Friday, November 17, 2017

Reading Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine, part 5

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

Volume 1, Number 5 (August, 1981)

Editor: T.E.D. Klein
Cover Art: Tito Salomoni 

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
Advertising Manager: Rachel Britapaja
Advertising Production Manager: Marina Despotakis


--In the Twilight Zone: Unnatural Resources by T.E.D. Klein
--Other Dimensions: Screen by Gahan Wilson
--Other Dimensions: Books by Theodore Sturgeon
--George Romero: Revealing the Monsters within Us by Tom Seligson
--“Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” by Reginald Bretnor
--“Tiger of the Mind” by Ron Wolfe
--“A Friend in Need” by Lisa Tuttle
--“Four” by Douglas Jenmac
--“Midas Night” by Sam Wilson
--Writing for The Twilight Zone by George Clayton Johnson
--TZ Screen Preview: Hollywood Cries Wolf!
--“The Hidden Laughter” by David Morrell
--“The Artisan” by Lori Allen
--“Identity Crisis” by James Patrick Kelly
--Dr. Van Helsing’s Handy Guide to Ghost Stories by T.E.D. Klein (as Kurt Van Helsing)
--“The Tale the Hermit Told” by Alastair Reid
--“The Man Who Couldn’t Remember” by David Curtis
--“The Next Time Around” by Paul J. Nahin
--Show-by-Show Guide: TV’s Twilight Zone, Part Five by Marc Scott Zicree
--TZ Classic Teleplay: “The Odyssey of Flight 33” by Rod Serling
--Looking Ahead: In September’s TZ

--In the Twilight Zone: Unnatural Resources by T.E.D. Klein

-As usual, Klein uses this space to provide biographical details about the contributors to the issue. Klein also addresses the mix-up on the thumbnail images of the contributors which I noted from last issue and provides the images again with the correct attribution for each. This issue features a nice mix of established names (Morrell, Kelly, Tuttle, Reid) and unknowns (Bretnor, Wolfe, Jenmac, Curtis, and Nahin) as well as two very interesting feature articles.

--Other Dimensions: Screen by Gahan Wilson

-Wilson reviews The Omen III: The Final Conflict. He gives a recap of his thoughts on the first two Omen films (the first film was directed by Twilight Zone alum Richard Donner and scored by TZ alum Jerry Goldsmith, the latter of whom won an Academy Award for his work on the film) saying that both films were enjoyable, particularly the inventively gruesome death sequences, but that the films contain an artificiality which contradicts their efforts at verisimilitude. Wilson is not so kind to The Final Conflict, finding fault in virtually every aspect of the film, particularly with the dialogue in the script, but praises the performance of Sam Neill as the adult version of the anti-Christ, Damien.

--Other Dimensions: Books by Theodore Sturgeon

-Sturgeon is back with a look at a handful of new science fiction, fantasy, and horror offerings. Here are his thoughts:

-The Cool War by Frederick Pohl
“. . . as deft a tumble into the near future as can be found anywhere.”

-Blue Adept by Piers Anthony
“I’ll state it bluntly: though I’ve always admired Piers Anthony’s competence, I never realized how serious, how penetrating, his thought could be.”

-Magic Time by Kit Reed
“. . . a sort of Disneyland of the future, where the (high) paying customers can act out their fantasies.” Sturgeon describes this novel as a better version of the films Westworld and Futureworld.

-Death of Dreaming by Jon Manchip White
“. . . derives from nothing in this world but the author’s head; if there’s another book remotely like it, I’m unaware of it.”  Interestingly, Sturgeon uses space here to criticize copyeditors who insist on frequent paragraph breaks and who begin new paragraphs with large, stylized letters. This is a practice of the magazine for which Sturgeon is writing.

-Khai of Ancient Khem by Brian Lumley
“Much explicit sex, some amusing, some disgusting, some bloody and violent.”

-The Whiskers of Hercules and The Man Who Was Scared by Kenneth Robeson
Doc Savage novels #103 and #104
“Lord, how I loved these things when I was in high school!”

-Death’s Angel by Kathleen Sky
“An authorized original Star Trek novel with a tough female as the protagonist who goes all sophomore-soft when she gets next to Captain Kirk.”

-The Entity by Frank de Felitta
“. . . about a woman who gets raped a lot by a demon lover that’s ultimately uncovered by a blast of liquid helium – all in the tradition of Stephen King.”

-Nebula Winners Fifteen edited by Frank Herbert
“. . . there are some very fine stories here. . .” 

--George Romero: Revealing the Monsters within Us by Tom Seligson

-Interview of the influential horror filmmaker who recently passed away on July 16th of this year. The interview takes us through Romero’s career up to this point, with his latest film being the urban fantasy Knightriders. Romero discusses the creation of his cult classic Night of the Living Dead and the small independent films which followed, two of which, The Crazies and Martin, have become cult films in their own right. Romero was just coming off the great success of Dawn of the Dead, a film many believe to be his best. He discusses his plans for Day of the Dead as well as Creepshow, his collaboration with Stephen King. A couple of interesting items are Romero’s mention of two additional Stephen King collaborations which never saw the light of day, a feature film of ‘Salem’s Lot (eventually filmed for television by Tobe Hooper) and The Stand, with Romero stating that King had written two drafts of a screenplay and that the two of them would not make the film unless it was completely on their own terms. Apparently, they did not reach those terms with a major studio as Romero’s The Stand remains one of the great unproduced horror films. The Stand was later adapted as a television miniseries by director Mick Garris from a teleplay by King. Romero went on to direct a feature adaptation of King’s 1989 novel The Dark Half. 

--“Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” by Reginald Bretnor

Illustration by José Reyes
“The remnants of humanity had expected a messenger from Heaven. But not everyone expected the message he brought.”

-An ecological crisis sends a rag-tag band of religious figures in search of the landing area of a prophesized group of angels. 

-This offering is a strange mixture of religious allegory and ecological disaster story that never seems to find its footing in terms of theme, setting, or characterization. In a way, it reminds one of the popular fourth season episode of The Twilight Zone, “On Thursday We Leave for Home,” in that it features a man who so loves the dying world he inhabits that he forsakes the opportunity to be rescued from certain death. The religious aspects of the story manage to be both confusing and heavy-handed and the addition of a generic trope of science fiction finds the tale ending with a thud.

-Reginald Bretnor was a prolific science fiction writer best known for his series of short stories, Through Time and Space with Ferdinand Feghoot, which appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction throughout the 1970s. Bretnor also wrote novels, poems, letters, essays, and editorials for science fiction publications. “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” was never collected in book form. Bretnor died in 1992.

--“Tiger of the Mind” by Ron Wolfe

Illustrated by Robert Morello
“You can’t see it, but it can see you . . . and it’s hungry.”

-A reporter finds a missing politician in a bar in a rough part of town and listens as the politician describes his reason for leaving his old life behind, a story involving nightmares and how those nightmares can invade reality if one invites them to do so. 

-This tale deals with a common theme seen on the original Twilight Zone series, that being dreams and the way in which dreams affect reality. Unfortunately, Wolfe uses a rather generic nightmare figure, the bogeyman with claws, instead of something more imaginative while also making a lackluster attempt at the humorous reporter story. As such, it stands as a brisk and enjoyable, if unexceptional, monster tale.

-Ron Wolfe wrote three horror novels in collaboration with John Wooley and became a frequent contributor to Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine under editor Tappan King when he provided a continuing series under the uniform title The Other Side. Wolfe published a few additional short stories in TZ Magazine and similar publications, The Horror Show, etc. “Tiger of the Mind” was reprinted in the first issue of Night Cry magazine, the digest-sized off-shoot of the TZ magazine. 

--“A Friend in Need” by Lisa Tuttle

Illustrated by A.G. Metcalf
“A chance encounter at an airport becomes an exercise in memory . . . or imagination . . . or something far stranger”

-A young woman meets another young woman while waiting for a plane at the airport. Both women soon come to realize that they remember each other as the imaginary playmates of their childhoods. 

-This is far and away the best story in the issue. Lisa Tuttle is one the most fiercely talented science fiction, fantasy, and horror writers to come out of the 1970s. Her first novel, Windhaven, from the novella “The Storms of Windhaven,” was written in collaboration with George R. R. Martin and her short stories are award-winners which make frequent appearances in “best of the year” collections. “A Friend in Need” perfectly captures the strangeness of The Twilight Zone (a character even makes a reference to the Zone when trying to puzzle out the uncanny nature of the situation). The tale plays with the nature of both reality and identity in a completely new way while also exploring themes of guilt, memory, and the innocence of childhood lost. It would have made an excellent segment of the first revival Zone television series. Although “A Friend in Need” was not adapted for the small screen, a few of Tuttle’s other stories did see adaptation on such anthology programs of the time as The Hunger, Monsters, and Deadly Nightmares. “A Friend in Need” was included in Arthur Saha’s Year’s Best Fantasy 8 as well as in Tuttle’s underrated collection, A Nest of Nightmares. Among the many awards Tuttle has won are the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, the Locus Award, the Nebula Award, and the International Horror Guild Award. A volume of Tuttle’s collected supernatural fiction, Stranger in the House, was released by Ash-Tree Press in 2010. 

--“Four” by Douglas Jenmac
Illustrated by Bob Neubecker
“In which we find a silent parking garage . . . a stalled elevator . . . and a flight of concrete steps that is also a stairway to hell.”

-A businessman gets trapped inside a parking garage of M.C. Escher-like proportions.

-This very slight short-short is little more than an interesting diversion about a man who comes from a family line that has suffered an inordinate amount of tragedy who then finds himself trapped in an impossible parking garage and unable to escape from the 4th level. “Four” is the only speculative fiction story published by Douglas Jenmac.

--“Midas Night” by Sam Wilson

Illustrated by E.T. Steadman
“It was one of those nights when a man’s destiny could hang by the handle of a coffee cup.”

-A young man who is trapped inside a diner due to the fact that three hoodlums outside mean him harm strikes up a strange conversation with an even stranger old man who claims to rule the world. 

-After just a few issues of the Zone magazine it becomes apparent that T.E.D. Klein enjoyed tales of strange encounters in bars, deli, cafés, etc. It gets a bit tiresome and “Midas Night” is another such undistinguished tale concerning a “starving” young artist who happens to save the life of the eccentric old man who controls the world, thus ensuring the young man a life of great fortune. In his editorial, Klein describes Wilson as an occasional writer who is also an aspiring actor. Wilson published a few pieces in the 1980s and returned to writing speculative fiction in the 2000s with the novel Zodiac and a few more short stories.

--Writing for The Twilight Zone by George Clayton Johnson

Illustrated with images from Clayton Johnson-scripted episodes of The Twilight Zone, some of which are outtake photographs.

-This long essay originally served as the introduction (in slightly different form) and title to Clayton Johnson’s 1980 collection of scripts and stories, Writing for the Twilight Zone. Various bits of the essay have appeared in different places, from Clayton Johnson’s introduction to the short story “All of Us Are Dying” in editor Harry Harrison’s Author’s Choice #4 to the later collection George Clayton Johnson, Twilight Zone Scripts and Stories. The essay is a bit rambling but remains a very rewarding piece for both fans of The Twilight Zone and aspiring writers, as Clayton Johnson discusses the genesis of his major episodes (he does not discuss “Ninety Years Without Slumbering”), explains his writing process in great detail, and gives a general, and unfavorable, overview of writing for television.

--TZ Screen Preview: Hollywood Cries Wolf!
Color section of the magazine

-Building upon Gahan Wilson’s review of Joe Dante’s film The Howling from the previous issue, Fangoria editor and film commentator Robert Martin takes a look at three films which came to define 1981 as the Year of the Werewolf: Joe Dante’s The Howling, Michael Wadleigh’s The Wolfen, and John Landis’s An American Werewolf in Paris. Martin interviews all three directors and explores why the time was right for three wide-release feature films on the subject of lycanthropy and how each film differs from the other. Special effects for each film are discussed as well as the literary roots of the werewolf and some of the films (The Wolf Man, Curse of the Werewolf) which have come to define the classical cinematic mode of the theme.

-Director Michael Wadleigh, a documentary filmmaker most well-known for the film Woodstock, used The Wolfen to examine his personal obsessions with Native American mysticism, greatly diverging from Whitley Strieber’s source novel in the process. John Landis and Joe Dante both came to the subject as film fans who believed that the subject of werewolves was pliable enough to be reimagined for the 1980s in a way which spoke to modern audiences. Landis was a producer and director on Twilight Zone: The Movie, directing the first segment, “Time Out,” which remains infamous for the tragic accident which occurred during filming and took the lives of actor Vic Morrow and two young children. Joe Dante also worked on Twilight Zone: The Movie, directing the segment which reimagined the classic Zone episode “It’s a Good Life.” 

--“The Hidden Laughter” by David Morrell

Illustrated by Arthur Somerfield
“His wife had vanished, beyond all reason, beyond all understanding, and perhaps the only clue lay in the lines of a poem.”
-When his wife vanishes, a man cannot bring himself to leave the home which was the last place she visited.

-Though this tale is an enjoyable bit of the uncanny, Morrell is trying to do an awful lot in a small space. Taking an excerpt from T.S. Eliot’s poem “Burnt Norton,” the first poem of Eliot’s Four Quartets, as his thematic springboard, Morrell presents a disappearance not to focus on grief and loss but to explore the possibility that other worlds may exist alongside the one we find ourselves inhabiting. Morrell, who lost his young son to cancer a few years later, would explore the grief and insanity of loss much more powerfully in subsequent works. Morrell is well-known for his first novel, First Blood, which became the basis for the enormously popular Rambo films. Much of Morrell’s novels are action-based tales of intrigue and masculinity but his short fiction often explores themes of dread and the supernatural. “The Hidden Laughter” is included in his first collection of stories, Black Evening: Tales of Dark Suspense, which also includes a number of award-winning and award nominated stories. Morrell’s tales of horror work best at novella-length and “The Hidden Laughter” is a bit too short to accomplish what Morrell intended. In later tales, such as “The Shrine,” “Dead Image,” or “Orange is for Anguish, Blue for Insanity,” Morrell comes into his own as a horror writer and these tales, along with those collected in Nightscape, come highly recommended. 

--“The Artisan” by Lori Allen

Illustrated by Charles Walker
“The poems were his, the flowers hers – and wasn’t that a distinction worth dying for?”

-The subjugated wife of a poet takes murderous revenge on her husband when he makes light of both her role in their marriage and her rock garden. 

-This strange yet generally effective bit of feminist horror reminds one of Charlotte Perkins Gillman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” in that it examines a crumbling marriage in which a wife is oppressed by her well-meaning but ignorant husband while the erosion of her psyche is reflected by an external factor, in this case her well-tended rock garden. The tale turns into an Alfred Hitchcock flavored offering by the end when the rock garden is disturbed to make way for a new sewer line, thus revealing the husband’s makeshift grave.

-Lori Allen wrote a handful of short science fantasy stories throughout the 1980s and 1990s, as well as two important volumes on science fiction, both in collaboration with Dick Allen, the anthology Looking Ahead: The Vision of Science Fiction, and the nonfiction study Science Fiction: Jules Verne to Ray Bradbury. 

--“Identity Crisis” by James Patrick Kelly

Illustrated by Cannone
“It isn’t easy, dealing with fame and fortune – especially when they’re somebody else’s!”

-The life of a common man begins to unravel when he is mistaken for a reclusive celebrity. 

-This is a unique and surprising study of the fluid nature of identity, as well as how personal identity is little more than the self-image we have created inside our minds. Kelly has been a continuing presence on the science fiction scene since the late 1970s, working mostly in the short story form, for which he has won the Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and Asimov Readers Awards. Kelly is also a novelist and, in collaboration with John Kessel, an anthologist of some important volumes, including Nebula Awards Showcase 2012, Feeling Very Strange: The Slipstream Anthology, and Kafkaesque: Stories Inspired by Franz Kafka.

--Dr. Van Helsing’s Handy Guide to Ghost Stories by T.E.D. Klein (as by Kurt Van Helsing)
Illustrated with images from vintage pulp magazines and periodicals
“The good professor offers our readers a short (if not quite painless) course in the literature of supernatural dread.”

-This long essay is the first part of an erudite and ambitious attempt by Klein to examine the ghost story from earliest antiquity to its greatest flowering in the late-Victorian and Edwardian periods of England and America. This initial portion looks at the tradition of “true” ghost stories as well as the earliest mention of ghosts in ancient literatures of the West and East. Klein briefly comments on the great masters of the ghost story but likely leaves the greater discussion to be had for the following installment.

-Klein had a deep interest in the classic form of the supernatural story. While attending Brown University, in Lovecraft’s town of Providence, he wrote his honors thesis on the works of H.P. Lovecraft and crafted much of his fiction around classic works of horror. His only novel, The Ceremonies, is inspired by Arthur Machen’s celebrated short story “The White People” and its earlier incarnation “The Ceremony.” Other of Klein’s stories, “The Events at Poroth Farm” and “Black Man with a Horn” bespeak of Lovecraft’s influence. Klein also wrote the notes for Kirby McCauley’s anthology of classic horror Beyond Midnight. He is the perfect host for this journey through the classic ghost story and all readers with even a passing interest in the form are suggested to partake of Klein’s knowledgeable introductory offering.

-The Twilight Zone dabbled in the classic ghost story or classic horror story more often than is perhaps realized, evident in such episodes as “Judgment Night,” “The Hitch-Hiker,” “Twenty-Two,” “Mirror Image,” “Long Live Walter Jameson,” “The Man in the Bottle,” “Long Distance Call,” “Deaths-Head Revisited,” “The Dummy,” “Night Call,” “Living Doll,” “The Masks,” and many more. The series was expert at taking a classic supernatural concept and updating it for the latter part of the 20th century. For more on the show’s connection to the classic ghost story, see our post on the subject.

--“The Tale the Hermit Told” by Alastair Reid
Illustrated by José Reyes

-This tale, written in verse, describes a young man seduced by a gypsy woman to drink a golden wine which contains the inhabitants of a celebratory fair, which the man carries within him for the remainder of his days. 

-Reid is clearly attempting to capture the ballad style of the old fairy tales with this amusing but light offering. Reid’s central image, the golden wine which holds the people and music of a country fair, is interesting but underdeveloped. Even so, it is a nice harkening back to an earlier style of storytelling.

-Reid is well-known as a poet and for his work translating South American writers into English. Reid’s speculative works are few and far between, with a handful of poems of fantasy finding their way into anthologies by such noted anthologist as August Derleth and Terri Windling. 

--“The Man Who Couldn’t Remember” by David Curtis

Illustrated by Frances Jetter
“Fred was an exterminator, poison was his profession. But then, one day, he glanced into the pit.”

-A termite exterminator discovers the underground lair of a mutated colony of insects and is forever altered by the experience.

-Though I don’t think this story fits the magazine I enjoyed the gonzo quality of the horror and the bizarre nature of the supernatural element in this story. If you’re afraid of insects, this one will make you squirm. Curtis published only a few speculative short stories but is active in the field in other ways, including as an essayist and occasional cover artist. 

--“The Next Time Around” by Paul J. Nahin
Illustrated by Robert Morello
“When you’re speeding down the highway at 70 m.p.h., what better time to think about life . . . and death?”

-A man contemplates the possibility of reincarnation while traveling down a desert highway. 

-This short-short is funny and surprising but feels a little too much like an extended joke. Klein likely included the story to fill in a couple of needed pages in the issue.

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

-Marc Scott Zicree continues his guide to the original series by providing summaries, along with Rod Serling’s opening and closing narrations, for the following season two episodes: “Dust,” “Back There,” “The Whole Truth,” “The Invaders,” “A Penny for Your Thoughts,” “Twenty-Two,” “The Odyssey of Flight 33,” “Mr. Dingle, the Strong,” and “Static,” all of which we’ve covered in our ongoing episode guide. 

--TZ Classic Teleplay: “The Odyssey of Flight 33” by Rod Serling

-The complete shooting script of Serling’s underrated second season episode about a commercial airplane with flies backwards in time. Serling brought in his older brother Robert as technical advisor on the episode and it remains one of the most technically sound production of the entire series. Read our complete review of the episode here.

--Looking Ahead: In September’s TZ

-Coming around next issue is an excellent interview with core Twilight Zone contributor Richard Matheson, accompanied by Robert Martin’s look at Matheson in the Movies, Theodore Sturgeon’s look at George Clayton Johnson’s Writing for the Twilight Zone, the special feature Forerunners of “The Twilight Zone, in which Allan Asherman looks at the early genre anthology programs, the next installment in Dr. Van Helsing’s Handy Guide to Ghost Stories, plus a clutch of short stories and the teleplay to the original series episode “Time Enough At Last.” See you back soon!


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

"The Dummy"

Jerry Etherson (Cliff Robertson) and Willy
“The Dummy”
Season Three, Episode 98
Original Air Date: May 4, 1962

Jerry Etherson/Voice of Willy/Voice of Goofy Goggles: Cliff Robertson
Frank: Frank Sutton
Willy as Ventriloquist: George Murdock
Georgie: John Harmon
Noreen: Sandra Warner
Ralph, the Doorkeeper: Ralph Manza
Master of Ceremonies: Rudy Dolan
Chorus Girl #1: Bethelynn Grey
Chorus Girl #2: Edy Williams

Writer: Rod Serling (based on a story idea by Lee Polk)
Director: Abner Biberman
Producer: Buck Houghton
Production Manager: Ralph W. Nelson
Director of Photography: George T. Clemens
Art Direction: George W. Davis and Merrill Pye
Set Decoration: Henry Grace and Keogh Gleason
Assistant Director: E. Darrell Hallenbeck
Casting: Robert Walker
Special Makeup: William Tuttle
Editor: Jason H. Bernie
Sound: Franklin Milton and Bill Edmondson
Music: stock
Optical FX: Pacific Title
Rod Serling’s Wardrobe: Eagle Clothes
Filmed at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios

And Now, Mr. Serling:
“Next week on The Twilight Zone, a return visit from an illustrious young actor, Cliff Robertson. He stars in one of the strangest tales we’ve yet to throw at you. It’s called ‘The Dummy’ and it involves a ventriloquist and a piece of painted wood, a unique slab of carved pine who decides that lap-sitting is for the birds and who takes things into his own wooden hands. Now this one we recommend to the voice-throwers across the land. We hope to see you then.

“Chesterfield King? Extra length? Sure, and more. For only Chesterfield King gives you the wonderful taste of twenty-one great tobaccos. Try a pack.” 

Rod Serling’s Opening Narration:

“You’re watching a ventriloquist named Jerry Etherson, a voice-thrower par excellence. His alter ego sitting atop his lap is a brash stick of kindling with the sobriquet ‘Willy.’ In a moment, Mr. Etherson and his knotty-pine partner will be booked in one of the out-of-the-way bistros, that small, dark, intimate place known as The Twilight Zone.”

            Jerry Etherson is a ventriloquist working the nightclub circuit in New York City. Etherson is a recluse who drinks too much, which hampers his career and frustrates his agent, Frank. Frank believes Etherson’s personal and professional problems can all be attributed to his excessive drinking. Etherson insists he drinks to escape the fact that his dummy, Willy, is alive and trying to ruin him. Frank dismisses Etherson’s fears as irrational paranoia.

            In an effort to free himself from Willy, Etherson decides to use another dummy, Goofy Goggles, for his next performance. After the performance, Etherson learns that Frank is quitting as his agent. “You keep your ten percent and I’ll keep my self-respect,” Frank tells him. After the nightclub closes, Etherson locks Willy in a trunk in his dressing room and leaves. He cannot escape Willy that easy, however, and is haunted by Willy’s voice calling out to him and laughing at him. Etherson bungles an attempt to join the company of Noreen, a chorus girl from the nightclub.
            Etherson rushes back to the nightclub intent on destroying Willy. In his darkened dressing room, he throws open the trunk, pulls the dummy from within, throws it to the floor, and smashes it with his foot. He turns on the light and finds that he has destroyed Goofy Goggles. “How could I have gotten the wrong one?” Etherson asks. “Maybe you need glasses,” comes a familiar voice in the room.
            Willy sits on the sofa, fully alive and intent on continuing their partnership. Sometime later, Willy and Jerry are introduced in a nightclub in Kansas City. When the curtain parts, the performers walk on stage. Willy is now the ventriloquist and the dummy on his knee is Etherson.   

Rod Serling’s Closing Narration:
“What’s known in the parlance of the times as ‘the old switcheroo,’ from boss to blockhead in a few uneasy lessons. And if you’re given to nightclubbing on occasion, check this act. It’s called ‘Willy and Jerry,’ and they generally are booked into some of the clubs along the ‘Gray Night Way’ known as The Twilight Zone.” 


Perhaps an under-discussed aspect of The Twilight Zone is the frequency, and variety, with which the series approached tales of doubles, dummies, dolls, and effigies. Such tales were a recurring story motif for the entirety of the series. Even the pilot episode “Where is Everybody?” contained an emotional scene centered on a store mannequin. Beginning with such first season episodes as “The Lonely,” “Elegy,” “Mirror Image,” and “The After Hours,” and continuing on with “The Lateness of the Hour,” “The Trade-Ins,” “In His Image,” “The New Exhibit,” and more, this type of tale included some of the most well-regarded episodes of the series, such as “Living Doll” and the episode we are looking at here.
            The best of these episodes play on what is known in psychological terms as automatonophobia (fear of human-like figures) and the related term pediophobia (fear of dolls). The tale of the evil ventriloquist dummy offers an opportunity to explore these fears through a uniquely psychological perspective, due to the intrinsic aspect connecting the performer to the object of the performance. In this way, it is closely related to tales of puppets or marionettes, objects which achieve a semblance of life through human interaction. Despite a prevalence in the genre, tales of evil dummies and dolls remain fascinating and effective because they explore identity, sanity, control, and the ability to animate the inanimate through a lens of fear and fantasy.  
            Though ventriloquism was used in religious ceremony since the middle ages, it did not see widespread use as a form of entertainment until the latter part of the 18th century. The form as we recognize it today flourished in the music halls of England and on the vaudeville stage in America in the latter part of the 19th century and the early part of the 20th century. Early performers simply spoke through their hands but the use of a doll or dummy was quickly instituted and has remained an essential part of the performance art to this day.
            By the time Rod Serling came to write his take on the tale of an evil ventriloquist dummy, using a story idea from television writer Lee Polk, the subgenre was well-worn and had already produced a handful of works now recognized as classics of their type.

            The earliest of these stories was “The Rival Dummy” by Ben Hecht, originally published in Liberty Magazine for the issue of August 18, 1928. The story tells of a ventriloquist whose fragmented sanity is reflected in his continued dependency on his dummy in order to express himself. The most famous version of the story is the film The Great Gabbo (1929) starring Erich von Stroheim as the ventriloquist. Though many sources are quick to point out that the film is not a horror film, it is certainly a strange film, unusual even today and in its treatment of a now well-thread theme. If nothing else, Hecht’s story and the von Stroheim film are important progenitors of a certain subgenre of strange story. “The Rival Dummy” was adapted for radio on The Mollé Mystery Theatre for November 1, 1946 and for television for Westinghouse Studio One (Studio One in Hollywood) for September 19, 1949. Twilight Zone actress Anne Francis appeared in the television adaptation.
            English author Gerald Kersh published his famous story, “The Extraordinarily Horrible Dummy,” in the anthology Penguin Parade #6 in 1939. This story would prove to be enormously influential on subsequent writers who tackled the theme, including Rod Serling. Kersh’s story relates the tale of a ventriloquist who is controlled by a dummy that is animated with the spirit of his dead father. The story was included in Kersh’s 1944 collection, The Horrible Dummy and Other Stories (William Heinemann) and adapted for film, in an uncredited sequence, in 1945 for Dead of Night. More on this in a moment.
            A year after the Kersh story came “Nimbo and Nobby's Farewell Performance” (commonly reprinted as simply "Farewell Performance") from prolific English ghost story writer H. Russell Wakefield. First published in Wakefield’s 1940 collection, The Clock Strikes Twelve (Herbert Jenkins), it tells of a living dummy which reveals the ventriloquist’s crime of murder. Wakefield’s story was adapted for television for Pepsi-Cola Playhouse on January 22, 1954 and re-aired as an episode of Moment of Fear on July 20, 1965. Twilight Zone actor John Hoyt appeared in the television adaptation.
            A tale which rivals Gerald Kersh’s for notoriety, mainly due to an excellent television adaptation, arrived in 1944 from British author John Keir Cross, titled “The Glass Eye.” Originally appearing in Cross’s collection of strange stories, The Other Passenger, “The Glass Eye” relates the love affair between a lonely woman and the handsome ventriloquist who is the object of her affection. The tale is remembered chiefly due to its clever and shocking twist ending. It was adapted as the opening episode of the third season of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, featuring Twilight Zone actor William Shatner.
            Then arrived a film in 1945 which has proven hugely influential on Rod Serling and The Twilight Zone. The film, Dead of Night from Ealing Studios, is a supernatural horror anthology film which contains five story segments and a wraparound narrative segment. Rod Serling offered his adaptations of three of the film’s five segments for The Twilight Zone, seen in the episodes “Twenty-Two,” “The Mirror,” and “The Dummy.” The final segment of Dead of Night, generally referred to as “The Ventriloquist’s Dummy,” concerns a ventriloquist whose dummy, Hugo, is alive and intent on taking over the act. Michael Redgrave stars as the afflicted ventriloquist in a remarkable performance which likely influenced Cliff Robertson’s turn as Jerry Etherson. “The Dummy” is a virtual remake of the Dead of Night segment with a few interesting variations. The film segment was an authorized, yet uncredited, adaptation of Gerald Kersh’s story. Kersh’s biographer, Paul Duncan, noted in the second issue of Kershed: An Occasional Newsletter about Gerald Kersh that correspondence between Kersh and the screenwriter of Dead of Night confirm that the film segment is a loose adaptation of Kersh’s story. Kersh was not compensated for the adaptation but he assured the screenwriter that he would not bring litigation to the film’s producers and that he did not require on-screen credit, due to the fact that the screenwriter changed enough of the tale to disguise the source material. The film segment was adapted for radio as “Dead of Night” as the one-off episode of Out of This World for February 28, 1947. A second performance of the radio play served as the pilot episode of Escape! and aired on March 21, 1947. Twilight Zone actor Art Carney appeared in the radio adaptation. For a more detailed look at this film and how it relates to The Twilight Zone, see our full review here.
            Other examples of the theme which appeared before “The Dummy” include “The Ventriloquist’s Dummy,” first published in the February/March, 1952 issue of Tales from the Crypt comic magazine. The story was written by Albert Feldstein, from an idea by Feldstein and publisher William M. Gaines, and illustrated by “Ghastly” Graham Ingels. The story effectively uses gruesome physical horror and was memorably adapted for the second season of the Tales from the Crypt television series starring Twilight Zone actor Don Rickles and directed by Twilight Zone director Richard Donner.
            Twilight Zone writer Ray Bradbury offered his unique take on the theme with his story, “And So Died Riabouchinska,” first published in the June/July, 1953 issue of The Saint Detective Magazine. Bradbury initially sold his story to radio where it was adapted by Mel Dinelli and aired on Suspense for November 13, 1947. Bradbury adapted the story for the first season of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, featuring Twilight Zone actor Charles Bronson, and again for The Ray Bradbury Theater.
            The final notable story to predate Rod Serling’s “The Dummy,” and which offered a unique take on the theme, was Robert Bloch’s “The Final Performance,” first published in the September, 1960 issue of Shock magazine and included in Bloch’s 1961 collection Blood Runs Cold (Simon & Schuster). Bloch’s story has a pleasingly noir style and contains a memorable twist ending. It was adapted for the third season of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour by frequent Twilight Zone director John Brahm.

            Rod Serling knew well enough the preceding history of the subgenre to offer some interesting variations on the theme and to offer his own unique explanation for the animating factor of the dummy. In a climactic moment, Willy the dummy, now revealed to the audience as fully alive, tells Etherson, “You made me real. You poured words into my head, you moved my mouth, you stuck out my tongue. You jerk, don’t you get it? You made me what I am today.” Whereas many writers choose to leave the animating factor unexplained, Serling chose to connect the ventriloquist and the dummy in a definable way. Willy is, in a sense, all of Etherson’s anxieties, insecurities, and fears made real through the communion which occurs between performer and the object of the performance. The ending which follows suggests that this side of Etherson is the dominating side and that he has succumbed to this aspect of his nature. This moment is symbolically realized visually by having Etherson on his knees with head bowed before Willy.
            The story idea was provided to Serling by New York City television writer and programmer Lee Polk, who specialized in programming for children and in educational programming. It is interesting to note that although Serling was constantly inundated with unsolicited story ideas, he typically felt comfortable accepting story ideas provided by fellow television writers such as Polk and Frederic Louis Fox.
            In Polk’s version, the details of the story concerned a ventriloquist who discovers during a performance that his dummy is alive and changing the act. In this way, Serling was free to adapt the initial story idea in any way he wanted and, more importantly, to dictate the tone of the tale in any way he saw fit. Serling took his cue largely from the aforementioned film Dead of Night and found the idea of a ventriloquist battling his dummy for ultimate control to be intriguing enough to neatly lift the framework of that story and to place upon it his own unique style. One aspect which Serling eschewed was the ambiguousness of the earlier treatment. In Dead of Night the audience is never clearly told whether the dummy was really alive or only part of the psyche of the ventriloquist. Serling wanted to craft a story where there was no doubt that the dummy was alive, setting up his inventive twist ending.
            This being so, Serling left ambiguous supernatural aspects in the tale, including Willy’s voice following Etherson outside the nightclub and the moment Etherson accidentally destroys the wrong dummy, which, under the circumstances, seemed impossible.

            Serling was aided in bringing his story to life by a talented team of actors and technicians, beginning with Cliff Robertson in the role of ventriloquist Jerry Etherson. Robertson is making his second appearance on The Twilight Zone after his moving turn in the second season timeslip episode, “A Hundred Yards Over the Rim.” Robertson is best known for his Academy Award-winning performance in the 1968 film Charly, based on the 1959 Hugo Award-winning short story “Flowers for Algernon” by Daniel Keyes, who in 1966 turned the story into a Nebula Award-winning novel. Robertson earlier starred in a television adaptation of the story, “The Two Worlds of Charlie Gordon,” for The United States Steel Hour, which aired on February 22, 1961.
It is difficult to imagine a better choice for the role of Jerry Etherson than Robertson, who throughout the course of his distinguished career mastered the portrayal of sensitive, emotional, and damaged characters. The role of Etherson allows Robertson to show off his range through the entire emotional spectrum and he particularly excels in moments of breakdown and crises. The scene in which he attempts to engage the company of Noreen (Sandra Warner) only to send the young woman running in panic is one of the most memorably uncomfortable scenes in the entire series.

            Robertson found this role much easier to prepare for than that of “A Hundred Yards Over the Rim,” a role which was historical in nature, due to the fact that his role in “The Dummy” concerns show business and performance in a way he knew and could relate to. Robertson began as a journalist who was pulled into acting while covering the theater scene and ultimately joined the Actors Studio in New York City. He did some stage work before moving into television and well understood the intricate differences between performing on stage and performing in front of the camera, allowing him to expertly combine these two disciplines for “The Dummy.” An ingenious addition to the role is the fact that Robertson also provides the voices of both dummies, Willy and Goofy Goggles, and chillingly captures the malevolence and mania of Willy, particularly during the climactic scenes.
To prepare for the role, Robertson consulted his friend Edgar Bergen, an accomplished ventriloquist who had a long career on stage and radio. Robertson also experienced a Twilight Zone moment when he was preparing to begin filming “The Dummy.” He decided at the last moment not to board the flight which was to take him from New York to California. The flight crashed soon after takeoff, reminiscent of the plot to the second season episode “Twenty-Two.” Robertson died in 2011. The Robertson estate maintains an excellent website and those readers who wish to know more about Robertson’s life and work are encouraged to go here.

            “The Dummy” is essentially a two-man show and working alongside Robertson is Frank Sutton as Jerry Etherson’s agent, Frank. Sutton was a prolific actor on television, stage, and, occasionally, in film, known for playing brash, tough characters. He is best known for his role as Gunnery Sergeant Vince Carter opposite Jim Nabors’s Gomer Pyle in Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. Sutton brings his characteristic toughness to the role of Frank but also lends the performance a sad and melancholy character which contributes to the overall tone of the tragic tale. Sutton died in 1974.
            Director of “The Dummy,” Abner Biberman, is best known for his prolific work as a character actor beginning in the 1930s and for his work as an acting coach. Biberman was drawn to directing in the 1950s and his television work includes such programs as Maverick, 77 Sunset Strip, Gunsmoke, and Hawaii Five-O. Biberman continued acting and directing into the 1970s. He died in 1977.
            Biberman directed four episodes of The Twilight Zone, two of which must be considered among the front rank, “The Dummy” and the underrated fifth season episode “Number 12 Looks Just Like You,” written by John Tomerlin from a story by frequent Zone contributor Charles Beaumont. Biberman brings a unique style to the series characterized by innovative camera angles, subjective filming techniques, and heavy symbolism. Biberman was also skilled in eliciting great performances from his actors, due in no small part to his own prolific acting career and his efforts as an acting coach.  
            “The Dummy” also marked the return of Academy Award-winning makeup technician William Tuttle to the series. At the time Tuttle was the head of the makeup department at MGM, where The Twilight Zone was filmed. This episode offered a unique challenge to Tuttle in that he had to create a ventriloquist dummy which resembled Cliff Robertson to effectively achieve Serling’s twist ending. Tuttle decided that the best approach would be to create a caricature of Robertson from which he could create a mold and build it upon a traditional ventriloquist dummy. The problem which arose was that Tuttle was not skilled enough in the art of caricature to create the preliminary art require to build a workable model. Tuttle approached production manager Ralph W. Nelson with the problem and through Nelson’s industry connections was put in touch with skilled animator Thornton Hee, who went by the name T. Hee.
Hee began his animation career at Leon Schlesinger Productions where his skill in caricature was put on display in various Merrie Melodies cartoons, produced at the Schlesinger studios at the time before Schlesinger sold Merrie Melodies to Warner Brothers in 1944. Hee is best known for his on-again, off-again relationship with the Walt Disney Studio, including his work directing the “Dance of the Hours” segment of Fantasia. Hee provided the required caricature sketches of Cliff Robertson which enabled Tuttle to build his model. The dummy of Willy is now housed in the private collection of magician David Copperfield, who began on his path to show business stardom as a ventriloquist before discovering that his true skill lay in magic. Copperfield’s massive private museum houses an entire room dedicated to the art of ventriloquism.
            Prolific character actor George Murdock, then at the beginning of his career, was selected to portray Willy as the ventriloquist due to the unique appearance of his facial features. Tuttle applied some light makeup touches, including accentuating the eyebrows, nose, and cheeks, to better bring out these features on Murdock. The result has divided some viewers on the effectiveness of the ending, with some feeling that the dummy doesn’t resemble Cliff Robertson and others that Murdock doesn’t resemble Willy. For all that, the twist ending remains one of the best of the series and serves as a fine example of Tuttle’s unique style and skill. For more on William Tuttle’s work in television and film, see our profile here.
            The final aspect of “The Dummy” which bears discussion is the rather unfortunate radio drama adaptation featuring Bruno Kirby in the role of Jerry Etherson. The Twilight Zone Radio Drama series is, without question, one of the finest and most successful endeavors of its type but one of the few missteps is their version of “The Dummy.” Two principal factors contribute to the overall underwhelming effect of the radio drama. The most obvious is the fact that “The Dummy” is a story which heavily relies upon visual cues. Without such visual cues, the radio drama is forced to have Etherson continuously talk to himself in order to tell the listener what they should “see.” The effect is tiring and unbelievable. This reliance upon the visual particularly hinders the radio dramatization in the ending, where a sound effect of a clicking wooden mouth is added to make clear to the listener who is the dummy and who is the ventriloquist. Perhaps another actor could have brought it off effectively but actor Bruno Kirby was not the ideal choice to recreate the role of Jerry Etherson. Kirby is a fine actor who did great work on the radio drama series but the quality of his voice acting is not varied enough to convincingly create three separate characters (Jerry, Willy, and Goofy Goggles), which is absolutely required for “The Dummy” to work. Kirby would appear frequently on the radio drama series, in such episodes as “The Last Night of a Jockey,” “Mr. Bevis,” and “What You Need.”
            “The Dummy” is a masterpiece of dramatic writing, acting, and technical achievement which remains one of the most fondly remembered and frightening episodes produced on the series. It overcomes its essential derivative nature to present a compelling portrait of psychological horror and transformation and remains an enduring testament to the powerful storytelling of Rod Serling and the unique appeal of The Twilight Zone.

Grade: A+

Grateful acknowledgement to:
--Cliff Robertson audio commentary, The Twilight Zone Definitive Edition DVD
--The Internet Speculative Fiction Database (
--The Internet Movie Database (
--The Classic TV Archive (
--The Digital Deli ( for radio drama information
--Paul Duncan, “Dead of Night, the Mystery Solved,” from Kershed, issue 2 (12/22/98)
---The Twilight Zone Companion by Marc Scott Zicree (2nd ed, Bantam, 1989)
---The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic by Martin Grams, Jr. (OTR, 2008)

--Abner Biberman directed three additional episodes of the series, “The Incredible World of Horace Ford,” from season four, and “Number 12 Looks Just Like You” and “I Am the Night-Color Me Black” from season five.

--Cliff Robertson also starred in the second season episode, “A Hundred Yards Over the Rim.”

--George Murdock also appears in the pilot film for Rod Serling’s Night Gallery, in the segment, “Escape Route.”

--John Harmon also appears in the fourth season episode, “Of Late I Think of Cliffordville.”

--Sandra Warner also appears, uncredited, in the first season episode, “A Nice Place to Visit.”

--Ralph Manza also appears in an episode of the first revival Twilight Zone series titled “Cold Reading.”

--“The Dummy” was adapted as a Twilight Zone Radio Drama starring Bruno Kirby.