Earlier today, Syfy Channel began their Tuesday, July 26 Twilight Zone marathon programming block at 8/7c. Many of the episodes featured Tuesday star actors who were already at the peak of their careers, or who would go on to become multiple award-winners and legends in their field.
Things got started with Cavendar is Coming, a 1962 episode of the now-iconic science fiction anthology series created by Rod Serling. Carvendar is Coming, a sort of Twilight-twisted It’s A Wonderful Life, stars Carol Burnette, Jesse White, Howard Smith and Donna Douglas (The Beverly Hillbillies) and sets the pace for today’s star-studded presentation.
Lee Marvin in Steel followed next, wherein the then-future Oscar-winner (1966’s Cat Ballou) plays a boxing promoter working to get one last fight out of an obsolete robot boxer.
1964’s From Agnes With Love was next, featuring ne’er do well Wally Cox depending on love advice from a computer affectionately known as Agnes.
Also from 1964, at 9:30/8:30c, is Sounds and Silence, with John McGiver (Midnight Cowboy). Richard Donner (Superman) directed this one, and many others.
At 10/9c Jackie Cooper stars as a down-on-his-luck ventriloquist who turns to a life of crime thanks to a suggestion from his suddenly very vocal dummy. Fans of Lucille Ball’s Yours, Mine and Ours might recognize Cooper‘s young co-star Suzanne Cupito as YM&O‘s Louise Beardsley. More likely, if you ever watched Dallas, you may realize that Cupito is none other than Morgan Brittany (after a professional name change in the 70s), who starred as Katherine Wentworth in the CBS nighttime sudser.
Then it’s time for The Brain Center at Whipple‘s , at 10:30/9:30c, with Richard Deacon (The Dick Van Dyke Show) starring as an industrialist set on replacing factory workers with full automation. Burt Conroy guests as does Robby The Robot of Forbidden Planet fame.
Gary Crosby (Bing‘s actor/singer son) stars as, what else, a singer at 11/10c in Come Wander with Me, in which he searches for inspiration for a song in the backwoods. What he encounters instead is a pretty, but mysterious young girl who sings of two lovers meeting in the woods who are subsequently torn apart by tragedy. In true Twilight fashion, the lyrics foreshadow the events of the episode.
Beginning at 11:30/10:30c is The Jeopardy Room with Martin Landau, Oscar-winner in 1994 for his role in Tim Burton‘s Johnny Depp film, Ed Wood).
Gary Merrill, one-time Bette Davis spouse and co-star (All About Eve), stars as a Confederate soldier searching for Yankees in 1961’s Still Valley at 12/11c. One snag…when he locates them, they seems to be frozen as if they were statues.
The same year he starred as lead villain in the 007 flick, Dr. No, Joseph Wiseman starred in 1962’s One More Pallbearer, airing Tuesday at 12:30/11:30c. With the threat of atomic war, millionaire Paul Radin (Wiseman) offers three enemies shelter, but of course not without personal motive.
Showdown with Rance McGrew, also from 1962, features Larry Blyden, who would later host game shows The New $25,000 Pyramid and What’s My Line?. Blyden plays a cowboy actor whose brashness fades when he comes face-to-face with the real Jesse James (Arch Johnson). Robert J. Stevenson, a frequent TV western character actor (Rawhide, Gunsmoke, Bonanza), is cast as a bartender, a role he also played the following year in the TV western Have Gun Will Travel.
Airing at 1:30/12:30c is 1962’s Person or Persons Unknown starring Richard Long (The Big Valley) as a man who awakens to find no one knows him. In one of my personal favorite Twilight Zone memories, having seen the reruns as a kid–just as he thinks it’s all been a dream, Shirley Ballard and Julie Van Zandt literally wipe away and comfort he is feeling about the situation.
Next up, at 2/1c is The Last Night of a Jockey, written by series creator Serling, in which diminutive star Mickey Rooney, as a jockey who’s been banned from the sport of horse racing, receives a single wish. In a story similar to the now-classic Burgess Meredith episode Time Enough At Last from 1959, also written by Serling, said wish backfires by episode’s end.
Don Siegel (director of Invasion of the Body Snatchers) directed 1963’s Uncle Simon, airing at 2:30/1:30c. Constance Ford stars as Barbara Polk, long-suffering niece of Simon Polk (Cedric Hardwicke). When Uncle Simon dies, Barbara becomes his sole heir. Thinking life will now be easier, she has another think coming when she learns of one final stipulation. She must look after his last invention, a robot (again portrayed by Robby The Robot from Forbidden Planet). As time passes, the robot takes on more and more of her uncle’s traits, ensuring she continue to suffer at his command.
Years before he warmed the hearts of TV viewers with his slightly fictionalize memories of his rural childhood by way of CBS‘ The Waltons, Earl Hamner, Jr. wrote the not-so-heartwarming script for 1964’s Black Leather Jacket (3/2c). Shelley Fabares (Ride The Wild Surf, Girl Happy, Clambake) stars as a young girl interested in a leather jacket-wearing boy. The real problem….the gang he belongs to is an alien-invading gang from outer space sent to earth to infect our water supply in order to vacate our planet for their future inhabitation.
The Long Morrow, airing at 3:30/2:30c stars Mariette Hartley (The Incredible Hulk) and Robert Lansing (fresh off two seasons as Detective Steve Carella on NBC‘s 87th Precinct. Flipping the Gift of The Magi on it’s ear, Lansing plays an astronaut in the year 1987 who meets and falls for Sandra (Hartley) just as he’s about to embark on a mission in space that will take 20 years to travel there and 20 back. To keep him from enduring the actual 40 years of space travel, he is placed in suspended animation. Deciding it wouldn’t be fair to his new love to return a young man while she had ages 40 years, he disables the suspended animation early on his journey. When he arrives, he discovers the job he was sent to do had been completed during the 20 years of travel by way of newly developed technology. When he returns to earth, he learns that Sandra also made a sacrifice during his absence.
Syfy‘s Twilight Zone marathon comes to an end at 4/3c with The Self-Improvement of Salvadore Ross. Don Gordon (frequent co-star of real-life pal Steve McQueen) stars as the title character, a young assertive man with designs on Leah Maitland (Gail Kobe). Unfortunately, Leah won’t consent to a relationship because he’s just too uncaring. Ross realizes he has the ability to trade physical attributes with others. Along his journey of self-discover, he sells his youth to an elderly millionaire, then manages to regain his youth by buying years from young men’s lives in exchange for small amounts of his now-vast fortune. Just when he’s achieved the perfect balance of youth, success and compassion he and Leah finally come together, but it’s the Twilight Zone after all, so you know things don’t end as he’d hope.
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