the help of an old friend. Grade: C

-Robinson’s story is written in a mock-Damon Runyon style which immediately sets it apart from the other offerings in the issue. While the story is quite funny in places, it runs entirely too long and the Runyon style grows tiresome by the end. Robinson is a prolific science fiction writer and a Hugo and Nebular Award winner. Health issues forced him to greatly slow down on writing in 2008. Robinson was a frequent guest on the Canadian science fiction show Prisoners of Gravity and can be seen there speaking on a wide array of topics related to speculative fiction. “Chronic Offender” is included in Robinson’s short story collection Melancholy Elephants (1984). 

--“Seven and the Stars” by Joe Haldeman

Illustrated by José Reyes
“It had no mouth to speak of, or with. It was scaly blue and smelled like an orange grove in heat.”

-A disillusioned science fiction writer meets a beautiful woman at a party who brings him back to her place to meet an alien that crash landed in her garage. Grade: C

-Haldeman’s story couldn’t decide if it wanted to be a send-up of science fiction, a commentary on being a serious science fiction writer in a society that doesn’t take science fiction seriously, or an exploration of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. As such, it doesn’t possess a consistent tone and feels too cobbled together to be effective, despite Haldeman’s usual graceful style and effective characterizations. The story is certainly not indicative of Haldeman’s talent. He is the author of such notable and award-winning novels as The Forever War and Forever Peace as well as a score of short stories, many of them award winners. Haldeman wrote the episode “I of Newton” for the first season of The Twilight Zone revival series. It aired on December 13, 1985. “Seven and the Stars” is included in Haldeman’s short story collection Dealing in Futures (1985). 

--TZ Screen Preview: The Hand

-Director Oliver Stone’s major film debut in the director’s chair is this psychological horror film about a cartoonist (played by Michael Caine) who loses his hand in a car accident and, while struggling to get his crumbling life back in order, is tormented by the idea that his hand is still out there carrying out the acts of rage which he holds within himself. The movie is based on the novel The Lizard’s Tail by Marc Brandel and falls within a small but distinguished subgenre of horror literature and film, that of the dismembered hand which develops a murderous life of its own. Other notable examples include William Fryer Harvey’s 1928 short story The Beast With Five Fingers, later made into a 1946 Warner Bros film starring Robert Alda and Peter Lorre, Maurice Renard’s 1920 novel Les mains d’Orlac, made into the highly regarded 1924 German silent film The Hands of Orlac, starring Conrad Veidt and later remade in the U.S. in 1935 as Mad Love starring Colin Clive and Peter Lorre, the “Terror in Teakwood” episode of Boris Karloff’s Thriller, the 1964 film The Crawling Hand, and a segment of the 1965 film Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors starring Christopher Lee and Michael Gogh. Writer George Clayton Johnson’s story “Sea Change,” which will appear in a future issue of the magazine, falls in this subgenre and was nearly filmed as an episode of the second season of The Twilight Zone. Although The Hand is an enjoyably deranged film, it is sadly almost totally forgotten, even among dedicated horror film fans. Oliver Stone went on to direct such films as Platoon, J.F.K., and The Doors. 

--“Drum Dancer” by George Clayton Johnson

Illustrated by A.G. Metcalf
“The Indian girl was lithe and beautiful – and she could dance up a storm. So what was the agent afraid of?”

-A talent agent discovers a beautiful American Indian woman who channels ancient and dangerous magic when she dances. Grade: B

-Johnson’s story of an innocent and oblivious young woman’s dark and deadly power is refreshingly original in nature and stylishly executed. Johnson always had a knack for original ideas, think of his Twilight Zone episodes “A Penny for Your Thoughts” or “Kick the Can,” and “Drum Dancer” proves no exception. It is a short, enjoyable piece of dark fantasy from a master of the short story. In his preview to the story, T.E.D. Klein states that “Drum Dancer” was originally published in a limited edition book but I have been unable to verify this prior publication. “Drum Dancer” was reprinted in Johnson’s career retrospective volume, All of Us Are Dying and Other Stories (Subterranean Press, 1999). Johnson, of course, was one of the chief creative forces behind the original Twilight Zone television series, crafting such enduring episodes as “A Game of Pool” and “Kick the Can.” 

--“Brief Encounter” by Michael Garrett
Illustration by José Reyes
“His time machine brought him knowledge, fame, and a shattering glimpse of the past.”

-A time traveler goes into his own past to see the mother he lost as a child. Grade: C

-This very brief time travel story is a simple character and mood piece. Garrett doesn’t offer much in the way of innovation or contemplation, instead showing a brief, tragic moment in a time traveler’s life. Garrett is notable for co-editing (with Jeff Gelb) several volumes of the Hot Blood series of erotic horror stories, beginning with Hotter Blood in 1991 and concluding with the final (to date) volume Dark Passions in 2007. Garrett provided a story to each volume he co-edited in the series.

--“How They Pass the Time in Pelpel” by Robert Silverberg
Illustrator unknown
“In search of rare plants, he discovered the strangest breed of all was human.”

-A man in search of a rare breed of cactus traces the plant to a strange, secluded village in Chile whose residents practice a highly unusual form of entertainment. Grade: D

-Science Fiction Grand Master Robert Silverberg is unquestionably one of the most erudite, engaging, stylish, literate, and fecund writers of science fiction and fantasy in the 20th century. That said, “How They Pass the Time in Pelpel” is a bafflingly poor short story from Silverberg. The set-up is a familiar one to readers of horror and fantasy. A person arrives in an unfriendly town whose inhabitants may be concealing a secret, perhaps a deadly one. Some notable examples of this type of story include “The Shadow over Innsmouth” by H.P. Lovecraft, “The Summer People” by Shirley Jackson, and “The Children of Noah” by Richard Matheson, among many, many other examples. Here, Silverberg seems to play against the expectations of such a story but has no viable alternative to offer other than an underwhelming and perplexing climax that I won’t reveal here. The story feels about twice as long as it really is due to a combination of excessive exposition and the let-down of the ending. The story was included in Silverberg’s 1984 short story collection The Conglomeroid Cocktail Party. 

--“Magritte’s Secret Agent” by Tanith Lee

Illustration by José Reyes
“His eyes were clear, large, utterly contained. Rather than an unseeing look, it was a seeing through – to something somewhere else.”

-A young woman working in a women’s store becomes obsessed with a beautiful young man bound to a wheelchair and under the chair of his seemingly cold-hearted mother. Grade: A

-Lee’s story combines tropes of the classical fantasy story with a modern character study of obsession and personal tragedy. When a young woman becomes obsessed with an impossibly beautiful young man bound to a wheelchair, she takes it upon herself to save him from what she perceives to be a repressive existence under the thumb of his uncaring mother. The truth she discovers about both of them will alter her life forever. It is a highly affecting piece which reminds me of Robert Aickman’s strange stories, but with a style that is completely Lee’s own. Tanith Lee was a highly prolific and idiosyncratic science fiction, fantasy, and horror writer who came to prominence in the early 1980’s with her Gothic influenced tales of dark fantasy. She’s won the British Fantasy Award, multiple World Fantasy Awards, and the Lifetime Achievement Bram Stoker Award from the Horror Writer’s Association. “Magritte’s Secret Agent” was reprinted in Lee’s 1985 collection The Gorgon and Other Beastly Tales, as well as in editor Paula Guran’s Mermaids and Other Mysteries of the Deep (Prime Books, 2015).

--Show by Show Guide: TV’s The Twilight Zone, Part Two by Marc Scott Zicree
-Zicree, author of The Twilight Zone Companion, continues his tour through the original series of The Twilight Zone, reviewing each episode in order. For each episode, Zicree offers information on the cast and crew, Rod Serling’s Opening and Closing Narrations, and a detailed summary. A photo accompanies each episode. The episodes he covers in this issue are: “I Shot an Arrow Into the Air,” “The Hitch-Hiker,” “The Fever,” “The Last Flight,” “The Purple Testament,” “Elegy,” “Mirror Image,” “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street,” “A World of Difference,” “Long Live Walter Jameson,” and “People Are Alike All Over.

--TZ Classic Teleplay: “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street” by Rod Serling
-Presents the shooting script of Serling’s classic episode of paranoia and alien menace. Although “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street” may not be the most popular episode of the series, it is arguably the one from which Serling got the most use and one which has endured to a remarkable degree. Serling adapted the teleplay into a short story for his 1960 volume Stories from the Twilight Zone (Bantam Books) and it is the one story from the series which regularly makes its way into school textbooks and into amateur stage productions across the country. The story has twice been adapted into comic book form, first with the 1979 volume Stories from the Twilight Zone with adaptations by writer Horace J. Elias and artist Carl Pfeufer and later in 2008 by writer Marc Kneece and artist Rich Ellis. The story was adapted to audio in 1993 for Harper Audio and read by actor Theodore Bikel, who appears in the original series episode “Four O’Clock.” It was also adapted as a Twilight Zone Radio Drama. Another interesting aspect of the short story is that Serling added an epilogue which sees the alien menace take over the entire world. This section is missing from the filmed episode and the original teleplay. 

--Looking Ahead: In the June TZ . . .

-Preview feature of the contents of next month’s issue.

Join us next month when we look at the June, 1981 issue, which includes the usual features and Rod Serling’s teleplay for “The After Hours,” as well as stories from Stephen King, Anthony Boucher, Alan Ryan, and others.

-JP