Twilight Zone Top 10

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(Yes, this is from “The Invaders.” No, it did not make my list.)

My credentials for this countdown:

I started watching The Twilight Zone when I was six.

I own the box set (and look at this, Holiday Shoppers: a less expensive box set was released a couple of weeks ago), which means seeing uncut/unedited versions.

I’ve seen every episode at least twice and re-watched many of them before making this list.

(And, to be clear, we’re discussing the original 1959 – 1964 run.)


 

(10) Death Ship (Season 4, Episode 6)

Written by Richard Matheson, based on his short story of the same name.

Three astronauts touch down on a planet and find a crashed ship that looks exactly like their own… with bodies that look exactly like their own.

Season 4 of The Twilight Zone was put into an hour-long slot, doubling the length of a show that sometimes felt stretched when it was in a 30-minute slot. “Death Ship” suffers from that stretching but two of my favorite Twilight Zone actors save the day: Jack Klugman (also in “A Passage for Trumpet” and “In Praise of Pip”) and Ross Martin (also in “The Four of Us Are Dying”) are great as two of the three astronauts.

Matheson (one of the all-time greats in the short-story field. ReadHis. Stuff.) writes some of the best dialogue on the show. These astronauts interact not as preachy archetypes but as three guys who are scared as hell and have no idea what’s going on.

And this story just stays with you, like the best of Matheson.

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“Rosemary’s Baby” (Post 1/3)

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[Explanation of Reading Journal Entries/Ratings]

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Ira Levin’s 1967 classic. I read my 1968 movie tie-in paperback.

5 out of 5 stars.

The Plot: Young Rosemary Woodhouse moves into a perfect New York City apartment with a perfect New York City husband. Her dream to have a child might not work out as planned, though.

This is a tight masterpiece of black humor and modern horror. It’s also a course in plotting. Every name, every color, every passing reference ties into the larger story, giving you all of the pieces before you even know you’re looking at a puzzle.

Happy Halloween.


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“Catch-22” (Post 4/4)

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[Explanation of Reading Journal Entries/Ratings]

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[97] Yossarian’s scenes as bombardier capture an amazing level of panic and stress (see also Post 2, note [56]):

Yossarian was flabbergasted. His leg went abruptly to sleep. McWatt had started to climb and was yelping over the intercom for instructions. Yossarian sprang forward to see where they were and remained in the same place. He was unable to move. Then he realized he was sopping wet. He looked down at his crotch with a sinking sick sensation. A wild crimson blot was crawling upward rapidly along his shirt front like an enormous sea monster rising to devour him. He was hit! Separate trickles of blood spilled to a puddle on the floor through one saturated trouser leg like countless unstoppable swarms of wriggling red worms. His heart stopped. A second jolt struck the plane. Yossarian shuddered with revulsion at the queer sight of his wound and screamed at Aarfy for help.

(p.283)

[98] Translation:

Dunbar was lying in pajamas in the bed across the aisle, maintaining that he was not Dunbar but a fortiori (…) Sure enough, Dunbar was right: he was not Dunbar any more but Second Lieutenant Anthony F. Fortiori.

(p.285)

adverb, adjective – used to express a conclusion for which there is stronger evidence than for a previously accepted one. (From Latin for “from stronger argument.”)

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“Catch-22” (Post 3/4)

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[Explanation of Reading Journal Entries/Ratings]

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[57] Reference:

The drunken Anzac major who had brought her there had been stupid enough to desert her.

(p.152)

Stands for “Australian and New Zealand Army Corps”.

[58] Translate:

Cosa vuol dire bullshit?”

(p.153)

Italian: what does it mean, [bullshit]?

[59] Vocabulary:

They reached a chaotic bus depot honking with horns, blazing with red and yellow lights and echoing with the snarling vituperations of unshaven bus drivers.

(p.154)

vituperation

noun – bitter and abusive language.

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“Catch-22” (Post 2/4)

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[Explanation of Reading Journal Entries/Ratings]

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[11]

They were men who had finished their fifty missions. There were more of them now than when Yossarian had gone into the hospital, and they were still waiting. They worried and bit their nails. They were grotesque, like useless young men in a depression. They moved sideways, like crabs.

(p.26)

[12] Reference:

From Battery Park to Fulton Street, he was known as a dependable man for a fast tax write-off.

(p.27)

Fulton Street is located in Lower Manhattan in New York City in the Financial District, a few blocks north of Wall Street (and within a mile of Battery Park.)

 

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“Catch-22” (Post 1/4)

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[Explanation of Reading Journal Entries/Ratings]

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Joseph Heller’s first novel, published in 1961. I read a very cool 1967 edition which once belonged to Chorley Public Library in England.

4 out of 5 stars. 

The Plot:

US Air Force members stationed on the Italian island of Pianosa try to survive World War II with varying moralities and coping mechanisms.

Catch-22 has the reputation of being a humorous romp (on Amazon, it’s currently #1 in Dark Humor and #5 in Satire) but it’s ultimately more surrealistic-psychological nightmare than comedy.

There are some slow parts (and a couple of offensive ones) but the good is so damned good that I forgive it.

Catch-22 sits on many Greatest Books of the 20th Century and Best Novels lists (my ex-library copy has a sticker proclaiming it part of the “BBC Big Read Top 100”) which can be justified solely by Heller’s risk and innovation. Catch-22 should not work as a narrative; the cast of characters is too large, the timeline jumps around too much, no conversation goes anywhere

But it does work and the unusually-shaped pieces come together to make an effectively moving novel.

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