Monday, June 27, 2011

The Twilight Zone Marathon Returns

The cable channel formerly known as the Sci Fi Channel (and now known as the Syfy Channel) will resume its Fourth of July tradition of a multi–day marathon of Twilight Zone episodes.

This time last year, I mentioned here that this tradition had been disrupted, but it will be restored this year — according to the Syfy online schedule.

If you're familiar with the history of the original Twilight Zone series, you know that nearly all the episodes were 30 minutes long. The series ran for five years (1959–64), and, in nearly every season, the episodes were half an hour, (the fourth season, in which episodes were an hour in length, was the sole exception).

In past marathons, Syfy has shown the hour–long episodes in the early hours of the morning or in the middle of the afternoon. Prime time was reserved for the classic half–hour episodes.

I've looked at the schedule, and I have seen none of the hour–long episodes listed so I have to conclude that the fourth season will be left out of this year's marathon entirely.

I have discovered a few nuggets of rarely seen Twilight Zone gold that you may want to watch while you have the opportunity.

On Sunday, July 3, may I recommend:
  • "The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank" at 10 a.m. (Central).

    I rarely see this episode, and you probably won't recognize anyone in the cast — but it's a great story about a young man who died — and then sat up in his coffin at his funeral. He began behaving in a — shall we say? — bizarre fashion thereafter.

    Looking for a chill on a hot summer day? This will get you there.

  • "Death's Head Revisited" at 5 p.m. (Central).

    I always liked this episode, and I have seen it far too infrequently over the years. It is about a Nazi officer who once presided with an iron hand over the prisoners in a World War II concentration camp. He returns, after years of hiding, and is confronted by the ghosts of his victims.

    If you have never seen it, I highly recommend it.

  • "The Howling Man" at 7:30 p.m. (Central).

    I've seen this one a little more frequently. It's about a mysterious monastery that has the devil under lock and key, but a man seeking shelter for the night releases him, not realizing the identity of the prisoner.

    And the devil was unleashed upon the world, bringing to an end a period of relative harmony in the world. Perfect harmony, as Brother Jerome tells the man, is not possible, but unchecked evil makes things worse than they have to be.
And next Monday the Fourth, why not give these episodes a glimpse?
  • "The Hunt" at 9 a.m. (Central).

    Remember the old Rip Van Winkle story? This episode always kind of reminded me of that one. It wasn't exactly a re–telling of the story, but it certainly could have been inspired by it.

    An old man and his dog drown while on a nighttime hunting trip. Unaware that they have died, their spirits return to their home, where no one can see them. The rest of the story deals with their adjustment to the afterlife.

    OK, the ending is a little corny.

  • "And When the Sky Was Opened" at 2:30 p.m. (Central).

    Three astronauts return from a trip to outer space, then, one by one, they vanish, leaving no trace that they were ever around.

    In the past, this one has been part of Syfy's marathon sometimes — and sometimes it hasn't.

    This year, it is. Catch it while it's on.

  • "The Obsolete Man" at 5 p.m. (Central).

    I wrote about this one earlier this month — on the 50th anniversary of its debut.

    You can see three of the four Burgess Meredith Twilight Zone episodes in this year's Fourth of July marathon, and this is one of them. I recommend it.

  • "A Stop at Willoughby" at 8:30 p.m. (Central).

    If you aren't going out to see a fireworks display, may I suggest that you catch this episode?

    It's kind of a cautionary tale, still relevant in today's high–pressure environment, even though it first aired more than 50 years ago.

    James Daly plays an advertising executive who dozes off on the commuter train and wakes up in the 19th century — on board an old–fashioned train that stops in a sleepy village called Willoughby where the pace is slow and people go fishing and attend band concerts, not staff meetings.
Well, that's just a sample of what is available on Sunday and Monday, at just about any hour of the day or night (there are a couple of hours in the early morning when paid programming will air — gotta pay the bills, don't you know).

You can catch a good episode just about any time you tune in on Sunday or Monday.

Have a good holiday weekend.