Cleveland Author to Lead Discussion of ‘Twilight Zone — The Movie’ at the Cinematheque

Plain Dealer TV critic Mark Dawidziak became infatuated with the sci-fi TV show The Twilight Zone when he was a kid.

“I discovered Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone when I was 9,” he says. I was not old enough to see it in its original run. There was a TV station in New York where I grew up that re-ran the show. It was right in my wheelhouse. I loved spooky stuff, and I adored this show because of the eerie endings. That’s the level I enjoyed it on. I carried this show with me throughout my life, and it remains my favorite television show of all time.”

In his early twenties, he decided he’d like to write a history of the show, but in 1982, he walked into a bookstore and saw Marc Scott Zicree’s The Twilight Zone Companion and knew he’d been beaten to the punch.

“That was a landmark book,” he says. “I set my sights on Columbo and determined to do as good as job as Marc.”

When Dawidziak began to share the show with his daughter, who had been a fan of Serling’s other show, Night Gallery, he told her it was time to start her “post graduate work.”

“We watched the entire run,” he says. “We watched the episode ‘Escape Clause’ with David Wayne, who sells his soul. When the episode was over, I told her, ‘Let that be a lesson.’ I then thought about the people who had signed bad contracts during the housing crisis and told her I really meant it. That became a running gag. I then realized there’s a book in this, and I started looking at the life lessons that are presented by The Twilight Zone.”

Dawidziak’s newly published book, Everything I Need to Know I Learned in the Twilight Zone, includes a 50 “life lessons” gleaned from various episodes. It also includes “guest lessons” from people like director Mel Brooks and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.

The 1983 anthology film reimagines four episodes from Rod Serling’s supernatural/horror TV series. Directors Joe Dante (Gremlins), John Landis (American Werewolf in London), George Miller (Mad Max) and Steven Spielberg (E.T.) each direct a segment. Landis oversees the movie’s prologue and epilogue. Dan Aykroyd, Albert Brooks, Scatman Crothers, John Lithgow, Vic Morrow and Kathleen Quinlan star, and several star actors and actresses make cameos.

Dawidziak will introduce the movie and lead a discussion about it after it screens at 7:30 p.m. on Friday at Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque.

The Twilight Zone movie is endlessly fascinating and has a terribly tragic aspect to it because one of the most horrific set disasters occurred during the filming, and they left the segment in and there’s a pall hanging over that movie, which makes it even more fascinating,” says Dawidziak. “You have four then-hot directors who made that movie. A lot of things go right and a lot of things go wrong. The last segment goes right, which is the remake of Richard Matheson’s ‘Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.’ How can you top one of the most beloved episodes? John Lithgow, who has Northeast Ohio ties, is every bit as good as Shatner. It’s a could have/should have movie but no less fascinating because of that.”

Dawidziak will also sell and sign copies of his book after the screening.

Tickets are $12, $9 for Cinematheque members, CIA & CSU I.D. holders, and those age 25 and under.

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Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected].
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