A Totally True Story About a Lost ‘Twilight Zone’ Episode I Found Once

So all this talk about lost episodes reminds me of the time I was at a flea market and was digging through old VHS tapes. Most of them were old, bad movies taken from closed Blockbusters, but there were a few tapes with handwritten labels, too. One of them said “rare lost twilight zone” on it and I was intrigued. The seller didn’t know if it was from the original run or the ’80s remake, but since the tape was only a couple of bucks, I figured it couldn’t hurt.

I’d always been a causal fan of The Twilight Zone and the idea of a lost Twilight Zone episode definitely intrigued me. I was definitely hoping the tape would be from the original run; I hadn’t seen much of the ’80s version, and didn’t even know there was a 2000s reboot. But when I put the cassette in my VCR, all I got was static. A couple minutes of static later, the tape turned off, and the VCR started making chunking noises, as if it was trying to eject the tape but couldn’t.

So, it must have been a bad tape. I rarely watch VHS anymore, so the fact that it was stuck in my player wasn’t that big a deal. I’d just go at it with a screwdriver whenever I got sick of the deck being broken, take it apart and remove the tape, no big deal.

The rest of the day progressed normally, and nothing of note happened. I went to bed, but in the middle of the night, my TV switched on and the static came back, only this time, it was red. Shortly after, the familiar theme started, but different somehow. It was then I realized, it was in a major key, instead of the haunting minor key of the original. It was still black and white, though — or, well, red and darker red — so it looked like I was in luck and it was one of the early ones.

Rod Serling appeared on the screen with his standard cigarette. But this time he was gaunt. Serling drew in on his cigarette and rattled out the standard intro — but more quickly this time. Rushing through. He eventually got to the introduction of the story.

“Submitted for your approval, a story of a man. A man who liked to make movies. But movies are hard to make… in the Twilight Zone.” Seemed like Serling could have taken another pass at that, but looking at him, this episode must have been near the end of the season. After all, they had really long seasons back then, season 3 had 37 episodes.
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Serling looked beat, so maybe this was a lost Twilight Zone episode because it wasn’t up to snuff. But Serling looked scared as well as tired.

The title card came up, “The Man Who Liked to Make Movies” and then we focused on our leading cast member, a bearded, dark-haired man. Though I hadn’t seen it, I remember hearing that in the making of the first Twilight Zone movie, Vic Morrow and two child actors were killed in a gruesome onset accident. Maybe this was going to be about that? But this episode was clearly made during the third or fourth season. And I remembered remember that though seasons 3 and 5 had over 35 episodes each, season 4 only had 18 episodes. And those episodes were an hour long each, so I figured I had a little while to get into it.

The lost Twilight Zone episode continued and weirdly enough, Vic Morrow was in this one. He was playing a down-on-his-luck actor, and figured the bearded man’s new project would help boost his career. The bearded man smiled but, at this point I noticed that though the rest of the episode was monochrome, his face was in full, blinding color. And not the fake “colorization” type of color with washed out, flat, unnatural colors. A true representation of the actor’s face. And while the rest of the scene was in n-th generation VHS standard definition, it almost looked like the bearded man’s face was in high-def.

The men shake hands and then the picture cuts out. There’s a grinding noise, and a flash. I pause the tape and try to get a look at flash, and realize it’s one frame of a photo. The photo is of Santa Claus. But Santa Claus is strangely grimy looking. It’s a rear shot and he’s standing up at a three-quarter angle, and it looks like Santa’s soiled his red velvet trousers. There’s no snow anywhere.

Thought that was weird but okay, and I hit play and the picture comes back. The bearded man and Vic Morrow’s character shake hands again, and then again. There’s a two minute loop of the two men shaking hands, detaching, and then shaking hands again. I can’t actually tell if the actors are actually doing this over and over again, or if it’s a filmed loop. It’s certainly jerky, either way.

Then there’s another flash — and I pause again to find it’s a photo of a rotisserie chicken. But when I press play again, there are two more flashes. These turn out to be also of the chicken, but the shots are of the chicken progressively covered in blood. The show continues and Vic Morrow walks out of the office.

Though Rod Serling generally only shows up at the beginning and the end, he appears again now, just staring at the camera, and then cries one single tear. He opens his mouth and an electromechanical buzz sounds for 30 seconds.

The bearded man comes back and eats a sandwich. He gets Vic Morrow’s character on the phone and tells him not to come in again. Then it cuts to Vic on the other end; he puts down the phone and, though he’s clearly in a different part of town, he picks up the exact same sandwich and takes a bite.

At this point, someone clearly recorded over the rest with that episode of SpongeBob where Patrick gets upset that SpongeBob didn’t get him a Valentine. I love that episode. Anyway, when that episode is over, it turned out to be a SpongeBob marathon, so I watched the rest of the tape. It was a pretty good mix of episodes, so even though it wasn’t what I wanted, I felt that it was a good two bucks spent. Besides, that lost Twilight Zone was boring AF, anyway.

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