6 films in…’The Twilight Zone’

A friend and I were talking the other day and he mentioned an episode of the Twilight Zone Podcast with Tom Elliot, wherein he interviews the author of the “Twilight Zone Companion”, Marc Scott Zicree. In the interview, host Tom Elliot and Zicree discuss the status of DiCaprio’s Twilight Zone film and if a TZ movie could be accomplished today without the guiding hand of creator Rod Serling. Author Marc Scott Zicree answers:

“I don’t think it’s impossible to make a great Twilight Zone movie. I think it’s difficult…again, you know, they tried with the Spielberg one that had all those separate stories, and some of them were interesting, but none of them were, I think, the equal of the original show. But I think there are Twilight Zone features that just aren’t called that. I think you could say Field of Dreams is one, I think you could say E.T. is one, Close Encounters is one. So clearly, people who grew up with the Twilight Zone, and were inspired by it, went on to do movies that were in that vein.”

Zicree brings up an excellent point. Twilight Zone-esque films do continue to be made. The Twilight Zone’s socially conscious explorations of humanity can be keenly felt in other film and television, proving that Serling and his creation have cast a giant shadow. Below is a list of six films that exist as Twilight Zone motion picture…even if they don’t bare the name.

 

westworld5Westworld (1973)/ “The Mighty Casey” S. 1 Ep. 35:

Michael Crichton’s 1973 film Westworld shows us a future where, for a price, people can spend a week in a theme park where the parts of cowboys, knights and roman soldiers are acted out by sophisticated androids. Inevitably, the park goes haywire and the robots attempt to kill the patrons (This story was essentially rewired by Crichton into “Jurassic Park”). While robots were no strangers to the Twilight Zone, Westworld and “The Mighty Casey” both showcase android programmed for the amusement of a human audience, while “Casey” attempts to ruminate on the subjects of “heart and humanity” certainly more than Westworld, both stories entrench themselves in the territory of “Frankenstein”, by showing us what happens when man plays god and can no longer control it’s creation.

 

unbreakable_bd3_grossUnbreakable (2000) / “Mr. Dingle the Strong” S. 2 Ep. 19 & ”Big Tall Wish” S. 1 Ep. 27

Being the lone survivor in a horrific train crash, David Dunn might seem like a lucky guy, but struggles within his family and ruminations on an athletic career that never came to pass, show a bittersweet life of struggle and sacrifice. David Dunn and Mr. Glass are perfect archetypal Twilight Zone characters; each given unique abilities search for their place in the world. This film shares DNA with the classic Serling written episodes “Mr. Dingle the Strong”, in which a nebbish gentlemen gains super strength, and the heartbreaking “Big, Tall Wish”, in which a boxer, past his prime is given one last chance at success through the magic of a child’s wish. Blue collar folks and destiny came up often in The Twilight Zone, making Unbreakable a perfect fit.

 

Forever YoungForever Young (1992) / “Long live Walter Jameson” S. 1 Ep. 24 &”The Long Morrow” S. 5 Ep. 15. 

Forever Young tells the story of a 1930s test pilot who is used as a test subject for a cryogenics experiment. Unfortunately, he stays frozen until 1992. Released into a modern world he doesn’t understand, Capt. Daniel McCormick goes in search of answers to the life he left behind. The Twilight Zone has had its share of stories about pilots and the military. The first episode of the series, “Where is Everybody”, deals with an odd military experiment and its test subject. Forever Young deals with super-science, love, loss and the clashing decades in American culture, these themes are keenly felt in both “The Long Morrow” all about an astronaut falling in love before a 40 year journey and “Long Live Walter Jameson” about a man who appears to be immortal.

 

mist-5The Mist (2007) / “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street” S. 1 Ep. 22

Frank Darabont’s adaptation of Stephen King’s novella, follows a group of townspeople trapped in a grocery story as monsters from another dimension attack from outside.  It’s no secret to those who know me, that I adore this under appreciated gem, but why is it a TZ film? Like the seminal “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street”, The Mist uses the promise of otherworldly terrors, to show the monsters inside humanity. As the people inside the grocery store deal with the monsters outside, cliques and factions are formed that threaten to tear the microcosm apart from the inside.

 

Cherry200019876Cherry 2000 (1987)/ “The Lonely” S. 1 Ep. 7:

If you haven’t seen this schlock gem of the 1980s, you’re missing out. Cherry 2000 follows the exploits of a man in search for a replacement for his broken/discontinued robotic wife. On his journey, he hires a futuristic tracker to take him across a barren landscape of bandits and cults to a warehouse that might store the last Cherry 2000 android. Make no mistake, this movie is ridiculous, but it does have a lot in common with “The Lonely” a TZ episode where a man is imprisoned on an asteroid and comes to rely heavily on a robotic companion. Both of these stories beg the question of what does “life” mean as well as what makes us human.

 

gattaca_1Gattaca (1997) / “The Obsolete Man” S. 2 Ep. 29:

Gattaca tells the story of a futuristic society where through genetic modifications before childbirth, humans are becoming more and more perfect. Perfect humans receive the best jobs and opportunities leaving those with natural defects to the bottom rung of society. “The Obsolete Man” paints a similar picture but instead of relegating those who are imperfect to menial labor, they are executed. Both Gattaca and “The Obsolete Man” deal in harsh societies and human error. These tales give us insight into the belief that the best of humanity may not be in it’s strength, but in it’s flaws. This is a lesson that we learned often while watching The Twilight Zone.

There are certainly more films that fit nicely into The Twilight Zone, but what are some of your favorites? Let us know in the comments and why you think they fit.

(Talk of A Twilight Zone Film begins at 16:30)

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Robert Walker
Robert Walker 152 posts

Rob Walker is a writer and filmmaker in Colorado, and is creator of the comedy web series Victorian Cut-out Theatre. He loves horror films and comic books (American Vampire, Jonah Hex, The Flash, Planetary). Rob has been a Sherlockian since the age of ten, is a Dark Tower junky and believes that Indiana Jones is the greatest cinematic hero ever created. You can follow him on twitter at: @timidwerewolf and see his other writings and videos at robwalkerfilms.com