Movie review: The Vast of Night

Cayuga, NM

Vast of NightThe Vast of Night made it onto Ty Burr’s 10 movies to watch. He writes: “Andrew Patterson’s first film is a crowd-sourced labor of love about two high school kids discovering strange doings in the skies over 1950s New Mexico.

“It’s an example of the most movie that can be squeezed from the least amount of resources, with beguiling performances from Jake Horowitz and Sierra McCormick in the leads.”

It “premiered at the 2019 Slamdance Film Festival in January 2019. Amazon Studios acquired distribution rights to the film and released it on May 29, 2020, including drive-in theaters in the United States and via video-on-demand on Prime Video,” which is how I saw it.

This movie is clearly influenced by the TV series The Twilight Zone. The setting is Cayuga, NM. Cayuga Productions was the name of Rod Serling’s production company…

“The name was taken from Cayuga Lake, one of New York’s ‘Finger Lakes.’ The lake is about an hour drive northwest of Binghamton, and was where Rod and his family had a summer home.”

The Vast of Night is very much dialogue-driven. Initially, I found the radio DJ (Horowitz) a bit obnoxious, but I really liked the teen switchboard operator (McCormick) from the start.

As the mystery unfolded, I found myself rooting for them both. And the witnesses they spoke with were convincing. The film had the right atmospherics to keep me watching these two, who wanted to get out of town and follow their dreams.

And then…

I’m afraid the great failing for me is the conclusion. It lacked a satisfying resolution, that part in TZ where you hear Serling wrap up the story. Nevertheless, it may well be the opening salvo of Patterson’s directorial career.

The Vast of Night is on Rotten Tomatoes’ list of best films of 2020 at #97, with 92% positive reviews from the critics. The audience reviews were less favorable, at 65%.

The Twilight Man: Rod Serling and the Birth of TV

time well spent

Twilight ManI made my semiannual trek to my local comic book emporium, Earthworld Comics, this fall. On the shelf was a graphic novel The Twilight Man: Rod Serling and the Birth of Television by someone named Koren Shadmi. I perused it for about ten seconds and decided to buy.

The book, of course, is about the creator of the legendary television program the Twilight Zone. In my book collection is The Twilight Zone Companion, an episode guide. I only have two DVD sets of complete television series; one is The Twilight Zone.

And there is that time I met the Man. (I’ve mentioned that, right?)

I found The Twilight Man to be thoroughly reached. The book had about three dozen items in the bibliography. The art was quite decent. I read the 170-odd pages in a couple of hours, and it was time well spent. There were bits of Serling’s biography I did not know or had forgotten about.

Speaking ill of the dead?

From a three-star review in Amazon: “A lot of the information presented seemed very personal and came across as a bit off-putting knowing that this was written by someone after the person in question was already dead. I would hope much of this type of information came from interviews or people who knew Rod..”

Yes, there is nothing in The Twilight Man that was out of character or inconsistent with the books and articles that I had previously read. If you can find it, check out Rod Serling: The Dreams and Nightmares of Life in the Twilight Zone – a biography by Joel Engel.

About THAT book, I wrote: “The subject of the book was unable to be content with his life, believe his success, [or] be happy with his first writing critic, his wife Carol.” The Shadmi book shows Serling with those same insecurities.

I was motivated to buy The Twilight Man because 2019 is the 60th anniversary of the first broadcast of Twilight Zone. Christmas Day would also have been Rod’s 95th birthday, though he didn’t get anywhere near reaching it.

Videos

Tell It To Groucho with Rod Serling (April 2, 1962). Rod plugs an Italian singer, leaves, but then returns

I’ve Got A Secret – 1972

Jack Benny Program – TWILIGHT ZONE LOST EPISODE –

Serling Fest 2019: Twilight Zone at 60

appearing live via satellite, BILL MUMY

Serling festTo commemorate the 60th anniversary of The Twilight Zone’s 1959 debut, the Rod Serling Memorial Foundation presents: SERLING FEST 2019: The TZ @ 60, a three-day celebration in Rod Serling’s adopted hometown of Binghamton, New York on the weekend of October 4-6, 2019.

I don’t usually do advertisements for ventures with which I’m not involved in this blog. It must be a function of hometown pride – New “BING” Getting Cooler By the Day, which is true. It’s also my close, personal relationship with the late writer/host; yup.

GUESTS

“Confirmed guests include Rod’s daughter, Anne Serling (author of AS I KNEW HIM: MY DAD, ROD SERLING); Mark Olshaker (co-author of MINDHUNTER, inspiration for the acclaimed Netflix series); Mark Dawidziak (author of EVERYTHING I NEED TO KNOW I LEARNED IN THE TWILIGHT ZONE); Nicholas Parisi (author of ROD SERLING: HIS LIFE, WORK, AND IMAGINATION); and Martin Grams, Jr. (author of TWILIGHT ZONE: UNLOCKING THE DOOR TO A TELEVISION CLASSIC).

Also attending Serling Fest, “Arlen Schumer (author of VISIONS FROM THE TWILIGHT ZONE); Reba Wissner (author of A DIMENSION OF SOUND: MUSIC IN THE TWILIGHT ZONE); Amy Boyle Johnston (author of UNKNOWN SERLING); and Tony Albarella (editor of AS TIMELESS AS INFINITY: THE TWILIGHT ZONE SCRIPTS OF ROD SERLING).

“And appearing live via satellite (Saturday, October 5th), BILL MUMY (star of ‘It’s a Good Life,’ ‘In Praise of Pip,’ ‘Long Distance Call’ and LOST IN SPACE).” I saw It’s a Good Life in the past six months; it’s still startling.

VENUES

“On Friday, October 4th, the event will be held at various locations in Binghamton – to be announced. On Saturday, October 5th, the event will be at the Broome County Forum Theatre, and on Sunday, October 6th, go to the Helen Foley Theatre at Binghamton High School.

Ah, Binghamton High School, which was Binghamton Central back in my day. And Helen Foley, who was Serling’s drama teacher, was my public speaking teacher. I’m giving serious thought to attending at least part of this.

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