Monday, October 8, 2018

"He's Alive"

Peter Vollmer (Dennis Hopper; center) and his Neo-Nazi goons.

“He’s Alive”
Season Four, Episode 106
Original Air Date: January 24, 1963

Cast:
Peter Vollmer: Dennis Hopper
Ernst Ganz: Ludwig Donath
Adolf Hitler: Curt Conway
Frank: Paul Mazursky
Nick: Howard Caine
Stanley: Barnaby Hale
Gibbons: Jay Adler
Proprietor: Wolfe Barzell
Heckler: Bernard Fein
Policeman: Robert McCord

Crew:
Writer: Rod Serling (original teleplay)
Director: Stuart Rosenberg
Producer: Herbert Hirschman
Associate Producer: Murray Golden
Production Manager: Ralph W. Nelson
Director of Photography: George T. Clemens
Assistant to the Producer: John Conwell
Art Direction: George W. Davis and Edward Carfagno
Set Decoration: Henry Grace and Don Greenwood, Jr.
Assistant Director: Ray De Camp
Editor: Richard W. Farrell
Sound: Franklin Milton and Joe Edmondson
Music: Stock
Optical Effects: Pacific Title
Rod Serling’s Wardrobe provided by Eagle Clothes
Filmed at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios


And Now, Mr. Serling:

“We move next on Twilight Zone into a shadowy area that treads a very thin line between flesh and fantasy. You’ll see a performance by Dennis Hopper that even from my rather very close-end perspective strikes me as an exceptional one. Our story is called ‘He’s Alive’ and if this doesn’t get you where you live, you’ll find it close by in the suburbs.”

Rod Serling’s Opening Narration: 

 “Portrait of a bush-league fuehrer named Peter Vollmer, a sparse little man who feeds off his self-delusions and finds himself perpetually hungry for want of greatness in his diet. And like some goose-stepping predecessors, he searches for something to explain his hunger, and to rationalize why a world passes him by without saluting. That something he looks for and finds is in a sewer. In his own twisted and distorted lexicon he calls it faith, strength, truth. But in just a moment Peter Vollmer will ply his trade on another kind of corner, a strange intersection in a shadow land called…The Twilight Zone.

Summary: 


            Peter Vollmer is an angry and confused young man who channels his frustrations through prejudice and hatred which he peddles on lonely street corners. He has few followers, only other despondent young men like himself, who trust in him with the loyalty of whipped dogs. Vollmer’s only family is an elderly man named Ernst who rescued Vollmer from a toxic home environment when Vollmer was a child. Ernst—an immigrant and concentration camp survivor—is aware of Vollmer’s role as the neighborhood bigot. He tells his young friend that the people who sent him to Dachau during the war were a lot like him. Angry. Bitter. Lonely. Content to take their rage out on those weaker than themselves. After chastising the young man Ernst tells Vollmer he can stay the night.
            Later that night, Vollmer senses something outside his window. He opens it and sees a shadowy figure in the street below. This mysterious stranger calls out to Vollmer, saying that he is sympathetic to Vollmer’s cause. He gives Vollmer advice on how to control an audience. Empathize with them, he says. Make their fears his own. Give them a cause for their anger, something or someone to blame for their suffering. Vollmer considers this and decides to heed the stranger’s advice.
            Weeks later, Vollmer stands before a packed meeting hall selling hatred to an anxious crowd. They listen with hopeful enthusiasm as the young man at the pulpit promises them solutions to their problems. Vollmer’s movement has finally gained an audience. The mysterious stranger’s advice has worked. Later, the stranger appears again and tells Vollmer that he needs a martyr, someone to die for his cause. Vollmer reluctantly chooses his friend Nick as the sacrifice. He tells the others in his group that Nick is a traitor and arranges for him to be murdered. Afterwards, he blames the opposition for the murder.
Ernst loses all sympathy for Vollmer and walks onto the stage during a rally. He tells the audience that Vollmer is nothing more than a frightened child who needs attention. Vollmer slaps the older man across the face. After the rally is over the stranger appears again and reveals himself to be Adolf Hitler. He tells Vollmer that he must kill Ernst. Vollmer, now nothing more than a puppet, follows orders and races to Ernst’s apartment. Vollmer shoots the old man, killing his lifelong father figure.
The police arrive shortly afterwards to arrest Vollmer for Nick’s murder. Vollmer flees into the streets but is fatally shot by officers. On the wall behind him the shadow of Adolf Hitler quietly slips away to another place.

Rod Serling’s Closing Narration:

“Where will he go next, this phantom of another time, this resurrected ghost of a previous nightmare? Chicago? Los Angeles? Miami, Florida? Vincennes, Indiana? Syracuse, New York? Any place, every place, where there’s hate, where’s there’s prejudice, where there’s bigotry, he’s alive. He’s alive so long as these evils exist. Remember that when he comes to your town. Remember it when you hear his voice speaking out through others. Remember it when you hear a name called, a minority attacked, any blind, unreasoning assault on a people or any human being. He’s alive because through these things we keep him alive.”

Commentary: 


            Rod Serling’s second script for the fourth season concerns a naïve and frustrated young man who peddles hate and prejudice as the leader of a small political organization in 1963. Serling’s disdain for any and all forms of bigotry and racism is well-documented and features prominently in many of his scripts for The Twilight Zone, notably the first season episodes "Judgment Night" and "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street," the second season episode "The Shelter," and the third season episode "Deaths-Head Revisited." Perhaps Serling's most powerful exploration of the theme is the final segment of the Night Gallery pilot film (1969), "The Escape Route," which finds a Nazi war criminal living under an assumed identity in South America. When a concentration camp survivor recognizes the Nazi, it sends the villain spinning into a terrifying world of supernatural justice. Serling adapted his own novella for the segment, taken from his 1967 collection The Season to Be Wary (Little, Brown). That collection also included another powerful tale of bigotry, "Color Scheme," inspired by an anecdote from Sammy Davis, Jr. It is also worth noting here that the first segment of Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983), commonly referred to as "Time Out," written and directed by John Landis, contains many of the same powerful themes as Rod Serling at his most acerbic. Unfortunately, that segment is best known today for the horrific accidental deaths of actor Vic Morrow and two small children during a botched special effects sequence of the production.
            Serling explored fascism and the Third Reich numerous times, but the conflict typically took place in a world far removed from that of the average American television viewer. In “He’s Alive” Serling explores the threat of a neo-fascist movement in contemporary America, organized and perpetrated by Americans. While this premise is certainly daring and unusual for its time, certain unconvincing aspects of the script and production, including a poorly disguised Curt Conway as the ghost of Adolf Hitler, render this episode flat and underwhelming in places.
            As previous writers have noted, “He’s Alive” was met with immediate controversy upon its initial broadcast. As Hal Erikson recounts in his article “All the Little Hitlers" (Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine, Aug, 1986), CBS was flooded with letters from every perspective, including viewers angry at having to endure the hateful rhetoric spouted by Peter Vollmer and prominent hate groups praising the episode for the same reason. The Indianapolis Star accused Serling of focusing on out-of-touch, irrelevant issues like Nazis and fascism when communism was clearly a bigger threat to American society. Serling wrote an angry response to the editor of the paper causing the editor to backtrack and claim the article was meant to be satirical. 

           Serling anticipated an intense response even before the episode went into production. Neo-fascism was not a new concept in 1963 but it had very rarely been seen on network television (perhaps some of our readers more knowledgeable about television history can tell us if this is the first appearance of the subject matter in the medium). After submitting his script to network censors, CBS informed Serling and producer Herbert Hirschman that several changes needed to be made before the episode would be allowed to air. Vollmer’s group could not be mentioned by name nor could they be recognizably tied to any existing political organizations. Although Vollmer's group displays many of the tactics and ideals of the former National Socialist Party, they could not refer to themselves, or be referred to, as Nazis. Nazi propaganda, including swastikas, were visibly limited in the episode. Serling was forced to substitute a burning torch held at arms for the Nazi swastika in the episode. The only time Vollmer's group is referred to as Nazis is in the scene in which Nick’s body is found pinned with a note which reads “good little Nazi" (see image above). In the scene where Vollmer first meets Hitler, swastikas can briefly be seen in Vollmer’s eyes moments before he approaches the window, an unsubtle hint of the mysterious stranger’s identity. Also, Serling changed his protagonist’s last name from Collier to Vollmer due to the fact that there were prominent Nazis and neo-fascists with that name.
            Serling was apparently quite fond of the script for “He’s Alive” and initially had high hopes for the production. Upset that a scene was edited (for time) in which Vollmer, moments after Hitler’s big reveal, flees the ghostly figure in panic, running wildly through the streets only to be repeatedly stopped by a series of symbolic omens—swastika shadows on a building, a copy of Hitler's Mein Kampf in a bookstore window, Nazi propaganda posters—Serling approached producer Herbert Hirschman about possibly expanding his unexpurgated script into a feature-length film. Serling had been attempting to get a feature-length Twilight Zone film off the ground as early as the show’s second season. This longer version would keep Vollmer as its antihero but would also feature an FBI investigator as the protagonist. Bound by the pressures of an already tight production budget, Hirschman passed on the idea of expanding the production to feature-length.
            As previously mentioned, Serling dedicated much of his writing career to fighting bigotry and intolerance in all forms. A principal reason Serling created Twilight Zone was to circumvent the network watchdogs who repeatedly censored his scripts which dealt with controversial cultural and socio-political issues. As a Jewish-American veteran of WW II, Serling possessed a particular disdain for Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime. By setting the conflict with Nazis in a contemporary American city Serling gave the episode an uncomfortable familiarity to American audiences. Like “The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street” or “The Shelter,” Serling was sending a clear message to viewers: This could happen in your town. This was a fresh approach to a theme that had been utilized many times throughout the show’s first three seasons.
While Serling provides a compelling premise, certain aspects of the plot are less believable. The most unlikely element is the fact that Vollmer, a child who was taken in and raised by a Jewish immigrant and concentration camp survivor, would grow up to idolize Adolf Hitler and other fascist leaders. The viewer is given little indication of the seeds from which Vollmer's racial hatred grew. It is also hard to believe that Vollmer would not immediately recognize Hitler’s highly documented methods for manipulating a crowd and thus early on realize the nature of his manipulator. Interesting enough, in the Twilight Zone Radio Drama adaptation of the episode, Vollmer recognizes Hitler as soon as he meets him, though the Nazi leader's name is kept from the listener until the end of the play.
         The character of Peter Vollmer was possibly inspired by George Lincoln Rockwell, a decorated WWII veteran who rose to prominence as the founder and commander of the American Nazi Party in 1959. Later, Rockwell served as the leader of the World Union of National Socialists. Rockwell, a highly impressionable religious zealot who drove a Volkswagen "Hate Bus" decorated with white supremacist symbols to disrupt civil rights gatherings, was fatally shot by a former member of his party in 1967. 

        Peter Vollmer is portrayed by American actor Dennis Hopper (1936-2010), one of the more notable performers in the Twilight Zone's galaxy of "before they were stars." Hopper was an actor, writer, director, photographer, activist, counter-cultural icon, and one of the most eclectic and beloved artists in American popular culture. His career spanned nearly six decades and saw him at the center of numerous artistic and social movements during the latter half of the twentieth century. Stubbornly unconventional and at times professionally handicapped by substance abuse issues and a tumultuous personal life, Hopper managed to stay culturally relevant all of his life.
            While still in his teens, Hopper was put under contract to Warner Bros where he first met James Dean, an actor whom Hopper greatly admired. He appeared in two films with Dean, Rebel Without a Cause (1955) and Giant (1956). Afterwards, Hopper moved to New York where he continued to appear in films and on television. Hopper came out of the method school of acting in New York. He trained under Stella Adler and Lee Strassberg at the Actor’s Studio. He was also an admirer of Montgomery Clift, who is considered a model of 20th century method acting. When Hopper appeared in "He's Alive," he was suffering under a blacklisting in Hollywood after getting into a fight with director Henry Hathaway on the set of From Hell to Texas (1958). He was subsequently dropped from his Warner Bros contract. Ironically, Hopper experienced a comeback after being asked to appear in Hathaway’s film The Sons of Katie Elder (1965).
            In 1957 Hopper appeared in Gunfight at the O.K. Corral and also played Napoleon Bonaparte in Irwin Allen’s The Story of Mankind. Hopper first met actor Vincent Price while making the latter film. The two actors formed a close friendship that lasted until Price’s death in 1993.
            The 1960’s saw Hopper’s film career fade into virtual nonexistence for much of the decade. He managed to land small parts in big budget films like the aforementioned The Sons of Katie Elder (1965) and Stuart Rosenberg’s Cool Hand Luke (1967). He kept afloat by accepting roles on television. In 1963 Twilight Zone producer Herbert Hirschman made the inspired choice of hiring Hopper to play Vollmer, the naive young man who becomes the victim of his own twisted ideology. While Hopper's performance can come across as over-the-top there is little dispute that it remains one of the more powerful performances in a show filled with such performances.
            As the 1960’s pushed on Hopper became increasingly more involved in the counter-culture movement. He became friends with activists and celebrities and spoke out against the conflict in Vietnam. He became friends with director Roger Corman and appeared in Corman’s LSD-inspired cult film The Trip in 1967. The film starred Peter Fonda and was written by Jack Nicholson. Hopper became close friends with both actors and in 1969, he and Fonda co-wrote a screenplay with Dr. Strangelove screenwriter Terry Southern. The resultant film, Easy Rider, is about two cocaine-dealing twenty-somethings (Fonda and Hopper) on a motorcycle trek across America. Hopper made his directorial debut with the film which also featured Nicholson in a career-making performance. Hopper and Fonda financed much of the film from their own pockets. Many historians consider the film, which boldly saw all three of its free-spirited heroes murdered before the conclusion, to be a symbolic representation of the rise and fall of the counter-culture movement of the 1960’s. Whether it was a conscious decision by the screenwriters or just opportune timing, the film was one of a handful of cultural events that signified the idealism of the counter-culture was over. It won numerous awards and spear-headed the independent film movement of the 1970’s.
            After the success of Easy Rider and a role in the acclaimed western True Grit (1969), Hopper’s film career appeared to be back on track, although he would appear mainly in independent films throughout the next decade. In 1979, at the height of a highly publicized cocaine addiction, Hopper played a neurotic Vietnam War photojournalist living in a tribal Cambodian prison under the rule of a mentally unsound military colonel in Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now. Hopper worked with Coppola again in 1983 when he played actor Matt Dillon’s father in Rumble Fish. 1986 was perhaps Hopper’s defining year as an actor as he appeared in a whopping seven films and delivered several of his most well-known performances. With Hopper newly sober, director David Lynch cast him as gas-huffing psychopath Frank Booth in Blue Velvet. This is considered by many to be his finest performance. He also appeared in the basketball film Hoosiers alongside Gene Hackman, a performance which earned Hopper an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Hopper also played chainsaw-wielding Lieutenant ‘Lefty’ Enright in Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 that same year. Other notable roles followed. In 1992 Hopper appeared in Tony Scott’s True Romance, which was screenwriter Quentin Tarantino’s first professional sale. In 1994 Hopper played explosives expert Howard Payne who terrorizes Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock in the action thriller Speed.
            Hopper directed a total of seven feature films during his career, most of them in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. His most directorial effort, other than Easy Rider, is the 1988 drama Colors about gang violence in East Los Angeles.
Hopper was also an accomplished photographer. He primarily shot portraits, usually of celebrity friends and various public figures, but he was also known for shooting images of contemporary popular culture as well. He was a regular contributor to several magazines including Vogue and he also published several collections of his photographic work. Hopper continued acting almost until the end, appearing mostly on television. Cancer claimed his life in May of 2010. He was 74.
Ludwig Donath

Ludwig Donath (1900-1967), who portrayed the sympathetic and tragic character Ernst Ganz, was an Austrian-born Jew who was ironically, and repeatedly, cast as a Nazi throughout his career. He portrayed Adolf Hitler on film several times. Donath perfected his craft on the Berlin stage but returned to his native Vienna when Hitler rose to power. He made his American film debut in 1942 and was destined to repeatedly play a German “heavy” during his prolific film and television career. He died of cancer in 1967. 

Despite its relatively minor flaws of narrative logic and convincing production, it is clear that Rod Serling was more than willing to forego a concentration on these traditional aspects to focus on the important and urgent message he wished to convey. Serling's powerful words combined with Dennis Hopper's striking performance ensure that "He's Alive" is an episode few, if any, viewers will come away from unaffected. In light of certain recent events in such American cities as Charleston, SC and Charlottesville, VA, it unfortunately remains an episode with a potent relevancy today. For this reason, “He’s Alive” must be rated above the average offering on Twilight Zone. 

Grade: B

Grateful acknowledgment is made to the following:

--The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic by Martin Grams, Jr. (OTR Publishing, 2008)

--The Twilight Zone Companion, Second Edition, by Marc Scott Zicree (Silman-James Press, 1992)

--“All the Little Hitlers” by Hal Erickson, Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine Vol. 6, No. 3 (August, 1986). Editor: Michael Blaine

--“He’s Alive” original teleplay by Rod Serling published in two parts in Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine, August & October, 1986 issues (vol. 6, no. 3 & vol. 6, no. 4), Editor: Michael Blane

--Hollywood Hellraisers: The Wild Lives and Fast Times of Marlon Brando, Dennis Hopper, Warren Beatty, and Jack Nicholson by Robert Sellers (Skyhorse Publishing, 2010).

--Dennis Hopper: Create (or Die) directed by Henning Lohner and Ariane Rlecker for Hot Spots (ARTE TV, 2003)

--The Twilight Zone Museum (twilightzonemuseum.com)

--The Internet Movie Database (imdb.org)

Notes: 
Curt Conway as Adolf Hitler

--Stuart Rosenberg also directed the first season episode “I Shot an Arrow into the Air” and the fourth season episode “Mute.” He also directed the fifth season Alfred Hitchcock Presents episodes "Dead Weight," scripted by TZ writer Jerry Sohl from a story by Herb Golden, and "Backward, Turn Backward," scripted by TZ writer Charles Beaumont from a story by Dorothy Salisbury Davis.
--Paul Mazursky also appeared in the first season episode “The Purple Testament” and the third season episode “The Gift.”
--Jay Adler also appeared in the third season episode "The Jungle."
--Bernard Fein also appeared in the first season episode "The Four of Us Are Dying."
--Curt Conway also appeared in Serling’s short-lived western series The Loner in the episode “The Trial in Paradise.”
--“He’s Alive” was adapted as a Twilight Zone Radio Drama starring Marshall Allman.

--BD & JP

Monday, September 17, 2018

Reading Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine, Part 10

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

Volume 1, number 10 (January, 1982; Christmas issue) 

Cover Art: Carl Chaplin

TZ Publications, Inc.

 President & Chairman: S. Edward Orenstein
Secretary/Treasurer: Sidney Z. Gellman
Executive Vice-Presidents: Leon Garry, Eric Protter
Executive Publisher: S. Edward Orenstein
Publisher: Leon Garry
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 Asst.: Doreen Carrigan
Director, Marketing and Creative Services: Rose-Marie Brooks
Public Relations Manager: Jeffrey Nickora
Accounting Mgr.: Chris Grossman
Circulation Director: William D. Smith
Circulation Assistant: Janice Graham
Western Newsstand Consultant: Harry Sommer
Advertising Manager: Rachel Britapaja
Adv. Production Manager: Marina Despotakis
Advertising Representatives: Barney O'Hara & Associates, Inc. 

Contents:

--In The Twilight Zone: "The sunsets were red . . ." by T.E.D. Klein
--Other Dimensions: Books by Theodore Sturgeon
--Other Dimensions: Screen by Gahan Wilson
--TZ Interview: Frank Belknap Long
--"Influencing the Hell Out of Time and Teresa Golowitz" by Parke Godwin
--"Miss Mouse and the Fourth Dimension" by Robert Sheckley
--"Dream Along With Me" by Reginald Bretnor
--"My Most Memorable Christmas" by Rod Serling
--"Lost and Found" by Connie Willis
--TZ Screen Preview: Ghost Story by Robert Martin
--The Essential Writers: J. Sheridan LeFanu by Mike Ashley
--Required Reading: "An Account of Some Strange Disturbances in Aungier Street" by J. Sheridan LeFanu 
--"Of Sleds and Forty Winters" by Vic Johnson
--"The Autumn Visitors" by Frank Belknap Long
--"Final Version" by John Morressy
--Show-by-Show Guide: TV's Twilight Zone: Part Ten by Marc Scott Zicree
--TZ Classic Teleplay: "The Night of the Meek" by Rod Serling
--Looking Ahead: In February's TZ 

--In the Twilight Zone: "The sunsets were red . . ." by T.E.D. Klein

-Klein's editorial space is his typical rundown of the issue's contents, including capsule biographies of the issue's contributors accompanied by thumbnail images of the writers.

--Other Dimensions: Books by Theodore Sturgeon

-This is Sturgeon's final appearance as the reviewer for the magazine. Robert Sheckley will take over next issue and TZ's review column will field an impressive list of contributors over the course of the magazine's run, including Karl Edward Wagner, Thomas M. Disch, E.F. Bleiler, and Edward Bryant.

Here's a quick look at the books Sturgeon reviews, in the reviewer's words:

-Oath of Fealty by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
"The whole thing is cast in an exciting, swift, and suspenseful narrative - all in all, a fine reading experience."

-Wild Seed by Octavia Butler
"Written with power, passion, and compassion, it is, as well, as unique a story as this field has yet produced."

-Tales from the Nightside by Charles L. Grant
". . . a fine collection of his own work, with a Stephen King introduction and striking drawings by Andrew Smith - the kind of book (like all of the Arkham product) that is a pleasure to have and to hold."

- Starship and Haiku by Somtow Sucharitkul
". . . enjoy this book, with its fascinating suggestion that the great whales produced manlike creatures who infiltrated and interbred with the Japanese and produced their preoccupations with beauty and with death."

-Other Stories and The Attack of the Giant Baby by Kit Reed
"Not since Margaret St. Clair has there been so deft and unpredictable a storyteller. In quality her stories vary from excellent all the way down to good."

-The Keep by F. Paul Wilson
"If you like big moody Gothics, you'll love this one."

-The Former King by Adam Corby
"You've seen it before, of course, and you know the hero always wins. But Corby has the gift; he keeps you wondering when you know you needn't."

-A Dream of Kinship by Richard Cowper
". . . transplant of medieval England into the thirtieth century, replete with the clash of arms and the whispers of intrigue, as the "Kinsmen" strive to sustain a rebirth of faith."

-Quas Starbrite by James R. Berry
". . . just right for the Star Wars trade, or maybe I mean Galactica."

-Hot Time in Old Town by Mike McQuay
". . . is exactly what its cover proclaims it to be: the adventures of a twenty-first century hardheeling private eye."

-Unsilent Night by Tanith Lee
"Between its hard covers are two short stories, ten poems, and one perfectly gorgeous portrait photograph. I rather liked the stories; I found the poetry to be undisciplined."

Here is Sturgeon's farewell message to readers of the magazine:
"I have enjoyed riding TZ's masthead more than I have words or space to convey. You have a good book here, with a good editor; long may they wave. As for me, I'm going to apply my energies and attentions to my own work instead of others'. I have a novel going (for the first time in more than twenty years); the working title is Star Anguish. I do hope you will like it."

-Star Anguish never appeared though Sturgeon's long-gestating novel Godbody appeared posthumously in 1986. Sturgeon died on May 8, 1985.

--Other Dimensions: Screen by Gahan Wilson 

-Wilson reviews the 1981 adult animated fantasy film Heavy Metal, directed by Gerald Potterton from a script by Dan Goldberg & Len Blum. The film is based on material from the American illustrated fantasy magazine of the same name, itself modeled upon the French magazine Métal Hurant.

-Unfortunately for those who enjoy Heavy Metal, Wilson's review is largely unfavorable. It is important to remember that a feature-length animated film for adult audiences was a relatively recent development in the U.S. Wilson feels that fantasy and animation should go well together but rarely does, even in the coveted Disney films, though he does hold these as the standard for success. A radically alternative film like Heavy Metal had virtually no chance of measuring up to that standard. Heavy Metal is by no means a perfect film, or even an entirely successful one, but it is not unreasonable to point to Heavy Metal as the beginnings of the mature animated film in the U.S. 

-Wilson draws upon the rich field of cartoons and animation ranging from newspaper comics to early short subjects like Betty Boop to field his comparison of what Heavy Metal intends to be and what it ultimately becomes: an overly commercial product too eager to please its audience. It is a surprisingly dismissive review from Wilson, himself a talented, respected, and alternative cartoonist. Wilson concludes his review in this way: "I wish the whole picture had been handled better. It could have been a classic of its kind and an inspiration to animators of the future. As it is, the thing is only distasteful. The really unfortunate aspect of it is that, by being unable to convey the magazine's genuine naïve and somewhat crude charm, all that comes through are the magazine's aspects - the juvenile humor, the endless sadomasochism, the silly plots - and you end up with an icky movie." 

--TZ Interview: Frank Belknap Long

"On Literature, Lovecraft, and the Golden Age of 'Weird Tales.'"

-This is a fantastic interview for readers with a taste for the classic era of American weird fiction, exemplified in the pages of Weird Tales magazine. Long (1901-1994) was there at the very beginning and his career somewhat mirrors that of his friend & mentor, H.P. Lovecraft, who, as a subject, takes up a large portion of the interview.

-Like Lovecraft, Long developed his craft in the amateur journalism publications of the day before moving into the pulps with tales of horror and SF. Long was enormously prolific but it may surprise readers to learn that he wrote far more SF than weird fiction. He is, however, largely remembered today for his weird tales, particularly the few "Cthulhu Mythos" tales he wrote in homage to/imitation of Lovecraft's fictional universe. The most notable of these is "The Hounds of Tindalos," which appeared in the March, 1929 issue of Weird Tales. The tale was the title story of Long's 1946 Arkham House volume, a book upon which Long's reputation rests. Another, earlier, Mythos tale, "The Space Eaters," from the July, 1928 issue of Weird Tales, was adapted for television on the syndicated anthology program Monsters by writer/director Robert T. Megginson (1991).

-The interview takes a long and pleasant trip through Long's entire career with much time spent on the amateur journalism, the Weird Tales circle, & the then-current resurgence of interest in Long's work with such volumes as The Rim of the Unknown (1972), The Early Long (1975), & the poetry volume, In Mayan Splendor (1977). Long's presence in the magazine continues later in the issue with a new story, "The Autumn Visitors." 

--"Influencing the Hell Out of Time and Teresa Golowitz" by Parke Godwin 

Illustrated by Anna Rich

"He was a most unlikely hero: a horny young man with an old man's soul and the devil for a sidekick!" 


-An aging man strikes a deal with the devil to return to the glory of his youth and have sex with the young woman who transfixed him at the time. Grade: B 


-This is a playful and enjoyable story from Godwin (1929-2013) which works upon the established tropes of the deal-with-the-devil story to produce a tale of redemption and honest truth about oneself. In his travels to the past, the old/young man discovers that the young woman he thought he desperately wanted is actually a rather sad and lonely girl who, to his old man's eyes, is not as attractive as he remembered. Instead, he finds himself saving the titular character, a physically unattractive outcast, from suicide once he discovers her amazing singing voice. If the plot sounds like an episode from the revival TZ series it's because the story was adapted for the series as "Time and Teresa Golowitz" by writer Alan Brennert & director Shelley Levinson, broadcast July 10, 1987.  

-Godwin's work in SF yielded a World Fantasy Award in 1982 for his novella, "The Fire When It Comes," from the May, 1981 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. "Influencing the Hell Out of Time and Teresa Golowitz" was included in The Year's Best Fantasy Stories: 9, ed by Arthur Saha (1983) and collected in Godwin's 1984 collection The Fire When It Comes. Editor Marvin Kaye, who collaborated with Godwin on two novels, included the story in his 1987 anthology Devils & Demons: A Treasury of Fiendish Tales, Old and New. 

--"Miss Mouse and the Fourth Dimension" by Robert Sheckley 

Illustrated by Marty Blake

"Never underestimate the power of a woman - especially when it's raised to a power of four!"

-An ambitious experiment with contacting an alternate dimension goes awry when a woman's affections become involved. Grade: C

-Robert Sheckley (1928-2005) returns to the pages of the magazine with this short and clever story. Sheckley is remembered for his witty, wry short stories and this one is typical of his output if a bit less effective than his best. The story was included in Sheckley's 1984 collection, Is That What People Do? & reprinted in Mathenauts: Tales of Mathematical Wonder, ed Rudy Rucker (1987). 

--"Dream Along With Me" by Reginald Bretnor 

Illustrated by William Casey

"Her love was unnatural and forbidden, the penalty dreadful . . . and divine"

-An aging cleaning lady on the outskirts of society discovers the joys and horror of being loved by a deity. Grade: B

-Bretnor (1911-1992), born in Russia as Alfred Reginald Bretnor, fuses the ordinary tale of a lonely working-class woman with the Greek myth of Semele, mother of Dionysus and mate of Zeus who, in some versions of the legends, was consumed in fire after mating with the god. In Bretnor's version, an old woman is revisited by a vision of her youth which manifest itself in her dreams and consumes her in fire in an incident interpreted by those who find her charred remains as an act of spontaneous combustion.

-Bretnor enjoyed a long SF career anchored by his saga of Ferdinand Feghoot, which ran for decades in the SF magazines. "Dream Along With Me" has not been reprinted since its original appearance in the magazine.

--"My Most Memorable Christmas" by Rod Serling
Illustrated by Annie Alleman

"The Twilight Zone's creator remembers a time when two simple words transformed the world."

-This previously unpublished short memoir by Serling during his time with the 511 Parachute Regiment during WWII is a nice piece of nostalgia about the hard scrabble of the war and the simple reassuring nature of the words "It's Christmas" as it is passed down the line during a march. Carol Serling writes in a brief foreword: "When he wrote this, he was a young, newly-returned-home soldier. It is admittedly unsophisticated and ingenuous, but at Christmas there's always room for a little extra sentiment. And I suggest that the story was not only addressed to the men of the 511th, but to all of us who approach this holiday season with hope and faith in the future." The memoir was reprinted in the magazine's only annual volume: Great Stories from Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine (1982). 


--"Lost and Found" by Connie Willis 

Illustrated by Brad Hamann

"You'll know the future's drawing to an end when the past begins turning up."

-Long-lost Christian artifacts turn up at a remote school outpost in a dystopian society, signaling a coming apocalypse. Grade: B

-Connie Willis (1945- ), even at this early stage of her career, is so very talented, intelligent, and ambitious that her fiction is instantly engaging even if the reader finishes the story not quite satisfied with how the pieces eventually came together. Such is the case with this story which has the texture of a dream and the seriousness of vision displayed by the best SF of the period. The story was reprinted Willis's 1985 collection, Fire Watch, and reprinted in Bangs and Whimpers: Stories About the End of the World, ed James Frenkel (1999).

-Willis is one of the most honored SF writers of her generation, garnering every important award in the field, most multiple times, for such novels as Doomsday Book (1992) & Blackout (2010). Many consider Willis the finest SF novelist of the last thirty years. It is nice to see her appearance with an early story in the pages of TZ. 

--TZ Screen Preview: Ghost Story by Robert Martin

Illustrated with stills from the film.

"Peter Straub's novel about a shape-changing demoness has undergone some shape-changes of its own on the way to the screen. TZ's Robert Martin covers the transformation."

-Based on Peter Straub's (1943- ) 1979 bestseller, Ghost Story, the 1981 film, is now generally viewed as a missed opportunity to bring literate horror by one of the field's finest contributors to the medium of film. Despite its excellent cast of veteran actors and still-impressive makeup effects by Dick Smith, the film is regarded as a novelty at best and a butchering of a seminal novel in the genre at worst. Either way, this is a thorough rundown of the production of the film from veteran genre journalist, and Fangoria editor, "Uncle" Bob Martin. The article includes interview snippets with Straub, members of the cast, the director, and the producer, all framed by full-color images from the film. 

--The Essential Writers: J. Sheridan LeFanu by Mike Ashley 

"Introducing the shy, reclusive Dubliner whose imagination was haunted by crawling hands, malevolent monkeys, and vampire temptresses."

-This is another excellent essay by veteran genre authority Mike Ashley (1948- ) in an engaging series on the essential writers in the horror/supernatural field. Sheridan LeFanu, born in Dublin (1814-1873), is more essential than most. Many consider him to be the European equivalent of Edgar Allan Poe in terms of influence and ingenuity. LeFanu created the vampire thriller as we know it and largely built the foundation upon with the English ghost story was built. Though LeFanu and Poe have much in common, LeFanu was more willing to engage the supernatural to achieve his effects. LeFanu's supernatural stories, such as the harrowing "Green Tea" or the influential vampire tale "Carmilla," remain effective today. Mike Ashley gives a full account of LeFanu's life, with insights into several of LeFanu's notable tales. This is essential reading for fans of classic supernatural fiction. 

--"An Account of Some Strange Disturbances in Aungier Street" by J. Sheridan LeFanu
Illustrated by José Reyes 


"Stoke the fire, mull some wine, and usher in the Christmas season the way the Victorians did, with this classic haunted-house tale by a master of the form."

-Two medical students move in to an old home in Dublin and are immediately beset by the vengeful ghost of the "Hanging Judge" who mysteriously died in the home some years before. Grade: B

-This 1853 tale will strike readers as a typical haunted house tale, related in a straight-forward way with all the hallmarks of the genre. The two students are harassed in a series of encounters with the "Hanging Judge" during the late hours of the night between sleeping and wakefulness. After independently suffering for a time, the students come together with twin tales of ghostly encounters and decide to immediately leave. It is suggested that the haunting continues as the narrator relates the misfortunes of those who later took up residency in the home. This tale was reworked for LeFanu's 1872 story, "Mr. Justice Harbottle," which itself inspired Bram Stoker's 1891 tale, "The Judge's House."

-"An Account of Some Strange Disturbances in Aungier Street" was first published in Dublin University Magazine (Dec, 1853). It was not collected until M.R. James, perhaps the master of the English ghost story, compiled the posthumous volume, Madam Crowl's Ghost and Other Tales of Mystery (1923). Montague Summers included the tale in The Supernatural Omnibus (1931), and it has been reprinted a number of times in ghostly-themed anthologies. 

--"Of Sleds and Forty Winters" by Vic Johnson

Illustrated by E.T. (Broeck) Steadman

"A tale of age and everlasting youth, of the timelessness of newly fallen snow."

-A father takes his son sledding near the father's boyhood home and experiences a disorienting slippage in time. Grade: C

-This will be an engaging tale for TZ fans for no other reason than it resembles so many TZ stories about age and youthfulness, of going back in time, and the ways in which memory and nostalgia can capture the mind. In this way it will recall for the reader such TZ episodes as "Walking Distance," "Static," and "Kick the Can," all of which concern themselves with people who have passed the age of youthfulness and long to return to the simpler time of their younger days. The story is really a vignette and so must achieve in atmosphere what it lacks the length to achieve in narrative force. The story generally succeeds in doing so, including an unnerving sequence in which the father seems to lose memory of his adult life for a few moments before his young son can pull him back into the here and now. The story has not been reprinted since its appearance in TZ and Vic Johnson seems to have begun and ended his SF writing with the tale. 

--"The Autumn Visitors" by Frank Belknap Long 

Illustrated by Chris Pelletiere

"A brand new tale of love and transcendence by the subject of this month's TZ interview."

-An aging couple encounter interdimensional beings while secluded at their beachfront home after the summer tourists have departed. Grade: C

-This is an interesting and, one feels, a personal tale from the veteran writer though it is not as moving as Long intended it to be. The setup is fascinating: the narrator's wife discovers a piece of driftwood shaped like a child's doll and brings it back to their beach house. Later in the night the narrator is awakened to small sounds in the house and encounters a beautiful girl child reaching for the driftwood doll kept on a high mantle. The child flees and is bodily taken away down the beach by two adult figures. In the story's most jarring moment, Long stops a chase sequence to demonstrate the telepathic abilities of the strange visitors, whose physical touch can incinerate flesh, as the narrator finds out when he witnesses his dog incinerated. The story ends with unconvincing hopefulness in which the narrator and his wife are inspired by their encounter with the "others" to try and have a child of their own.

-"The Autumn Visitors" was collected in the huge retrospective volume, Masters of the Weird Tale: Frank Belknap Long (Centipede Press, 2010), which includes an introduction by Long's fellow contributor to this issue of TZ, Connie Willis. 

--"Final Version" by John Morressy

Illustrated by Nicola Cuti

"God help us, it's another Adam-and-Eve story - and at long last, one that makes sense!"

-A man and woman defiantly confront their creator over the eating of forbidden fruit. Grade: C

-As the heading indicates, Adam-and-Eve tales are groan-inducing among SF readers. The Twilight Zone committed itself to a dreadful example of the story type with the fifth season episode, "Probe 7 - Over and Out." Morressy takes a crack at the cliché and generally comes out on top with this fable-like vignette concerning the archetypal Adam and Eve (unnamed in the story) who eat of the forbidden fruit and then refuse to bow before the wrath of their creator over the nonsensical (and unjust) situation of tempting for no other cause than to elicit slavish devotion in return. The story also plays into the larger subgenre of religious SF which was very much in vogue at the time this story appeared as compared to its relative scarcity today. "Final Version" was reprinted in 100 Great Fantasy Short Short Stories, ed Martin H. Greenberg, Isaac Asimov, & Terry Carr (Doubleday, 1984).

--Show-by-Show Guide: TV's Twilight Zone: Part Ten by Marc Scott Zicree

-Zicree, author of The Twilight Zone Companion, which recently saw release of an expanded 3rd edition, returns with his episode guide to the original series. Zicree covers the following episodes in this installment, all of which we have covered here in the Vortex: "A Piano in the House," "To Serve Man," "The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank," "The Fugitive," "Little Girl Lost," "Person or Persons Unknown," & "The Gift." 

--TZ Classic Teleplay: "The Night of the Meek" by Rod Serling

Illustrated with publicity stills from the episode.

-Here is the original teleplay of the fan-favorite holiday episode from series creator Rod Serling. You can read Brian's review here.

--Looking Ahead: In February's TZ

-Next month we have Robert Sheckley's first installment as the books reviewer, Gahan Wilson's reviews of the films Polyester and Strange Behavior, and a new column on music by Jack Sullivan. We'll be looking at stories by Charles L. Grant, Richard Christian Matheson, Gardner Dozois & Jack Dann, George Alec Effinger, and others. Filmmaker Wes Craven is the interview subject, James Verniere previews Craven's film Swamp Thing, and Stephen DiLauro & Don Hamerman look at "The Gargoyles of Gotham." The issue is rounded out by Marc Scott Zicree's continuing guide to the original series and Rod Serling's classic TZ teleplay for "A Stop at Willoughby." See you next time!

-JP