Friday, December 31, 2021

"A Kind of a Stopwatch"


Patrick McNulty (Richard Erdman) receives a gift
from his new friend, Mr. Potts (Leon Belasco)

“A Kind of a Stopwatch”
Season Five, Episode 124
Original Airdate: October 18, 1963

Cast:

Patrick Thomas McNulty: Richard Erdman
Joe: Herbie Faye
Potts: Leon Belasco
Secretary: Doris Singleton
Mr. Cooper: Roy Roberts
Charlie: Richard Wessel
Bar Room Patron: Ken Drake
Attendant: Ray Kellogg
Television Announcer: Sam Balter
Frozen man / Close-up shots of McNulty’s hand: Robert McCord

Crew:

Writer: Rod Serling (teleplay based on an unpublished story idea by Michael D. Rosenthal and Jerry McNeely (uncredited))
Director: John Rich
Producer: Bert Granet
Director of Photography: Robert Pittack, a.s.c.
Production Manager: Ralph W. Nelson
Art Direction: George W. Davis, Walter Holscher
Film Editor: Richard Heermance, a.c.e.
Set Direction: Henry Grance, Robert R. Benton
Assistant Director: Charles Bonniwell, Jr.
Casting: Patricia Rose
Music: Van Cleave
Sound: Franklin Milton, Phillip N. Mitchell
Mr. Serling’s Wardrobe: Eagle Clothes
Filmed at MGM Studios:

And Now, Mr. Serling:

“Next time on The Twilight Zone, we probe into the element of time and present a very oddball opus entitled ‘A Kind of a Stopwatch.’ We tell the story of a man, a stopwatch, and an incredible deviation to the norm, said norm being the usual twenty-four-hour day, said deviation involving what happens when a stopwatch is pushed and everything stops, not just time. To titillate and intrigue, ‘A Kind of a Stopwatch.’ Next, on Twilight Zone.

Rod Serling’s Opening Narration:


“Submitted for your approval, or at least your analysis, one Patrick Thomas McNulty, who at age forty-one is the biggest bore on Earth. He holds a ten-year record for the most meaningless words spewed out during a coffee break. And it’s very likely that, as of this moment, he would have gone through life in precisely this manner. A dull, argumentative bigmouth who sets back the art of conversation a thousand years. I say he very likely would have except for something that will soon happen to him. Something that will considerably alter his existence, and ours. Now you think about that now because this is, the Twilight Zone.”

Summary:

           

           Patrick McNulty is an irritating motormouth with a penchant for unrealized ambitions. The world would function better if someone simply gave him a chance to fix it. He is despised by both co-workers and acquaintances but seems mostly unaware of this fact. After continuously avoiding his job duties to pitch irrelevant financial schemes to his boss, he is fired.

           Later, after managing to chase away nearly all of the clientele from his neighborhood bar, McNulty introduces himself to the only person left. Potts, an older man who seems very drunk, gifts McNulty a stopwatch and after a very confusing explanation, gets up and leaves. Joe, the owner of the bar, complains that McNulty repeatedly drives away his customers. As Joe sweeps up for the night, McNulty fiddles with his new gift. Suddenly, Joe freezes. Thinking it’s a gag, McNulty investigates and then looks at the stopwatch. He presses the button and Joe continues sweeping. McNulty presses the button again. Joe’s movements cease. He presses it again and Joe continues. Confused, he decides to leave.

             At his apartment later, McNulty continues to test the stopwatch. He clicks the button and his goldfish stops moving. He decides that he simply needs some sleep but when he get ups the next morning he tries it again with the same results. He then walks over to the window and tries the button. Traffic outside stops completely. McNulty now realizes what he has been given.

           The next day, McNulty arrives at his old job to show his formers co-workers that he finally has something worthy of their attention. After being told to leave, he clicks the stopwatch and proceeds to rearrange things in the office. Afterwards, McNulty goes to the bar to try to prove his worth but no one takes him seriously there either. He clicks the watch and the world stops. He attempts to give the bar patrons the same treatment he gave his co-workers but his hijinks go mostly unnoticed.

              Testing the limits of his new authority, McNulty decides to rob a bank. As he wheels a mountain of cash towards the front door, he loses his grip on the stopwatch and it falls to the ground. He picks it up and clicks it repeatedly but nothing happens. The people in the bank remain frozen. Stunned, he races to the office, and then to the bar, but finds the same situation everywhere he goes. Everyone is silent. Everything is still. The world has simply stopped. Patrick McNulty, the conversationalist, is now the sole inhabitant of a lifeless planet.

Rod Serling’s Closing Narration:

“Mr. Patrick Thomas McNulty, who had a gift of time. He used it and misused it, and now he’s just been handed the bill. Tonight’s tale of motion and McNulty, in the Twilight Zone.”

Commentary:

            “A Kind of a Stopwatch” is the fourth episode of the show’s final season and, while an enjoyable one, it is certainly flawed and feels like a bit of a let-down after the three stellar episodes that precede it. It’s premise, already a well-worn narrative of the genre when this episode first aired, is instantly predictable and altogether uninteresting, with a plot that frequently ignores logic. However, because of its well-executed twist ending, it has become one of the more memorable episodes from the show’s final season. It has been spoofed on The Simpsons, Futurama, Johnny Bravo, Wings, and numerous other television programs and its premise was recycled for the debut episode of the 1980’s revival series of The Twilight Zone in the segment “A Little Peace and Quiet.” It is also one of several episodes referenced by Dan Aykroyd and Albert Brooks during the prologue of Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)—it is, in fact, the episode that Brooks mistakenly insists is an episode of The Outer Limits. It’s an episode that has become an iconic part of the show but its origins went somewhat unknown for decades.

           In the early sixties, Michael D. Rosenthal was a student at the University of Wisconsin. One of his professors was a young screenwriter named Jerry McNeely. McNeely sold his first script, “The Staring Match,” to Studio One in 1957 and by the time that “A Kind of a Stopwatch” aired he had seen a dozen or so of his scripts made into episodes of various television series including Dr. Kildare, for which he eventually wrote ten episodes. Unusual for the time, McNeely chose to remain a faculty member in the university’s speech department even though he was achieving success as writer, sending in scripts through the mail and taking the occasional trip to Los Angeles to meet with agents and producers. One day in class Rosenthal pitched McNeely an idea about a stopwatch that could stop time and restart it again with the simple click of a button. Not an earth-shattering premise but one that McNeely thought that he could sell to a television series. So he pitched it to his agent with the insistence that Rosenthal receive the onscreen credit if they were able to land a sale. His agent knew Rod Serling and thought it would be well-received on The Twilight Zone so McNeely wrote a five paragraph synopsis and Bert Granet agreed to buy it for Cayuga Productions.

            This is Rosenthal’s only credit as a writer and for many years no one knew exactly who he was. Many assumed it was a pseudonym. Jerry McNeely went on to a successful career in television, writing scripts for numerous television series and later creating the ABC series Owen Marshall, Counselor at Law. He was also nominated for an Emmy for penning the CBS drama Something for Joey in 1977. While McNeely declined screen credit for “A Kind of a Stopwatch,” he did use the interaction to get on the radar of Serling and company who then hired him to adapt the Henry Slesar story “The Self-Improvement of Salvadore Ross” which aired later in the fifth season.

            McNeely’s original one-page story, reprinted in full in Martin Grams, Jr.’s The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic (OTR, 2008), differs from the episode in many ways and Serling wrote numerous drafts of the script before arriving at the story that everyone now knows. In McNeely’s version, a man buys a second-hand chronometer from a pawnshop. After discovering that the stopwatch mechanism is broken, he tinkers with it and manages to fix it only to discover that he can stop the flow of time with the click of a button. At first, he uses it to seek petty vengeance on the people who have wronged him in the past. Then he gets the idea of robbing a bank. His plan is to stop time and drive from New York to California, rob a very large, prominent bank, and then drive back to New York and restart time. His reasoning, of course, is that the money can never be traced to him and if it is he can easily prove that he was in New York the entire time. His long trip across an America suspended in time proves to be boring and lonely and he begins to miss civilized conversation. After the robbery proves successful, he decides that he will place himself into a position of political power. However, before he can achieve his goal he drops the stopwatch while time is suspended and it breaks into several dozen pieces.

                 Serling keeps many elements of McNeely’s treatment but fleshes it out into a full episode, making McNulty a motor mouth and filling the script with clever dialogue. Serling’s greatest achievement here isn’t the twist ending itself, which is both incredibly predictable and also highly reminiscent, both visually and thematically, of season one’s “Time Enough at Last” in which Burgess Meredith plays a bookworm who just wants peace and quiet so he can read and then ends up shattering his bifocals after an atom bomb wipes out most of humanity. The script’s greatest strength is the abrupt tonal shift from a light, whimsical comedy to something much darker. Although the audience never really hates Patrick McNulty, thanks mostly to Erdman’s performance, they certainly never sympathize with him, at least not until the final few moments of the episode. The sixty seconds or so that the audience witnesses Erdman’s cries to the universe for help are quite moving and leave the audience with a feeling of empathy for a character that exists, for most of the episode, as a comedic punching bag.

            The main flaw in Serling’s script is found in the character of Potts and the ambiguous origins of the magical stopwatch. McNeely’s synopsis sees the main character purchase a used stopwatch at a second-hand store, having never seen it before, which is really the perfect origin story. It renders the stopwatch completely anonymous and ignores any explanation about where it came from or how it acquired its magical features. It simply exists. As far as the audience is aware, no other living person knows about it. Serling apparently felt the need to give the stopwatch some kind of an origin so he created Potts, the inebriated man in the bar whom McNulty buys a drink. Often, in stories of a similar likeness, stories where one person is given a magical trinket or such by another person, like the potion in season one’s “The Chaser” or even the genie’s wishes in season two’s “The Man in the Bottle,” the giver of the trinket is clearly aware of the ominous nature of the gift and what can happen to its owner when it is abused. Serling appears to deliberately forgo this trope here as Potts seems to have no knowledge of the stopwatch’s supernatural abilities. He simply says that it is a family heirloom, which makes the plot of the story questionable. Has the stopwatch always had magic powers or is this a new development? And if it has, why doesn’t Pott’s know about it? Surely, he pressed the button on the stopwatch at least once, just to see if it worked, even if it has been in his possession only a short time. Or if the ability to stop time with the stopwatch is exclusive to McNeely for some reason then what is the reason? On top of all this, Potts utters a string of random, dated references that leave the viewer puzzled as to both their meaning and their purpose in the story.

            When McNulty greets his new friend he asks him, “What do you know, what do you say?” Potts responds with three phrases. The first thing he says is “fifty-four forty or fight,” which was a well-known political slogan coined by President James K. Polk while running for office in 1844. It refers to the United States’ dispute with the British over the area of land which now makes up Oregon, Washington, and Idaho. He then says “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead,” a very famous military command given by United States Navy Admiral David Farragut in 1864 during the Battle of Mobile Bay in the American Civil War. His final greeting is “It takes a heap of living to make a house a home,” a line taken from the poem “A Heap o’ Livin” (1916) by Edgar A. Guest, a hugely popular American poet during the first half of the century. Potts later references Abner Doubleday, a Union Army Major General during the Civil War who is often credited with having invented baseball.

These references were all at least fifty years old when this episode aired in 1964 and, as far as can be determined given the conversation that follows, are all completely random and contain no insight into who Potts is or where the stopwatch came from. Serling’s intention with these phrases is likely to imply that Potts, who has a very noticeable Russian accent, has immersed himself in American history and culture in order to adjust to his new home. The scene’s ambiguity does give Potts and the stopwatch an added layer of mysticism but, ultimately, something is lost in translation from page to screen. It feels like Serling was a bit uncertain with this character and it only adds to a tapestry of flaws throughout the episode.

               If “A Kind of a Stopwatch” has a saving grace aside from its effective ending, it is the sheer likability of its leading man, Richard Erdman, who gives a brilliant comedic performance as the unfortunate Patrick McNulty. This was Erdman’s only appearance on The Twilight Zone but several years earlier he appeared in the Robert Parrish western Saddle the Wind (1958), for which Serling wrote the screenplay. Erdman was signed to a contract with Warner Brothers while still a teenager and his career as an actor spanned over seven decades. He was often cast in comedic roles as rowdy sailors or awkward outcasts, similar to the role he plays here, although a number of his well-known roles were as serious characters. Probably his most well-known film role was as the American P.O.W. squad leader in Billy Wilder’s masterful World War II film, Stalag 17 (1951). Other notable film roles include Fred Zinnemann’s The Men (1950), Robert Parrish’s Cry Danger (1951), Fritz Lang’s The Blue Gardenia (1953), and the World War II anthology film Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970). The last decade of his career saw a renewed interest from the public when he was cast as elderly college student Leonard in the massively successful television series Community.

His performance here is impressive mostly because of McNulty’s complete and total lack of social awareness but also because he remains in motion for much of the episode, giving an otherwise dull story a continuous surge of energy. McNulty is repeatedly insulted throughout the episode by almost everyone he comes into contact with and the audience is led to believe that he is either totally oblivious to their contempt for him or he simply doesn’t care, a line Erdman tiptoes remarkably well. This causes McNulty to bounce from character to character vying for the attention of anyone who will listen, a device that would tire easily in the hands of a lesser actor but Erdman takes a well-measured approach and even manages to make McNulty sort of likable. According to Erdman, McNulty speaks so quickly and has so much dialogue in this episode that he was still memorizing pages of the script between each take.

            The supporting cast here is a mix and match of fairly recognizable performers from the golden age of television. Herbie Faye, who plays Joe the bartender, appeared as Cpl. Sam Fender on four seasons of The Phil Silvers Show and again on The New Phil Silvers Show. He also appeared in the 1962 film version of Rod Serling’s Requiem for a Heavyweight where he also plays a bartender. Doris Singleton is probably best remembered for her appearances on I Love Lucy and several other Lucille Ball programs. She also had a reoccurring role on My Three Sons. Russian actor Leon Belasco enjoyed a highly prolific career that spanned over half a century. He had small roles in a handful of major films including Casablanca (1942), Holiday Inn (1942), Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), Son of Ali Baba (1952), and The Art of Love (1965). A lifelong musician, he was often cast as band leaders or solo musicians as well as numerous shop owners, waiters, or hotel attendants. Roy Roberts also had a long career as an actor appearing in many western and war films. His notable film roles include My Darling Clementine (1946), He Walked by Night (1948), House of Wax (1953), and Chinatown (1974). He also had reoccurring roles on several television series including Oh! Suzanna, McHale’s Navy, The Beverly Hillbillies, Petticoat Junction, and Gunsmoke. And, finally, the voice of the television broadcaster here is that of basketball player turned famed sportscaster Sam Balter.

            This was the second and final episode of The Twilight Zone for director John Rich. Rich also directed the season two episode “A Most Unusual Camera,” another story that concerns supernatural gadgetry. Rich began his career at the dawn of television directing episodes for many of the live anthology dramas of the time, eventually working his way into episodic television in the late fifties. Today he is remembered for his work on The Dick Van Dyke Show and All in the Family, both of which earned him Primetime Emmy Awards. In the 1980’s he formed a television production company with friend Henry Winkler called, appropriately, Henry Winkler/John Rich Productions where they were executive producers for the CBS series MacGyver. He also directed numerous episodes of Gunsmoke, Bat Masterson, Where’s Raymond?, Gomer Pyle: USMC, The Brady Bunch, and Benson. His brief career as a feature film director includes the Janet Leigh romantic comedy, Wives and Lovers (1963), the Elvis Presley films, Roustabout (1964) and Easy Come, Easy Go (1967), and the slapstick comedy, Boeing, Boeing (1965), with Tony Curtis and Jerry Lewis.

           Not counting the sequences of awkward stock footage that appear at various points throughout the episode, Rich’s direction in “A Kind of a Stopwatch” is really quite good. As we discussed in our reviews for several earlier episodes that feature tableau scenes of motionless characters like season one’s “Elegy” and season three’s “Still Valley,” filming someone or something that is suspended in time is incredibly difficult. No human being can appear perfectly still for more than a few seconds so to counteract their involuntary movements directors often keep the camera in constant motion so the audience doesn’t get a glimpse of someone blinking or twitching. Rich accomplishes this exceedingly well here by simply letting Richard Erdman pace relentlessly through several different scenes while his co-stars stand still around him. The problem with solitary objects is that to make them appear suspended in time, for instance to make a baseball appear frozen in mid-air, directors from this period often had to rely on still photography which is immediately noticeable to the audience. Rich does his best to avoid this but CBS likely favored as many stock images as possible as it was cheaper. In one effective shot during the office scene after McNulty breaks the stopwatch, a tissue is seen suspended in mid-air above a trash can while McNulty remains in motion behind it.

         A quick mention should be made of Van Cleave's original score here which adds some much-needed atmosphere to the episode. There are two main pieces of music in this episode, one used to emphasis the audience's view of McNulty's character, that he is laughably unlikable, and another, faster piece used during the scenes in which time is suspended. This second piece is clever as its fast, repetitive pace induces a sense of anxiety in the audience that McNulty will somehow be caught during one of his escapades. The payoff for this comes at the end of the episode when McNulty breaks the stopwatch and the music abruptly stops and both the audience and McNulty are plunged into total silence, giving the audience a sense of the world in which McNulty is now doomed to live.

            As noted earlier, the premise for “A Kind of a Stopwatch” was recycled for a segment during the premiere episode of the first revival of The Twilight Zone in September, 1985 called “A Little Peace and Quiet.” The only similarity between the two stories is the notion that one person can stop and start time all by themselves. There is also a visual similarity because both shows feature scenes with actors frozen in place and a lot of creative camera work to make it seem genuine. Also, like the original episode, the ending is an abrupt switch from situational comedy to a genuinely bleak aftermath. Aside from these similarities, the two stories are very different and neither Serling, Rosenthal, nor McNeely receive any on-screen credit nor is the original episode referenced in the later episode at all. Instead, sole writing credit goes to James Crocker, who would later write an updated version of the Charles Beaumont classic “Shadow Play” for the revival’s second season.

Melinda Dillon and the magic
amulet in "A Little Peace and
Quiet"
          In the newer version, directed by the great Wes Craven, Melinda Dillon plays Penny, a housewife and mom of four small children who has grown weary and frustrated at the constant grind of daily life with her loud, needy family. While working in her garden one day she finds a box buried in the ground. Inside the box she finds a gold amulet. Without really questioning how it got there she decides to wear the amulet around her neck. Later that day, she is having an argument with her husband and, out of frustration, yells at him to be quiet. He freezes. Frantic, she tells him to start talking again. He resumes his rant. She tries this several more times with and without the amulet around her neck and discovers that while wearing it she can stop time and start it back up whenever she wants. She immediately uses this to her advantage. She eats breakfast by herself, avoids crowds while shopping, and avoids other annoyances like screaming children and a nagging husband who snores. Throughout the episode she also ignores several news segments warning of possible nuclear warfare with the Soviet Union. At one point, she is even solicited by a nonprofit antiwar group at her front door. She ignores them and uses the opportunity to freeze time and move their immobile bodies away from her house. The comedic tone of the episode changes abruptly when a radio broadcast announces that the Soviets have launched missiles into United States airspace. Nuclear war has been declared and people have only minutes left. Panicked, she freezes time, realizing that she may never see her family again. She walks outside into chaos frozen in time. Hundreds of people are in the streets trying to get to safety. The camera pans up into the night sky—over a movie theatre marquee bearing the titles Fail Safe and Dr. Strangelove—to see a nuclear warhead just a few hundred feet above the ground.

            Like the original series episode, the 1985 story has its drawbacks but it also offers a fresh take on a familiar theme. In this episode, Crocker simply flips the situational formula Serling created in the original, a motor mouth who annoys people, to make the hero more sympathetic to the audience and, in turn, cause the ending to feel all the more tragic. Amplifying the tragic ending is the fact that, unlike McNulty, who is unable to cause time to move forward again as a result of his own greed, Penny has to choose between living totally alone, or restarting time and perishing with her loved ones. Add to this the fact that the horrific events have nothing to do with her or the amulet, although Crocker does try hard to make the audience believe that this is somehow the result of her ignoring the repeated signs of impending nuclear warfare throughout the episode. The switch from a stopwatch, which has a very distinct, visible and audible mechanism that lets the audience know when the magic happens, to an amulet necklace, which has no such indicator, is a bit of a let-down. But for the most part, the updated version is pretty good. Melinda Dillon gives a great performance and Craven’s direction is solid the entire way through. There are two large crowd shots with hundreds of extras frozen in place, one a tracking shot at ground level and one on a crane, that are both really impressive. The episode also taps into very real cold war fears that permeated political culture at the time.

            While it has become a recognizable episode of the show, “A Kind of a Stopwatch” is not without its flaws or its critics. Limited by a predictable premise, questionable plot elements, awkward stock footage, and a noticeable resemblance to several previous episodes of the show, it simply isn’t strong enough to surprise an audience this far into the show’s run. However, witty dialogue, an impressive balance of tone, and a great performance from its leading man make this episode worthy of at least a viewing or two.

Grade: C

Grateful acknowledgment is made to the following:

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

"A Kind of a Stopwatch" episode commentary by Martin Grams, Jr., The Twilight Zone: The Complete Series Blu-ray (Image Entertainment, 2016)

The Internet Movie Database

Washington State Archives

United States Naval Institute

Notes:

__John Rich also directed the season two episode “A Most Unusual Camera.”
__Jerry McNeely also wrote the teleplay for the season five episode “The Self-Improvement of Salvadore Ross,” adapted from a short story by Henry Slesar.
__The debut episode of the 1980’s revival of The Twilight Zone features a segment called “A Little Peace and Quiet” which is loosely inspired by “A Kind of a Stopwatch” although none of the original writers are credited. Instead, sole screen credit goes to James Crocker. It was directed by Wes Craven and stars Melinda Dillon.
__“A Kind of a Stopwatch” was adapted into a Twilight Zone Radio Drama (2002) by writer Dennis Etchison. It stars Lou Diamond Phillips as Patrick McNulty.
__“A Kind of a Stopwatch” is one of several episodes referenced by Dan Aykroyd and Albert Brooks during the prologue of Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983), along with the season one episodes “Time Enough at Last” and “The After Hours.”
__The script for this episode went through so many drafts that two separate versions of it appear in As Timeless as Infinity: The Complete Twilight Zone Scripts of Rod Serling, Vol. Three (Gauntlet Press, 2006; edited by Tony Albarella). The title on both scripts is “A Kind of Stopwatch.”

Brian

Monday, September 13, 2021

Reading Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine, Part 25

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

Volume 3, Number 3 

(July/August, 1983)

Cover Art: Joe Burleson

Supernatural Cats!

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: Eric Protter

Associate Publisher and Consulting Editor: Carol Serling

Editor: T.E.D. Klein

Managing Editor: Jane Bayer

Associate Editor: Robert Sabat

Books Editor: Thomas M. Disch

Contributing Editors: Gahan Wilson, Marc Scott Zicree

Design Director: Michael Monte

Art Director: Pat E. McQueen

Art Production: Susan Lindeman, Carol Sun

Typesetting: Irma Landazuri

Production Director: Stephen J. Fallon

Controller: Thomas Schiff

Assistant to the Publisher: Judy Linden

Public Relations Manager: Jeffrey Nickora

Accounting Manager: Chris Grossman

Accounting Assistant: Annmarie Pistilli

Office Assistant: Miriam Wolf

Vice President, Circulation Director: Milton J. Cuevas

Circulation Manager: Carole A. Harley

Circulation Assistant: Karen Martorano

Eastern Circulation Manager: Hank Rosen

Advertising Manager: Rachel Britapaja

Advertising Sales Representative: Richard Brennan

Advertising Production Manager: Marina Despotakis

Advertising Assistant: Katherine Lys

Contents:

--In the Twilight Zone: “Ailurophilia” by T.E.D. Klein

--Other Dimensions: Books by Thomas M. Disch

--Other Dimensions: Screen by Gahan Wilson

--Other Dimensions: Nostalgia by Ron Goulart

--Other Dimensions: TZ Trivia Crossword #1

--Other Dimensions: Etc.

--TZ Interview: H.P. Lovecraft by Peter Cannon

--Required Reading: “Something About Cats” by H.P. Lovecraft

--“Huggins’ World” by Ennis Duling

--“Open Frame” by Jack C. Haldeman II

--Cartoon by Curt Ferguson

--“Edison Came to Stay” by A. Wayne Carter

--TZ Screen Preview: Brainstorm by James Verniere

--TZ Screen Preview: An Advanced Look at Twilight Zone: The Movie

--“Confessions of a Freelance Fantasist” by Isidore Haiblum

--The Fantasy Five-Foot Bookshelf by Disch, Wagner, Hadji, and Klein

--“The Peddler’s Bowl” by Gordon Linzner

--“The Better Choice” by S. Fowler Wright

--“The Book” by Gahan Wilson

--A Feline Portfolio

--“Mistral” by Jon Wynne-Tyson

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

--TZ Classic Teleplay: “Five Characters in Search of an Exit” by Rod Serling

--Looking Ahead

--In the Twilight Zone: “Ailurophilia” by T.E.D. Klein 

-Klein begins his editorial by stating that the three most popular subjects for books were once considered to be Abraham Lincoln, doctors, and dogs. Now, Klein reflects, the three most popular subjects appear to be golf, Nazis, and cats. This issue of the magazine takes the latter as its subject and Klein offers to send a poster of TZ cat Maximilian (pictured, illustration by Randy Jones) to the first nine readers (for nine lives) to write in with the correct number of cat images contained in the issue.

-The centerpiece of the issue is an epistolary interview with H.P. Lovecraft, together with a reprinting of Lovecraft’s essay, “Something About Cats.” Klein shares quotes from Lovecraft’s ex-wife Sonia H. Davis (also known as Sonia Greene) and Lovecraft’s friend W. Paul Cook that illustrate Lovecraft’s affection for cats. Klein also explains that the interview with Lovecraft contained in the issue was compiled using Lovecraft’s voluminous letters as published by Arkham House. The remainder of the editorial is business as usual, with Klein providing briefs on the issue’s contributors, beginning with Lovecraft scholars Peter Cannon (who “interviews” Lovecraft) and S.T. Joshi, who writes an introduction and notes for “Something About Cats,” before moving on to the contributors of fiction for the issue, Jon Wynne-Tyson, Gordon Linzner, Ennis Duling, Jack C. Haldeman II, A. Wayne Carter, S. Fowler Wright, and Gahan Wilson, the latter of whom makes a second appearance with his usual column as TZ’s film critic. Klein also mentions that Marc Scott Zicree’s The Twilight Zone Companion is in its fourth printing and has been nominated for an American Book Award.

--Other Dimensions: Books by Thomas M. Disch 

-Disch begins by sharing two images of the Cheshire Cat (in keeping with the theme of the issue) from the Barry Moser-illustrated edition of Alice in Wonderland (pictured), which Disch previously recommended in this column for the Christmas shopping season. Next, Disch thoroughly takes apart works by two of the leading horror writers of the time, Peter Straub and Karl Edward Wagner, the latter of whom appears alongside Disch later in the issue for “The Fantasy Five-Foot Bookshelf.” Disch has a great deal to say about Straub’s Floating Dragon, little of it positive in tone. He writes: “Straub plots much as he butchers, producing such a multiplicity of possible explanations that there is sure to be at least one alibi for any crime against logic.” Disch provides an excerpt from the novel in order to illustrate Straub’s writing style and sums up his thoughts on the novel by reprinting several interjections from the section “Unbelief” in Roget’s International Thesaurus (Third Edition). Disch next places Karl Edward Wagner’s story collection, In a Lonely Place, under the critical microscope. Disch generally finds Wagner’s writing as insufferable as Straub’s, but concedes: “Straub is just as guilty as Wagner of using such pseudohistory as window dressing for his spook show, but with Wagner it’s less exasperating, partly because Wagner seems so much more sincere as he performs his ancient rites, partly because there is a dramatic shapeliness to his tales, the result of their having a beginning, middle, and an end.”

-Another work that receives the sharp end of Disch’s critical spear is The Elfstones of Shannara by Terry Brooks. Describing Brooks as unrivaled among Tolkien imitators, Disch writes: “Brooks’s Wonder Bread prose is as exciting as a game of Dungeons and Dragons at a birthday party for pathologically shy six-year-olds.” The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, a retelling of the legends of Camelot from the primary perspective of Morgan le Fay, fares little better in Disch’s view. He writes: “Male readers should be warned, however, that as a purveyor of wish-fulfilling fantasies (Once upon a time the world was ruled by a Secret Sisterhood, the Druids, and the greatest and loveliest of all Druids was Vivian, High Priestess of Avalon . . .), Bradley caters primarily to women, especially women (a majority, I fear) who think there may be something in astrology and psychic powers and that science and reason are tools of patriarchal power.”

-Concerning King of the Wood by John Maddox Roberts, Disch writes: “Roberts’s dreamland is chockablock with antiquarian detail that has been well-digested and reconstituted by his imagination, so that the result is not a cabinet of curios but a vivid panorama of a true-seeming never-never-land.” Disch singles out “The Monkey’s Bride” by Michael Bishop from the anthology Heroic Visions, edited by Jessica Amanda Salmonson, while writing that the rest of the book’s contributors produce “work that is either amiable or decorative in the manner of the better sorts of handicraft at a Renaissance Fair.”

-Disch saves his best praise for Hart’s Hope by Orson Scott Card, describing Card as “undoubtedly one of the brightest ascendant stars in the field of fantasy and science fiction.” Disch concludes his column by quoting from a novel Card has been publishing in an “Independent Student Newspaper” disassociated from Brigham Young University. Card writes: “And the temptation of the flesh has become even more powerful in these last days. Because the scientists have wrought seeming miracles, mortals have come to believe whatever sounds like science. The enemy has wasted no time teaching mortals to spout rational-sounding explanations of why it is healthier to indulge the lusts of the flesh than to resist them.” As Disch writes: “Any writer who can, in all sincerity, produce that paragraph and a book like Hart’s Hope has got enough internal contradictions to power his own printing press.”

--Other Dimensions: Screen by Gahan Wilson 

-Wilson reviews two films this issue, The Entity and Sorceress. Wilson spends the majority of the column on The Entity, the controversial film based on actual events in which Barbara Hershey (pictured) plays Carla Moran, a single mother who finds herself the repeated victim of an invisible (or unseen) sexual assailant. The film was scripted by Frank De Felitta, from his 1978 novel based on the case of Doris Bither, and directed by Sidney J. Furie. An earlier novel by De Felitta, Audrey Rose (1975), a nightmarish tale of reincarnation, was scripted by the author for the 1977 film directed by Robert Wise. The novel was based on real events from De Felitta’s family life. The Entity was a controversial film, and remains so today, due to its graphic depiction of sexual violence, made even more disturbing by the fact that the assailant is heard but never seen, nor, as Wilson points out, properly explained. Is it a ghost? A demon? An invisible man? The film offers little in terms of resolution and functions rather like a document of a particularly disturbing case history.

-Wilson briefly examines the relationship between sex and horror in cinema, covering pre-code horror films, monster movies, and vampire films before writing: “Now, however, with The Entity, we have arrived at a new era in monsters. . . we can, at least, observe the very explicit effects of a monster who indulges in actual sex, and generally even in the missionary position!” Wilson does not question whether or not the film is actually based on real events but dislikes the use of this marketing approach, regardless of the truth, since make-believe easily elicits a willing suspension of disbelief while “based on actual events” leads the viewer to scrutinize everything presented in the film. This annoyance aside, Wilson writes: “It certainly has a nasty premise, and it could have been a thoroughly disgusting movie. But thanks to Sidney J. Furie of Ipcress File fame, who directed it, and to an oddly sincere sort of script by Frank DeFelitta, based on his novel (which is, presumably, based on some actual incident), and to the acting, by Barbara Hershey, in the really hard-to-beat-for-difficulty role of the supernaturally violated victim, the movie ends up being quite sympathetic.” Wilson also praises the film’s disturbing makeup effects by Stan Winston and James Kagel, very nearly guessing the method by which the artists achieved the effects. For the scenes in which Hershey is assaulted, only the actress’s head was above the bed setting. Hershey sat, unseen, on the floor below while, from her neck down, a fake body was constructed which could be manipulated using cables and air bladders. Wilson concludes on a typically humorous note: “However it was accomplished, I think it’s safe to state it is the very first such whatsis ever assembled, and it would have made a lifetime’s living for an old-time carnival sideshow man.”

-Wilson also briefly considers the fantasy film Sorceress, an exploitation sword and sorcery film written by Jim Wynorski and directed by Jack Hill (as “Brian Stuart”). Wilson begins his review this way: “If The Entity manages to tiptoe around the pitfall of being disgusting, Sorceress, gleefully, does not. It wants to be disgusting, strives for it, and succeeds completely.” Wilson equates the film with the cheap movie serials of his youth, with the added pleasures of sex and sadism thrown in, and spends the rest of his column describing the more outrageous scenes in the film.

--Other Dimensions: Nostalgia by Ron Goulart 

-Old time radio is the nostalgic subject this issue, with a focus on mystery, suspense, and horror programs of the 1930s and 1940s. Goulart lends a personal perspective to describing the best-known programs, beginning with Orson Welles’s (pictured) The Mercury Theatre on the Air. Goulart briefly mentions the infamous The War of the Worlds broadcast of 1938 (Goulart remembers it as 1940), as well as the meeting between H.G. Wells and Orson Welles in October, 1940 during H.G. Wells’s U.S. lecture tour. They met in San Antonio, TX, where Orson Welles was also giving a lecture. Although H.G. Wells was vocal in his dislike of Orson Welles’s adaptation of The War of the Worlds, the meeting between the two men was cordial. From there, Goulart considers Orson Welles’s time as radio’s The Shadow, and expands the discussion to cover his general love for the program, especially the music, the spooky narration, and the outrageous episode titles.

-Goulart neglects to mention that Orson Welles performed in Lucille Fletcher’s “The Hitch-Hiker” on the long-running, and star-studded, program Suspense, a radio play that was adapted by Rod Serling for the first season of The Twilight Zone. Goulart does mention Fletcher’s other famous radio play, “Sorry, Wrong Number,” perhaps the most popular episode of Suspense, and praises the play’s star performer, Agnes Moorehead (radio’s Margo Lane on The Shadow), who, according to Goulart, performed the play seven additional times due to listener demand. The film version of “Sorry, Wrong Number,” starring Barbara Stanwyck and Burt Lancaster, appeared in 1948. Lucille Fletcher provided the film’s script and collaborated with Allan Ullman in adapting the script into a novel, released the same year. Goulart notes that Agnes Moorehead, known for her evocative voice, was awarded a role on The Twilight Zone, in Richard Matheson’s “The Invaders,” in which she doesn’t speak a word.

-The history of I Love a Mystery, Goulart’s favorite program, is discussed in some detail, as are the unique offerings to be found on Lights Out (Goulart’s pick for the scariest radio program) and Quiet, Please. Goulart profiles the two creatives who made these programs special: Wyllis Cooper and Arch Oboler. Goulart describes the way in which Cooper created Lights Out, Cooper’s subsequent departure from the program to try his hand at screenwriting in Hollywood, Oboler’s arrival on the program, leading to its greatest success, and Cooper’s return to radio with the artful but commercially unsuccessful Quiet, Please. Arch Oboler wrote one of the more intriguing “lost” (unproduced) episodes of The Twilight Zone, a script titled “What the Devil!” that was slated for the fifth and final season of the series. The script describes the fate of an obnoxious couple in a sports car who decide to duel with the driver, who happens to be the Devil, of a truck loaded with explosives on a lonely stretch of Arizona highway.

-Even more popular than Lights Out, Goulart tells us, was the horror series Inner Sanctum, the creation of writer/director Himan Brown. Remembered for the ghoulish humor of the program’s host, Raymond (Raymond Edward Johnson), Goulart provides a typical example of Raymond’s opening narration. Having run out of space, Goulart ends his column with a fleeting mention of another program, Escape, which adapted tales from such writers as John Collier, H.G. Wells, and Algernon Blackwood.

--Other Dimensions: TZ Trivia Crossword #1




--Other Dimensions: Etc. 

Illustration by Robert Price

-The miscellany column this month includes an interview with actor Donald Sutherland, a brief response to a newspaper article on the avant-garde musical artist Laurie Anderson, and a reprinting of a humorous article by Robert M. Price concerning a narrative trend in horror fiction.

-The magazine’s resident film reporter James Verniere provides a concise biography of Donald Sutherland and interviews the actor concerning Sutherland’s appearances in genre films. They begin by discussing Sutherland’s early appearances in horror films such as Castle of the Living Dead (1964), Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors (1965), and Fanatic (aka Die! Die! My Darling!) (1965), the latter scripted by Richard Matheson from a novel by Anne Blaisdell. Next, they discuss the commercial failure of the film Don’t Look Now (1973), a psychological horror film adapted from the story by Daphne du Maurier in which Sutherland appears alongside Julie Christie. The film was directed by Nicholas Roeg, whose career as a cinematographer included photographing Roger Corman’s The Masque of the Red Death (1964), co-scripted by Charles Beaumont, and François Truffaut’s adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. Although Don’t Look Now was not successful upon its initial release, it has since come to be considered among the finest horror/suspense films of its era. Sutherland blames the film’s failure on The Exorcist, which opened two months after Don’t Look Now, as well as, and perhaps more importantly, Paramount Studio’s lack of support for the film. Finally, Sutherland explains the reasons why he accepted a role in the remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, which essentially came down to a great script and a director with a vision. Directed by Philip Kaufman, the 1978 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers is an important entry in the science fiction/horror genre, widely considered to be the equal of the original film version of Jack Finney’s novel (1956, directed by Don Siegel, starring Kevin McCarthy of The Twilight Zone’s “Long Live Walter Jameson” and Twilight Zone: The Movie) due to its convincing urban setting, depth of characterization, excellent performances, gruesome makeup effects, and relentlessly grim tone. The original film version is marred by a superficially happy ending attached to the film at the insistence of the studio.

-The magazine received numerous letters concerning an article in the Chicago Tribune headlined with “Laurie Anderson blends a twilight zone with pop.” The magazine did not immediately respond because no one on the editorial staff knew of Laurie Anderson. “However,” the article states, “it now seems that everyone else in the world does know who she is, and TZ film chronicler Jim Verniere just phoned to say that a lengthy musical composition of hers will be featured in The Keep, the horror movie previewed in our last issue.”

-A reprint of an article by author, publisher, and anthologist Robert M. Price, from his fanzine Crypt of Cthulhu, humorously catalogs the absurd practice among horror writers of having a character write a narrative until the point of their demise (pictured). Price provides several examples. The trend began, as far as Price’s article is concerned, with H.P. Lovecraft’s “Dagon.” Lovecraft is represented a second time with an excerpt from “The Diary of Alonzo Typer,” a story written with William Lumley. Other authors followed in Lovecraft’s footsteps and Price shares examples from stories by Lin Carter, August Derleth, Robert Bloch, and Frank Belknap Long. Fittingly, Price ends the article with “. . . but wait! Good God! What’s that coming out of the garbage disposal – eeeeyahh! glub, glub . . .”

--TZ Interview: H.P. Lovecraft by Peter Cannon 

“TZ joins America’s acknowledged master of cosmic horror for a gentlemanly talk about dreams, nightmares, and the delights of Providence, Rhode Island.”

-Howard Phillips Lovecraft, author of fantasy and horror fiction, best known for his association with Weird Tales magazine, whose posthumous appreciation as an important American author greatly eclipses the scant recognition received during his lifetime, died in 1937, forty-six years before this issue hit newsstands. Therefore, this interview with Lovecraft is an artistic deception. This feature on Lovecraft was likely originally slated to follow the same format as “The Essential Writers” column from previous issues, in which a deceased writer of supernatural fiction is profiled in an essay by a literary historian (Mike Ashley or Jack Sullivan) and represented with a notable story. Previous issues included features on M.R. James, J. Sheridan Le Fanu, William Hope Hodgson, Arthur Machen, and L.P. Hartley. Later issues featured the Benson brothers, Shirley Jackson, and H. Russell Wakefield. It was Carol Serling who suggested that the feature on H.P. Lovecraft take a different approach. Knowing that the magazine wished to reprint excerpts from Lovecraft’s letters, published in several volumes by Arkham House, Serling suggested the interview format, with Lovecraft’s answers taken from his vast correspondence.

-The interviewer is Peter Cannon, a Lovecraft scholar and author of Lovecraftian fiction. Cannon is faithful to the artifice, using his opening remarks to provide a brief outline of Lovecraft’s life and writings and to describe traveling to Providence to meet with Lovecraft for the interview. Cannon covers a great amount of material over the course of the interview. He begins by recording Lovecraft’s thoughts on Providence, Lovecraft’s beloved native city, as well as Lovecraft’s love for England and his penchants as an Anglophile. Lovecraft’s attempts to set stories in other locations are discussed, as is Lovecraft’s bleak view of humanity’s place in the cosmos. From there, the interview moves along a biographical track, recording Lovecraft’s memories of his upbringing, his early love of science (especially astronomy) and reading, the death of Lovecraft’s father, Lovecraft’s admiration for his maternal grandfather, Whipple Van Buren Phillips, and the deaths of both Phillips and Lovecraft’s maternal grandmother, the latter event plunging the Lovecraft household into “a gloom from which it never recovered.”

-Other topics discussed include the way in which the death of Lovecraft’s grandmother brought nightmares that in turn inspired imagery in Lovecraft’s poetry. Revealed also is the prosaic truth behind the naming of the mad sorcerer Abdul Alhazred, author of the dreaded book of black magic, The Necronomicon. The name was applied to Lovecraft himself by a relative, in a bit of roleplaying, when the young Lovecraft became enamored of the region described in the Arabian Nights. Lovecraft’s school days are briefly touched upon, as are Lovecraft’s earliest published writings, science articles and miscellaneous written contributions by a teenaged Lovecraft for local newspapers. From here, the interview delves into Lovecraft’s stories, beginning with “Herbert West – Reanimator,” a story Lovecraft despised, and a story that was considered by most to be strictly minor Lovecraft until director Stuart Gordon and writer Dennis Paoli adapted the story for the 1985 cult film, Re-Animator. Lovecraft describes breaking into Weird Tales magazine as a contributor, and also describes the conditions which resulted in his turning down the publisher’s offer to edit the magazine (the required move to Chicago proved prohibitive).

-Lovecraft very briefly describes his marriage to Sonia H. Greene, as well as the eventual disintegration of the marriage, and avoids directly commenting on an indirect question about sex. Lovecraft describes his evolution as a political thinker, his love of the writings of Edgar Allan Poe, Lord Dunsany, Arthur Machen, M.R. James, and Algernon Blackwood, and his generally low opinion of the fiction published in Weird Tales. Lovecraft describes the rare instance of a dream inspiring a story, as in “The Statement of Randolph Carter,” and provides comments on a number of his other stories. Lovecraft held a very low opinion of almost all of his stories, stating that the only stories he felt were successful were “The Colour Out of Space” and “The Music of Erich Zann.” Lovecraft describes the occasional difficulties in placing many of his most notable works, including “The Call of Cthulhu” and At the Mountains of Madness, and provides details on the only book publication of his work to appear during his lifetime, an error-filled edition of “The Shadow Over Innsmouth,” with illustrations by Frank Utpatel, published by Visionary Press in 1936. Lovecraft explains why Putnam’s initially planned to publish a collection of his tales before ultimately declining, and describes the lack of satisfaction achieved in ghostwriting stories or collaborating with other authors.

-Lovecraft gives his opinion concerning popular horror films of the time (he generally found them boring), describes his love of the southern U.S., as well as his reticence to set a story there (he associates warmth with happiness), and bemoans the gradual shrinking of markets for quality weird fiction. Lovecraft explains the reason he has never held down a regular job (he never learned an employable skill), and describes the methods by which he is able (barely) to live on a minuscule budget. The interview concludes with Lovecraft’s autobiographical poem, “Background.” Cannon provides a final statement describing the circumstances of Lovecraft’s death and the creation of the publisher Arkham House by Lovecraft’s friends August Derleth and Donald Wandrei in order to preserve Lovecraft’s writings. Finally, Cannon provides a list of works by Lovecraft and others for those interested in reading further. The interview is illustrated with several photographs, including two profiles of Lovecraft, a photograph of one of Lovecraft’s handwritten letters to Clark Ashton Smith, a photograph of Lovecraft’s tombstone in Swan Point Cemetery in Providence, and a current (1983) photograph of the house in which Lovecraft lived. Also included is Lovecraft’s sketch of his home, the cover (by A.R. Tilburne) for the November, 1938 issue of Weird Tales (containing Lovecraft’s “The Nameless City”), and Virgil Finlay’s famous illustrative portrait of Lovecraft as an eighteenth-century gentleman.

-On a final note, the earliest adaptations of Lovecraft’s stories on American television arrived courtesy of Rod Serling’s Night Gallery. The second season of the series brought two Lovecraft adaptations, “Pickman’s Model” and “Cool Air,” the latter adapted by Serling, both of which are considered to be among the show’s best segments.

--Required Reading: “Something About Cats” by H.P. Lovecraft 

With an introduction and notes by S.T. Joshi

Illustrated by Jason Eckhardt

“HPL’s definitive defense of a creature who, if not man’s best friend, is certainly the gentleman’s”

-This dense, witty, philosophical, and sometimes outrageous (and hilarious) written defense of the domesticated cat, presented here in edited form, is one of Lovecraft’s best-known and most oft-reprinted essays, a mode of writing in which, according to Lovecraft scholar S.T. Joshi, “Lovecraft fully reveals that astounding erudition, found only indirectly in the tales, that made him one of the most intelligent men of his generation.” The essay was first published (posthumously) as “Cats and Dogs” in the Summer, 1937 issue of the amateur magazine Leaves, edited by Lovecraft’s friend and literary executor Robert H. Barlow. It was collected as the title work in Something About Cats and Other Pieces, edited by August Derleth and published by Arkham House in 1949. The essay was written much earlier, in 1926, and Joshi details the genesis of the piece in his introduction: “It was inspired by Lovecraft’s lifelong connection with amateur journalism. In November of 1926 the Blue Pencil Club, a group of amateur writers based in New York City, was planning to hold a debate on the aesthetic superiority of cats or dogs. Lovecraft had become closely associated with this group during his two years spent in New York, but in April of 1926 he had left the ‘pest zone’ of Brooklyn to return to the tranquil and familiar environs of his native Providence. Not wishing to be left out of the discussion, however, he wrote a lengthy treatise for his good friend James F. Morton to read to the club.” The debate itself was inspired by a similar debate that occurred in the pages of the New York Herald Tribune in October of 1926, in which the critic Carl Van Doren wrote an article defending the cat as the gentleman’s chosen companion. The article prompted rebuttals and attacks from the writers Albert Payson Terhune and Harvey O’Higgins.

-The essay is an artful if straightforward rebuttal of the negative conceptions that have formed around the image of the domesticated cat throughout the course of human history. It also addresses dogs and dog-lovers in an honest, if sometimes insulting, manner. Lovecraft discusses the physical beauty of the cat, famous writers and artists who admired cats, the Egyptian worship of cat idols, the mysteries of cat behavior, and the general inability of some people to live with an animal companion as independent in its behavior as themselves. Lovecraft concludes: “Beauty, sufficiency, ease, and good manners – what more can civilization require? We have them all in the divine little monarch who lounges gloriously on his silken cushion before the hearth. Loveliness and joy for their own sake – pride and harmony and coordination – spirit, restfulness, and completeness – all here are present, and need but a sympathetic disillusionment for worship in full measure.”

-Cats appear in several of Lovecraft’s tales. As S.T. Joshi points out in his introduction: “who can forget that scene in The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath [1927; published 1943] when legions of cats save Randolph Carter from loathsome toadlike entities on the moon, leaping back to earth before dawn?” Cats take a central role in Lovecraft’s gruesome revenge story, “The Cats of Ulthar” (1920) and remain an unfortunate figure from one of Lovecraft’s most popular tales, “The Rats in the Walls” (1924). In the tale, the narrator’s cat is given an appallingly racist name which has repeatedly served as fodder for those detractors who have attacked Lovecraft’s growing stature as a writer due to the racism and xenophobia Lovecraft revealed in private letters and, often indirectly, several of his tales.

--“Huggins’ World” by Ennis Duling 

Illustrated by Nicola Cuti

“Seen from the inside, the funny papers weren’t very funny.”

-A journalist is intrigued by a long-running newspaper cartoon, Huggins’ World, which seems never to change over time. The journalist attempts to contact the strip’s creator, feeling there may be a story there which will jumpstart the journalist’s sagging career. The journalist is invited to the creator’s home, making the journey via an old, abandoned railway. Once arrived, the journalist realizes, to his horror, that not only has he arrived in the actual world of the cartoon (a zany town with frighteningly insane residents) but that he is trapped there. In a final act of desperation, the journalist discovers the location of the cartoonist’s drawing board and draws a doorway back to his world. The story was reprinted in The Year’s Best Fantasy Stories: 10 (1984), edited by Arthur W. Saha.

--“Open Frame” by Jack C. Haldeman II 

Illustrated by Rosanna Chinchilla

“He was just your average Joe, but somewhere inside lurked a genius”

-For a brief time, an average man becomes incredibly intellectually gifted. In this state, he deduces that the Earth has long moved through a vast electromagnetic field that has diminished the brain power of everyone on the planet. The planet has now moved free of this field. With his newfound intellectual gifts, the man makes plans to improve his life and pursue an array of new fields of study. But it was only a hiccup. Earth again moves into the electromagnetic field and the man loses his newfound intellectual ability.

-Jack C. Haldeman II (1941-2002), a prolific and accomplished science fiction writer specializing in short fiction, returned to the pages of TZ Magazine with the story "Judgment Day" in the March/April, 1984 issue. Another story, "Dead Man's Tie," appeared in the February, 1987 issue. Haldeman collaborated with George Alec Effinger for the story "The Funny Trick They Played on Old McBundy's Son" in the Summer, 1986 issue of Night Cry. Haldeman also wrote the copious story notes for the posthumously published anthology Rod Serling’s Other Worlds (1978), which included an introduction by Richard Matheson and stories by Ray Bradbury, Theodore Sturgeon, William F. Nolan, Fritz Leiber, and Dennis Etchison, among others. Haldeman's younger brother, Joe Haldeman, best-known as the author of The Forever War (1975), previously appeared in the pages of TZ Magazine for the May, 1981 issue with the story "Seven and the Stars." 

--Cartoon by Curt Ferguson


--“Edison Came to Stay” by A. Wayne Carter 

Illustrated by Gregory Cannone

“For phone-machine freaks, a cautionary tale. Start reading at the sound of the beep.”

-An answering machine, nicknamed Edison by its owner, develops a mind of its own while recording the increasing eccentric behavior of its owner, the frustrations and suspicions of his associates, and, eventually, the evidence of a murder. The tale is told almost entirely in the form of transcripts from an answering machine. This story is an interesting entry in the tale of technological terror, using a recent innovation, the telephone answering machine, to explore the dehumanizing aspects of our increasing reliance on technology to facilitate interpersonal relationships, a theme explored numerous times on The Twilight Zone.  

--TZ Screen Preview: Brainstorm by James Verniere 

“Despite the death of one of its stars, special effects wizard Douglas Trumbull believes he’s saved the film. James Verniere reports.”

-Verniere documents the troubles on the set of the film Brainstorm, directed by Douglas Trumbull and starring Christopher Walken, Natalie Wood (pictured), Louise Fletcher and Cliff Robertson (star of The Twilight Zone’s “A Hundred Yards Over the Rim” and “The Dummy”). The film is notable as the final film role of Natalie Wood, who died in a boating accident before photography was completed on the film. Wood’s death, which continues to be a subject of fascination for many who believe there was more to the actress’s death than an accident, nearly derailed the film. Despite the insistence of director Trumbull that the film could be completed without Wood, MGM/UA attempted to scrap the project and collect on an insurance claim with Lloyds of London. Trumbull convinced Lloyds that the film could be completed and was given the go-ahead to finish. MGM/UA eventually came around once Trumbull screened a rough cut of the film for the studio. Trumbull is best-known as a special effects artist, working on such films as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Blade Runner, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Trumbull’s opportunities as a feature-film director virtually evaporated after the troubled production of Brainstorm, a film which, due to the studio’s reluctance to properly market the film, was a commercial failure. Trumbull previously directed the science fiction ecology film Silent Running (1972) but it was also commercially unsuccessful. Verniere briefly interviews Trumball concerning the filming of Brainstorm. The feature is accompanied by several color photographs from the film.

--TZ Screen Preview: An Advanced Look at Twilight Zone: The Movie 

“What’s in store for the summer? A trip back to The Twilight Zone, courtesy Steven Spielberg and John Landis.”

-This is a photo-feature serving as a preview of Twilight Zone: The Movie as well as a preview of the next issue of TZ Magazine, which is devotedly almost entirely to documenting the production of the film. The text that accompanies the photographs describes each segment of the film, including director George Miller's remake of Richard Matheson's "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" (pictured), which I wrote about in detail in my previous post.

--“Confessions of a Freelance Fantasist” by Isidore Haiblum 

Illustrated by the author

“A survival guide in the form of a memoir”

-In the previous issue, science fiction and fantasy author Isidore Haiblum (1935-2012), using a humorously self-deprecating tone that is carried over into this installment, wrote about his cloistered upbringing in an ethnic Jewish community, his discovery of hardboiled detective stories, which spurred a desire to write, and his breakthrough as a writer when he connected with author/editor Larry Shaw at Dell Books. In this installment, Haiblum describes his life as a published author, from falling into the science fiction genre (“I do not view my lack of scientific knowledge as an obstacle”), to writing the first ethnic Jewish science fiction novel (The Tsaddik of the Seven Wonders), to injecting his love of hardboiled detective fiction into his novels. Haiblum also describes the ups and downs of having an agent, seeing his works published in hardcover, as well as in foreign editions, and the challenges of working with artists to achieve an appropriate cover image.

--The Fantasy Five-Foot Bookshelf by Thomas M. Disch, Karl Edward Wagner, R.S. Hadji, and T.E.D. Klein

“More recommended reading lists from those in the know – and shame on you if you’ve never heard of Claude Seignolle or Philip George Chadwick.”

-Last issue I shared the pages from the first part of this feature. This time around, I’ve decided to simply list the selections chosen by the authors. In most cases, each author also provides a sentence of two explaining why the works in question deserve their lofty positions.

13 Great Works of Fantasy from the Last 13 Years

Selected by Thomas M. Disch

1. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

2. The Pagan Rabbi and Other Stories by Cynthia Ozick

3. Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino

4. Shamp of the City-Solo by Jaimy Gordon

5. The Great Victorian Collection by Brian Moore

6. The Sinking of the Odradek Stadium and Other Novels by Harry Matthews

7. The Auctioneer by Joan Samson

8. Dancers at the End of Time by Michael Moorcock

9. Alyx by Joanna Russ

10. Kingdoms of Elfin by Sylvia Townsend Warner

11. Lovers Living, Lovers Dead by Richard Loritz

12. Childhood and Other Neighborhoods by Stuart Dybek

13. Little, Big by John Crowley

13 Neglected Masterpieces of the Macabre

Selected by R.S. Hadji

1. Basil Netherby by A.C. Benson

2. Bury Him Darkly by John Blackburn

3. The Dark Chamber by Leonard Cline

4. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice by Hanns Heinz Ewers

5. The Shiny Narrow Grin by Jane Gaskell

6. Children of the Black Sabbath by Anne Hebert

7. Neither the Sea Nor the Sand by Gordon Honeycombe

8. Tales of the Uneasy by Violet Hunt

9. A Book of Bargains by Vincent O’Sullivan

10. The Hole of the Pit by Adrian Ross

11. Randall’s Round by Eleanor Scott

12. The Accursed by Claude Seignolle

13. Medusa by E.H. Visiak

13 Best Science Fiction Horror Novels

Selected by Karl Edward Wagner

1. The Death Guard by Philip George Chadwick

2. Final Blackout by L. Ron Hubbard

3. Vampires Overhead by Alan Hyder

4. The Quatermass Experiment by Nigel Kneale

5. Quatermass and the Pit by Nigel Kneale

6. The Cadaver of Gideon Wyck by Alexander Laing

7. The Flying Beast by Walter S. Masterman

8. The Black Corridor by Michael Moorcock

9. Land Under England by Joseph O’Neill

10. The Cross of Carl by Walter Owen

11. Freak Museum by R.R. Ryan

12. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

13. The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham

The 13 Most Terrifying Horror Stories

Selected by R.S. Hadji

1. “The Striding Place” by Gertrude Atherton

2. “Negotium Perambulans” by E.F. Benson

3. “The Willows” by Algernon Blackwood

4. “The Jar” by Ray Bradbury

5. “In the Bag” by Ramsey Campbell

6. “The Upper Berth” by F. Marion Crawford

7. “Mujina” by Lafcadio Hearn

8. “Pigeons from Hell” by Robert E. Howard

9. “The Ash-Tree” by M.R. James

10. “The Thing in the Cellar” by David H. Keller

11. “The Graveyard Rats” by Henry Kuttner

12. “The Haunter of the Dark” by H.P. Lovecraft

13. “The Frontier Guards” by H. Russell Wakefield

The 13 Most Terrifying Horror Stories

Selected by T.E.D. Klein

1. “Casting the Runes” by M.R. James

2. “The Novel of the Black Seal” by Arthur Machen

3. “The Willows” by Algernon Blackwood

4. “The Dunwich Horror” by H.P. Lovecraft

5. “Bird of Prey” by John Collier

6. “Who Goes There?” by John W. Campbell

7. “They Bite” by Anthony Boucher

8. “Stay Off the Moon!” by Raymond F. Jones

9. “Ottmar Balleau X 2” by George Bamber

10. “First Anniversary” by Richard Matheson

11. “The Autopsy” by Michael Shea

12. “The Trick” by Ramsey Campbell

13. “To Build a Fire” by Jack London

-Klein also offers a few “honorable mentions” for his list, including “Fritzchen” by Charles Beaumont, “Mimic” by Donald A. Wollheim, “A Bit of the Dark World” by Fritz Leiber, Ringstones by Sarban, and The House on the Borderland by William Hope Hodgson.

--“The Peddler’s Bowl” by Gordon Linzner 

Illustrated by José Reyes

“The bowl held magic, that much was clear. But was it a blessing . . . or a curse?”

-A poor couple in medieval Japan receives an unusual visitor after dark. He is a peddler of wares but is not trying to sell them anything. Instead, the peddler offers that they eat from his bowl. The couple is wary at first and then terribly frightened when it is revealed that the bowl was crafted by forest spirits and contains magical properties. When that magical property is revealed to be an endless bowl of steamed rice, however, the man and his wife eat greedily. The wife wakes the husband in the middle of the night and forces him to help her steal, while the peddler sleeps, as much rice from the peddler’s magic bowl as they are able before the sun rises. Desperate to beat the dawn, the wife reaches her hand into the bowl. The bowl reduces the wife’s hand to a bloody stump. To make matters worse, all of the rice the couple pilfered has transformed into an inedible muck. The peddler, a kind-hearted man, wished only to share a meal with the couple. He travels the countryside, sharing the rice from his magical bowl with the poorest households. He foolishly neglected to explain to the couple the nature of the magic. The contents of the bowl cannot be given if not freely offered and cannot be gathered and stored beyond a single meal. 

-Gordon Linzner returns to the pages of TZ Magazine with another tale of magical Japan. Linzner previously appeared in the magazine with the story "The Inn of the Dove" for the June, 1981 issue. Linzner also appeared with the story "Moshigawa's Homecoming" in the November, 1981 issue, and the story "MTA Announces New Plans to Ease Subway Congestion" in the September, 1982 issue. A later story, "The Magistrate's Pillow," appeared in the March/April, 1985 issue. 

--A Pair of Cat-Tales

“Two faces of your friendly neighborhood feline: demonic . . . and delightful”

--“The Better Choice” by S. Fowler Wright 

Illustration by Frank Beyda

-A scientist and his wife are discussing the possibilities, as well as the advantages and disadvantages, of transforming the wife into a cat. The scientist believes he can achieve the transformation and the wife offers herself up as a subject. Many days later, the wife, now in the form of a cat, returns to their home, having had many exciting adventures. The scientist opens the door for her, where she can enter the home and return to her human life. Instead, she bounds away into the night, content to remain a cat. This story originally appeared in Science Fiction Adventures in Mutation (1955), edited by Groff Conklin.

--“The Book” by Gahan Wilson 

Illustration by Frank Beyda

-A book collector named Doren is astonished to find a rare grimoire at an absurdly low price on the shelves of his favorite used bookstore. He expects to receive trouble from the shop’s proprietor, who will undoubtedly recognize the error in price and instead charge Doren a price closer to the book’s actual worth. To Doren’s surprise, the shop owner offers no resistance when Doren brings the book to the counter for purchase. Unbeknownst to Doren, however, an evil spirit in the form of a cat, who has long plagued the shop’s owner, follows the new owner of the cursed book out of the shop. This story is reprinted from its initial appearance in the June, 1962 issue of Playboy. It was collected in The Cleft and Other Odd Tales (1998).

--A Feline Portfolio 

“TZ artists look at the most perfect supernatural creature of them all.”

-The magazine’s art director asked the magazine’s usual artists to dig into their files and share their most interesting or unusual cat illustrations. The results comprise this portfolio, with illustrations by John Canizzo (pictured), Randy Jones, Nicola Cuti, E.T. Steadman, Annie Alleman, Stephen W. Andrus, Yvonne Buchanan, Chris Pelletiere, Rosanna Chinchilla, Peter Kuper, Ahmet Gorgun, Richard Basil Mock, and Frances Jetter. Also included are several quotes on cats.

--“Mistral” by Jon Wynne-Tyson 

Collage with an illustration by Aubrey Beardsley

“When the wind known as le mistral blows, memories return, masks are torn away, and horror unsheathes its claws.”

-While vacationing in an area of France far removed from the usual tourist spots, the narrator encounters a school friend from many years ago. The friend is accompanied by a beautiful and exotic woman who reminds the narrator of a feline. The narrator learns that the woman insists on a disciplined life. She does not eat meat, vacation where it is cold, or remain in a place where an unnatural wind blows. The narrator makes the mistake of feeding the woman meat from his dinner plate, resulting in the woman’s ravenous behavior. The narrator’s friend and the woman leave soon after the narrator offers the use of his car. Later, the narrator finds his wrecked car near the roadside. Nearby, he finds the body of his friend, clawed to ribbons as though from a wild animal. There is no sign of the woman, and she is never seen again. “Mistral” was reprinted in the first issue of TZ Magazine’s sister publication, Night Cry. It was also selected for The Year’s Best Horror Stories: Series XII (1984), edited by Karl Edward Wagner. Jon Wynne-Tyson previously appeared in the magazine for the October, 1982 issue. A later story, “Monarch of the Glen,” appeared in the Winter, 1985 issue of Night Cry.

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

-Zicree is winding down his episode guide to the original series by providing the cast and crew credits, Rod Serling’s opening and closing narrations, and summaries for the fifth season episodes “Sounds and Silences,” “Caesar and Me,” and “The Jeopardy Room.” Unlike in his then-recently published The Twilight Zone Companion, Zicree’s guide in the pages of TZ Magazine does not include his production history of the series, episode commentaries, or writer profiles.

--TZ Classic Teleplay: “Five Characters in Search of an Exit” by Rod Serling 

-Reprinted here is Rod Serling’s teleplay for the excellent third season episode, “Five Characters in Search of an Exit.” The script was based on an unpublished story, “The Depository,” by Marvin Petal. It was directed by Lamont Johnson and featured William Windom, Susan Harrison, Murray Matheson, Kelton Garwood, and Clark Allen as a group of misfits trapped in an unfamiliar place with no memory of who they are or how they got there. The episode also features Carol Hill and Mona Houghton, the latter being the daughter of series producer Buck Houghton. For more interesting facts about the episode, revisit Brian’s review.

--Looking Ahead: In the September/October TZ

-Next month brings a special issue, an in-depth look at the making of Twilight Zone: The Movie. The issue also includes George Clayton Johnson's teleplay for his classic TZ episode, "Kick the Can," remade by Steven Spielberg for Twilight Zone: The Movie, as well as an afterword by Johnson proposing a new ending to the play and describing the episode's transition to the big screen. Marc Scott Zicree completes his show-by-show guide to the series and reflects back on his personal journey in researching the series and on The Twilight Zone's unique appeal. 


If you’ve read this far then I thank you and hope you’ve enjoyed revisiting this issue of
Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine. See you next time!

-JP