Monday, December 11, 2017

"Young Man's Fancy"

The late Mrs. Henrietta Walker (Helen Brown)
“Young Man’s Fancy”
Season Three, Episode 99
Original Air Date: May 11, 1962

Cast:
Virginia Lane Walker: Phyllis Thaxter
Alex Walker: Alex Nicol
Mr. Wilkinson: Wallace Rooney
Henrietta Walker: Helen Brown
Young Alex Walker: Ricky Kelman

Crew:
Writer: Richard Matheson (original teleplay)
Director: John Brahm
Producer: Buck Houghton
Production Manager: Ralph W. Nelson
Director of Photography: George T. Clemens
Art Direction: George W. Davis and Phil Barber
Set Direction: H. Web Arrowsmith
Assistant Director: E. Darrell Hallenbeck
Casting: Stalmaster-Lister
Editor: Jason H. Bernie
Story Consultant: Robert McDonagh
Sound: Franklin Milton and Bill Edmondson
Music: Nathan Scott
Rod Serling’s Wardrobe: Eagle Clothes
Filmed at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios.

And Now, Mr. Serling:

“Next week through the good offices of Mr. Richard Matheson, we tell you a story of a young man’s fancy which is kind of a euphemistic description of a mortal combat between the living and the dead, between the present and the past. Between Miss Phyllis Thaxter and Mr. Alex Nicol. The battleground is this old house and its front door will be open to you next week...on the Twilight Zone.”

Rod Serling’s Opening Narration:

“You're looking at the house of the late Mrs. Henrietta Walker. This is Mrs. Walker herself, as she appeared twenty-five years ago. And this, except for isolated objects, is the living room of Mrs. Walker's house, as it appeared in that same year. The other rooms upstairs and down are much the same. The time, however, is not twenty-five years ago but now. The house of the late Mrs. Henrietta Walker is, you see, a house which belongs almost entirely to the past, a house which, like Mrs. Walker's clock here, has ceased to recognize the passage of time. Only one element is missing now, one remaining item in the estate of the late Mrs. Walker: her son, Alex, thirty-four years of age and, up till twenty minutes ago, the so-called perennial bachelor. With him is his bride, the former Miss Virginia Lane. They're returning from the city hall in order to get Mr. Walker's clothes packed, make final arrangements for the sale of the house, lock it up and depart on their honeymoon. Not a complicated set of tasks, it would appear, and yet the newlywed Mrs. Walker is about to discover that the old adage 'You can't go home again' has little meaning in the Twilight Zone.”

Summary:

            Alex Walker and his wife Virginia are newlyweds about to start a life together. Virginia desperately wants to move somewhere new and start fresh. Alex is more reluctant. He wants to move into his childhood home to be around familiar things and warm memories, many of which include his late mother. Virginia cannot wait to sell the house and get out from under the scrutiny of her late mother-in-law, whose disapproval haunts Virginia even after her death.
          A real estate agent stops by the house with closing papers but Alex refuses to sign. Virginia is livid but does her best to remain calm so she can convince her husband to change his mind. However, Alex’s behavior has become increasingly neurotic. He rambles incoherently about his childhood. He wanders off without a word. She finds him several times in his old room, rummaging through childhood clothes and toys, speaking almost as if she were not there.
          However, there is another problem. Bizarre things are happening in the house. Henrietta’s record player turns on by itself, her favorite song under the needle. The grandfather clock, broken for many years, begins to chime. Virginia finds fresh baked brownies in the living room. Appliances are scattered inexplicably throughout the house. Virginia can feel Henrietta Walker’s presence in every room silently watching her.
           She decides to leave the house immediately. She makes one final attempt to persuade Alex to leave with her. On the way to his room, however, she sees Mrs. Henrietta Walker, recently deceased, standing at the top of the stairs, blocking her path. Virginia tells her that she is going to take Alex away from this horrible place and rid him of her influence. But, as she says this, Alex appears at the top of the stairs beside his mother. He tells Virginia that she is not wanted there and that she should leave. Then, in the blink of an eye, Alex is a child again. Little Alex takes one last look at his wife and then he and Henrietta disappear into his bedroom. Virginia races down the stairs and out the front door.


Rod Serling’s Closing Narration:

“Exit Miss Virginia Lane, formerly and most briefly Mrs. Alex Walker. She has just given up a battle and in a strange way retreated, but this has been a retreat back to reality. Her opponent, Alex Walker, will now and forever hold a line that exists in the past. He has put a claim on a moment in time and is not about to relinquish it. Such things do happen in the Twilight Zone.”

Commentary:

            Richard Matheson’s third and final teleplay for the third season was this bizarre and unsettling take on childhood nostalgia. Much like Reginald Rose’s season four episode “The Incredible World of Horace Ford,” Matheson uses “Young Man’s Fancy” to comment on society’s obsession with nostalgia and the longing for the freedom and blissful naiveté of youth. Instead of indulging in this fantasy he turns it on itself by souring the euphoria with an unsettling twist ending. In “Horace Ford,” Rose comments on our need to indulge in nostalgia by showing us that the past is not always the utopia we remember it to be. Here Matheson makes a similar statement by showing us that our lifelong obsession with wanting to remain young is perhaps not a healthy way to live.
            “Young Man’s Fancy” is an enjoyable episode but is not one of Matheson’s better efforts on the show. The twist in the final scene is fairly effective but the rest of the episode feels a bit slow and the shock element of the ending wears thin after repeated viewings. While none of his third season episodes are particularly terrible—a testament to his ability as a writer—Matheson’s three teleplays for this season are among the least memorable of the fourteen he wrote for the show. Ironically, Matheson probably enjoyed his most successful creative streak during seasons four and five, which many fans consider to be significantly weaker than the previous three seasons.
            “Young Man’s Fancy” looks and feels like a Richard Matheson story as it contains many of the traits that are closely associated with his fiction. By this point in his career Matheson was known for breaking established genre boundaries. Instead of adhering to the standard trappings of horror and fantasy, where characters were emotionally disconnected from the audience and the action was always a safe distance away in a world that was more or less unrecognizable to real people, Matheson placed his characters in a contemporary environment, one familiar to his audience. His characters dressed the way his readers did and spoke to one another in simple, natural conversation. Instead of setting a horror story in an isolated location far removed from the real world Matheson placed it in the neighbor’s house or at the office.
            Matheson was particularly adept at portraying twentieth century American domesticity with stark realism. Much of his early fiction centers on marriage or family interaction. In the introduction to his Collected Stories (Gauntlet Press, 2003) Matheson writes that being the child of immigrants drastically impacted his childhood. His parents moved to the United States from Norway, separately, when they were both very young. Neither spoke English or knew much about American culture so they learned to create emotional barriers between themselves and their unfamiliar environment. Each grew up believing any outside influnce to be a potential threat. This belief system continued even after they were married with three children. This was only amplified by the fact that Matheson’s father left when he was still very young. As a result Matheson and his two siblings and their mother established an extremely tight family unit in which there was rarely room for anyone outside of the family.
Apprehension towards the outside world and its unwanted influences would become the central idea running throughout nearly all of Matheson’s fiction, particularly in regards to relationships and family affairs. In many of his short stories, such as “Trespass,” “Mad House,” “Dying Room Only,” and “Button, Button,” and novels like The Shrinking Man (Gold Metal Books, 1956) and What Dreams May Come (Putnam, 1978), the protagonist’s marriage is threatened by an outside force, often by exploiting a weakness in the relationship. In a variation of this theme, one similar to “Young Man’s Fancy,” his stories “First Anniversary” and “The Wedding” both feature couples whose marriages are threatened by a spouse who turns out to be different then how he or she appears. Matheson admitted that for many years he was intimidated by the idea of marriage despite the fact that he was married at a fairly young age and remained so until his death at the age of 89. His Twilight Zone episodes “A World of His Own,” “Nick of Time,” and “Spur of the Moment” all fall under the same thematic umbrella as this episode.
Lewis Allan's The Uninvited 
           Matheson’s original ending was different from the one that made it to the screen. In his teleplay Virginia does not leave as quickly and instead follows young Alex and his mother into his bedroom, which looks exactly as it did when Alex was a boy. As she stares in disbelief the room begins to transform back into its present form. Alex and Henrietta are gone as are all of Alex’s clothes and toys. There was never a specific reason given as to why this scene was cut but it can be assumed that it was likely due to time or budget restraints. Curiously, Matheson did not seem to be bothered by the omission of this scene, which is a better ending than the one seen in the episode. His only real issue was that the mother was not scary enough. He wanted her sudden appearance on screen to be a surreal experience for the audience because until this point they had made it through almost the entire episode without ever seeing one of its main characters. He envisioned more of a shadowy, ghost-like figure similar to a famous scene in Lewis Allan’s 1944 film The Uninvited.
            The ending is still fairly effective and director John Brahm films Helen Brown in a way that manages to capture the surreal atmosphere of the moment, slowly panning up the stairs from Virginia’s point of view. It is the preceding twenty or so minutes that keep this episode from being more memorable. Not a lot happens in the episode. Having the house gradually transform around Virginia throughout the episode is a clever idea but one that is difficult to put on the screen. Since the audience has no frame of reference—no way of knowing what the house looked like while Henrietta was alive—they must rely on Phyllis Thaxter’s reactions in order to understand what is happening. Despite the fact that she delivers a great performance this gimmick begins to grow stale before the truth is revealed in the final scene.
             Thaxter was a prolific character actress during the middle of the twentieth century, mostly in supporting roles. She was, for many years, married to infamous television executive James Aubrey, who was responsible for cancelling many historically acclaimed television series, including the immensely popular anthology series Playhouse 90. Thaxter's film roles include Bewitched (1945), Come Fill the Cup (1951), and Superman (1978). She also appeared on Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour nearly a dozen times. 
             Alex Nicol is equally as impressive as the apprehensive Alex Walker. Nicol was a character actor who appeared mostly in low budget western films. He did appear in supporting roles in several more prominent westerns including Anthony Mann's The Man from Laramie (1955) and Jacques Tourneur's A Great Day in the Morning (1965). He also tried his hand at directing during the fifties and sixties. Matheson said in several interviews that while he enjoyed Nicol's performance he thought that Nicol looked far too old for the part of a 34 year-old newlywed. He was 47 when this episode was filmed.
            Nathan Scott composed original music for two episodes of The Twilight Zone, the other being the first season episode "A Stop at Willoughby." Scott was an immensely prolific composer who worked mainly in film and television. Today he is remembered for composing the music to nearly every episode of Lassie over an eleven year stretch and for his work on Dragnet and Steven Spielberg's The Color Purple (1985).
            An enjoyable but ultimately unmemorable episode, "Young Man's Fancy" feels like a good idea that was stretched a bit too thin for a twenty-four minute production. While the acting, direction, music, and script are all very well done, this one does not quite hold up to the usual Twilight Zone standards.

Grade: C

Grateful acknowledgement to:

-Richard Matheson’s The Twilight Zone Scripts Vol. 1 edited by Stanley Wiater (Gauntlet Press, 2001)

-Richard Matheson: Collected Stories edited by Stanley Wiater (Gauntlet Press, 2003)

-The Twilight and Other Zones: The Dark Worlds of Richard Matheson edited by Stanley Wiater, Matthew R. Bradley, and Paul Stuve (Citadel Press Books, 2009)

Notes:

-- Wallace Rooney also appeared in the season two episode “The Rip Van Winkle Caper” and the season four episode “In His Image.”
--Nathan Scott also composed the music for the season one episode “A Stop at Willoughby.”
--John Brahm directed 11 episodes of The Twilight Zone, more than any other director. He is also the only director to work on all five seasons of the show. Among his credits are the season one episodes “Mirror Image” and “The Four of Us Are Dying” the season two episode “Shadow Play” and the season four episode “The New Exhibit.”
--Richard Matheson wrote 14 episodes of The Twilight Zone and had two of his short stories adapted into episodes by Rod Serling. He also wrote 3 of the 4 segments of Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983). He adapted his short story “Button, Button” for an episode of the 1980’s revival of The Twilight Zone during the show’s first season but was unhappy with the segment and removed his name from it using his pseudonym, Logan Swanson, instead. He adapted an unpublished story by Rod Serling called “The Theatre” for the NBC television special Twilight Zone: Rod Serling’s Lost Classics in 1994. And he co-edited The Twilight Zone: The Original Stories with Martin Harry Greenberg and Charles G. Waugh (MJF, 1985).
--Be sure to check out the Twilight Zone Radio Drama starring Tony Plana.

-Brian

Friday, November 17, 2017

Reading Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine, part 5

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

Volume 1, Number 5 (August, 1981)

Editor: T.E.D. Klein
Cover Art: Tito Salomoni 

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 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 Newsstand Consultant: Harry Sommer
Advertising Manager: Rachel Britapaja
Advertising Production Manager: Marina Despotakis

Contents:

--In the Twilight Zone: Unnatural Resources by T.E.D. Klein
--Other Dimensions: Screen by Gahan Wilson
--Other Dimensions: Books by Theodore Sturgeon
--George Romero: Revealing the Monsters within Us by Tom Seligson
--“Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” by Reginald Bretnor
--“Tiger of the Mind” by Ron Wolfe
--“A Friend in Need” by Lisa Tuttle
--“Four” by Douglas Jenmac
--“Midas Night” by Sam Wilson
--Writing for The Twilight Zone by George Clayton Johnson
--TZ Screen Preview: Hollywood Cries Wolf!
--“The Hidden Laughter” by David Morrell
--“The Artisan” by Lori Allen
--“Identity Crisis” by James Patrick Kelly
--Dr. Van Helsing’s Handy Guide to Ghost Stories by T.E.D. Klein (as Kurt Van Helsing)
--“The Tale the Hermit Told” by Alastair Reid
--“The Man Who Couldn’t Remember” by David Curtis
--“The Next Time Around” by Paul J. Nahin
--Show-by-Show Guide: TV’s Twilight Zone, Part Five by Marc Scott Zicree
--TZ Classic Teleplay: “The Odyssey of Flight 33” by Rod Serling
--Looking Ahead: In September’s TZ

--In the Twilight Zone: Unnatural Resources by T.E.D. Klein

-As usual, Klein uses this space to provide biographical details about the contributors to the issue. Klein also addresses the mix-up on the thumbnail images of the contributors which I noted from last issue and provides the images again with the correct attribution for each. This issue features a nice mix of established names (Morrell, Kelly, Tuttle, Reid) and unknowns (Bretnor, Wolfe, Jenmac, Curtis, and Nahin) as well as two very interesting feature articles.

--Other Dimensions: Screen by Gahan Wilson

-Wilson reviews The Omen III: The Final Conflict. He gives a recap of his thoughts on the first two Omen films (the first film was directed by Twilight Zone alum Richard Donner and scored by TZ alum Jerry Goldsmith, the latter of whom won an Academy Award for his work on the film) saying that both films were enjoyable, particularly the inventively gruesome death sequences, but that the films contain an artificiality which contradicts their efforts at verisimilitude. Wilson is not so kind to The Final Conflict, finding fault in virtually every aspect of the film, particularly with the dialogue in the script, but praises the performance of Sam Neill as the adult version of the anti-Christ, Damien.

--Other Dimensions: Books by Theodore Sturgeon

-Sturgeon is back with a look at a handful of new science fiction, fantasy, and horror offerings. Here are his thoughts:

-The Cool War by Frederick Pohl
“. . . as deft a tumble into the near future as can be found anywhere.”

-Blue Adept by Piers Anthony
“I’ll state it bluntly: though I’ve always admired Piers Anthony’s competence, I never realized how serious, how penetrating, his thought could be.”

-Magic Time by Kit Reed
“. . . a sort of Disneyland of the future, where the (high) paying customers can act out their fantasies.” Sturgeon describes this novel as a better version of the films Westworld and Futureworld.

-Death of Dreaming by Jon Manchip White
“. . . derives from nothing in this world but the author’s head; if there’s another book remotely like it, I’m unaware of it.”  Interestingly, Sturgeon uses space here to criticize copyeditors who insist on frequent paragraph breaks and who begin new paragraphs with large, stylized letters. This is a practice of the magazine for which Sturgeon is writing.

-Khai of Ancient Khem by Brian Lumley
“Much explicit sex, some amusing, some disgusting, some bloody and violent.”

-The Whiskers of Hercules and The Man Who Was Scared by Kenneth Robeson
Doc Savage novels #103 and #104
“Lord, how I loved these things when I was in high school!”

-Death’s Angel by Kathleen Sky
“An authorized original Star Trek novel with a tough female as the protagonist who goes all sophomore-soft when she gets next to Captain Kirk.”

-The Entity by Frank de Felitta
“. . . about a woman who gets raped a lot by a demon lover that’s ultimately uncovered by a blast of liquid helium – all in the tradition of Stephen King.”

-Nebula Winners Fifteen edited by Frank Herbert
“. . . there are some very fine stories here. . .” 

--George Romero: Revealing the Monsters within Us by Tom Seligson

-Interview of the influential horror filmmaker who recently passed away on July 16th of this year. The interview takes us through Romero’s career up to this point, with his latest film being the urban fantasy Knightriders. Romero discusses the creation of his cult classic Night of the Living Dead and the small independent films which followed, two of which, The Crazies and Martin, have become cult films in their own right. Romero was just coming off the great success of Dawn of the Dead, a film many believe to be his best. He discusses his plans for Day of the Dead as well as Creepshow, his collaboration with Stephen King. A couple of interesting items are Romero’s mention of two additional Stephen King collaborations which never saw the light of day, a feature film of ‘Salem’s Lot (eventually filmed for television by Tobe Hooper) and The Stand, with Romero stating that King had written two drafts of a screenplay and that the two of them would not make the film unless it was completely on their own terms. Apparently, they did not reach those terms with a major studio as Romero’s The Stand remains one of the great unproduced horror films. The Stand was later adapted as a television miniseries by director Mick Garris from a teleplay by King. Romero went on to direct a feature adaptation of King’s 1989 novel The Dark Half. 

--“Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” by Reginald Bretnor

Illustration by José Reyes
“The remnants of humanity had expected a messenger from Heaven. But not everyone expected the message he brought.”

-An ecological crisis sends a rag-tag band of religious figures in search of the landing area of a prophesized group of angels. Grade: D

-This offering is a strange mixture of religious allegory and ecological disaster story that never seems to find its footing in terms of theme, setting, or characterization. In a way, it reminds one of the popular fourth season episode of The Twilight Zone, “On Thursday We Leave for Home,” in that it features a man who so loves the dying world he inhabits that he forsakes the opportunity to be rescued from certain death. The religious aspects of the story manage to be both confusing and heavy-handed and the addition of a generic trope of science fiction finds the tale ending with a thud.

-Reginald Bretnor was a prolific science fiction writer best known for his series of short stories, Through Time and Space with Ferdinand Feghoot, which appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction throughout the 1970s. Bretnor also wrote novels, poems, letters, essays, and editorials for science fiction publications. “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” was never collected in book form. Bretnor died in 1992.

--“Tiger of the Mind” by Ron Wolfe

Illustrated by Robert Morello
“You can’t see it, but it can see you . . . and it’s hungry.”

-A reporter finds a missing politician in a bar in a rough part of town and listens as the politician describes his reason for leaving his old life behind, a story involving nightmares and how those nightmares can invade reality if one invites them to do so. Grade: C

-This tale deals with a common theme seen on the original Twilight Zone series, that being dreams and the way in which dreams affect reality. Unfortunately, Wolfe uses a rather generic nightmare figure, the bogeyman with claws, instead of something more imaginative while also making a lackluster attempt at the humorous reporter story. As such, it stands as a brisk and enjoyable, if unexceptional, monster tale.

-Ron Wolfe wrote three horror novels in collaboration with John Wooley and became a frequent contributor to Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine under editor Tappan King when he provided a continuing series under the uniform title The Other Side. Wolfe published a few additional short stories in TZ Magazine and similar publications, The Horror Show, etc. “Tiger of the Mind” was reprinted in the first issue of Night Cry magazine, the digest-sized off-shoot of the TZ magazine. 

--“A Friend in Need” by Lisa Tuttle

Illustrated by A.G. Metcalf
“A chance encounter at an airport becomes an exercise in memory . . . or imagination . . . or something far stranger”

-A young woman meets another young woman while waiting for a plane at the airport. Both women soon come to realize that they remember each other as the imaginary playmates of their childhoods. Grade: A

-This is far and away the best story in the issue. Lisa Tuttle is one the most fiercely talented science fiction, fantasy, and horror writers to come out of the 1970s. Her first novel, Windhaven, from the novella “The Storms of Windhaven,” was written in collaboration with George R. R. Martin and her short stories are award-winners which make frequent appearances in “best of the year” collections. “A Friend in Need” perfectly captures the strangeness of The Twilight Zone (a character even makes a reference to the Zone when trying to puzzle out the uncanny nature of the situation). The tale plays with the nature of both reality and identity in a completely new way while also exploring themes of guilt, memory, and the innocence of childhood lost. It would have made an excellent segment of the first revival Zone television series. Although “A Friend in Need” was not adapted for the small screen, a few of Tuttle’s other stories did see adaptation on such anthology programs of the time as The Hunger, Monsters, and Deadly Nightmares. “A Friend in Need” was included in Arthur Saha’s Year’s Best Fantasy 8 as well as in Tuttle’s underrated collection, A Nest of Nightmares. Among the many awards Tuttle has won are the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, the Locus Award, the Nebula Award, and the International Horror Guild Award. A volume of Tuttle’s collected supernatural fiction, Stranger in the House, was released by Ash-Tree Press in 2010. 

--“Four” by Douglas Jenmac
Illustrated by Bob Neubecker
“In which we find a silent parking garage . . . a stalled elevator . . . and a flight of concrete steps that is also a stairway to hell.”

-A businessman gets trapped inside a parking garage of M.C. Escher-like proportions. Grade: C

-This very slight short-short is little more than an interesting diversion about a man who comes from a family line that has suffered an inordinate amount of tragedy who then finds himself trapped in an impossible parking garage and unable to escape from the 4th level. “Four” is the only speculative fiction story published by Douglas Jenmac.

--“Midas Night” by Sam Wilson

Illustrated by E.T. Steadman
“It was one of those nights when a man’s destiny could hand by the handle of a coffee cup.”

-A young man who is trapped inside a diner due to the fact that three hoodlums outside mean him harm strikes up a strange conversation with an even stranger old man who claims to rule the world. Grade: D

-After just a few issues of the Zone magazine it becomes apparent that T.E.D. Klein enjoyed tales of strange encounters in bars, deli, cafés, etc. It gets a bit tiresome and “Midas Night” is another such undistinguished tale concerning a “starving” young artist who happens to save the life of the eccentric old man who controls the world, thus ensuring the young man a life of great fortune. In his editorial, Klein describes Wilson as an occasional writer who is also an aspiring actor. Wilson published a few pieces in the 1980s and returned to writing speculative fiction in the 2000s with the novel Zodiac and a few more short stories.

--Writing for The Twilight Zone by George Clayton Johnson

Illustrated with images from Clayton Johnson-scripted episodes of The Twilight Zone, some of which are outtake photographs.

-This long essay originally served as the introduction (in slightly different form) and title to Clayton Johnson’s 1980 collection of scripts and stories, Writing for the Twilight Zone. Various bits of the essay have appeared in different places, from Clayton Johnson’s introduction to the short story “All of Us Are Dying” in editor Harry Harrison’s Author’s Choice #4 to the later collection George Clayton Johnson, Twilight Zone Scripts and Stories. The essay is a bit rambling but remains a very rewarding piece for both fans of The Twilight Zone and aspiring writers, as Clayton Johnson discusses the genesis of his major episodes (he does not discuss “Ninety Years Without Slumbering”), explains his writing process in great detail, and gives a general, and unfavorable, overview of writing for television.

--TZ Screen Preview: Hollywood Cries Wolf!
Color section of the magazine

-Building upon Gahan Wilson’s review of Joe Dante’s film The Howling from the previous issue, Fangoria editor and film commentator Robert Martin takes a look at three films which came to define 1981 as the Year of the Werewolf: Joe Dante’s The Howling, Michael Wadleigh’s The Wolfen, and John Landis’s An American Werewolf in Paris. Martin interviews all three directors and explores why the time was right for three wide-release feature films on the subject of lycanthropy and how each film differs from the other. Special effects for each film are discussed as well as the literary roots of the werewolf and some of the films (The Wolf Man, Curse of the Werewolf) which have come to define the classical cinematic mode of the theme.

-Director Michael Wadleigh, a documentary filmmaker most well-known for the film Woodstock, used The Wolfen to examine his personal obsessions with Native American mysticism, greatly diverging from Whitley Strieber’s source novel in the process. John Landis and Joe Dante both came to the subject as film fans who believed that the subject of werewolves was pliable enough to be reimagined for the 1980s in a way which spoke to modern audiences. Landis was a producer and director on Twilight Zone: The Movie, directing the first segment, “Time Out,” which remains infamous for the tragic accident which occurred during filming and took the lives of actor Vic Morrow and two young children. Joe Dante also worked on Twilight Zone: The Movie, directing the segment which reimagined the classic Zone episode “It’s a Good Life.” 

--“The Hidden Laughter” by David Morrell

Illustrated by Arthur Somerfield
“His wife had vanished, beyond all reason, beyond all understanding, and perhaps the only clue lay in the lines of a poem.”

-When his wife vanishes, a man cannot bring himself to leave the home which was the last place she visited. Grade: B

-Though this tale is an enjoyable bit of the uncanny, Morrell is trying to do an awful lot in a small space. Taking an excerpt from T.S. Eliot’s poem “Burnt Norton,” the first poem of Eliot’s Four Quartets, as his thematic springboard, Morrell presents a disappearance not to focus on grief and loss but to explore the possibility that other worlds may exist alongside the one we find ourselves inhabiting. Morrell, who lost his young son to cancer a few years later, would explore the grief and insanity of loss much more powerfully in subsequent works. Morrell is well-known for his first novel, First Blood, which became the basis for the enormously popular Rambo films. Much of Morrell’s novels are action-based tales of intrigue and masculinity but his short fiction often explores themes of dread and the supernatural. “The Hidden Laughter” is included in his first collection of stories, Black Evening: Tales of Dark Suspense, which also includes a number of award-winning and award nominated stories. Morrell’s tales of horror work best at novella-length and “The Hidden Laughter” is a bit too short to accomplish what Morrell intended. In later tales, such as “The Shrine,” “Dead Image,” or “Orange is for Anguish, Blue for Insanity,” Morrell comes into his own as a horror writer and these tales, along with those collected in Nightscape, come highly recommended. 

--“The Artisan” by Lori Allen

Illustrated by Charles Walker
“The poems were his, the flowers hers – and wasn’t that a distinction worth dying for?”

-The subjugated wife of a poet takes murderous revenge on her husband when he makes light of both her role in their marriage and her rock garden. Grade: C

-This strange yet generally effective bit of feminist horror reminds one of Charlotte Perkins Gillman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” in that it examines a crumbling marriage in which a wife is oppressed by her well-meaning but ignorant husband while the erosion of her psyche is reflected by an external factor, in this case her well-tended rock garden. The tale turns into an Alfred Hitchcock flavored offering by the end when the rock garden is disturbed to make way for a new sewer line, thus revealing the husband’s makeshift grave.

-Lori Allen wrote a handful of short science fantasy stories throughout the 1980s and 1990s, as well as two important volumes on science fiction, both in collaboration with Dick Allen, the anthology Looking Ahead: The Vision of Science Fiction, and the nonfiction study Science Fiction: Jules Verne to Ray Bradbury. 

--“Identity Crisis” by James Patrick Kelly

Illustrated by Cannone
“It isn’t easy, dealing with fame and fortune – especially when they’re somebody else’s!”

-The life of a common man begins to unravel when he is mistaken for a reclusive celebrity. Grade: B

-This is a unique and surprising study of the fluid nature of identity, as well as how personal identity is little more than the self-image we have created inside our minds. Kelly has been a continuing presence on the science fiction scene since the late 1970s, working mostly in the short story form, for which he has won the Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and Asimov Readers Awards. Kelly is also a novelist and, in collaboration with John Kessel, an anthologist of some important volumes, including Nebula Awards Showcase 2012, Feeling Very Strange: The Slipstream Anthology, and Kafkaesque: Stories Inspired by Franz Kafka.

--Dr. Van Helsing’s Handy Guide to Ghost Stories by T.E.D. Klein (as by Kurt Van Helsing)
Illustrated with images from vintage pulp magazines and periodicals
“The good professor offers our readers a short (if not quite painless) course in the literature of supernatural dread.”

-This long essay is the first part of an erudite and ambitious attempt by Klein to examine the ghost story from earliest antiquity to its greatest flowering in the late-Victorian and Edwardian periods of England and America. This initial portion looks at the tradition of “true” ghost stories as well as the earliest mention of ghosts in ancient literatures of the West and East. Klein briefly comments on the great masters of the ghost story but likely leaves the greater discussion to be had for the following installment.

-Klein had a deep interest in the classic form of the supernatural story. While attending Brown University, in Lovecraft’s town of Providence, he wrote his honors thesis on the works of H.P. Lovecraft and crafted much of his fiction around classic works of horror. His only novel, The Ceremonies, is inspired by Arthur Machen’s celebrated short story “The White People” and its earlier incarnation “The Ceremony.” Other of Klein’s stories, “The Events at Poroth Farm” and “Black Man with a Horn” bespeak of Lovecraft’s influence. Klein also wrote the notes for Kirby McCauley’s anthology of classic horror Beyond Midnight. He is the perfect host for this journey through the classic ghost story and all readers with even a passing interest in the form are suggested to partake of Klein’s knowledgeable introductory offering.

-The Twilight Zone dabbled in the classic ghost story or classic horror story more often than is perhaps realized, evident in such episodes as “Judgment Night,” “The Hitch-Hiker,” “Twenty-Two,” “Mirror Image,” “Long Live Walter Jameson,” “The Man in the Bottle,” “Long Distance Call,” “Deaths-Head Revisited,” “The Dummy,” “Night Call,” “Living Doll,” “The Masks,” and many more. The series was expert at taking a classic supernatural concept and updating it for the latter part of the 20th century. For more on the show’s connection to the ghost and horror story, read our essay on the subject.

--“The Tale the Hermit Told” by Alastair Reid
Illustrated by José Reyes

-This tale, written in verse, describes a young man seduced by a gypsy woman to drink a golden wine which contains the inhabitants of a celebratory fair, which the man carries within him for the remainder of his days. Grade: C

-Reid is clearly attempting to capture the ballad style of the old fairy tales with this amusing but light offering. Reid’s central image, the golden wine which holds the people and music of a country fair, is interesting but underdeveloped. Even so, it is a nice harkening back to an earlier style of storytelling.

-Reid is well-known as a poet and for his work translating South American writers into English. Reid’s speculative works are few and far between, with a handful of poems of fantasy finding their way into anthologies by such noted anthologist as August Derleth and Terri Windling. 

--“The Man Who Couldn’t Remember” by David Curtis

Illustrated by Frances Jetter
“Fred was an exterminator, poison was his profession. But then, one day, he glanced into the pit.”

-A termite exterminator discovers the underground lair of a mutated colony of insects and is forever altered by the experience. Grade: C

-Though I don’t think this story fits the magazine I enjoyed the gonzo quality of the horror and the bizarre nature of the supernatural element in this story. If you’re afraid of insects, this one will make you squirm. Curtis published only a few speculative short stories but is active in the field in other ways, including as an essayist and occasional cover artist. 

--“The Next Time Around” by Paul J. Nahin
Illustrated by Robert Morello
“When you’re speeding down the highway at 70 m.p.h., what better time to think about life . . . and death?”

-A man contemplates the possibility of reincarnation while traveling down a desert highway. Grade: C

-This short-short is funny and surprising but feels a little too much like an extended joke. Klein likely included the story to fill in a couple of needed pages in the issue.

--Show-by-show Guide: TV’s Twilight Zone: Part Five by Marc Scott Zicree

-Marc Scott Zicree continues his guide to the original series by providing summaries, along with Rod Serling’s opening and closing narrations, for the following season two episodes: “Dust,” “Back There,” “The Whole Truth,” “The Invaders,” “A Penny for Your Thoughts,” “Twenty-Two,” “The Odyssey of Flight 33,” “Mr. Dingle, the Strong,” and “Static,” all of which we’ve covered in our ongoing episode guide. 

--TZ Classic Teleplay: “The Odyssey of Flight 33” by Rod Serling


-The complete shooting script of Serling’s underrated second season episode about a commercial airplane with flies backwards in time. Serling brought in his older brother Robert as technical advisor on the episode and it remains one of the most technically sound production of the entire series. Read our complete review of the episode here.

--Looking Ahead: In September’s TZ

-Coming around next issue is an excellent interview with core Twilight Zone contributor Richard Matheson, accompanied by Robert Martin’s look at Matheson in the Movies, Theodore Sturgeon’s look at George Clayton Johnson’s Writing for the Twilight Zone, the special feature Forerunners of “The Twilight Zone, in which Allan Asherman looks at the early genre anthology programs, the next installment in Dr. Van Helsing’s Handy Guide to Ghost Stories, plus a clutch of short stories and the teleplay to the original series episode “Time Enough At Last.” See you back soon!

*Grateful acknowledgment is made to the Internet Speculative Fiction Database (isfdb.org)

--JP