The Twilight Zone Forever

From the Paley Center Collection

The following excerpts from The Twilight Zone are culled from five episodes all written by series creator, host, and narrator Rod Serling, and best illuminate the multifaceted aspects of his distinctive author’s voice—both aurally and verbally—that travel the spectrum from sentimental to surreal, from poignant and poetic, to pungent and trenchant. 

 

People are alike all over
I’m sure that when God made human beings
He developed them from a fixed formula
As long as they’ve got minds and hearts
That means they have souls
That makes them people
And people are alike

—From “People Are Alike All Over,” 1960.

 

"In His Image" (January 3, 1963)
Opening title sequence from the episode "In His Image."

“Walking Distance” (October 30, 1959)
This clip contains three parts:

1.
The carousel scene directed by Robert Stevens (whose only other Twilight Zone was the series’ pilot episode par excellence, “Where is Everybody?”) is one of the most stylized (note the tilted camera angles), staged, lit, and choreographed scenes in the show’s storied history; it’s the bittersweet, melancholy flipside to the frantic, famous carousel climax in Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train (1951).
2.
The confrontation between Gig Young and his character’s father, played by Frank Overton, contains the poetic dialogue that was the most beautiful aspect of Rod Serling’s writing, as Young gives voice to Serling’s nostalgic longing for his own “Homewood” of Binghamton, New York.
3.
Serling’s closing, voiceover narrations (he only appeared on-camera for his episode introductions) are one of The Twilight Zone’s distinctive, trademark elements, ranking along with the telltale theme music, the iconic graphics, and the iconic presence of Serling himself; his voiceover here completes the triad of poetic excerpts from Serling’s most sentimental—yet haunting—episode of The Twilight Zone.

 
“The Hitch-Hiker” (January 22, 1960)
The converse of Serling’s sentimentality was his surreality—the very foundation of The Twilight Zone—as evidenced in this episode’s eerie conclusion, in which Serling deftly describes the state of consciousness that would come with the radical realization that one is dead, not alive (the “sixth sense”), that Inger Stevens’s sad eyes heartbreakingly convey, lit and lensed in deep chiaroscuro by Emmy-winning Twilight Zone director of photography George T. Clemens.
 
“The Monsters are Due on Maple Street” (March 4, 1960)
(clip includes Claude Akin's rant, the final scene, and the closing narration)
In Claude Akins’s reprimanding rant of his mob-like Main Street neighbors, and Serling’s concluding narration, you’ll hear the writer’s diatribe directed to the previous decade’s Red Scare, HUAC hearings, naming names and blacklisting that were the human fallout and dark legacy of the 1950s, that would have continued into the ‘60s if not for the efforts of creative activists like Serling and Kirk Douglas (who hired the blacklisted Dalton Trumbo to write the screenplay of Spartacus, released seven months after “The Monsters...” aired).
 
“Mirror Image” (February 26, 1960)
Vera Miles’ mesmerizing monologue is Serling’s own recollection of the “parallel worlds” theories gleaned from the countless science fiction, fantasy, and horror tales Serling was, in his own words, “unabashedly and admittedly an admirer of.”
   
“On Thursday We Leave for Home” (May 2, 1963)
Serling, who died in 1975, before he could see his crowning creation, The Twilight Zone, become the twentieth century pop-cultural touchstone that it is, only wanted to be remembered as “a writer.” No better example of Serling’s writing—television dialogue as spoken word poetry—need be proffered than James Whitmore’s reverie, “I remember the earth...”

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