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October 26 in Twilight Zone History: Celebrating the birth of director Don Siegel ('Uncle Simon')

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Jun 12, 2018, 12:49 PM EDT (Updated)

Today, October 26th, This Day in Twilight Zone History celebrates the birth of director Don Siegel, who helmed two episodes: "Uncle Simon" and "The Self-Improvement of Salvadore Ross."

In the former episode, he worked with industry veteran Sir Cedric Hardwicke, who played a true curmudgeon who humiliates his niece (Constance Ford) at any opportunity. The story might eventually involve a robot as well.

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In the latter episode, he gets a chance to work with another TZ workhorse: Don Gordon, who plays an obsessed young man who wants to win over his girlfriend (Gail Kobe) at any cost.

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When I was researching my first film book, Combat Films: American Realism (1945-1970), I got a chance to spend some time with Siegel, who replaced Robert Pirosh as director of the terrific Steve McQueen/Harry Guardino/Bobby Darin war film Hell is For Heroes. I learned that Don had cut his teeth on shooting montage sequences for a bunch of 1940s Warner Brothers films before he got his first directing gig.

Don scored big with two classic genre films: the brutal prison drama Riot in Cell Block 11 (with future TZ veteran Neville Brand) and the classic science fiction thriller Invasion of the Body Snatchers, which featured a bunch of future TZ players such as Kevin McCarthy and Larry Gates.

Whether he was directing visceral action sequences or quiet dialogue scenes, Don Siegel was a true artist – and a perfect candidate for The Twilight Zone.