Friday, February 25, 2011

TZ News Flash: Twilight Zone Season 4 Blu-ray Announced!

This was actually announced a few weeks ago, but I didn't want to post anything until they released the cover art. So here it is. Here are the specs:

Synopsis: All 18 episodes of the fourth 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!


• 13 New Audio Commentaries, featuring The Twilight Zone Companion author Marc Scott Zicree, author/film historian Gary Gerani (Fantastic Television), Twilight Zone writer Earl Hamner, writer William F. Nolan (Logan’s Run), author Bill Warren (Keep Watching the Skies! American Science Fiction Movies of the Fifties), writer/producer Jeff Vlaming (NCIS, Fringe, Battlestar Galactica), writer/producer Joseph Dougherty (thirtysomething, Judging Amy, Saving Grace), authors/historians Scott Skelton and Jim Benson (Night Gallery: An After Hours Tour), and writer/producer Jaime Paglia (Eureka).

• Vintage Audio Interview with director of photography George T. Clemens


• Audio Commentaries by Marc Scott Zicree for Death Ship and William Windom for Miniature

• Vintage Audio Recollections with Herbert Hirschman, Ross Martin, Burgess Meredith, Pat Hingle, Earl Hamner, Buzz Kulik and Anne Francis

• Video Interviews with Morgan Brittany, Anne Francis, Paul Comi and John Furia, Jr.

• 7 Radio Dramas featuring Blair Underwood, Jason Alexander, Lou Diamond Phillips, H. M. Wynant, Mike Starr, Barry Bostwick and John Ratzenberger

• Isolated Scores for all 18 episodes featuring Fred Steiner, Van Cleave, Rene Garriguenc and others

• Rod Serling Promos for “Next Week’s” Show

• Rod Serling Blooper from He’s Alive

• Saturday Night Live Clip

• The Famous Writers School Promo with Rod Serling

• Genesee Beer Spot

• Twilight Zone Season 4 Billboards

Release date is 5/17/2011. We should see the fifth and final season in July or August.

God, I hate that purple cover. I would've preferred yellow, or orange. Can't wait for that neon pink cover for season five....

Thursday, February 24, 2011

TZ Promo: “The Odyssey of Flight 33” (2/24/1961)

“The Odyssey of Flight 33”
Season Two, Episode 18 (54 overall)
Cayuga Production # 173-3651

Are you afraid to fly? If you are, it’s likely because you’re afraid that your plane will crash. It’s not an irrational fear --- planes do in fact crash. They say it’s statistically safer to fly than drive a car, but who knows?

Air disasters are a recurring event on The Twilight Zone. It usually involves spaceships ("I Shot an Arrow into the Air," "People Are Alike All Over," "Death Ship," "Probe 7 – Over and Out"), but we’ve lost a few planes too ("Twenty Two," "The Arrival," "Ring-A-Ding Girl"). But what if your particular air catastrophe didn’t involve a crash at all? What if instead your plane became dislodged in time…? Fifty years ago tonight, it happened in “The Odyssey of Flight 33,” written by Rod Serling and directed by Justuss Addiss. A commercial airliner hits a freak tailwind and breaks the time barrier. Where do they end up? I don’t want to give anything away, but here’s a clue…

I am dino, hear me roar!

Yeah, it's a friggin' dinosaur, and a pretty unconvincing one at that. But hey, it was 1961! Turns out the two brief glimpses of this beast constituted the single most expensive shot in the show's five year history. As a Ray Harryhausen fan, I find her (I've always thought of it as female, don't ask me why) most appealing.

Ain't no such thing as a No Smoking sign on my plane.

The episode stars John Anderson as our intrepid pilot, Captain Farver. We last saw him in season one's "A Passage for Trumpet" (which, coincidentally, was repeated fifty years ago last week), and we'll see him again in season four's "Of Late I Think of Cliffordville" and season five's "The Old Man in the Cave"). He keeps his cool in spite of the outlandish circumstances that befall his crew. Call him The Twilight Zone's Captain Sully. Anderson might be best remembered as California Charlie, the used car salesman Marion Crane sells her car to in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho. Fans of TV's The Outer Limits can tell you that he was quite good as the Ebonite Interrogator in that series' excellent "Nightmare." And speaking of The Outer Limits... well, stay tuned.

Speaking of "People Are Alike All Over," Paul Comi (above, left) makes his second Twilight Zone appearance here, this time as Anderson's copilot, First Officer Craig. In the former, he's the one that, ahem, didn't survive the crash; here we find him trapped aboard a doomed flight (man, this guy should just stay on the ground). Rounding out our cockpit crew is Navigator "Magellan" Hatch, played by Sandy Kenyon (above, right), who appeared in damn near every TV show in the 50's and 60's. You may not know the name, but you will absolutely recognize the guy. He'll visit The Twilight Zone again in season three's "The Shelter" and season four's "Valley of the Shadow."

We're called Flight Attendants now.

“The Odyssey of Flight 33” is generally well-regarded, but I’ve never been particularly fond of it. Oh sure, it’s a great idea, but Serling never really develops it. There’s also no moral dilemma, no character development, and no twist at the end. There’s really no resolution to the plight of Flight 33 at all, which doesn’t help matters. We’re left wondering if they ever made it home. Interestingly, the same can be said of season four’s “Death Ship,” which is one of my favorite episodes, but the characters there are quite well developed, which makes all the difference. Still, for 25 minutes, “Odyssey” sufficiently holds one’s interest. And it’s certainly well done on a technical level… even that goofy Claymation brontosaurus is charming. It certainly ain’t bad, but it’s nothing spectacular either. Your (air) mileage may vary.

Next week: And speaking of bad…. Burgess Meredith and Don Rickles can’t even save the day. Uh-oh.

That's right, Rod. Hang your head in shame.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Bif Bang Pow! Toy Fair 2011 Preview

So I'm lying awake around 1:00 this morning, staring at the ceiling. Can't sleep, no idea why. I casually reach over, grab my Droid to check Facebook. I then proceed to Twitter, where the following grabbed me by the throat and almost threw me out of bed:

"@: Toy Fair 2011 Sneak Peak! "

I clicked the link. Of course I did. Here's what I saw:

Dear God, look at it all. I'm clearly not as "in the loop" as I like to think. I knew about some of this stuff, but a few items caught me completely off guard.

There's Henry Corwin, aka Santa Claus, from season two's "Night of the Meek." I'm more excited about Alicia, from season one's "The Lonely"! She's my second most-desired action figure. And look! Her face is blasted off and everything!

Finally I can unseal my lips. My all-time most-wanted Twilight Zone character will appear in action figure form later this year.... it's Maya the Cat Girl, from season one's "Perchance To Dream." I've known about her for several months, and keeping the secret has been killing me.

And hey, there's the alien from season three's "Hocus-Pocus and Frisby" too. I hate the episode, but the alien is pretty cool, so good choice. I'm a sucker for that 60's suit-and-turtleneck look.

We already knew we were getting Doctor Bernardi from "Eye of the Beholder," but it looks like we're also getting the nurse too!

And there's the Clown from season three's "Five Characters in Search of an Exit"! Here's hoping they immortalize the other four (Army Major, Ballerina, Bagpiper, Hobo) in action figure form as well.... that'd make a helluva diorama.

Let's see.... that's six action figures, plus the previously-announced Doctor Bernardi, Henry Bemis ("Time Enough at Last"), The Invader ("The Invaders"), and The Venusian ("Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?"). That's a whopping 10 new figures, presumably before the end of the year.

And there are two new bobbleheads too! I meant to cover these earlier, as both are already available for pre-order (due to ship in May)....

It's Bob Wilson, better known as William Shatner, from season five's "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet." As you can see, they answered my prayers and designed him as a companion piece for their earlier Gremlin bobblehead. And as I predicted, when used together, they work as bookends! Here's how I'm currently using my two Gremlins:

No choice but to use one backwards, but the arrival of Bob Wilson will solve this problem. Too cool. Hopefully we'll see a color version of Bob at some future point, which will give us a second set of bookends.

Here's a better look at both new bobbleheads:

The other new bobblehead is Willie and Jerry, from season three's "The Dummy." Willie has already been given the action figure treatment, but here we get him --- and his poor ventriloquist owner (victim?) Jerry to boot. They've captured the episode's surprise switcheroo nicely. It looks great.

Notebooks! Travel mugs! License plate brackets, oh my!

Coasters! Lunch boxes! Magnets!

And finally, in the mortgage-your-kidney department, we have the life-size replicas of the Mystic Seer ($249.99) and Talky Tina ($139.99). Is it just me, or does Tina look like she's been frozen in carbonite....?

Man, I'm gonna need a second job to afford all this stuff....

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Product Placement: TZ Pub Light Sign

This isn't quite as unexpected as the shocking and misguided Invaders thong (which I passed on, thank you very much), but it's still unexpected... in a good way. Hell, in a great way.

I periodically search eBay for Twilight Zone-related items. If I see something new (and if I can afford it!), I'll typically bid on it. In late October, I stumbled across something that made me scream like a 14 year-old girl seeing The Beatles for the first time. Ladies and gentlemen, it's my distinct pleasure to present.... The Twilight Zone Pub Light Sign.

Last month, I reported that our friends at Bif Bang Pow! would be releasing a slew of non-toy TZ items later this year, including coasters, shot glasses, and beer steins. With this sign, an enterprising fan is that much closer to opening his or her own Twilight Zone pub....

It's not neon creating that spectral blue glow. It's an LED fluorescent tube. My god, it looks glorious. What a thing of beauty.

My only complaint pertains to the power cord. It's way too short, and it comes out of the top (okay, I guess it couldn't really be placed anywhere else). I was fortunate to find a wall outlet way up high in my daughter's room (which I took advantage of for photo-taking purposes only; the sign is currently sitting on top of my dresser, awaiting a more permanent home... the garage, perhaps?), but I imagine that's pretty atypical. Most of you undoubtedly have normal floor-proximity outlets, so you'll need to run an extension cord up the wall and find a creative way to hide it.

Want one? Hit eBay and search for "Twilight Zone bar sign." There are usually at least 1 or 2 auctions in progress. For some unknown reason, the alphanumeric phrase "P365B" can often be found in the auction title (probably a manufacturer serial number). It costs a measly $9.99, plus $19.99 for shipping (sometimes there's an alternate version of the auction in which the total cost is $28.49 with free shipping; the seller "helpulpa77" is the same for both). I received mine about three weeks after ordering.

The sign comes from Hong Kong, so of course the included instruction sheet is riddled with grammatical errors (no racist intent):

The flip side shows a detailed diagram. I suppose an enterprising person could use it to take the sign apart and swap out the bulb for a different color. Mine came fully assembled, but your mileage may vary:

This sign is infinitely cool, and really pops (especially in the dark). I'm pretty sure this isn't an *ahem* licensed product, but I highly recommend it nevertheless. I suspect these won't be available forever, so if you want one... well, set aside thirty bucks and get yours now.

By the way, the seller ("helpulpa77") has many other similar faux-neon LED signs for sale (including a really nice vinyl turntable sign that I've got my covetous eye on), so you might find something in addition to the Twilight Zone sign to trick out your man cave/game room/garage/whatever. I really wish they made an Outer Limits sign... oh, and speaking of The Outer Limits... well, stay tuned.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

TZ Promo: “Twenty Two” (2/10/1961)

“Twenty Two”
Season Two, Episode 17 (#53 overall)
Cayuga Production # 173-3664

A Twilight Zone episode is usually easy to spot, even if you miss the opening titles. Richard Matheson said it best: “The ideal Twilight Zone started with a really smashing idea that hit you right in the first few seconds, then you played that out, and you had a little flip at the end; that was the structure.” * 50 years ago tonight, an episode premiered which followed this deceptively simple blueprint, but didn’t feel like a Twilight Zone at all.

“Twenty Two” (sans hyphen), written by Rod Serling and directed by Jack Smight, feels like CBS ran an episode of ABC’s One Step Beyond in some bizarre programming glitch. All the hallmarks are there: spooky music, premonitions of disaster (which of course come true), and a hook that isn’t so much supernatural as psycho-spiritual. Having said that, I don’t dislike the episode at all. It’s creepy, damn it. Who hasn’t had a nightmare in which they were invited to their own demise?

“Twenty Two” is one of six season two episodes that were videotaped instead of filmed, and the different (that’s being charitable) look contributes to the non-TZ vibe. It somehow works here, though…. The faux morgue set is impressive on video, but on film it might’ve looked fake. The same can be said of the exploding airplane in the finale.

This week’s damsel-in-psychological-distress is played by Barbara Nichols, who certainly has the, um, assets to play “the best little stripper-dancer that ever came down the pike” (as her agent describes her). In addition to screaming like a banshee and knocking over glasses of water on The Twilight Zone, she also appeared in 1957’s Sweet Smell of Success, a Burt Lancaster-Tony Curtis film noir that just came out on blu-ray from the Criterion Collection. No, I didn’t get paid for that plug (but I’d be happy to accept a free copy, if Criterion feels like sending me one!).

Forbidden Planet alert! Okay, this one is a bit of a stretch. The creepy doctor is played by Jonathan Harris, who we all know from TV’s Lost In Space!, the cast of which included the B-9 Robot, which was designed by Robert Kinoshita, who also designed Robby the Robot (the two 'bots certainly look related). Call it Two Degrees of Forbidden Planet.

Harris with Robby the Robot's cousin, the B-9. Oh, and there's Billy Mumy (a three-episode TZ veteran)!

The “spooky music” referenced above is made up predominantly of reused cues from Van Cleave’s “Elegy” score from season one. It works better here.

Room for one more, honey!

The freaky nurse is played by Arlene Martel (aka Arlene Sax), who is probably best known for her role as T’Pring, Spock's arranged wife-in-waiting, in Star Trek’s “Amok Time.” I know her best from my other favorite TV series of all time, The Outer Limits, where she played opposite Robert Culp in the wonderful “Demon with a Glass Hand." And speaking of The Outer Limits… well, stay tuned.

Two weeks from tonight: The Twilight Zone joins the mile-high club, in a manner of speaking. You won’t see any gremlins on the wing, but you might just see a brontosaurus if you get a window seat. Check in early.

* Matheson quote shamelessly cribbed from Marc Scott Zicree's The Twilight Zone Companion.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

TZ Promo: “A Penny For Your Thoughts” (2/03/1961)

“A Penny for Your Thoughts”
Season Two, Episode 16 (#52 overall)
Cayuga Production # 173-3650

As I’ve stated repeatedly in these pages, comedy and The Twilight Zone don’t typically mix. But as with anything in life, there are always exceptions, and one those happy exceptions celebrates the big 5-0 tonight.

“A Penny for Your Thoughts” written by George Clayton Johnson and directed by James Sheldon, starts off with a near-brilliant concept: what if an average guy accidentally pulled off a feat so near-impossible that, in doing so, he somehow unlocked mental powers normally off limits to mortal men? Okay, the episode doesn’t really put it in those terms, but that’s what happens. Mild-mannered bank clerk Hector B. Poole, wonderfully played by Dick York (last seen in season one’s “The Purple Testament”), drops a coin to pay for a newspaper… a coin that lands standing on its edge. For reasons unexplained, this simple and unintentional act allows him the ability to hear other people’s thoughts. Hilarity (okay, mild comedy) ensues.

The episode is light and breezy, but dwelling on its implications leads to more sobering ruminations: what if reality operates as a sort of video game, where special abilities can be unlocked by the completion of unusual tasks? What if we’re just avatars, being manipulated without our knowledge by higher forms of life? What if this is all just a game?

Okay, I’m thinking too hard about this. “A Penny for Your Thoughts” is intended as fun, and it succeeds.

George Clayton Johnson wrote four TZ scripts, and another four episodes were based on his short stories. Despite his relatively small output (Rod Serling wrote 92 of the series’ 156 episodes!), Johnson is responsible for a few of the show’s high points: “A Game of Pool,” “Nothing in the Dark,” and “Kick the Can” (all in season three). He’s still around, and has appeared at several TZ conventions. He looks a bit like Gandolf the Gray these days.

Next week: This week’s levity segues into a nightmare about a morgue. Is it The Twilight Zone, or One Step Beyond? Tune in and see for yourself… we’ve always got room for one more.