Thursday, August 19, 2010

TZ Repeat: "The Last Flight" (8/19/1960)

The summer reruns continue with "The Last Flight," a solid episode, mostly notable in Twilight Zone history as the first Richard Matheson teleplay produced. It was first aired on February 2, 1960, and repeated 50 years ago tonight. Here's my original writeup on the episode.

Um... not much to say. It's quite good, but not among my favorites. Season 1 is like that, though... most of 'em lie between excellent and outright brilliant, so a perfectly competent and clever episode might seem somehow lacking in comparison. That's how "The Last Flight" is for me. If another series had produced it, it probably would've seemed more impressive. But c'mon, when you're up against episodes like "Perchance to Dream," "And When the Sky was Opened," "The Hitch-hiker," "The After-hours"....

No disrespect to Mr. Matheson (who is still with us). It's really a very good script, well-executed, well-acted, well-shot, etc.

Okay, enough. I think I've made my point.

Next week: They're your neighbors. Your friends. Your kids play together. You barbecue together on summer afternoons. But when strange things start happening around the neighborhood... well, you might want to watch your back.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

TZ Repeat: "The Hitch-hiker" (8/12/1960)

50 years ago tonight, CBS viewers were treated to an extraordinary half hour of television. Sure, it was a repeat, but The Twilight Zone is often better the second time around. You pick up things you might have missed the first time around. And speaking of picking up...

“The Hitch-hiker,” which premiered on 1/22/1960, reappeared for its encore telecast 50 years ago tonight. I’ve already covered the episode fairly extensively (see here), but I will say this: It’s a truly great episode (one of my top 10 favorites, in fact) with a truly unique history. It was originally presented as a radio show, which accounts for the large chunks of narration by the protagonist (radio was so much more internal than television). Character narration, a staple of police/detective shows (Dragnet in particular), was pretty uncommon on The Twilight Zone (since we had Rod Serling and all), but it did happen a few other times (“King Nine Will Not Return” and “The Long Morrow” come to mind; I’m sure there are a few others). The narrative device is particularly effective here: Inger Stevens’ anguished voiceover matches her onscreen performance quite well (the approach is much more elegant than, say, having one talk to oneself constantly, as in “Where Is Everybody?” or season five’s “The Last Night of a Jockey”). Her voice becomes a calm monotone when she realizes the true identity of her mysterious follower, and the lifeless expression on her face in the final shot is chilling.

Hey, it just occurred to me that the hitch-hiker himself would make a great bobble head… Bif Bang Pow!, are you listening? Maybe his THUMB could bobble…. or is that too silly?

Coming up: We’re only six weeks away from the start of season two! But for now, the summer repeats continue with an interesting tale of a plane that lands not so much in the wrong place, but in the wrong time…

Saturday, August 7, 2010

TZ Oddity: "The Invaders" thong

No, it's not an April Fool's joke. It's, um, a rarity in the world of Twilight Zone collectibles: this one is designed exclusively for the ladies. I give you.... The Invaders thong.

Wanna order one for that special lady in your life? Go here. The Invader is a bit hard to see in that somewhat-garish design, but if you encountered this particular item in the wild... well, the design probably wouldn't be foremost on your mind. If you follow the above link, you'll note that the exact same design is available on a wide variety of items (T-shirts, mugs, chef's aprons, men's boxers, etc), but none are quite as charming or alluring as the thong. I'm tempted to get one to pair up with my Hallmark Valentine's Day card which, coincidentally enough, features an Invader on the back holding a box of chocolates. Ah, romance.

... on a side note, I love The Invader. The character, I mean. The episode... well, not so much. I appreciate the atmosphere and the production value (and the tour-de-force performance by Agnes Moorehead, of course), but I've never found the episode particularly effective. Anyway, I love the little guy, and I've decided that he's going to be my next tattoo. I'm using the following picture of the glorious Sideshow Collectibles Invader figure (which I don't own.... yet) as a reference shot for the tattoo artist. In other words, it's gonna look pretty much just like this (same angle, etc):

Thursday, August 5, 2010

TZ Repeat: "And When the Sky Was Opened" (8/05/1960)

50 years ago tonight, one of my favorite episodes of all time enjoyed its summer repeat. It was originally aired on 12/11/1959 (see my previous entry here). I won't recount the story here (just click on the preceding link), but I will mention (again) that this was the episode that got me hooked --- for life, it seems --- on The Twilight Zone.

Funny side story --- I discovered the series in syndication in the early 80's. Our family didn't have a VCR (that would come a few years later), but what I did have was a tape recorder. So I taped as many episodes as I could once I'd become hooked. (I still remember that big box o' tapes in the corner of my bedroom). I didn't catch "And When the Sky Was Opened" until a subsequent airing, but I have vivid memories of listening to that tape over and over again. I have this, and several other episodes, memorized almost word-for-word because of the hours I spent listening to my tape recordings.

I also think this is why I developed such a passion for the music used in the series, since my focus was allocated exclusively to the audio. But that's a topic for another time. But if you're curious, Leonard Rosenman's brilliant score for this particular episode is easily obtainable...

Next week: Another Top 10 favorite of mine is repeated. Thumbs up, so to speak...

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

TZ Newsflash: Twilight Zone season 2 blu-ray announced!

The blu-ray release of The Twilight Zone's first season hasn't even happened yet yet (next month.... impatiently he taps his fingers against the desk...), and Image Entertainment has already announced the blu-ray release of season two!

Here's the scoop from

The Twilight Zone - Season 2 will be available on Blu-ray November 16th. Coming on 4 discs running approximately 749 minutes, the episodes will be presented with new 1080p high-definition transfers created from the original camera negatives, but retaining their original as-broadcast 1.33:1 "full screen" video format. Audio, remastered from the original magnetic soundtracks, will be presented in the original as-broadcast English Mono sound format, but as uncompressed PCM audio for optimal clarify and quality. English subtitles are included.

As with the first season's Blu release, the BD version of The Twilight Zone - Season 2 will include bonus material previously available on Image's DVD version, plus new extras just for this high-def release. Among the new special features you'll get Part 2 of the vintage (1978) audio interview with Director of Photography George T. Clemens. There's also an audio interview with Makeup Artist/ Designer William Tuttle (who was involved with several key Twilight Zone episodes, such as the second season's "Eye of the Beholder" and "Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?", and classics from later seasons including "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet " and "The Masks").

Another intriguing new extra is a bonus episode of the TV series Suspense, from that show's fifth season. Penned by Rod Serling, the 1953 episode "Nightmare at Ground Zero" tells the story of an artist who is stressed in both his work and his personal life, and is hurrying to meet a 4:00 AM deadline for his contract with the military, in which he must provide mannequins that represent people to the target house at the Nevada Proving Grounds. The episode starred O.Z. Whitehead, Louise Larabee and Calvin Thomas, and also appearing in it was Pat Hingle ("Commissioner Gordon" in 1989's Batman and sequels). The episode was executive produced by William Dozier, the creator/producer/announcer for TV's Batman and Green Hornet programs in the '60s, and it was directed by Robert Mulligan (who was nominated for an Oscar for his direction of 1962's To Kill a Mockingbird, starring Gregory Peck). This episode of Suspense is available on DVD elsewhere, but we're sure that Twilight Zone fans will be glad to have it as part of this collection!
Salivating? Why yes, as a matter of fact, I am.