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Enter Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone on Drive-In Saturday Night
Posted By Christine Anne Piesyk On Saturday, August 25, 2007 @ 10:00 am In Arts and Leisure | No Comments
With writers Rad Bradbury, Richard Matheson, and the prolific Rod Serling spinning their tales of mystery, magic, horror, humanity and intrigue, the Twilight Zone dominated the early years of television with stories that probed the human spirit and challenged our perceptions of the dimensions in which we live. Serling bent the time/space continuum and invaded the deepest parts of the human mind, and took all of us along for the ride.
Serling, creator of the acclaimed CBS show that ran from 1959-64, wrote 92 of the 156 stories that aired on this acclaimed series. The series drew not only the best writers but many acclaimed actors — those well established and those on the precipice of fame — newcomers including Robert Redford, William Shatner, Burt Reynolds, Robert Duvall, Dennis Hopper, Carol Burnett, James Coburn, Charles Bronson, Lee Marvin, and Peter Falk as well as such established stars as silent-film giant Buster Keaton, Art Carney, Mickey Rooney, Ida Lupino and John Carradine.
Here are some of the Twilight Zone stories that are one our favorites list:
Judgement Night has a former U-Boat captain turned eternal passenger wandering the decks of a ship he sank, condemned to cruise on the Queen of Glasgow with his victims for eternity.
The Escape Clause puts us into the mind of hypochondriac who makes a deal with the Devil to live forever. But forever takes on a whole new meaning when he in sentenced to life in prison.
The Midnight Sun takes us into a future in which our displaced sun is moving closer and destined to broil the earth — or is it? We watched as humanity in the form of two woman, one young, one old, struggle to survive the blazing heat and unrelenting thirst. In typical Serling fashion, there’s a punch line that turns even this upside down world upside down.
The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street (a personal favorite) explores our deepest and most primal fears when one small community is cut off from the world and left to sort out the loss power and communication on their own. It’s really an alien experiment, a test that unleashes prejudice, primal fears and suspicions — all manifested as neighbor turns on neighbor, proving that what we are our own worst enemies.
Odyssey of Flight 33 takes us on a journey through time when an otherwise non-eventful flight suddenly passes through time. Without communication, and suddenly flying over a landscape of vegetation and dinosaurs, the pilots realize they cannot land, and must try to find the hole in time that will bring them back to the 20th century. But where in the 20th century?
A Stop At Willoughby is a manifestation of one man’s desire for the peaceful life of yesterday, an escape from the bustle of modern life and a chance at love in a less complicated time. This train ride home has an unexpected stop in that alternate dimension of the Twilight Zone.
Third From the Sun, like all twilight Zone scripts, seems amazingly normal in the beginning. Here we watch as a panicked family steal a spaceship and make their escape from a dying planet — heading — Earth.
To Serve Man (which redefined “serve”). A close encounter with alien life in the form of a high-browed giant alien garbed in long white robes isn’t all that it seems, and even as his his peaceful and conciliatory appeals to a United Nations is put forth, scientists struggle to decipher an alien book that unlocks a deadly secret about serving man — as dinner.
Ray Bradbury’s I Sing the Body Electric features a robotic grandmother created to take care of two children who have lost their own mother. This story was a predecessor to Maureen Stapleton’s marvelous portrayal of the lifelike robot The Electric Grandmother).
Richard Donner’s Nightmare at 20,000 Feet has a young as a nervous passenger imagining a creature clinging to the wing of a plane ouside his window. William Shatner is the man on the edge of sanity, trying to save the plane and its passengers from disaster.
The Eye of the Beholder has a beautiful woman seeking endless surgery change her appearance; but in this society, beauty comes of the form of pig-faced people. The surgery is unsuccessful and relegated to a leper-like colony of other people like herself, considered too “ugly” to mix with normal people.
Time Enough At Last has a book-wormy bank teller (Burgess Meredith) with heavy-lensed glasses sneaking into the bank vault to read. He’s there when the worst happens – a nuclear holocaust. As he roams the rubble, he finds the remnants of a library and all the books he could ever want to read. In the ultimate irony, his glasses break.
During that era of early TV, the screen was filled with an abundance of good story-telling through shows that included The Outer Limits, Boris Karloff and his classic tales of horror, Alfred Hitchcock’s collection of mysteries, One Step Beyond and the British sci-fi/fantasy series Dr. Who (now a new sci-series for the 21st century) and that vintage time-traveling phone booth . Many of these shows are now available on DVD as collections, and they are worth watching, and as entertaining as they were when television was new.
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