Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone premiered on October 2, 1959, and over the course of its five-year run would churn out 156 episodes and cement itself as a classic of science fiction television. Its influence would be felt in any number of shows and movies that would follow -- from The Walking Dead to Stranger Things -- and beyond, becoming one of the enduring pop culture staples of its era. This Day in Twilight Zone History presents key commemorative facts about the greatest science fiction/fantasy television series of all time, presented by author Steven Jay Rubin, whose latest book is The Twilight Zone Encyclopedia (arriving this October). Whether it’s a key performer’s birth or death, the date an episode debuted, or any other related fact, This Day in Twilight Zone History presents a unique aspect of the rich history of this television series and the extraordinary team that created it.
Today, September 14, This Day in Twilight Zone History wishes happy birthday to French film and television director Robert Florey, who was born on this day in 1900. Florey, who passed away in 1979 at 78, directed three very atmospheric episodes – "Perchance to Dream" (with Richard Conte as the heart-stricken victim of a dream demon), "The Fever" (the Las Vegas episode with Everett Sloane terrorized by killer slot machines), and "The Long Morrow" (featuring a rare romantic interlude in The Twilight Zone as Robert Lansing and Mariette Hartley try to formulate a relationship with unusual challenges).
Florey was born in the 19th century – one of a number of Twilight Zone veterans who were forged before the new century began. Like many of the show’s directors, he had cut his teeth in cool early genre features – in Florey’s case, he directed Bela Lugosi in 1932’s Murders in the Rue Morgue. Creating atmosphere on celluloid was, thus, second nature to him – and atmosphere was one of the critical elements that separated The Twilight Zone from the rest of the television programming of its day. Having cut his teeth on black and white films – long before color was the rule – Florey knew how to light, and his episodes truly benefited from his expertise. I’ve always maintained that the reason that the revivals of The Twilight Zone failed to click was the color photography. You can’t really tell these stories unless you shoot them in timeless black and white. Here’s to the 19th-century birth generation who brought that extra special touch of class and experience to The Twilight Zone.