Monday, April 15, 2024

Reading Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine, Part 26

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

Volume 3, Number 4 

(September/October, 1983)

Special Issue: Twilight Zone: The Movie

Cover Art: Film image from the Twilight Zone: The Movie segment “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” with an inlaid image from the same segment of the film.

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/Consulting Editor: Carol Serling
Editor: T.E.D. Klein
Managing Editor: Jane Bayer
Associate Editor: Robert Sabat
Books Editor: Thomas M. Disch
Contributing Editors: James Verniere, Gahan Wilson, Marc Scott Zicree
Design Director: Michael Monte
Art Director: Pat E. McQueen
Art Production: Sophia Laskaris
Typsetting: 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
Vice President, Circulation Director: Milton J. Cuevas
Circulation Mgr.: Carole A. Harley
Circulation Ass’t: Karen Martorano
Eastern Circ. Mgr.: Hank Rosen
Advertising Manager: Rachel Britapaja
Adv. Sales Rep.: Richard Brennan
Adv. Production Manager: Marina Despotakis
Adv. Ass’t: Katherine Lys

--In the Twilight Zone: TZ Goes Hollywood by T.E.D. Klein
--A Note from the Publisher by Carol Serling
--Other Dimensions: Screen by Gahan Wilson
--Other Dimensions: Books by Thomas M. Disch
--Other Dimensions: Nostalgia by Ron Goulart
--Other Dimensions: Fantasy Acrostic #2 by Benjamin Gleisser
--Other Dimensions: Etc.
--Special Section: Twilight Zone: The Movie
--Episode 1: John Landis Gives a Guided Tour of Hell
--On the Set of Twilight Zone by Paul M. Sammon
--TZ Interview: John Landis by Paul M. Sammon
--Episode 2: Steven Spielberg Turns Back the Clock
--TZ Interview: Richard Matheson by Randy and Jean-Marc L’Officier
--TZ Interview: Scatman Crothers by James Verniere
--Episode 3: Joe Dante Unleashes Every Adult’s Nightmare
--TZ Interview: William Schallert by James Verniere
--TZ Interview: Kevin McCarthy by James Verniere
--TZ Interview: Jeremy Licht by James Verniere
--TZ Interview: Joe Dante by Randy and Jean-Marc L’Officier
--TZ Interview: Rob Bottin by James Verniere
--A Twilight Zone Scrapbook (Color Section)
--Episode 4: George Miller Induces a Fear of Flying
--TZ Interview: John Lithgow by James Verniere
--TZ Interview: Larry Cedar
--“Barney” by Will Stanton, Illustrated by Ahmet Gorgun
--“One Happy Family” by John S. McFarland, Illustrated by Randy Jones
--“Like a Black Dandelion” by John Alfred Taylor, Illustrated by David G. Klein
--“Go to Sleep” by John Skipp, Illustrated by D.W. Miller
--A View Across The Twilight Zone by Marc Scott Zicree
--Show-By-Show Guide: TV’s Twilight Zone, Part Twenty-Six
--Three Cartoons
--TZ Classic Teleplay: “Kick the Can” by George Clayton Johnson
--An Afterword by George Clayton Johnson
--Looking Ahead: Next in TZ

--In the Twilight Zone: “TZ Goes Hollywood” by T.E.D. Klein

-This month, editor T.E.D. Klein uses his column to set up the issue’s coverage of Twilight Zone: The Movie, released on June 24, 1983, by looking at the contributors to the film coverage, including Paul M. Sammon, Randy and Jean-Marc L’Officier, and contributing editor James Verniere. Since the movie coverage forms the bulk of the issue, Klein notes the relatively small amount of fiction included (four stories) and promises to get back to the normal amount next issue. Klein states: “We think of ourselves as primarily a fiction magazine and don’t normally devote so much space to film, but then, let’s face it, it’s not every day that we get our name in lights.” In fact, even more film coverage is included in the magazine’s miscellany column, Other Dimensions: Etc., which includes interviews with the stars of two films by director David Cronenberg, who is featured in the film coverage of next month’s issue.

-The fiction this issue is provided by Will Stanton, with a reprint from 1951, John Skipp, with his second story for the magazine, John Alfred Taylor, with his third story for the magazine, and John S. McFarland, an award-winning poet who appears here with his first published story. Klein provides a brief profile of each.

-The remainder of Klein’s column is devoted to profiling Canadian illustrator Randy Jones (pictured), a contributor since the first issue, who provides an illustration for “One Happy Family” by John S. McFarland in this issue. Klein notes that Jones’s illustration of a cat from the first issue, for Ron Goulart’s story “Groucho,” has been adopted as the magazine’s mascot and named Maximilian, posters of whom were offered to last issue’s readers who accurately spotted the correct number of cats in the issue. This is further detailed in Other Dimensions: Etc.

--A Note from the Publisher by Carol Serling

-This occasional column returns due to the issue’s coverage of Twilight Zone: The Movie, on which Carol Serling (pictured with director George Miller) acted as consultant and appeared in a cameo role as an airplane passenger reading an issue of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine in Miller’s “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” segment of the film.

-Serling begins her column by noting the amount of secrecy required on the set of the film as well as the appearances of original Twilight Zone performers in the film, including Kevin McCarthy, Patricia Barry, Bill Mumy, William Schallert, original series producer Buck Houghton, and the voice of Burgess Meredith (standing in for Rod Serling).

-Carol Serling discusses three of the film’s five segments, choosing not to comment on either of the segments directed by John Landis, due perhaps to the tragic, and well-publicized, on-set accident that claimed the lives of actor Vic Morrow and child performers My-Ca Dinh Le and Renee Shinn Chen. Serling comments enthusiastically on the surreal sets of Joe Dante’s “It’s a Good Life,” the impressive special effects on George Miller’s “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” and the joys of watching Steven Spielberg direct both young and old performers in “Kick the Can.” Serling is especially high on the performance of John Lithgow as the terrified air passenger who spies a gremlin on the wing of the airplane. Serling states: “For me the most rewarding experience of all was to watch the marvelous actor John Lithgow put on what I consider to be an Academy Award-winning performance in the starring role.” Serling also singles out child actress Laura Mooney, “the youngest member of the cast,” from Spielberg’s “Kick the Can” segment, as “perfect casting, especially when you see her side by side with her grown-up counterpart.”

--Other Dimensions: Screen by Gahan Wilson

-Gahan Wilson tackles four films this month. The Hunger and Something Wicked This Way Comes get close looks while Curtains and The Evil Dead receive briefer write-ups. All of the films were widely released in 1983.

-The Hunger was directed by Tony Scott, starring Catherine Deneuve, David Bowie, and Susan Sarandon, from a script by Ivan Davis and Michael Thomas, based on Whitley Strieber’s 1981 novel. A generally well-regarded and influential vampire film, if somewhat underappreciated, Wilson is guardedly enthusiastic in his praise. “The Hunger is flawed, but the good of it far outweighs the bad, and anybody who likes this sort of thing should on no account miss this truly fine addition to the cinematic history of the vampire.”

-Wilson is less enthusiastic about Something Wicked This Way Comes, directed by Jack Clayton, starring Jason Robards, Jonathan Pryce, Diane Ladd, and Pam Grier, from a script by Ray Bradbury, based on his 1962 novel. This film had a very troubled production, culminating in a disastrous test screening and a poor performance at the box office. Wilson begins by noting that the film was shot in hilly Vermont but is supposed to take place in flat Illinois (Wilson should know the difference; he grew up in Illinois). Wilson notes the lack of good films made from Bradbury’s books and suggests that Bradbury’s works are too impressionistic to translate well to film. He writes: “To offset this, a director almost goes to extremes in shooting the people and locations of the movie as unrealistically as possible. Unfortunately, what has always been done – and certainly has been done in Wicked – is that all is shot dreamily and unrealistically, and the result is that you are always sort of floating.” For those interested in learning more about the production of Something Wicked This Way Comes, I recommend episodes 44 and 45 of the excellent podcast Bradbury 100, produced by Bradbury scholar Phil Nichols.

-“Two examples of the splatter school of horror movies wandered through town,” writes Wilson as he looks at the Canadian slasher film Curtains and the gonzo horror classic The Evil Dead. Curtains was directed by Richard Ciupka from a script by Robert Guza, Jr., starring John Vernon and Samantha Eggar. Wilson writes: “The whole thing has an interesting feminist feel – it may be the first feminist splatter film – but though it works very hard at its horrors (one poor woman’s head turns up in a toilet bowl, which may be another first), a tendency to strive for artistic effects continually does it in, and I found myself viewing it with mounting ennui.” The Evil Dead, directed and written by Sam Raimi, starring Bruce Campbell, has since spawned an entire franchise of films, television shows, video games and comics. Wilson’s initial impression of the film is that “The Evil Dead has no interest whatsoever in artistic effects and benefits enormously from this approach.” He goes on to write: “My theory is that he (Raimi) bases his pus, gore, and leaking bowel matter on commodities available in movie theater snack bars; indeed, they may actually be composed of cola syrup, popcorn, squished Milk Duds, and melted Hershey bars.”

--Other Dimensions: Books by Thomas M. Disch

-“The Feast of St. Bradbury” is what the always-acerbic Thomas M. Disch metaphorically refers to as that time when “book reviewers gather at great communal bonfires to burn those books they could not bring themselves to read all the way through.” Disch was a tough but enormously entertaining book critic who spends the bulk of his column this month pondering the question of why badly written books reach a large number of readers. To illustrate this, Disch looks at two recent science fiction/fantasy books which he believes are poorly written, but which are likely to achieve high sales. These are White Gold Wielder by Stephen R. Donaldson, published by Del Rey, and Medusa: A Tiger by the Tale by Jack L. Chalker, also published by Del Rey. Disch offers passages from both books to illustrate the bad writing within and concludes this way: “And what is the harm in that? you may ask. If a book serves the purpose of a security blanket, is that such a terrible thing? Possibly not. There are times when all of us would rather flee our problems than confront them head-on with the heightened awareness that genuine art forces on us. For such times nothing will serve but escapism. Yet I can’t help but think that a habit of tolerating such bad prose as Chalker and Donaldson offer, sentence by sentence, is more injurious to the mind’s general fitness than an equivalent amount of time spent viewing Magnum P.I., or General Hopsital, or Star Trek, escapist entertainments that possess the minimal virtues of formal clarity and a professional execution.”

-Disch’s reviews of non-fiction this month include Scientists Confront Creationism, edited by Laurie R. Godfrey and published by Norton. Disch writes: “Her contributors include astronomers testifying to the age of the earth, physicists, biochemists, biologists, geologists, and writers who have specialized in exploring, and exploding, the claims of the lunatic fringe – from flat-earthers through creationists. By the time Dr. Godfrey’s experts have had done with ‘creation science,’ there is not a square millimeter of ground for its proponents to stand on.” Disch also praises Dream Makers, Volume II by Charles Platt, published by Berkley, “a collection of interviews with (in this volume) some twenty-eight writers and editors in the field of sf and just across its boundaries,” and The Guide to Supernatural Fiction by E.F. Bleiler, published by Kent State University Press, which Disch compares to similar volumes but concludes is “an accomplishment of a different magnitude, since it covers so much territory that no one else has ventured into and because he did the whole book himself.”

--Other Dimensions: Nostalgia by Ron Goulart

“Fu Manchu Revisited”

-In this entertaining and informative article/memoir, Ron Goulart turns his attention to the “yellow peril” thrillers concerning the villainous Dr. Fu Manchu (or Fu-Manchu) in the novels and stories of Sax Rohmer (Arthur Henry Ward). Goulart describes writing a letter to Rohmer as a young man and later writing a parody of the Fu Manchu stories, as “The Hand of Dr. Insidious,” for Gamma magazine, a publication I profiled here. Goulart gives a publishing history of the Fu Manchu stories, and describes the character’s forays into films and comic books. Goulart discusses the comic book stories of the character which appeared in the 1930s in Detective Comics before the magazine showcased Batman. For films, Goulart focuses on the 1932 pre-code MGM film The Mask of Fu Manchu, starring Boris Karloff (pictured) and Myrna Loy, as well as the international series of films (1965-1969) starring Christopher Lee as Dr. Fu Manchu, beginning with The Face of Fu Manchu and continuing with The Brides of Fu Manchu, The Vengeance of Fu Manchu, The Blood of Fu Manchu, and The Castle of Fu Manchu.

-Goulart also gives an account of the attractions of the books, including profiles of the hero Sir Denis Nayland Smith and his companion Dr. Petrie, as well as highlighting the many beautiful women, both good and evil, who populate the books. Goulart gives the flavor of Rohmer’s purple prose with an excerpt from the first book, The Insidious Dr. Fu-Manchu, and provides a brief overview of the life of the author. Goulart concludes by describing his own discovery of the series as a young reader and of searching secondhand bookstores in Northern California to find more Fu Manchu novels. Ultimately, Goulart concludes, the “spell of Rohmer, I fear, is like chicken pox. You can catch it while you’re young, but never again.”

-Ron Goulart (1933-2022) wrote or edited a number of excellent volumes on popular culture for the interested reader. His informal history of the pulp magazines, Cheap Thrills, was published in 1972 by Arlington House (paperback: Ace Books, 1973) and was revised and reprinted by Hermes Press in 2000. That year also saw the publication of Goulart’s heavily illustrated volume Comic Book Culture from Collectors Press, one of several volumes Goulart wrote on the history of American comic books. In 1965, Goulart edited one of the earliest reprint volumes of hardboiled detective fiction from the pulps, titled The Hardboiled Dicks, published by Sherbourne Press (paperback: Pocket Books, 1967). Sherbourne Press was a Los Angeles-based publisher that also issued several science fiction anthologies edited by William F. Nolan (The Pseudo-People, A Wilderness of Stars, The Future Is Now, The Human Equation) as well as Frank Gruber’s cult memoir The Pulp Jungle in 1967. Regular readers of the blog may recall that Gruber issued one of the louder accusations of plagiarism against Rod Serling concerning Serling’s first season episode “The After Hours,” which Gruber believed bore too close a similarity to his story “The Thirteenth Floor,” from the January, 1949 issue of Weird Tales. See my post on “The After Hours” for more information.

--Other Dimensions: Fantasy Acrostic #2 by Benjamin Gleisser

-Another trivia-based puzzle for readers to unravel.

--Other Dimensions: Etc.

-The miscellany column this month begins with a cartoon by “Handelsman” depicting a couple standing at the end of their driveway watching as a smiling mailman deliberately crumples their mail. The caption reads: “Oh-oh! Caught in the act. Now you know who’s been scrunching up your mail.” The cartoon is included as a response from subscribers to the magazine, “especially from the more remote areas,” who issued complaints regarding the magazine arriving damaged in the mail. Next, there is a correction of a correction concerning H.P. Lovecraft’s “Something About Cats” from the previous issue. Lovecraft scholar S.T. Joshi issued a footnote correction regarding Lovecraft referring to Bubastis as a place name. Joshi wrote: “Lovecraft seems to imagine that Bubastis is a place, but it is merely the Greek name for the fire- and cat-goddess Bast.” A reader provided a correction of Joshi’s correction by including a map from Chester Starr’s History of the Ancient World which locates Bubastis. Another note describes the ways in which a reader who favors dogs over cats took umbrage with Lovecraft’s preference for cats.

-The column also features interviews with the stars of two films by director David Cronenberg. First up, in “Deborah Harry in Cronenberg’s Videodrome SEXY,” James Verniere profiles the lead singer of the band Blondie, who stars alongside James Woods in Cronenberg’s Videodrome. Harry (pictured) describes her experiences as an adopted child, and of how she fantasied being the child of a famous person such as Marilyn Monroe. She speaks on taking drugs as a teenager, her love of science fiction and horror films (her favorite is Village of the Damned), and her thoughts on Cronenberg’s Scanners. Harry also talks about working on Videodrome, including the challenges of the material (a potent mix of sex and sadism), and working with the controversial Swiss artist H.R. Giger, who created the cover image for her solo album KooKoo.

-Next, in “Christopher Walken in Cronenberg’s The Dead Zone PSYCHIC,” Verniere profiles award-winning actor Christopher Walken, who portrays the psychic Johnny Smith in Cronenberg’s adaptation of Stephen King’s The Dead Zone. Walken speaks on viewing Cronenberg’s Videodrome and of being unable to find a rental store which had Cronenberg’s Scanners in stock, due to Cronenberg’s cult following. Walken also speaks on the popularity of Stephen King: “Everytime [sic] I tell somebody I’m doing The Dead Zone, I run into another Stephen King fan.” Walken describes the research required to perform the role of Johnny Smith, his experiences performing in the film Heaven’s Gate, and his experiences performing in the film Brainstorm after the unexpected death of costar Natalie Wood. Brainstorm was reported on in the previous issue of the magazine. Verniere highlights Walken’s strangeness as an actor and asks him if he is concerned about being typecast “as an actor who plays weirdos.” Walken responds: “The only trouble with being typed is that you don’t get to play other parts. But I still work in the theater to play those different roles.”

-The remainder of the column contains two cartoons, one depicting an alligator wearing a Lacoste polo shirt with the emblem of an open-mouthed man on the breast, and another depicting a man stationed between two signs, one of which states “no change without purchase” while the other states “no purchase without change.” Two photographs are also offered to view. One is of a person displaying an abnormally long tongue and is accompanied by a quote from Romeo and Juliet. The other is from the New York Post and shows a schoolchild at a local gathering wearing a baseball cap with the magazine’s logo. The child is identified as the son of the magazine’s managing editor.

-Finally, in “Calculating Cats,” the contest offered in the previous issue is discussed. This was the offer of a free poster depicting the magazine’s mascot, Maximilian, to the first nine readers who guessed the correct number of cats pictured in the issue. Dozens of replies suggested anywhere from 47 to 69 cats, but the correct number, arrived at independently by members of the staff, is 57. One illustration from the issue, by artist Frances Jetter, depicting branches of pussy willows turning into cats, caused some confusion, but it was determined by the staff that 10 cats could be counted with accuracy in the illustration.

--Special Section: Twilight Zone: The Movie

“Four Young Directors Bring the Fifth Dimension to the Screen”

--Episode 1: John Landis Gives a Guided Tour of Hell

-Each of the main segments that comprise the whole of Twilight Zone: The Movie is illustrated with a photographic montage containing stills from the film, behind-the-scenes images, and descriptive captions to provide a feel for each segment before the interview section covering that portion of the film.

--On the Set of Twilight Zone by Paul M. Sammon

-An “Editor’s Note” precedes Paul M. Sammon’s article describing his visit to the set of Twilight Zone: The Movie. Since Sammon’s article focuses on director John Landis’s contribution to the film, the note informs readers that the article, and the interview that follows, was written and conducted before the tragic on-set accident which took the lives of actor Vic Morrow and two child actors during the filming of Landis’s segment. The note is as follows: “Shortly after Paul Sammon interviewed director John Landis for our magazine (see page 29), Landis invited him to watch the filming of his Twilight Zone segment, unofficially titled “The Bigot” or “Time Out.” (Shooting on Landis’s prologue to the film had already been completed.) Sammon arrived on the afternoon of July 7, 1982, some two weeks before the helicopter accident on the final night of filming that took the lives of star Vic Morrow and child actors My-Ca Dinh Le and Renee Shinn Chen. He filed the following report from what was, at the time, an exceptionally happy set.” The accident that occurred on the set of Twilight Zone: The Movie is well-documented. For readers interested in a detailed account of the accident, and the legal fallout which followed, several books on the subject are listed under the section on the movie in the Vortex Library. The accident is only referenced twice more in the issue, once by Paul M. Sammon in a note preceding his interview with John Landis, and once in a question posed to special makeup effects artist Rob Bottin by interviewer James Verniere. It is worth nothing that Bottin, who provided the special makeup effects on Joe Dante’s segment, “It’s a Good Life,” was not connected to the accident in any way other than working on a different episode of the same film. Verniere presumably asked him about the accident to gauge the effects the accident produced on other members of the production.

-Paul M. Sammon describes his experience arriving at the “European Street” on the backlot of Universal Studios, where many of the studio’s famous monster films were photographed years before. Sammon meets director John Landis, who shows Sammon the location where Lon Chaney Jr. stood with a little girl in his arms before a horde of crazed villagers in The Ghost of Frankenstein. Sammon notes that he later discovered the European Street was destroyed in a fire in 1968 and was rebuilt exactly as before by Bill DeSinces. The bulk of Sammon’s short article concerns the shooting of a street scene with actor Vic Morrow. Sammon describes the verisimilitude created by the sets, costumes, and props displayed during the scene. Sammon also offers his thoughts on Vic Morrow as an actor and describes watching the filming of a scene in which Morrow’s character is menaced and shot by Nazis in the street. Landis’s segments of the film, the prologue and “Time Out,” are original to the film and, unlike the other segments of the film, not based on a Twilight Zone episode. For those who have not seen the film, “Time Out” concerns a bigot, played by Vic Morrow, who leaves a bar one night and finds himself inhabiting, in succession, the roles of oppressed people throughout recent history, from a Jew under the threat of Nazis, to an African-American under threat from white supremacists, to a Vietnamese civilian during the Vietnam War. The scene viewed by Sammon occurs near the beginning of the bigot’s nightmarish journey, in which he finds himself lost and confused in the streets of a Nazi-occupied city and is menaced and sadistically shot at by the Nazis. 

--TZ Interview: John Landis by Paul M. Sammon

“From the mailroom to stunt work, from comic porn to Schlock!, the director of Animal House and American Werewolf has more than paid his dues.”

-In his preface to the interview, Sammon profiles director John Landis and states that the interview was conducted before the on-set accident. Sammon informs readers that the accident will not be discussed in any detail in the interview, and that his interview with Landis is the last interview Landis will ever give to the media in any form. This likely held true for some time but, as time passed, Landis began again to make media appearances.

-Sammon’s interview with Landis ranges widely, from Landis’s childhood through his journeyman years in the film industry to his early directorial efforts and finishing with the director’s recent string of successful films. Landis’s unrealized and upcoming film projects are also discussed. Landis begins by detailing his early interest in science fiction and fantasy, including reading such authors as C.S. Lewis, Ray Bradbury, and Arthur C. Clarke, as well as such monster movie magazines as Famous Monsters of Filmland, the latter of which developed his interest in films such as King Kong and The 7th Voyage of Sinbad. As a side note, Landis later wrote a coffee table book, Monsters in the Movies: 100 Years of Cinematic Nightmares, published by DK in 2011. He also edited a book of haunted house stories, wrote prefaces to books by and about Forrest J. Ackerman and Ray Harryhausen, and appeared in several documentaries on science fiction, fantasy, and horror films. Landis is probably best known as a director of comedy films, but he often circled back to horror and fantasy (albeit with a dose of comedy) in such films as An American Werewolf in London (discussed at length in the interview), Michael Jackson’s Thriller music video, Innocent Blood, and Burke and Hare.

-Landis details his comedic influences, including the Three Stooges, W.C. Fields, the Marx Brothers, and Laurel and Hardy. His childhood is further explored with his discussion of such topics as dropping out of high school, a brief job teaching English to younger children, and his entry, as a teenager, into the movie business with a job in the mailroom at 20th Century Fox.

-Landis discusses quitting the mailroom at Fox to work on films, initially getting parts as an extra in such films as Kelly’s Heroes and several international films, before he and a friend bluffed their way into stunt work on Spanish and Italian films. More low-paying, and dangerous, stunt work followed until Landis moved back to California with an idea to make a pornographic film. This was foiled by local gangsters forcing their way into a partnership with the filmmaker. This caused Landis to abandon the film and use the remaining money to fund his first feature film, Shlock!

-Landis provides details on the productions of several of his subsequent films, including Kentucky Fried Movie, Animal House, The Blues Brothers, and An American Werewolf in London. Landis’s prologue to Twilight Zone: The Movie (pictured) is discussed as Landis speaks about the opportunity to craft a short film he’s always wanted to make. Landis’s next film at the time, Trading Places, is discussed in detail, as are many of his unrealized and upcoming projects. The unrealized projects include a 3-D Creature from the Black Lagoon film written by Nigel Kneale and an adaptation of Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, while Landis also details his involvement in an upcoming adaptation of Chester Gould’s Dick Tracy. Landis did not direct the Dick Tracy movie that was eventually released in 1990. Steven Spielberg was also briefly attached to direct Dick Tracy but ultimately Warren Beatty directed the film as a starring vehicle for himself.  

-Finally, Landis briefly discusses Twilight Zone: The Movie, including the other segments of the film. Landis discusses the moral quality of his segment and how he initially came on-board to direct a segment of the film. The interview is illustrated with several stills from Landis’s films.

--Episode 2: Steven Spielberg Turns Back the Clock

-This photographic montage includes a quote from Spielberg, “I think people lead lives where their deepest wish is that something would interrupt the classic, mundane everyday routine,” an image of the director, and several captioned stills from the segment of the film Spielberg directed, a remake of George Clayton Johnson’s “Kick the Can.”

--TZ Interview: Richard Matheson by Randy and Jean-Marc L’Officier

“For this Twilight Zone veteran, working on the movie meant renewing old acquaintances.”

-It is always a pleasure to hear from Richard Matheson, the late author of so many great episodes of The Twilight Zone. Matheson is interviewed here by Randy and Jean-Marc L’Officier (whose surname is alternately spelled in the issue as Lofficier), authors of Into the Twilight Zone: The Rod Serling Programme Guide (1995), about writing the screenplay for Twilight Zone: The Movie.

-Matheson worked on the scripts for three of the principal segments of the film: “Kick the Can,” “It’s a Good Life,” and the remake of his own “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.” Matheson speaks on the enduring appeal of the original series, how he was contacted by Steven Spielberg to work on the film, his prior work with Spielberg on Duel (1971) (Spielberg’s debut feature, directed from Matheson’s script of his novelette), and being asked to work on Twilight Zone: The Movie “probably because I was the only survivor of the series outside of George Clayton Johnson.”

-Matheson reveals that Spielberg initially wanted him to write an original Halloween-themed story for the film. He talks about the new adaptation of his story, “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” as well as the rewrites to his script by director George Miller. Matheson also discusses adapting Jerome Bixby’s story, “It’s a Good Life,” to capture a different tone than that of the original series adaptation, the type of narrative linking devices considered for use in the film, and the differences in writing for film as opposed to television. Finally, Matheson comments on writing a new adaptation of George Clayton Johnson’s “Kick the Can,” which ultimately had additional hands involved, including Spielberg’s and Melissa Mathison’s (as Josh Rogan), the latter of whom wrote Spielberg’s then-recent mega-hit E.T. George Clayton Johnson’s original teleplay is included later in the issue and is followed by an afterword in which Johnson discusses the new adaptation of his story, the new ending he proposed for the story, and the changes from his original story that were made in the finished segment.

--TZ Interview: Scatman Crothers by James Verniere

“Old-timers become children again thanks to a man Steven Spielberg calls “The Black E.T.”

-James Verniere profiles the actor and musician best known for his performance as the psychic hotel cook Dick Hallorann in Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of Stephen King’s The Shining. In Twilight Zone: The Movie, Crothers plays Mr. Bloom, the aged visitor to Sunnyvale Rest Home, who introduces the elderly residents to a magical, youth-restoring game in Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of George Clayton Johnson’s “Kick the Can.”

-Crothers reveals his aversion to viewing dailies of his work while acting in a film, his experience working with Stanley Kubrick on The Shining, meeting Stephen King, and discusses the controversial death of his character in The Shining. Crothers details writing songs for Kubrick and Clint Eastwood, Steven Spielberg’s request for his own song, and his overall impression of Spielberg: “He’s a genius, but he’s still like a kid. He’s adorable.” Crothers also mentions that he believes he possesses the ability to shine like his character in The Shining, and describes his religious faith. Finally, Crothers illuminates his performance in Twilight Zone: The Movie and gives his perspective on his career as a whole.

--Episode 3: Joe Dante Unleashes Every Adult’s Nightmare

-This photographic montage includes a quote from director Joe Dante, “It’s wonderful to be doing a short. I could never have gotten away with anything as strange for an entire feature,” several stills from Dante’s segment (a remake of Jerome Bixby’s “It’s a Good Life”) including images of several Twilight Zone alum (Patricia Barry, William Schallert, Kevin McCarthy), and detailed captions with production information. The storyboards for the sequence in which “Uncle Walt” pulls a monstrous rabbit from a hat is also included.

--TZ Interview: William Schallert by James Verniere

“He may make the perfect ‘Dear Old Dad,’ but he’s been in an awful lot of horror films.”

-William Schallert, who appeared in a small role in the original series episode “Mr. Bevis,” plays the “father” of Anthony Fremont, the child with god-like powers in Joe Dante’s adaptation of Jerome Bixby’s “It’s a Good Life,” originally adapted by Rod Serling for the original series episode starring Bill Mumy (who appears in Dante’s segment in a cameo role). In his profile of Schallert, interviewer James Verniere points out that the actor is most often seen in the role of fathers, and that he has appeared in numerous science fiction and horror films. Schallert reminiscences about some of these films, including The Man from Planet X, The Incredible Shrinking Man (scripted by Richard Matheson from his novel), Gog, Colossus: The Forbin Project, and Captive Women. Schallert speaks fondly of the original Twilight Zone series and of his enjoyment watching the series with his children, who urged him to take the role in Twilight Zone: The Movie.

--TZ Interview: Kevin McCarthy by James Verniere

“He made his name battling body snatchers. Now he’s up against a monstrous little boy.”

-For the original Twilight Zone series, Kevin McCarthy memorably played the doomed immortal man Walter Jameson in writer Charles Beaumont’s first season episode, “Long Live Walter Jameson.” Since that time, as profiled by interviewer James Verniere, McCarthy has worked steadily on stage and screen, appearing in such films as Invasion of the Body Snatchers (probably his most famous role), Death of a Salesman, The Misfits, Stranger on Horseback, The Best Man, and Buffalo Bill and the Indians.

-McCarthy gives his perspective on why the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers remains a popular film, including the depth of believability in his character’s onscreen relationship with that of actress Dana Wynter. McCarthy also discusses his relationship with director Joe Dante (McCarthy appeared in several of Dante’s films, including Dante’s earlier films Piranha and The Howling), the ease with which he accepted the role in Twilight Zone: The Movie, and if he was able to meet Steven Spielberg on the set. To this last question, McCarthy states: “Yes, he came to the set one day. He’s just this ordinary-looking guy. He has none of the presence, say, of an Orson Welles – and I don’t mean in terms of dimensions. I don’t know what his secret is. I guess he has an understanding of the medium that makes him unique.”

--TZ Interview: Jeremy Licht by James Verniere

“If he really had magical powers, he’d be a lot nicer than the boy he played.”

-The child actor who portrays Anthony Fremont, the god-like little boy in “It’s a Good Life,” is profiled by interviewer James Verniere as atypical of most child actors, in that he is exceedingly professional and parented by a nonintrusive mother. At the time, Licht was a Los Angeles native, in sixth grade, and had worked in television with such performers as Sally Field, Tim Hutton, James Woods, and Sally Struthers.

-Licht discusses the interview process for his role in Twilight Zone: The Movie, his dislike of horror films (he enjoys science fiction such as Star Wars and E.T.), his thoughts on the original series episode, the process of being mean when in-character, the advice he received for Bill Mumy, what he would do with Anthony’s powers, and the ways in which his acting affects his everyday life.

--TZ Interview: Joe Dante by Randy and Jean-Marc Lofficier

“The one-time cartoonist went to Hollywood, got his break, and discovered . . . it’s a good life!”

-The interviewers profile the director of “It’s a Good Life,” noting his apprenticeship in Roger Corman’s “schlock mills,” his work for the fondly-remembered monster magazine Castle of Frankenstein, his cult film Piranha, his breakout film, The Howling, and his upcoming film Gremlins. The interviewers conducted their interview with Dante in his Burbank Studios office shortly after he completed work on Twilight Zone: The Movie.

-This interview with Joe Dante is thorough and wide-ranging, and provides a great amount of information for those interested in Dante’s formative years and in details of the productions of his early films.

-Topics covered in the interview include: Dante’s formative years as a movie-goer, his early attraction to science fiction and horror films, his work on the trade magazine Film Bulletin, his training as a traditional animator, his arrival in Hollywood and partnership with producer Jon Davison, his first film, The Movie Orgy, a seven-hour compilation of clips from films from the 1950s, working on trailers for Roger Corman, convincing Corman to fund the ultimately unsuccessful film Hollywood Boulevard, being given autonomy when directing Corman’s Jaws rip-off, Piranha, the talented effects crew Dante had on the film (Jon Berg, Chris Walas, Phil Tippett, Rob Bottin), the success of the film leading to more opportunities, production of Dante’s The Howling, the process of his involvement with Twilight Zone: The Movie, contacting Richard Matheson to write the script and working together to get the correct tone for the story, working with makeup effects artist Rob Bottin, working with the cast for the segment, a visit from animator Chuck Jones to the set, references to the original series embedded in the segment, working with child actor Jeremy Licht, working on the film score with Jerry Goldsmith, and, finally, Dante’s impressions of the other segments of Twilight Zone: The Movie. The interview with Dante is illustrated with stills from “It’s a Good Life” as well as storyboards from the segment and stills from The Howling.

--TZ Interview: Rob Bottin by James Verniere

“He’s made men turn into wolves, things turn into men, and TV cartoons turn into monsters.”

-Verniere interviews special makeup effects artist Rob Bottin, pictured working on the effects for Joe Dante’s The Howling, who created the stunning makeup and creature effects on “It’s a Good Life.” The profile preceding the interview details Bottin’s apprenticeship to makeup artist Rick Baker, his breakout work in Dante’s The Howling and John Carpenter’s The Thing, and his hiring by Steven Spielberg to supervise the effects on “It’s a Good Life.”

-In the interview, Bottin explains his role in the production of the film, expresses his enjoyment of the original Twilight Zone series, mentions some favorite episodes (“Living Doll,” “The Hitchhiker,” “It’s a Good Life”), and describes working on the film, and the other films he’s worked on, as “a labor of love.” Finally, Bottin is asked how he felt about the tragic on-set accident which occurred during the filming of John Landis’s segment. Bottin responds: “I was just being hired to work on the film when it happened, and everyone, of course, was horrified, and for a while a little depressed. I don’t know what I can say on the subject. Our episode did take a little longer to get going because it came right after the episode with Vic Morrow, but everybody still wanted to do the picture.”

--A Twilight Zone Scrapbook

-The color section this issue is a photographic montage with stills and behind-the-scenes images from each segment of the film, complete with detailed and informative captions.

--Episode 4: George Miller Induces a Fear of Flying

-The photographic montage for George Miller’s segment, “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” includes a quote from the director on the star of his segment, “John Lithgow has a face the camera falls in love with,” stills from the segment, behind-the-scenes images (as shown), and a call sheet for cast members.

--TZ Interview: John Lithgow by James Verniere

“He’s brainy, versatile, and very, very busy – and now, at last, he’s a movie star.”

-Verniere profiles the star of George Miller’s “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” by listing the actor’s notable film roles, including work with director Brian DePalma in Obsession and Blow-Out, his Academy Award nomination for The World According to Garp, other notable films such as All that Jazz and I’m Dancing As Fast As I Can, and future projects such as Terms of Endearment and Footloose. It is also mentioned that Lithgow is Harvard-educated, won a Tony Award for The Changing Room, and provided the voice of Yoda in National Public Radio’s presentation of The Empire Strikes Back.

-Besides his work in Twilight Zone: The Movie, Lithgow is further connected to The Twilight Zone in that he starred in, and won an Emmy for, Richard Matheson’s “The Doll,” produced during the first season of Steven Spielberg’s Twilight Zone-inspired anthology series, Amazing Stories. Matheson’s “The Doll” was originally slated to be produced during the fifth season of The Twilight Zone but the sudden departure of producer Bert Granet resulted in the script being shelved and left unproduced on the series.

-Topics covered in the interview with Lithgow include: His upcoming work on the film Buckaroo Banzai, his excitement at getting the role in Twilight Zone: The Movie, his impression of director George Miller’s film, The Road Warrior, his work with other “kinetic” directors such as Brian DePalma and Bob Fosse, the fact that he had not seen the original series episode of “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” his work on the stage, and his ultimate ambitions as an actor. Following the interview with Lithgow is a page and a half spread displaying the storyboard sequence for the final scenes of “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.”

--TZ Interview: Larry Cedar

“He may be dressed in a monster suit, but he’s got dancing feet.”

-Cedar, who describes himself as “kind of a song-and-dance man,” details his performance as the monster on the wing of the airplane in George Miller’s “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.” Cedar discusses his roles in films before Twilight Zone: The Movie, details the audition process with director George Miller, describes his experience playing the monster, including the physical requirements and the challenges of the special effects, and reveals his future work with makeup effects creator Craig Reardon (designer of the monster in “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet”) in the upcoming film Dreamscape. Storyboards for an encounter with the creature on the wing of the airplane are included with the interview.

--“Barney” by Will Stanton

Illustrated by Ahmet Gorgun

-Told in the form of a journal, this grimly humorous tale concerns a scientist on a secluded island who is conducting intelligence experiments on a rat named Barney. As Barney gains intelligence, the scientist finds himself in increasingly precarious situations, culminating in a strange final entry in the journal which reveals the fate of the characters.

-I greatly enjoyed this darkly humorous short-short, and it reminded me of the stories of John Collier or Fredric Brown. The story was first published in the February, 1951 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, where the editors had this to say about it: “The experimental biologist who overreaches himself belongs to the oldest traditions of science fiction, the documentary diary form to the oldest traditions of English fiction itself. Now see how a fresh approach can combine them into something completely new.” F&SF published several additional stories by Stanton in the 1950s. “Barney” was reprinted in 1952 in the first annual volume, The Best from Fantasy and Science Fiction. Editors Isaac Asimov and Groff Conklin also included the tale in their 1963 anthology Fifty Short Science Fiction Tales, published by Collier Books.

--“One Happy Family” by John S. McFarland

Illustrated by Randy Jones

“The nice thing about home delivery was that it gave a woman the chance to be so . . . creative!”

-A city doctor who has relocated his practice to a rural area attempts to assist a strange, rustic couple in the home delivery of their fifth child. At the couple’s isolated home, the doctor encounters medical anomalies (and a great amount of resistance) in the expectant mother. The doctor soon discovers the horrible truth about the biological composition of the couple’s children.  

-“One Happy Family” was reprinted, as the representative story for the state of Arkansas, in A Treasury of American Horror Stories, edited by Frank McSherry, Jr., Martin H. Greenberg, and Charles G. Waugh, published by Bonanza Books in 1985.

--“Like a Black Dandelion” by John Alfred Taylor

Illustrated by David G. Klein

“Pull up a chair in the back room at Majewski’s, pour yourself a beer, and learn, at your peril, the true story of the creation of the world.”

-At a private Memorial Day gathering in a tavern, a small group of veterans convince Nelson to reveal a long-held secret, his encounter in Alaska with a strange figure with tentacles and a face like a black dandelion. This strange figure revealed to Nelson that the world is a fiction and that Nelson will be edited out as punishment for stumbling upon the secret. Nelson promised not to tell to avoid being destroyed. After Nelson’s story is told, the veterans see the tavern keeper’s face twist into a black shape and the flashlight-like thing in its tentacle pulls them in and dissolves them. 

-This is an interesting variation on a well-known tale from Japanese folklore, most famously recorded as “Yuki-onna” by Lafcadio Hearn in his 1904 collection Kwaidan. Hearn's tale was adapted, with a significantly modern spin, by writer Michael McDowell for the final segment of Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (1990). “Like a Black Dandelion” was reprinted in The Year’s Best Fantasy Stories: 10, edited by Arthur W. Saha (1984) and collected in Hell Is Murky: Twenty Strange Tales (Ash-Tree Press, 2008). This collection also includes John Alfred Taylor’s other stories from Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine: “When the Cat’s Away,” from the September, 1981 issue, “Hell Is Murky,” from the November, 1982 issue, and “The Weight of Zero,” from the January/February, 1985 issue.

--“Go to Sleep” by John Skipp

Illustrated by D.W. Miller

“He was loving and compassionate. There was kindness in his heart. And he brought a gift called Death.”

-A young man, Rick, discovered during a moment of childhood trauma that he possessed a “gift” for shepherding the suffering to a quick death. With a touch of his hands and the whispered words, “go to sleep,” Rick can move a suffering soul to pass. Rick applies his deadly gift on the homeless in the city. When a homeless man gets wise to Rick’s ability, he turns the tables on the young man and inadvertently places Rick in the position of being at the mercy of another who possess the same deadly ability.

-John Skipp is best known for the series of horror novels he co-authored with Craig Spector in the 1980s, beginning with the gritty vampire novel The Light at the End (1986). These novels are considered formative works in the “splatterpunk” style of horror fiction, characterized by extremes of violence, sex, and emotion. With “Go to Sleep,” his second story for the magazine, Skipp is more restrained, but the story is steeped in the urban grime and decay which characterizes his work. The story was reprinted in TZ Special #1: Night Cry in 1984.

-Skipp was a frequent contributor to Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine and its sister publication, Night Cry. Skipp’s story “The Long Ride” appeared in the September, 1982 issue of TZ Magazine, while later stories for the magazine include “The Spirit of Things,” in the December, 1986 issue, “Not with a Whimper” (with Craig Spector), in the February, 1988 issue, and “I’ve Been Waiting All My Life to Meet You,” in the December, 1988 issue. Spector also had a story, “Deadlines,” in the December, 1988 issue.

-Skipp’s stories for Night Cry, all written with Craig Spector, include “Shells,” from the Fall, 1986 issue, an excerpt from The Light at the End, in the Spring, 1986 issue, and an excised chapter of their novel The Cleanup, in the Summer, 1987 issue.

--“A View Across The Twilight Zone” by Marc Scott Zicree

-As his show-by-show guide to the original series comes to a close in this issue, Marc Scott Zicree, author of The Twilight Zone Companion (now in its third edition) takes a moment to reflect upon his personal journey with the series. Zicree began researching the series in 1977 and “spent four years asking questions, traveling far and wide, screening episodes, burrowing through dusty files, reading teleplays, transcribing tapes, and making thousands of pages of notes. The results were this Show-by-Show Guide and my book, The Twilight Zone Companion.”

-Zicree details his struggle to get the book published (“rejected by more than twenty-five publishers”) and the book’s eventual success as a bestseller and American Book Award nominee. Zicree reviews the banner year The Twilight Zone experienced in 1983, with a major feature film and a million-copy printing of Robert Bloch’s novelization of the film, and asks the inevitable question: Why, after all these years, is The Twilight Zone still so popular? Unsatisfied with the typical answer he would give when put on the spot in an interview, Zicree arrives at a deeper explanation. He explains it this way: “Following World War II, triumphant soldiers came flooding home, married their sweethearts, and settled in the suburbs to raise their kids. The extended family, spanning several generations, became largely a thing of the past – and alienation became the great dilemma of our modern society. The Twilight Zone was the first, and possibly only, tv series to deal on a regular basis with the theme of alienation.”

-Zicree ends on a positive note, however, as he points out that ultimately the series showed viewers the way out of alienation is to reach for the humanity in others.

--TV’s Twilight Zone: Part Twenty-Six

“Continuing Marc Scott Zicree’s show-by-show guide to the entire Twilight Zone television series, complete with Rod Serling’s opening and closing narrations.”

-The show-by-show guide to the original series concludes in this issue, as it covers the final episodes of the fifth and final season. Provided are credits for cast and crew, Rod Serling’s opening and closing narrations, and summaries for “Stopover in a Quiet Town,” “The Encounter,” “Mr. Garrity and the Graves,” “The Brain Center at Whipples,” “Come Wander with Me,” “The Fear,” and “The Bewitchin’ Pool.”

--Three Cartoons


--TZ Classic Teleplay: “Kick the Can” by George Clayton Johnson

-Included in this issue, illustrated with stills from the televised episode, is the complete teleplay for George Clayton Johnson’s third season episode, “Kick the Can,” which was first broadcast on February 9, 1962, directed by Lamont Johnson, starring Ernest Truex and Russell Collins. Revisit Brian’s review of this classic episode.

--An Afterword by George Clayton Johnson

-Johnson, the late writer of several great episodes of The Twilight Zone, uses this opportunity to explain how the original ending of his teleplay for “Kick the Can” never sat well with him. He wondered what would happen to these children without homes or guardians. Johnson considered rewriting the script as a three-act play to try and answer the question of a new ending. Johnson explains that he requested a meeting with the producers of Twilight Zone: The Movie when he was approached about a new version of “Kick the Can.” He brought along with him a proposed new ending to his story, one in which the children eventually grow tired and hungry and scared and decide to go back to the rest home and their beds, where they revert to their elderly forms again.

-Johnson wished to write the new script himself but was told that Richard Matheson was already contracted to write the script. Instead, the producers purchased the new ending from Johnson and passed it along to Matheson, who incorporated Johnson’s new ending into the script. Ultimately, other changes were made to his script which Johnson felt significantly changed the story. He writes: “Instead of a script about two boyhood friends who are tragically separated by conflicting philosophical beliefs, the emphasis is now on a nostalgia for youth, and on the idea that a new beginning, while it sounds seductive, is no more valuable than the knowledge and experience gained through a long life well lived.”

-Johnson concludes by noting that another writer was brought in to “polish” the script after Matheson, and that the final credits for the segment read: Screenplay by George Clayton Johnson and Richard Matheson and Josh Rogan. Story by George Clayton Johnson.

--Looking Ahead: Next in TZ

-I’m particularly looking forward to David J. Schow’s article on The Outer Limits, another anthology series I greatly enjoy. Also included is a story by John Sladek, “Ursa Minor,” which was memorably adapted on Tales from the Darkside. Film coverage includes an interview with director David Cronenberg and a set visit to the film Iceman. Regular book reviewer Thomas M. Disch contributes a story and Karl Edward Wagner fills in on the books column. Gahan Wilson returns to review films and Ron Goulart returns for more nostalgia. Besides Sladek and Disch, fiction includes stories from Fredric Brown, Chet Williamson, and Ramsey Campbell. Isidore Haiblum returns with more “Confessions of a Freelance Fantasist,” and Rod Serling’s teleplay for the classic episode “It’s a Good Life” is included. Look for a post on this issue in mid-July, following posts on the fifth season episodes "Living Doll" and "The Old Man in the Cave" in May and June, respectively. Thanks for reading!

Next month in the Vortex: We continue our episode guide with a deep dive into the classic fifth season episode, "Living Doll." See you then! 

-Grateful acknowledgement is made to The Internet Movie Database ( and The Internet Speculative Fiction Database ( for information contained in the text.