Monday, 2 August 2010

Retro Monday: The Twilight Zone (TV)

The other day, I was chatting with some humanoids, about what scared us as kids. I was quite smug in that I had no paranoid or irrational fears, until I remembered two things that terrified me. The first was Christopher Lloyd in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, which I still can't watch properly to this day. The other, more scary thing was The Twilight Zone. I watched it yesterday, to refresh my memory. I had to turn it off.

Released in 1959, The Twilight Zone was a television series created by sharply-dressed dude Rod Serling. Basically self-contained sci-fi 'stories', with each episode being completely different, and often containing a twist at the end.

Never mind all the remakes and all that horrible 80's shit, the originals were the real deal. Low-Budget, black-and-white and dripping with atmosphere. There's something about the greyness that adds such depth to the proceedings, such darkness. The episodes are so atmospheric, it really does suck you in. The orchestral score as well ramps up the tension no end. All the string stabs and dramatic riffs are something long-forgotten in modern thriller, and after watching some episodes again, it really stood out to me how important and brilliant it was in building tension.

Rod Serling. The coolest man in a suit. Ever.

This shit was scary. Not because of the effects, but because of the storylines. Maybe the 12 year-old me wasn't as cynical and world-weary as me now, but these stories were genuinely engaging. Yes, there was a little bit of garbage and schmaltz in there. But there was 159 episodes in the first run. 159 seperate stories and sets, every single time. I reckon I'll allow a few to slip by.

I remember getting a book when I was little off my cousin, which listed every episode in great detail. The plot, the first airtime, even the complete cast of each episode. I remember reading that book at night-times and getting scared without even seeing certain episodes. Just from reading a paragraph on the story, I was able to put the pieces together, and terrify myself.

William Shatner faces his gremlins in the now-iconic
'Terror at 20,00 feet' episode.

With most TV shows or films I come to watch retrospectively, I often end up disappointed. Nothing builds up the hype of a show like nostalgia. When I put the iconic 'Terror at 20,000 Feet' episode (The one with Shatner on the plane), I was expecting something of a corny, melancholic experience. But far from it! It was still eery, still weird, still amazing! I'm currently going through more episodes, in an attempt to re-live my childhood, and give me the frights once more.

The great thing is, a lot of these episodes are now on YouTube. And instead of doing more jabbering, I thought I'd put the episode I just mentioned on this very blog, right here. 20 minutes of terror, intrigue, and sci-fi at it's finest. Welcome to...The Twilight Zone.

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