Friday, January 27, 2012

Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine

The first issue (April, 1981)
Cover art by Jim Warren
            Although Rod Serling sold his share of television syndication rights for The Twilight Zone to CBS at the end of the show's original run (a decision instantly regretted, as the series experienced a remarkably successful afterlife in syndication), Serling retained an equal share of marketing and merchandizing rights to the series, rights which passed on to Serling's widow upon his death in 1975. Early in 1980, Carol Serling was approached with an offer to participate in a publishing venture, a fiction and media magazine bearing her late husband's name as well as that of his most famous creation. At the editorial helm would be T.E.D. Klein, a native New Yorker and former high school English teacher and story editor for Paramount Pictures who was an authority on, as well as a noted writer of, horror and supernatural fiction. Klein completed his undergraduate work at Brown University in Lovecraft's Providence and wrote, as a graduate student at Columbia, the career-setting novella, "The Events at Poroth Farm." The story was published in a fanzine in 1972, reprinted a year later in Richard Davis's The Year's Best Horror Stories, and nearly nabbed Klein a World Fantasy Award at the first World Fantasy Convention held in Providence in 1975. Later, Klein expanded the tale for his only published novel-length work to date, The Ceremonies (1984). Impressed with the concept for the magazine, as well as the list of potential contributors, and eager to keep the flame of her late husband's creative legacy burning, Carol Serling agreed to terms allowing Rod Serling's name and The Twilight Zone to appear on the magazine, with the stipulation that Serling's name appear before The Twilight Zone on each issue. This was agreed to and, with The Twilight Zone licensed as necessary from Viacom, the parent company of CBS, Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine was created. Carol Serling took an active role in the magazine, serving as Associate Publisher and Consulting Editor while also providing an essay, "A Personal Message: An Invitation to Re-enter The Twilight Zone," for the first issue, and an occasional essay, "A Note from the Publisher" (or "Publisher's Note"), for subsequent issues. Serling was also actively involved in the magazine's content, offering rare and unseen works from Rod Serling's files and guiding the magazine's annual short story contest, which paid cash prizes and published the winning stories of previously unpublished writers. 

            With Carol Serling's active involvement, and the accompanying use of Rod Serling's name and likeness, the publication arrived full circle from that which was originally envisioned during the initial stages of the magazine's conception. Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine was conceived by editor, anthologist, and literary agent Kirby McCauley (1941-2014), best-known for compiling quality horror fiction anthologies during a lean time for the field, as well as representing some of the most notable names in fantasy, science fiction, and horror, including Stephen King, Ramsey Campbell, George R.R. Martin, and Karl Edward Wagner. McCauley envisioned a fantasy/horror magazine with the branding of a well-known figure in the field, in the manner that Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine and Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine served the fields of mystery and science fiction, respectively. McCauley shared the idea with his friend and client, T.E.D. Klein, who was immediately receptive to the notion of a quality, professional horror and fantasy magazine, something that had largely been absent from the field since the demise of Weird Tales in 1954. They developed a proposal for the potential magazine, without a notable figure yet attached, and shopped it around to gauge interest. This first stage in the magazine's development occurred while Rod Serling was still alive, although Serling was not directly approached. The effort ultimately proved fruitless and the venture was temporarily shelved. In the meantime, McCauley and Klein settled for collaborating on a paperback anthology of horror stories for Berkley Medallion, Beyond Midnight (pictured; cover art by Vincent Di Fate), released in November of 1976. McCauley selected the stories and Klein wrote the accompanying notes on the authors. McCauley was a busy anthologist in the finals years of the 1970s while also steadily building up an impressive roster of clients during the calm preceding an oncoming tidal wave of horror in publishing. McCauley compiled Night Chills in 1975 for Avon, the World Fantasy Award-winning Frights for St. Martin's Press in 1976, and the decade-defining Dark Forces for Viking in 1980, another World Fantasy Award winner. 

            Three things subsequently occurred that ultimately pushed the magazine to fruition. First, the initial rumblings of the oncoming boom in horror publishing arrived in the forms of Stephen King, Peter Straub, John Saul, Anne Rice, and V.C. Andrews in America, and James Herbert, Graham Masterton, and Ramsey Campbell in the UK, widening the market for publications specializing in dark fiction. Each of these authors, among dozens more, later appeared in the pages of Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine. The second thing that occurred was the recognition of Rod Serling as a figure around which the magazine could be marketed. Unfortunately, Serling passed away in June of 1975, which meant that the venture would now require the cooperation of Serling's widow, Carol Serling, to form the partnership necessary to structure the magazine around Rod Serling and The Twilight Zone. Both McCauley and Klein were fans of The Twilight Zone, particularly its talented stable of writers, and understood the viability of Serling's name and image when considering the vast amount of material, ranging from books to comics to commercials to documentaries, that made Serling, even after his death, a figure whom many Americans readily associated with the strange and the supernatural. An immediate example arrived in the form of a paperback anthology from Bantam Books, Rod Serling's Other Worlds, published in March of 1978, three years after Serling's death, and containing an impressive list of contributors representing the cream of the science fiction, fantasy, and horror fields. As T.E.D. Klein later wrote in his introduction to a 1986 omnibus edition of Rod Serling's Stories from The Twilight Zone: "Rod Serling-who died, age fifty, in 1975-is surely one of the most familiar figures in the annals of broadcasting, and was the possessor of one of the screen's most distinctive voices: a sometimes wry, sometimes somber voice that, even today, is instantly recognizable." 

           The final occurrence was that a receptive publisher to approach with the idea for the magazine was recognized in Montcalm Publishing, the company that issued, among other publications, the men's magazine Gallery, which, beginning around 1975, became a fertile market for horror and fantasy fiction, featuring stories by George R.R. Martin, Ray Bradbury, Robert Bloch, and Orson Scott Card. Kirby McCauley was able to place several stories in the pages of Gallery for his most notable client, Stephen King, with "The Man Who Loved Flowers" (1977), "The Crate" (1979), adapted by King for Creepshow (1982), and "The Monkey," which received the deluxe treatment as a bound, removable insert for the November, 1980 issue (pictured; artist unknown). With the promise of McCauley's impressive roster of clients and T.E.D. Klein's knowledge and confidence in the concept, the magazine secured the financial backing from Montcalm Publishing necessary to begin the path to publication. Retaining copyright under TZ Publications, Inc., the first issue arrived mid-spring, cover dated April, 1981 and boasted an incredible list of contributors along with a talented staff who ensured that the magazine was among the most attractively designed, inside and out, on the newsstand. The first issue, which featured a cover by Jim Warren, a profile of Rod Serling, an interview with Stephen King by Charles L. Grant, the first installment in Marc Scott Zicree's guide to the original series, and fiction from Harlan Ellison, Joyce Carol Oates, George R.R. Martin, Ramsey Campbell, and Robert Sheckley, set a remarkably high standard for the magazine. The duties of a fulltime literary agent did not allow for Kirby McCauley to take a position on the magazine's staff, but his influence was felt nonetheless, as the magazine consistently featured contributions from McCauley's clients. McCauley's influence and Klein's editorship resulted in the magazine's ascendant position on the rising tide of the largest horror boom ever experienced in American publishing. Although the magazine, like its television inspiration, was most often considered in terms of science fiction, which it occasionally featured, it dabbled primarily in fantasy, ranging from light and humorous to darkest dread. 

                The magazine continued for an additional sixty issues across eight years, spawned a digest-sized companion publication (Night Cry), went through multiple schedule changes and three additional editors, and quietly closed out with a June, 1989 issue that displayed the same high standards as that established during the magazine's earliest issues. In the years between, Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine set a new standard for genre magazine publishing and offered one of the most dependable markets for established and aspiring writers of horror and dark fantasy fiction, publishing new work by the giants of the field as well as work by up-and-coming and unknown writers, many of whom went on to highly successful careers. The magazine also published stories by classic writers in danger of falling into obscurity, and featured editorials on virtually every subject encompassed by the classic and contemporary fields of horror, fantasy, and science fiction. 

                Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine published virtually every important speculative fiction writer of its era. Some (but not nearly all) of the writers to see their fiction published in the magazine include: Stephen King, Richard Matheson, Charles Beaumont, George Clayton Johnson, Robert Bloch, Harlan Ellison, David Morrell, Joe R. Lansdale, Roald Dahl, Joyce Carol Oates, Dan Simmons, Graham Masterton, Spider Robinson, Robert Sheckley, Charles L. Grant, Richard Christian Matheson, Anne Rice, Fritz Leiber, Peter Straub, Steve Rasnic Tem, Robert Silverberg, Roger Zelazny, Joe Haldeman, Tanith Lee, George R.R. Martin, David J. Schow, Dean Koontz, Lisa Tuttle, John Skipp, Lewis Shiner, and Melissa Mia Hall. The fiction and articles were illustrated by a talented array of artists, making the publication as visually appealing as it was imaginatively engaging. The magazine also published several teleplays, treatments, and short stories by Rod Serling, as well as the work of past masters such as M.R. James, J. Sheridan LeFanu, Arthur Machen, L.P. Hartley, William Hope Hodgson, and Shirley Jackson. Each issue also typically featured one or more interviews with leading writers and filmmakers. 

The editorial work for the magazine was superb, as well. Contributions included essays on literary history by Mike Ashley, Jack Sullivan, and T.E.D. Klein, film reviews by Gahan Wilson, Robert Martin, and James Verniere, film and cultural history by Bill Warren and Ron Goulart, book reviews by Theodore Sturgeon, Robert Silverberg, Thomas M. Disch, Ed Bryant, and E.F. Bleiler, interviews conducted by Charles L. Grant, Douglas Winter, Stanley Wiater, and Lisa Tuttle, and television episode guides written by Marc Scott Zicree (The Twilight Zone), David J. Schow (The Outer Limits), and J. Michael Straczynski (Rod Serling's Night Gallery). The magazine was an excellent showcase for documenting the production of Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983), and the success of the magazine was a strong factor when CBS decided to revive The Twilight Zone for television in 1985. The magazine offered an ideal platform for promoting the new incarnation of The Twilight Zone, shared the work of many of the show's writers in its pages, and inspired much of the feel of the revival series with its melding of the boundary pushing excesses of the eighties and the existential nightmares of the original series. Stories published in the magazine served as source material for other anthology television series, as well, such as Tales from the Darkside and Amazing Stories.
June, 1982 issue with Richard Matheson's "The Doll"
Cover art by Malcolm McNeill
A significant aspect of the magazine was the publication of little-seen, forgotten, or lost material related to the original Twilight Zone series. Nearly every issue printed a complete teleplay for an original series episode, with the first two years being devoted almost exclusively to the teleplays of Rod Serling. In later issues, the magazine printed story treatments and teleplays that were rejected or unproduced. This included George Clayton Johnson's short story "Sea Change," published in the October, 1981 issue, about a sailor whose hand is cut off in an accident and from whose disembodied hand grows a malevolent doppelganger intent on destroying its counterpart. Johnson originally sold the story to The Twilight Zone but was subsequently asked to buy the story back on the grounds that its subject matter, especially the cutting off of the hand, was beyond the acceptable limits of the show (the series sponsor, a food manufacturer, did not want the audience to be put off from consuming its products). Another interesting item was Richard Matheson's teleplay, "The Doll." Shelved by the show's final producer, due to a perception that it made one too many "doll" episodes between Charles Beaumont's fourth season episode "Miniature" and Jerry Sohl's fifth season episode "Living Doll," Matheson's teleplay was published in the June, 1982 issue of the magazine, directly leading to its appearance on Steven Spielberg's Amazing Stories for May 4, 1986. John Lithgow (who turned in a memorable performance in Twilight Zone: The Movie) won an Emmy Award for his performance in the episode.

T.E.D. Klein relinquished editorial duties on Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine with the July/August, 1985 issue, in order to pursue the life of a full-time fiction writer. Michael Blaine stepped in as editor, concluding his run with the August, 1986 issue. Managing editor and frequent contributor Robin Bromley edited a transitional issue, October, 1986, before Tappan King assumed the editorship for the remainder of the magazine's run. Alan Rodgers was an associate editor on the magazine who later assumed the editorship of the magazine's sister publication Night Cry after T.E.D. Klein departed the position in 1985.

Each editor, and their accompanying staffs, favored a slightly different style for the magazine, though, in truth, the magazine noticeably varied little from the structure established in the earliest issues. T.E.D. Klein tailored much of the contents to feature the titan horror novelists of the era (King, Straub, Koontz, Saul, etc.) as well as to explore the classic period of supernatural fiction (roughly the 1890s through the pulps) by featuring authors such as Arthur Machen, L.P. Hartley, H.P. Lovecraft, and Shirley Jackson. Klein also kept an eye firmly on the magazine's namesake, giving author Marc Scott Zicree space to compile his episode guide (later expanded into The Twilight Zone Companion (1982), featuring teleplays from the series, and including retrospective essays from original series writers, such as George Clayton Johnson's "Writing for the Twilight Zone."

            Micheal Blaine maintained and expanded the show-by-show guides (Night Gallery, The Outer Limits, 'Way Out), spearheaded coverage of the revival Twilight Zone series, maintained an active letter column, and continued to focus attention on essays, commentaries, and reviews. Added attention was placed on current film and television programs, resulting in a move away from painted covers in favor of photographic images, a less-than-pleasing characteristic that first cropped up under Klein's watch, largely stemming from the magazine's coverage of Twilight Zone: The Movie. The photographic covers were wisely never extended beyond a few consecutive issues. 
The final issue (June, 1989);
cover art by Gottfried Helnwein

            Tappan King's editorship saw the return of painted covers (the magazine never looked better than it did in its final three years) and offered a pleasingly off-beat style characterized by pithy yet fascinating communications on an array of outré topics. Focus sharpened on original fiction (King's editorship saw perhaps the finest flowering of fiction in the magazine) and community, with more space allotted to the letter column and frequent communications from an active and chatty editor. King re-focused much of the magazine's content on the original series of The Twilight Zone, as well, including the excellent final issue, which was a moving tribute to series writer Charles Beaumont, the group of writers that coalesced around him, and to the lost and nostalgic era in which the original series was created. 
Cover art by Rosie Mackiewicz
In 1984, a new digest-sized magazine appeared on newsstands, announcing itself with a startling image of a screaming face breaking free from a doll's head. TZ Special #1 appeared as a heading, below that: Night Cry: 20 Tales of Heartstopping Terror from Rod Serling's the Twilight Zone Magazine. This special publication consisted of editor T.E.D. Klein's selection of the best short stories to appear in Rod Serling's Twilight Zone Magazine over the previous three years. It wasn't the first time Klein put together an all-fiction special issue. Klein compiled Great Stories from Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine, a projected annual volume which ran only a single year (it was released in December, 1982 as a 1983 annual). Klein's new fiction digest magazine soon shortened its title to simply Night Cry and continued as a quarterly periodical that published reprints from Twilight Zone Magazine as well as new fiction from some of the brightest talents in dark fantasy. Whereas the fiction in Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine encompassed a broad spectrum of horror, fantasy, and science fiction, Night Cry devoted itself exclusively to horror and dark fantasy. Beginning with the Summer, 1985 issue, Night Cry saw an additional ten issues published, concluding with the Fall, 1987 issue. The magazine was edited by T.E.D. Klein until the Winter, 1985 issue when Alan Rodgers took over editorial duties until the magazine's end. "From the editors of Rod Serling's the Twilight Zone Magazine" appeared as a heading on every issue of Night Cry. Artists J.K. Potter and Harry O. Morris, along with a handful of others, provided memorable covers and interior art for the magazine.

Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine: 

1981- April, May, June, July, Aug, Sept, Oct, Nov, Dec

1982- Jan, Feb, March, Apr, May, June, July, Aug, Sept, Oct, Nov, Dec

1983- Jan/Feb, Mar/Apr, May/Jun, July/Aug, Sept/Oct, Nov/Dec (+ Annual)

1984- Jan/Feb, Mar/Apr, May/Jun, July/Aug, Sept/Oct, Nov/Dec

1985- Jan/Feb, Mar/Apr, May/Jun, July/Aug, Sept/Oct, Nov/Dec

1986- Feb, Apr, June, Aug, Oct, Dec

1987- Feb, Apr, June, Aug, Oct, Dec

1988- Feb, Apr, June, Aug, Oct, Dec

1989- Feb, Apr, Jun

Night Cry: 

1984- TZ Special #1: Night Cry

1985- Summer, Fall, Winter

1986- Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

1987- Spring, Summer, Fall

-We've begun an annotated guide to Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine, complete with story reviews, artwork, publication information, and trivia. Go here to follow along.

-Also visit our post detailing the history and displaying a cover gallery of Night Cry.

Grateful acknowledgement to:

-The Internet Speculative Fiction Database (

-Eating the Fantastic podcast episode 65 by Scott Edelman (an interview with T.E.D. Klein)


Sunday, January 22, 2012


A long way from home.

Season One, Episode 20
Original Air Date: February 19, 1960
Jeremy Wickwire: Cecil Kellaway
Captain James Webber: Kevin Hagen
Peter Kirby: Don Dubbins
Kurt Meyers: Jeff Morrow

Writer: Charles Beaumont (adapted from his story)
Director: Douglas Heyes
Producer: Buck Houghton
Production Manager: Ralph W. Nelson
Director of Photography: George T. Clemens
Art Direction: George W. Davis and William Ferrari
Set Decoration: Henry Grace and Budd S. Friend
Assistant Director: Edward Denault
Casting: Mildred Gusse
Editor: Joseph Gluck
Sound: Franklin Milton and Jean Valentino
Music: Nathan Van Cleave

And Now, Mr. Serling:
“Next week on The Twilight Zone we offer you the unbelievable along with an explanation. Three men visit a strange new world with people, cars, houses—the works. But something is wrong on the scene. Something very abnormal amidst the normal. You’ll see what I mean when next week we bring you ‘Elegy’ by Charles Beaumont. It stars Cecil Kellaway. Thank you and good night.”

Rod Serling’s opening narration:
“The time is the day after tomorrow. The place: a far off corner of the universe.  The cast of characters: three men lost among the stars, three men sharing the common urgency of all men lost…they’re looking for home. And in a moment they’ll find home, not a home that is a place to be seen but a strange, unexplainable experience to be felt.”

         Two hundred years into the future, three astronauts land on a strange asteroid because their spacecraft is out of fuel. The atmosphere of the asteroid is identical to that of Earth. With no alternative, the men decide to search their new home for supplies.
         They immediately notice that the asteroid seems to be inhabited. They stumble upon a farm house and see a man taking a break from the day’s work.  They approach but find that he stares back at them with a blank expression. They enter a town and find more of the same. A group of gamblers sit motionless around a poker table. Contestants at a beauty pageant stand frozen upon the stage, staring back at a silent, lifeless audience. The sounds of a marching band echo through the town square, yet the band stands immobilized in the lobby of the town hall, prerecorded melodies pouring out of a hidden speaker. The three men toss forward a stockpile of ideas but can’t seem to conceive of a rational reason for why everyone is frozen. Even more alarming is their realization that this place is now their home.
         They walk along, looking at more of the buildings and constructing more theories, when they come to a house with an elderly, white-haired gentleman sitting on the front porch reading a newspaper in a rocking chair. They assume they he is frozen like everyone else. To their amazement they find that he can speak and move quite efficiently. He tells them that his name is Jeremy Wickwire and politely invites them inside. There he pours them a drink and explains the mystery. They have arrived at Happy Glades, a high end mortuary built on a drifting asteroid near the end of the twentieth century. It’s a place where people can posthumously live out their dreams for all eternity. Using an “Eternifying Fluid” which prevents the body from decaying, people can customize how they want to spend eternity. The men ask Wickwire how he has survived over two hundred years and he informs them that he is not a man but an android, designed specifically to be the caretaker of Happy Glades. 
        Wickwire asks the men where they would most like to be precisely at that moment. They all agree that they greatly desire to be on their ship headed home. It’s at this time that they begin to feel the effects of the Eternifying Fluid that is now coursing through their veins. They drop to the floor in agony and stare up at Wickwire in absolute horror, asking him why he would want to kill them. He tells them that Happy Glades is a peaceful place. A place free from war and destruction and all of the atrocities created by man. And as long as there are men there will be no peace.
Cut to a scene of Jeremy Wickwire inside a spaceship. He is feather-dusting and keeping things tidy. Seated at the control boards are our three heroes, staring quietly into forever on their way home.

Rod Serling’s Closing Narration:
“Kirby, Webber and Meyers, three men lost.  They shared a common wish, a simple one—they wanted to be aboard their ship, headed for home.  And fate, a laughing fate, a practical jokester with a smile that stretched across the stars, saw to it that they got their wish, with just one reservation: the wish came true, but only in the Twilight Zone.”

       “Elegy” marks the second contribution from Twilight Zone heavyweight Charles Beaumont. A story swimming with imagination that is constantly fluctuating between sparkling humor and anxiety-laced dread. I’ll preface this commentary by saying that “Elegy” was, as far as I can remember, the first episode of The Twilight Zone that I ever saw. I watched it in a high school English class. I remember that I wrote a paper on it, the premise of which was forgotten probably as soon as I handed it in. But it must have left an impression on me. I remember thinking that this was the most aesthetically enjoyable fantasy program that I had ever seen, one that managed to grab my attention immediately by placing the fantasy in a familiar situation.
Like many episodes of show, the reason “Elegy” is so vivid is that it’s a reflection of reality, a slideshow of images that are as familiar as parts of the cultural fabric of the twentieth century. It’s genuine, shine-polished Norman Rockwell Americana at its absolute finest--marching bands, beauty pageants and all. Only it’s horribly flawed. It isn’t the America it appears to be. Beaumont was a very socially aware writer that seemed to be deeply interested and concerned with the unspoken weaknesses of the world in which he lived. He was a regular contributor of social commentary to Playboy and several other magazines and he often used his fiction as a platform for social critique. Taken at face value, “Elegy” is a cautionary tale about nuclear annihilation and the inevitable self-destruction of the human race, not dissimilar from hundreds of post- apocalyptic science fiction stories from around the same time. But Beaumont’s cynicism stings more personally than this. There is an underlying current of unbridled satire in this story, and apparently its target is our own narcissism. It seems that Beaumont is attempting to show us how we view ourselves and want others to view us as well.  The entire premise of this episode, the idea that people would build a sprawling customized cemetery on a drifting asteroid in the middle of outer space, is absurd, as one of the astronauts points out. But the absurdity exists for a reason. Beaumont’s trying to draw the viewer’s attention to the fact that most people value their own self-image enough that even after they die they want to be put on display for others to see, like a piece of art in a museum.
Misleading android Jeremy Wickwire is played by the great Cecil Kellaway. It was a smart choice for Beaumont to leave Wickwire’s intentions ambiguous. He is shrouded in mystery for the entire episode. Even by the end of it we are still not sure who he is exactly or what purpose he serves at this strange place, or if this is in fact an actual mortuary. The audience witnesses Wickwire explaining to the three befuddled astronauts that he’s an android serving as a caretaker in this bizarre, wax museum of a mortuary. But this is Wickwire’s explanation, not Beaumont’s. And the audience is unable to depend on Wickwire’s explanation because he proves himself to be an unreliable character when he invites these three astronauts into his home, assuring them that everything is alright and that they have no cause to worry, and then proceeds to murder them without provocation, his tone abruptly changing from whimsical, elderly gentleman to a much darker character. And in the final scene he is back to his smiling, genteel self, going on about his business in an increasingly unsettling manner. So the audience is mostly left to form their own opinion about Jeremy Wickwire. He could be a refined, morally conscious, two hundred year-old android faithfully trying to protect this very sacred place or he could be an utterly insane kind of unregulated taxidermist, running wild through his own personal museum of collectable human beings.
Unlike Richard Matheson, whose adapted Twilight Zone scripts usually stuck very closely to his original short stories, Beaumont often took many liberties with his own source material. It’s curious that Beaumont would choose “Elegy” as his second script for the series.  It had not appeared in any of his three original short story collections and for the most part hasn’t had an extensive publishing history. It was originally published in the February, 1953 issue of Imagination but according to close friend William F. Nolan in his anthology A Sea of Space it was written several years earlier under the guidance and influence of Beaumont’s literary mentor, Ray Bradbury. The original story, while still quite enjoyable, is really more of a sketch than a fully imagined story and is probably no more than a thousand words. In the original story there is an entire crew of Astronauts instead of just three, and the tableaux they witness seem grimmer and more unsettling than the ones that end up on screen. For instance, one of the men walks into a butcher shop but it’s pitch dark inside and he has to feel his way around the store, eventually running into cuts of raw meat, mistaking it for human flesh. Another walks into an operating room in which a woman lies naked on a table with motionless doctors and nurses stationed all around her holding scalpels and needles and saws in their hands. These scenes were no doubt changed because the producers felt they were too suggestively morbid for primetime television. In Beaumont’s original script there was a scene where one of the astronauts wandered by a tableau of a race track, probably inspired by Beaumont’s interest in auto racing. But, as Marc Scott Zicree points out in The Twilight Zone Companion, director Douglas Heyes wanted to scrap this scene because he knew that the cars would not appear to be frozen in motion, they would simply look like parked cars. Beaumont was reportedly irritated at this suggestion and reluctantly wrote the beauty pageant scene in its place.
The biggest technical hang-up with this episode was the fact that real actors were hired to portray the human statues in the mortuary. No matter how skilled the actor, it is physically impossible for a person to stand totally motionless. To shoot the tableau scenes director Douglas Heyes knew that he would have to keep the camera moving at all times so that the viewer would never be able to see the actors moving. For the most part this is done successfully, but there are several scenes where the actors movements are quite noticeable (check out the scene where the couple is slow dancing to a violin quartet, both of them holding glasses of champagne; the actors are quite still but the champagne is clearly not. There is also the lengthy scene in the crowded town hall where several of the actors can be seen blinking profusely). Again, this isn’t a major blunder and only works against the episode conceptually. Over time I have found that these nuances are part of the episode’s charm as they give the impression that Happy Glades is all a façade, which makes it even more frightening, the same way that no attempt was made to mask the fact that these men are clearly not in any kind of town at all but on a Hollywood backlot.  Everything in this place seems quite obviously phony. There is also another interesting shot where two of the astronauts are seen standing on a bridge. Instead of a filmed shot Heyes, or possibly film editor Joseph Gluck, inserted a noticeably grainy still photograph instead. This may have been a technical oversight never intended to make the final cut.
Although it has its shortcomings and may not be an episode which will suit everyone’s tastes, “Elegy” is a highly atmospheric episode with its own kind of charm and is one of my personal favorites from the first season.

Grade: B

--Director Douglas Heyes directed several additional episodes of the series, including the classic episodes "The After Hours," "The Howling Man," "Eye of the Beholder," and "The Invaders." Heyes wrote three episodes of Rod Serling's Night Gallery, "The Dead Man" (based on the story by Fritz Leiber and which Heyes also directed), "The Housekeeper," and "Brenda" (based on the story by Margaret St. Clair), the latter two being written under the pseudonym Matthew Howard.
--“Elegy" was originally published in the February, 1953 issue of Imagination: Stories of Science and Fantasy. It was also published in William F. Nolan’s science fiction anthology A Sea of Space (Bantam, 1970) as well as The Twilight Zone: the Original Stories (Greenberg, Matheson, Waugh, eds.  Avon, 1985; MJF, 1997).
--Cecil Kellaway appears in another episode written by Charles Beaumont, season four’s “Passage on the Lady Anne."
--"Elegy" was adapted into a Twilight Zone Radio Drama starring Blair Underwood.

--Brian Durant

Monday, January 9, 2012

"The Purple Testament"

William Reynolds as the doomed Lt. Fitzgerald sees death in his own reflection.
"The Purple Testament"
Season One, Episode 19
Original Air Date: February 12, 1960

Lt. Fitzgerald: William Reynolds
Capt. Riker: Dick York
Capt. Gunther: Barney Phillips
Colonel: S. John Launer
Smitty: Michael Vandever
Sergeant: William Phipps
Driver of Jeep: Warren Oates
Orderly: Paul Mazursky
Freeman: Marc Cavell
Harmonica Player: Ron Masak

Writer: Rod Serling
Director: Richard L. Bare
Producer: Buck Houghton
Production Manager: Ralph W. Nelson
Director of Photography: George T. Clemens
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 Jean Valentino 
Music: Lucien Morawack (composer) & Lud Gluskin (conductor)

And Now, Mr. Serling:
"Next week we show you the face of war, but the kind of portrait we venture to say you've never seen before. Dick York and William Reynolds star in 'The Purple Testament,' the story of a man who can forecast death. That's next week on The Twilight Zone, 'The Purple Testament.' We hope you'll join us. Thank you and goodnight."

Rod Serling's Opening Narration:
"Infantry platoon, U.S. Army, Philippine Islands, 1945. These are the faces of the young men who fight; as if some omniscient painter had mixed a tube of oils that were at one time earth brown, dust gray, blood red, beard black, and fear yellow-white. And these men were the models. For this is the province of combat and these are the faces of war."

                Lt. Fitzgerald returns to base camp after a mission with an American platoon. He carries with him a list of soldiers injured and soldiers dead. Capt. Riker, Fitzgerald's superior and friend, notices that "Fitz," as Lt. Fitzgerald is known, has taken the casualties on this latest mission harder than he'd taken those from previous missions. When pressed about the issue, Fitz reveals a scrap of paper upon which are written four names, the four names of the soldiers lost in combat. When pressed, Fitz reveals that he'd written those names a day before the mission, that he'd known who would die. Riker scoffs at the idea that Fitz can foretell an individual's death. Fitz is unable to explain where the ability came from but describes it as a light on the face of the man marked for death. 
                Fearing that his lieutenant and friend may be cracking under the strain of the war, Riker informs the chief medical officer, Captain Gunther, of the situation. Gunther is as skeptical as Riker about the nature of Fitz's ability but believes that Fitz should be taken off active duty to undergo observation.
                While Riker and Gunther talk, Fitz is in the same hospital visiting an injured member of the platoon named Smitty. Before leaving the young man's bedside, Fitz sees the telling light on Smitty's face. This causes Fitz to temporarily black out. When he is awakened by an orderly, both men discover that Smitty has died.
                A confrontation ensues when Fitz goes downstairs and meets Riker and Gunther. Fitz, now obviously under terrible strain, tells the men that he saw the death warning on Smitty's face moments before the young soldier died. He implores the two men to believe him and storms off after sarcastically suggesting that his eyes be taped closed or plucked from his skull so that he won't have to look into any more faces.
                Fitz is allowed to remain on command for the following mission. Moments before departing a meeting with Riker, Fitz sees the death light on his superior's face. Though he tries to warn his friend, Riker won't hear of it and insists that when they return from the mission Fitz will see that it has all been a coincidence. Riker, however, takes a moment to leave behind his wedding band along with pictures of his wife and children. Outside, Fitz is nervously watched by the members of the platoon while he looks into their faces. One soldier can't bear it and begs Fitz to tell who will make it and who won't. Riker intervenes and attempts to dispel the rumors of Fitz's ability to foretell death. He puts it to Fitz to squash the rumors and, after a moment of contemplation, Fitz goes along with Riker and says that it's all a misunderstanding.
                The platoon returns a couple of hours later with only one casualty, Captain Riker. Fitz is notified that he has been granted a medical leave and is to pack his bags to report to headquarters. While gathering his gear, Fitz peers into a shaving mirror and sees the death light on his own face. At first terrified, Fitz accepts his fate and climbs into the transport vehicle with a young soldier. They are warned that the road is booby-trapped with mines. When the young driver tells Fitz that they have a four hour trip ahead of them, Fitz tells him that he doesn't think it will be that long.
                A short time later, while the men of the camp are getting some much needed rest and relaxation, they hear a thunderous explosion in the distance. Knowing it to be an explosion, such as the detonation of a mine, the men instead convince themselves that it is only thunder and go back to what they were doing.

Rod Serling's Closing Narration:
"From William Shakespeare, Richard the Third, a small excerpt. The line reads, 'He has come to open the purple testament of bleeding war.' And for Lieutenant Fitzgerald, A Company, First Platoon, the testament is closed. Lieutenant Fitzgerald has found The Twilight Zone."

The ghost light marks Smitty (Michael Vandever) for death.
                Rod Serling used his harrowing experiences with the 11th Airborne Division during WWII to color his writings on the theme of war. Although Richard Matheson, a fellow WWII veteran and author of an exceptional novel of the war, The Beardless Warriors (1960), penned the first war episode, "The Last Flight," and other series writers provided memorable episodes on the theme, the majority of the war-related episodes were penned by Rod Serling. Serling used war as a backdrop upon which to drop an element of fantasy to bring across the general point that war is hell and if it doesn't take a character's life outright, it drastically damages it. Serling's war episodes are character driven, often without the action set-pieces common to war stories and films. The battleground was a stage upon which the characters could act out the particular aspects of human drama that Serling wished to explore. "The Purple Testament" is a powerful meditation on the inevitable relationship between war and death, and was the first of many war episodes in which Serling displayed some of his strongest, character-driven writing.
                William Reynolds (b. 1931) gives an effective, melancholy performance in the lead as the tortured and doomed Lieutenant Fitzgerald. Reynolds worked steadily in films in the 1950s, a genre highlight of which was an appearance in The Land Unknown (1957), with many roles in westerns and police dramas, which largely remained his purview with a move to television in 1957. Reynolds's final work of note was a long-running role on the series The F.B.I. 
              Twilight Zone repeat performers Dick York (1928-1992) and Barney Phillips (1913-1982) give strong acting support, with York able to largely shed his innate quirkiness with a grave, gruff countenance. York later put his talent for quirky humor to great use on the second season episode "A Penny for Your Thoughts." Barney Phillips appeared in the second season episode "A Thing About Machines" and the fourth season episode "Miniature," but is undoubtedly best-remembered for his appearance in the second season episode "Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?" in which Phillips portrayed a fry cook who reveals himself to be an alien with a third eye. 

             "The Purple Testament" suffers from a thin premise and is mainly a collection of circular dialogue leading to an inevitable climax. Still, the dialogue, always the strongest aspect of Serling's scripts, is certainly evocative of character and elicits a strong emotional performance from the actors who, fortunately, possess the skill to bring it off. The simplicity of the premise actually works in the episode's favor as The Twilight Zone was always more interested in the effects of a fantasy element upon the characters than with overwrought explanations or scientific explorations of the fantasy element. The Twilight Zone was far more comfortable exploring the effect of something extraordinary upon an ordinary individual. The viewer is given a character they can relate to and a convincing reality then set up to watch both unravel in a strange and often terrifying way.
                Despite the use of stock footage for the brief battle sequences, Richard L. Bare's direction contains some superb camera shots, notably a 360 degree moving shot of Fitzgerald's point of view as he looks over the members of his platoon, and another of Fitzgerald gazing down at the broken remnants of his shaving mirror, each jagged shard reflecting his terrified reflection after seeing the sign of his own impending doom.
                Serling's other WWII themed episodes include the second season opener, "King Nine Will Not Return," and the third season's "A Quality of Mercy." Serling also tackled the Civil War in "The Passersby" and "Still Valley," the latter an adaptation of a Manly Wade Wellman's "The Valley Was Still," the Vietnam War in "In Praise of Pip," and several times explore the drama of a man-made doomsday, in "Time Enough At Last," based on the story by Lynn Venable, "The Shelter," and "The Old Man in the Cave," based on the story by Henry Slesar. It is interesting to note that actor Dean Stockwell was originally cast as Lieutenant Fitzgerald but pulled out of the episode, leaving the role open for William Reynolds. Stockwell returned to the series and put in an excellent performance in the third season episode "A Quality of Mercy," another WWII-themed character study scripted by Serling.

               An interesting story connected with this episode is that William Reynolds and director Richard L. Bare were involved in a plane crash on February 12, 1960, the original air date of "The Purple Testament." Flying back to Miami after filming the series pilot The Islander for MGM, the engines failed on a small passenger plane carrying five people. One passenger was killed while Bare, with two broken legs, and Reynolds, with a broken ankle and several broken ribs, swam on their backs four miles to safety. Reynolds later recounted that although Cayuga Productions agreed not to air the episode upon hearing of the plane crash, out of respect for Reynolds and Bare, as there was no word on survivors at that point, the episode aired as scheduled. The terrible irony had Reynolds not survived the crash would have been airing an episode in which he featured as a man who foresees his own death on the day of his actual death. As it happened, both Reynolds and Bare made a full recovery from their injuries.
                With "The Purple Testament," we begin to see Serling find a clear thematic niche for his scripts during a first season in which the series attempted virtually every type of fantasy story. As said before, others produced war-themed episodes for the series but this type of story on The Twilight Zone was truly the province of Rod Serling.

Grade: C

-Dick York also starred in the second season episode "A Penny For Your Thoughts."
-Warren Oates also appeared in the fifth season episode "The 7th is Made Up of Phantoms."
-Barney Phillips appeared in three additional episodes, the second season's "A Thing About Machines" and "Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?" as well as the fourth season episode "Miniature."
-Serling erroneously attributes the line of Shakespeare in his closing narration to Richard III when it is actually taken from Richard II.
-“The Purple Testament” was adapted into a short story by Walter B. Gibson for Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone Revisited (Grosset & Dunlap, 1964). 
-"The Purple Testament" was adapted into a Twilight Zone Radio Drama starring Michael Rooker. 

--Jordan Prejean