Thursday, March 23, 2017

"The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank"

Mr. Jeff Myrtlebank (James Best): declared dead three days ago.

“The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank”
Season Three, Episode 88
Original Air Date: February 23, 1962

Cast:
Jeff Myrtlebank: James Best
Comfort Gatewood: Sherry Jackson
Doc. Bolton: Edgar Buchanan
Mr. Peters: Dub Taylor
Pa Myrtlebank: Ralph Moody
Ma Myrtlebank: Ezelle Poule
Liz Myrtlebank: Vickie Barnes
Orgram Gatewood: Lance Fuller
Ma Gatewood: Helen Wallace
Reverend Siddons: William Fawcett
Strauss: Jon Lormer
Jerry: James Houghton
Tom: Patrick Hector
Mrs. Ferguson: Mabel Forrest

Crew:
Writer: Montgomery Pittman (original teleplay)
Director: Montgomery Pittman
Producer: Buck Houghton
Production Manager: Ralph W. Nelson
Director of Photography: Jack Swain
Art Direction: George W. Davis, Phil Barber
Set Direction: H. Web Arrowsmith
Assistant Director: E. Darrell Hallenbeck
Casting: Stalmaster-Lister
Editor: Bill Mosher
Story Consultant: Richard McDonagh
Sound: Franklin Milton, Bill Edmondson
Music: Tommy Morgan

And Now, Mr. Serling:
“A symbol of a sad but rather commonplace event. An impressive funeral, the deceased laid out in a most acceptable manner, but in this case, at the last moment deciding that in matters concerning the trip to the great beyond, perhaps this trip wasn’t necessary. You’ll see it next week on The Twilight Zone when we present Montgomery Pittman’s ‘The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank.’

“Very often when you write for a living, you run across blocks. Moments when you can’t think of the right thing to say. Now, happily, there are no blocks to get in the way of the full pleasure of Chesterfield. Great tobaccos make a wonderful smoke. Try ‘em. They satisfy.”

Rod Serling’s Opening Narration:
“Time? The mid-twenties. Place? The Midwest. The southernmost section of the Midwest. We were just witnessing a funeral. A funeral that didn’t come off exactly as planned…due to a slight fallout…from the Twilight Zone.”

Summary:

            On a sunny afternoon somewhere in the Midwest, the residents of a quiet, forgettable town cram themselves inside a tiny church to pay their respects to one Jeff Myrtlebank, a kind soul taken from the world too soon. As the reverend recites the eulogy, the townsfolk begin to notice something strange about the wooden coffin housing Mr. Myrtlebank’s remains at the front of the room. It begins to creak, to move, and before anyone has time to process what is happening, it opens all by itself and a man inside sits straight up and looks directly at the congregation. This is Mr. Jeff Myrtlebank. He has been dead for three days. The church-goers flee the room, screaming.
         Myrtlebank makes his way outside. His friends and family remain in shock and keep their distance from him. Doc. Bolton explains to him that he pronounced the young man dead two days ago after his pulse failed to register. Myrtlebank says he feels just fine. He notices the apprehensive way everyone is looking at him. He attempts to approach his mother and father but they back away in terror. Comfort Gatewood, his sweetheart, also seems troubled by his unexpected return. After assuring everyone that he is fine, Myrtlebank and his family leave for home.
            Over the next few weeks the townsfolk begin to speculate about Jeff Myrtlebank. They say he’s acting strange, different than before. Doc. Bolton claims that Myrtlebank was dead beyond any doubt when he pronounced him as such. It’s not long before the talk turns to otherworldly things. Perhaps Myrtlebank is not who he says he is. Maybe it’s some sort of specter just pretending to be Myrtlebank. A haint. What if it aims to take over the whole town? After coming to the conclusion that there is an evil spirit living in their town that must be stopped at all costs, a mob of angry townsfolk drive out to the Myrtlebank place.
Myrtlebank is there with Comfort. The townsfolk tell him that they want him to leave town and never come back. He tells them that if indeed he is an evil spirit with supernatural abilities then they should probably refrain from upsetting him. The crowd appears not to have thought of this possibility. Myrtlebank tells them that he and Comfort are getting married. The townsfolk abruptly change their tone and seem delighted by the news. After they leave Comfort witnesses Myrtlebank light a match without striking it on anything. He offers her his arm and tells her not to imagine things. She smiles and they walk quietly into the night.

Rod Serling’s Closing Narration:
“Jeff and Comfort are still alive today. And their only son is a United States Senator. He’s noted as an uncommonly shrewd politician, and some believe he must have gotten his education…in the Twilight Zone.”

Commentary:

            “The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank” marks the end of Montgomery Pittman’s brief time in The Twilight Zone. He directed a total of five episodes of the show, three of which—“Two” “The Grave” and “Jeff Myrtlebank”—he also wrote, making him the only person to write and direct his own material. Unfortunately, this was one of the last projects he ever completed. Cancer would claim his life in June of this same year, only four months after this episode first aired. Pittman’s output is so minimal that his contribution to the show often goes unnoticed, which is unfortunate. His skill as a storyteller can be seen in every aspect of production from story to dialogue to character names to casting. His direction is unique to every episode as is his writing. In just three teleplays he displays enormous versatility delivering a sensitive post-apocalyptic love story, a horror western, and a comedy about a hillbilly being possessed by the devil. One of his scripts features only a few lines of dialogue while the other two function almost exclusively around it. The Twilight Zone seemed to be the appropriate arena for Pittman’s unconventional personality after five years under contract to Warner Bros. Television, bouncing from one series to the next. It was a show that would permit creative experimentation and would not attempt to alter his material, a problem he had encountered several times before. His most recognizable contribution to the show was directing Serling’s season two classic “Will the Real Martian Please Stand up?” While none of his own teleplays for the show ever achieved this level of fandom, all three are solid pieces of dramatic television. More importantly they adhere to the personality of the show. Had he lived and contributed more we might consider Pittman a key figure in the show’s legacy. Instead, he exits the show’s story only a few months after entering it, his episodes recognizable to the vast majority of the show’s fanbase but his name familiar to virtually no one.
Montgomery Pittman
           Pittman is an odd figure in The Twilight Zone’s history. He seems to have appeared out of nowhere at the end of the second season, was enormously productive for a short period of time, and was suddenly gone. Relatively little is known about his early life. His recorded biography is compiled largely of hazy second-hand stories and exaggerations. He was not part of the close community of fantasy writers that made up the bulk of the show’s writing pool and he wasn’t really a recognizable face in Hollywood either. In addition to being the only writer/director the show ever employed, his style of storytelling is unique and his episodes have a strange quality that is hard to describe. And considering that he only directed five episodes he ended up working with a significant roster of performers who would go on to enormously successful careers, likely due in some part to their appearance on The Twilight Zone—Elizabeth Montgomery, Charles Bronson, Lee Marvin, Strother Martin, Lee Van Cleef, and James Best, among others.
            I found only three biographical essays with significant amounts of original material while researching Pittman’s work. Everything else seems to be taken from one or more of these works. The first biographical sketch comes from actor Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. who dedicates an entire chapter of his career memoir My Dinner of Herbs (2003) to his friendship with Pittman. Zimbalist played womanizing private detective Stuart Bailey in ABC’s 77 Sunset Strip, of which Pittman wrote and/or directed twenty episodes, by far his most significant contribution to a single show. The second essay is a tribute to Pittman from Sugarfoot actor Will Hutchins written in 2013 for his column “A Touch of Hutch” for the website Western Clippings. Probably the most informative resource was a piece written in 2010 by television historian John Desmond called “A Somewhat Forgotten Figure to Some Extent Remembered: Notes on Television Director, Script Writer, and Occasional Actor Montgomery Pittman” for Bright Lights Film. Desmond was able to locate many of Pittman’s teleplays, archival news articles written about his work, and inner-office memos in the Warner Bros. Archives at the University of Southern California. He also interviewed Zimbalist and Hutchins several times. The first two memoirs focus on Pittman the man while Desmond spends most of his article analyzing Pittman’s work in television, specifically his contribution to the western genre, citing Pittman’s efforts to push the television western into a mature and authentic arena alongside its big screen counterpart.
Pittman was born in Louisiana—although the city is apparently unknown—in 1917 and later moved with his family to either Oklahoma or Arkansas—again, accounts vary but he may have lived in both states. While still a teenager he left home to sell snake oil in a traveling medicine show. After a stint in the military he settled in New York City to try his hand at acting. It was here that he met actor Steve Cochran who persuaded young Pittman to move to Los Angeles by promising him a job as caretaker of his house. Pittman continued to pursue acting in California, landing bit roles in films like The Enforcer (1951) and Inside the Walls of Folsom Prison (1951). By the mid-fifties, however, he had turned his attention to writing. He found initial success in the live dramas of the time including three teleplays for Schlitz Playhouse in 1954 where he first worked with Buck Houghton. In 1956 he signed with Warner Bros. Television and began writing for ABC, usually for westerns shows like Cheyenne, Sugarfoot, Lawman, and Maverick or for police dramas like Hawaiian Eye and Surfside 6. Pittman wrote several low budget films during this time, the most successful of which is probably Come Next Spring (1956) which starred Steve Cochran and Ann Sheridan and featured Sherry Jackson, Edgar Buchanan, and James Best in supporting roles. He also co-wrote a Tarzan film with Lillie Hayward called Tarzan and the Lost Safari in 1957.
Pittman’s transition into directing was born largely from his disapproval at having his material altered by others. As a director Pittman understood the audience’s relationship with the camera and its influence on the atmosphere of a story. In episodes like “The Grave” and “Dead Man’s Shoes” he saturates scene after scene with high-contrast lighting and peculiar camera angles to draw the audience’s attention to the atmosphere before they know the story or even the characters. This immediately establishes the personality of the episodes, both of which are slightly derivative in terms of plot, and allows Pittman the freedom to be a bit campy in certain scenes because he has established a relationship with the viewer. In episodes like “The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank,” however, or his post-apocalyptic love story “Two,” he lets the characters move the story along, even when they aren’t even speaking. "Jeff Myrtlebank" also features several moments where Pittman uses the camera to give the scene an unsettling atmosphere. The shot of Myrtlebank rising up out of the coffin in the opening scene is highly effective. Pittman combines close ups of the lid opening slowly at first then faster with abrasive music to give the audience the same sense of sudden shock that the characters are experiencing. The fight between Myrtlebank and Orgram is also shot really well.
Pittman also had an eye for casting. Stalmaster-Lister was the agency responsible for casting the show’s third season but according to Lamont Johnson the director still had a significant authority in the casting process. Pittman’s episodes, particularly the three he wrote himself, featured amazing casts with actors who would go on to major careers in film and television.
It is his writing, however, that is likely his strongest skill as a storyteller. In “Two,” probably the best of his writing efforts on the show but only by a narrow margin, Pittman successfully narrates a believable relationship between two strangers with only a few lines of dialogue in the entire episode. His dialogue increases with each episode, however, and by this third teleplay the characters have quite a bit to say and it’s the dialogue that moves much of the episode along. His episodes also feature characters playing against stereotypes. In “Two,” Elizabeth Montgomery is the aggressor not the brutish Charles Bronson. In “The Grave,” Pittman presents the audience with a traditional western scenario, a hired gunman—the hero—chasing a wanted fugitive—the villain. But later in the episode he suggests, through harsh criticism from the supporting characters, that said hero is perhaps a coward, or perhaps not. He leaves it ambiguous. As of this writing his Twilight Zone scripts have yet to be published. The reason for this remains a mystery.
His ear for character names is also noteworthy. Pinto Sykes, Johnny Rob, Mothershed, Steinhart, Comfort and Orgram Gatewood, Jeff Myrtlebank. Creating memorable character names is a difficult task and Pittman makes it look effortless. Even if you only see “The Grave” or “The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank” once, you are not likely to forget most of these names because they are entirely appropriate for both the character and the actor.
During the third season there was a noticeable attempt on the show to feature stories that showcased rural settings, particularly those in the American South, a region largely absent from the previous seasons. Serling penned two episodes set during the Civil War: “The Passersby” and “Still Valley,” his adaptation of Manly Wade Wellman’s story, “And the Valley Was Still.” Wellman was a highly regarded folklorist and historian who set a great deal of his fiction in the Blue Ridge Mountains. He also adapted the light-hearted fable “Hocus Pocus and Frisby” from a story by Frederic Louis Fox. Season three also introduced writer Earl Hamner who would go on to create The Walton’s a decade or so later. Hamner’s first episode “The Hunt,” about an elderly hunter who drowns attempting to rescue his beloved hound dog, takes place in the rural mountains of Virginia, where Hamner was born and raised, and he portrays the region as honestly as possible. Unfortunately, “The Hunt” was poorly translated to the screen due largely to uninspired direction and miscasting. It plays a bit awkward and even culturally insensitive at times. With “The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank” Pittman had the advantage of casting and directing the episode himself. As a result the dialect and mannerisms are completely authentic to rural southern culture.
This was largely achieved by casting actors from the south. Lance Fuller (Kentucky), Dub Taylor (Virginia), Ralph Moody (Missouri), and most importantly Kentucky-born actor James Best who appeared in Pittman’s earlier episode “The Grave” and would later appear in Earl Hamner’s hour-long episode “Jess-Belle” during season four. Although he will forever be remembered as bumbling Hazzard County Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane from The Dukes of Hazzard, Best was an extremely talented and prolific actor of stage and screen. Due to his native southern dialect he was often cast in westerns including a small role in Arthur Penn’s The Left-Handed Gun (1958). He also appeared in Raoul Walsh’s adaptation of Norman Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead (1958). His television resume includes practically every popular western series from 1950 to 1970. He did make several appearances on Alfred Hitchcock Presents and in a famous episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, “The Jar,” based on the story by Ray Bradbury. Anxious and intense, and delivering a spot-on accent, Best nails the role of Jeff Myrtlebank. Pittman’s script calls for a handful of absurd expressions—“I could eat the hide right off a bear”—that would sound ridiculous coming from anyone else. Best understands Pittman’s humor and his performance carries a sense of free-spirited spontaneity.
The supporting cast is equally impressive. Edgar Buchanan gives a fantastic performance as the small town doctor. Buchanan starred in dozens of western films and series during his career but is remembered mostly as Uncle Joe from Petticoat Junction and Green Acres. Dub Taylor is also incredible here as angry and suspicious Mr. Peters. Not surprisingly, Taylor was also a regular in western films for most of his career. He appeared in a string of films directed by Sam Peckinpah including The Wild Bunch (1969), The Getaway (1972), and Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973). He was also one of the wisecracking bar patrons in Back to the Future Part III (1991). His most well-known role was as Ivan Moss in Bonnie and Clyde (1967), the father of C.W. who helps stage the ambush that leads to the deaths of the outlaw couple.
Sherry Jackson, who plays Myrtlebank’s love interest Comfort Gatewood, is actually Pittman’s stepdaughter. Pittman met her mother, Maurita Gilbert Jackson, through his friendship with Steve Cochran. Pittman frequently worked with friends and family. Buchanan, Best, and Taylor had all worked with Pittman several times before. Maurita co-wrote several teleplays with Pittman for 77 Sunset Strip. Sherry Jackson was a child actor when Pittman met her in the early 1950’s. She achieved notoriety as the daughter of Danny Thomas in Make Room for Daddy from 1953 to 1958. She also appears in the Star Trek episode “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” written by Robert Bloch. Pittman frequently cast her in his films.
Providing the slightly bizarre harmonica soundtrack for this episode is Tommy Morgan. Morgan is a highly regarded harmonica player who made his living scoring films and television series, mostly westerns. His playful melody adds an extra layer of humor to the action of the episode. His music can also be heard in “Hocus Pocus and Frisby” and the season five episode “Mr. Garrity and the Graves.”
“The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank” is not a universally recognized episode of the show nor is it Pittman’s best effort. But it’s definitely worth a few viewings for anyone who has never seen it. Some reviewers have read an underlying didacticism in this episode but I don’t think that was Pittman’s angle. I think he simply wanted to tell an entertaining story. Pittman was a novice in the world of fantasy but he seems aware of his limitations. He kept his plots simple and let the characters and the camera tell the story. His final contribution to the show is an appropriate one for it bears all the hallmarks of his brand of storytelling. It’s weird, it’s overflowing with black humor, it plays with a familiar thematic structure, and it ends ambiguously. Myrtlebank does have some type of otherworldly ability but Pittman leaves it at that. The audience never really finds out what happened to him.
In 1962, Pittman, an avid cigar smoker, suddenly and rapidly developed a large tumor on the side of his neck. He had it removed but the cancer had already spread. He died on June 26 at the age of 45. During a brief but productive career Pittman explored all the avenues of the filmmaking process. He managed to take creative control of his material—a rare luxury in the television industry, especially during the early years of its existence—and sought, with mild success, to intellectualize the television western. The Twilight Zone was Pittman’s first major creative venture outside of westerns and detective shows. It was perhaps the first time he was given total creative freedom. The result is a small handful of episodes which bear the mark of a natural storyteller.

Grade: B

Grateful acknowledgement to:

“A Somewhat Forgotten Figure to Some Extent Remembered: Notes on Television Director, Script Writer, and Occasional Actor Montgomery Pittman” by John Desmond (Bright Lights Film, October 31, 2010)

“A Touch of Hutch” by Will Hutchins. (Western Clippings, January, 2013.)

My Dinner of Herbs by Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. (Lighthouse, 2003)

Dimensions Behind the Twilight Zone by Stewart Stanyard (ECW Press, 2007)


Notes:
--Montgomery Pittman also wrote and directed the season three episodes “Two” and “The Grave.” He also directed Serling’s “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?” for the second season and “Dead Man’s Shoes” written by Charles Beaumont and OCee Ritch for the third season.
--James Best also appeared in Pittman’s episode “The Grave” and in Earl Hamner’s season four episode “Jess-Belle.”
--Ralph Moody also appeared in a first season segment of Night Gallery called “Little Black Bag” adapted by Serling from a story by C.M. Kornbluth.
--Ezelle Poule also appeared in season two’s “The Howling Man.”
--Jon Lormer also appeared in the season one episode “Execution,” the season two episode “Dust” and season four’s “Jess-Belle.”
--As I mentioned, Pittman’s Twilight Zone scripts have yet to be published.
--Download the Twilight Zone Radio Drama starring Robert Knepp

--Brian

Sunday, March 19, 2017

A Dimension of Sound:

A Look at The Twilight Zone Radio Dramas

          The Twilight Zone Radio Dramas were developed by actor, producer, director, and syndicated radio host Carl Amari. Growing up in Chicago in the 1960’s and 1970’s, Amari became enamored with old-time radio and began amassing a collection of radio programs in any format he could find. Over the next thirty years, Amari licensed thousands of old-time radio programs in order to create a radio series which explored radio's golden past. His first venture in this direction was a local Chicago program titled, “When Radio Was.” Dick Brescia, a former CBS Radio executive, heard Amari’s program by chance on an airplane flight and took “When Radio Was” nationwide under the production banner of Dick Brescia, Associates. Amari and Brescia formed a professional partnership which carried into The Twilight Zone Radio Dramas.

          Amari’s interest in old-time radio culminated in the formation of Radio Spirits, the world’s largest marketer and distributor of old-time radio programs. Though Amari sold the company in 1998 to Audio Book Club, Radio Spirits products can still be found in libraries and bookstores nationwide. Amari hosts the nationally syndicated radio program, “Hollywood 360,” and has worked as a writer and producer on such properties as Fangoria Presents: Dreadtime Stories.  

In 2001, Amari formed Falcon Picture Group, a production company designed to produce family-friendly video and audio recordings. The company's most impressive achievement is The Word of Promise Audio Bible, a project three years in the making which features more than 600 actors, many of whom are notable Hollywood celebrities. Amari moved into licensing television programs through Falcon Picture Group by acquiring the rights to such programs as Suspense (based on the classic radio program), The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, The Adventures of Jim Bowie, and Man With a Camera, a series produced by Buck Houghton and starring Charles Bronson, both of whom would later work on The Twilight Zone.

Dean Jagger in "Static"
An initial property that Amari pursued for production was The Twilight Zone. Amari envisioned adapting the episodes from the classic television series into engaging radio dramas. Working in association with CBS Enterprises and the Rod Serling Estate, Amari set about making this vision a reality. Though The Twilight Zone Radio Dramas are very faithful to the television series, including the excellent use of original music from the series, the program does not feel dated in the least. There was no attempt to either emulate the feel of old-time radio drama or the time period of the 1960's. Amari and Cerny Creative in Chicago present engagingly acted, directed, and written audio dramas with the highest production values.

One of the key components in the development of the series was finding a writer to adapt the scripts from the original television series into engaging radio dramas. Amari hired World Fantasy Award-winning writer Dennis Etchison for the task of adapting what is generally considered one of the most well-written television series in the history of the medium. Etchison had been a young, aspiring writer living in Stockton, California when the original television series was on the air, and he had the fortune of taking a night class at UCLA taught by prolific Zone writer Charles Beaumont. One of the interesting aspects of that class was that Beaumont often brought in friends to help teach the class with workshops and demonstrations. Etchison remembers William Shatner appearing to perform a dramatic reading of a student's writing, as well as professional writers such as Ray Bradbury and William F. Nolan dropping by to give encouragement and advice to the young writers in the class. Etchison published one of his early stories, "The Fires of the Night" in the William F. Nolan-edited volume, The Pseudo-People (Sherbourne, 1965), and another, "Wet Season," in the short-lived, Group edited fiction digest, Gamma (Star Press, 1965). He went on to a highly accomplished career as a writer of speculative fiction, winning awards for his unique brand of psychological horror story.

Instead of using Rod Serling's original opening and closing narrations from the television series, Amari hired actor Stacy Keach to host the series. Keach is an accomplished actor with a long career on both stage and screen, as well as frequent provider of voice-over narration. Keach is likely best known for his portrayal of Mickey Spillane's tough-guy private eye Mike Hammer in the 1984 television series Mikey Spillane's Mike Hammer, as well as portraying Hammer in a number of television films. In 2008, Amari and Keach teamed again to produce new Mike Hammer radio dramas written by Spillane protégé and award-winning writer Max Allan Collins.

With all the pieces in place, episodes of The Twilight Zone Radio Dramas began rolling out to the public in 2002, and would eventually adapt 155 of the 156 original series episodes as well as “The Time Element” into the audio drama format (the fifth season episode, “Come Wander With Me” would not be adapted). The series eventually topped out at 18 volumes (unit distribution) and 176 episodes. A listener familiar with the original television series will immediately notice several things upon listening to the radio dramas. The first is that the time allotted to the radio dramas was roughly forty minutes, sixteen minutes or so longer than the half-hour episodes and about eight or so minutes shorter than the hour-long fourth season episodes. Etchison was required to add material to the half-hour episodes and to slightly compress the hour-long episodes. Etchison was able to consult the original scripts rather than just the original episodes. The added material is highly interesting, as it often contains character moments left unproduced from the original series episode (such as in "The Midnight Sun") or works to further illustrate a setting or situation. Rod Serling's opening and closing narrations were often changed, usually making the narrations longer to cover the difference in run time or reflecting changes to the original script.  

An interesting aspect of The Twilight Zone Radio Dramas is that many of the finest episodes of the original television series do not translate all that well to the radio medium, whereas several of the less successful episodes play out wonderfully in the audio format. The original television series was often reliant upon a visual motif or a big, visual reveal at the end of an episode. This type of reveal is extremely difficult to pull off in the audio medium and thus episodes such as "Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?" and "The Dummy" suffer greatly in translation. Consider also the number of original series episodes which were highly experimental in nature, episodes with little to no dialogue or with only one or two characters. Imagine the difficulty of adapting "The Invaders" or "Two" to the audio format. It is a testament to the talent of both the original series writers and Dennis Etchison that these experimental episodes translate as well as they do. What comes through most forcefully in the audio adaptations are the intimate character moments in episodes such as "The Obsolete Man" or "Five Characters in Search of an Exit." The format also forces the listener to notice details they may not have noticed as a viewer of the television episode. One particularly interesting episode is "The Hitch-Hiker," starring Kate Jackson, which is adapted from a teleplay by Rod Serling, which was itself adapted from a radio play by Lucille Fletcher.

Another fascinating component is that the radio series explored unproduced material from the original television series, beginning with volume 11 and Charles Beaumont's unproduced teleplay adaptation of his short story, "Gentlemen, Be Seated." The series would produce three additional episodes from Charles Beaumont & Jerry Sohl which never saw the light of day on the original series. By volume 16, the series was showcasing original episodes written expressly for the audio drama medium. To help in this regard, Amari brought in a writing partner he’d worked with before on Fangoria Presents: Dreadtime Stories, M.J. Elliott.

A word about format. The longevity of The Twilight Zone Radio Dramas meant that the series went through a number of format changes in terms of distribution. The early volumes were offered on both cassette and compact disc, with the series moving to only offering compact disc, to offering both compact disc and digital download, to finally only offering the later volumes as digital downloads. The series has had a long life on both Sirius and XM Radio (now Sirius XM Radio) and can currently be heard be heard on BBC Radio 4 Extra (use the BBC iPlayer app to listen here in the States).

In all, the radio dramas are uniformly excellent in production and always engaging. Carl Amari and JoBe Cerny do an incredible job with the sound design and production, and Dennis Etchison admirably completes the monumental task of adapting the entire series to a different medium, managing to present a new way of looking at the episodes without changing the narrative magic of the original series.

-Grateful acknowledgement is made to Dennis Etchison for his introduction to Charles Beaumont's story "Free Dirt" in Charles Beaumont: Selected Stories, edited by Roger Anker (Dark Harvest, 1988).


-JP

The Twilight Zone Radio Dramas (18 volumes)

Produced in association with CBS Enterprises & the Rod Serling Estate
Produced by: Falcon Picture Group (in association with Dick Bresica, Associates and Westwood One)
Distributor: Blackstone Audio
Host: Stacy Keach
Producer/Director: Carl Amari (with JoBe Cerny)
Sound Mixing and Foley Effects: Cerny American Creative
Credit Narration: Doug James

Note: It took several actors to bring each episode to life and Falcon Picture Group and Cerny Creative used a regular staff of talented voice actors. The Twilight Zone Radio Dramas typically list only one or two actors/actresses per show, these typically being the guest actors, and these listings are replicated below from the official website of the series.

Volume 1:
1.)  “A Kind of Stopwatch,” starring Lou Diamond Phillips
Based on a story by Michael D. Rosenthal and a teleplay by Rod Serling
2.) “The Lateness of the Hour,” starring Jane Seymour and James Keach
          Based on a teleplay by Rod Serling
3.) “The Thirty-Fathom Grave,” starring Blair Underwood
          Based on a teleplay by Rod Serling
4.) “The Man in the Bottle,” starring Ed Begley, Jr.
          Based on a teleplay by Rod Serling
5.) “The Night of the Meek,” starring Christopher McDonald
          Based on a teleplay by Rod Serling
6.) “The After Hours,” starring Kim Fields
          Based on a teleplay by Rod Serling
7.) “Mr. Dingle, the Strong,” starring Tim Kazurinsky
          Based on a teleplay by Rod Serling
8.) “A Stop at Willoughby,” starring Chelcie Ross
          Based on a teleplay by Rod Serling
9.) “The Lonely,” starring Mike Starr
          Based on a teleplay by Rod Serling
10.) “Of Late I Think of Cliffordville,” starring Christopher McDonald
          Based on “Blind Alley” by Malcolm Jameson and a teleplay by Rod Serling

Volume 2:
11.) “The Obsolete Man,” starring Jason Alexander
          Based on a teleplay by Rod Serling
12.) “The Bard,” starring John Ratzenberger and Stacy Keach
          Based on a teleplay by Rod Serling
13.) “Back There,” starring Jim Caviezel
          Based on a teleplay by Rod Serling
14.) “A Short Drink from a Certain Fountain,” starring Adam West
          Based on a teleplay by Rod Serling
15.) “Nervous Man in a Four Dollar Room,” starring Adam Baldwin
          Based on a teleplay by Rod Serling
16.) “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street,” starring Frank John Hughes
          Based on a teleplay by Rod Serling
17.) “Mr. Garrity and the Graves,” starring Christopher McDonald
          Based on a story by Mike Korologos and a teleplay by Rod Serling
18.) “Escape Clause,” starring Mike Starr
          Based on a teleplay by Rod Serling
19.) “Four O’Clock,” starring Stan Freberg
          Based on a story by Price Day and a teleplay by Rod Serling
20.) “Uncle Simon,” starring Peter Mark Richman and Beverly Garland
          Based on a teleplay by Rod Serling
Note: Beverly Garland appeared in the original episode, “The Four of Us Are Dying”

Volume 3:
21.) “The Fear,” starring Jane Seymour and James Keach
          Based on a teleplay by Rod Serling
22.) “The Parallel,” starring Lou Diamond Phillips
          Based on a teleplay by Rod Serling
23.) “A Hundred Yards Over the Rim,” starring Jim Caviezel
          Based on a teleplay by Rod Serling
24.) “One for the Angels,” starring Ed Begley, Jr.
          Based on a teleplay by Rod Serling
25.) “The Midnight Sun,” starring Kim Fields
          Based on a teleplay by Rod Serling
26.) “The Rip Van Winkle Caper,” starring Tim Kazurinsky
          Based on a teleplay by Rod Serling
27.) “A Most Unusual Camera,” starring Mike Starr
          Based on a teleplay by Rod Serling
28.) “Twenty-Two,” starring Andrea Evans
          Based on a teleplay by Rod Serling
29.) “Walking Distance,” starring Chelcie Ross
          Based on a teleplay by Rod Serling
30.) “The Passersby,” starring Morgan Brittany
          Based on a teleplay by Rod Serling

Volume 4:
31.) “The Dummy,” starring Bruno Kirby
          Based on a story by Lee Polk and a teleplay by Rod Serling
32.) “No Time Like the Past,” starring Jason Alexander
          Based on a teleplay by Rod Serling
33.) “Still Valley,” starring Adam West
Based on “The Valley Was Still” by Manly Wade Wellman and a teleplay by Rod Serling
34.) “King Nine Will Not Return,” starring Adam Baldwin
          Based on a teleplay by Rod Serling
35.) “I Am the Night-Color Me Black,” starring Tim Ratzenberger
          Based on a teleplay by Rod Serling
36.) “The Incredible World of Horace Ford,” starring Mike Starr
          Based on a teleplay by Reginald Rose
          Note: This is the first episode produced not based on a Rod Serling teleplay
37.) “One More Pallbearer,” starring Chelcie Ross
          Based on a teleplay by Rod Serling
38.) “The Little People,” starring Daniel J. Travanti
          Based on a teleplay by Rod Serling
39.) “Cavender Is Coming,” starring Andrea Evans
          Based on a teleplay by Rod Serling
40.) “Hocus-Pocus and Frisby,” starring Shelley Berman
          Based on a story by Fredric L. Fox and a teleplay by Rod Serling
Note: Shelley Berman appeared in the original episode, “The Mind and the Matter”

Volume 5:
41.) “Living Doll,” starring Tim Kazurinsky
          Based on a teleplay by Jerry Sohl
42.) “The Big Tall Wish,” starring Blair Underwood
          Based on a teleplay by Rod Serling
43.) “The Fever,” starring Stacy Keach and Kathy Garver
          Based on a teleplay by Rod Serling
44.) “The Last Night of a Jockey,” starring Bruno Kirby
          Based on a teleplay by Rod Serling
45.) “A Thing About Machines,” starring Mike Starr
          Based on a teleplay by Rod Serling
46.) “Mirror Image,” starring Morgan Brittany and Frank John Hughes
          Based on a teleplay by Rod Serling
47.) “The 7th Is Made Up of Phantoms,” starring Richard Grieco
          Based on a teleplay by Rod Serling
48.) “The Long Morrow,” starring Kathy Garver
          Based on a teleplay by Rod Serling
49.) “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?” starring Richard Kind
          Based on a teleplay by Rod Serling
50.) “The Trade-Ins,” starring H.M. Wynant and Peggy Webber
          Based on a teleplay by Rod Serling
          Note: H.M. Wynant appeared in the original episode “The Howling Man”

Volume 6:
51.) “Time Enough at Last,” starring Tim Kazurinsky
          Based on the story by Lyn Venable and a teleplay by Rod Serling
52.) “A Passage for Trumpet,” starring Mike Starr
          Based on a teleplay by Rod Serling
53.) “I Shot an Arrow Into the Air,” starring Chelcie Ross
          Based on a story by Madelon Champion and a teleplay by Rod Serling
54.) “The Brain Center at Whipple’s,” starring Stan Freberg
          Based on a teleplay by Rod Serling
55.) “The Grave,” starring Michael Rooker
          Based on a teleplay by Montgomery Pittman
56.) “The Hitch-Hiker,” starring Kate Jackson
          Based on a radio play by Lucille Fletcher and a teleplay by Rod Serling
57.) “Mr. Denton on Doomsday,” starring Adam Baldwin
          Based on a teleplay by Rod Serling
58.) “Sounds and Silences,” starring Richard Kind
          Based on a teleplay by Rod Serling
59.) “The Odyssey of Flight 33,” starring Daniel J. Travanti
          Based on a teleplay by Rod Serling
60.) “The Changing of the Guard,” starring Orson Bean
          Based on a teleplay by Rod Serling
          Note: Orson Bean appeared in the original episode, “Mr. Bevis”

Volume 7:
61.) “Five Characters in Search of an Exit,” starring Jason Alexander
          Based on “The Depository” by Marvin Petal and a teleplay by Rod Serling
62.) “The Arrival,” starring Blair Underwood
          Based on a teleplay by Rod Serling
63.) “Queen of the Nile,” starring Kate Jackson
          Based on the teleplay by Jerry Sohl
64.) “I Dream of Genie,” starring Hal Sparks
          Based on the teleplay by John Furia, Jr.
65.) “It’s a Good Life,” starring Mike Starr
          Based on the story by Jerome Bixby and a teleplay by Rod Serling
66.) “The Masks,” starring Stan Freberg
          Based on the teleplay by Rod Serling
67.) “Mr. Bevis,” starring Bruno Kirby
          Based on the teleplay by Rod Serling
68.) “Showdown with Rance McGrew,” starring Christopher McDonald
          Based on a story by Fredric L. Fox and a teleplay by Rod Serling
69.) “The Old Man in the Cave,” starring Adam Baldwin
          Based on “The Old Man” by Henry Slesar and a teleplay by Rod Serling
70.) “Ninety Years Without Slumbering,” starring Bill Erwin
Based on a story by George Clayton Johnson and a teleplay by Richard de Roy
Note: Bill Erwin appeared in the original episodes, “Mr. Denton on Doomsday,” “Walking Distance,” “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?,” and “Mute”

Volume 8:
71.) “The Howling Man,” starring Fred Willard
          Based on the story and teleplay by Charles Beaumont
Note: The first episode adapted from the work of the show’s second most prolific writer.
72.) “Caesar and Me,” starring Jason Alexander
          Based on a teleplay by Adele T. Strassfield
73.) “The Self-Improvement of Salvadore Ross,” starring Luke Perry
          Based on a story by Henry Slesar and a teleplay by Jerry McNeely
74.) “The Time Element,” starring Bobby Slayton
          Based on a teleplay by Rod Serling
75.) “The Mind and the Matter,” starring Hal Sparks
          Based on a teleplay by Rod Serling
76.) “People Are Alike All Over,” starring Blair Underwood
Based on “Brothers Beyond the Void” by Paul W. Fairman and teleplay by Rod Serling
77.) “What You Need,” starring Bruno Kirby and Bruce Kirby
Based on the story by Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore and a teleplay by Rod Serling
78.) “Dead Man’s Shoes,” starring Bill Smitrovich
Based on a story by OCee Ritch and a teleplay by Ritch and Charles Beaumont
79.) “What’s in the Box,” starring Mike Starr
          Based on a teleplay by Martin M. Goldsmith
80.) “Deaths-Head Revisited,” starring H.M. Wynant
          Based on the teleplay by Rod Serling
          Note: Wynant appeared in the original episode, “The Howling Man”

Volume 9:
81.) “To Serve Man,” starring Blair Underwood
          Based on the story by Damon Knight and a teleplay by Rod Serling
82.) “A World of Difference,” starring Luke Perry
          Based on a teleplay by Richard Matheson
83.) “From Agnes-With Love,” starring Ed Begley, Jr.
          Based on a teleplay by Bernard C. Shoenfield
84.) “Perchance to Dream,” starring Fred Willard
          Based on the story and teleplay by Charles Beaumont
85.) “The Purple Testament,” starring Michael Rooker
          Based on the teleplay by Rod Serling
86.) “Printer’s Devil,” starring Bobby Slayton
Based on the story “The Devil, You Say?” and a teleplay by Charles Beaumont
87.) “Dust,” starring Bill Smitrovich
          Based on a teleplay by Rod Serling
88.) “The Jeopardy Room,” starring Yasen Peyankov
          Based on a teleplay by Rod Serling
89.) “The Fugitive,” starring Stan Freberg
          Based on the teleplay by Charles Beaumont
90.) “The Silence,” starring Christopher McDonald
          Based on the teleplay by Rod Serling

Volume 10:
91.) “Miniature,” starring Lou Diamond Phillips
          Based on the teleplay by Charles Beaumont
92.) “The Jungle,” starring Ed Begley, Jr.
          Based on the story and teleplay by Charles Beaumont
93.) “The Mighty Casey,” starring Paul Dooley
          Based on the teleplay by Rod Serling
94.) “Ring-a-Ding Girl,” starring Sarah Wayne Callies
          Based on the teleplay by Earl Hamner, Jr.
95.) “Mute,” starring Wade Williams
          Based on the story and teleplay by Richard Matheson
96.) “Black Leather Jackets,” starring Marshall Allman
          Based on a teleplay by Earl Hamner, Jr.
97.) “A Quality of Mercy,” starring Robert Knepper
          Based on a teleplay by Rod Serling
98.) “Where is Everybody?” starring John Schneider
          Based on a teleplay by Rod Serling
Note: This was the premier episode of the original series but was not adapted for audio until nearly a hundred episodes in
99.) “A Nice Place to Visit,” starring Hal Sparks
          Based on the teleplay by Charles Beaumont
100.) “In His Image,” starring John Heard
          Based on the story and teleplay by Charles Beaumont

Volume 11:
101.) “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” starring John Schneider
          Based on the story and teleplay by Richard Matheson
102.) “Elegy,” starring Blair Underwood
          Based on the story and teleplay by Charles Beaumont
103.) “The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank,” starring Rober Knepper
          Based on the teleplay by Montgomery Pittman
104.) “Spur of the Moment,” starring Sarah Wayne Callies   
          Based on a teleplay by Richard Matheson
105.) “He’s Alive,” starring Marshall Allman
          Based on a teleplay by Rod Serling
106.) “Long Distance Call,” starring Hal Sparks
Based on a story by William Idelson and a teleplay by Idelson and Charles Beaumont
107.) “The Gift,” starring Danny Goldring
          Based on a teleplay by Rod Serling
108.) “Gentlemen, Be Seated,” starring Stan Freberg
          Based on the story and unproduced teleplay by Charles Beaumont
109.) “You Drive,” starring John Heard
          Based on the teleplay by Earl Hamner, Jr.
110.) “In Praise of Pip,” starring Fred Willard
          Based on the teleplay by Rod Serling

Volume 12:
111.) “The Last Flight,” starring Charles Shaughnessy
          Based on a teleplay by Richard Matheson
112.) “Long Live Walter Jameson,” starring Lou Diamond Phillips
          Based on a teleplay by Charles Beaumont
113.) “Person or Persons Unknown,” starring John Schneider
          Based on the teleplay by Charles Beaumont
114.) “The Whole Truth,” starring Henry Rollins         
          Based on the teleplay by Rod Serling
115.) “Stopover in a Quiet Town,” starring Stephanie Weir
          Based on the teleplay by Earl Hamner, Jr.
116.) “Judgment Night,” starring Chelcie Ross
          Based on the teleplay by Rod Serling
117.) “The Chaser,” starring Stephen Tobolowsky
          Based on the story by John Collier and a teleplay by Robert Presnell, Jr.
118.) “Shadow Play,” starring Ernie Hudson
          Based on “Traumerei” and a teleplay by Charles Beaumont
119.) “Nick of Time,” starring Marshall Allman
          Based on the teleplay by Richard Matheson
120.) “Static,” starring Stan Freberg
          Based on a story by OCee Ritch and a teleplay by Charles Beaumont

Volume 13:
121.) “Death Ship,” starring John Schneider
          Based on the story and teleplay by Richard Matheson
122.) “Pattern for Doomsday,” starring Henry Rollins
Based on an idea by Charles Beaumont and an unproduced teleplay by Jerry Sohl
123.) “Nightmare as a Child,” starring Bonnie Somerville
          Based on the teleplay by Rod Serling
124.) “And When the Sky Was Opened,” starring Barry Bostwick
Based on “Disappearing Act” by Richard Matheson and a teleplay by Rod Serling
125.) “Little Girl Lost,” starring Stephen Tobolowsky
          Based on the story and teleplay by Richard Matheson
126.) “Jess-Belle,” starring Stephanie Weir
          Based on the teleplay by Earl Hamner, Jr.
127.) “The Encounter,” starring Stacy Keach and Byron Mann
          Based on the teleplay by Martin M. Goldsmith
128). “A World of His Own,” starring Charles Shaughnessy
          Based on the teleplay by Richard Matheson
129.) “The New Exhibit,” starring JoBe Cerny
          Based on an idea by Charles Beaumont and a teleplay by Jerry Sohl
130.) “Valley of the Shadow,” starring Chelcie Ross
          Based on a teleplay by Charles Beaumont

Volume 14:
131.) “Night Call,” starring Mariette Hartley
          Based on “Long Distance Call” and a teleplay by Richard Matheson
132.) “Kick the Can,” starring Shelley Berman and Stan Freberg
          Based on the teleplay by George Clayton Johnson
          Note: Berman appeared in the original episode, “The Mind and the Matter”
133.) “A Game of Pool,” starring Wade Williams
          Based on a teleplay by George Clayton Johnson
134.) “A Penny for Your Thoughts,” starring David Eigenberg
          Based on a teleplay by George Clayton Johnson
135.) “Free Dirt,” starring Eric Bogosian
          Based on the story by Charles Beaumont
136.) “Number Twelve Looks Just Like You,” starring Bonnie Somerville
Based on “The Beautiful People” by Charles Beaumont and a teleplay by  John Tomerlin
137.) “On Thursday We Leave for Home,” starring Barry Bostwick
          Based on a teleplay by Rod Serling
138.) “Third from the Sun,” starring Fred Willard
          Based on the story by Richard Matheson and a teleplay by Rod Serling
139.) “The Trouble with Templeton,” starring Michael York
          Based on a teleplay by E. Jack Neuman
140.) “The Mirror,” starring Tony Plana
          Based on a teleplay by Rod Serling

Volume 15:
141.) “The Prime Mover,” starring David Eigenberg
Based on a story by George Clayton Johnson and a teleplay by Charles Beaumont
142.) “A Piano in the House,” starring Michael York
          Based on a teleplay by Earl Hamner, Jr.
143.) “The Four of Us Are Dying,” starring Eric Bogosian
Based on “All of Us Are Dying” by George Clayton Johnson and a teleplay by Rod Serling
144.) “The Sixteen Millimeter Shrine,” starring Kathy Garver and Charles
          Shaughnessy
          Based on a teleplay by Rod Serling
145.)  “The Shelter,” starring Ernie Hudson
          Based on the teleplay by Rod Serling
146.) “Young Man’s Fancy,” starring Tony Plana
          Based on a teleplay by Rod Serling
147.) “Probe 7, Over and Out,” starring Louis Gossett, Jr.
          Based on a teleplay by Rod Serling
148.) “Two,” starring Don Johnson
          Based on a teleplay by Montgomery Pittman
149.) “Who Am I?” starring Sean Astin
          Based on an unproduced teleplay by Jerry Sohl
150.) “The Bewitchin’ Pool,” starring Karen Black
          Based on a teleplay by Earl Hamner, Jr.
          Note: This was the final broadcast episode of the original series

Volume 16:
151.) “The Hunt,” starring Shelley Berman and Karen Black
          Based on a teleplay by Earl Hamner, Jr.
          Note: Berman appeared in the original episode, “The Mind and the Matter”
152.) “Passage on the Lady Anne,” starring Martin Jarvis and Rosalind Ayres
          Based on “Song for a Lady” and a teleplay by Charles Beaumont
153.) “Execution,” starring Don Johnson
          Based on a story by George Clayton Johnson and a teleplay by Rod Serling
154.) “Steel,” starring Louis Gossett, Jr.
          Based on the story and teleplay by Richard Matheson
155.) “The Amazing Dr. Kyle Powers,” starring Sean Astin
          An original radio play
156.) “Nothing in the Dark,” starring Marshall Allman
          Based on a teleplay by George Clayton Johnson
157.) “There Goes the Neighborhood,” starring Tim Kazurinsky
          An original radio play
158.) “The Walk-Abouts,” starring Mike Starr
          An original radio play
159.) “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,” starring Christian Stolte
          Based on a story by Ambrose Bierce and a screenplay by Robert Enrico
160.) “Now You Hear It, Now You Don’t,” starring Dee Wallace
          An original radio play

Volume 17:
161.) “Once Upon a Time,” starring John Rhys-Davies
          Based on a teleplay by Richard Matheson
162.) “The Invaders,” starring Kathy Garver
          Based on a teleplay by Richard Matheson
163.) “Beewinjapeedee,” starring Sean Astin
          An original radio play
164.) “Eye of the Beholder,” starring Virginia Williams
          Based on a teleplay by Rod Serling
165.) “I Sing the Body Electric,” starring Dee Wallace
          Based on a teleplay by Ray Bradbury
166.) “Mrs. Pierce is Praying for Me,” starring Tim Kazurinsky
          An original radio play
167.) “The Time of Your Life,” starring John Rhys-Davies
          An original radio play
168.) “Ten Days,” starring Ned Bellamy
          An original radio play
169.) “Snow Angel,” starring Sean Astin
          An original radio play
170.) “The Nanobots,” starring David Pasquesi
          An original radio play

Volume 18:
171.) “Twenty-Twelve,” starring Christian Stolte
          An original radio play
172.) “. . .And Cauldron Bubble,” staring Virginia Williams
          An original radio play
173.) “Missing, Presumed Dead,” starring Danny Goldrin
          An original radio play
174.) “Rest Stop,” starring Brandon Eels
          An original radio play
175.) “The 25th Hour,” starring Mike Nussbaum
          An original radio play
176.) “Another Place in Time,” starring Malcolm McDowell
          An original radio play
Note: This final episode featured McDowell, who hosted another Carl Amari production, Fangoria Presents: Dreadtime Stories