Sunday, April 25, 2021

Calling The Twilight Zone

Philip Abbott in "Long Distance Call"

Telephonic Terror in the Fifth Dimension

             Today is National Telephone Day, and this provides me with an opportunity to observe something interesting about The Twilight Zone.

I recently began considering the importance of the telephone on the series, not only as an element of set decoration or as a simple plot device, but also as a genuine mode of narrative transition, or as a means for strangeness and suspense. After consideration, I arrived at the conclusion that the telephone is the most potent recurrent symbol on the series.

I started along this line of thinking while writing my recent review of the fifth season opener, “In Praise of Pip.” One of my small observations, but hardly mine alone, was that a telephone call marked a definitive turning point in the story, not only from one act to the next but also in the emotional transition of the principal character. This occurs when Max Phillips receives a call from his landlady, Mrs. Feeny, informing him that a telegram arrived from the Army reporting that Max’s son, Pip, was seriously wounded in Vietnam.

Before receiving this call, Max behaves as though emotionally deceased. He smiles ruefully into the mirror, speaks hypothetically about this or that, gently teases the kind-hearted Mrs. Feeny, lazes about his one-room apartment, and appears completely apathetic to the problems of a young man named George who comes to him for help. Later, Max visits his employer, Moran, and lazes about Moran’s hotel room, casually smoking a cigarette and remaining indifferent to everything around him, including George’s fate, even as the young man, badly beaten, is dragged into the room.

Max then receives Mrs. Feeny’s telephone call. All of the emotions he has buried come roaring to the surface: sadness and regret at not being a better father, anger at having wasted his life working for Moran, melancholy provoked by an amusement park. From this point in the episode, Max is an open wound of emotion. The character who pleads for God to spare his son, weeping while dying in a deserted amusement park, is hardly recognizable as the character we meet at the beginning of the episode. It is a stark transition, beautifully played by Jack Klugman, and it begins with a telephone call.

Intrigued by this thematic notion, I searched other episodes for moments in which a telephone played a key, perhaps even pivotal, role in the story. The results were some of the most memorable sequences of the series. In celebration of National Telephone Day, then, let’s trace a journey through some other moments in which a telephone sends a character spiraling into that “fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man.”


“Where Is Everybody?”

Season One, Episode 1 (October 2, 1959)

Written by Rod Serling

Directed by Robert Stevens

Starring Earl Holliman

Our first call arrives during the first act of the pilot episode, when the amnesiac Mike Ferris rushes to a telephone booth to answer a ringing phone and receives only silence on the other end. Ferris deposits a coin and dials the operator. Desperate for human contact, Ferris mistakes the recorded operator for a living voice.

The moment arrives after a deliberate buildup of incidents in which Ferris, devoid of personal memory, wanders into a deserted town that, it turns out, is a construct of his fractured mind under pressure from an isolation chamber. The flat, impersonal voice of the special operator is another blow to Ferris’s sanity in a progressive line of maddening signs of almost life: a jukebox playing to an empty café, a lifelike mannequin sitting in a department store van, a smoking cigar resting in an ashtray. Night eventually falls and brings with it a suffocating sense of paranoia. Ferris cracks under the strain and the curtain is finally pulled back on his plight.  

 “And When the Sky Was Opened”

Season One, Episode 11 (December 11, 1959)

Written by Rod Serling, based on a story by Richard Matheson

Directed by Douglas Heyes

Starring Charles Aidman, Rod Taylor, James Hutton

Three astronauts find themselves slowly fading from existence after returning home from a mission in an experimental spacecraft. The episode is told in nonlinear fashion and we are shown, via flashback, the method by which the first of these astronauts, Colonel Ed Harrington, vanished.

 A celebratory drink in a bar turns to nightmare as Harrington senses a growing feeling that he’s physically fading away. Harrington does what anyone would do in the situation. He telephones home to hear a familiar voice and try to shake the dreadful feeling. Except Harrington’s parents claim not to have a son and they hang up on who they assume to be a prank caller. Harrington has time to impart his fears to his crewmate, Lieutenant Colonel Clegg Forbes, before vanishing, taking along any and all memory of him. Forbes alone remembers, and he spends the remainder of the episode futilely attempting to conjure another’s memory of Harrington and prevent himself from suffering the same fate.


“The Hitch-Hiker”

Season One, Episode 16 (January 22, 1960)

Written by Rod Serling, from the radio play by Lucille Fletcher

Directed by Alvin Ganzer

Starring Inger Stevens

In one of the most haunting and atmospheric sequences on the series, Nan Adams, a young woman on a cross-country drive, calls home from a lonely roadside telephone booth and discovers that her mother has suffered a nervous breakdown. The breakdown was brought on by the death of her daughter in a car accident while traveling across country. The shabby hitchhiker whose preternatural presence has pursued Nan on her journey is revealed to be the shade of Mr. Death himself. “I believe you’re going . . . my way?”


“A World of Difference”

Season One, Episode 23 (March 11, 1960)

Written by Richard Matheson

Directed by Ted Post

Starring Howard Duff

Arthur Curtis is a contented man. He has a loving wife, a young daughter, a successful business, and is soon leaving on a much-needed vacation. Curtis sits down and attempts to place a telephone call. The phone seems to be disconnected. Frustrated, he rises from his chair. Suddenly, he hears someone call “Cut!” Inexplicably, Curtis finds himself on the set of a movie. The life he has known is stripped away in an instant. It will take all of Curtis’s strength to escape from this nightmare world.


“The Chaser”

Season One, Episode 31 (May 13, 1960)

Written by Robert Presnell, Jr., from a story by John Collier

Directed by Douglas Heyes

Starring George Grizzard and Patricia Barry

The lovesick Roger Shackleforth holds up a line to use a public telephone while trying to score some time with Leila, a beautiful, shallow woman who wants nothing to do with him. Roger eventually resorts to a love potion, purchased in the apothecary of Professor A. Daemon, and receives more than he bargained for in the process.


“Nervous Man in a Four Dollar Room”

Season Two, Episode 39 (October 14, 1960)

Written by Rod Serling

Directed by Douglas Heyes

Starring Joe Mantell

One of Rod Serling’s favorite storytelling devices was to place a single character in a small setting with only a telephone to contact the outside world. The template was set with this second season offering in which the cowardly, low-level criminal Jackie Rhoades is prevented from committing a dangerous act by his braver, wiser, alter ego. A battle of wills occurs between Rhoades and his reflection in the mirror of a dingy hotel room.

The telephone acts as the method by which Jackie is pushed towards the dangerous act and subsequently the means by which John Rhoades, that braver, wiser side, announces his arrival into the world. He phones the front desk of the hotel and, in a classic bit of Serling dialogue, tells the clerk: “This is John Rhoades, room 14, I’m checking out. No, I’m not coming back. No, as a matter of fact, nothing’s all right. The room’s too hot, too small and too dirty. It’s just the place for bums, but not for me.”


“A Thing About Machines”

Season Two, Episode 40 (October 28, 1960)

Written by Rod Serling

Directed by David Orrick McDearmon

Starring Richard Haydn

Bartlett Finchley calls up an old flame for some company as he feels the house and everything in it begin to viciously turn on him. To his displeasure, he learns that this old flame, who he has not bothered to telephone for some time, has gotten married and wants nothing to do with him. Finchley angrily rips the phone from the wall. This does not, however, prevent the telephone from communicating its hatred of him. “Get out of here, Finchley!” it repeatedly crows at him. It serves as a call to arms as the gadgets and appliances that Finchley has abused over time come alive to take their revenge.


“Nick of Time”

Season Two, Episode 43 (November 18, 1960)

Written by Richard Matheson

Directed by Richard L. Bare

Starring William Shatner and Patricia Breslin

A telephone call moves the viewer into the conflict: Don Carter’s self-imprisonment through superstition brought on by a penny fortune-telling machine. Don feels anxiety about a job promotion. He feeds a penny into the machine and inquires about the job. “It has been decided in your favor” is the message he receives. This sends Don rushing to the telephone to verify the message. The message from the machine is confirmed. All of Don’s anxiety about the job promotion is transferred to the fortune-telling machine, figuratively chaining him to a table in a restaurant in Ohio.


“Long Distance Call”

Season Two, Episode 58 (March 31, 1961)

Written by William Idelson and Charles Beaumont

Directed by James Sheldon

Starring Philip Abbott, Lili Darvas, Patricia Smith, Bill Mumy

Few episodes dealt with material as disturbing as that of “Long Distance Call.” A grandmother on the edge of death gives her young grandson a toy telephone for his birthday and tells him that he can speak to Grandma any time he wants. Her love for the boy is overbearing, a wedge between her son and daughter-in-law and their only child. Grandma’s love is so strong that when she dies, the toy telephone becomes a conduit through which the boy continues to communicate with her in the afterlife. This is alarming on its own, but Grandma has further plans. In perhaps the most unsettling sequence on the series, the boy is compelled by the dead grandmother to take his own life so that they may be together again. As the boy hovers between life and death, the father takes up the toy telephone and makes a final, desperate plea for his son’s life.


“Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?”

Season Two, Episode 64 (May 26, 1961)

Written by Rod Serling

Directed by Montgomery Pittman

"Wintry February night, the present. Order of events: a phone call from a frightened woman notating the arrival of an unidentified flying object . . ." 

Rod Serling provides a fantastic twist to the “one among us is a murderer” mystery story. Snowbound bus travelers stranded at the Hi-Way Café work with the counterman and a pair of state troopers to uncover an alien in their midst. The wily extraterrestrial possesses the mental powers to cut the lights, explode sugar dispensers, start up a jukebox, and cause the telephone on the wall to ring.

A pivotal moment, and a clever sleight-of-hand, occurs when one of the state troopers answers the ringing telephone to be informed that a bridge leading out of the area is now passable. Unfortunately, the bridge isn’t passable. The police car and the bus plunge into the cold river below, killing everyone. Everyone except the alien, that is. He returns to the diner, leading to one of the most bizarre, ironic, and iconic endings on the series.


“The Jungle”

Season Three, Episode 77 (December 1, 1961)

Written by Charles Beaumont, based on his story

Directed by William F. Claxton

Starring John Dehner

Charles Beaumont spins a tense tale of supernatural pursuit, pitting a modern man in New York City against the primal magic of the African jungle. Once Alan Richards confiscates protective talismans from his wife and carelessly tosses them into the fire, it is open season on trespassers and nonbelievers. “The Jungle” contains an unnerving extended sequence in which Richards frantically moves through an eerily deserted city, trying to get home before the increasingly suffocating presence of the jungle takes physical form and swallows him up.

The sequence begins when Richards attempts to place a call from a telephone booth on the corner of a deserted city street. He is unable to make a call and belatedly notices the “out of order” sign. Richards leaves the booth only to be called back by the ringing telephone. It is the jungle calling, and the phone emits the growling and chattering sounds of animals into his ear.


“Person or Persons Unknown”

Season Three, Episode 92 (March 23, 1962)

Written by Charles Beaumont

Directed by John Brahm

Starring Richard Long

David Gurney awakens from a night of drinking to a world where no one knows him. His wife, his friends, his coworkers, and his mother all deny any knowledge of him. Gurney is placed in the care of Dr. Koslenko, who allows Gurney use of the telephone in an effort to prove the life that exists in Gurney’s head isn’t real. Gurney calls a friend from his schooldays and his own mother, but neither claim to know him. Gurney breaks out of the hospital, desperate to find the one detail of his life neglected by whoever, or whatever, erased his existence.


“Four O’Clock”

Season Three, Episode 94 (April 6, 1962)

Written by Rod Serling, based on the story by Price Day

Directed by Lamont Johnson

Starring Theodore Bikel

Price Day conjured a wonderfully Dickensian name, Mr. Crangle, to brand the vitriolic crusader for morality brought brilliantly to life by Theodore Bikel in Rod Serling’s adaptation. An element not contained in the original story is Crangle’s use of the telephone to reach out to the world and spread his well-intentioned evil by exposing those he deems subversive or morally corrupted. As we have seen before, Rod Serling enjoyed the dramatic possibilities of placing a single character in an isolated setting with only a telephone to contact the outside world. Although other characters briefly appear, this is Crangle’s stage to play out his intense internal drama.


“The Last Night of a Jockey”

Season Five, Episode 125 (October 25, 1963)

Written by Rod Serling

Directed by Joseph M. Newman

Starring Mickey Rooney

A counterpoint to the play on size in “Four O’Clock” is this tale of Grady, a diminutive jockey who loses his livelihood when caught doping horses. Now he wallows in his own grief and anger, spewing venom into the telephone at a journalist and an ex-girlfriend. Grady is visited by his alter ego, who grants his wish to be big. Grady becomes a giant, first eight feet tall then ten feet tall. When the head of the racing commission telephones to inform Grady that he’s been cleared to ride again, Grady realizes with horror that he’s now too big to ride.


“Living Doll”

Season Five, Episode 126 (November 1, 1963)

Written by Jerry Sohl (as by Charles Beaumont)

Directed by Richard C. Sarafian

Starring Telly Savalas and Mary LaRoche

“I’m Talky Tina, and I’m going to kill you!” In arguably the most iconic moment on the series, Erich Streator, a bitter, impotent man with an inferiority complex, answers the telephone and hears the voice of his stepdaughter’s wind-up doll threaten to kill him. Streator convinces himself that it’s a cruel practical joke perpetrated by his wife, Annabelle, as revenge for the harsh way Streator treats his stepdaughter, Christie. It is only later, when he realizes that Annabelle could not possibly have placed the threatening call, that Streator comes to grips which the frightening truth. Talky Tina is alive and out to get him.


“Night Call”

Season Five, Episode 139 (February 7, 1964)

Written by Richard Matheson, based on his story

Directed by Jacques Tourneur

Starring Gladys Cooper

During a stormy night, Miss Elva Keene is disturbed by a series of telephone calls. At first, she hears only static on the line. Soon, however, she can hear a voice. It is a man’s voice, struggling to speak. Miss Keene is frightened. She tells the caller to leave her alone. The telephone company traces the call to a fallen line in the local cemetery. Miss Keene reveals the terrible tragedy that, many years ago, befell her fiancé, Brian, a week before their intended wedding. Ms. Keene admits that she was controlling and that Brian always did what she wanted. She insisted on driving one night, lost control of the car, and Brian died as a result. Now, however, she can speak with him again on the telephone. She has so much she wishes to tell him. That night the telephone rings. Miss Keene eagerly answers the call. Brian has called one last time to remind her of a difficult truth. Miss Keene told him to go away, and he always does what she wants. The line is disconnected.


“The Jeopardy Room”

Season Five, Episode 149 (April 17, 1964)

Written by Rod Serling

Directed by Richard Donner

Starring Martin Landau and John van Dreelen

Rod Serling’s Cold War thriller is a claustrophobic game of cat and mouse between Major Ivan Kuchenko, a defecting KGB agent, and Commissar Vassiloff, a refined assassin tasked with Kuchenko’s demise. Vassiloff is assisted by the gunman Boris. The telephone establishes a line of communication between Kuchenko, holed up in a cheap hotel room, and Vassiloff, who watches from a room in the building across the alley. In a game of sadistic sportsmanship, Vassiloff drugs Kuchenko and places a bomb in Kuchenko's hotel room. If Kuchenko can uncover the location of the bomb within three hours, he will be allowed to leave, unharmed.

Vassiloff has hidden the bomb in the telephone, but there’s a catch. The bomb will only detonate if an incoming call is answered. Vassiloff telephones Kuchenko’s room to watch his handiwork in action. Kuchenko resists answering the call. He cannot be tricked into picking up the receiver while the phone is ringing. Kuchenko escapes from the hotel. Later, he calls the hotel room as Vassiloff and Boris are clearing the evidence. Boris unwittingly answers the phone, setting off the bomb.

Monday, April 12, 2021

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

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

Volume 3, Number 1

(March/April, 1983)

Second Anniversary Issue

Cover Art: Kari Brayman

TZ Publications, Inc.:

President & Chairman: S. Edward Orenstein
Secretary/Treasurer: Sidney Z. Gellman
Executive Vice-Presidents: Leon Garry, Eric Protter
Executive Publisher: S. Edward Orenstein
Publisher: Eric Protter
Associate Publisher and Consulting Editor: Carol Serling
Editor: T.E.D. Klein
Managing Editor: Jane Bayer
Associate Editor: Robert Sabat
Contributing Editors: Thomas M. Disch, Gahan Wilson, Marc Scott Zicree
Design Director: Michael Monte
Art Director: Pat E. McQueen
Art Production: Susan Lindeman, Carol Sun
Typesetting: Irma Landazuri
Production Director: Stephen J. Fallon
Controller: Thomas Schiff
Ass’t to the Publisher: Judy Linden
Public Relations Manager: Jeffrey Nickora
Accounting Mgr.: Chris Grossman
Accounting Ass’t: Annmarie Pistilli
Office Ass’t: Miriam Wolf
Circulation Director: William D. Smith
Circulation Mgr.: Carole A. Harley
Circulation Ass’t: Karen Martorano
Newsstand Sales Manager: Karen Marks Goldberg
Eastern Circ. Mgr.: Hank Rosen
West Coast Circ. Mgr.: Gary Judy
Advertising Manager: Rachel Britapaja
Adv. Production Manager: Marina Despotakis
Adv. Ass’t: Katherine Lys
Advertising Representatives:
Barney O’Hara & Associates


--“A Note from the Publisher . . .” by Carol Serling
--In the Twilight Zone: “Winners . . .” by T.E.D. Klein
--Other Dimensions: Screen by Gahan Wilson
--Other Dimensions: Books by Thomas M. Disch
--Other Dimensions: Video by Joel A. Samberg
--Other Dimensions: The ‘Heroes and Heavies’ Quiz by Kathleen Murray
--Other Dimensions: Etc.
--TZ Interview: Colin Wilson, conducted by Lisa Tuttle
--A Colin Wilson Sampler by Colin Wilson
--“The Journey” by Abbie Herrick
--“Critique” by Brian Ferguson
--“Evening in the Park” by Susan Rooke
--“Say Goodbye to Judy” by William B. Barfield
--“5th Dimension” by Scott Edelman
--“Nightbears” by Juleen Brantingham
--TZ Screen Preview: The Hunger by James Verniere
--TZ Discovery: Notes for a “Twilight Zone” Movie by Rod Serling
--“The Last Adam & Eve Story” by Bruce J. Balfour
--“Dakota Safari” by Gene O’Neill
--“Murchison’s Dream” by Byron Marshall
--“And Now I’m Waiting” by Richard Matheson
--TZ Classic Teleplay: “A World of His Own” by Richard Matheson
--Show-By-Show Guide: TV’s Twilight Zone, Part 23 by Marc Scott Zicree
--In June’s TZ

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

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

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

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

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

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

 --Other Dimensions: Screen by Gahan Wilson

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

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

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

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

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

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

--Other Dimensions: Books by Thomas M. Disch

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

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

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

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

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

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

--Other Dimensions: Video by Joel A. Samberg

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

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

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

Compiled by Kathleen Murray

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

--Other Dimensions: Etc.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

--A Colin Wilson Sampler by Colin Wilson

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

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

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

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

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

“The Journey” by Abbie Herrick

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

“Critique” by Brian Ferguson

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

“Evening in the Park” by Susan Rooke

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

“Say Goodbye to Judy” by William B. Barfield

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

--“5th Dimension” by Scott Edelman

Illustrated by E.T. Steadman

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

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

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

--“Nightbears” by Juleen Brantingham

Illustrated by Steve Stankiewicz

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

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

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

--TZ Screen Preview: The Hunger by James Verniere

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Illustrated by Richard Basil Mock

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

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

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

--“Dakota Safari” by Gene O’Neill

Illustrated by Peter de Seve

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

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

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

--“Murchison’s Dream” by Byron Marshall

Illustrated by Jill Karla Schwarz

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

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

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

Illustrated by David Klein

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

--In June’s TZ . . .