Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Big 4-1.

Yesterday I turned 41. And in keeping with a new tradition (new as of last year), my lovely wife Teresa made me a Twilight Zone-themed cake. You can see last year's cake here. As cool as it was, it can't touch the amazing cake she made this year.

The whole thing is edible. The various graphics are printed in edible ink on edible fondant. The cake is devils food (my favorite) with a cream cheese chocolate frosting.

And yes, that's ME on the cake, in my "Eye of the Beholder" Halloween costume (spotlighted here).

Check out the authentic season 3 spiral on top!

Finally... a human eats a Kanamit for a change!

My jaw literally dropped when I saw this thing. She's really set the bar pretty high. I can only imagine what next year will hold....

Thanks, baby. I love you!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

KTLA Thanksgiving Marathon 2010

The title says it all. As in years past, KTLA (the venerable Channel 5 in Los Angeles) is doing their annual Thanksgiving Day Twilight Zone marathon (see here for details about last year’s marathon). Here’s this year’s schedule:

9:00 "The Hitchhiker" (a top 10 favorite)
9:30 "Shadow Play" (a top 10 favorite)
10:00 "Kick the Can"
10:30 "Spur of the Moment"
11:00 "The Silence"
11:30 "The Last Night of a Jockey"
12:00 "Perchance to Dream" (a top 10 favorite)
12:30 "Twenty-Two"
1:00 "Walking Distance" (a top 40 favorite)
1:30 "Mirror Image" (a top 40 favorite)
2:00 "A Passage for Trumpet" (a top 40 favorite)
2:30 "Nightmare as a Child"
3:00 "The Prime Mover"
3:30 "A Hundred Yards Over the Rim"
4:00 "Four O'clock"
4:30 "A World of His Own"
5:00 "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet"
5:30 "The Midnight Sun" (a top 10 favorite)

It’s a good assortment, much better than last year. Last year’s marathon consisted of 17 episodes (16 half-hour episodes and the hour-long “In His Image”), only four of which are among my top 40 favorites, and only ONE of which is in my top 10 (the aforementioned “In His Image”). This year, KTLA is showing 18 half-hour episodes, SEVEN of which are among my top 40 favorites, and FOUR of which are in my top 10. So yeah, good marathon. Trouble is, I don’t get KTLA where I live (Tualatin, Oregon), and even if I did, I wouldn’t be watching it. I’ve been spoiled by DVD (and now blu-ray) when it comes to The Twilight Zone: I won’t watch it trimmed for syndication, and I won’t watch it with commercials. Having said that, I’m glad KTLA continues to do the marathons every year. How else will the series gain new fans?

Heh, KTLA even threw in a real turkey (season three’s “Four O’clock”) because hey, it ain’t Thanksgiving without a turkey. At least it’s not “Mr. Dingle the Strong” or worse, “Mr. Bevis.” Thank heaven for small mercies.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

TZ Promo: "Nick of Time" (11/18/1960)

“Nick of Time”
Season Two, Episode 7 (#43 overall)
Cayuga Production # 173-3643

Two weeks ago we had a run-in with the Prince of Darkness himself, masquerading as a rather vocal prisoner in a European hermitage. Tonight, we meet him again (so soon!), but this time he’ll appear in a much more innocuous guise… however, as we’ll quickly discover, he’s still pretty dangerous.

“Nick of Time,” written by Richard Matheson and directed by Richard L. Bare, tells the tale of a young married couple (William Shatner and Patricia Breslin) who find themselves stranded in a small town with car trouble. As they wait for their vehicle to be repaired, they head over to a nearby diner for lunch, where they encounter this charming object:

Yep, it’s that old rascal, the Mystic Seer fortune telling napkin dispenser. This object has appeared many times in my blog, thanks largely to Bif Bang Pow!’s rendering of it in bobblehead form (in two flavors, no less: monochrome and full color; both are still available as of this writing from Entertainment Earth. As our hapless hero gets progressively hooked on the vague fortunes the machine spits out at him, his wife becomes increasingly aware (or rather, afraid) that the machine may be determining their future for them.

It’s a pretty mild episode, but it’s well done. It’s not necessarily a favorite of mine, but I have no complaints about it. Well, okay, if I’m being totally honest...

I find Breslin a bit... well, homely. I mean, just look at Shatner. He was a really handsome guy when he was young (he still looks pretty good today, actually), and given those dashing good looks, I think he (okay, his character, Don Carter) would have... well, a hotter wife. Man, that’s pretty shallow of me, isn’t it? After "Eye of the Beholder" last week, you’d think I’d at least try to look beneath the surface. Okay, she’s also a bit of a nag. I guess Carter deserves it, being the superstitious jellyfish that he is, but still.

*Ahem* Anyway, the episode turns 50 tonight. And if any of you wish to reenact your own home version of this episode, Bif Bang Pow! will be releasing a life-size, fully-functioning (!) replica of the Mystic Seer in the spring. I definitely plan on owning one; moreover, I’m planning on making my own custom fortunes to place inside for unsuspecting victims.

Next week: Nothing. The show was pre-empted on 11/25/1960 by "Harvest of Shame," an exposĂ© of sorts by Edward R. Murrow regarding migrant farm workers… which gives me a chance to plug the brilliant Good Night, and Good Luck., George Clooney’s 2005 film about Murrow’s legendary television crusade against Senator Joe “Better Dead Than Red” McCarthy. It’s a black and white film, and it’s a nice companion period piece to The Twilight Zone, what with the CBS connection and all. I highly recommend it.

Two weeks from tonight: Last season, she tried to outrun Death but lost. Now, Inger Stevens returns to The Twilight Zone as another unhappy young lady, this time trying to cope with a life of leisure in a house full of…robots? It sounds like a comedy, but it’s really not. Tune in.

Yes, it looks blurry. There's a reason. I'll explain in two weeks.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

TZ Promo: "Eye of the Beholder" (11/11/1960)

“Eye of the Beholder”
Season Two, Episode 6 (#42 overall)
Cayuga Production # 173-3640

The Twilight Zone is filled with iconic, unforgettable images. A myopic Burgess Meredith sitting on the steps of a demolished library, his glasses ruined. The robot Alicia, lying inert, her face destroyed by a laser blast. The Angel of Death, in the guise of a shabby hitchhiker, looking plaintively at Inger Stevens in her rearview mirror. A grinning plastic devil’s head, bobbling merrily atop a fortune-telling machine as it controls William Shatner’s every move.

Indelible images, frozen in celluloid time, imprinted on the collective memory of a generation (or three) of television viewers. Even if you’re not a fan of The Twilight Zone, you’d probably recognize some of the images it produced. Fifty years ago tonight, Rod Serling and company gave us probably the single most visually arresting, disturbing, and just plain unforgettable image ever. Not just on The Twilight Zone, but in all of television, then and now.

“Eye of the Beholder,” written by Rod Serling and directed by Douglas Heyes, is a masterpiece in every sense of the word. Many consider it the single greatest episode in the entire series (it topped a poll taken by Twilight Zone Magazine in 1984). I doubt that there’s a single viewer out there --- diehard TZ fan or otherwise --- that doesn’t hold it in extremely high regard. And while it’s not my personal favorite, I have endless respect for it… as evidenced by my recent Halloween costume.

Much has been written about the episode over the years, and I imagine the shocking climax wouldn’t really shock anybody these days (plus, the various parodies and pop culture references over the years have likely spoiled it for anyone who hasn’t seen it, as with “Time Enough at Last” and “To Serve Man,” along with many other episodes). Nevertheless --- if by chance you’re reading this and you’ve never seen it, SEEK IT OUT. Rent it on DVD, watch it on YouTube, whatever…. But SEE IT. Even if you know how it ends, it’s still worth seeing for the pure artistry, the amazing performances, the moody and ethereal score by Bernard Herrmann, and the simple, powerful message…. God, it’s a thing of shadowy beauty. It’s truly something special, and has undoubtedly helped keep The Twilight Zone legacy alive these past 51 years.

The idiots at UPN actually had the temerity to remake this episode in 2002 during their short-lived Twilight Zone revival series. God damn it, when something is already perfect, what good can possibly come from attempting a remake? It’s like that pointless Psycho remake starring Vince Vaughn… why, why, WHY??? Ugh. The only decent thing that the UPN series produced was a sequel to season three’s “It’s a Good Life”… but we’ll get to that next year.

Next week: The season 2 winning streak continues with… wait, another devil story? What the hell…?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

TZ News Flash: Twilight Zone season 3 blu-ray announced!

As I (and fellow Twilight Zone fanatics) anxiously await the release of season 2 on blu-ray (11/16/10, just 10 days away!), Image Entertainment has officially announced season 3!

Here's the scoop, shamelessly snagged from Image Entertainment's website.

Synopsis: All 37 episodes of the third season of Rod Serling’s classic, groundbreaking series, now presented in pristine high-definition for the first time ever, along with hours of new and exclusive bonus features not available anywhere else!

• 19 New Audio Commentaries, featuring The Twilight Zone Companion author Marc Scott Zicree, author/film historian Gary Gerani (Fantastic Television), authors/historians Scott Skelton and Jim Benson (Rod Serling's Night Gallery: An After Hours Tour), Twilight Zone writers Earl Hamner, George Clayton Johnson and John Tomerlin, writer William F. Nolan (Logan's Run), author/historian Martin Grams, Jr. (The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic), writer Marv Wolfman (creator of Blade and New Teen Titans), writer Neil Gaiman (Sandman, Coraline), writer/producer Jeff Vlaming (NCIS, Fringe, Battlestar Galactica), writer Mark Fergus (Children of Men, Iron Man) and writer Len Wein (creator of Swamp Thing, Wolverine, New X-Men)
• Interview with actor Edson Stroll
• Original Laugh Track for Cavender Is Coming
• Vintage Audio Interview with director of photography George T. Clemens
• 19 Radio Dramas featuring Don Johnson, Blair Underwood, Ernie Hudson, Morgan Brittany, Adam West, Ed Begley, Jr., Jason Alexander, Shelley Berman, Michael York, Bruno Kirby and more
• Isolated Scores for all 37 episodes featuring the legendary Bernard Herrmann, Van Cleave, Fred Steiner and others

• Audio Commentaries by actors Bill Mumy, Lois Nettleton, William Windom, Leonard Nimoy, Robert Cornthwaite and Cliff Robertson
• Audio Commentary by Jonathan Winters for A Game of Pool, plus Winters reads the Alternate Ending from the original script
• Clip from the 1989 remake of A Game of Pool, featuring George Clayton Johnson’s original ending
• Clip from the 1985 remake of Dead Man’s Shoes, featuring Helen Mirren in Dead Woman’s Shoes
• Vintage Audio Recollections with Buzz Kulik, Buck Houghton, Richard L. Bare, Lamont Johnson and Earl Hamner
• Rare Rod Serling appearances as a guest on The Garry Moore Show and Tell It to Groucho and as host of the popular game show Liar’s Club
• And much more!

It's coming 2/15/2011. At this rate, all 5 seasons will be out by the end of summer 2011.

As you can see, Image went with a green color scheme this time around (after blue for season 1, and red for season 2). What colors will grace seasons 4 and 5, I wonder? Yellow, probably.... but what else? Orange? Purple? Please, not purple. Um.... plaid???

Man, I haven't even posted my review/spotlight of the season 1 set yet... I should probably get on that, eh?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

TZ Promo: "The Howling Man" (11/04/1960)

"The Howling Man”
Season Two, Episode #5 (#41 overall)
Cayuga Production # 173-3642

Fifty years ago tonight, an innocent man got duped by the oldest liar in the world. We’ve seen him on the show before, in season one’s “Escape Clause,” and we’ll see him again repeatedly throughout the series. Each of his appearances are unique, just as I imagine they are in real life (if you believe in that sort of thing, that is). Who am I talking about, you ask? I’m getting pretty soft on my “spoiler free” mentality, so I’ll just come out and say it.

It’s the devil. Yeah, that guy.

“The Howling Man,” written by Charles Beaumont (based on his short story) and directed by Douglas Heyes, is a delightful homage to the Universal horror movies of the 30’s and 40’s. Shadowy European castle, dark and stormy night, Something Evil Afoot, it’s all here.

As our hero (David Ellington, played by H.M. Wynant) wanders deliriously through the castle (okay, it’s actually a hermitage, but it sure looks like castle), we half expect Dr. Frankenstein to come walking around the corner, Ygor in tow. Robert Carradine (as Brother Jerome) perfectly evokes the borderline-crazy doctors and scientists that populate those old films: yes, a bolt of lightning will in fact reanimate a corpse; yes, you can use alchemy to shrink people to kewpie doll proportions; and yes, that loudmouth in the cell downstairs is indeed His Satanic Majesty. They might be crazy, but they also happen to be right.

The music in “The Howling Man” is stock-scored with various cues in the CBS Music Library, but a couple of very recognizable cues from Bernard Herrmann’s score for season one’s “Where Is Everybody?” are prominent.

The Devil, as seen in this episode (played by Robin Hughes), was recently immortalized in plastic by Bif Bang Pow!. See my spotlight on the action figure here.

I’m a big fan of those old horror flicks, and I’m equally a big fan of this episode. It easily ranks in my top 40 favorite episodes of all time.

Next week: Quite possibly the greatest Twilight Zone episode ever produced. ‘Nuff said.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

TZ Spotlight: American Greetings Birthday Card (with sound!)

Exactly one year ago today, I spotlighted Hallmark's Twilight Zone greeting card. A few days ago, I stumbled across a new TZ card.... of sorts. This time it's an American Greetings offering, and I can't really say whether or not it's an officially-licensed card, but it does include the Marius Constant theme (yes, it has a sound feature), so they at least had to get permission to use that. It doesn't actually say "The Twilight Zone" anywhere on the card (well, except the copyright notice on the back for the Constant theme), but there's enough TZ here to plug it on my blog.

The lettering is done in gold foil, which looks pretty nice. Visually, the design seems intended to evoke the floating objects from the opening title sequence from seasons 4 and 5. It works well enough.

The middle is, to be blunt, kinda boring. The Hallmark card had a nice big season 3 spiral adorning the entire left half of the interior. I'm not really sure what we're seeing here. Clouds?

The back. Well, nothing interesting here, except the copyright notice for the Constant theme... and again, this is the only place on the card that "The Twilight Zone" name actually appears.

Here's a quick video clip so you can hear the recording. It's a Rod Serling impersonator over a cheap-sounding recording of the Constant theme. It gets the job done. It seems a bit silly to critique the sound quality of such a tiny sound chip, but it sounds pretty crappy. The Hallmark card sounded much clearer.

The fake Rod is a bit hard to understand (likely due to the low-quality sound chip), so here's the text:

"You are traveling into a place that's as wild as your imagination, a dimension where you, and people familiar to you, get down to the business of having some serious fun on your birthday. You've just crossed over into... The Party Zone."


American Greetings have produced what amounts to a pretty basic card. At $4.99, it's a fairly reasonable deal (pretty standard for a card with a sound chip), but I can't help but wish that a little more work had gone into it. However, anything that evokes The Twilight Zone, directly or indirectly, is pretty much a must-have for me, so naturally I bought it. Actually, I bought two: one for my collection, and one for my good friend Bill Huelbig, who celebrates his 56th birthday tomorrow. Happy birthday Bill!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Halloween 2010: The Doctor Is In

For a few months now, I’ve been silently working on the feasibility of creating a Kanamit costume for Halloween. I think I’d pretty much figured out how to pull it off, but time grew short, and it became apparent that it would have to wait until next year. About a week ago, I casually mentioned to my wife Teresa that I’d still love to put something together for THIS Halloween (since I haven’t dressed up in at least ten years), something Twilight Zone-related. I happened to be organizing my DVD screen captures for my weekly episode promos, and I showed her some shots from “The Eye of the Beholder.” We briefly discussed how a doctor costume could be achieved, and then I went on with my business, not really thinking anything of it.

The next day, she called me at work to tell me that she’d picked up some supplies to create the mask. This was Wednesday, a mere four days from Halloween. I was pretty skeptical, but she seemed intensely determined to pull it off (I dunno, maybe since her father had just stayed with us for a month, she wanted to compensate me somehow).

Her plan was to sculpt the facial pieces on top of an existing mask. She chose a Guy Fawkes mask because, well, I’ve got a pretty wide face, so a larger mask was needed.

She trimmed off everything but the actual face section and started sculpting the eyebrow, nose, cheekbones and upper lip using Crayola Magic Modeling Clay (which air-dries to a soft, semi-pliable state). By the time I got home from work, she’d already created the basic mask. She had me try it on, which allowed her to identify some areas that needed work (for example, the upper lip was way too big, which made me look like a pig-duck hybrid, which makes a perverse kind of sense, since I’m an overweight Oregon Ducks fan).

The next day (Thursday), she did some additional trimming. Most notably, she scaled the upper lip down considerably.

On Friday, while I spent my lunch hour buying surgical scrubs and a stethoscope, she further refined the mask (including minimizing the upper lip even further) and applied a base coat of paint to it. We decided Friday evening that simply wearing it as a mask (with an elastic band) wasn’t good enough: we would actually glue the thing to my face to make it as realistic as possible. She trimmed off the temple sections, where the elastic band was attached. The mask was ready.

Saturday, we picked up some spirit gum and her costume (“Voluptuous Vampiress”) at a local Halloween store (Spirit, in Tigard). I then did something that was necessary to the success of the costume, but something I was absolutely dreading nonetheless: I completely shaved my face: mustache, goatee, sideburns, everything. Keep in mind, I haven’t had a bare face in ten years. The results were shocking: I knew I was chubby, but I didn’t realize how much of that chub resided in my face and neck. Jeeeeeesus. The house mongrel Bijou actually backed away from me in horror.

Anyway, that evening I took her out to dinner. It was the least I could do.

Sunday arrived. About 3:30 in the afternoon, we began.

After the appliance was, well, applied, Teresa began the arduous task of matching the mask to my skin color. There was a LOT of makeup involved. And then... it was complete.

I'm Doctor Craig, and I'll be performing your plastic surgery today.

I've got a PhD in sexy.

Reviewing surveillance camera footage. Man, that chick was fugly.

When I've had a long hard day at the plastic surgery clinic, I like to unwind with a smoke. Chesterfield Kings... try 'em, they satisfy.

Doing my part to Save the Boobies.

Taking a break from today's rounds to watch The Leader's speech on "glorious conformity." Man, what a tool. Between you and me, I wouldn't mind throwing a little Lee Harvey Oswald his way.

For the entire photo shoot, go here.

The results speak for themselves. Teresa did an amazing job. I think every serious Twilight Zone fan has probably dreamed, at one time or another, of being made up like a doctor (or nurse) from “Eye of the Beholder.” Thanks to the tireless efforts of my beautiful wife, I got to live that dream. Nice work, Bunny!

The Voluptuous Vampiress (aka Bunny).

Next year: Kanamit, baby. It’s happening, folks. Stay tuned.