Twilight Zone Marathon

| January 2, 2010 | 0 Comments

The ScyFy channel runs an annual Twilight Zone Marathon every year during New Year’s and I love it. They run back to back episodes around the clock. It allows me to check back in on some of my favorites and discover new episodes. And it reminds me what a genius Rod Serling was. I am also struck by the provocative themes he explores in the show. A recurring theme is Nazis and the Holocaust. I just watched a very vivid episode , entitled Death’s Head Revisited, that follows a former Nazi’s camp guard who revisits Dachau and encounters the ghost of one of the inmates he tortured and killed. While the images in the show are subdued and depict the actual camp and the posts where prisoners were hung, the script is brutal, with some pretty explicit descriptions of what went on in the camp. In the end, the former guard is forced to endure, in his mind, the full range of suffering he inflicted on others. It was powerful.

But there was another episode, entitled He’s Alive, that was amazing in the degree to which it remains relevant today. It starred a very young Dennis Hopper playing a pathetic neo-Nazi whose rantings are ignored until he receives advice from a mysterious, shadowy figure. The show was an hour long, which suggests it was a special episode when it first aired in 1963. The Hopper character gives fiery speeches that, in large part, would not be out of place in one of today’s Tea Party rallies. It’s all about “patriotism” and the degree to which “others” are threatening our freedoms. Very, very timely.

What is clear is that Serling had an acute sense of the fact that all human beings have in them the capacity for evil. And we all need to be very aware of that fact and not pretend that “we” are good, but “they” are evil. We clearly need his voice today. It’s sad that he died so young of lung cancer. Of course, he’s got that ever present smoking cigarette during his intro to each episode, which is a kind of unintentional horror story all its own.

Category: Personal

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