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April 24 in Twilight Zone History: Happy Birthday to director Richard Donner ('Nightmare at 20,000 Feet')

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Apr 24, 2018

Today, April 24th, This Day in Twilight Zone History and The Twilight Zone Encyclopedia celebrate the birthday of a gem of a director: Richard Donner, who turns 88 today.

So enamored are we with his feature work on such classics as Superman, Lethal Weapon, and The Omen that we forget that Donner got his start on series television and helmed six (!) Season 5 episodes: "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet," "From Agnes – with Love," "Sounds and Silences," “The Jeopardy Room,” "The Brain Center at Whipple's," and "Come Wander with Me."

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Donner, flanked by his Lethal Weopan legends Danny Glover and Mel Gibson.

Donner was one of those directors who didn't flinch at adding comedy to his dramatic scripts – the Lethal Weapon series is a perfectly example. On the surface, these are deadly serious cop dramas, but focusing on the pairing of opposites Mel Gibson and Danny Glover, Donner was able to mine some terrific comic moments as the by-the-book Roger Murtaugh tries to understand and deal with his unhinged partner, Martin Riggs.

Although "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" and "The Jeopardy Room" have virtually no laughs, "Sounds and Silences" and "The Brain Center at Whipple's" add light touches to serious stories by exaggerating the villainy of, well, their villains.

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Director Richard Donner's "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" has always been one of the most popular episodes in the series.

So let's hoist a high one to a legendary director who brought his considerable skills to a half-dozen journeys into that vacation spot for lunatics, lovers and heroes: The Twilight Zone.