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July 03, 2012

‘Twilight Zone’: Dark magic and alien charms, revisited

Posted in: It's Alive,TV

To enter "The Twilight Zone," click through the photo gallery... (photo credit: CBS)

"The Twilight Zone" began in 1959 and ended 156 episodes later in the summer of 1964. The first episode? “Where is Everybody?” with Earl Holliman, above, aired Oct. 2, 1959. (CBS)

The final "Zone": Mary Badham, who earned an Oscar nomination as Scout in 1962’s "To Kill a Mockingbird," appeared in the series finale, “The Bewitchin’ Pool,” on June 19, 1964. (CBS)

It’s hard to think of “The Twilight Zone” without Rod Serling’s commanding voice. But CBS actually wanted Orson Welles to host -- until they heard his salary demands. (Reuters)

Serling won two Emmys for outstanding writing achievement in drama in 1960 and 1961, and George T. Clemens won for his cinematography, also in 1961. Clemens ended up shooting 117 episodes of the show, including "The Invaders," above, with Agnes Moorehead. (CBS)

The oft-imitated phrase “submitted for your approval” was used in just three of Rod Serling’s introductions; one was for “In Praise of Pip," shown above, with Jack Klugman. (CBS)

The late Ray Bradbury wrote the 100th episode of the series, “I Sing the Body Electric,” which aired in 1962. (Associated Press)

Rod Serling once invited viewers to send in scripts -- he got 14,000. He got through about 500; the only two that had any promise didn’t fit the show's format. (Associated Press)

George Clayton Johnson wrote seven episodes of “The Twilight Zone,” including two of the most memorable: 1962’s “Nothing in the Dark” with Robert Redford, above, and Gladys Cooper, and "Kick the Can," also from 1962, with veteran actor Ernest True.(CBS)

The series attracted veteran filmmakers such as Mitchell Leisen ("Hold Back the Dawn") and Don Siegel (1956’s “Invasion of the Body Snatchers") and future notables such as Richard Donner ("Superman,” "Lethal Weapon"), who directed William Shatner in the above episode "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet." (CBS)

Serling’s thriller, “The Time Element,” which aired on “Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse” in 1958, was a precursor to “The Twilight Zone.” In fact, the series’ host Desi Arnaz actually appeared after the episode to explain what he thought had really happened in the show that had a twist ending. (Los Angeles Times archives)

The Feb. 28, 1964, “Twilight Zone” episode was the Oscar-winning 1962 short "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge," based on the 19th century Ambrose Bierce short story. The French film was purchased for the series for $20,000 and re-edited for $5,000. (CBS)

June Foray, best known for supplying the voices of Rocky and Natasha on "The Bullwinkle Show," also voiced the eerie Talky Tina, above, on 1963's "Living Doll." (CBS)

“Twilight Zone” is iconic now but it never cracked the Top 30 in Nielsen ratings in its five seasons. Among the top shows in that span: “Gunsmoke," shown above, and “The Beverly Hillbillies." (CBS)

Bernard Herrmann, Alfred Hitchcock’s composer for classics like “Vertigo” and “Psycho,” penned the memorably creepy score to “Twilight Zone.” (TCM)

“This is the fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area we call the Twilight Zone.”

With those lines, delivered by Rod Serling with his distinctive diction and deep voice, the television audience of America took its first step into an eerie, one-of-a-kind corner of television storytelling. The CBS anthology series was revolutionary so it’s fitting that Syfy will air an Independence Day “Twilight Zone” marathon that begins Wednesday at 8 a.m. and wraps up 5 a.m. Thursday. To celebrate this exploration into the surreal and frightening, here are some fast  facts and trivia about the series, CLICK THROUGH THE PHOTO GALLERY (BE SURE TO CLICK “CAPTIONS ON”).

– Susan King


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John Landis celebrates movie monsters

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‘Bride of Frankenstein,’ an electric moment in horror

Oliver Reed and ‘The Curse of the Werewolf’

Boris Karloff, a monster talent remembered

‘Lost’ treasures from 1954′s ’20,000 Leagues’

The lost saucer of ‘Forbidden Planet’  rediscovered


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