15 tiny, fascinating details you never noticed in 'The Twilight Zone'
You can find all kinds of strange things in the Twilight Zone, from Col. Hogan to Marty McFly's hometown.
The Twilight Zone is filled with mysteries and the uncanny. After all, this was the intent of its creator, the brilliant Rod Serling.
Yet there are more curiousities to be found for the keen observer. The original 1959–64 series packed dozens of little in-jokes and tributes in its details. The production recycled some famous sets — and some later sci-fi classics would reuse sets from The Twilight Zone.
Here, we peel back the curtain of fantasy. We will examine tidbits and trivia that perhaps passed unnoticed. Journey with us behind the scenes of… The Twilight Zone.
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A look forward to 'Back to the Future'
"Where Is Everybody?"
In the very first episode, which aired in October 1959, a man finds himself alone in the small town of Oakwood. The quaint downtown appears to be deserted. It also looks quite familiar. The Oakwood town square is the same set used as Hill Valley in the Back to the Future films. Marty McFly zips back to his hometown in 1955, which bears a similar look to Oakwood. You will note some key differences — that iconic clock was not yet added to the big building at the head of the square.
A distance from 'St. Louis'
In this exploration of nostalgia, a grown man wanders back into his youth (a bit like Back to the Future). He walks up and down a street filled with beautiful Victorian houses. This set, known as "St. Louis Street," was built by MGM Studios for the 1944 Judy Garland musical Meet Me in St. Louis. You can identify some of the same stately homes by their ornate porches.
A real gas
Early in that same episode, Martin Sloan (Gig Young) stops at a gas station. The shingle hanging from the roof proclaims that a Ralph N. Nelson to be the proprietor of the service station. This is a nod to The Twilight Zone's production manager, Ralph W. Nelson.
'Time' and 'Time' again
"Time Enough at Last"
Burgess Meredith on the steps of a library after the apocalypse — it's one of the greatest endinds in the series. That ruined set of steps turned up months later in The Time Machine (1960), as the entrance to an Eloi public building.
The bus stops here
"Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?"
It does not take a third eye in the forehead to spot this inside reference. The bus that carries passengers to a snowed-in diner is branded with the Cayuga name. Rod Serling's production company was named Cayuga Productions.
A return to Maple Street
"The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street"
Darkness can lurk underneath the seemingly picture-perfect streets of suburbia. Or so The Twilight Zone warned again and again. The Maple Street set used in "The Monsters" was also the backdrop in one of the final episodes, "Stopover in a Quiet Town." You can spot the same curving brick sidewalks.
A set decorator leaves his signature
"Stopover in a Quiet Town"
Speaking of "Stopover," that episode, too, hid a shout-out to a crew member. F. Keogh Gleason was the resident set decorator for MGM for years. In four decades, he earned four Oscars. In addition to films like Gigi and The Time Machine (see, it all comes together), Gleason worked on a couple dozen Twilight tales. Which is perhaps why this church sign lists "Kogh Gleason" as the Reverend.
A saucer full of secrets
By now you have seen that The Twilight Zone made economical use of the MGM cache. The iconic flying saucer seen in "The Invaders" perhaps looked familiar to sci-fi lovers at the time. It had appeared five years earlier in the groundbreaking Forbidden Planet. The exterior and interior of the film's spaceship also turns up in "People Are Alike All Over" and "Third from the Sun."
A record beginning
"It's a Good Life"
Creator-writer Rod Serling was the most familiar and important "character" of the series. What would the series have been without his poetic narration? This beloved episode, which has since been remade, featured Serlin's longest intro, clocking in at about two minutes in length.
The President's back
"To Serve Man"
Pay close attention to the newspaper that flashes on the screen in the third act. It's a genuine edition of The Los Angeles Times from June 14, 1961. Two headlines jump off the page — "Specialists Check Kennedy's Back" and "4-Hour Power Failure Brings Chaos to N.Y." No, these were not dystopian fantasies. JFK had chronic back pain. And on June 13, 96-degree temperatures cause a punishing power failure in New York City. The episode aired much later, in the spring of 1962.
"In Praise of Pip"
In 1963, the conflict in Vietnam had yet to capture the attention of Americans. That would not come until the escalation of troops in 1964. In fact, this episode was originally set in Laos, but the powers that be worried that country was too heated an area to mention on television. "South Vietnam" was quieter and further from the minds of the audience at that point. Thus, by most accounts, this is the first scene on American television to depict the Vietnam War.
Chatty Chatty Bang Bang
Long before Chucky came along, the creepy Talking Tina doll was terrorizing Telly Savalas on The Twilight Zone. June Foray provided the voice of the toy, which was a clear spoof of the hit Chatty Cathy dolls carried by millions of American girls. How clear a spoof? Foray was both the voice of the fictional Talking Tina and the real-life Chatty Cathy.
A voice from beyond
"People Are Alike All Over"
Sticking with voices, let's now examine another famous narrator. Fans of The Twilight Zone are no doubt also fond of the The Outer Limits, a similar anthology series of the era that explored the darker realms of science-fiction. That show featured the commanding voice of "Control." Vic Perrin provided that narration. You can spot him in the Zone, too. He is one of the few toga-wearing Martians with a speaking role in this episode.
Before he became Col. Hogan and the adored star of Hogan's Heroes, Bob Crane worked in radio. As a disc jockey, he was known as "the Man of 1,000 Voices." No wonder he was chosen to provide the voices on the radio in this episode, one of the handful shot on video. It would be Crane's very first television role — though he was not credited for the work!
"The Bewitchin' Pool"
In the final episode of the series, a swimming pool plays a prominent part in the plot. Superfans of the show might had sensed something familiar about the spot. The same pool had appeared earlier that season in "Queen of the Nile," and all the way back in "The Trouble with Templeton."
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