Based on a TV show that was famous for giving us strange and otherworldly stories, the behind the scenes story of Twilight Zone: The Movie is sadly similarly bizarre and all too tragic.
Below are 10 shocking facts about this 1983 sci-fi horror anthology film, the production of which will forever be shrouded in controversy.
10. It has very little in common with the TV show
Produced by Steven Spielberg and John Landis, Twilight Zone: The Movie actually has very little in common with the 1950s and 1960s TV show it was based on.
The movie was instead described as ‘a cinematic interpretation’ of the TV show that was originally created by Rod Serling.
9. Four legendary directors directed the movie together
Twilight Zone: The Movie contains four different stories, as well as a prologue and an epilogue, that were helmed by four legendary directors.
The story ‘Time Out,’ as well as the Prologue and Epilogue, were directed by John Landis. ‘Kick the Can’ was directed by Steven Spielberg, while ‘It’s a Good Life’ was directed by Joe Dante, and ‘Nightmare at 20,000 Feet’ was directed by George Miller.
8. The four different stories were originally meant to intertwine
Director Joe Dante has revealed that the movie’s four segments were originally meant to intertwine with each other, with the film’s characters appearing in more than one story.
However, issues with the movie’s production meant that this idea was eventually scrapped, and the segments were kept completely stand-alone and separate.
7. A gruesome on-set accident took the lives of three actors, including two children
Tragically, on 23rd July 1982, during filming of John Landis’ ‘Time Out’ section of Twilight Zone: The Movie, an accident involving a helicopter took the lives of actor Vic Morrow and child actors Myca Dinh Le (aged 7) and Renee Shin-Yi Chen (aged 6).
The accident was deemed to have been caused by a special effects explosion being set off too near a low flying helicopter, which damaged its rotor blades and caused it to crash.
6. Steven Spielberg ended his friendship with John Landis over the accident
The helicopter flying so close to the special effects explosions was caused by a ‘failure to establish direct communications and coordination between the pilot, who was in command of the helicopter operation, and the film director, who was in charge of the filming operation.’
Steven Spielberg was so disgusted with director John Landis’ handling of the accident that he publicly ended their friendship over it.
5. Spielberg called for a limitation of director powers over the incident
Following the Time Out debacle, Spielberg called for an end to directors having complete control over a movie, saying that “no movie is worth dying for.”
Spielberg was also quoted as saying “I think people are standing up much more now, than ever before, to producers and directors who ask too much. If something isn’t safe, it’s the right and responsibility of every actor or crew member to yell, ‘Cut!'”
4. The child actors had been hired illegally
Myca Dinh Le and Renee Shin-Yi Chen, the two child actors who tragically lost their lives, had also been hired illegally.
The children were being paid in secret in an attempt to circumvent California’s child labour laws, which prevented children from working at night.
3. All of the filmmakers were found not guilty of manslaughter
The accident resulted in legal action against the filmmakers which lasted nearly a decade.
Director John Landis, associate producer George Folsey, production manager Dan Allingham, pilot Dorcey Wingo and explosives specialist Paul Stewart were all found not guilty of manslaughter.
2. Some critics rated each of the movie’s stories separately
Due to the nature of Twilight Zone: The Movie, some movie critics took the unprecedented step of reviewing each of the movie’s segments separately.
For example, Roger Ebert rated the prologue and first segment two (out of four) stars, gave the second segment one and a half stars, and the third and fourth segments both three and a half stars.
1. It was adapted into a novel that missed out vital segments
Twilight Zone: The Movie was adapted into a novel by author Robert Bloch, who was given the movie’s script to work from.
However, Bloch didn’t include the prologue and epilogue in his novel, later claiming that no-one had told him about their existence!