Anthology: A Grab Bag of Awesome
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An anthology is in essence a collection of works. Originally defined as a collection of literary works, but now an anthology can be of any type of media. An anthology show is usually a new story or several shorter unrelated stories each episode. It was in these types of shows where a sizable portion of sci-fi and horror were originally presented on television.
The great Rod Sterling created the classic anthology series franchise, The Twilight Zone, which has had three distinct series and a movie. The plots of The Twilight Zone tended to have twists and ironic endings (which lead to it being parodied on Futurama as ‘The Scary Door’). The original Twilight Zone was a bit before my time, though I have seen many episodes of the first revival and thoroughly enjoyed the second revival.
The Night Gallery, another creation of Rod Sterling, focused on a painting and told a story to go with it. One such story heavily featured the painting on which the story was introduced.
Based off of the 1950′s EC Comic of the same name, Tales from the Crypt was a memorable part of my childhood, in addition to the child friendly animated show, Tales from the Cryptkeeper, created in the early 90′s. Each episode consisted of a horror tale with an introduction and conclusion by the Crypt Keeper.
I was a little older when I discovered Tales from the Darkside, first seeing the episode “Case of the Stubborns”, featuring a deceased grandfather who refused to believe he’s dead. Then there was The Outer Limits, originally airing from 1963 to 1964 (again before my time), but the revival in 1995 was timed perfectly for my eight-year-old self. The combination of a sci-fi theme and a different story each week became an integral part of the person I am today. In 2010, the seasons were re-released on DVD, one each month, for all seven seasons, which I promptly picked up lest I lose the opportunity. I could talk forever about a ton of different episodes of the The Outer Limits, but if you are going to look into it, I recommend, ‘The New Breed’, ‘Final Exam’, ‘The Deprogrammers’, and ‘Dead Man’s Switch’.
At the end of The Outer Limits and the failed revival of The Twilight Zone, there were a couple of years of nothing before the beginning of Masters of Horror. A new horror centered anthology series with the big boys: the well-known directors of horror films. With names like John Landis (An American Werewolf in London) and John Carpenter (The Thing) the series was satisfying, lasting two seasons and having the episodes individually released on DVD as hour-long movies. Masters of Science Fiction was an offshoot with the same principle, but a focus on sci-fi. I liked it, but it seems it was not to be, having only the original six episodes produced, the last two of which did not air in the US. Two years later, instead of a third season of Masters of Horror, a new show Fear Itself was created, having thirteen episodes produced, and only airing eight.
I discovered only recently a show, Nightmares and Dreamscapes: From the Stories of Stephen King, from the same time as Masters of Horror. The show is eight episodes derived from the short stories of Steven King, including a great homage to Lovecraft in ‘Crouch End’.
My love of anthologies extends beyond just television. Keeping with horror, one of my favourite genres, there are also several fine examples of anthology movies. While usually presented as three or four short segments and a wrap-around, anthology movies were never intended to be separated into episodes. The Twilight Zone movie is an example of a four segment anthology movie, with a stand-alone intro and an outro combined into the last segment. Creepshow and Creepshow 2 have the feel of EC era Tales of the Crypt, even including animated wrap-arounds styled after the comics. A few of my favourite segments are ‘The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill’ and ‘Something to Tide You Over’ from Creepshow, and ‘The Raft’ from Creepshow 2.
Many feel that the real sequel to Creepshow 2 is actually Tales from the Darkside: The Movie, a film which I viewed for a second time during a friend’s first viewing. Featuring a wrap-around and three segments, the film really stood out to me if only for the fact that the third segment truly frightened my friend.
The film Trilogy of Terror is probably best known for its third segment, ‘Amelia’, which introduced the infamous Zuni fetish doll, He Who Kills. The sequel, Trilogy of Terror II, featured three memorable segments, including one of my all time favourites, ‘The Graveyard Rats’.
All in all, I love anthologies for the plethora of different ideas and themes presented within one movie or series. At the same time, it can be a tricky format to work with, both in creation and viewing. In a typical series, the characters can be developed over time and grow as they experience the different situations. In a segment or anthology episode, the characters have to be introduced, deal with the situation, and resolve the plot within a short period of time. This may be the reason that anthologies tend to be of the sci-fi or horror genres. Less is questioned and the outcomes need not allow for a following episode.
So farewell boils and ghouls, you are now leaving The Twilight Zone. Please Stand By