Day 22 - Your favorite horror themed TV show –
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This might be my most controversial pick on the 30 Day Horror Challenge. The Twilight Zone… horror? I realize it is more Science Fiction than gore splitting terror, but I think we can all agree that there are definitely more horrifying episodes amongst the alien invaders and strange interplanetary meetings than meets the eye. Robots are horror right? So are psychic powers, people coming back from the dead, ventriloquist dummies coming to life and swapping places with their puppeteers. There’s plenty to be horrified by.
I got into this series the same way I got into half of what I’m into now. My father taped a Twilight Zone special off television for me. It was on too late to watch. They were showing Monsters Are Due on Maple Street, The Dummy, The Invaders and Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder. That’s a great list right? Those are at least four of the top ten episodes you wait for when you watch one of those 24 hour or 48 hour or week long Zone marathons. Add in Time Enough at Last and you can go to bed before midnight… if you’re most blokes.
I used to love waiting up for Living Doll. Now that one really creeped me out. Telly Savalas as the evil stepfather who really doesn’t want kids and the evil doll that will end up killing him. Talkie Tina still wants to kill me at 3 a.m. at my Uncle’s house on July 4th weekend as many as 18 years ago. Every time I hear the click of a welding torch igniter I think of this episode.
The show is a time capsule for me. I like different episodes for a variety of reasons. I think the most peculiar one I enjoy is A Stop At Willoughby. I used to watch it on repeat while sipping many a cocktail (most who witnessed would use the wording neverending cocktail). I had started my first serious job and was feeling the “Push, Push” of the business world. “It’s Push Push all the way, all the time!”. Boy did I feel just like the protagonist in that one. I often wanted to stop at Willoughby (perhaps that’s why I stopped drinking). I still look for Westport/Saugatau when I drive around Connecticut. It exists. I swear it. So does Willoughby incidentally… I bet.
I had a ventriloquist dummy before I watched The Dummy. I thought it was alive. I duct taped the fucker and threw him in a drawer. I made sure his mouth could never open. Maybe it was a daydream but I can still swear I heard the rat bastard speak one afternoon while my mother cooked dinner and I laid back over my bed. No proof. That’s the only thing that saved that Charlie McCarthy doll from the tools in the basement. Shortly after that I went through a period of arming my G.I. Joe’s and Rambo toys to watch my sisters porcelain doll collection too. A dear friend of mine even related to me having a similar experience with the fuckin’ McCarthy doll. I kinda wanna buy one just to torture it into speaking again. The nightmares that doll caused before watching the Dummy episode of the Twilight Zone were intense and realistic. Just imagine what they were like after seeing dummy really talk on television. It’s giving me the heebie jeebies just writing this.
Nick of Time is perfect. Young William Shatner addicted to a pay as you go fortune telling device in a diner. Let me tell you. I spent time in diners. Smoking. Drinking coffee. Eating fries. I could spend hours in a dinner and maybe not half of the time I did actually spend in them was nearly as interesting or productive as the time Shatner and his new bride spend in this one. Life actually happens (or doesn’t happen) all at the drop of a penny and the wobble of the Devil’s head. I still want one of those toys they’re selling. I could dispense business cards from it… or maybe I could let it tell my coworker’s futures and keep them under its spell. If you don’t remember this one go check it out. You may never know what you are missing if you don’t.
Time Enough at Last always got me good. As you get older (and you will) you realize that there isn’t time for anything. You overwork yourself, trying to get ahead. Trying to be the good worker bee, father, grounds keeper and you cherish the miniscule moments when you can actually enjoy what you are passionate about. In my case it’s the good ol’ fashion horror pictures. I find myself cramping in minutes with my Fangoria magazine in between bites of cereal before I start my work day. I stay up late at night to watch classic genre pictures that nobody (and that excludes you dear audience) would want to see. I even listen to podcasts and read blogs between accounts during my work day. Burgess Meredith taught me how to find the time to enjoy what I’m passionate about. If a bomb goes off and I’m left alone to have all the time I could ever want to enjoy all the horror movies, books, mags etc. I’ll make sure to keep at least a few extra pairs of spectacles around. I have nightmares about not having an extra pair around. For real.
Side Note: I also have nightmares in July (usually July) about not having a Halloween costume picked out. Everyone’s ready to go out Trick or Treating and I’m left without a costume. Also, the first year I didn’t go out Trick or Treating I stayed home with girlfriend at the time to listen to Type O Negative and make out… we finished fooling around and actually started crying because I was betraying tradition. Tried never to make that mistake again. Back to the entry at hand…
We all love It’s a Good Life. It’s just about he most terrifying thing we know. A child without moral cognition who has endless power and no self control. Beautifully written and clearly a satire about the powers a government has over its people and what happens when you put a dictator in power… they all have the mind’s of little children anway. I watch this episode and capture endless one liners and sound bites. I always imagine it ends differently though, a fact that always disappoints me a bit. I hope that someone takes a bottle and ends it. I love that little piano piece that man plays as Dan’s wife screams and Dan is turned into a Jack in the Box. A Jack in the Box with his mean face of course. Wish it into the cornfield never meant so much. If I ever see the actor who played that little Anthony Fremont in real life and he starts staring at me I might tackle the fucker out of subconscious will to live. Sorry in advance if I hurt you when my delusions get the better of me.
I really could go on. There are over 150 episodes. Remakes. Lost Episodes. An amazing movie that I consider just as formative as the TV show. “Wanna see something really scary?” Those words will never be the same for me. The 1985 remake of the TV show has one of the best musical intros. It’s as good as the original, Tales from the Darkside and Friday the 13th the series and that’s saying quite a lot. The programming itself wasn’t amazing, but Richard Matheson wasn’t exactly writing it now was he. And Rod Serling… his monologues are my life lessons.
One last note dear readers… if you ever think you “need” to bring your children to church in order to teach them about morality, to be charitable or how to live a good life… you need look no further than the Zone. Rod Serling and Cayuga Productions are as good as the Old and New Testament and still socially relevant even though these episodes were made in the middle of the last century. Oh and you can watch them on the television where all life is learned and lived.
Watch them all. Watch the Marathons. Watch the ones you’ve seen a thousand times and then watch them again. Appreciate how each one begins and ends… even the credit sequence and title sequences. Let them scare you and forget that half the plots are now clichéd. They weren’t once and when they’re not terrifying they’ll help you dream easier or maybe not all…