The Twilight Zone

Sure, this blog was initially started to keep track of my progress as I watched my way through the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" book, however, my blog, my rules. Therefore, I'm adding this section to pay homage to one of my all-time favorite shows: The Twilight Zone. It began in 1959 and on a weekly basis Rod Serling (creator of the series) would hold the hands of his viewers, as he led them into a fifth dimension: "a dimension not only of sight and sound, but of mind". Anyway, after receiving the entire set as a Christmas gift, I started watching my through from the very first episode. Up until that point, I'd only seen the series on the SyFy channel, where it was shown in reruns, late at night. Also, at that point, I'd only seen about half of all the episodes. Here, I'll chronicle my progress as I watch the entire series and assign a letter grade rating to each episode. That's the sign post up ahead - your next stop THE TWILIGHT ZONE!

Episode 1: Where Is Everybody? 
Original Air Date: October 2, 1959
Starring: Earl Holliman
Directed By: Robert Stevens
Written By: Rod Serling
Letter Grade: B+

One I'd never seen prior to tackling the entire series via DVD. Good debut about a man who wanders into a small town, only to find he's the only man there. No matter how much he searches and calls out for "somebody", "anybody", he finds no one. Comes complete with a twist ending that set-up the series and let viewers know what to expect from the series.

Episode 2: One for the Angels 
Original Air Date: October 9, 1959
Starring: Ed Wynn, Murray Hamilton
Directed By: Robert Parrish
Written By: Rod Serling
Letter Grade D

With "The Zone", you normally got something creepy, something clever or something silly and this falls under the latter category. It's sweet and all, but when I watch TZ I yearn for that twist ending, that "holy shit" moment and this just doesn't cut it, as it tells the story of Death coming for an aging salesman.

Episode 3: Mr. Denton on Doomsday
Original Air Date: October 16, 1959
Starring: Dan Duryea, Martin Landau, Jeanne Cooper, Malcolm Atterbury
Directed By: Allen Reisner
Written By: Rod Serling
Letter Grade: C

Enough of a twist ending and good performances all around from the actors listed above (save for the actress, who wasn't prominent enough) and this one gets a passing grade. It's a western themed episode about a town drunk who was formerly the "fastest gun in the west" and who accidentally killed a kid, which made him turn to the bottle. Enter Henry J. Fate - a salesman of potions, elixirs and anything a "rummy" might need to regain his steady hand.

Episode 4: The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine
Original Air Date: October 23, 1959
Starring: Ida Lupino, Martin Balsam
Directed By: Mitchell Leisen
Written By: Rod Serling
Letter Grade: D-

Definitely the worst one to that point. It tells of an aging actress who can't face the fact that she's not in the spotlight anymore (think "Sunset Boulevard"). Lupino and Balsam are good, but the story isn't nearly engaging enough and the ending is just too silly to be taken seriously.

Episode 5: Walking Distance 
Original Air Date: October 30, 1959
Starring: Gig Young
Directed By: Robert Stevens
Written By: Rod Serling
Letter Grade: B

Apparently TIME named this the ninth greatest episode of "THE ZONE" ever made, but I beg to differ. It's a good one, for sure, but ninth greatest? I think not. A man leaves his car for some light maintenance and strolls into the nearby town of Homewood, since it's only "walking distance" - the town where he grew up. Upon his arrival, he finds that the town hasn't changed...not one bit.

Episode 6: Escape Clause
Original Air Date: November 6, 1959
Starring: David Wayne, Thomas Gomez
Directed By: Mitchell Leisen
Written By: Rod Serling
Letter Grade: C

One of the sillier ones that does, actually kind of work - especially thanks to the performances of the two leads. Walter Bedecker is a hypochondriac who is visited by the Devil and given the offer to live forever. However, he soon finds out that immortality may be worse than death.

Episode 7: The Lonely
Original Air Date: November 13, 1959
Starring: Jack Warden, Jean Marsh, John Dehner
Directed By: Jack Smight
Written By: Rod Serling
Letter Grade: A+

One of the first ones that I really loved and honestly, it wasn't even THAT creepy and lacked a true, "get the fuck outta here" twist ending. However, it was a great story and featured Jack Warden, who I've always liked a lot. Warden is James Corry, a prisoner being held under solitary confinement on a massive asteroid. His main problem is that he is extremely lonely, so when a three man team brings him supplies (food and such), the captain, Allenby (Dehner) brings along a robot woman, who looks, talks and feels just like a real woman.

Episode 8: Time Enough At Last
Original Air Date: November 20, 1959
Starring: Burgess Meredith
Directed By: John Brahm
Written By: Teleplay By: Rod Serling Based on the Short Story By: Marilyn Venable
Letter Grade: B

So this is the episode that TIME named the best of all-time and while I've always loved this one and still do, once you know how it ends, in my opinion it kind of takes something away from the overall quality. There's no denying though that it IS great and features a wonderful performance from Meredith. It tells of a bookworm who just can't find the time to read. When he reads at home, his wife yells at him; when he reads at work, he gets reprimanded. One day, while at work (as a bank teller) he slips into one of the bank vaults to read a book, when outside an H-bomb destroys everyone and almost everything.

Episode 9: Perchance to Dream
Original Air Date: November 27, 1959
Starring: Richard Conte, John Larch, Suzanne Lloyd
Directed By: Robert Florey
Written By: Charles Beaumont, based on his short story of the same name
Letter Grade: B

Another really good one that I don't think I'd ever seen before. It's a gripping story about a man who believes that if he sleeps, he will be killed in his dream, by a mysterious woman. Call it a precursor to "A Nightmare on Elm Street", if you will.

Episode 10: Judgment Night 
Original Air Date: December 4, 1959
Starring: Nehemiah Persoff
Directed By: John Brahm
Written By: Rod Serling
Letter Grade: D-

Kind of down there with "The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine" as one of the worst I'd seen. I won't go as low as giving it an F, because I guess it wasn't THAT bad and because it did have a credible, decent ending. However, it just wasn't my kind of story. Tells of a submarine captain who is destined to ride the "ghost ship", every night, of a ship he took down during the war.

Episode 11: And When the Sky Was Opened
Original Air Date: December 11, 1959
Starring: Rod Taylor, Charles Aidman, Jim Hutton
Directed By: Douglas Heyes
Written By: Teleplay By: Rod Serling Based on a Short Story By: Richard Matheson
Letter Grade: C+

Pretty good one, that borders on the B-/C+ side of things (I went for the low end). It's based on a Richard Matheson story so it, at least, has to be a little bit good. The story of three men who go on a space mission. Halfway through the mission their ship suddenly goes off the radar, then reappears by crash landing in the desert. As they're being held for observation, the men start to disappear.

Episode 12: What You Need
Original Air Date: December 25, 1959
Starring: Steve Cochran, Ernest Truex
Written By: Rod Serling, adapted from the story of the same name by Lewis Padgett
Letter Grade: B+

I really, really liked this one. It was kind of simple, but it totally worked for me. It was about a salesman (not unlike the one from One for the Angels) who seemed to know exactly what his customers needed, be it a bus ticket to a place where they'd have good fortune or something that would come in handy in saving their life. Steve Cochran also stars as a customer who can't get enough good fortune from the man and stalks him.

Episode 13: The Four of Us Are Dying
Original Air Date: January 1, 1960
Starring: Harry Townes, Phillip Pine, Don Gordon, Ross Martin
Directed By: John Brahm
Written By: Rod Serling, adapted from "All of Us Are Dying", an unpublished story by George Clayton Johnson
Letter Grade: B

Another really good one that I'd definitely never seen before. It's one of the first ones where I thought, "I could watch a feature length movie based around this premise". It's about a man who can, at will, change his appearance. However, he has to see a face before he can mimic it. He collects some obituaries of men who he wants to capitalize on: one man who had a great love and a gangster who had wealth.

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