The Twilight Zone is widely considered one of the greatest television shows of all time. Image Entertainment’s new release of The Twilight Zone: The Complete Series collects all 156 classic episodes – that’s about 75 hours! – across 25 discs, all at a reasonable price. The release gave me the opportunity to re-experience Rod Sterling’s classic show in all its glory.
The Twilight Zone attracted an impressive array of actors who would go on to find great fame, including William Shatner, Robert Redford, Lee Marvin, Martin Landau, Mickey Rooney, Dennis Hopper, Carol Burnett, Dick York, Roddy McDowall, Ron Howard, Burt Reynolds, Robert Duvall and many more. The show also boasted a number of talented directors, whether they were established filmmakers or eager up-and-comers cutting their teeth in television. Here are five famed horror directors who entered The Twilight Zone.
1. Richard Donner
Richard Donner’s claim to fame amongst horror fans is The Omen, but he’s also responsible for bringing The Goonies, Superman and Lethal Weapon to the screen. Long before crafting such beloved films, he directed six episodes of The Twilight Zone, including one of the show’s most well-known installments. “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” which was later remade for Twilight Zone: The Movie, stars William Shatner as a salesman who sees a monster on the wing of his airplane during a flight. Donner is also responsible for “Come Wander with Me,” “The Brain Center at Whipple’s,” “The Jeopardy Room,” “Sounds and Silences” and “From Agnes – with Love.” Perhaps influenced by his experiences on The Twilight Zone, he later served as executive producer of Tales from the Crypt.
2. Donald Siegel
Donald Siegel is known for directing the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers. He also did five films with Clint Eastwood, including Dirty Harry and Escape from Alcatraz, as well as John Wayne’s final effort, The Shootist. For The Twilight Zone, he worked on two episodes from the show’s fifth and final season. “Uncle Simon” isn’t particularly noteworthy, but “The Self-Improvement of Salvadore Ross” is a good installment. Don Gordon stars in the titular role, portraying an insensitive man with the power to trade both physical and personality traits with any other person.
3. Joseph M. Newman
Joseph M. Newman is known for the sci-fi classic This Island Earth, which was famously the subject of Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie (despite being a good movie). Nearly a decade after its release, he filmed four episodes for The Twilight Zone’s fifth season. His contributions include “In Praise of Pip,” the season opener and first American TV show to mention the Vietnam War; “The Last Night of a Jockey,” a memorable episode in which Mickey Rooney is the sole actor; “Black Leather Jackets,” about an alien invasion; and “The Bewitchin’ Pool,” the show’s final episode. It’s worth mentioning that Newman also helmed ten episodes of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour around the same time he was working on The Twilight Zone.
4. Boris Sagal
Boris Sagal was behind the Charlton Heston-starring cult movie The Omega Man, an adaptation of regular Twilight Zone writer Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend. He also directed three episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, as well as Elvis Presley in Girl Happy. A few years prior, he helmed two episodes of The Twilight Zone: “The Silence” and “The Arrival.” Although the latter is not especially memorable, the former is an intriguing offering. Inspired by Anton Chekhov’s short story The Bet, it’s about a talkative man who is offered $500,000 to remain silent for a year.
5. Stuart Rosenberg
Stuart Rosenberg directed the original The Amityville Hororr, along with the Oscar-winning Cool Hand Luke. He also did three Twilight Zone episodes: “I Shot an Arrow into the Air,” which would later impact Rod Sterling’s Planet of the Apes script, “He’s Alive,” an interesting one concerning Adolph Hitler; and “Mute,” adapted by Richard Matheson from his own short story. He’s another director who supplemented his Twilight Zone work with Alfred Hitchcock Presents, handling five episodes.
Bonus Fun Fact
When The Twilight Zone was revived for a three-season run beginning in 1985, it attracted a number of notable horror filmmakers. This includes Wes Craven (A Nightmare on Elm Street), William Friedkin (The Exorcist), Joe Dante (Gremlins), Tommy Lee Wallace (It), Paul Lynch (Prom Night) and Jeannot Szwarc (Jaws II). The show didn’t quite live up to the original run, but it’s fun to see the genre names become part of the legacy. The Twilight Zone was unsuccessfully revived again in 2002.
If you don’t already own The Twilight Zone, now is a great time to pick it up and experience the aforementioned episodes and many more.