Spend Halloween in the Wondrous Dimension of Imagination

Anyone who thinks TWILIGHT ZONE is not scary has obviously yet to see Living Doll (1963).

Anyone who thinks TWILIGHT ZONE is not scary has obviously yet to see Living Doll (1963).

For Halloween this year, I have decided to take a brief journey into The Twilight Zone, the only show that can truly contend against Star Trek as my favorite television series of all time. Here are the episodes I plan to watch in my mini-marathon.

“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. 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 The Twilight Zone until near the end. This is a very unusual episode that remains one of my all-time favorites.

“Elegy”
Aired: February 19, 1960
Written by Charles Beaumont
Starring: Cecil Kellaway
Directed by Douglas Heyes

“The time is the day after tomorrow. The place, a far corner of the universe.”

Nearly out of fuel, three lost astronauts land on an asteroid that is amazingly Earth-like–except that all of the people are frozen in place.

Though they are dated in terms of accuracy, I always enjoy The Twilight Zone‘s space exploration stories. This is one I have not watched as often as, say, “I Shot Arrow Into The Air” or “And When The Sky Was Opened,” so I am looking forward to seeing it again.

“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.

William Shatner about to pull back the curtain on terror in TWILIGHT ZONE: Nightmare At 20,000 Feet (1963)

William Shatner about to pull back the curtain on terror in TWILIGHT ZONE: Nightmare At 20,000 Feet (1963)

“Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” 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.

“The Masks”
Aired: March 20, 1964
Written by Rod Serling
Starring: Robert Keith
Directed by Ida Lupino

Knowing that he is near death, a rich old man summons his greedy family members to his home on the night of Mardis Gras. He forces them to wear special masks indicative of their inner selves until midnight or be disinherited.

“This is New Orleans, Mardis Gras time. It is also the Twilight Zone.”

Many people feel uneasy about wearing masks and perhaps this episode, one of the best, explains why.

“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.

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 is very expensive. He upsets the little girl over the cost, and she runs off to her room. With no one else around, he finds that the doll says quite different things to him.

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

Of course, now, all these years later, I am no longer afraid of such things.

I have conquered my childish fears.

I just hope my wife does not mind sleeping with the lights on Saturday night.

[Source for episode information and quotes: The Twilight Zone Companion: Second Edition by Marc Scott Zicree, 1989.]


Portions of this post first appeared on October 29, 2006, and October 28, 2007, on The Film Frontier blog.

2 thoughts on “Spend Halloween in the Wondrous Dimension of Imagination

  1. “The Twilight Zone” is on a very short list of my favourite shows, for sure. And Rod Serling, I think, is a hero of early television. Your list frustrates me a bit in that I don’t recognize all the episodes! I thought I was aware of most of the shows in the series. The show was always so thought-provoking and got me thinking what I would do in similar circumstances. I made it required viewing for my two sons early in their lives. I’ve always enjoyed reading Serling’s writing, as well. I know you were going for more “horror”-themed episodes but some other favourites of mine include: “The Lonely”, “Eye of the Beholder”, “The Midnight Sun” and “To Serve Man” – “It’s a cook book!”. All-time fave may be the clinic Burgess Meredith puts on in “Time Enough at Last”.

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    • That’s another great list of episodes you have there, Wellsy. That’s the thing with The Twilight Zone, there were so many classics. They just don’t make ’em like that anymore.

      A few years ago, I read a wonderful book called Rod Serling and The Twilight Zone: The 50th Anniversary Tribute by Douglas Brode, which took almost a literary approach to analyzing the best of the episodes. I highly recommend it to fellow fans if you have not come across it before.

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