The Twilight Zone Hall of Fame

Tools    





I found this one too scary when I was a kid too!

Ones that truly scared me as a kid: the one with Cliff Robertson and the dummy.

I don't know what it was about dummies coming to life, but the concept scared the heck out of me - and this episode, I will venture to say, traumatized me. However old I was when I first saw it... I should not have watched it!

(Because the concept was the same, I avoided the movie Magic (1978) with Anthony Hopkins for a long while even though it came out when I was quite a bit older.)

There was another with a dummy (with Jackie Cooper)... I probably saw it much later and it didn't scare me at all. And then there was the one with "Talking Tina" and "Kojak" - the concept was still a bit scary to me.

Another that scared the willies out of me as a kid was the one with the old lady getting calls on her phone from her dead husband! That one made me scared to answer the phone!

I love Cliff Robertson, but that episode scared the heck out of me too.

The one with Talking Tina wasn't as bad, but it was a bit scary too.

The episode "Night Call" was more creepy than scary, and very sad too.

Another episode that gave me nightmares was "Little Girl Lost", when the little girl somehow fell into another dimension behind the wall, and we could hear her, but we couldn't see her, and her parents and their friend were trying to get her back.
__________________
.
If I answer a game thread correctly, just skip my turn and continue with the game.
OPEN FLOOR.



I love Cliff Robertson, but that episode scared the heck out of me too.

The one with Talking Tina wasn't as bad, but it was a bit scary too.

The episode "Night Call" was more creepy than scary, and very sad too.

Another episode that gave me nightmares was "Little Girl Lost", when the little girl somehow fell into another dimension behind the wall, and we could hear her, but we couldn't see her, and her parents and their friend were trying to get her back.
Many feel that "Little Girl Lost" was the direct inspiration for the movie Poltergeist (1982) - not hard to see why.





It's a Good Life, Season 3, Episode 8, 1961

SPOILERS, DUMPLINGS!

In a small town that Serling's ominous introduction tells us used to be in Ohio, we meet Anthony Fremont (Billy Mumy). Anthony is psychic, telekinetic, and has a whole host of other powers that he uses to control and punish the people and creatures around him. All of the people in the town walk around with smiles on their face, desperately telling themselves and Anthony that his domination over them is a good thing. A real good thing.

For me, this may be one of the most iconic episodes of all time. I'm sure most people in this thread will have seen the parody from The Simpsons, and this is also the rare episode without a twist. As Serling says at the end, this was just a glimpse at something truly terrible.

A great little episode.


I've never seen an episode of "The Simpsons". In fact, I don't even like watching the commercials for the show.



I've never seen an episode of "The Simpsons". In fact, I don't even like watching the commercials for the show.
I'm just going to assume that the commercials you're talking about are for the more recent, crappier era of The Simpsons, because the first nine or so seasons of that show are some of the greatest television ever made:






The Midnight Sun, Season 3, Episode 10, 1961

SPOILERS, SNUGGLEBUGS!

Norma (Lois Nettleton) is an artist living in New York City, which has been transformed into a sweltering inferno due to the Earth becoming dislodged in its orbit. With the City abandoned by those trying to eke out a few more days of survival in cooler locations, Norma is left along with her landlady, Mrs. Bronson (Betty Garde). Norma turns to her art to help her cope, but there may be more dangers than the rising temperatures.

This is one of my personal favorite episodes, and I was both happy to see it nominated by someone else and a little jealous that I didn't get to snap it up. Like many of the best episodes, it's even more enjoyable and rewarding on a rewatch.

Just speaking personally, I am NOT a hot weather person. This has always been the case for me, but from 2010-2016, I lived in a house with no air conditioning and I came to dread the two or three weeks in late July/early August where it would be unbearably hot. You wake up, sweating, and things only get more miserable from there. So the visceral reality of being too hot and not being able to do anything about it is a little slice of personal misery that I can relate to.

Anyway, I love everything about this episode and it falls into that "study of human behavior" subgenre of the Twilight Zone that I really enjoy.


Try living with constant hot and cold flashes. One minute I'm cold, so I put on a sweater, but ten minutes later, I'm hot, so I take the sweater off. Then a few minutes later I'm cold again, so I put the sweater on again. Then a few minutes later, I'm cold again, and off goes the sweater again.



I've never seen an episode of "The Simpsons". In fact, I don't even like watching the commercials for the show.
I'm just going to assume that the commercials you're talking about are for the more recent, crappier era of The Simpsons, because the first nine or so seasons of that show are some of the greatest television ever made:


I watch a lot of TV, so I've seen commercials for "The Simpsons" for many years. I've never liked anything about them, and I think they are some of the most annoying characters on TV.

Sorry, but I just don't find that clip funny.



Try living with constant hot and cold flashes. One minute I'm cold, so I put on a sweater, but ten minutes later, I'm hot, so I take the sweater off. Then a few minutes later I'm cold again, so I put the sweater on again. Then a few minutes later, I'm cold again, and off goes the sweater again.
The one thing that always bothered me about The Midnight Sun was the home invader guy shows up wearing a jacket!

I know it's a nit-pick, but if the world is broiling why does he have a long-sleeved coat on?



(My "no-prize" type answer is that he might need it for other things; like bedding at night or to put over his head as shielding from direct sunlight. So maybe wearing it is just easier than carrying it, especially if he's going to need to use his hands - like to brandish his weapon for instance.)



The one thing that always bothered me about The Midnight Sun was the home invader guy shows up wearing a jacket!

I know it's a nit-pick, but if the world is broiling why does he have a long-sleeved coat on?



(My "no-prize" type answer is that he might need it for other things; like bedding at night or to put over his head as shielding from direct sunlight. So maybe wearing it is just easier than carrying it, especially if he's going to need to use his hands - like to brandish his weapon for instance.)

I think that's just another one of those little plot holes where you have to just suspend disbelief for it to work. Just pick a random reason why he might be wearing a coat, and let it slide. (My guess is that he needed the pockets in the coat for his gun.)



The one thing that always bothered me about The Midnight Sun was the home invader guy shows up wearing a jacket!

I know it's a nit-pick, but if the world is broiling why does he have a long-sleeved coat on?
Lots of people in glaring, hot weather countries wear long-sleeves. It keeps you from getting badly sunburned on your arms and back.

But I also think that with Norma already being down to wearing her slip, perhaps a shirtless man barging into her home would have been deemed too threatening. Or you could see it as representing someone trying to hold onto a vestige of his "old life".

I thought of this too, but I just consider it one of those plot holes where you have to suspend your disbelief to allow it to make sense.
I just feel like there could have been a better explanation, like he was picking people up at night and got them from different stops, so some of the people were sleeping when others were picked up. Honestly, it doesn't bother me that much, but I just picked up on it a bit more this time. Like, is anyone really telling me that the loudmouth Elam character---who has a comment for everything--got on a bus and no one noticed?

I've never seen an episode of "The Simpsons". In fact, I don't even like watching the commercials for the show.
That's fair. They used The Twilight Zone as an inspiration for many of their horror-themed episodes. They used "Little Girl Lost" as the basis for an episode where Homer falls into the 3rd dimension.






Nothing in the Dark, Season 3, Episode 16, 1962

SPOILERS, KIDDOS!

Wanda Dunn (Gladys Cooper) is an elderly woman living in a run-down basement tenement apartment. When a young policeman named Harold (Robert Redford) is shot outside her door, Wanda very reluctantly brings him into her apartment. But Wanda's fears about the outside world are very specific: she is sure that she is being hunted by Death and she's afraid that she may have invited him inside.

This episode gets me every time. Every. Single. Time.

For me, this is one of those episodes where the central theme--about the fear of death--can easily be extrapolated out more broadly to represent any kind of anxiety or fear. This episode is one that I first watched when I was having some struggles with anxiety and fear, and the final message that "there's nothing in the dark that isn't there when the lights are on" was an important one for me to hear at that time. Wanda is a person who has let her fear consume her and her life. She anxiety has closed her off from other people, from the outside world, and even from the sunlight. It's not that she's wrong about her anxiety--death is a thing that exists and in fact it is a certainty--but she has let it take over her whole self in a pathological way. There's a great shot where she grips the bars of her headboard, and it visually presents as someone in a cage or prison.

I really love Gladys Cooper in the lead role. It is a perfect performance to make you wonder what she is right about and what might be delusion. She's well-matched by Robert Redford (who looks about 12 years old) who is honestly horrified at the nature of the life that Wanda is living. He is ridiculously handsome and soft-spoken, and it highlights the cruel nature of the way that he tricks her, using her own compassion about the fear of death to get her to open her door.

But what I like about this episode the most, is that I think it's actually really scary, up to and including the "happy" ending. Wanda is afraid of the unknown and of dying, and I don't blame her! When Harold stands up from the bed, suddenly just fine, and advances on Wanda, woof. It's creepy. And there's something, to me, about his character that always retains an edge of menace, especially when he tells her "the running's over." While it's couched in talk about the old making way for the new, and moving on to a new "beginning", it doesn't change the fact that Wanda doesn't really have a choice in what's happening to her.

A personal favorite.






An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, Season 5, Episode 22, 1962

SPOILERS, LAMBS!

At the end of the Civil War, a Southern civilian named Peyton Farquhar (Roger Jacquet) is to be hanged for having destroyed a bridge. As he is dropped, noose around his neck, from a bridge, the rope snaps and he makes a run for his life, visions of his family surging and ebbing every time he closes his eyes.

I was absolutely shocked to find that I had not seen this before. When I saw the title, I thought it was that one where there are all the people passing by, and then it turns out it's everyone who was killed in the Civil War.

Anyway!

First of all, I think it is super cool that the Twilight Zone took a short film from another country and aired it on broadcast television. Streaming has made finding short films a lot easier these days, but even now it can sometimes be annoyingly difficult to find and watch even relatively well-reviewed and popular short films.

Like The Invaders, I absolutely loved the almost complete dearth of dialogue. I know that this is practical to a degree (because the actors are all French), but it only adds to the dream-like quality of the episode.

There were so many artistic choices that I loved here. The shot of Farquhar on the plank with the executing officer standing on the other end. That moment in the beginning when Farquhar closes his eyes and we get a slow motion shot of what is either a memory of his childhood or an image of his wife and child. The extended underwater sequence when he falls in to the creek and must untangle himself to swim to the surface.

This was a really lovely, otherworldly story with some really beautiful sequences. It is a departure from the usual look of the series (because of course it was not made by the show), but its plot and themes are right in line.






The Encounter, Season 5, Episode 31, 1964

On a hot summer day, gardener Arthur (George Takei) comes to the home of Mr. Fenton (Neville Brand), a World War 2 veteran to work out an arrangement for Arthur to take care of Fenton's lawn. Fenton invites Arthur to stay for a beer, which he reluctantly does. But soon the two men get into a series of discussions about the intersection of their present lives and the legacy of the War. As tensions rise, they find themselves trapped in the attic along with a sword that seems to have power over both of them.

This is another episode I'd not watched before (and another episode where I thought I had because I'd mixed up the title with the episode where the WW2 officer suddenly finds himself transformed into a Japanese commander boxed in by American troops).

I was a little mixed on this episode, to be honest, with some things that I really loved and some other things that gave me a bit of pause.

To begin with the strengths, the performances from Takei and Brand are both very strong. In an episode where there are literally only two actors, you need good performances and good chemistry, and the actors both deliver on that front. Takei's Arthur vacillates between being affable and deferential to angry and anguished. In parallel, Fenton vacillates between being companionable and being insulting and aggressive.

I also thought that the episode, and especially in the first half, showed the way that something as traumatic as a war can have long-lasting implications, even for someone like Arthur who was only 4 years old when the War was raging. Arthur has done a lot of work to suppress indicators of his Japanese heritage: he pretends not to understand the language, he has changed his name, and he generally skirts away from the topic of the war. Fenton, on the other hand, has an attic full of memorabilia. Interestingly, most of it is Japanese in nature: flags and a sword he took from a Japanese officer he killed. Fenton also has a drinking problem, and despite claiming to like Arthur, he calls him a "Jap" and "boy" and repeatedly denies Arthur being American.

I also liked the idea that both men, as is stated explicitly in the closing monologue, are grappling with guilt, and that those strong emotions come out in volatile ways.

But it's the question of guilt where I took a bit of an issue with the episode. Fenton's guilt is a bit more straight-forward: he killed a man who had surrendered to him. He despairs that he was led to believe that Japanese people were barely human, and that there was no shame in slaughtering them. He certainly believes what Arthur says of him: that he is a murderer.

But Arthur's guilt, for me, was a little more contrived. By his account, his father was a traitor, a man who moved to America but then assisted the Japanese with their attack on Pearl Harbor. I mean . . . no. Just no. To me, this is a major miscalculation in the episode. Even with the idea of artistic license, this version of events (which is totally not grounded in anything) plays into the idea that Japanese-Americans were complicit in the attacks. The episode never addresses the fact that those biases led to internment for Japanese-Americans. A friend of our family was interred at such a camp where his father, a school superintendent, was killed by American soldiers. I can understand why Japanese and Asian-American advocacy groups came down hard on this episode.

I wish that instead of centering on guilt, the film had gone with the idea of both of these men experiencing anguish. I even kind of like the idea that each man is here matched with someone who could in theory make them feel better: Arthur could "absolve" Fenton of his murder of the Japanese officer and Fenton could indicate to Arthur that he seems him as a man, not as an "other". But in trying to mirror guilt, the writers here create a false equivalency that plays into some damaging stereotypes about the Japanese-American complicity in the actions of the Japanese military.

For me, this episode started out very strong but then lost its way a bit.






Wordplay, Season 1, Episode 2a, 1985

SPOILERS, CHICKADEES!

Bill Lowery (Robert Klein) works as a salesman moving medical equipment. He lives with his wife (Annie Potts) and their young son. Stressed over learning the new names of the equipment he's selling, Bill suddenly finds that the people around him are using strange words in what they say. As the day goes on, the language around Bill slips into increasingly complex nonsense.

I haven't seen any episodes from the 1980s revival of the show, so these last few will all be new to me!

I liked this episode (written by Farscape's Rockne O'Bannon and directed by Wes Craven), and it was one of those episodes where what it made me think of kept shifting.

Initially, the episode almost seemed like a cranky older person's "kids these days!" kind of complaint, where the shifting of language can become disorienting to people who aren't fully tapped into the zeitgeist.

But as the episode progressed, and especially as a desperate Bill tries to get his very sick son medical care at a hospital where he no longer understands even the most basic directions or questions, it made me think of what certain experiences must be like for people who live in a place where they do not speak/read the language. It also made me think of what things must be like for people who are impacted by certain neurological events, like a stroke, where the language-processing centers are damaged or impaired.

There isn't really a twist in this episode. The format of the episode is very much the classic Twilight Zone "the world around me has gone crazy" plot, and we watch Bill's mounting frustration and confusion as his co-workers' and wife's communications with him go from a little off to totally incomprehensible.

I did have to laugh a little at the closing narration, which lacks a bit of the usual punch. The monologue kind of boils down to "Why did this weird thing happen to this one dude? Who knows? This is the Twilight Zone, man."

A simple but effective episode and I look forward to the others from this series.




Congrats, Takoma. Just remember that trying to be the best at anything carries its own special risk in or out of the Movie Forums.



Almost!

I still need to watch Chameleon.
Oh, whoops. I assumed you reviewed all three of them at the same time. I take it you're going to rank the 1985 episode as one episode at the end, not three separate episodes.

Also, the last nomination actually has three parts to it: Wordplay, Dreams for Sale, and Chameleon, so it looks like you have the final two parts of it to review.



Congrats, Takoma. Just remember that trying to be the best at anything carries its own special risk in or out of the Movie Forums.
Takoma will learn that lesson soon as she's about to enter the Twilight Zone.