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This is perhaps one of the best "Twilight Zone" episodes of the entire series. The beginning is mysterious, and though confusing, it gives you a big clue as to what will follow. It starts with the end, and does a flashback to what got the main character there. As the story unfolds you forget how it began. Those big tall aliens, who left the book at the United Nations are frightening to look at, but the wonderful things they are doing for the people of the Earth make them seem completely benevolent. It had me and my brother fooled until the end, when the woman ran up and shouted out those three unforgettable words, "It's a ....". No, I can't tell you what she said, you must watch it for yourself. When you do, I think you will add this film to your Sci-Fi Hall of Fame!
The episode begins with a race from another planet coming to Earth and
offering to make all our problems disappear. Despite our natural
distrust of such claims, the planet soon becomes a paradise--with
plenty to eat, peace throughout the land and humans praising these
well-intentioned beings. However, despite the windfall, two translators
who work for the United Nations doggedly try to unlock the alien
language contained in one of their books. So far, they only have been
able to translate the title, "To Serve Man", but the rest alludes them.
When it comes to the excellent show THE TWILIGHT ZONE, you can't find a better episode than this one--and that's saying a lot because they made quite a few gems. That's because this one is based on a short story that is so gosh-darn clever that you can't help but admire the episode. Plus, the acting, sets and mood is so well created that it just screams "quality television".
This episode of the Twilight Zone is a must see. Bochner and the supporting actors work naturally in under 25 minutes in this teleplay. The story works on our fears and dreams as the alien Kanamits, all wonderfully played by Richard Kiel, tells the earth that they can turn our war and famined ridden world into a "Garden of Eden." The directing and script works so well together that it moves at break neck speed as questions about the Kanamits "good will" unfolds as you unfold them in your own mind. Kiel with bulbous head and darkened eyes doesn't moves his lips as he communicates telepathically. His expressionless face and a tinny Voice Over gives a strange and surreal effect. Good Night Mr. Serling!
A lot of fun to be had with this one, even if you are good at guessing
twists. The fourth wall comes down. You get a very cinematic short
sci-fi drama carried by Lloyd Bochner as a cerebral, urbane, relaxed
hero. He gives an almost Montaigne-like portrait of 'how to live well
with aliens'. Susan Cummings blends with him perfectly as his female
linguist counterpart. The introduction of a Kanamit (Richard Kiel) by
the enormous shadow at the UN is impressive (going straight there saves
the Kanamits the embarrassment of saying 'Take me to your leader').
Having heard Richard Kiel's excellent ability as a public speaker (one of the best I've ever heard in person, and I've listened to a lot of Shakespearean actors) at a James Bond convention, I am amused now to see only his visual talents used on screen. I believe his Kanamit was voiced by Joseph Ruskin (Genie from Man In The Bottle, series 2).
One of the great episodes. Clearly having a little fun at the 1950's sci-fi movies expense.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It would have been way too easy to use the cookbook line for my summary
above. Instead, I'm fascinated by how ominous Rod Serling made the
Kanamits appear when he compared them to government agents - "We are
here to help you". Needless to say, when the real invasion occurs you
better keep up your guard.
There's a reason this one tops the charts as perhaps the best Twilight Zone of all time. Unlike many other episodes that end with a twist, you don't see this one coming, even when the title is served up on a dinner platter half way through. There was another tip off too - all travelers boarding the space ship for the Kanamit planet got weighed on an industrial scale. You didn't see any anorexics boarding now did you?
I can't help comparing this episode to the 1951 sci-fi classic "The Day The Earth Stood Still". In that one, the aliens arrived on Earth with a mission too, but it had more to do with an ultimatum than an assertion of good will. The end of that film leaves it to the viewer's imagination as to what earth's final fate would be, although if you follow the progress of human history, there's no doubt that the aliens wind up pulling the trigger on Man's arrogance and stupidity.
I could go on and on about this episode. There are so many nuances Serling threw in that were so topical back then, but are even more glaring now with the advantage of hindsight. Like how ineffective the United Nations was in dealing with the alien threat, similar to the way they are now with globe troubling issues like nuclear proliferation from North Korea and Iran. At least back then, the UN wasn't corrupt, or at least AS corrupt.
Here's another one. How about when the Kanamit (Richard Kiel) makes his first appearance at the UN. You don't see him at first, only that ghastly shadow on the wall as he heads to the General Assembly. You would have to go all the way back to 1922's silent film "Nosferatu" to see how effectively that scene was done almost a half century earlier. There's more horror conveyed in a simple scene like that than all the slasher/gore nonsense that's brought to modern film year after year today.
Another example of how things change but remain the same can be found in the headlines of 'The Chronicle' right underneath 'Kanamits Promise New Era'. Right there in black and white - 'New Tax Bill May Be Needed'. Then, in a prescient moment, some three years before it actually happened, you have '4-Hour Power Failure Brings Chaos to N.Y.' I guess Serling turned out to be a pretty good prophet, as that great New York City blackout was blamed for a healthy rise in birth rates nine months later.
One more - I can't resist. Narrator Michael Chambers (Lloyd Bochner) found himself on Flight 914 going to the Kanamit planet. '914' was, and still is, the telephone exchange for the lower New York State area consisting of Westchester County. Coincidence? Serling used New York State locations a lot in his stories, so who knows?
Depending on my mood and time of day, 'To Serve Man' sits at Number #1 or 2 as my favorite Twilight Zone episode. Interestingly, I just learned (by watching the TZ Definitive Edition offering of this show), that the other one vying for the top spot is the very next episode of the series titled 'The Fugitive'. I'll get into that in my next review.
Lloyd Bochner plays Michael Chambers, who relays the tale of how the Kanamits arrived on Earth not so long ago, promising all kinds of gifts including infinite energy and food sources, and a protective shield around nations that should make wars obsolete. Their promises are kept, and the world rejoices in their new alien providers, but some are still unsure, and a Kanamit book that was left behind becomes the determined object of deciphering, and the title is first found, "To Serve Man", but it is the contents of that book that really put the sting in the tail... Memorable and influential episode may not have an airtight plot, but the Kanamits are a most effective creation, and the surprise twist of course is now the stuff of legend(and punch lines!)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
***SPOILERS*** It was out of the blue that hundreds of spaceships
landed in all the major capitals and cities of the world that caused
the leaders, as well as people, of nations on that planet to feel a bit
nervous. To their surprise the aliens were not at all hostile but very
hospitable towards them with a menu of goodies like free and unlimited
power sources as well as super seeds that can be planted in places like
the Sahara Desert and cause it to bloom like a Garden of Eden. The most
important project that the aliens had to offer the earth's population
is an invisible force field that will by rendering nuclear as well as
conventional bombs and missiles useless thus end war on earth forever.
All the aliens want is for the earth people to every now and then take
a trip, free of charge, to their planet some 100 billion miles away as
see what they got in store for them in accepting their wonderful gifts
that among other things prevent hunger on the entire planet.
We in the audience knows that something is very fishy in all this because at the start of "The Twiight Zone" episode we see a sweating and almost out of his skull Michael Chambers, Llyod Bochner, explaining just what a mess he and his fellow earthlings got themselves into in accepting the aliens, 9 foot tall Kanamits, gracious offer. Chambers a decoder specialist for the US Government had gotten a hold of a book that the head Kanamit, Richard Kiel, left at the UN as an offer of his good and honest intentions for the human race with its title, after being decoded, as saying "To Serve Man".
***SPOILERS*** Feeling that he, not the Kanamits, was now in the driver seat in being serviced by them at no cost to himself and his fellow human beings Chambers found out too late who was to serve who when his fellow government decoder specialist Patty, Susan CUmmings, decoded the contents of the mysterious book. As it turned out the Kanamits were indeed very interested in preserving the human race and keeping it strong healthy and well fed for it's own selfish and greedy propose! And those reasons were kept under wraps by the Kanamits until they got not only control but the full confidence of those, the human population on earth, that they secretly targeted!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Twilight Zone:To Serve Man(Season 3,Episode 89),1962,USA
Director:Richard L. Bare Stars:Lloyd Bochner, Susan Cummings and
Richard Kiel Original Air Date: 2 March 1962
"An alien race comes to earth, promising peace and sharing technology. A linguist and his team set out to translate the alien's language, using a book whose title they deduce is "To Serve Man"".
"The recollections of one Michael Chambers with appropriate flashbacks and soliloquy. Or more simply stated, the evolution of man. The cycle of going from dust to dessert. The metamorphosis from being the ruler of a planet to an ingredient in someone's soup. It's tonight's bill of fare from The Twilight Zone." - Rod Serling
A couple of months ago i began watching The Twilight Zone,Rod Serling's legendary antholgy Television series that covers all genres from Science Fiction to Fantasy to Horror and even the odd comedy.The Twilight Zone has quickly become my favorite television show of all time,its unlike anything I've ever seen,from The unforgettable theme song to brilliant stories and horrifying plot twist and Serling's iconic narration,those are just a few things that keep the Twilight Zone so fresh in peoples minds after 47 off the air.During its five season run there were many amazing and iconic episodes such as "Time Enough At Last","The Eye Of The Beholder" or "Nightmare At 20.000 Feet" but arguably the most talked about and remembered would have to be "To Serve Man" its a simple tale with horrific twist that still manages to shock viewers.
Aliens called the Kanamits arrive from another planet and confront the leaders of Earth,They have only one thing on there agenda and that is To Serve Man but eliminating such world problems as Famine by promising peace and sharing their share technology but of course this is the Twilight Zone and nothing is as it seems.As a linguist and his team set out to translate the alien's language, using a book whose title they deduce is "To Serve Man" They discover the way in which the Kanamits intend to Serve man.
To Serve Man isn't the most intelligent or visually appealing episode of The Twilight Zone in fact its a simple tale but Serlings writing pulls the carpet from underneath the audience with it's iconic twist that takes place late the episode.To Serve Man is terrific though,tremendously well made and acted and the makeup effects on Kanamits still look unique.
To Serve Man is truly one of the very best episodes The Twilight Zone has to offer,Which is saying a lot,Its still extremely effective and frightening and i don't think it can ever be forgotten,Due to it being spoofed in such things as "The Simpsons" and "The Naked Gun 2 1/2" to name a few.To Serve Man lives up to all its hype and should definitely be in all Zone fans all time favorite episodes.
To Serve Man: 4/4
No need to recap the plot. The half hour's likely the best known of all TZ entries. No doubt a lot has to do with the delicious central irony. But then the half-hour's also very well produced. The segments at the UN are both well staged and cast, though the representatives are largely familiar stereotypes (Soviet Union, Japan). Also, Kiel's make-up as the giant Kanamit appears seamless. That is, I couldn't spot where his head ended and the brain extension began. But please, I'd like to get a job as a decoder next to Bochner so maybe I could work alongside the luscious Susan Cummings. I'll bet the Kanamit is eyeing her for a holiday repast. Note in passing how the good folks line up for the space ship, just like they're responding to a cattle call. How ironic. Anyway, the storyline's very well done, hooking us right away with Bochner's puzzling cell confinement. Still, it's kind of tricky material that manages a chuckle rather than a yuk thanks to an expert production crew.
This is one of my favorite tales of the show, what is great about it is
how it flips from one genere to another in a deceptive manner.
From the very beginning we see our main protagonist Mike Chambers captive and heading toward his doom, so immediately we know there is a catch somewhere with the Kanamit aliens. I even like there are a few suttle hints to the true intentions of the Kanamits, from a weight scale they have before boarding the Flying Saucer which seemed rather strange. And of course the name itself, it's referring to a term you probably already know.
I really like the suttle build up as we see these Kanamit aliens in action as we see their intentions are peaceful, from preventing wars, enriching soil to provide plenty to eat, literally making our Earth a garden of Eden. And yet there is the matter with the book which makes them more of an enigma of course is the key factor in this episode; let alone the fact they never asked for anything in return. The language is hard to decipher except for the title which seems promising, making their intentions genuine.
But as an old saying goes, it's too good to be true.
Rating: 4 stars
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