Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Season 2 Opening Sequence (1960-1961)



After an incredible first season, a few changes were made for The Twilight Zone's second round, most notably the music. Season 1 utilized two distinct versions of Bernard Herrmann's ominous theme but, starting with Season 2 (and continuing throughout the remainder of the series), Herrmann's theme was jettisoned for something altogether different...

Two unrelated pieces of library music ("Etrange No. 3" and "Milieu No. 1") by French avant-garde composer Marius Constant were spliced together to create one of the most recognizable TV themes in history. On 9/30/1960, American audiences heard this new theme for the first time, and it went on to personify the series every bit as much as Rod Serling's unmistakable clenched-teeth narrative voice. Every one of us, at some point in our lives, has undoubtedly hummed, whistled, or otherwise mouthed that classic melody ("Doo doo doo doo, doo doo doo doo") when faced with a bizarre or uncomfortable situation. You know, those Twilight Zone moments. As much as I love the work of Bernard Herrmann, I can't deny the power of Constant's theme. It's effect is immediate. You know what you're in for as soon as you hear it.

Along with new theme music came new visuals. The season 2 intro is actually a melding of season 1's openings, smashed together and compressed for time. The wispy, honeycomb-like tendrils of fog that opened the standard season 1 opening are here, as is the black-line horizon with the setting sun from the alternate season 1 opening. In fact, these two elements are pretty much all we see, except for the new way the Twilight Zone logo appears at the climax: it springs up out of nowhere, as if on an invisible hinge, and flies straight toward us, smashing to bits at the last possible second, as if we've driven right through it. The Twilight Zone title logo, incidentally, is identical to the one used in the standard season 1 opening (with regards to the font; it's also the same version of the TZ logo I use in the interchangeable photo collages featured at the top of this blog). The final three seasons will use different title logos, but we'll get to those in time.

Compared to the elaborate visuals of the standard season 1 intro, the new opening is pretty basic. But is it effective? Absolutely. It's snappier, propulsive, and it gets us to the story faster.

Here's the breakdown:

You're traveling through another dimension...

...a dimension not only of sight and sound...

...but of mind.

A journey into a wondrous land of imagination...

Next stop ---

--- The Twilight Zone!




(pan down to opening scene)


Here it is in full-motion glory, sadly down-rezzed by Blogger...

video


Season 2 also brought a MAJOR visual change that would last throughout the remainder of the series. We'll discuss that in tomorrow's entry, as we spotlight the season 2 premiere, "King Nine Will Not Return," on the 50th anniversary of its first broadcast. I'll give you a hint: It involves the relative visibility of a certain creator/executive producer/narrator....


1 comment:

Robert Treat said...

The first three episodes of season 2 had a more abridged opening, "You're traveling through another dimension. A dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land of imagination. Next stop--the Twilight Zone."

A few extra phrases were added for the bulk of the second season episodes, as shown on this blog post.