The Twilight Zone

For this assignment, I chose to look at the title sequence for the TV show, The Twilight Zone.

The iconic television show, The Twilight Zone, introduced several psychological thriller and suspense motifs prevalent in the United States even after the show’s broadcasting. The whole show was not just limited to the scary thriller genre that it is often characterized by, and often in fact utilized themes of fantasy and scientific fiction. By straying away from blatant and cliche tropes associated with “scarier” themes, the American show is subtly eerie by its reliance on certain visual and auditory cues. The classic pilot opening scene is what encompasses the surreal nature of the whole show with its usage of elements as a celebration of the Surrealist movement that occurred a few decades before the show’s production. By intermingling different forms of communication, The Twilight Zone‘s very initial opening scene encapsulates the essence of the whole series and what is to come in its opening scene before each episode.

Painted Frame

The imagery of the opening incorporates both live-action shots with painted assets. With lots of superimposing of both elements, the scene successfully creates a whole landscape of things fading into one another. The show having been aired in black and white for the entirety of the series, the cinematography makes the most of black and white by emphasizing contrast between lights and darks through the implementation of shadows of different opacities. The foggy “web” like overlay that the scene fades into initially suggests obscurity as it is out of focus. A background consisting of skinny clouds comes into the frame that lets the viewer know this isn’t some abstract scene and in fact a world of its own. A simplistic horizon landscape with a completely light grey sky and darker foreground is shown later, with scattered and isolated “boulders” fading in. Dramatic and deeply contrasting shadows fade in right after these boulders arise in the scene. This dissolves into a scene of a cave, which then fades out into a black sky with twinkling dots.

The background audio consists of subtly foreboding harp instrumentation. The instruments slowly increase in texture with strings quietly being introduced  later, adding to the ominous nature of the music. The slow tempo of the music is accompanied with the slowly moving imagery. Alongside this background music, a old male voice is speaking a narration of what it means to be in “the Twilight Zone” by elaborating on the unusual state between reality and fantasy. The aspects this voice brings up correlate with the imagery. For example, when the narrator’s monologue includes “It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity,” the sequence displays the horizon landscape that is rather minimal in its illustration and ambiguous.

Cross Dissolve Transition

The animation consisted of pans, tracks, and cross-dissolves. The cross-dissolving of elements makes the viewer feel as if they are being brought closer into something at a larger depth. However, almost all the elements in the scene are stationary in position, with panning and scale being used to give an illusion of movement. The only three elements that actually move on their own are the web-like overlays along with the typography and “twinkling” stars. The overall lack of movement in the static objects and landscape with only the foggy texture imposed on top add to the uneasiness as one watches the title sequence. Anticipating something to happen, the scene continues to  build up as if one should prepare  for something to be revealed. The direction of panning, however, leads the eyes  and varies throughout the sequence so as to keep and maintain  the viewer’s interest. The movement being rather slow throughout the whole scene, the transitions are more gentle than jarring. Firstly, the clouds fade in and pan upwards and scale up as well. The boulders only pan forward and not side to side, while the cave zooms in initially and then the camera moves upwards to then cross-dissolve into the sky. It’s as if the landscapes shown change once the viewer is at a certain distance where they can vaguely identify what they are seeing but still have no details. Hence, the themes of ambiguity and uncertainty are evoked through the usage of camera movements.

Transition to Logo

Due to the reliance on the monologue orally stated throughout the sequence, there is not text shown throughout. Additionally, unlike many other TV shows, the Twilight Zone has no consistent cast with each episode being a look into different universes and odd situations. Hence, the only typography displayed in the opening scene is the title of the show, as the narrator also concludes his monologue. The way the title first enters is with a quick fade in. The type is then animated with only certain parts of each letter  showing up at different times. While all this happens rather quickly,  it still  alludes the same uncertain build up that the whole title sequence displays.