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Richard Matheson's The Twilight Zone Scripts: Volume Two    Editor Stanley Wiater order for
Richard Matheson's The Twilight Zone Scripts
by Stanley Wiater
Order:  USA  Can
Edge, 2002 (2002)
* * *   Reviewed by David Pitt

All you Twilight Zone fans settle down. You there, in the back, the slim dark-haired guy in the neatly cut suit smoking a cigarette and accenting your words in a curious manner - we know who you are, and we'll thank you not to cause a ruckus. Yes, this book contains six of Richard Matheson's Twilight Zone scripts, including the classic Nightmare at 20,000 feet; yes, it was originally available in a limited edition that's now out of print; but that's no reason to go all goofy on me.

Anyway, here you'll also find the scripts entitled Mute; Death Ship (a clever science-fictiony thingy); Steel; Night Call; and Spur of the Moment. These are screenplays, remember, not short stories; expect a lot of interruptions like INT.CELLAR - UP ANGLE SHOT and CAMERA DRAWING AHEAD and ZOOMS TO A CLOSE SHOT. Matheson's prose has always been rather clean, and these scripts are relatively free of stage directions and bits we'll call, for want of a better word, color. Sometimes we get a hint of what the characters are feeling:

WHEELER (tense with worry)
If only we'd heard from you; but there was never a word.

or perhaps

MASON (stricken)
Jeanie ...

but mostly we're left to our own devices, left to use our imaginations to picture the characters' appearances, sounds, expressions, emotions.

This is good, by the way. My preference in any work of fiction is: give me the words, let me imagine the rest. Here, as you Twilight Zone fans surely know, the words are clean, precise, efficient. Matheson doesn't waste a single syllable; he builds complex characters and convoluted plots with as few words as possible. The thing I like about a screenplay is, you can really see the writer putting his story together. You can actually see the construction: Matheson suggesting a camera move to heighten the suspense; having his characters jump on each other's sentences to speed up the pace; cutting from one scene to another in a way that makes us feel uneasy, or surprised, or just a little weird.

Does a script make for good reading? If it's the right script, sure. Look at Tarantino's Pulp Fiction, or the best work by William Goldman. You see stories propelled not by narrative, but by dialogue and brief hints at visual imagery. You get the same thing here. The Twilight Zone was one of the great suspense series, and Matheson one of its most prolific contributors. Read this marvelous collection, and you'll discover why so many of his episodes are considered classics.

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