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, Aug. 27, This Day in Twilight Zone History wishes happy birthday to director Alvin Ganzer, who was born on this day in 1911 (he passed away in 2009 at the age of 97). Reflecting his varied gifts as a director, Ganzer directed four very different and unusual episodes – “What You Need,” “The Hitch-Hiker,” Nightmare as a Child,” and “The Mighty Casey.”
On “Casey,” the story of a broken-down major league baseball club that hires a fire-balling robot pitcher to boost their chances (his name isn’t Clayton Kershaw, if you were wondering), Ganzer worked with actor Paul Douglas, who unfortunately was very sick at the time. When he died suddenly after filming was completed, Rod Serling and producer Buck Houghton deemed Douglas’ footage unusable (he was truly dying on screen), and, with his own money, Serling funded practically a total reshoot with Jack Warden replacing Douglas, and Robert Parrish replacing Ganzer.
Ganzer’s "The Hitch-Hiker," with Inger Stevens, is one of the most popular episodes in the series – following a young woman traveling cross-country who can’t seem to get ahead of a creepy hitch-hiker (Leonard Strong).
Hiring creative, versatile, and truly artistic directors was a hallmark of The Twilight Zone. In Serling’s and Houghton’s vision, these were not television shows – they were mini-movies.