Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Twilight Zone Vortex 2016 Halloween Countdown #27: "Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?"

The Twilight Zone is an amazingly diverse program that offers stories of almost every conceivable theme and setting within the overall structure of intelligent modern fantasy. One area in which The Twilight Zone excelled was in the story of terror, exploring the darkest aspects of human existence in myriad ways. To celebrate the Halloween season, we’re counting down the 31 most frightening and unsettling moments from The Twilight Zone, one for each day of October. We’ll be revisiting some of the episodes we’ve already covered and looking ahead to episodes from the final three seasons of the series. Warning: Posts contain spoilers.                                                                                                                                    -JP


#27 - Only One Returns, from “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?” season two, episode 64
Written by Rod Serling, directed by Montgomery Pittman, starring John Hoyt, Barney Phillips, Morgan Jones, John Archer, Jack Elam, Bill Kendis, Jean Willes, Bill Erwin, Gertrude Flynn, Ron Kipling, Jill Ellis

Rod Serling’s playful, absurd, and wildly entertaining second season episode is one of the most purely enjoyable plays of the entire series. “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?” is Serling’s version of the classic mystery setup in which one among a group of people in a captive environment is unlike the others. Usually, as in the ultimate treatment of the theme, Agatha Christie’s 1939 novel And Then There Were None, the “other” is a murderer who must be ousted by the remaining members of the party. Serling made his “other” an alien but the story functions in much the same way. What propels such a familiar story is a compelling collection of characters. “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?” is filled with classic Serling characterizations, including standout performances from John Hoyt as the gruff businessman and Jack Elam as the boisterous red herring. The episode takes an uncanny turn when Hoyt’s character returns alone from the scene of a terrible bus crash in which a faulty bridge has sent the vehicle down into the river, killing everyone aboard. Everyone, that is, except Hoyt’s lone survivor, who doesn’t seem to understand the concept of being wet. A third arm reveals the character’s extraterrestrial nature but Serling delivers a final twist by having the counterman, played by Twilight Zone regular Barney Phillips, reveal a third eye and bad news for the Martian alien invasion. The Venusians have intercepted the Martian fleet and have decided to take Earth for themselves. The episode also marks the first appearance of director Montgomery Pittman on the show and displays his trademark atmospheric style, with the snowy, isolated setting a perfect treatment for the bizarre story. Pittman would go on to contribute significantly to the third season of the show with episodes such as “Two,” “The Grave,” and “The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank.”

Trivia:

-The effect of the counterman’s third eye was initially to be achieved through image projection, using a double exposure to position a filmed image of an eye onto the forehead of actor Barney Phillips. After multiple attempts, the method was deemed unfeasible and makeup artist William Tuttle was brought in to create a makeup effect at the last minute.

Read our full coverage of “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?” here.

3 comments:

  1. One of my favorite episodes. It always takes me back to watching it on Channel 11 out of NYC in the late '70s when they were showing TZ weeknights at 10 PM and we had a big snowstorm outside.

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  2. That sounds like an excellent environment in which to enjoy this episode. I think this one might be the most purely enjoyable episodes of the entire series. I'm always in the mood to watch it.

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  3. Charming episode, not wholly a comedy but not really serious, either. I enjoy the way it keeps its cards close to its vest,--not a TZ strong point--making the Big Reveals all the more surprising. I love the setting, with the snow and all. I wonder if anyone's done a count of the number of Zones that featured snow. A fair number seem to be set in cold weather. Maybe it's me but I often feel a sense of changing seasons on the show, if not as an actual theme, then as something implicit in many of the stories.

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