Article from Issue #016

"The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic" - Book Review

[Get a "Behind-the-Scenes" look with George Taylor and his collection of rare photos, making-of videos, cast & crew interviews, and book reviews.]

When Wikipedia doesn't know something about The Twilight Zone, it picks up a copy of Martin Grams, Jr.'s The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic. Why? Because the belief that you can find anything on the internet simply isn't true and this book proves it. All 800 pages are loaded with an unbelievable amount of information, 90% of which you wouldn't imagine still even existed. Don't think it's only for the extreme fan though. Absolutely anyone interested in just a couple of episodes should pick up this end-all archive of the best drama ever on TV.

The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic book cover art.

I can undoubtedly say that I have never seen any topic researched as thoroughly and accurately as in this book. Martin Grams, Jr. has documented more material on The Twilight Zone in "Unlocking the Door…" than the Warren Commission did for the J.F.K. assassination. That's no editorial exaggeration either. And to top it all off, there's no filler in the form of the author's opinion in a single sentence as each line is it's own bit of factual trivia. Grams makes a point in the introduction to note his intentions of creating an account of the history of the show as told directly from the people involved. He states that the only time a phrase is used such as "Rod Serling felt…" is when he has physical proof that Serling said he felt that particular way. No assumptions.

The first 160 pages are a book in itself covering the absolute beginning stages through Rod Serling's business trip schedules and eventually the cancellation, spoofs, and homages. Nine chapters give a look into the history of the show that I've just never seen before on this scale. Of course I've dug into as much of The Complete Definitive Collection DVDs as I can but there's so much more told here. Direct quotes from Serling and complete correspondence gives insight that is as unabridged and candid as you can possibly get. For example, there's even a letter from a businessman in Columbus, OH suggesting a partnership to Rod for a boardgame for the "upcoming" show, The Twilight Zone. If Serling himself were alive today, he wouldn't be able to recite as much detail.

But then the bulk of the book is the massive episode guide that literally goes into as much specificity as to give the royalties received by actors on an episode's fifth rerun. No, really, that happens more than once. You'll read Richard Matheson's exact words as he explains his first impressions and concerns regarding Rod Serling that were shared with other major writers of the show. Best of all, all your opinions of Rod's character are confirmed as you get to know the man as others got to know him. He truly was a genius in more ways than one and his admiration by Ray Bradbury and every other great in the science fiction world are expressed within these pages.

The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic book inside pages.

Actors long forgotten have their words immortalized concerning every single one of the shows 156 episodes. The excerpts are more entertaining than any audio commentary I've heard and come from the moment of the show rather than 40 or 50 years later. Read about the alterations made during rehearsals (and rehearsal dates) and the subtle changes Rod made to opening and closing narrations as well as trailers for the next week's episode. I don't think anything else gets you in the mind of this legendary writer than seeing his arrangement of words being modified from day to day or his awareness of the importance of such minute adjustments. It's this kind of thing that makes me recommend this book not only to fans of the show (which should be everyone) but absolutely every writer or filmmaker out there.

Why this book above the many others, including Marc Scott Zicree's widely accepted 'The Twilight Zone Companion'? Well, because they're inaccurate (as well as incomplete). I know this because Martin Grams, Jr. says so right in his book. He's not afraid to name names and publications that reported incorrect facts for years and he backs up every claim with notes pinpointing their mistakes and which documents support him.

This book simply wouldn't be the same had it came from a household name publisher and it's a true blessing that there are fans of this nature, in talent and enthusiasm, to preserve history in such a way. I highly doubt there was an editor of any kind persuading Martin Grams, Jr. to write the book in a certain manner or to "shorten it up" and appeal to a wider, more casual audience. He could have easily gone to a major publisher and worked out a deal of some kind to get more exposure and profits, but he chose to get this information to the public in the format it deserves without sacrificng anything for mass-appeal.

I fear for humanity the possibility that this book could go out of print because it would be a devastating loss to the literary world. Not just for it's admirable "facts only" style, but the wealth of information pertaining to my personal favorite writer and his masterpiece. I can guarantee that remaining copies would sell for at least a couple of hundred dollars from third-parties and be talked about for years so don't risk it. Grams, Jr.'s proceeds entirely go to the Johns Hopkins Comprehensive Cancer Center so if you were leery about the price tag, it's for a worthy cause. Even still, there is a Kindle Edition for only $9.99 if you're genuinely tight on cash. I'll definitely be downloading it when I get around to buying a Kindle if for no other reason than the search function.

When it comes down to it, this is the kind of research I want in more of my favorite movies and TV shows! You can open the book to any page and any line and start reading little nuggets of knowledge that you won't find anywhere else. But be warned, you'll advance through episodes and hours of your life without even realizing it. It's almost as if you're travelling into another dimension, but let's wrap this up before I start with the quips. I'll leave you with this: when the "Super Duper Ultimate Complete Series Edition" of the show finally hits Blu-ray, you better have a copy of this tome by your side for every single episode. You'll be educated, inspired, and entertained in very much the same way as when you first came upon that moral fantasy gateway to the mind known as… The Twilight Zone.

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