The Twilight Zone 3.24 – To Serve Man

You might ask yourself, wasn’t our son a little young to start watching The Twilight Zone? And honestly, there have been times that the cultural divide of nearly sixty years has seemed awfully vast for such a small boy, but I wanted to get started when he was six because the twist of “To Serve Man” is one of those that just about everybody learns before they actually see the story.

I’m genuinely curious, readers. If you’re in your forties or younger, did you ever get to see this unspoiled? It’s like the end of Citizen Kane. If you didn’t see this in the sixties, you heard the twist before you could see it.

And so I thought I was able to sneak this under the bar and apparently I failed. Our son exclaimed “I knew it! I knew it!” And this is not how he responds to the devilish twists of The Twilight Zone. He insisted that he knew where this one was going as soon as he heard the title. So this morning, I was looking over a gargantuan list of movies and TV shows that have referenced the Kanamits’ cookbook. It’s in Madagascar. Madafreakinggascar! My wife was hurrying to finish making her lunch and get out the door. “Has he seen Madagascar in afterschool care?!” I grumbled. “That would explain it,” she said. “He did seen very sincere last night.”

And to think I gave that dumb movie a pass for the wonderful gag about flinging poo at Tom Wolfe!

Anyway, the surprisingly large cast of “To Serve Man” includes Lloyd Bochner and Susan Cummings, with Richard Kiel as the main Kanamit and Joseph Ruskin, uncredited, as the alien’s voice. The screenplay was written by Rod Serling from a story by Damon Knight. Some of the special effects were repurposed from Ray Harryhausen’s 1956 movie Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers, which is a much better movie than you’d expect from one with a name that silly. It’s a pretty good episode.

You know, I’ve held off showing him Planet of the Apes because the gorillas are so amazingly cruel. I’ll try to accept the probability that some fool cartoon with breakdancing pigs or linedancing antelopes has referenced the end of that one as well.

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “The Twilight Zone 3.24 – To Serve Man

  1. Watching this episode in re-runs on television in the late 1980s I knew about the surprise ending only because a few years before someone gave me the book The Twilight Zone: The Original Stories as a birthday present. It collected all of the previously-published short stories that were later adapted into TZ episodes, including “To Serve Man” by Damon Knight. Of course, when I had read Knight’s original story I did not see that ending coming, and it was a real jaw-dropping moment.

  2. Randy Monk

    I saw it on its initial Friday night airing. It was all we talked about at school on Monday. I was in 6th grade. One of the best episodes ever.

  3. Donald G

    Well, I was in high school when I saw it because Twilight Zone wasn’t syndicated in my market during the years I developed conscious memories. Classic Zone was just beginning its early mid-eighties pop-cultural resurgence when I saw it.

    • I can’t remember whether it was the movie version that I was first aware of – I had the novelization – or if I’d read about the show in Judy Fireman’s TV Book, but I’d agree that there was a resurgence when I was in middle school in 1982-83-ish. I don’t remember my parents talking about the show beforehand, but my dad had all sorts of favorite episodes to tell me about once people were talking about it then.

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