Friday, March 8, 2013

The Twilight Zone: "To Serve Man"

Among the top ten episodes of The Twilight Zone is "To Serve Man," an intriguing story that works well for the episode's final punch-line, "It's a cook book!" but suffered production problems. The episode was filmed twice and then footage from both versions were combined to form the episode we see today. Footage that ended up on the cutting room floor was screened at the second annual Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention in 2007, and has not yet been included on the DVD or BluRay release. If you were browsing the web hoping for a nice write-up about the entire production of this episode, you've come to the right place.

Production #4807 “TO SERVE MAN” (Initial telecast: March 2, 1962)
Copyright Registration: © Cayuga Productions, Inc., February 27, 1962, LP21889 (in notice: 1961)
Dates of Rehearsal: June 9 and 12, 1961
Dates of Filming: June 13, 14, 15 and 17, 1961
Script #66 dated: April 26, 1961, with revised pages dated June 12, 1961
Producer and Secretary: $1,625.00
Story and Secretary: $3,805.00
Director: $1,588.33
Cast: $7,774.27
Unit Manager and Secretary: $600.00
Production Fee: $900.00
Agents Commission: $2,500.00
Legal and Accounting: $250.00
Below the line charges (M-G-M): $41,105.47 
Below the line charges (other): $971.52
Total Production Costs: $61,119.59 

Total production costs and breakdown from production summary dated February 28, 1962.

Cast: Hardie Albright (the Secretary General); David Armstrong (guest at U.N. #1); Gene Benton (reporter #2); Lloyd Bochner (Mike Chambers); Bill Burnside (TV Cameraman #1); John Burnside (TV Cameraman #2); Susan Cummings (Pat “Penny” Brody); Jeanne Evans (woman #2); J.H. Fujiyama ( Japanese delegate); Jean Heremans (Dignitary #3); Richard Kiel (the Kanamits); Theodore Marcuse (Citizen Gregori); Adrienne Marden (woman #1); Bob McCord (Interpreter #1); Nelson Olmsted (the scientist); Ted O’Shea (Dignitary #1); Fred Rappaport (Dignitary #5); Bartlett Robinson (the baldish Colonel); Joseph Ruskin (the voice of the Kanamit); Lomax Study (M. Leveque, French delegate); Robert Tafur (Seńor Valdes, Argentine delegate); Charles Tannen (man #1); Jim Turley (TV Cameraman #3); James L. Wellman (man #2); Will J. Wilke (reporter #1); Jack Williams (Dignitary #2); and Carlton Young (Colonel #2).

Un-credited cast as Earthlings boarding the spaceship: Joan Austin, Joyce Baker, Mary Ellen Batten, Keith Britton, Ellen Brown, B. Cates, Joe Hicks, Lee Montgomery, Bob Peterson, Beau Ramstead, Jack Ramstead, Ester Silvery, Joan Weinstein, Jack Williams, and Sally Yarnell.

Stock Music Cues: Etrange #3 (by Marius Constant, :09); Milieu #1 (by Constant, :16); Counter Attack Part 1 (by Jerry Goldsmith, :42); Return to the Past (by Goldsmith, :47); The Assassination (by Goldsmith, :02); Return to the Past (by Goldsmith, :15); Counter Attack Part 2 (by Goldsmith, :26 and :36); Table Talk (by Goldsmith, :09); The Assasination (by Goldsmith, :02); Counter Attack Part 2 (by Goldsmith, :14); The Prediction (by Goldsmith, :21); Counter Attack Part 2 (by Goldsmith, 1:56); Serling III (by Robert Drasnin, :04); Etrange #3 (by Constant, :08); and Milieu #2 (by Constant, :19).

Season 3 of Bluray Release.
Director of Photography: George T. Clemens, a.s.c.
Production Manager: Ralph W. Nelson
Set Decorations: H. Web Arrowsmith
Art Directors: George W. Davis and Phil Barber
Assistant Director: E. Darrell Hallenbeck
Casting: Stalmaster-Lister
Story Consultant: Richard McDonagh
Film Editor: Jason H. Bernie, a.c.e.
Sound: Franklin Milton and Bill Edmondson
Automobiles Supplied by the Ford Motor Company.
Directed by Richard L. Bare

Teleplay by Rod Serling, based on the short story of the same name by Damon Knight, originally published in the November 1950 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction.

Serling's Opening Narrative: Respectfully submitted for your perusal – a Kanamit. Height, a little over nine feet. Weight, in the neighborhood of three hundred and fifty pounds. Origin, unknown.  Motives? Therein hangs the tale, for in just a moment, we’re going to ask you to shake hands . . . Figuratively . . . with a Christopher Columbus from another galaxy and another time. This is the Twilight Zone.”
Plot: This is the way nightmares begin. On a warm April afternoon, an alien race makes contact with the citizens of planet Earth, offering a hand of friendship. Their intention is to offer peace and prosperity. Within months, deserts become fields of crops, because the Kanamits show how to add a very cheap nitrate to the soil. The threat of war becomes obsolete when all nations implement an invisible force field introduced by the visitors from outer space. While the world slowly transforms into a Garden of Eden, two decoding specialists for the U.S. government, Michael Chambers and Pat Brody, spend long hours trying to decode a book accidentally left behind at the United Nations. The only thing they have been able to crack is the title on the cover – “To Serve Man.” One year later, the book still isn’t cracked, and Chambers is one of the hundreds of thousands of passengers with a round-trip ticket to tour the Kanamit’s home planet – and fails to make his escape when he is warned at the last minute by Pat that she has finally deciphered the book’s meaning – it is a cookbook.
Serling's Closing Narrative: 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 . . . on the Twilight Zone.” 

Last Week's Trailer: “Next week we burrow deep into the most inner confines of kook-land and hopefully wind up dead center of the oddest portion thereof. We’ll bring you a story called ‘To Serve Man,’ written originally by Damon Knight. If you’ve ever wondered how we’d react to the arrival of some honest-to-Pete saucers – next week’s diet should be your meat. On The Twilight Zone . . . ‘To Serve Man.’”

Susan Cummings and Richard Kiel
Notes of Interest
Serling was contractually obligated to turn in the first draft of this script by May 1. The episode was assigned a production number on June 5, 1961. The short story on which this episode is based was retroactively awarded the 1951 “Retro” Hugo Award for “Best Short Story” in 2001. Damon Knight (who then resided in Milford, Pennsylvania), exchanged correspondence with Serling a number of times from 1960 to 1961. Knight submitted short stories and plot proposals for The Twilight Zone, but this marked his only story to be adapted. A three-page plot outline titled “A Meeting of the Board” was submitted to Serling in June of 1961, but Serling contemplated if it was feasible for use on the series, since the story went nowhere until the very end.

The flying saucer footage featured in the beginning of the episode was borrowed from the 1951 motion picture, The Day the Earth Stood Still. The stop-motion footage of the flying saucer taking off into the atmosphere towards the end of the episode was borrowed from the 1956 motion picture, Earth vs. the Flying Saucers. The stop-motion effect is credited to Ray Harryhausen in the movie, but the closing credits of this television episode never acknowledged the famed effects artist.  

The role of Lloyd Bochner was director Richard L. Bare’s choice, as was actress Jeanne Evans, who played one of the women getting ready to board the ship; she was the real-life wife of director Richard L. Bare.

Richard Kiel, a few hairs over 7-feet tall, was cast by Lynn Stalmaster in the multiple roles of the Kanamits you see throughout the entire episode. “I was still in the middle of shooting Eegah (1962) when I got a call from Herman about doing The Twilight Zone,” recalled Kiel. “Arch Hall was very nice about it, having been an actor himself, and shot around me during the week it took me to do what turned out to be one of the classic episodes, titled ‘To Serve Man.’”  

On June 12, Kiel reported to the men’s third floor wardrobe department at M-G-M Studios for makeup tests and costumes. He reported at the studio at 9 a.m., and as soon as the makeup and costumes were  completed, Kiel’s voice was recorded in Sync Room “A” at M-G-M from 10 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. William Tuttle created the look of the Kanamits, attempting to follow Serling’s description from the script: “we are reminded of his size in his relationships to other objects like chairs, tables, ashtrays, etc.” Serling’s facial description of the alien was a bit diff erent from what turned out on film. “While humanoid in general appearance, it is almost as if someone had been sculpturing it and had left the job prematurely. It has two eyes, very wide apart, a small opening that passes for a nose and a tiny, almost imperceptible circular hole that passes for a mouth.”

Lloyd Bochner, star of "To Serve Man"
After makeup, costumes and recorded voice tracks, Kiel then reported to Stage 4 so director Bare and the crew could shoot preliminaries with Kiel in makeup and costume. All of the scenes where a Kanamit first makes his appearance at the U.N. were shot on that afternoon – but only the scenes where only Kiel is seen, not the dignitaries, delegates, interpreters and cameraman. After viewing the rough cut, Serling was displeased with the effort. “‘To Serve Man’ turned out piss-poor, a combination of horrible direction and a faithless script bit your back,” Serling told Damon Knight on October 12, 1961. “We’re re-shooting some scenes and it’s my hope that we can at least come within a few hundred yards of your great story.”

Richard L. Bare is credited as director on the screen, but he wasn’t the only one who had a hand behind the directing chair. As Serling described in a letter to Buck Houghton, “I have done this in very rough fashion, offering the suggestions perhaps without proper integration. I’m assuming that we can re-tool this so that on occasion we can go out to film clips of mobs, loudspeakers, et al.” Richard L. Bare directed the scenes as the script called for, as revealed in the M-G-M filming schedule. After a rough cut was made and Richard Kiel’s voice was synced with the soundtrack, Serling and Houghton viewed the film and both agreed a major rehaul was needed. So plans were made to add footage, rewrite the Kanamit’s dialogue, re-record the alien’s voice, incorporate stock footage and film additional scenes.

The original cut ended abruptly as Pat shouts: “To Serve Man . . . it’s a cookbook!” And for a moment, Chambers looked stunned. A zoom into a close-up of his face as the horror takes hold. Slowly a huge hand comes into the frame to touch Chamber’s cheek, pinches it lightly as if feeling for tenderness, then the hand gently – but very firmly – turns Chambers around and propels him up the stairs as they slowly close. During the process of this closing, we hear Serling’s voice in closing narration:  

“The very explicit and very specific differences in points of view. To the wee ones . . . the little folk called man . . . it’s a marvelous adventure, a voyage to another planet. An exciting sojourn in another section of the galaxy. But to the very large, granite faced inhabitants known as Kanamits . . . it’s nothing more than a cattle car, a very comfortable provisions ship bringing food from the other end of the universe. Like I say. . . it’s all in the point of view.”

The Kanamit Bobble Head Doll
The ending with Chambers being escorted into the spaceship was deleted. Footage of a montage sequence of the Kanamit giving gifts superimposed over the shots of the various newspaper headlines was also deleted, replaced with the delegates offering a token of thanks for the gifts that were bestowed on them. Stock footage of power plants for force fields and crops and deserts was inserted. Serling also composed two additional scenes for the opening and closing of the episode, so the film already shot in the can would become the flashback scenes.

Production Schedule at M-G-MDay 1 – Interior of Secretary General’s Office (Stage 4)
Interior of Secretary General’s Conference Room
(Stage 4)
Day 2 – Interior of Code Room (Stage 4)
Day 3 – The Lie Detector Room (Stage 4)
Spaceship Hangar (Stage 9)
Day 4 – Interior of Conference Room (Stage 10)

The interior of the spaceship with Kiel and Bochner (composing the opening and closing scenes of the episode) was filmed, as well as a revised scene where Chambers is pushed back onto the stairs as the door to the spaceship closes (which is why Brody and Chambers are not on the screen together in the closing moments). These additional scenes were filmed on Stage 9. Serling also rewrote his narrations and had them rerecorded for this episode.

Serling left for five weeks of vacation, leaving the filming of additional scenes and new cut in the capable hands of Houghton. “Just so long as you know, Buck,” Serling wrote before leaving, “how deeply appreciative I am of all your back-breaking labor, your tremendous loyalty and your contributions which consistently and constantly made me look good.”

Lloyd Bochner’s narrations for the retakes were recorded on January 11, 1962, in Sync Room “B” from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. By this time, the recordings of Kiel’s voice had been tossed aside because of the revision, which required the dialogue to be recorded again. Since Kiel wasn’t available, Joseph Ruskin, who played the role of the genie in “The Man in the Bottle,” supplied the new voice of the Kanamits. Ruskin’s name remained uncredited in the episode.

“I had been told that M-G-M and the producers had the right to use someone else to dub in my lines and that they probably would do that,” Kiel recalled in his book, Making it Big in the Movies (2002). “I remember driving in directly from Palm Springs and reporting to M-G-M for hours of make-up before beginning the long day of shooting. I was so tired from driving right from one job to another and going through hours of brutal make-up that when they gave me a chance to do the lines myself, I was not prepared and did not do a very good job when I read the lines of the ‘Kanamit.’ Ultimately, they did use someone else to dub the voice of the Kanamit, and I wasn’t surprised, just disappointed in myself.”

When he came back from his trip, Serling viewed the revised film and admitted it was much better than before. A number of former insert scenes were deleted. The scene where a group of people boarded the spacecraft (with actor Theodore Marcuse as Citizen Gregori talking about a peaceful coalition) was in editor Jason Bernie’s original rough cut, after Chambers was put into the spaceship, so the audience would realize that the Earthlings were unaware of what went on across the airfield. Serling favored switching the order of the scenes.

Among the deleted scenes were inserts of a push panel button, a salesman’s hand, gum in a woman’s hand, insert of a piano, and young children who received gifts from the Kanamit. Extras who were filmed for the scenes that ultimately got deleted: Bob McCord, Jim Turley, and Shirley Swedsen.

Collectibles including the cook book have been produced.

The flashing light above the door in Chambers’ room in the spaceship is the same featured on the chest of the two-headed Martian in “Mr. Dingle, the Strong.” The television camera at the U.N. was the same lens installed on Wordsworth’s wall in “The Obsolete Man.” The private quarters featured in the opening and closing scene inside the spaceship was the same as in “Hocus-Pocus and Frisby,” with a different door frame and the addition of lights and drawers.

With the drastic re-edit of this film, an original music score was not recommended by Scott Perry, Jr., the music editor, who decided in favor of using cues from the CBS stock music library. Some of the music is easily recognizable – lifted from the compositions used in “Back There” and “The Invaders.”

The footage of New York Times Square was stock footage from 1949. The movie My Dream is Yours with Doris Day, Jack Carson and Lee Bowman is advertised at The Strand, and Champion with Kirk Douglas is advertised at another movie theater.

Television critic Leonard Hoff man of The Tucson Daily Citizen reviewed this episode referring to the story as “mediocre,” adding that “the program is saved by television’s sometimes unusual ability to reincarnate and even rejuvenate has-been tales and make them enjoyable fare.”

On March 9, Damon Knight wrote to Serling, “You have made me a big man around here, and I would hate to try to estimate what your Trendex was in Milford the night you did ‘To Serve Man.’ My kids thought there ought to have been more to the story, but I thought it was a dandy show; I loved your monster and I treasure your line, ‘dust to dessert.’ I hear the series has not been renewed, which is a great pity if true, but I trust you are busy and happy. May your tribe increase.”

Serling replied on March 13, thanking Knight for the gracious note. “I’m not at all sure we did justice to your exceptional story but the effort was there and the try was a manly one. Actually, the reactions to the show have been quite incredible. The mail pull, for our show anyway, has been quite phenomenal – and the word of mouth unusually positive and extensive. Actually, I think I piddled around with the U.N. too much and was unable to sustain this properly with legitimate production values. If we’d done this as a motion picture, and had a few more dollar bills accessible, it could have been dressed up far more handsomely. But as it is, we’ve done far worse with fewer results. Apologize to your kids for me, and explain to them what are the pitfalls of novice science fiction writers who run their ham fists all over the works of the legitimate ones. I hope we have a chance to do it again.”

Over the years, a number of spoofs have been made (this usually happens to a popular episode of The Twilight Zone). In The Simpsons’ annual “Treehouse of Horror” from October of 1990, elements of “To Serve Man” were implemented with Lisa discovering a book titled “How to Cook Humans.” The aliens, however, calm her fears when it is revealed that the book was really titled “How to Cook for Forty Humans.” On an episode of Futurama, the character of Bender wears an apron that says “To Serve Man.”

Lloyd Bochner made his only appearance on The Twilight Zone in this episode (though he was offered a lead in “Number 12 Looks Just Like You”), but the actor assisted in what has become probably one of the best spoofs of this classic episode. In the 1991 motion picture, The Naked Gun 2 ½: The Smell of Fear, Bochner runs across the screen holding a book, screaming “it’s a cookbook!”

In the episode “Sofa So Good,” on Married... With Children, initially telecast January 16, 1994, Al screams off screen “Peg! To Serve Man! It’s a cookbook!” In the episode “Space,” on Newsradio, initially telecast on May 21, 1997, a comical look of the future involves Jimmy distributing copies of a book titled “To Serve Man.” The printing is a result of a publishing company he bought out. When someone asks about the title, Jimmy sarcastically comments, “Yeah, it’s a cookbook.” In the episode “Lessons,” on Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, initially telecast September 24, 2002, a verbal reference is made about this episode. In the episode “Peace,” on Angel, initially telecast April 30, 2003, the cast discovers a creature that eats people to sustain life. One of the members, upon learning the news, comments, “It’s ‘To Serve Man’ all over again.”

The above information was excerpted from The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic. Reprinted with permission. Available from, and