THE BEST & SELECTED FAVORITES OF SEASON 2
THE TWILIGHT ZONE kicked off its second season in much the same fashion as its inaugural debut of WHERE IS EVERYBODY?, an episode that, for the bulk of its 25 minute running time, revolved around a single character that found himself in a bizarre predicament that only got worse as the panic and paranoia increased. KING NINE WILL NOT RETURN was almost a remake of that season starter. Aside from the familiarity of the first show, second time is the charm for this series as there were a healthy amount of episodes that are considered some of the best of the entire TZ run.
Everything that made the first go round an incredibly entertaining, thought provoking venture, is found here as well. One thing becomes noticeably different--since the show was shot on 35mm film, CBS assumed that by shooting on video, the show would save a lot of money. What they didn't bank on was that much of the shows signature look, sound and feel was lost on the less vibrant videotape format. Thankfully, only six shows were recorded this way, but no doubt they could have been far more exceptional had they been shot on film. This especially applies to episode 17, 'Twenty Two'. This one has a FINAL DESTINATION vibe about it as a young woman keeps having nightmares of a strange woman beckoning her into room 22 which happens to be the morgue. At least one of these shot on video shows has survived the test of time as a true classic and some are considered true stinkers.
Another difference between the first and second seasons are the number of episodes. Season one had a generous 36 shows while season two managed only 29 programs; no doubt part of the studios cost cutting measures that was thankfully remedied with season 3, which had the largest number of episodes with 37 in total.
An impressive stable of television and movie stars were peppered throughout this season, some of them being horror mainstays while others became popular faces that frequently entered THE TWILIGHT ZONE--Burgess Meredith, John Carradine, Art Carney (THE HONEYMOONERS), Donna Douglas (THE BEVERLY HILLBILLY'S), Agnes Morehead (BEWITCHED), Billy Mumy, William Shatner (STAR TREK), Dennis Weaver (GUNSMOKE), John Astin (THE ADDAMS FAMILY), Dick York (BEWITCHED), Buddy Ebsen (THE BEVERLY HILLBILLY'S) and Russell Johnson (GILLIGAN'S ISLAND) were some of the most recognizable faces this time out. The following is strictly my opinion of the best episodes of season two followed by a small list of additional, worthy shows.
There's a centuries old saying that 'there's nothing to fear but fear itself'--fear of the dark, fear of the unknown, fear of ones self, the fear of the future and what it may bring. Some eat it like candy, others let it consume them till there's nothing left but an empty, miserable shell. For some, overcoming their fear is a rite of passage that leads to an epiphany of solace. For others, it's being dealt a bad hand in a poker game. It's the way the cookie crumbles in the Twilight Zone.
Episode 41: THE HOWLING MAN
Dazed, confused and lost in a raging storm, David Ellington is given shelter at an isolated hermitage, but is urged to leave as soon as possible. Over the course of the dark and stormy night, Ellington hears what sounds like the wailing of a man emanating from the halls of the hermitage. Told that no man is being held within the confines of the convent, Ellington later speaks with a captive who claims he has been imprisoned by the brothers of the order. Threatening to go to the police, brother Jerome tells Ellington he saw no man, but the devil himself. Simply one of the best, most eerie TZ episodes ever conceived. Surreal atmosphere aided by tilted camera angles and a story from Charles Beaumont that appears to have been inspiration to the 1978 movie, THE EVIL. An amazing morality tale that also has a heavy dose of horror and fantasy.
Episode 42: EYE OF THE BEHOLDER
Janet Tyler, her entire head wrapped in bandages, anxiously awaits the results of her most recent operation to make her beautiful enabling her to fit in with society. Rod Serling wrote this series defining episode, ably directed by Douglas Heyes, who also helmed 'The Howling Man' and also 'The Invaders'--three top shows of the series. This incredibly simple premise contains enough surrealism, creepiness and social subtext in its 25 minutes to fill a full length feature. Masterfully photographed by George T. Clemens, the ZONE's most prolific DP, the viewer feels they are immersed in a world that is possibly not our own. Ironically enough, this episode resonates to an alarming degree in the era we live in right now.
Episode 43: NICK OF TIME
Newlyweds, Don and Pat Carter stop off in the small Ohio town of Ridgeview for car repairs on their way to New York to start a new life together. Having lunch in a diner, they find their lives are put in turmoil when a napkin holder doubling as a devil bobble headed fortune teller feeds them their future for a penny per question. Captain Kirk's first of two TZ programs speaks volumes on how superstition can penetrate modern sensibilities relegating the most sophisticated minds to oldeworld thinking. Underneath that there's themes on attaining confidence in ones own abilities leading to a future made prosperous, or canceled based solely on decisions one makes for themselves and not some kooky looking fortune teller in an out of the way diner. A brilliant episode from Richard L. Bare ('To Serve Man').
Episode 47: NIGHT OF THE MEEK
Henry Corwin, a down on his luck alcoholic who does seasonal work as a mall Santa loses his job on Christmas Eve for less than merry behavior. Stumbling down a lonely alley, Henry witnesses a can full of trash magically transformed into a bag of gifts. He proceeds to help out the less fortunate on Skid Row by passing out presents that seem to flow endlessly from the mystical bag. Once his job is complete, Henry is visited by an elf with a special proposition. One of two TZ Christmas episodes, this one has went on to be one of the most beloved of the series and one of the most exemplary scripts to deal with the Christmas holidays as well as one of Serling's finest half hours.
Episode 49: BACK THERE
On April 14th, 1961, Pete Corrigan and a few of his social circle at the Potomac Club in D.C. discuss the probabilities of time travel and the altering of history. Upon leaving the club, Corrigan becomes disoriented and quickly discovers he is no longer in modern day Washington D.C., but has somehow been transported back to April 14th, 1865, the night of president Lincoln's assassination. Yet another brilliant Serling episode that has just the right amount of tension and eerie atmosphere accompanied by arguably the creepiest music ever composed by Jerry Goldsmith. A couple of nicely integrated twists round out this distinguished episode.
Episode 51: THE INVADERS
An old woman discovers a UFO has landed in her attic and spends the remainder of the night in a death struggle against the alien invaders. Another incredibly simple premise that encompasses tight suspense, impeccable lighting effects, goosebump inducing music and absolutely no dialog. Yet another shock ending that comes up from behind knocking the viewer silly. The little "wind up" aliens in their metallic armor look just that, but are occasionally convincing and still contain an air of menace especially when armed with knives. The fact that these mini monsters are seldom seen save for the sound of their footsteps and the peculiar noises they make, the sense of fear, terror and tension is heightened. One of Richard Matheson's best for this series.
Episode 58: LONG DISTANCE CALL
On his 5th birthday, the young Billy Bayles receives a toy telephone from his dying grandmother. After she has passed away, Billy's parents notice their son carrying on conversations on his toy phone. When asked who he's talking to, Billy says his grandmother. This was one of six TZ episodes shot on tape for purposes of saving a few thousand dollars, but at the expense of that signature look the show was "naked" without. Still, this particular show was arguably the best of the videotaped bunch. It's both touching and grim in its view of loss, moving on and parental values. It also gets a tad bit morbid when the child is seemingly beckoned to commit suicide so as to join the dead grandmother on the other side!
Episode 64: WILL THE REAL MARTIAN PLEASE STAND UP?
A strange object is reported having crashed in a frozen lake. Two policemen discover tracks coming from the body of water and leading to an out of the way diner which is inundated with patrons; bus passengers stranded after a bridge is reported unsafe from the onslaught of snow. This is another Serling scripted show again dealing with alien visitors. This one is evenly balanced with suspense and modest laughs. The whole show takes place on a single set as the various multitude of characters attempt to pinpoint just who among them is not of this Earth. There's a nice, if morbid twist at the end.
Episode 65: THE OBSOLETE MAN
Deemed obsolete by the government, Romney Wordsworth is on trial for being a librarian, promoting the reading of books. Condemned to death by this totalitarian regime, he's given his choice of liquidation which is to be televised on national TV for all to see. Burgess Meredith again showcases his skills in this frightening fantasy vision of a government with complete and total control over the populace. It's yet another episode that could possibly prove prophetic in light of the way the US government is attempting to gain more and more control over our lives. This episode, like 'Eye of the Beholder', is one of the most nightmarishly surreal experiences of the entire series.
Unlike season 1, the second go round ended strong, an aura that carried over into the third season and another healthy string of horror and science fiction heavy programs only slightly less cerebral than the two prior seasons.
Other episodes from season two worthy of note:
MR. DINGLE, THE STRONG
A PENNY FOR YOUR THOUGHTS
THE PRIME MOVER
A HUNDRED YARDS OVER THE RIM
THE RIP VAN WINKLE CAPER
Your trip so far has been long and exhaustive. You're out of gas, tired and simply wish to rest for the night. You Stop Over In A Quiet Town, overwhelmed by an unnatural silence. The blackness engulfs you in a penetrating loneliness. Gasping for air you awaken in a brightness that burns your eyes and parches your throat. You are alone, but in the middle of a deserted highway...