Monday, October 30, 2017

"The Gift"

Mr. Williams (Geoffrey Horne), who comes bearing gifts.

“The Gift”
Season Three, Episode 97
Original Air Date: April 27, 1962

Williams: Geoffrey Horne
Doctor: Nico Minardos
Pedro: Edmund Vargas
Manuelo: Cliff Osmond
Guitar Player [Ignacio]: Vladimir Sokoloff
Sanchez: Henry Corden
Police Officer: Paul Mazurka
Rudolpho: Vito Scotti
Woman #1: Carmen Danton
Woman #2: Lea Marmer
Man #1: Joe Perry
Man #2: David Fresco

Writer: Rod Serling (original teleplay)
Director: Allen H. Miner
Producer: Buck Houghton
Production Manager: Ralph W. Nelson
Director of Photography: George T. Clemens
Art Direction: George W. Davis and Merrill Pye
Set Decoration: Keogh Gleason
Assistant Director: E. Darrell Hallenbeck
Casting: Robert Walker
Editor: Jason H. Bernie
Sound: Franklin Milton and Bill Edmondson
Music: Laurindo Almeida
Optical Effects: Pacific Title
Rod Serling’s Wardrobe: Eagle Clothes
Filmed at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios

And Now, Mr. Serling:

“Next week on the Twilight Zone, we tell the story that we think might prove a rather haunting little item in the scheme of things. It tells of a small Mexican boy and a visitor from another planet, and it tells further what happens when this extra-terrestrial traveler is faced with some of the less-personable instincts of human beings, like fear, superstitions, and intolerance. Our story is called ‘The Gift.’”

Rod Serling’s Opening Narration:

“The place is Mexico, just across the Texas border, a mountain village held back in time by its remoteness and suddenly intruded upon by the twentieth century. And this is Pedro, nine years old, a lonely, rootless little boy, who will soon make the acquaintance of a traveler from a distant place. We are at present forty miles from the Rio Grande, but any place and all places can be the Twilight Zone.”


            After an unidentified air vessel crashes in a small, Mexican village a police officer rushes into the local cantina and tells the town postman to deliver a letter. As a crowd of people listen, he explains that he and another officer heard the aircraft land and approached with caution. Shots were fired and the other officer was fatally wounded. He proceeded to fire as the suspect fled the scene. The officer tells the postman to deliver the letter to the military.
Later, a strange man wonders into the cantina. The only occupants are an ugly, overweight bartender named Manuelo, an old blind man playing the guitar, a doctor, and a young boy named Pedro who works there. Manuelo tells the man that they are closed but the man appears dazed and sits at a table anyway. The bartender reluctantly brings the man a bottle of wine and notices that his hands are bloody. Fearing he is the suspected shooter Manuelo runs for door to alert the authorities but the man clubs him with the bottle before he can get anywhere. He tells the doctor and Pedro that he does not wish to harm them and then falls to floor.
Later, the stranger, who calls himself Mr. Williams, awaits surgery in the back room of the cantina. Young Pedro, an orphan, feels a spiritual kinship with Williams because is also without a home. Williams gives Pedro a gift that he says is for the people of town and tells him to keep it a secret until later.
After the doctor has removed the bullets from Williams he tells Pedro that, according to medical standards, his friend should not have survived his injury. Manuelo tells the doctor that he has informed the authorities of the stranger’s location.
When the authorities arrive the people of town turn into an angry, violent mob. Williams tells Pedro to give his gift to the doctor but Manuelo grabs it and set fire to it. Astounded, Williams asks them why they will not accept his kindness. Someone accuses him of trying to harm young Pedro and he is shot dead.
The doctor walks over to the fire and picks up what is left of the gift. He says it is the formula for a vaccine against all forms of cancer. But he can no longer read it because the formula has been burned off.

Rod Serling’s Closing Narration:

“Madeiro, Mexico, the present. The subject: fear. The cure: a little more faith. An Rx off a shelf in the Twilight Zone.”


            Many fans and historians of The Twilight Zone have made the claim that as the show approached the tail end of its third season its creative stride began to show signs of fatigue. Although the show would run for another two seasons—a season and a half, really—it would never quite feel the same. There are numerous potential explanations for this. One reason is that after the departure of Buck Houghton, the show went through a quick succession of producers, each with a different idea of how it should be run. Another is that season four saw the show change to an hour-long format which, although it did produce some extraordinary episodes, ultimately did not fit the tone of the show. Another reason is that writers Richard Matheson and George Clayton Johnson both left the show during its fifth season after creative disputes with producer William Froug and prolific Twilight Zone contributor Charles Beaumont had begun to show signs of the disease which would eventually claim his life and he also left the show. This resulted in an almost totally new writing staff at the end of the fifth season.
            As for Serling, the constant fight to meet his contractual obligation of writing the majority of the episodes each season had most certainly taken its toll. He had grown weary of the show and had increasingly begun to recycle themes and story lines. When it appeared that The Twilight Zone would not be renewed for a fourth season he accepted a teaching position at his Alma Mater, Antioch College, in Yellow Springs, Ohio. He would reside in Ohio and mail his scripts for the show, which was being rebooted in a different format and under a new producer, back to Los Angeles. By the time the show was cancelled for the third time after the fifth season Serling was ready to let it go. The show had made its mark and was becoming almost a ghost of its former self.
            If a specific episode could be used to mark the point at which the series began to decline then “The Gift” would be a good example. It is definitely not the worst episode of the series but it is the worst episode up to this point in the series which is significant. The show had already had a few not-so-great episodes and still had some fantastic episodes left in its reservoir—the following week would see “The Dummy” make its debut and become an instant classic and the remaining seasons each had their share of memorable episodes. But the ratio of good episodes to bad would noticeably shift between the broadcast of “The Gift” and the end of the series two years later.
            Seemingly unsure of exactly what it wants to be, “The Gift” is a hybrid of a standard invaders-from-space story and a twentieth century religious parable with undertones of McCarthyism present because it is a Rod Serling script. It seems to have been a story that Serling was somewhat attached to for he attempted to see it made three different times. But the finished product here falls short of the standard that The Twilight Zone had established. The acting is poor, the dialogue forced, the setting awkward and unnecessary, and the heavy religious implications inappropriate and pretentious. At times it feels almost like an imitation of a Twilight Zone episode rather than the real thing.
            Serling’s first attempt at getting this story made was as an hour-long pilot episode for The Twilight Zone which he submitted to CBS in 1958 called “I Shot an Arrow into the Air.” It’s the story of a humanoid being from another planet whose space craft crashes near the site of an Earth vessel that was recently launched into orbit. The creature, who goes by the name of John Williams, befriends a boy named David after he rescues the young lad from neighborhood bullies. To return the favor the boy attempts to bring Williams home so he can recover from wounds received after being shot by a police officer. Instead, his father calls the police and Williams is taken into custody. He eventually manages to escape and later reveals to David that he is from another planet. He came to Earth to study human beings but has decided that mankind is not yet ready to be introduced to extraterrestrials. Then, unbeknownst to David, he telepathically instills in the boy the knowledge that will eventually cause him to become an astronaut twenty years later. Upon his first voyage into space he and Williams are reunited.
            This script was one of several unproduced pilots that Serling wrote in the year leading up to the premier of The Twilight Zone. He recycled the title “I Shot an Arrow into the Air” for a season one episode of the show, which bears no resemblance to this longer story, and rewrote the plot to fit a half hour format which eventually became “The Gift”—after being changed from “The Guest.” Several years later, in an unsuccessful effort to get a feature-length Twilight Zone film off the ground after the show went off the air, Serling tried to expand this story into a full-length screenplay.
            The Twilight Zone produced many episodes over its five season run which featured implied religious themes or motifs among them Serling’s “Escape Clause,” Charles Beaumont’s “The Howling Man” and “Printer’s Devil,” Earl Hamner’s debut episode “The Hunt,” and “Still Valley,” Serling’s adaptation of a story by Manly Wade Wellman. “The Gift,” however, is probably the episode that is the most openly didactic with its religious ideals. Serling’s insistence on making virtually every aspect of this story an allusion to Christianity comes off as incredibly forced and distracts the audience from what would otherwise be a fairly compelling tale about the flaws of humanity. At its core the story has more to do with fear than with religion which is why the religious angle feels so out of place. Among the more obvious allusions to the story of Christ are Manuelo’s betrayal of Williams in a scene where the doctor refers to him as Judas and the camera pans down to reveal him counting out coins on the bar. Another is Williams’s vow to Pedro to return some day when humanity is mature enough to accept him in which he references Christ specifically. Add to this numerous images and references to wine and blood and Williams’s apparent crucifixion-like stance before being killed in the final scene and the episode quickly becomes a caricature of what Serling intended it to be. It is also worth noting that this episode aired just days after Easter and was likely intended to be a holiday episode although it is never referred to as such.
            Villainous space invaders have been prevalent in science fiction since before space travel was even possible. But benevolent alien beings were largely absent from the genre until around the middle of twentieth century and appeared significantly less than their sinister counterparts. Probably the most famous story of well intentioned alien visitors is Robert Wise’s 1951 film The Day the Earth Stood Still, a movie whose plot is actually quite similar to “The Gift” including its religious undertones which screenwriter Edmund H. North admits to having snuck into his script when adapting Harry Bates 1941 novella “Farewell to the Master.”
            Another reason this episode seems stilted is that by this point in the series fans had already seen this story several times. One of Serling’s deepest concerns as a writer was humanity’s potential to become its own worst enemy. In “The Gift” humble villagers are transformed into a violent angry mob out of fear and paranoia much like the neighbors in “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street” and “The Shelter.” All three tales feature a paranoid conservative who fans the flames of hysteria, a liberal-minded voice of reason, frightened townspeople who are easily influenced, and children who unintentionally cause the downfall of everyone else. The fact that “The Gift” is set in rural Mexico feels like a mere afterthought simply to differentiate it from the two previous episodes.
            Aside from the problems with the script the other fatal flaw of this episode is poor casting. Nico Minardos does an adequate job as the rational Doctor but Cliff Osmond is ridiculously over the top as Manuelo and Geoffrey Horne ridiculously wooden as Williams. Another unfortunate aspect of Serling’s script is that it places several key emotional scenes on the shoulders of young Edmund Vargas. Casting children in roles with a lot of emotional weight is always risky and unfortunately this time it proved to be a bad decision for the scene in the back room between Vargas and Williams feels stilted and very slow. Vladimir Sokoloff also gives a brief but very compelling performance as Ignacio the guitar player. Despite being Russian, Sokoloff played a Hispanic character all three times he appeared on the show. He also appeared in season two’s “Dust” and the season three episode “The Mirror.”  Sadly, the day after shooting wrapped for “The Gift” Sokoloff suffered a major stroke and died at the age of 72 ending a career that dates back to the era of silent films.
            This was director Allen H. Miner’s only Twilight Zone episode. Miner began his career as a combat photographer in World War II. His camera captured General Douglas MacArthur’s initial landing in the Philippines. His brief career in Hollywood was spent working mostly in television usually as a writer and director of western programs including directing four episodes of Serling’s western series The Loner. Miner directed his first feature film The Black Pirates in 1954 and appears to have left the industry all together in 1972. His direction on this episode is more or less uneventful. He does manage to capture a specific mood in Serling’s script. There is a sense of anxiety present throughout the episode. This is interrupted several times, however, by long scenes of mundane dialogue.
            The best thing about this episode is Brazilian guitarist Laurindo Almeida’s restrained musical score. It fits the atmosphere of the episode nicely, never intruding upon the story but moving it along the best it can. Almeida was a Grammy Award winner that managed to flourish as both a classical and jazz guitarist. His music also appeared in numerous western films including Rio Bravo (1959), The Alamo (1960) and Unforgiven (1992). This is his only contribution to the show.
            Although “The Gift” has a few minor praise-worthy elements, they are not enough to save it from being a sore spot on the show’s overall catalog. Poor casting and a bad script are ultimately to blame for this episode’s shortcomings. If you are a new fan of the show still making your way through the odyssey that is The Twilight Zone then you can rest easy knowing that "The Gift" is reserved only for the completist. This one, unfortunately, is not recommended. 

Grade: F

Grateful acknowledgement to:

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

Los Angeles Times; Obituaries, January 16, 2004; Allen H. Miner

--Vladimir Sokoloff also appeared in season two’s “Dust” and the season three episode “The Mirror.”  “The Gift” was his last screen appearance.
--Paul Mazursky also appeared in the season one episode “The Purple Testament” and the season four episode “He’s Alive.”
--Vito Scotti also appeared in season one’s “Mr. Bevis.”
--Allen H. Miner later directed four episodes of Rod Serling’s western series The Loner.
--Check out the Twilight Zone Radio Drama starring Danny Goldring.


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Podcast Roundup

Though books abound concerning Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone (see The Vortex Library) one might be surprised to learn that appreciations and examinations of the series are moving firmly into the area of podcasts. One might also be surprised to learn that there are as many as a dozen or more podcasts devoted to The Twilight Zone, Night Gallery, or Rod Serling, with seemingly more starting up all the time. Now seemed like an opportune time to provide this convenient roundup of the podcasts currently available. Included are the available descriptions of the podcasts from their host sites. Links to these podcasts are permanently listed on the sidebar under “Beyond the Vortex." Click the podcast title to access episodes. –JP

“A lifelong horror fan, Tom Elliot began podcasting in 2009 with his fledgling show The Gentlemen’s Grindhouse. Since then Tom has become a writer for Scream: The Horror Magazine, where he’s interviewed Rob Zombie, Tony Todd, the cast of Hellraiser and many more celebrities from the world of horror. In 2010 Tom started The Twilight Zone Podcast, reviewing every episode of Rod Serling’s classic show and interviewing several people connected with it, including Rod Serling’s daughter Anne. The Twilight Zone Podcast has garnered a massive audience and continues to this day.”

(Tom does an amazing job with each and every episode and if you listen to only one Zone podcast, I recommend this one. –JP)


The original Twilight Zone blogger (My Life in the Shadow of the Twilight Zone) jumps into podcasting with this free-form examination/exploration of the series. Highly recommended. -JP

Sound, Sight, and Mind Podcast by the Andrade brothers

“Welcome to the official home of the SOUND, SIGHT & MIND podcast, where the three Andrade brothers travel through the classic series The Twilight Zone, three episodes at a time.

“From start to finish, The Twilight Zone remains one of the most compelling series in television history. Brandon (of Apathetic Enthusiasm) and a variety of guests, both regular and special, watch the series from start to finish and discuss the characters, themes, and ideas Rod Serling brought to the screen. Submitted for Your Approval, we present to you, A Twilight Zone Podcast.”

The Twilight Zone Zone Podcast by Jeremy Schmidt and Ron Lechler

“The Twilight Zone Zone is a podcast hosted by LA comedians Jeremy Schmidt and Ron Lechler. Every installment, they and a guest watch and discuss an episode of Rod Serling’s seminal television series The Twilight Zone.

The Twilight Pwn by John & Fred

“If you’re just discovering this podcast, welcome!  We watched every episode of the Twilight Zone and talked about it, sometimes reverentially, sometimes snarkily   Also, we made jingles. Because we’re branding/marketing geniuses, we watched the episodes completely out of order, making it extremely confusing.  If you’re curious where to start, it probably makes the most sense to just pick an episode of the Twilight Zone you know and check out the corresponding podcast. If you’d like to follow the podcast in chronological order, the episodes are listed that way on our iTunes page (cut us some slack on the early episodes, we didn’t hit our stride until five or six podcasts in).  It probably doesn’t make sense to listen to our show in the same order as the Twilight Zone (we did the first episode of the show as our final episode of the podcast). Also, we had a few bonus episodes. Hope you enjoy!”

That Twilighty Show About that Zone by David Lawler

Blissville Presents this look at The Twilight Zone from blogger and podcaster David Lawler and guests. 

“Anthology is a podcast exploring science fiction anthology storytelling during television’s first golden age beginning with The Twilight Zone (and eventually covering The Outer Limits, Tales of Tomorrow, Science Fiction Theatre, and One Step Beyond).

Each episode of the podcast, I review one episode of The Twilight Zone as well as a movie or show related to the week’s main topic.

I’m hoping that by being a first time viewer of the show and connecting the episodes with other works of the time, I can offer an interesting perspective on this timeless classic.”

“The Internet’s freshest Twilight Zone podcast. It’s The Rod Squad.”

Zone-i-sodes Podcast by The Front Row Movie Reviews

“We are a group of regular film fans who decided to use our talents to bring some sanity and good manners back to the art of film reviewing. Our Editor and Lead Reviewer is Jeremy Goeckner (who founded the site). Our other reviewers include Brandon Davis, Craig McFarland, Scott McFarland, Kevin Kulavic, Tim Garvis, Sara Goeckner & Allison Means.”

Random Serling Podcast by Dan Wearsch

“Random Serling is a show where I am joined by a guest to discuss a randomly selected episode of either The Twilight Zone or Night Gallery, two shows created by the late Rod Serling, master of suspense. New episodes will follow each week until we run out of material.”

The Night Gallery Podcast by Chris Brown (Gentlemen’s Grindhouse Records)

A great companion to Tom Elliot’s The Twilight Zone Podcast, this podcast looks at each episode of Rod Serling’s Night Gallery. Though a new episode has not been created for some time now, all previous episodes are available. –JP

Imagine If You Will Podcast by Bruce and Dan
A chronological review of every episode of The Twilight Zone . . . ever. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Book Review: The Best of Richard Matheson

Award-winning author and editor Christopher Conlon returns to the Vortex to share his thoughts on a new career retrospective of Twilight Zone scribe Richard Matheson.

The Best, and the Rest
by Christopher Conlon

The Best of Richard Matheson. Victor LaValle, ed. New York: Penguin Classics, 2017.

Choosing the “best” of a writer—especially a prolific writer—is by its nature problematic. Once editors get past the obvious classics, their choices inevitably become subjective and thus open to criticism, especially from the writer’s most passionate and well-informed fans. In fact, even the inclusion of a writer’s classics can become a bone of contention, as happened two years ago with Penguin’s unfortunate Charles Beaumont volume, Perchance to Dream—an anonymously-edited “Selected Stories” in which the stories were mostly incompetently selected, reprinting numerous dated and unremarkable tales while inexplicably omitting much of Beaumont’s best work, including “The Hunger,” “The Crooked Man,” “Miss Gentilbelle,” and what many Beaumont fans consider his single greatest story, the astonishing “Black Country.” And so when Penguin announced The Best of Richard Matheson, fans couldn’t help but feel some trepidation. Would this volume, like the Beaumont, also be curated by some anonymous hack who clearly possessed little knowledge of the subject at hand?  What would the final result be like?

Happily—and perhaps due in part to the criticism the Beaumont book received—Penguin has chosen another tack with Matheson, whose oeuvre constitutes over sixty years of top-flight work in nearly every genre and whose short stories are considered among his finest accomplishments. As editor Penguin has enlisted the services of that fine fantasist Victor LaValle, perhaps best known for his wonderful short novel The Ballad of Black Tom, a variation on Lovecraft’s “The Horror at Red Hook.”

The vast majority of the stories editor LaValle has chosen will certainly be welcomed by any Matheson fan as representing this great writer’s “best.” Matheson’s first published tale, the groundbreaking “Born of Man and Woman,” is here, along with “Prey” (the TV movie version with Karen Black being chased by a Zuni fetish doll is as well-remembered as the story itself), “Duel” (filmed unforgettably by Steven Spielberg at the beginning of his career), and five pieces that were turned into memorable episodes of The Twilight Zone—“Death Ship,” “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” “Third from the Sun,” “Long Distance Call,” and “Mute.” “Button, Button” is here too, and “Witch War,” and “Dress of White Silk,” along with over twenty more tales—all wrapped up in a handsome package, with the distinguished Penguin Classics label lifting Matheson’s stories permanently out of the realm of mere pulp fiction and placing them where they have always really belonged, on the shelf marked American Literature. Could a Matheson fan possibly ask for anything more?

Well, as a matter of fact, yes.

To be clear: The Best of Richard Matheson is a fine collection, surely the best one-volume introduction available to Matheson’s stories—and it certainly beats Perchance to Dream by miles in terms of the wisdom and appropriateness of its selections.

And yet…the truth is, this book might have been better. For all his editorial acumen, LaValle has made a mistake by including several of the author’s “rarities”—i.e., trunk stories—that were not published until many decades after their original composition. In each case (“Man With a Club,” “The Prisoner,” “Haircut”) it’s quite obvious why these pieces went unpublished at the time. Simply put, they’re not very good. They certainly have no place in a volume purporting to represent the cream of Matheson’s particular crop, especially when by taking up space they bump other, far superior tales. Of course any editor is limited by a publisher’s maximum word count for a project, but it’s still a little startling to see a book called The Best of Richard Matheson that doesn’t include “The Distributor,” “The Children of Noah,” “Mad House,” or, most egregiously, what is perhaps Matheson’s single most emotionally wrenching story, “The Test.” Cutting the unimpressive “rarities” would have made room for at least one or two more of Matheson’s truly indispensable tales.

The editor’s introduction is also, unfortunately, something of a loss. While LaValle makes some perfectly valid points regarding Matheson’s influence—“He’s in the DNA of too many other writers to count”—a large chunk of the essay is taken up with a lengthy personal narrative about LaValle’s own youth, detailing a series of events which he claims led to his own “Matheson moment” but which in fact (spoiler alert) has absolutely nothing to do with Richard Matheson. This kind of self-indulgent logorrhea should have been removed by the publisher before the book ever went to press—and trimming this tedious, overlong piece might have made sufficient room for one more Matheson masterpiece.  

But whatever this collection’s problems, they are relatively minor in comparison to the riches that await both experienced and novice readers of Richard Matheson in these pages. While it’s not quite all it could have been, The Best of Richard Matheson stands as a worthy tribute to a writer whose importance to the American literary landscape only seems to grow with each passing year.

The Best of Richard Matheson is available October 10. Get the book. 

Thanks again to Christopher Conlon. Visit Chris’s site. Buy Chris’s books.

The Best of Richard Matheson (Penguin Classics, 432 pages)

Table of Contents (date of story publication):

-Introduction by Victor LaValle
-Born of Man and Woman (1950)
-Prey (1969)
-Witch War (1951)
-Shipshape Home (1952)
-Blood Son (1951)
-Where There’s a Will (with Richard Christian Matheson) (1980)
-Dying Room Only (1953)
-Counterfeit Bills (2004)
-Death Ship (1953)
-Man with a Club (2003)
-Button, Button (1970)
-Duel (1971)
-Day of Reckoning (1960)
-The Prisoner (2001)
-Dress of White Silk (1951)
-Haircut (2006)
-Nightmare at 20,000 Feet (1962)
-The Funeral (1955)
-Third from the Sun (1950)
-The Last Day (1953)
-Long Distance Call (1953)
-Deus ex Machina (1963)
-One for the Books (1955)
-Now Die in It (1958)
-The Conqueror (1954)
-The Holiday Man (1957)
-No Such Thing as a Vampire (1959)
-Big Surprise (1959)
-A Visit to Santa Claus (1957)
-Finger Prints (1962)
-Mute (1962)
-Shock Wave (1963)

Here follows additional notes on select adaptations of the stories for those interested in such things.  –JP

--“Prey” was adapted by Matheson as the third and final segment of the 1975 television film Trilogy of Terror. The film was directed by Dan Curtis and featured Karen Black. Matheson’s friend William F. Nolan wrote a sequel to the story, “He Who Kills,” as a segment of the 1996 television film Trilogy of Terror II, directed by Dan Curtis.

--“Dying Room Only” was adapted by Matheson into a 1973 television film directed by Philip Leacock and featuring Twilight Zone actors Ross Martin and Cloris Leachman.

--“Death Ship” was adapted by Matheson as the 108th episode of The Twilight Zone, the 6th episode of the fourth season. The hour-long episode was directed by Don Medford and featured Jack Klugman and Ross Martin.

--“Button, Button” was adapted as a segment of episode 20 of the first season of The Twilight Zone revival television series. Matheson adapted his short story but, dissatisfied with changes made to his teleplay, placed his pseudonym “Logan Swanson” on the work instead. The segment was directed by Peter Medak and featured Mare Winningham. The short story was also the basis of a 2009 film, The Box, written and directed by Richard Kelly and featuring James Marsden, Cameron Diaz, and Frank Langella.

--“Duel” was adapted by Matheson for a 1971 television film directed by Steven Spielberg and featuring Twilight Zone actor Dennis Weaver.

--“Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” was adapted by Matheson as episode 123 of The Twilight Zone, episode 3 of the fifth season. It was directed by Richard Donner and featured William Shatner. Matheson also adapted his story for the 1983 film Twilight Zone: The Movie. The segment was directed by George Miller and featured John Lithgow.

--“The Funeral” was adapted by Matheson as a segment of episode 15 of the second season of Rod Serling’s Night Gallery. The segment was directed by John Meredyth Lucas.

--“Third from the Sun” was adapted by Rod Serling as episode 14 of the first season of The Twilight Zone. It was directed by Richard L. Bare and featured Fritz Weaver and Edward Andrews.

--“Long Distance Call” was adapted by Matheson as “Night Call,” episode 139 of The Twilight Zone, episode 19 of the fifth season. It was directed by Jacques Tourneur and featured Gladys Cooper.

--“One for the Books” was adapted by Matheson for episode 23 of the first season of Steven Spielberg’s Amazing Stories television series. The episode was directed by Lesli Linka Glatter and featured Leo Penn and Joyce Van Patten.

--“Now Die in It” was expanded into a 1959 novel titled Ride the Nightmare. This novel was adapted by Matheson for the first season of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. It was directed by Bernard Girard and featured Hugh O’Brian, Gena Rowlands, and Twilight Zone actor John Anderson. The novel was also the basis for a loose adaptation as the 1970 film Cold Sweat, directed by Terence Young and starring Charles Bronson.

--“No Such Thing as a Vampire” was adapted by Hugh Leonard as an episode of the anthology series Late Night Horror. It was directed by Paddy Russell. Matheson adapted the story as a segment of the 1977 television film Dead of Night, directed by Dan Curtis.

--“Big Surprise” was adapted by Matheson as a segment of episode 8 of the second season of Rod Serling’s Night Gallery. The segment was directed by Jeannot Szwarc and featured John Carradine.

--“Mute” was adapted by Matheson as episode 107 of The Twilight Zone, episode 5 of the fifth season. It was directed by Stuart Rosenberg and featured Frank Overton, Barbara Baxley, and Oscar Beregi, Jr.

--One final note: Both “Finger Prints” and “Mute” originally appeared in the 1962 anthology The Fiend in You, edited by Matheson’s close friend and fellow Twilight Zone writer Charles Beaumont.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Reading Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine, part 4

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

Volume 1, Number 4 (July, 1981)

Editor: T.E.D. Klein
Cover Art: Linda Lippa
*Leon Garry assumes role as Publisher and Co-Executive Vice President

TZ Publications, Inc.
President & Chairman: S. Edward Orenstein
Secretary/Treasurer: Sidney Z. Gellman
Executive Vice Presidents: Leon Garry & Eric Protter
Executive Publisher: S. Edward Orenstein
Publisher: Leon Garry
Associate Publisher/Consulting Editor: Carol Serling
Editorial Director: Eric Protter
Editor: T.E.D. Klein
Managing Editor: Jane Bayer
Contributing Editors: Gahan Wilson & Theodore Sturgeon
Design Director: Derek Burton
Art and Studio Production: Georg the Design Group
Production Director: Edward Ernest
Controller: Thomas Schiff
Administrative Assistant: Eve Grammatas
Public Relations Manager: Melissa Blanck-Grammatas
Public Relations Asst: Jeffrey Nickora
Accounting Manager: Chris Grossman
Circulation Director: Denise Kelly
Circulation Assistant: Karen Wiss
Circulation Marketing: Jerry Alexander
Western Newsstand Consultant: Harry Sommer
V.P. Advertising Director: Martin Lassman
N.Y. Advertising Manager: Louis J. Scott
Advertising Production Manager: Rachel Britapaja
Advertising Assistant: Marina Despotakis


-In The Twilight Zone by T.E.D. Klein
-Other Dimensions: Screen by Gahan Wilson
-Other Dimensions: Books by Theodore Sturgeon
-“Camouflage” by Stanley Schmidt
-“Smiley” by Steve Rosse
-“Corn Dolly” by Eileen Roy
-“Papa Gumbo” by Ron Goulart
-“Silver” by Charles L. Grant
-“Luna” by G.W. Perriwils
-TZ Profile: Richard Donner by Robert Martin
-TZ Profile: Donner as Filmmaker by Robert Martin
-“A Thousand Paces Along the Via Dolorosa” by Robert Silverberg
-“The Dump” by Joe Lansdale
-“Escape” by John Keefauver
-“The Swamp” by Robert Sheckley
-“Summer Heat” by Carmen C. Carter
-“The Rules of the Game” by Jack Ritchie
-Show-by-Show Guide: TV’s Twilight Zone, Part Four by Marc Scott Zicree
-“The Eye of the Beholder” by Rod Serling (TZ Classic Teleplay)*
-Looking Ahead: In the August TZ

*This episode aired under the title "Eye of the Beholder" but is reprinted here under the title "The Eye of the Beholder." The titles seem to be used interchangeably. The episode also aired under the alternate title "The Private World of Darkness." 

--In The Twilight Zone by T.E.D. Klein
Subtitle: “Extraordinary circumstances . . .”

-This column serves as the monthly editorial from Klein, who generally uses the space to introduce the issue’s contributors. A baffling aspect of this issue is that several of the thumbnail images of the contributors are erroneously attributed. The image of Jack Ritchie is attributed to Ron Goulart and Goulart’s image to Ritchie. Charles L. Grant’s image is attributed to Marc Zicree. The other two images which I can personally identify, Joe Lansdale and Marc Zicree, are also misattributed.

--Other Dimensions: Screen by Gahan Wilson
-Wilson examines Joe Dante’s The Howling (1981) and generally liked it, praising the filmmaker’s awareness of the cultural history of the werewolf film and saying that “this is 1981, and we have moved on from stop-motion jerkiness and silly little hang-ups about how much hair we should have on our face.”

-Wilson looks at the film in the context of older films of transformation (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Wolf Man, etc.) and notices a change not only in the social and political messages behind the new style of horror film of the 1980’s but also in the radical and innovative improvements in special effects makeup. The special makeup effects for The Howling were initially handled by Rick Baker who left the production in the early stages of filming due to a prior commitment to provide the makeup effects for John Landis’s similar film An American Werewolf in London. Baker won an Academy Award (the first of many) for his work on Landis’s film. The effects for The Howling were taken over by Baker’s protégé Rob Bottin and were stunningly visceral and original. Wilson notes the opportunity for horror films to say something more profound about the culture in which they were made beyond the tepid fantasies of the 1930s and 1940s. The Howling was followed by seven sequels, the most recent of which, The Howling: Reborn, was released in 2011.

--Other Dimensions: Books by Theodore Sturgeon
-After spending the previous two book review columns trying to cram as many brief reviews in as he could, Sturgeon settles back to take a deeper look at a smaller selection of books.

-Sturgeon reviews the following:

-The Techno/Peasant Survival Manual by Colette Dowling (Bantam).
-Sturgeon says: “There has never been anything quite like this, and it isn’t easy to present its nature and impact without strapping you to a board and reading you the whole thing.” Sturgeon heaps praise upon the book, which is an attempt to explain in layman terms the emerging technologies of the time which affect the lives of the everyman.

-A Storm Upon Ulster by Kenneth C. Flint (Bantam)
-Sturgeon says it is “splendidly structured and paced, full of brilliant scenes, smells, sounds, conflicts, adventure, magic; and is recommended most highly.” It is the “retelling of the myth of the mighty Irish hero Cuculain, the warrior from Ulster who, single-handed, held back all the armies of the southern kingdoms for the better part of the week.”

-The Changing Land by Roger Zelazny (Ballantine)
-“Here are all kinds of magic, here anything can happen and a good deal of anything does.”

-Under the City of Angels by Jerry Earl Brown (Bantam)
-A “full package of fascinations – so full, in fact, that it overflows.”

-The Steel of Raithskar by Randall Garrett and Vicki Ann Heydron (Bantam)
-“For all its derivatives, however, the book is entertaining and well-paced.”

-Sturgeon briefly notes two anthologies and an author collection:

-Dream’s Edge edited by Terry Carr (Sierra Club)
-What If? by Richard Lupoff, a collection of short stories (Pocket Books)
-Terra SF: The Year’s Best European SF edited by Richard D. Nolane (DAW Books)

-Sturgeon concludes the review column by sharing a bit of graffiti he found written on the wall of a men’s room while he was on his way to the podium at a convention: “The meek shall inherit the earth. The rest of us will go out to space.”

--“Camouflage” by Stanley Schmidt

Illustration by Bob Gale
“The battleship, the battle, the commander – surely they were figments of a nightmare.”

-A college student wanders into a secret section of a school building and discovers an alien plot to take over the Earth. 

-The gimmick in Schmidt’s story is that the alien threat is masquerading as nightmares so that people will dismiss what they see as belonging to a dream. The story ends with the main character awakening fully to the threat. The story is slight and rather ludicrous and includes such elements as an alien leader as a talking rat. Schmidt was the editor of Analog: Science Fiction, Science Fact at the time this story was published. He began editing that magazine in 1978 and continued until March, 2013. Schmidt is also a novelist, short story writer, and anthology editor. Schmidt continues to publish fiction, mostly in the pages of Analog.

--“Smiley” by Steve Rosse
Illustration by E.T. Steadman
“He was just a harmless little man with a harmless little hobby. So why was the woman so frightened?”

-A Jewish deli owner relates the story of a mute man named Smiley who frequents his deli and whose hobby is taking pictures of beautiful women he meets on the street. Smiley become infatuated with a young married woman taking up residency above the deli. It is suggested that Smiley is an incubus who visits the sleeping woman in a dream and impregnates her. 

-This story is longer than is necessary to expound its basic narrative aspects. The build-up to the story is neither unsettling nor suspenseful and the ending is anti-climactic as it is related secondhand. Needless to say, the story certainly doesn’t capture the feeling of The Twilight Zone nor is it a successful work of speculative fiction on its own. The editorial by T.E.D. Klein states that the story is highly autobiographical which may go some measure to explain why it is not successful. A recounting of memory does not a story make. 

-Rosse is described in Klein's editorial as the production stage manager for Theater Memphis, then-largest community theater in the country. He later moved into the film industry working on such films as Homeboy (1988) and Heaven and Earth (1993) in such capacities as Set Dresser and Prop Manager. Rosse was the set decorator for Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing (1989). Rosse later found success in the burgeoning publishing industry of Thailand where his essays and articles were featured in high-circulation English-language periodicals. 

Note: Biographical information in this review has been amended from details provided by the author. -JP

--“Corn Dolly” by Eileen Roy

Illustration by A.G. Metcalf
“The settlers were wise in the ways of science, but they’d forgotten the oldest wisdom of all – the wisdom of the blood.”

-A pioneering team of interplanetary explorers learns the cost of survival when a young woman must be sacrificed to make the ground fertile to grow life-saving crops. 

-I really enjoyed this brief, stark exercise in science fiction horror. Roy plays on the old custom of fashioning a straw doll, a Corn Dolly, as part of a harvest custom in early European farming communities. This was a way to give the spirit of the corn a place to reside during the harvest. Roy combines the inherently unsettling nature of this old custom with Ray Bradburyesque touches of the weird and uncanny in interplanetary travel and exploration. Roy published only three short works of speculative fiction in the early 1980s, also making it into Damon Knight’s Orbit 21, though she appeared to have some talent which could have been fashioned into a successful career. At the time of writing, Roy was a graduate student at the University of Connecticut.

--“Papa Gumbo” by Ron Goulart
Illustrated by Steven Gaurnaccia
“Even in the Deep South, a good zombie’s hard to find.”

-The creator of a television sideshow gets a tip on a real life zombie in the Louisiana bayou country and ventures down there to retrieve said zombie with surprising and amusing results. 

-Like Goulart’s previous effort for the magazine, issue one’s “Groucho,” this tale is a film/television industry comedy with horror fiction overtones, though the story never tips over into actually frightening. It’s played strictly for laughs. Goulart is content to spoof the genre and play his over-the-top characters against each other in overblown dialogue, including an appallingly insensitive and inaccurate portrayal of an African American, along a threadbare plot to a rushed conclusion. As such, the story cannot stand up under its own weight and merely comes off as slight and only marginally diverting or amusing. At least Goulart’s writing style is built for speed, for the story does not drag.  

--“Silver” by Charles L. Grant

Illustrated by Robert Morello
“It’s hard to outrun a memory – especially one with four legs and fangs.”

-A writer is haunted by the vengeful spirits of a young boy and the boy’s large dog whose deaths the writer inadvertently caused. 

-This is probably the story in the issue which most suits a magazine bearing The Twilight Zone name (it shares the style of Charles Beaumont’s third season episode “The Jungle”). It’s no surprise that it comes from a reliable professional like Charles L. Grant, the ambassador of the “quiet” form of horror story, in which suggestion is favored over explicit violence. Grant’s fiction was none the weaker for this approach and he enjoyed a long and successful career beginning with the horror boom of the late 1970s. He is most well-known as the creator of the novels and stories relating the happenings in the fictional town of Oxrun Station. Grant was hugely prolific, however, writing dozens of novels and short stories over the course of his career. The best of his short fiction was collected in Scream Quietly: The Best of Charles L. Grant in 2012 by P.S. Publishing. Grant was also an accomplished editor with the Shadows series of anthologies and the shared universe series of anthologies exploring the haunted town of Greystone Bay. Grant died in 2006.

-“Silver” is typical of Grant’s style: muted, understated, building inexorably toward a tense and frightening climax. Grant never included “Silver” in any of his collections and the story has not been reprinted. Perhaps he felt it was too generic a ghost story though it is a fine example of its type, with a particularly pitiful protagonist and a suitably frightening ghost. 

--“Luna” by G.W. Perriwils (Georgette Perry and William J. Wilson)

Illustrated by José Reyes
“His muscles knotted with agony, and the chill air seared his heaving lungs like fire.”

-A lunar astronaut falls under the wrath of the moon’s version of Artemis, the goddess of the wild places and of the animals. After his return to Earth, she stalks him through his dreams, in which her hounds ultimately capture and kill him. 

-The astute viewer of The Twilight Zone will notice that this story bears a passing resemblance to Charles Beaumont’s first season episode “Perchance to Dream” with its idea that a recurring dream based on prior experience can prove fatal, and with its setting in modern psychoanalysis. Perry and Wilson take the story in an interesting direction, tying it into mythology and presenting a striking, if rushed, ending. Karl Edward Wagner thought the story good enough to include in The Year’s Best Horror Stories X (DAW Books, 1982). Here's what Wagner had to say about the story: "It struck me while reading 'Luna' that not too many years ago this story would have been considered science fiction as well as fantasy. Instead, it is fantasy within a contemporary framework, and proof that a high tech society is no barrier to the supernatural." T.E.D. Klein reprinted the story in the Fall, 1985 issue of Night Cry. Perry and Wilson collaborated on a handful of short stories in the 1980s and 1990s. Both are scientists by profession (Wilson having worked with NASA, giving "Luna" a degree of verisimilitude) and also widely published poets. 

--TZ Profile: Richard Donner by Robert Martin

TZ Alumnus Makes Good

-The first of a two-part profile of the famed director focuses on Donner’s early career, which included a brief acting stint and his emergence as a television director, moving from local television productions to working on some of the biggest shows of the 1960s, including, of course, The Twilight Zone. Donner directed six episodes of the series, all in the fifth and final season of the show. These are: “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” “From Agnes – With Love,” “Sounds and Silences,” “The Jeopardy Room,” “The Brain Center at Whipples,” and “Come Wander with Me.” Donner speaks about each episode with the exception of “Sounds and Silences.” Donner’s entry into television, and later film, direction is largely presented as a charmed set of circumstances in which Donner found himself in the right place at the right time with several quality projects landing in his lap. Donner speaks at length about working on “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” which was a challenging production due to the technical aspects of the production, as well as my own personal favorite among his Zone episodes, “The Jeopardy Room.”

--TZ Profile: Donner as Filmmaker by Robert Martin
A Flair for the Larger-than-Life

-The second part of Martin’s profile of Donner focuses on Donner’s Hollywood career, beginning with his first feature film, X-15 (1961), featuring David McLean, Charles Bronson, and Mary Tyler Moore, and moving through his now-classic work on such films as The Omen (1976), Superman (1978), and concluding with his departure from Superman II (1980) after completing 80 percent of the filming. Superman II was the last film Donner was involved in at the time of the article. 

--“A Thousand Paces Along the Via Dolorosa” by Robert Silverberg

Illustrated by José Reyes
“You can spend a lifetime running after God – but what will you do when you find him?”

-UCLA psychology professor on sabbatical in Jerusalem learns of an ancient sect who consume a psychoactive mushroom which supposedly brings one closer to God. With the help of a local professor, he gains access to the sect’s village but loses his courage before trying the mushroom. During the Easter celebration in the city, he is swept along by the large crowds down the path of Jesus Christ’s conviction and execution (hence the story’s title) and experiences a powerful moment of ecstasy. 

-Silverberg’s second contribution to the magazine is remarkably like his first contribution. Both concern scholarly Americans in ancient foreign places who are confronted with a strange local custom which changes their worldview. This story is markedly more successful than the first, principally due to the fact that the climax is not underwhelming. Silverberg manages to sketch out the telling details of both character and setting in his typical clear and direct style. Judging from his two stories in the magazine, Silverberg appears to have been very interested in the way Americans view other countries and the ways in which these Americans can be changed by a foreign experience. “A Thousand Paces Along the Via Dolorosa” was collected in Silverberg’s 1984 collection, The Conglomeroid Cocktail Party, which also contains his previous story for the magazine, “How They Pass the Time in Pelpel.” The story was also reprinted in the Winter, 1985 issue of Night Cry.

-Silverberg’s 1963 short story, “To See the Invisible Man,” was adapted as a segment of episode 16 of the first season of The Twilight Zone revival series. It was adapted by Steven Barnes and directed by Noel Black. It originally aired on January 31, 1986.

--“The Dump” by Joe R. Lansdale
Illustrated by Randy Jones
“Living in a garbage dump, you see some pretty odd things. Just make sure the things don’t see you first.”

-The caretaker/resident of a local garbage dump recounts a tale of how he and his friend Pearly discovered a strange creature born out of the composting refuse. 
-This is a slight and humorous story from the prolific Lansdale who was near the beginning of his career at this point but who has since established himself as one of the finest novelists of dark suspense and historical suspense of his generation. The story has some memorably grotesque imagery and a neat twist ending. In his introduction to the story in the volume, Bumper Crop (Golden Gryphon Press, 2004) Lansdale stated that “The Dump” was “a simple little Fred Brown/Robert Bloch sort of story” and that when he finished it he “thought it was, to put it mildly, dumb. I didn’t even make a copy. I folded it immediately, put it in an envelope, so I wouldn’t change my mind, went back to bed, and next day mailed it off to the then new Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone Magazine, a magazine I badly wanted to appear in.” Later, Lansdale writes, “Ted Klein, then editor of Twilight Zone Magazine, phoned to say he loved it and wanted to buy it for the magazine. Later it appeared in Best of Twilight Zone, a magazine anthology. I suddenly began to like it better.”

-The anthology Lansdale refers to is Great Stories from Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine (1982), which is a magazine style anthology of Klein’s picks of the best stories to appear in the magazine’s first year of publication. The story was reprinted in the Spring, 1990 issue of Cemetery Dance Magazine, and has been collected across a number of Lansdale collections, including Stories by Mama Lansdale’s Youngest Boy (1991), Bestsellers Guaranteed (1993), and the aforementioned Bumper Crop (2004). 

--“Escape” by John Keefauver

Illustrated by Bob Neubecker
“For the tourist, Hong Kong was just too close to home. He wanted a ticket to Dreamland.”

-An American businessman meets a strange Chinese man in a bar who offers to take him to a place of escape called Dreamland. When they arrive they are greeted with song, dance, and revelry. The businessman trades his money for escape money, which will buy him one day, or one month, or one year of escape. When he awakens he finds himself sitting against a meter and feeling terribly sleepy. He is surrounded by others like him. The Chinese man he met in the bar is now the meter guard and demands escape money from him. The businessman pays, then goes back to sleep, having achieved his “escape.” 

-Yet another American in a foreign place gets his comeuppance story (Klein must have loved this type of story). It’s difficult to ascertain what was being attempted with this story but if it was to achieve a dreamlike, surreal atmosphere, it was reasonably well attained. The final fate of the businessman is clearly meant to be a sort of punishment though the character hardly seems to have deserved it. Keefauver sketches out a very Rod Serlingesque character, a tired business executive who seeks reprieve from his demanding life by falling into an escape fantasy. In Keefauver’s hands, however, this seems to be a desire punishable by a narcoleptic existence in limbo. Klein describes Keefauver as “a former newspaper man now living in Carmel, California” and “a prolific writer whose fiction and humorous sketches have appeared in Playboy, Omni, the New York Times, and various Hitchcock anthologies.” Keefauver wrote a number of short horror and fantasy stories beginning in the mid-1960s and appeared in several prominent anthologies including several volumes of The Pan Book of Horror Stories, Charles L. Grants Shadows anthology, J.N. Williamson’s Masques III, and Joe R. Lansdale’s Dark at Heart. 

--“The Swamp” by Robert Sheckley

Illustrated by Thomas Angell
“To play so close to quicksand, a boy had to be stupid – or worse.”

-A man attempts to help one of a group of boys who has fallen into a quagmire only to discover to his horror that the entire life-threatening situation was staged in order to lure him to his death as part of an initiation ritual. 

-Robert Sheckley returns to the magazine with another short-short (he provided three such tales for the first issue of the magazine) and this one is a sharp, vicious shocker which is perfectly paced and executed. Were it not so slight I might have graded it an A. Sheckley was a prolific writer remembered chiefly for his sardonic and often chilling science fiction stories, the most famous of which is probably “The Seventh Victim,” memorably adapted for the X Minus One radio program. The story is not to be confused with the 1943 Val Lewton film of the same name. Sheckley died in 2005. 

--“Summer Heat” by Carmen C. Carter

Illustrated by Robert Morello
“A crime – like a child’s cry – can echo for eternity.”

-A woman moves into an apartment building and, during the height of summer heat, begins hearing a woman yelling at her misbehaving child. The yelling culminates in a perceived act of violence and then abruptly goes silent. When the police are called and the building’s residents gather on the sidewalk it becomes apparent that the sounds they heard were the spiritual echo of a long ago crime

-Carter’s story is essentially a mood piece but a highly effective one at that. The nature of the “haunting” is quite unique but the strength of the story lies in the nicely handled character perspective of living in a crowded apartment building in Brooklyn during a record hot summer. The story also briefly explores the strained relationships which can develop between rushed, stressed parents and their bored, misbehaving children, often with dire results. Carter also notes the casual way by which some people react to domestic violence. 

--“The Rules of the Game” by Jack Ritchie

Illustrated by Oliver Williams
“What is it that you wish for, when a wish is guaranteed to come out wrong?”

-A man walking in the park hears a cry for help and rescues another man from drowning. The rescued man reveals himself able to grant his rescuer three wishes. After casually wasting his first two wishes on trivial matters, the rescuer, a lonely businessman, decides to withhold his final wish due to a fear that it will turn out wrong. Since the rescued man must remain with the businessman until he makes his third and final wish they become great friends. 

-Ritchie here attempts to provide a new spin on a very, very old tale with only marginally successful results. The sentimental ending, although different, simply doesn’t work. Ritchie was a hugely prolific writer of short stories dating back to the 1950s. Though Ritchie is remembered for his mystery and suspense fiction, he wrote a fair number of speculative stories as well. His most famous mystery story, “The Absence of Emily,” won an Edgar Award and has been filmed twice. He wrote only a single novel, Tiger Island, published in 1987. Ritchie appeared in virtually every periodical and book anthology of crime and mystery fiction in his time, including such hardboiled magazines as Manhunt and placing more than 120 stories in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine alone. An episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, “What Frightened You, Fred?” was adapted from a Ritchie story, as were two episodes of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. Several of Ritchie’s stories were also adapted for Roald Dahl’s anthology series, Tales of the Unexpected. Ritchie died in 1983.

-The fiction in this issue swelled to an even dozen and even with the increased story selection nothing stood out as truly excellent. The magazine did publish some outstanding and now-classic fiction in its run but not every issue is going to contain one of those tales. An interesting aspect of the lack of above average fiction in this issue, and in other issues, is that the magazine paid high professional rates which dwarfed the rates offered by magazines such as Asimov’s or Analog or The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, to say nothing of the small press magazines like The Horror Show or 2 A.M. Only Omni and Playboy, the latter of which had largely stopped publishing speculative fiction of any kind, offered rates comparable to The Twilight Zone Magazine. 

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

-Zicree begins his examination of the second season in this issue with a look at an uneven set of episodes, which includes some drab material, including a couple of videotaped episodes, along with some of the best work done on the entire series. The episodes covered include: “King Nine Will Not Return,” “The Man in the Bottle,” “Nervous Man in a Four Dollar Room,” “A Thing About Machines,” “The Howling Man,” “The Eye of the Beholder,” “Nick of Time,” “The Lateness of the Hour,” “The Trouble with Templeton,” “A Most Unusual Camera,” and “Night of the Meek.” Three of these episodes, “The Howling Man,” “The Eye of the Beholder,” and “Nick of Time,” were rated an A+ when we reviewed them.

--TZ Classic Teleplay: “The Eye of the Beholder” by Rod Serling

-This episode first aired on November 11, 1960 and is without doubt one of the finest achievements of the series and perhaps Rod Serling’s finest original teleplay. His vision of a dystopian society which demands conformity to the point of shunning those deemed “ugly” or “different” to segregated outlying communities is still a powerful warning today. William Tuttle’s pig-like makeup designs remain some of the most indelible images from the series. You can read our full review of the episode here.

-The most interesting aspect of the episode is, of course, that none of the principal actors are revealed until the final five minutes or so. Serling makes this note at the beginning of the teleplay: “Production note: throughout the play until otherwise indicated, all characters with the exception of Janet are played either in the shadows or the camera is on their back, but never are actually seen face first.”

--Looking Ahead: In the August TZ

-Next time we have the usual features along with an interview with famed zombie filmmaker George Romero (who recently passed away), as well as George Clayton Johnson’s essential essay “Writing for The Twilight Zone,” and the first installment of “Dr. Van Helsing’s Handy Guide to Ghost Stories” by editor T.E.D. Klein (hiding behind the pseudonym Kurt Van Helsing). Also featured are stories by Lisa Tuttle, David Morrell, and James Patrick Kelly, alongside several lesser known talents. Marc Scott Zicree continues his episode guide to the second season and another Rod Serling teleplay is offered, this time it’s the time travel nightmare, “The Odyssey of Flight 33.” See you back soon!