So tomorrow is Twilight Zone Day. In honor of this inexplicable holiday, here are the underappreciated baddies of the Serlingverse. Never mind psychokinetic children who'll turn you into a jack-in-the-box. We're talking evil genies who'll turn you into Hitler!
Just FYI, this article contains spoilers for episodes that aired almost 40 years ago. Just saying.
10.) Oliver Crangle from "Four O'Clock" (1962)
Oliver Crangle is a guy who really hates the evil people of the world. His original plan to combat evil involves him harassing the wicked at their workplaces with crank calls. This ends global injustice about as well as you'd expect - there's a reason the Jerky Boys never make the shortlist for the Nobel Peace Prize. Undeterred, Crangle vows to shrink all the evil-doers of the world down to two feet using his mind. This scheme too is criminally stupid, but it works better than his Crank Yankers routine. Alas, Crangle too is shrunk and ensnared in the vicissitudes that come with being a telekinetic moron.
9.) Christmas in "Five Characters in Search of an Exit" (1961)
You've got to hand it to The Twilight Zone for transforming X-Mas into a sinister entity. In this episode, a clown, a vagabond, a ballerina, a bagpiper, and an army major are trapped in a mysterious giant cylinder. They have no need for food or water, and the major suspects they're in Hell. He escapes the cylinder by grappling over the top, and LO! He is just a toy in a Christmas collection barrel. I seriously hope this is the ending of Lost - it turns out that Walt is merely playing in the bath with a bootleg Iraqi G.I. Joe, a Merry LOTR action figure, a ball of steel wool, Doctor Ken, a Gambit action figure, and a Hagrid doll.
8.) The Aliens from "Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?" (1961)
At the end of this episode, a three-armed businessman gloats to a lowly diner waiter how Martians have already conquered the planet. But wait! The waiter is a three-eyed Venusian who has already colonized Earth! Sucks to be Martian! If I had my druthers, this episode would end with a three-thyroided Plutonian janitor emerging from the bathroom and boasting about how he already beat them to the punch.
7.) Hitler's Ghost from "He's Alive" (1963)
Dennis Hopper is a neo-Nazi under the thrall of Hitler's ghost. Even though anti-Semitic King Koopa kicks it at the end of the episode, I still regard "He's Alive" as the prequel to Blue Velvet.
6.) Satan from "The Howling Man" (1960)
In this episode, Satan is trapped by a bunch of monks using a mystical cane. A visitor to the monastery lets him loose (says Serling, "You can catch the Devil, but you can't hold him long."), and turns into a hot-sauce bottle Satan right before our mildly incredulous eyes. Truth be told, I included this primarily for the clutch acting when Lucifer paralyzes the poor sap.
5.) Caesar the Talking Dummy from "Caesar and Me" (1964)
Evil ventriloquist dummies are the bread and butter of TTZ (see 1962's classic The Dummy), but Caesar the talking dummy takes the cake for looking like a strung-out Howdy Doody and getting all Jerry Lee Lewis with a creepy naif who likes poison darts. Trenchant social commentary this episode ain't.
4.) Evil Slot Machine from "The Fever" (1960)
OH MY GOD A KILLER SLOT MACHINE IS A METAPHOR FOR GAMBLING ADDICTION.
3.) The Genie from "The Man In A Bottle" (1960)
Don't ask a genie for limitless political power. Why? He'll turn you into Hitler.
2.) Astonaut Peter Craig in "The Little People" (1962)
In this episode, Peter Craig finds a city of ant-like people on another planet. Naturally, his first inclination is to smush them and declare himself a god. Peter's then accidentally smashed by a race of giants. The twist is so stupidly simple it's brilliant. Can you imagine the writers' meeting for this one?
1.) The Sky-Yeti from "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" (1963)
Most folks remember this scene from the Twilight Zone movie, in which John Lithgow goes bonkers over a gremlin-like beast. In my opinion, the original episode is way more memorable for having William Shatner lose his shit over an airborne Abominable Snowman.