A “Twilight Zone” Halloween

Not exactly being a party animal, I’ve celebrated the last several Halloweens by watching horror movie marathons. I tend to stick with horror movies made in the 1950s through the 1980s.

A couple of the ones I’ve done in past years were a Nightmare on Elm Street marathon and a Vincent Price marathon (classics like House of Wax and House of Usher).

This year, though, I’m scaling it back a bit as far as time. In order to get the most bang in a two-hour timeframe, I’m going to have a Twilight Zone marathon instead. Here are the episodes I’ve selected.

“Nightmare at 20,000 Feet”
Aired: October 11, 1963
Written by Richard Matheson
Starring: William Shatner
Directed by Richard Donner

Recently recovered from a nervous breakdown and anxious about flying, a man sees a shadowy figure on a wing of the plane as it flies through a thunderstorm. The figure attempts to rip apart the engine and always moves out of sight before anyone else looks. Given his history, everyone begins to doubt his sanity.

“Tonight, he’s traveling all the way to his appointed destination which . . . happens to be in the darkest corner of the Twilight Zone.”

This was William Shatner’s second and final journey into the Twilight Zone, three years before his Star Trek debut.

“Nightmare” was the first of a half dozen Twilight Zones for then 33-year-old television director Richard Donner. Donner, of course, later broke into feature films with 1976’s The Omen and 1978’s Superman.

Both Donner and Shatner’s talents shine in this episode, one of the scariest for the Twilight Zone. I first encountered this story as a remake in Twilight Zone: The Movie, but the original television version is much better.

“And When The Sky Was Opened”
Aired: December 11, 1959
Written by Rod Serling & Richard Matheson
Starring: Rod Taylor
Directed by Douglas Heyes

Three astronauts survive the crash of the X-20, an experimental spacecraft returning from her maiden voyage. Major Gart is hospitalized, but Colonel Forbes and Colonel Harrington are well enough to go out for a night of drinking.

Harrington gets a strange feeling and decides to call his parents. They tell him they have no son. He soon vanishes, and Forbes is the only person who can remember him. Even Gart remembers there only being two astronauts aboard the X-20. To his horror, Forbes realizes that now he has a strange feeling.

“If any of you have any questions concerning an aircraft and three men who flew her, speak softly of them and only in the Twilight Zone.”

“And When The Sky…” was one of the first Twilight Zones I can remember watching. The idea that a person’s entire existence could be so completely erased is horrifying in that subtle way that only Twilight Zone could deliver.

“Judgment Night”
Aired: December 4, 1959
Written by Rod Serling
Starring: Nehemiah Persoff
Directed by John Brahm

A man aboard a British sea freighter bound for New York during World War II is convinced it is about to be attacked by a German U-boat. At the precise time of his prediction, a U-boat surfaces for an attack and he is shocked to learn why he knew.

“This is judgment night in the Twilight Zone.”

This is another one of the first episodes I ever saw. I suppose early exposures to the Twilight Zone tend to stick with you, and the conclusion of “Judgment Night” is definitely no exception.

“The Howling Man”
Aired: November 4, 1960
Written by Charles Beaumont
Starring: H.M. Wynant
Directed by Douglas Heyes

On foot through a terrible storm, a man seeks refuge in a monastery. The brothers turn him away but when he passes out, they allow him to stay the night. He is awakened by a loud howling that the brothers claim not to hear. He tracks it to a man, locked in a cell by the brothers. Though the man appears innocent, the brothers claim he is the devil and must not be freed.

“A man who knocked on a door seeking sanctuary found instead the outer edges of the Twilight Zone.”

I first saw “The Howling Man” as a teenager, flipping through stations in the middle of the night. Since I had missed the beginning, I actually had no idea it was a Twilight Zone until near the end. A very unusual episode that remains one of my all-time favorites.

“Living Doll”
Aired: November 1, 1963
Written by Jerry Sohl
Starring: Telly Savalas
Directed by Richard C. Sarafian

For whatever reason, I was afraid of dolls as a kid. I think it stems back to a dream I had about my older sister’s room where her dolls were all alive and staring at me.

At least, I think it was a dream.

With that being the case, this episode scared the @!#?@! out of me as a kid.

A man’s stepdaughter brings home a new doll that can talk: “My name is Talky Tina, and I love you very much.” Sweet, except for the fact that she’s very expensive. He upsets the little girl over the cost and she runs off to her room. With no one else around (of course), he finds that the doll says quite different things to him, like “My name is Talky Tina, and I’m going to kill you.”

“She is a most unwelcome addition to his household but without her, he’d never enter the Twilight Zone.”

Of course, now, I’m no longer afraid of such things.

I have conquered my childish fears.

I just hope my wife doesn’t mind sleeping with the lights on Tuesday night.