Saturday, November 26, 2011

"Third From the Sun"

Fritz Weaver and Edward Andrews

“Third From the Sun”
Season One, Episode 14
Original Air Date: January 8, 1960

William Sturka: Fritz Weaver
Eve Sturka: Lori March
Jody Sturka: Denise Alexander
Jerry Riden: Joe Maross
Ann Riden: Jeanne Evans
Carling: Edward Andrews
Security Guard: Robert McCord

Writer: Rod Serling (based on the story by Richard Matheson).
Director: Richard L. Bare
Producer: Buck Houghton
Production Manager: Ralph W. Nelson
Director of Photography: Harry Wild
Art Direction: George W. Davis and William Ferrari
Set Decoration: Rudy Butler and Henry Grace
Assistant Director: Edward Denault
Casting: Mildred Gusse
Editor: Bill Mosher
Sound: Franklin Milton and Philip Mitchell
Music: Stock

And Now, Mr. Serling:
“Next week we’ll give you a lesson in astronomy, but the kind of lesson not taught in schools.  Fritz Weaver, Edward Andrews and Joe Maross appear in ‘Third from the Sun.’   This is a story that takes place on the eve of doomsday.  We hope you’ll join us on the Twilight Zone.  Thank you and good night.”

Rod Serling’s Opening Narration:
“Quitting time at the plant.  Time for supper now.  Time for families.  Time for a cool drink on a porch.  Time for the quiet rustle of leaf-laden trees that screen out the moon.  And underneath it all, behind the eyes of the men, hanging invisible over the summer night, is a horror without words.  For this is the stillness before storm.  This is the eve of the end.”

            William Sturka is a scientist at an industrial plant that makes nuclear bombs for the military.  He’s standing outside of the plant enjoying an end-of-the-day smoke when he is joined by a coworker named Carling.  Carling tells Sturka that within forty-eight hours the military is going to launch a full-scale nuclear attack on its enemy.  Carling seems to be delighted by this information.  Sturka remarks that Carling should not be zealous about the deaths of millions of people.  Carling calls him a defeatist for making such a statement, and Sturka abruptly says goodbye and walks away.
            As soon as he arrives home Sturka tells his wife, Eve, that they have to leave in order to escape a nuclear holocaust.  He informs her that he has been planning for this day for several months.  He tells her that he has already made preparations with Jerry Riden, a pilot for an experimental spacecraft that can supposedly travel tremendous distances, to steal the aircraft and pilot it to another planet.  Sturka, his wife and their daughter, Jody, are to leave with Riden and his wife in the spacecraft later that night.  Jerry and his wife will come over to play cards and when they think the time is right they will all make a run for it.
            Later that night Jerry and his wife arrive at Sturka’s to play cards.  A few hands into the game Carling unexpectedly arrives at the door.  His presence makes everyone uncomfortable, a fact he seems to relish.  He casually rambles on about nothing in particular while making it very clear to the group that he knows about their plan.  He excuses himself politely and leaves.  After he is gone the group decides that the time to leave is now.  They all gather into one car and drive to the site where the spacecraft is being held under military surveillance.
            Once they arrive at the site, however, Carling appears out of the darkness aiming a revolver at them.  He tells Riden and Sturka that he is going to turn them into the authorities.  He asks the women, still in the backseat of the car, to step out and tells the two men to get in.  Jody slams the car door into Carling and the two men take the gun away from him and knock him unconscious.  The group races across the airstrip and begins to board the ship as military personnel attempt to apprehend them.  Finally, they are able to make it inside and take off safely, leaving their doomed planet behind them
            Several hours later Riden shows Sturka where they are going.  It’s a planet with an atmosphere similar to their own and it’s inhabited by people that appear to be a great deal like them.  It is the third planet from the sun; a planet called Earth.

Rod Serling’s Closing Narration:
“Behind a tiny ship heading into Space is a doomed planet on the verge of suicide.  Ahead lies a place called Earth, the third planet from the sun.  And for William Sturka and the men and women with him it’s the eve of the beginning…in the Twilight Zone.”


“He nodded once and looked back at his and his neighbor’s family. They were still looking out the ports.
            ‘What?’ he asked.
            ‘I said,’ the neighbor repeated, ‘which one of these planets is it?’
            He leaned over the chart, pointed.
            ‘That small one over there,’ he said. ‘Near that moon.’
            ‘This one, third from the sun?’
            ‘That’s right,’ he said. ‘That one. Third from the sun.’

                        -“Third from the Sun” by Richard Matheson 

            I think the thing that made The Twilight Zone the show that it was is that it didn’t employ a large roster of writers.  I believe from its inception Serling had a clear idea of what he wanted the show to look like, how he wanted it to feel, the themes he wanted to discuss.  But Serling was untried as a fantasist and realized he would need writers who knew the genre well and who could also recognize and adapt quickly to the style of the show.  Living in Los Angelos during the 1950’s and 60’s, Serling would have found himself surrounded by a hall of fame of twentieth century speculative fiction writers.  Ray Bradbury tells a story of having Serling over to his house for dinner one evening and sending him home afterwards with a lumbering stack of books by contemporary fantasists, telling him that The Twilight Zone would be found within the pages of those books.  Reading voraciously, Serling gave himself a crash course in twentieth century American fantasy.   Initially, he wanted to approach many different writers to freelance stories for the show.  But eventually he settled on only a select few who would become regular writers.  And because he had confidence in these writers to produce stories that fit the milieu of The Twilight Zone he gave them artistic authority to write whatever they wanted.  This would set up a nice dynamic for the series as one that could discuss many different themes and ideas but somehow formulate them into one universal approach.
Richard Matheson is a writer whose work seems tailor-made for a show like The Twilight Zone.  In the introduction to his Collected Stories (Wiater, ed.  Dream/Press, 1989) Matheson describes the underlying motif in virtually all of his early fiction in this manner: the individual isolated in a threatening world, attempting to survive.  Matheson’s fiction is heavily concerned with psychology and even though much of it is fantasy he takes a realistic approach in exploring how people react to their surroundings.  His characters are usually incredibly flawed individuals, fraught with disillusionment and crawling with paranoia.  Rod Serling often described the most devastating type of fear as a fear of the unknown that affects only one person, a fear which that person cannot share with anyone else.  If this would be a central theme of The Twilight Zone then a writer like Matheson would seem an obvious choice for the series.  For those not familiar with his work outside of Zone I would point them in the direction of stories like “Mad House,” “Disappearing Act” and “Legion of Plotters,” all of which are available in his collection Nightmare at 20,000 Feet (Tor, 2002), to get a feel for how substantial his influence on the program was.  Matheson is widely recognized as the writer who shaped the modern horror story, bringing it out of decaying aristocratic castles and into suburban neighborhoods and shopping malls.  Matheson wasn’t the first writer to do this but he was the first to make it a defining characteristic of his fiction.
Matheson was born in New Jersey in 1920 and raised in Brooklyn.  After seeing combat as an infantry soldier in World War II he arrived in Los Angeles in 1951 after receiving a journalism degree from the University of Missouri.  Unable to find work as a journalist he worked various jobs at night and wrote short stories during the day.  He published his first story, “Born of Man and Woman,” in the Summer, 1950 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and it brought him instant attention (“Third from the Sun” was his second published short story, appearing in the October, 1950 issue of Galaxy).  Over the next decade he would continue a prolific stint as one of the leading new writers of American popular fiction.  By the time his work began appearing on The Twilight Zone in 1959 he had already published six novels, two collections of short stories, and had seen his classic science fiction novel The Shrinking Man made into a film by Jack Arnold, for which Matheson wrote the screenplay. 
In Los Angeles Matheson fell in with several highly regarded literary communities, most notably a group of writers that would collectively be known as “The Southern California School of Writers,” (taken from a quote by Los Angeles Times critic Robert Kirsch) or simply “The Group.”  The Group played a significant part in the history of The Twilight Zone because almost all of the show’s writers including Beaumont, Johnson, Bradbury, Jerry Sohl, John Tomerlin and even Serling himself to a certain degree, were connected to it.  Other writers often placed within this circle are Harlan Ellison, Robert Bloch, William F Nolan, and Ray Russell.  The Group found in each other the creative drive to produce the best work possible.  Their spirited enthusiasm had an indelible impression on their work and out of this camaraderie came several masterpieces of American popular fiction.  Many contemporary writers of speculative fiction cite these authors as major influences on their work and it is to the discredit of the publishing industry that so many of their works are no longer in print.
“Third From the Sun” is Rod Serling’s adaptation of Richard Matheson’s short story of the same name.  Unlike “And When the Sky Was Opened,” Serling’s incredibly loose adaptation of Matheson’s story “Disappearing Act,” this teleplay is more faithful to its source material.  Serling simply fleshed out the plot a little, adding a villain and changing the time frame to build suspense.  Matheson’s story takes place on the morning of the family’s departure.  The character’s are not given names and are referred to only by title (i.e. wife, daughter, son, neighbor).  It’s almost a slice-of-life type vignette that paints a scene of what a family’s last breakfast on Earth would look like.  It’s a good story but there is not enough there to turn it into a half-hour teleplay without adding other elements.
Matheson has said several times that he wasn’t happy with this adaptation, although he is famous for being extremely demanding of people who attempt to adapt his work.  One can’t really fault him for this.  His work is rarely adapted faithfully and even more rarely is it adapted well.  His vampire novel I am Legend (1954) is considered by many to be one of the seminal works of American dark fantasy.  Yet it has been adapted for the screen three times and all three times the filmmakers strayed away from the original concept somehow which resulted in a watered-down version of Matheson's novel.  The reason the man is so particular about other people adapting his work might have a lot to do with the way he writes.  Matheson is a very deliberate writer.  His style is terse and to the point.  His short fiction moves fast and his sentence structure is simple and concrete.  Even in his novels he rarely elaborates into ornate detail unless it’s absolutely pertinent to the story.  He seems to write stories scene for scene how he imagines them in his head, without the expositive gibberish that many writers saturate their fiction with.  I don’t think he leaves much room in his stories for other people’s interpretations.  This isn’t a bad thing.  It’s just the way he writes.
Much like the previous episode, “The Four of Us Are Dying,” “Third from the Sun” immediately grabs the viewer’s attention with its inebriated camera angles and its uncomfortable close-up shots.  This episode marked The Twilight Zone directorial debut of Richard L. Bare who would direct a total of seven episodes of the program including the fan favorites “To Serve Man” and “Nick of Time” (Bare would later make a name for himself by directing an astounding 166 episodes of Green Acres and with his landmark 1971 book The Film Director).  “Third from the Sun,” however, would remain his crowning achievement on the show for it is masterfully directed.  Aiding him in this venture was Director of Photography Harry Wild with his only contribution to the series.  The elaborate trick shots and eclectic style of this episode is a practice in the art of deception by the filmmakers.  The twist at the end of the story is a simple one that could have been easily detected by an audience had the director’s approach been too aggressive.  By the same token this episode would feel dishonest if Bare didn’t play by the rules and gave no underlying setup for the payoff at the end of the story.  There has to be some evidence that this is foreign planet that we are seeing.  Bare pulls this off brilliantly by employing the use of wide angle lenses which cloak this alien world in a blanket of disorientation.  Subtlety is key here.  This is executed brilliantly due to the exceptional camerawork of Harry Wild which pulls the viewer’s attention away from the intricacies of this episode.  There is one shot in particular during the famous poker scene in which Wild is shooting the cast from underneath a glass table. 

The actors also deserve a nod.  Each turn in convincing performances but the two that resonate the most with me are Fritz Weaver as William Sturka and Edward Andrews as the militant Carling.  This is the first of two episodes for Weaver who also stars in the season two episode, “The Obsolete Man,” in one of the most memorable performances of the entire series.  He’s fantastic here as the conscientious Sturka who is at once an empathetic character, the voice of man’s guilt in the horrible world that he has helped create.  But the man who steals the show is Edward Andrews.  This is also the first of two episodes for Andrews who would also star in the unfortunate season five episode “You Drive.”  Here he plays the kind of role that he was notorious for.  Carling could have been a bland, vanilla flavored, disciplinary villain had the wrong actor played the part.  On the surface there is really not much too him.  His visceral attributes are found not so much in what he says but in the way Andrews says it and in the uncomfortable atmosphere that seems to cling to him wherever he goes.  A good example of this is during the aforementioned poker scene when Andrews enters Sturka’s home while he and Riden are mapping out their escape route.  If you really listen Andrews doesn’t say anything threatening during this scene but yet the threat is there, radiating from him.  In a very chilling gesture Andrews gently picks up the men’s poker scores right from underneath Riden’s fingers which coincidentally has their evacuation plan on the other side.  Here he doesn’t say anything at all and doesn’t have to, as his purpose is quite clear.
If “Third from the Sun” is big on atmosphere then it’s quite small on plot which is its only downfall.  I should admit that I have never really cared for the payoff at the end of this story.  It’s always been a bit too unbelievable for me.  But both the original source material and its small screen adaptation are examples of taking a very thin concept and turning it into something much greater, a practice that would become a defining characteristic of this program.  Even if an ending seemed flat and predictable it often didn’t matter because the story that came before it held enough philosophical insight and the characters were emotionally compelling enough that it struck at the heart of the audience and made them care about what was happening.  Which is what great art should do.

Grade: B


--“Third From the Sun” was originally published in the October, 1950 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction magazine.  It was also published in Born of Man and Woman (Chamberlain Press, 1954) Matheson’s first collection of short stories (a truncated edition of this collection was published by Bantam Books in 1955 with “Third From the Sun” as the title story).  It was also published in Twilight Zone: the Original Stories (Greenburg, Matheson, Waugh, eds.  MJF, 1985) and can most recently be found in his collection Duel (Tor, 2003).
--For anyone wanting a complete bibliography of Matheson’s work you should check out The Richard Matheson Companion (Wiater, Bradley, Stuve, eds.  Gauntlet Press, 2007).  (a trade paperback edition was published in 2009 entitled The Twilight and Other Zones: the Dark Worlds of Richard Matheson).  It’s a collection of essays honoring Matheson by those who have known him best throughout his career.  William F. Nolan has a great biographical essay in it entitled “The Matheson Years: a Profile in Friendship.”  It’s brief but, in typical Nolan fashion, quite thorough.
--For more information on The Southern California School of Writers I would recommend reading Christopher Conlon’s essential essay, “Southern California Sorcerers,” available in California Sorcery (Cemetery Dance, 1999), an anthology featuring stories by the Group edited by William F. Nolan and William Schafer.  Conlon also edited He is Legend: An Anthology Celebrating Richard Matheson (Gauntlet Press, 2009) featuring original stories inspired by Matheson’s work from many of today’s leading fantasists.  The hardcover edition includes Matheson's and Beamont's collaborative screen adaptation of Fritz Lieber’s novel Conjure Wife, which was filmed by Sidney Hayers in 1962 as Burn, Witch, Burn.
--Fritz Weaver gives a topnotch performance in the exceptional season two episode, “The Obsolete Man,” written by Rod Serling. Weaver also appeared in an episode of Rod Serling's Night Gallery titled "A Question of Fear." Weaver also recorded a reading of Rod Serling's prose adaptation of "The Mighty Casey" for Harper Audio in 1992.
--Edward Andrews also stars in the season five episode, “You Drive,” written by Earl Hamner, Jr.
--Joe Maross also stars in the season three episode, “The Little People,” written by Rod Serling.
--Richard L. Bare’s television credits also include many episodes of Petticoat Junction, The Virginian, Cheyenne, Maverick and Green Acres.
--Serling named two of the characters in the episode after his daughters, Jodi and Ann(e).
--"Third From the Sun" was adapted into a Twilight Zone Radio Drama by Dennis Etchison, starring Fred Willard. 

--Brian Durant

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

"The Four of Us Are Dying"

Harry Townes as one form of shifty con-man Arch Hammer
"The Four of Us Are Dying"
Season One, Episode 13
Original Air Date: January 1, 1960

Arch Hammer: Harry Townes
Hammer as Johnny Foster: Ross Martin
Hammer as Virgil Sterig: Phillip Pine
Hammer as Andy Marshak: Don Gordon
Maggie: Beverly Garland
Pop Marshak: Peter Brocco
Mr. Penell: Bernard Fein
Detective: Milton Frome
Trumpet Player: Harry Jackson

Writer: Rod Serling (based on "All of Us Are Dying" by George Clayton Johnson)
Director: John Brahm
Producer: Buck Houghton
Production Manager: Ralph W. Nelson
Director of Photography: George T. Clemens
Art Direction: George W. Davis & William Ferrari
Set Decoration: Henry Grace & Rudy Butler
Assistant Director: Edward Denault
Casting: Mildred Gusse
Sound: Franklin Milton and Jean Valentino
Music: Jerry Goldsmith

And Now, Mr. Serling:
"Next week on the Twilight Zone one of the most bizarre and unusual tales we've told yet. One man with four faces. Four separate and adventuresome lives that must be seen to be believed. Harry Townes, Philip Pine, Ross Martin, and Don Gordon star in 'The Four of Us Are Dying.' This is a story designed for goosebumps. I hope we'll see you next week. Good night."

Rod Serling's Opening Narration:
"His name is Arch Hammer. He's thirty-six years old. He's been a salesman, a dispatcher, a truck driver, a con man, a bookie, and a part-time bartender. This is a cheap man, a nickle and dime man, with a cheapness that goes past the suit and the shirt; a cheapness of mind, a cheapness of taste, a tawdry little shine on the seat of his conscience, and a dark room squint at a world whose sunlight has never gotten through to him. But Mr. Hammer has a talent, discovered at a very early age. This much he does have. He can make his face change. He can twitch a muscle, move a jaw, concentrate on the cast of his eyes, and he can change his face. He can change it into anything he wants. Mr. Archie Hammer, jack of all trades, has just checked in a three-eighty a night, with two bags, some newspaper clippings, a most odd talent, and a master plan to destroy some lives."

Peter Brocco as Pop Marshak
                Arch Hammer, a con man, is in town to use his unique talent, the ability to perfectly resemble anyone he sees, to find a quick payday to permanently retire from his shady lifestyle. Setting up in a cheap hotel room, he quickly sets to work. Using newspaper clippings from the obituary section, he focuses in on the picture of a jazz musician named John Foster who was recently killed when a train hit his car. Hammer wanders down to a jazz club that Foster frequented and finds himself smitten with Foster's old flame, a sultry lounge singer named Maggie. Hammer assumes the face of Foster and shocks Maggie, who was traumatized by news of the musician's death, into believing that someone else was killed in Foster's car and that Foster thought it would be an opportunity to get out of the limelight. Maggie, jubilant by the impossible return of her lover, buys the outrageous story wholesale and agrees to meet Foster at the railroad station at midnight. When a trumpet player recognized Foster's face as he is leaving the bar, Hammer quickly resumes the appearance of his own face, startling the man with the sudden change. Hammer figures to have Maggie for himself and run away with her, never having been loved like that before in his life. First, though, he needs some getaway money. 

Beverly Garland as Maggie
                Back in his hotel room, Hammer sets his sights on the obituary image of a gangster named Virgil Serig, recently found shot and dumped in the river. In the guise of Sterig, Hammer makes his way to the hotel suite of the local mob boss, Penell. Here, Hammer tries to strong-arm Penell when the gangster is shocked at the sudden return of a man recently fished out of the river. Hammer manages to get Penell to reveal the location of an envelope of money but pushes too hard as the gangster insists that he had nothing to do with Sterig's murder and eventually sees something wrong in the situation. Chased out of the hotel and down an alleyway by a pair of Penell's men, Hammer finds himself at a dead end and unable to change his face from that of the marked gangster Sterig. Then he turns around and sees the image of a boxer named Andy Marshak pasted on a flyer on the brick wall at the end of the alley. It's just the image he needs and he changes his face in the nick of time. Penell's men catch up to Hammer and see his new face. Though confused and suspicious, they leave him alone. 
                Laughing to himself at his clever escape, Hammer makes his way out of the alley. Crossing in front of a newsstand, Hammer is confronted by an old man that he doesn't recognize but that certainly recognizes the face Hammer has assumed. The old man is Andy Marshak's father and Marshak, it is revealed, has a dark past of betraying his family and those who loved him. His father, having obviously not seen his son is many years, is overcome with shock, rage, and grief, and Hammer has to push the old man to the ground just to get away further down the sidewalk. 
                Back once again at his hotel room, Hammer is confronted by a detective who is after him for crimes committed in Detroit. Wearing his own face, he walks downstairs with the detective to be taken and booked at the police station. At the turning doors of the hotel entrance, Hammer makes a break for it, swinging around and bolting out onto the sidewalk, changing his face back to the image of Andy Marshak. The detective is fooled but Hammer takes only a few steps down the sidewalk before he is once again confronted by the old man, Pop Marshak, this time is brandishing a loaded revolver. Hammer tries desperately to change his face but is unable to do so as he is unable to concentrate with a gun pointed at him. A last ditch effort to convince the old man that he is mistaken gets him nowhere and he is shot down on the sidewalk. As he is dying, Hammer's image fluctuates between the four faces he has used to try and change fate, only to come out on the losing end. 

Rod Serling's Closing Narration:
"He was Arch Hammer, a cheap little man who just checked in. He was Johnny Foster, who played a trumpet and was loved beyond words. He was Virgil Sterig, with money in his pocket. He was Andy Marshak, who got some of his agony back on a sidewalk in front of a cheap hotel. Hammer, Foster, Sterig, Marshak, and all four of them were dying."


"He was Sam Windgate. He was Fred Black. He was Ben Hoffmier. He was Mike Grover. He was Arthur Danyluk. And all of them were dying."
                 -"All of Us Are Dying" by George Clayton Johnson

               The first thing which jumps out at the viewer about "The Four of Us Are Dying" is the set design, art direction, and cinematography. In these areas the production team did an exceptional job. It is a beautiful, hallucinatory, noir-drenched city, all floating neon and twisting camera angles. Director John Brahm, a German expatriate, was heavily influenced by German Expressionist cinema, a brief creative movement which has since become a blanket term for the German films of the Weimar Republic which used elements of dreams, nightmares, and fantasy in their physical and creative construction. It is a creative movement exemplified by such films as Robert Weine's The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), F.W. Murnau's Nosferatu (1922) and Faust (1926), and Paul Leni's Waxworks (1924). 
             The directorial style and artistic design of these films came to strongly influence the look and tone of American horror and crime films for more than thirty years, largely due to the fact that so many Golden Age Hollywood film directors, especially directors who dabbled in the darker genres, were European (Otto Preminger, Robert Siodmak, Billy Wilder, Michael Curtiz, Jacques Tourneur, etc.). As a feature film director in Hollywood in the 1940's, John Brahm displayed the obvious German influence with his brilliant use of innovative camera work, lighting effects, and subjective character studies in moody chillers like The Undying Monster (1942), The Lodger (1944), and Hangover Square (1945), the latter two notable as the final work of ascendant character actor Laird Cregar, who died at age 31 from the ill effects of a crash diet which the heavyset actor undertook in a doomed effort to transform himself into a slender leading man.   
               As television work came to dominate his creative output in the late fifties and the sixties, Brahm became a reliable and prolific director who amassed a large number of credits by developing a creative style which was adaptable over a wide range of subject matter while still remaining identifiable by its individual creative traits. Given an opportunity to display the full range of his talent behind a camera, as he is afforded with "The Four of Us Are Dying," he took advantage of unusual subject matter and produced episodic television filmed with a propulsive energy rarely seen at the time. 

               The exterior shots were sound stage constructions on the vast MGM lot. It was fortunate for the series to have full use of the resources at MGM, including the excellent makeup department under the leadership of Academy Award-winner William Tuttle. Brahm's camera work sets the tone for the type of story at which Rod Serling excelled, a potent mixture of crime story and weird fantasy. As late as the fifth season, Serling was returning to this type of story for some of his best work in the episodes "In Praise of Pip" and "The Jeopardy Room." 
               Like the previous episode in the series, "What You Need," Serling chose to adapt another writer's work. This time it was an unpublished story treatment (later fleshed out and published as a short story) by a previously unpublished writer named George Clayton Johnson, a friend of series writer Charles Beaumont who soon became an important contributor to the show by producing teleplays for such episodes as "A Game of Pool," "Nothing in the Dark," and "Kick the Can." In previous episodes such as "What You Need" and "And When the Sky Was Opened," Serling changed narrative points in order to serve the needs of the dramatic medium. With "The Four of Us Are Dying," Serling had to develop a great amount of dialogue as well as a proper narrative structure in order to fill out a half hour of television. Clayton Johnson's three and a half page story described a man whose face would change according to the perceptions of those around him. He appeared to people as the person they most desired to see, and had little to no control of how he appeared. The story is structured as a series of brief encounters in which the protagonist appeared as a long lost lover or an old friend, and always took the time to take advantage where advantage lay, usually sexually or monetarily. It ends with the protagonist (an unnamed conman who's been corrupted through years of using his "ability" to elicit money and favors) pulling into a service station and being seen by the attendant as the man he has, for years, wanted to kill. He dies there on the pavement unable to remember his own name, his true identity long lost behind the facade of his ever-changing appearance. 
                Serling made significant changes to the story, most importantly the fact that the protagonist, named Arch Hammer, has some control over the changes in his appearance. Serling's script quickly immerses the viewer in the fast developing action, thereby making them forget the essentially ridiculous nature of the fantasy element. The acting is exceptional and the selection process for the casting of the four male roles is an interesting story. 

Don Gordon (on wall flyer) and Phillip Pine
                Initially, the production team considered casting one actor and, through makeup processes, changing his appearance to suit each character. This idea was eventually scrapped because of the intense makeup the actor would have to undergo and the amount of time that must be allotted to the process. Casting director Mildred Gusse developed the plan of having a casting call for a specific type of male actor, each possessing a certain set of attributes. In the case of this episode, they settled on men of a height approximately five feet, ten inches, with brown hair and dark eyes. A dozen actors were initially selected, contacted, and instructed to dress in a black suit to the casting call. After dismissing a few for their eye color being too light, the remaining actors were tested by reciting identical lines of dialogue. Out of the remaining were cast the four leads: Harry Townes, Ross Martin, Phillip Pine, and Don Gordon. It was important that the viewer believe the same man existed behind the four different faces.

Illustration by Gregory Cannone
Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine (May, 1982)
         George Clayton Johnson (1929-2015) is best-known for his television scripts for such series as The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Star Trek, Honey West, and Kung Fu, and for co-writing, with William F. Nolan, the 1967 novel Logan's Run. Johnson, originally from Wyoming, made his way to California in 1959 and eventually settled in Los Angeles where he made the acquaintance of writer Charles Beaumont. At the time, Beaumont was already an established professional with several short stories, television plays, screenplays, and a novel (Run From the Hunter, written with John Tomerlin under the joint byline Keith Grantland) to his credit. Beaumont also had several credits in popular outlets such as Playboy, where he was on a monthly retainer for first refusal rights to his fiction, and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, where he wrote reviews of science fiction films in his column "The Science Screen." Johnson's connection to Beaumont was fortuitous for the young, unpublished writer. Through Beaumont, and the rest of Beaumont's entourage, including William F. Nolan and John Tomerlin, Johnson was encouraged to become a disciplined and productive writer if he held any hope of seeing print in professional markets. Ray Bradbury, a mentor to Beaumont in the latter's formative years, also became a mentor to Johnson and was one of the first to praise "All of Us Are Dying" as an exceptional story, albeit one that Bradbury suggested needed a stronger ending. Working with Beaumont, Johnson developed the ending suggested by the title. 
          Clayton Johnson wrote about the genesis of the tale and its appearance on The Twilight Zone in SF: Author's Choice 4 edited by Harry Harrison (G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1974): "I was desperately trying to be a writer. My movie Ocean's 11 had just come out, and using that single credit, I managed to interest a Hollywood agent in looking at some of my material. The man's name is Jay Richards. He was head of the television department of the Famous Artist's Agency, long since absorbed by IFA (International Famous Agency) which represents me now in television and movies. I showed Jay the story titled then "The Four of Us Are Dying." He scrubbed out the title and wrote in Rubberface! He shot it over to Rod Serling at The Twilight Zone and Rod winced and offered $500 for it before retitling it "All of Us Are Dying," the best title of the three. He adapted it for tv. I went on to sell Rod other things and finally ended up writing for the show along with Richard Matheson and Charles Beaumont. Rogue finally bought the story for publication. Said Frank M. Robinson, the editor, 'I would have bought anything with the title "All of Us Are Dying." It's one of those titles that speaks to everyone.'" 

          This initial connection to Rod Serling combined with his ongoing friendship with Charles Beaumont led to Johnson selling two more stories to the series, "Execution" and "The Prime Mover," the former adapted by Serling and the latter by Beaumont and Johnson (with Beaumont alone receiving credit), before working a deal to provide original teleplays for the show, beginning with the second season's "A Penny For Your Thoughts." 
          Johnson returned to the idea behind "All of Us Are Dying" when he later wrote "The Man Trap," the first episode aired for Star Trek, appearing on September 8, 1966. Johnson was still enamored by the idea of a being that could shape-shift in order to resemble that which is most pleasing to those who see it. "The Man Trap" concerns a shape-shifting alien that attacks the crew of the Enterprise in order to extract salt from their bodies, which it requires for sustenance. Johnson had this to say about the episode and its relation to "The Four of Us are Dying": "I had written a story for The Twilight Zone called "All of Us Are Dying" and it was about a face changer, someone who could take a look at a photograph and become a different character. . . part of the fun of it was watching someone transformed into someone else. So, the transformation thing was still sort of fresh in my head, and I think almost every writer tries to get some more mileage out of anything that works. So that was, I think, why I thought of the idea of trying to do a story about a creature that could appear to be anyone." (The Star Trek Interview Book by Allan Asherman, pg 136; Pocket Books, 1988). 
          In the same interview, Johnson shed light on his relationship with Rod Serling during their time together on the series. Though it was a tough climb to get onto the series, with 51 broadcast episodes before his first original teleplay for the series saw light, Johnson remembers Serling in much the same manner as the other writers on the series: a kind, complex man full of energy. "Mr. Serling, by the way, was a remarkable man. He was really a super gentleman. I admired him, and I was also intimidated by him: and I think he was intimidated by me.When we met at agents' offices we'd be very polite to each other, but he always seemed to be in a hurry to rush off." (Asherman, 140).* Johnson's impression of Serling always in a hurry to rush off was not uncharacteristic. Serling was frequently characterized as a man full of creative energy who found it difficult to sit still for very long, which is why a steady, experienced producer in tune with Serling's creative vision was so important for the show. Producer Buck Houghton fit the bill perfectly and allowed Serling the freedom of creative motion needed for a successful series.

                 A final note about composer Jerry Goldsmith. His music for this episode, and for just about anything else he did for television at this early point in his career, is as engaging and idiosyncratic as any composer working in the medium. Goldsmith's music could be both unobtrusive and yet inseparable from an episode. Goldsmith's strongest suit was his ability to explore a wide range of styles and instrumental arrangements to fit the show for which he was providing a composition. Goldsmith could move from a brass-heavy score to the stark string arrangement of "The Invaders." Goldsmith never seemed to phone it in but took the time to understand what he was working with and to develop the appropriate sound for the story elements of the show. In "The Four of Us Are Dying," it works beautifully, a sometimes hectic, sometimes mellow and sultry score which perfectly melds the shifting moods of the episode. 
                The acting, the music, the set design, the story treatment of a talented fantasist and a strong future contributor to the show, along with Serling's usual tight plotting and terse dialogue, make this episode an exceptionally fine production.

Grade: B
Additional Sources:
The Twilight Zone Companion by Marc Scott Zicree (1982)
The Internet Speculative Fiction Database ( 

*Asherman's book also contains interviews with others who have contributed to The Twilight Zone, including actors William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and George Takei, writers Jerry Sohl and Jerome Bixby, and director Robert Butler. 

Promotional photographs:

Ross Martin
-George Clayton Johnson's short story "All of Us Are Dying" was unpublished at the time it was adapted for the series. It was subsequently published in the October, 1961 issue of Rogue, in SF: Author's Choice #4, edited by Harry Harrison (Putnum, 1974), and in the May, 1982 issue of Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine, as well as in Johnson's Twilight Zone Scripts and Stories (Streamline Pictures, 1996) and career retrospective All of Us Are Dying and Other Stories (Subterranean Press, 1999) 
 -Actor Harry Townes also appeared in the second season episode "Shadow Play," written by Charles Beaumont, as well as the episode of Rod Serling's Night Gallery titled "Lindemann's Catch," scripted by Rod Serling. 
-Actor Ross Martin also appeared in the fourth season episode, "Death Ship," written by Richard Matheson, and in two episodes of Rod Serling's Night Gallery, "Camera Obscura" and "The Other Way Out."
-Actor Don Gordon also appeared in the fifth season episode, "The Self-Improvement of Salvadore Ross," based on a story by Henry Slesar.
-Actor Phillip Pine also appeared in the fourth season episode, "The Incredible World of Horace Ford," written by Reginald Rose.
-Actor Peter Brocco appeared in the episode of Rod Serling's Night Gallery titled "Deliveries in the Rear."
-"The Four of Us Are Dying" was adapted into a Twilight Zone Radio Drama starring Eric Bogosian.
-Beverly Garland also appeared in the Twilight Zone Radio Drama episode "Uncle Simon." 
-The illustration by Gregory Cannone is from the May, 1982 issue of Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine, which featured both George Clayton Johnson's original short story and Rod Serling's teleplay adaptation.