Friday, October 02, 2009

You've just crossed over into...

50 years ago this evening, Rod Serling took America on a journey through a fifth dimension beyond which was known to man -- a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind; a middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, where the boundaries were that of imagination. Indeed, is the 50th anniversary of the television debut of...the "Twilight Zone".

Anyone who knows me is well aware that I am a massive "Twilight Zone" fan. Watching the "Twilight Zone" marathon on TV was one of my earliest childhood television memories and it still continues to be a bi-yearly ritual for me to catch the 4th of July and New Years marathons on the SyFy Channel (typing out that new name will never stop feeling ridiculous). I have my dog eared copy of the definitive "Twilight Zone Companion", a drawer of full tapes of random episodes I've gotten over the years, and I always make it a priority everytime I'm at Disneyworld to ride the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (despite the fact that they totally nerfed the initial fall to the point of boredom). As a lifelong fan of the show, I really can't add much to say about it that hasn't already been said. It's like a writing a blog post about the Beatles, what more praise can you add?

I could have done some obvious and tedious tribute to mark the occasion like giving my top 10 Twilight Zone episodes, or reviewing the mini-marathon they had on SyFy (still ridiculous) earlier today, or writing about what a pioneering genius Rod Serling was, or how mind blowing this show must have been in 1959, etc. However, I figured in the same unexpected, twist tradition of the "Twilight Zone", I'd go a different route.

While Rod Serling is obviously known for his "Twilight Zone" work, many don't know that he co-wrote the screenplay for possibly the greatest twist ending movie in history, "Planet of the Apes" (if you're actually wondering what this twist I'm referring to is, please exit the cave you've been living in and check out the movie. It's been over 40 years, I figure there's been enough of a spoiler warning). The 1968 movie was actually adapted from the book and it was Serling who came up with the new classic "it was earth all along" ending. The book itself, which I remember slogging through back in high school, was literally about a guy landing on another planet of apes where apes evolved over humans who then went back to Earth hundreds of years later to find it also had become run by apes (it's sort of like the Marky Mark ending from the 2001 remake). It was a mild twist, but far inferior to Charlton Heston screaming in frustration on the shore at a ruined Statute of Liberty.

From the setup to the payoff and the moral message in between, the movie itself really comes off as a feature length "Twilight Zone" episode. It was so much like a standard "Twilight Zone" episode that a few years back one intrepid fan actually edited the entire movie down into a classic half hour, black and white, episode complete with title sequences and introductory and closing narrations. The whole thing comes off as a completely inspired piece of editing. Although things get expectedly a little choppy in the second act of the story, the perfect fit of the opening and closing narration from previous Twilight Zone episodes ("Elegy" and "The Shelter" respectively) alone makes this a classic.

So to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the "Twilight Zone", here's the unofficial "lost" episode:

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