Monday, April 12, 2021

Reading Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine, Part 23

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

Volume 3, Number 1

(March/April, 1983)

Second Anniversary Issue

Cover Art: Kari Brayman

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

Contributing Editors: Thomas M. Disch, 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

Ass’t to the Publisher: Judy Linden

Public Relations Manager: Jeffrey Nickora

Accounting Mgr.: Chris Grossman

Accounting Ass’t: Annmarie Pistilli

Office Ass’t: Miriam Wolf

Circulation Director: William D. Smith

Circulation Mgr.: Carole A. Harley

Circulation Ass’t: Karen Martorano

Newsstand Sales Manager: Karen Marks Goldberg

Eastern Circ. Mgr.: Hank Rosen

West Coast Circ. Mgr.: Gary Judy

Advertising Manager: Rachel Britapaja

Adv. Production Manager: Marina Despotakis

Adv. Ass’t: Katherine Lys

Advertising Representatives: Barney O’Hara & Associates


Contents:

--“A Note from the Publisher . . .” by Carol Serling

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

--Other Dimensions: Screen by Gahan Wilson

--Other Dimensions: Books by Thomas M. Disch

--Other Dimensions: Video by Joel A. Samberg

--Other Dimensions: The ‘Heroes and Heavies’ Quiz by Kathleen Murray

--Other Dimensions: Etc.

--TZ Interview: Colin Wilson, conducted by Lisa Tuttle

--A Colin Wilson Sampler by Colin Wilson

--“The Journey” by Abbie Herrick

--“Critique” by Brian Ferguson

--“Evening in the Park” by Susan Rooke

--“Say Goodbye to Judy” by William B. Barfield

--“5th Dimension” by Scott Edelman

--“Nightbears” by Juleen Brantingham

--TZ Screen Preview: The Hunger by James Verniere

--TZ Discovery: Notes for a “Twilight Zone” Movie by Rod Serling

--“The Last Adam & Eve Story” by Bruce J. Balfour

--“Dakota Safari” by Gene O’Neill

--“Murchison’s Dream” by Byron Marshall

--“And Now I’m Waiting” by Richard Matheson

--TZ Classic Teleplay: “A World of His Own” by Richard Matheson

--Show-By-Show Guide: TV’s Twilight Zone, Part 23 by Marc Scott Zicree

--In June’s TZ

 --A Note from the Publisher . . . by Carol Serling

-Carol Serling begins her occasional column by quoting from TZ writer Charles Beaumont’s essay of television commentary, “The Seeing I,” which appeared in the December, 1959 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Beaumont’s essay is important as an insider’s account of the creation of The Twilight Zone, as well as a signal for the type of intelligent fantasy produced on the series. It comes recommended to those interested in TZ on a creative level. Carol Serling uses Beaumont’s essay to illustrate the ways in which Beaumont’s hopeful musings on the series have become reality, as the series has remained popular and led to off-shoots such as TZ Magazine.

-Serling next highlights activity within the TZ community, including the magazine celebrating its second anniversary, the publication of Marc Scott Zicree’s The Twilight Zone Companion, and the upcoming release of Twilight Zone: The Movie. The remainder of Serling’s column is dedicated to introducing new readers to the magazine by outlining the magazine’s thematic goals and content. An interesting aspect of this portion of the column is that Serling emphasizes that TZ Magazine does not publish stories of “exploitative melodrama in which ‘oceans of gore compete with oceans of bile evoked.’ There will be no sadism and violence for the titillation it brings, none of the gimmickry of Hollywood horror.” TZ Magazine later became a showcase for, if not the birthplace of, the so-called “splatterpunk” movement and devoted a great amount of space to horror fiction as the 1980s became oversaturated with horror in publishing. The magazine did, however, create a sister publication, Night Cry, to exclusively feature horror content in order to keep TZ Magazine more diverse in its offerings.

-Serling concludes her column by quoting an early and unused version of Rod Serling’s opening narration for the first season of TZ, and calls on readers to write to the magazine to express their opinions on the magazine’s contents.

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

-For the editorial staff, the highlight of this issue is the second annual TZ Story Contest, and Klein makes note of the number of entries, the winners, and the general difficulty in selecting the most outstanding stories. For this year, instead of giving out first, second, and third prizes for the contest, the editorial staff of the magazine, who selected the winners, decided to split the first-prize money among three entries. Another winning story, a short-short, is included in the issue as well. Klein’s editorial is rounded out in the usual way, with capsule biographies and comments on the issue’s contributors. I noted last issue that Mignon Glass, author of that issue’s story, “A Chance Affair,” was left out of Klein’s editorial. Klein corrects that oversight here, providing a photo of Glass and explaining that info on Glass was left out last issue because her story was a last-minute addition.

 --Other Dimensions: Screen by Gahan Wilson

-The theme of Gahan Wilson’s film review column this issue is that fantasy (and horror and science fiction) films are only made to make money, that an ability to make money is the sole consideration when developing a film of this type. The result is a sharp decline in quality since films are generally no longer being produced for the value of their concepts. Wilson’s targets are three horror films, of varying quality.

-The first film Wilson reviews is Q, a giant monster on the prowl in New York City film from low-budget specialist Larry Cohen. Wilson felt that this one should have been killed at the initial discussion stages. He’s probably correct in this assessment, as the film was neither monetarily successful nor received with anything approaching positive critical reception. The film follows a well-worn formula that goes all the way back to the silent era with The Lost World (1925). Wilson’s assessment: “Q is, essentially, one of those horror movies made by people who feel superior to horror movies, and that hardly ever works. The sillier your monster the more seriously you have to take him, especially if you’re kidding around.”

-Next, Wilson looks at Halloween III: Season of the Witch, notable for being the only Halloween film in the franchise without the masked murderer Michael Myers. This tale of witchcraft and a crazed maker of Halloween masks has found a more appreciative audience in recent years but the film was only moderately successful at the time it was released, and Michael Myers was brought back for the fourth installment on. Wilson laments the fact that although the film was initially scripted by Nigel Kneale, the talented scenarist behind numerous British horror and science fiction films and television programs, Kneale’s script was heavily rewritten and his contributions were minimized in the finished film. Wilson’s assessment of the performers: “The cast is not very good, and the characters they’re trying to play are – even for a movie of this kind – extremely unconvincing. The villain is played by the only real actor in sight, Dan O’Herlihy, and while he does manage to infuse the character with a nice loony chilliness, the creature is so ill-defined and fuzzy that he’s got almost nothing to work with.”

-Finally, Wilson looks at Creepshow, the horror anthology film from Stephen King and George Romero that has already featured in multiple issues of TZ Magazine. The film was treated to a full-color screen preview in the September, 1982 issue. For those interested, I wrote about it at length in my post on that issue.

-Although Wilson found the film very much to his liking, he reiterates the idea that the film was made as a money-grab. He writes: “This is perhaps one of the most unabashed grabs for cash ever to hit your local theater, but there’s such innocent greed about it all that it’s hard to take offense.” This is a strange assessment for a nostalgic, off-beat, independently produced horror anthology film. In any case, Wilson enjoyed the film and singled out the penultimate segment of the film, “The Crate,” as his personal favorite.

-Wilson concludes the column with a brief recommendation for Still of the Night, reviewed in the magazine for the March, 1982 issue under the film’s original title, Stab.

--Other Dimensions: Books by Thomas M. Disch

-Disch’s column strikes a similar tone to that of Gahan Wilson’s, in the sense that Disch begins his column by decrying the amount of low-quality material being published as well as how much of it falls into the horror genre. Disch quotes Shakespeare’s Macbeth to indicate that too much horror eventually, and inevitably, numbs one to horror’s intended effects. Disch offers his thoughts on the following books:

-The Deathstone by Ken Eulo: “What sinks Eulo’s book to the rock-bottom of the sophistication spectrum (from sappy to savvy) is the style of his reenactment, a style that is equal parts soap-opera mawkish and button-pushing portentous, graduating to dithering hysteria for the big moments.”

-The Voice of Our Shadow by Jonathan Carroll: “Carroll’s second novel . . . is a preppy ghost story as decorously conventional and capably tailored as a Brooks Brothers suit.”

-Different Seasons by Stephen King: “. . . is a collection of four quite separate tales, only one of which (and that, thankfully, the shortest) failed to shiver my timbers perceptibly. The other three, in ascending order both of length and personal preference, are: ‘Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption,’ a quietly paranoid curtain-raiser that persuaded me never to be framed for murder and sentenced to life imprisonment; ‘The Body,’ a vivid if sometimes self-consciously ‘serious’ account of the rites of passage practiced by the aboriginal teenagers of Maine’s lower-middles classes . . . finally, the hands-down winner of the four and, I think, King’s most accomplished piece of fiction at any length, ‘Apt Pupil.’”

-Nightflyer by Christopher Fahy: “. . . is a shamelessly satisfying fantasy of a twerp who turns into an avenger by achieving out-of-body flight, zapping all the bullies who’d been kicking sand in his face and then zapping . . . but that would be telling.”

-Disch concludes the column with a look at the year’s annuals. These include: Fantasy Annual V, ed. Terry Carr, The Year’s Best Fantasy Stories 8, ed. Arthur W. Saha, and The Year’s Best Horror Stories: Series X, ed. Karl Edward Wagner. Finally, Disch recommends The Gothic Novel: Plot Summaries and Index to Motifs by Ann B. Tracy, concluding his column with a lengthy quote from Tracy on Rosalviva or, The Demon Dwarf by Grenville Fletcher (1824).

--Other Dimensions: Video by Joel A. Samberg

-This article is an interesting capsule of a time when home video was in its infancy. Samberg’s goal is to trace the availability of fantasy and science fiction television on home video. He finds that there is very little of it available. The only TZ episode then-available was “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,” which was not produced on the series but only featured during the fifth season. Samberg gives no indication about what I was most curious about, this being whether or not the video included Rod Serling’s narrations for TZ.

-The general lack of availability of quality fantasy films and television on home video resulted in a rise in piracy, with owners using their VCRs to record programs from local television stations, including fantasy television programs shown in syndication. Samberg’s article largely becomes a discussion of this trend toward piracy, detailing the methods used to record programs and the ways in which pirated copies of films and television shows are bought and sold in the classified pages of video journals. Samberg interviews a handful of video dealers and editors of industry publications, providing detailed addresses for each.

--Other Dimensions: The ‘Heroes and Heavies’ Quiz Revisited

Compiled by Kathleen Murray

-This quiz presents the heroes and the villains from a number of fantasy films with the challenge to the reader to match the actors to each other. The difference in this quiz and the previous ‘Heroes and Heavies’ quiz is that this one includes the titles of the films to offer a hint to the reader. The quiz and the answers are below.



--Other Dimensions: Etc.

-The news and notes section of the magazine provides another update on Twilight Zone: The Movie, detailing Joe Dante’s remake of “It’s a Good Life” and George Miller’s remake of “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.” Cast and crew information, including cameos, are reported alongside photographs from the set. Next, editor and literary historian Mike Ashley, who has previously written profiles of classic horror authors for the magazine, details the sixtieth anniversary of Weird Tales, the progenitor of all American fantasy magazines. Ashley gives a potted history of the magazine and provides details on the notable stories and authors featured in the magazine’s pages. Ashley previously compiled a Weird Tales reprint anthology for the British market titled Weird Legacies (1977).

-As an aside, Ashley repeats a commonly held notion that the early years of the magazine, under editor Farnsworth Wright, were far better than the later years of the magazine under editor Dorothy McIlwraith. This is generally because the “big three” of Weird Tales, H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, and Clark Ashton Smith, published under Wright. This is well and good, but considering the authors who published in Weird Tales under McIlwraith’s editorship, Ray Bradbury, Robert Bloch, Richard Matheson, Fritz Leiber, Henry Kuttner, C.L. Moore, Manly Wade Wellman, Theodore Sturgeon, Joseph Payne Brennan, Anthony Boucher, Fredric Brown, to name a few, those later issues certainly should not be dismissed.  

-The section continues with numerous examples of newspaper headlines and comic strips featuring the term “Twilight Zone,” as well as details on an unusual item sent to the TZ offices by a reader of the magazine. Finally, TZ’s film critic, James Verniere, reports back from a set visit to David Cronenberg’s Videodrome, sharing his interview with actor James Woods.

--TZ Interview: Colin Wilson, conducted by Lisa Tuttle

“The celebrated author of The Outsider has some outsider’s opinions of his own – as his views on ghosts and poltergeists make clear.”

-Interviewer Lisa Tuttle begins with a brief summation of Colin Wilson’s career. Wilson generally worked in four areas. He wrote science fiction/horror novels, literary/social criticism, true crime, and books on paranormal or occult subjects. The two works that Wilson was preparing at the time give good indication of his interests, a mammoth encyclopedia of world crime and a book on an American man who claims to be able to access his unconscious mind.

-Since Wilson’s latest book at the time was Poltergeist, and since he claimed in that book to be convinced that poltergeists were real and not the product of the human mind, the interview is largely given over to his views on the subject. Wilson later opens up about his upbringing and his life before his first great success, The Outsider, a hugely successful survey of outsider artists, their thoughts, behaviors, and effect on society. Wilson then describes his life after the publication of this work, when he went from an unknown to an “overnight” sensation in literary circles. Wilson details how his follow-up works failed to live up to the expectations set by The Outsider, how this damaged a reputation he did not wish to have, and how it ultimately freed him to write the sort of books he desired to write. Wilson spends a good deal of time on the functions of the mind and its effects on the self. Wilson admits to never having seen a ghost and gives a generally negative opinion on the state of science fiction, which he does not read. Curiously absent are direct comments on Wilson’s novels and other works of fiction. Although he speaks briefly about his time working in the film industry writing screenplays, it would have been nice to get his thoughts on the creation of such interesting works as The Mind Parasites (1967), The Philosopher’s Stone (1969), and The Space Vampires (1976).

-Overall, Wilson strikes the reader as a cultured, highly intelligent man who, nevertheless, seemed to be strongly drawn to every aspect of the paranormal and occult, devoting enormous amounts of energy to its study. He does not seem to arrive at this from the position of an interested observer, like Charles Fort, but from a genuine desire to believe such things as ghosts, poltergeists, telepathy, dual selves, etc.

--A Colin Wilson Sampler by Colin Wilson

“Through nearly three decades of writing, Wilson has explored the frontiers of human knowledge and the fringes of human behavior, searching for the awesome powers locked within our skulls.”

-This is an engrossing, fast-paced survey of Colin Wilson’s literary output, presented in the form of thematic extracts from Wilson’s works. The commentary is taken from a number of Wilson’s books and covers such subjects as poltergeists, human ancestors, H.P. Lovecraft, the tyranny of the present (as a state of mind), optimism, the vision of “the outsider,” the identity of “the outsider,” the success of the book The Outsider, The Lord of the Rings, telepathy in infants, and the appeal of the occult and the forbidden. Although the reader is likely to disagree with a number of Wilson’s viewpoints, it still makes for absorbing, fascinating reading. It is no wonder Wilson sold as many books as he did during his lifetime, and why he is still highly regarded in some literary circles to this day.

--Presenting the Winners from Our Second Annual Short Story Contest

-Chosen by the editors of The Twilight Zone Magazine; stories illustrated by Yvonne Buchanan

“A trio of prizewinners – and a bonus short-short – showcasing four exceptional new talents.”

“The Journey” by Abbie Herrick

-A family (father, mother, daughter) live out of their car, a 1956 Cadillac Fleetwood, and seem to be on an endless road journey, coming from nowhere and headed toward nowhere. The car represents something different to each member of the family. For the father, it is a status symbol, the last sliver of his dwindling pride. For the mother, it is a prison and a constant reminder of their lot in life. For the perpetually carsick young girl it is a monster, carrying them away to strange new lands.

“Critique” by Brian Ferguson

-Students bring objects to a classroom for show-and-tell. John brings a dove. Other students “critique” the bird by mutilating it with sharp implements. Then it is another student’s turn to show what they have brought to class. It is a tiny chipmunk. John smiles and readies his switchblade.

“Evening in the Park” by Susan Rooke

-A young woman in a loveless marriage leaves her house after an argument with her husband and heads to the local park. It is after dark and the woman believes she is alone in the park. She is therefore surprised to discover an old woman sitting close by that she did not notice before. The young woman does not realize that the old woman is a fairy and able to grant wishes. The young woman wastes her wishes on common things (light, a television, etc.) when she could have wished for an entirely new life. The young woman heads back home, never to see the fairy again.


“Say Goodbye to Judy” by William B. Barfield

-The narrator describes a woman he has always loved, the titular Judy, in a way that suggests that Judy fell in love with another man and then died in a car crash. Turns out, the narrator is not attending Judy’s funeral but rather her wedding, and he is losing her not to death but to marriage.

--“5th Dimension” by Scott Edelman

Illustrated by E.T. Steadman

“The old TV had extraordinarily good reception – it reached all the way to The Twilight Zone.”

-Scott Edelman, a reader of TZ Magazine, writes to the editor, T.E.D. Klein, complaining that Marc Scott Zicree’s show-by-show guide to The Twilight Zone neglected to included several TZ episodes that he has recently watched on his television. Klein writes off to Zicree, who has no knowledge of the episodes Edelman is referring to. Klein receives some very convincing photographs from Edelman. Finally, Klein writes off to Carol Serling, indicating that Edelman is receiving new episodes of The Twilight Zone straight from the afterlife.

-This was a fun and clever imagining of what sort of episodes Rod Serling would have created for The Twilight Zone had the show been given a sixth season, or beyond. Scott Edelman has enjoyed a long career as a fan, writer, and editor in the fields of comics, television, fantasy, science fiction, and horror. Edelman currently hosts the podcast, Eating the Fantastic, in which he shares a meal with a notable figure from comics, science fiction, fantasy, or horror, and records their conversation. “5th Dimension” was collected in These Words Are Haunted (2001).

--“Nightbears” by Juleen Brantingham

Illustrated by Steve Stankiewicz

“Just beyond the door lay a world of death and horror – and the hardest part was keeping it out of his home.”

 -John works at a facility that uses criminals to test experimental drugs. At home, he struggles to keep the horrors of the outside world from entering the lives of his family, especially his young son. Food is scare, disease is rampant, war is imminent. John’s son has taken to having vivid nightmares, including one in which bears come in the night to eat him. John begins to buckle under the stress of his job, his life at home, and the world outside. He brings home “jelly beans” to share with his son. It turns out these “jelly beans” are from the facility where John works and they cause a horrible, deadly reaction in the boy.

-This was a highly ambiguous tale, almost a mood-piece, but still very effective. The world it describes, one of war, societal conflict, disease, and governmental corruption feels awfully familiar. Juleen Brantingham returns to the pages of TZ after appearing in the November, 1981 issue with “The Old Man’s Room.” Brantingham also appeared in the Carol Serling-edited anthology, Adventures in the Twilight Zone (1995) with “The House at the Edge of the World.”

--TZ Screen Preview: The Hunger by James Verniere

“Can a three-hundred-year-old man find happiness with a six-thousand-year-old woman? David Bowie and Catherine Deneuve are about to reveal the answer. James Verniere reports.”

-The (don’t call it a) vampire film The Hunger gets the full-color treatment in this issue. James Verniere gives the rundown on the premise, the performers, the differences between the film and other vampire films, the work of debut feature director Tony Scott, and the challenges the film faces by insisting it is not a horror, nor even a vampire, film. Verniere draws a comparison in this respect to another film recently profiled in the magazine, Paul Schrader’s Cat People. The Hunger is put into context against the entire history of the vampire film. A sidebar feature chronicles notable examples of cinema vampires from the silent Nosferatu through Lugosi, Lee, Polanski’s The Fearless Vampire Killers, and modern remakes of Nosferatu and Dracula. What is not discussed in any detail is the source material or its author, as Whitley Strieber and his novel are only mentioned in passing.

--TZ Discovery: Notes for a “Twilight Zone” Movie by Rod Serling

“With the Spielberg-Landis co-production nearing release, here’s a never-before-published look at the Twilight Zone film that Serling himself might have made.”

-Rod Serling began working on a possible Twilight Zone film even while the television series was in its prime run. Serling seemed always to envision a moment in time when the show would make the leap to the big screen. Unfortunately, he did not live to see Twilight Zone: The Movie. Nevertheless, Serling worked intermittingly on a TZ movie for several years, even after the show had ended and gone into syndication. Serling took a shot at drafting a treatment or outline for a TZ movie a few times, and the format was typically the same. It would be an anthology film with a varying number of segments, typically three or four, each hosted by Serling. In essence, the TZ movie would be three or four original episodes strung together to form a feature, presumably with higher production values. Some of the ideas in Serling’s early drafts for a TZ movie gained life in other ways. His first treatment contained two stories, one about a blind woman given sight for a short time, a second about a fugitive Nazi on the run, which later appeared as “Eyes” and “The Escape Route,” respectively, in Serling’s 1967 book collection, A Season to Be Wary. Serling later adapted these stories for the Night Gallery pilot film. Two stories from the treatment presented here also later saw life on the small screen.

-Carol Serling provides a brief preface to Serling’s treatment, and Serling’s prefatory comments are included as well. The format of the film is an anthology with three segments, with Serling as the host. The first segment concerns the fantasies of a hotdog vendor in a baseball park who dreams of being an all-star player who garners everyone’s admiration. The second story concerns a doctor who calls on a very old family in a very old house and discovers that the matriarch is a witch who saps the life from a young relative in order to extend her own unnatural life. The third and final story segment concerns a woman who watches in horror as her life unfolds on a movie screen each night, leading to her death.

-The second story was later adapted by J. Michael Straczynski for the third season of the first revival Twilight Zone series under the title, “Our Selena Is Dying.” It was broadcast on November 12, 1988. The third story was adapted by Richard Matheson as “The Theatre” for the first segment of the 1994 television anthology film Twilight Zone: Rod Serling’s Lost Classics.

--“The Last Adam & Eve Story” by Bruce J. Balfour

Illustrated by Richard Basil Mock

“Look out, world, here they come – fantasy’s favorite couple, together again for (thank God) for the last time!”

-Adam and Eve are space travelers on a journey to find a new home. Their computer GOD leads them to a planet and informs them that it is fit for human habitation. As a jest, Adam and Eve name the planet Earth. They land and emerge from the spaceship, only to die horribly because the atmosphere is poisonous to them. GOD is satisfied, since that will put an end to all those Adam and Eve stories.

-Bruce J. Balfour previously appeared in the pages of TZ for the June, 1982 issue with his story, “Some Days Are Like That.”

--“Dakota Safari” by Gene O’Neill

Illustrated by Peter de Seve

“Join Jomo K. Mbabwe and O.K. Jones on a spine-tingling expedition through the wilds of America, where the Cougars, Mustangs, and Rabbits roam free – at least until they run out of gas.”

-A seasoned outdoorsman guides a government ambassador on a trek through the wilds of a futuristic America, in which automobiles roam free like wild animals, stopping at gas stations instead of watering holes. The two men become aware of poachers, who shoot and kill the automobiles in order to collect their parts. The ambassador tries to sabotage the efforts of the poachers, drawing unwanted attention. The two men are beset by the poachers and are saved by a small “herd” of Rangers.

-Gene O’Neill previously appeared in TZ for the October, 1981 issue with his story, “The Burden of Indigo.” “Dakota Safari” was collected in Ghosts, Spirits, Computers and World Machines (2000).

--“Murchison’s Dream” by Byron Marshall

Illustrated by Jill Karla Schwarz

“Last night the world had met its doom. Unless it had only been . . .”

-A man is disturbed by his friend’s dream of the end of the world, especially since the Earth very recently suffered a scare very much like that of the dream. The two men take a drive in the country. The man tries to comfort his friend, who remains convinced that his dream became reality.

--“And Now I’m Waiting” by Richard Matheson

Illustrated by David Klein

“The chilling study of a writer’s satanic imagination – a tale later transformed into The Twilight Zone comedy ‘A World of His Own.’”

-David comes to the aid of his sister, Mary. She is distraught because she believes her husband, Richard, is unfaithful. David confronts Richard and discovers something wonderful and terrible. Richard, a writer, possesses the power to make anything he writes or speaks come alive in reality. Richard has used this power to produce Alice, a lovely woman from his most recent book. Richard conjures a venomous snake and accidentally kills Alice instead of Mary, his intended victim. Distraught, Richard sets fire to the house. David tries to escape until he realizes that he is also one of Richard’s creations.

-This is the never-before-published story that Matheson submitted to The Twilight Zone and adapted for the series as the first season finale, “A World of His Own.” The bones of the story remain relatively the same and will be recognized by those who have viewed the episode, but the tone and thematic qualities of the story are vastly different from its adaptation. In a prefatory note, Matheson indicates that, when he submitted the story, Rod Serling and Buck Houghton felt the story to be too melodramatic and requested that Matheson take a different approach with the adaptation. In response, Matheson went entirely the other way with the material, turning the story into a lighthearted comedy with a happy ending. The original story is very bleak, with the power of creation turning the main character into a psychopath, who uses the power and his physical supremacy to intimidate his wife and his brother-in-law. It is a satisfyingly grim short story, and a reminder of how talented Matheson was at the form, but it would have made for a very dark episode of TZ.

-“And Now I’m Waiting” was reprinted in the first issue of TZ’s sister publication, Night Cry (1984) and collected in Off Beat: Uncollected Stories (2003).

--TZ Classic Teleplay: “A World of His Own” by Richard Matheson

-As would be expected, Richard Matheson’s teleplay for the final episode of the first season is included as a companion piece for the first publication of “And Now I’m Waiting.” “A World of His Own” first aired on July 1, 1960, starring Keenan Wynn, Mary LaRoche, and Phyllis Kirk. It was directed by Ralph Nelson. “A World of His Own” is a very enjoyable episode and one of the relatively few successful comedic episodes of the series. It is notable for including Rod Serling’s first appearance onscreen during an episode (rather that for his preview of next week’s episode) in a memorable sequence in which Serling is made to disappear. Revisit Brian’s review of the episode for the full story.

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

-Zicree is nearing the end of his episode guide. In this installment, he provides cast and crew credits, Rod Serling’s opening and closing narrations, and summaries for the fifth season episodes, “Spur of the Moment,” “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,” and “Queen of the Nile.”

--In June’s TZ . . .

 


-JP

Monday, March 29, 2021

"In Praise of Pip"

Jack Klugman as Max Phillips and Bill Mumy as Young Pip

“In Praise of Pip”
Season Five, Episode 121
Original Air Date: September 27, 1963

Cast:
Max Phillips: Jack Klugman
Mrs. Feeny: Connie Gilchrist
Pvt. Pip: Robert Diamond
Young Pip: Bill Mumy
Moran: S. John Launer 
George Reynold: Russell Horton
Gunman: Kreg Martin
Doctor: Ross Elliott 
Lieutenant: Gerald Gordon 
Surgeon: Stuart Nisbet

Crew:
Writer: Rod Serling 
Director: Joseph M. Newman
Producer: Bert Granet
Director of Photography: George T. Clemens
Production Manager: Ralph W. Nelson
Art Direction: George W. Davis & Walter Holscher 
Film Editor: Thomas W. Scott
Set Decoration: Henry Grace & Robert R. Benton
Assistant Director: Charles Bonniwell, Jr. 
Casting: Patricia Rose
Music: RenĂ© Garriguenc (composer), Lud Gluskin (conductor)
Sound: Franklin Milton & Philip N. Mitchell 
Mr. Serling’s Wardrobe: Eagle Clothes
Filmed at MGM Studios

Rod Serling’s Opening Narration:

“Submitted for your approval, one Max Phillips, a slightly-the-worse-for-wear maker of book, whose life has been as drab and undistinguished as a bundle of dirty clothes. And, though it’s very late in his day, he has an errant wish that the rest of his life might be sent out to a laundry to come back shiny and clean, this to be a gift of love to a son named Pip. Mr. Max Phillips, Homo sapiens, who is soon to discover that man is not as wise as he thinks – said lesson to be learned in the Twilight Zone.”

Summary:

            Vietnam. A wounded young soldier is carried in on a stretcher. He needs to be moved to a better facility if he hopes to survive his injuries. The soldier’s identification tag reads: Phillips, Pip.

            Thousands of miles away, Max Phillips awakens with a scream. He is in a cheap, one-room apartment. He smiles ruefully at the man in the mirror and takes a drink from a bottle of bourbon kept concealed in a drawer. Max’s landlady, Mrs. Feeny, enters to tidy up the room. She scolds Max on his habits, especially his drinking. Max inquires if a letter arrived in the mail. Mrs. Freeny tells him that nothing arrived that day.

            Max receives a visitor. It is a young man named George, who placed a losing bet on a horserace using money stolen from his place of employment. Max is a bookie and George has come to beg off paying up in fear he will be jailed if he doesn’t return the money.

            Later that night, Max pays a visit to Moran, who employs Max. Moran mentions that Max has been avoiding him, and that Max failed to collect three-hundred dollars from George. Now, Moran tells him, someone will have to go out and bring George back. Max drops an envelope of money on the table and lights a cigarette. Moran’s gunman brings in George, who has been beaten up.

            Max takes a phone call from Mrs. Feeny. She informs him that a telegram arrived from the Army stating that his son, Pip, is seriously wounded and dying in Vietnam. Max is stunned. He walks to the window and looks out onto an amusement park where he used to take Pip. Max is filled with regret for a lifetime of drinking and conning and hustling, when he should have spent more time with his son. It appears as though they’ll never have time together again, and Max will never have the chance to make-up for all the times he left Pip waiting.

            Regret turns to rage. Max picks up the envelope of money and tosses it to George. Max tells George to get out of there, return the money, and keep his nose clean from now on. Moran’s gunman won’t allow George to leave. Max pulls out a knife. The gunman takes a shot and wounds Max, but Max charges and drives the knife into the gunman’s belly. Then Max turns and knocks down Moran. Max and George rush out.

            Max stumbles, wounded, to the gates of the amusement park. The park is closed for the night, dark and deserted. He begs God to let him see Pip one last time. Max slips through the gates and into the amusement park.

            Max sees a boy in the distance. It looks like Pip as a young boy. Max can’t believe his eyes. He follows the boy around the corner. Miraculously, incredibly, it really is Pip, as he was at ten years old. Max hugs and kisses his son but doesn’t understand how Pip could be there or how Pip could be ten years old again. It doesn’t matter, Pip tells him, they have time together and they have the park to themselves. They should make the best of it.

            The amusement park lights up. The rides lumber into motion. Cotton candy and popcorn appear at the concession stands. Max has forgotten about the wound in his side. He and Pip dash off to ride the rides, eat the food, play the games, and enjoy one another’s company.

            An hour passes when, suddenly, Pip runs away. Max, confused and upset, follows Pip into the House of Mirrors. Max chases the boy but cannot catch him in the maze. Max’s wound flares up again and he collapses, exhausted.

            Pip appears in the mirror. Max pours his heart out and tells Pip all the things he regrets about their relationship. Max promises to change his ways, to be a better father, to give up the drinking and the bookmaking so they can spend time together. Pip tells him that their time is almost up. Pip has to leave because he is dying.

            Pip rushes from the House of Mirrors and disappears. Max follows, the wound in his side draining him of life. The amusement park is dark and silent again. Max leans against a post and offers up a bargain to God. Max will gladly give up his life if it means that Pip can live. Max stumbles forward and collapses to the ground, dead.

            On a sunny afternoon sometime later, Pip arrives at the amusement park in the company of Mrs. Feeny and her granddaughter. Pip is limping and using a cane but looks to be on the road to a full recovery. Pip wanders around the crowded park and remembers the good times he had with his father.

Rod Serling’s Closing Narration:

“Very little comment here, save for this small aside: that the ties of flesh are deep and strong, that the capacity to love is a vital, rich, and all-consuming function of the human animal, and that you can find nobility and sacrifice and love wherever you may seek it out; down the block, in the heart, or in the Twilight Zone.”

Commentary:

            “In Praise of Pip” begins the fifth and final season of Twilight Zone on a particularly high note. It features some of Rod Serling’s strongest writing on the series and reunites viewers with two of the show’s most recognizable and enjoyable performers.

 At this late point in the series, writing was often a struggle for Serling, not because he had lost any of his considerable ability, but because the responsibility of producing a high quantity of high quality material took a creative toll on his output. This was a pressure consistently placed on Serling since the first season, when he was contractually obligated to produce eighty percent of the scripts for the series. Although this production arrangement did not extend beyond the first season, Serling continued to produce the vast majority of material for the series. Serling wrote sixteen of the thirty-five scripts for the fifth season.* As comparison, the second-most productive writer of the fifth season, Earl Hamner, Jr., contributed five scripts.

By his own admission, Serling felt creatively and physically exhausted, and it affected the quality of his scripts as well as his ability to distinguish good work from bad. Serling composed his scripts via dictation, not only in an effort to capture the natural cadences of conversation, but also to speed up production. The results, apparent in several episodes of the fifth season, were scripts heavily weighed down by dialogue and largely devoid of substantial dramatic action. In some instances, Serling was able to circumvent this recurring characteristic and produce engaging drama, such as “The Masks” or “The Jeopardy Room.” Other times, the results were less successful, as in “Uncle Simon” or “The Fear.”

            How, then, did Serling create one of his finest scripts, and perhaps the finest episode of the fifth season? The simplest answer is that, creatively exhausted or not, Serling was still a hugely talented writer capable of producing high quality material. If we dig a little deeper, however, we can see the method by which Serling went back to a creative well that produced material earlier in his career, as well as earlier in the series.

            On April 8, 1953, Kraft Television Theatre presented “Next of Kin” by Rod Serling. The contemporary drama concerned the conflict of the Korean War and explored the effect of three missing soldiers on their families and friends back home. The story of a missing soldier named Tommy Phillips is told through the perspective of his father, Max, an alcoholic bookie who recites an oft-repeated promise to his landlady, Mrs. Feeny. Max promises to clean up, to stop drinking, and to leave bookmaking behind in order to spend time with his son once Tommy returns from the war. Max tells Mrs. Feeny that he plans to meet Tommy at the boat. His love for his son pushes Max to spare a young man who cannot pay up on a bet. This lands Max in trouble with Moran, the local crime boss, who is less forgiving of such transgressions. It is while visiting Moran that Max receives a telephone call from Mrs. Feeny. A telegram arrived from the Army reporting Tommy missing in action. Max is stunned. He looks out of the window onto a carnival where he used to take Tommy. Facing the possibility of never seeing his son again, Max is filled with regret for not being a better father.

            If this sounds familiar to viewers of “In Praise of Pip,” it is because Serling recycled this dramatic act, almost verbatim, from his earlier script. It also explains why the fantasy element in “In Praise of Pip” does not appear until halfway through the episode. As it is, the fantasy element is so subtle, and achieved with such a minimum of effects, that one could plausibly suggest that Max is already dead at the time he enters the deserted amusement park. The park then serves as a sort of purgatory in which Max must wrestle with his own mortality, and the mortality of his neglected son, in order to make the necessary sacrifice that will grant him redemption and save Pip. The telltale clue to this possibility is the waxing and waning of the effect of Max’s gunshot wound.

            Serling did not recycle an earlier script simply to take a shortcut or to speed up production. He recognized the dramatic power in the earlier work and decided to take another shot at it a decade later on Twilight Zone. From this earlier springboard, Serling added a second act and a requisite element of fantasy.

            The second act also calls back to earlier Serling scripts, although in a more indirect manner. “In Praise of Pip” contains a number of thematic and symbolic echoes from earlier episodes of Twilight Zone. In some ways, the episode plays out like the inverse of Serling’s early masterpiece, “Walking Distance.” In that first season episode, a man magically returns to a moment in his childhood and receives a new perspective on his unhappy life, largely through the wisdom of a father who, though deceased in the reality of the present, is young and alive in this fantasy past. For purposes of comparison, "Walking Distance" can roughly be summarized as concerning a father who encounters an adult version of his son from the future, whereas "In Praise of Pip" concerns a father encountering a child version of his son from the past. "In Praise of Pip" also contains, albeit briefly, a sequence with a carousel, which may remind viewers of "Walking Distance."

            “In Praise of Pip” also features an ambiguous deal with God. In many of his scripts, Serling writes about God, Death, or the afterlife as someone or something with which one can directly communicate and bargain. This was established as early as the first season episode, “One for the Angels,” in which an old man gives his life for a young girl hovering, much like Pip, between life and death. Jack Klugman’s first appearance on Twilight Zone was in “A Passage for Trumpet,” which concerns a man, guided by an angel, who must contend with his own personal worth as he walks a purgatorial path between life and death. Bill Mumy, young Pip in “In Praise of Pip,” made his first appearance on the series in an episode concerned with much of the same material. “Long Distance Call,” written by Charles Beaumont and William Idelson, sees a father directly call out to the other side in order to save his young son, played by Mumy, from a tragic early death.

            There are also recurring symbols tenuously connecting “In Praise of Pip” to earlier episodes of the series. The mirror as a symbol for interior self-reflection was a key component in two earlier Serling scripts, “Nervous Man in a Four Dollar Room” and “The Mirror.” It was also used as a simple vehicle for suspense in “The Hitch-Hiker” and “Mirror Image.” Serling also recreated the memorable scene of a character crashing into a mirror from the pilot episode, “Where Is Everybody?”

            “In Praise of Pip” feels akin to several film noir-influenced offerings on the series, as well, many of which date from the first season. The grimy, hopeless, and doom-laden atmosphere of the first act is heightened in the second act by the atmospheric setting of the deserted amusement park and by Max’s bleak, but ultimately redemptive, death. These elements are greatly enhanced by George Clemens’s wonderfully expressionistic photography and, especially, by the melancholy, jazz-inflected score from RenĂ© Garriguenc. Director Joseph M. Newman was no stranger to film noir and related crime dramas. Although he is perhaps best remembered as the director of the science fiction classic, This Island Earth (1955), he also directed such films as 711 Ocean Drive (1950), Lucky Nick Cain (1951), Dangerous Crossing (1953), and The Human Jungle (1954). Newman brought his talent for crime and suspense subjects to The Alfred Hitchcock Hour at roughly the same time he arrived on the fifth season of Twilight Zone.

            None of the preceding is to suggest that “In Praise of Pip” is simply a patchwork quilt of earlier material, but Serling was at his strongest as a dramatist when retracing a narrative path over certain themes and symbols that clearly held personal, rather than artificial, importance to his work.

            The most recognizable aspects from earlier episodes of Twilight Zone are the two central performers in “In Praise of Pip,” Jack Klugman and Bill Mumy. The role of Max Phillips was originally offered to Art Carney, star of the second season episode, “The Night of the Meek.” Carney was unable to accept the role so it went instead to Jack Klugman, a familiar face on Twilight Zone and one of only two actors, the other being Burgess Meredith, to headline four episodes. Both Carney and Klugman date their creative relationships with Rod Serling to the Playhouse 90 drama “The Velvet Alley” (1959). Serling enjoyed working with these actors due to their ability to take Serling’s poetic, expressive dialogue and ground it in the gritty realism of the drama. Klugman, in particular, possessed an almost uncanny ability to elicit genuine pathos from dialogue and situations that, in the hands of a lesser performer, might play as unrealistic, if not ludicrous. The most obvious example in “In Praise of Pip” is the final sequence in which Max strikes a bargain with God to give his life in order to spare Pip. As a contemporary Variety review opined, in an otherwise unfavorable view, Klugman made the material better than it deserved to be. This may be too strong of a take, since it is excellent writing from Serling, but the point remains that Klugman possessed a unique ability to elevate or ground the drama as necessary.

            Klugman also brought a streetwise toughness to the role. Klugman, the son of Russian-Jewish immigrants, grew up in a tough Philadelphia neighborhood and his formative experiences likely played a role in his ability to portray a rough, violent character like Max Phillips. The scene in which Max violently confronts Moran and his gunman is completely believable and serves as a stark transition point for the character and the episode. Before this scene, Max virtually sleepwalked through the drama, lazing about on his bed or the sofa in Moran’s hotel room, seemingly indifferent to what went on around him. From the moment he gets the call informing him that Pip is dying, he becomes an open wound of emotion, and Klugman perfectly steers Max’s progression from rage to joy to regret and finally to the raw anguish of death. It is altogether a masterful performance, and perhaps Klugman’s finest moment on the series.

            The anchoring presence opposite Jack Klugman is Bill Mumy as Young Pip. Mumy is also a memorable repeat performer from the series, primarily remembered for his role as the God-like child Anthony Fremont in the brilliant and disturbing third season episode, “It’s a Good Life.” Here, Mumy assumes a role more in line with his first appearance on the series in the second season episode, “Long Distance Call.” In both episodes, Mumy expertly embodies the vulnerable innocence of youth confronted with the reality of death. Mumy worked exceptionally well with Jack Klugman, allowing Klugman to pick him up, spin him around, and kiss and hug on him, all in a highly naturalistic manner that made the father/son relationship immediately believable. Mumy tells a sweet and touching story in interviews relating that Klugman came up to Mumy and his parents before filming began in order to prepare them for the highly affectionate way in which Klugman prepared to perform the scene with Mumy. 

           The standout performance from the supporting cast in “In Praise of Pip” is that of veteran character actress Connie Gilchrist as Mrs. Feeny, Max’s empathetic landlady who provides a refreshing, motherly aspect to the heavily male drama, and further magnifies the absence of any mention of Pip's mother. The Brooklyn-born Gilchrist (1895-1985) was a versatile performer whose career on screen dates back to 1940. Of particular interest to Vortex readers are Gilchrist’s appearances on The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. Gilchrist appeared in the Charles Beaumont-scripted first season episode, “The Long Silence,” based on the novel Composition for Four Hands by Hilda Lawrence, as well as in the unforgettable second season opener, “A Home Away from Home,” scripted by Robert Bloch and based on his short story from Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. Gilchrist earlier appeared on Alfred Hitchcock Presents in the seventh season episode, “The Door without a Key.”           

            Interiors for “In Praise of Pip” were constructed at MGM and seamlessly blended with the results of external location filming at Pacific Ocean Park in Santa Monica, California. Production secured access for filming at Pacific Ocean Park for two consecutive nights after closing hours. Pacific Ocean Park, an amusement park along the Santa Monica Pier, replaced the earlier attractions of Ocean Park Pier and was designed as a direct competitor to Disneyland in nearby Anaheim. POP opened in July of 1958 and closed in October of 1967, left to fall into disrepair for years afterwards. 

            The House of Mirrors is one of the more memorable and impressive sets created for the series. Bill Mumy recalled the method by which the actors were able to navigate through the mirror maze. Tape was placed on the floor, marking the correct turnings to quickly get through the maze. The viewer can see Mumy glance down to the floor as Young Pip rushes out of the House of Mirrors to disappear into the night. 

            Bill Mumy also recalled the eeriness of filming in the deserted park after hours. Mumy, who resided nearby at the time, was a frequent visitor to the park and found the juxtaposition of the normally crowded park with the dark, deserted atmosphere to be strange and unnerving. This jarring juxtaposition is perfectly captured in the episode in the transition from Max’s nighttime death, lying on the pavement with refuse blowing across his body, to the bright sunshine and the afternoon crowds on a following day. 

            Finally, it would be remiss not to mention the episode’s approach to the military conflict in Vietnam. “In Praise of Pip” is very likely the first depiction of American military casualties in Vietnam on a network television broadcast of a dramatic series. As such, it is an important part of the show’s cultural legacy of confronting contemporary social and political issues, as well as a continued example of Rod Serling’s use of military conflicts to explore broader concerns of the human condition. Thematically related episodes such as “The Purple Testament,” “The Passersby,” and “A Quality of Mercy” retain much of their dramatic power due to their universal theme of human suffering.

Rod Serling, a WWII veteran, became a vocal opponent of the Vietnam War as the United States grew deeply entrenched in that conflict and the war became a mass media event. However, Vietnam was not the location Serling originally chose for the military sequences in “In Praise of Pip.” Originally, Serling chose Laos and wrote the teleplay as such. When Serling submitted the teleplay to script readers at de Forest Research to check against errors and inaccuracies, it was reported back that the International Agreement on the Neutrality of Laos, signed in Geneva in 1962, precluded the presence of the United States military in Laos outside of their station at the American Embassy. In other words, it would be highly inaccurate to suggest a contemporary military conflict in Laos. It was recommended Serling change the setting to South Vietnam, where U.S. forces were fighting in an advisory capacity. Serling made the necessary change.

            Although Serling later became an outspoken critic of America’s involvement in Vietnam, “In Praise of Pip” is not a direct comment on that conflict in the way, for example, that “The Mirror” is a direct comment on the Cuban Revolution. Serling simply needed a believable military situation in order to place Pip in peril. Regardless, it serves as an eerily prophetic work, as U.S. involvement in the region grew into a seemingly endless military engagement that costs thousands of American lives, a price primarily paid by young men like Pip.

              “In Praise of Pip” signaled a remarkably strong beginning to the fifth and final season, setting a standard which, despite occasional peaks of excellence, the increasingly tottering series could not maintain. The episode serves as a reminder that Rod Serling at the pinnacle of his talents was capable of producing work leagues beyond most network television drama, if not much of what was shown in movie theaters. At his best, and he’s near his best with “In Praise of Pip,” Serling could say in twenty-four minutes what many films struggled to say in ninety, and most of the time Serling said it better. Throughout Serling’s career, there were lightning strikes of brilliance, works that perfectly illuminated the vagaries of human experience through flashes of robust drama spoken in Serling’s terse, poetic voice. “In Praise of Pip” earns its place in this long line of triumphs.

In many ways, “In Praise of Pip” is also a refreshing callback to the vintage Serling episodes that established the high standard and unique qualities of the series. It is a wonderful showcase for the talents of two of the most consistently brilliant performers on the series, Jack Klugman and Bill Mumy. Klugman, in particular, has never been better on the series. In “In Praise of Pip,” he carries the weight of the drama on his shoulders, and his performance is a testament to the endurance of the series and its continued ability to fascinate and entrance viewers sixty years later.

Although he produced other excellent material for the final season, nothing to emerge from Serling’s Dictaphone again reached the heights of “In Praise of Pip.” Consider it a final, brilliant, and lasting gift from the creator of the series.

Grade: A

*The thirty-sixth episode, “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,” is a 1961 (released in 1962) Academy Award-winning French short film, broadcast on Twilight Zone as both a showcase for the film and as a cost-saving measure.

Grateful acknowledgement to:

-The Twilight Zone Companion by Marc Scott Zicree (2nd ed., Silman-James, 1989)

-Commentary by Marc Scott Zicree and Neil Gaiman (The Twilight Zone: The 5th Dimension (DVD Box Set), Image Entertainment, 2014)

-Commentary by Bill Mumy (The Twilight Zone: The 5th Dimension (DVD Box Set), Image Entertainment, 2014)

-Rod Serling: His Life, Work, and Imagination by Nicholas Parisi (University Press of Mississippi, 2018)

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

-The Internet Movie Database (imdb.com)

Notes:

-Jack Klugman also appeared in “A Passage for Trumpet,” “A Game of Pool,” and “Death Ship.”

-Bill Mumy also appeared in “Long Distance Call” and “It’s a Good Life.” Mumy later appeared in a cameo role in Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983), and in “It’s Still a Good Life” on the second revival Twilight Zone series.

-S. John Launer also appeared in “And When the Sky Was Opened” and “The Purple Testament.” His voice can be heard in “Third from the Sun.”

-Russell Horton also appeared in “The Changing of the Guard.”

-Ross Elliott also appeared in “Death Ship.”

-Joseph M. Newman directed three additional episodes of the fifth season, “The Last Night of a Jockey,” “Black Leather Jackets,” and the final broadcast episode, “The Bewitchin’ Pool.”

-“In Praise of Pip” was adapted as a Twilight Zone Radio Drama starring Fred Willard.

-Rod Serling’s teleplay for “In Praise of Pip” was printed in the October, 1982 issue of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine. The printed script contains Serling's original setting of Laos instead of Vietnam. 

 -JP