Twilight Zone On Location – Part 1

Many of us can remember back in 1959, one of the more famous television series that came onto our black and white televisions sets.  It began with one of the most notable music introduction themes, that to this day is still used in many television commercials and video clips.  The penetrating background music, a gripping narration guiding us toward a vision of space…followed by a door careening towards us…a window which shatters into pieces…a creepy eyeball…e=mc2 …a flying spaceman…a crazy clock with its hand spinning uncontrollably…we just crossed over into…“The Twilight Zone”.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been over 50 years since we first heard those words, from the show’s extremely talented creator Rod Serling.  Rod’s genius, created a show that had been televised for 5 seasons, and had a generous following.   Over time, many shows have tried mimicking the shows vision and creativity, but many would agree, none were ever able to do so.

Over those 5 seasons, the show was mainly filmed on the studio lots in California, but occasionally, specific locations were required to accommodate explicit landscapes and backdrops for those various episodes.   Combining both the studio lot with these off-lot locations really gave some of these episodes a more realistic look and feel.

In 2010, a close friend of mine, Paul Giammarco, and I chose to take on the challenge of attempting to seek out these various off-lot locations.  With Paul’s passion, love, and extreme familiarity of the show, we felt that we might be able to create a “then-and-now” photo log of our journey to these somewhat forgotten locations.  With that, Paul began work on the project.  Utilizing DVD video stills to capture specific screen shots, along with various maps, and extensive Internet research, he and I were able to identify what we felt were some of these remote locations.   We booked our flights and our rooms and thus our journey began.

So as began our sojourn in the Death Valley area.  Our first region to visit was Zabriskie Point.   Zabriskie Point is a part of Amargosa Range located in east of Death Valley, in Death Valley National Park.  Named after Christian Brevoort Zabriskie, its composition is made up of sediments from Furnace Creek Lake, which dried up 5 million years ago, long before Death Valley came into existence.

Two episodes from the Twilight Zone series, “I Shot an Arrow Into the Air” (1960), and “The Lonely” (1959), were both filmed at Zabriskie point and at Desolation Canyon as well.  We eventually visited Desolation Canyon to obtain additional stills, and attempt to find those other filming locations and backdrops as they appear today.  Both episodes did involve space ships and asteroids, which made Zabriskie and Desolation Canyon perfect filming locations offering great backdrops, to create an un-earthly feel.  One interesting note I’d like to point out, is several of the “Star Wars” films were shot in and around Desolation Canyon, areas appropriately named “Banta Canyon” and “Jawa Canyon”, were home to many familiar scenes from those films.  These following photos depict screenshots from the original Twilight Zone episodes “I Shot an Arrow..” and “The Lonely”, comparing them to present day, from both Zabriskie and Desolation Canyon.

The episode titled “The Little People” was filmed was filmed at MGM; the process-shot with the landed rocket used Desolation Canyon as a backdrop.   Its premise, a spaceman finds tiny inhabitants on a planet and forces them to recognize him as a God.  Again, the backdrops of Desolation Canyon, do give it the look and feel of being on another planet.  The following are our photos from “The Little People” filming locations.

One of our final destinations was the town of Olancha, California.  Olancha is located in the higher elevations (3650 feet above sea level), just at the foothills on the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada mountain range.  The episodes, “The Rip Van Winkle Caper” (1961) and “A Hundred Yards over the Rim” (1961).

“The Rip Van Winkle Caper”, an episode that involved four thieves, that in an effort to escape the police, create a plot to live in suspended animation for 100 years along with their stolen gold bars.   The foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range offered a great backdrop for this episode.  The barren and rugged terrain really conveys to the viewer the desolation and desert feel.  It drives home, what it must have been like for these individuals to fight for their lives.  The following are the photos from “The Rip Van Winkle Caper”.

And finally, we come to one of my favorite Twilight Zone episodes.  “A Hundred Yards over the Rim”, tells the story of 19th-century western settler, portrayed by Academy Award winner Cliff Robertson, who sets off on his own to search for water to help his dying son, but instead finds he had stepped into the modern era.  Part of this “modern era” is a diner that we were fortunate to locate.  However, it was in a bad state of disrepair.  The gentleman that owned the property, was living behind the building, and structure did have a for sale sign in the window.   At first, it didn’t look at all like the original diner from episode, but with a little imagination, and after looking at it for a while you can see the similarity.   There were other scenes from the episode, where again, the director tries to convey the desolation and isolation that Cliff’s character was experiencing through the desert area.   Ironically, Paul and I experienced those same feelings of desolation and isolation when we first arrived.  Wondering how these earlier settlers could have managed with the extreme temperatures variations, lack of water, and isolation.   Death Valley temperatures have reached as high as 134 degrees, and virtually having no rainfall.  With that, photos from the “A Hundred Yards Over the Rim” episode.

In closing, Paul and I really enjoyed our experiences in visiting those vintage locations.  This trip helped us develop a deeper appreciation, for the area, and for what the cast and crew must have dealt with on a day to day basis working in Death Valley.  On one occasion, Paul did make a comment to me during one of our photo shoots, “they call it Death Valley, this place is anything but death…”.   I really thought about his comment, and I couldn’t agree more.  Despite all its potential harshness, we discovered that Death Valley does have an abundance of natural beauty, making it truly come alive.   Artist Palette, The Devils Golf Course, Furnace Creek, Mesquite Dunes, are just a few of the other areas we visited, all of which offer life to this beautiful landscape.  As stated at the beginning of this post, this is “part one” of our journey.  Paul and I hope to return some day to visit several other Twilight Zone locations.  Please visit the following link to view Paul’s short video clip, “Twilight Zone On Location”.

Comments

  1. John ~ New Hampshire says:

    Fantastic effort here and extremely interesting. 🙂 Thank you. We will be out there in a week. Can’t wait.

  2. Jimmy Holloway says:

    Very cool! I really enjoyed reading this, and it truly makes me want to visit as well!

  3. Really well done, Thanks

  4. Thank you for posting. The Lonely is my favorite TZ episode. I hope one day to get out to this location as well. Great job guys!!!

    • Hey Frank-

      Glad you enjoyed it! We had a blast shooting that. We are planning a return trip because there are a few more locations for some different episodes that we just didn’t have time to visit.
      Sal

  5. Thank you so much! I have always wanted to visit these film locations. Can you post grid coordinates or maybe put pins (to mark the locations) on a map. I would love to make the journey out there. Again if you could mark the exact points near Zabriskie Point and Olancha it would be greatly appreciated. Thank you so much again for your awesome work!

  6. Great job. Excellent research and camera angle recreation. Very impressed.

  7. Wow thank you, wanted to know where over the rim was filmed for 40 years !
    Great idea
    Thank you soo much, maybe you should make a tour of this for us Twilight Zone fanatics !
    Pam

  8. joel ewing says:

    Wow…I’m posting the first post since a year ago today (1-1-2016)! Happy New Year, everybody. I’m here because I just got done watching “A Hundred Yards Over the Rim” moments ago. All yesterday and this evening, our “Dish Network” system has a channel that has been playing each Twilight Zone episode that was ever made. Something in the desert scenes of this episode compelled me to see if there was such a website that dealt with folks who have sought out what those old Twilight Zone background scenes that were not studio shots but rather real places look like now….50-55 years later. I am so grateful that you guys who did this research posted your photos of your findings. Man….I’d LOVE to have that old gas-station that was in “100 Yards” that’s in disarray and for sale. Geez I hope somebody with a nostalgic heart buys it and gets smart…and charges a little admission fee for travelers to take a quick stop and tour the place. Problem is I guess that other than us old baby-boomers…..I doubt anybody in Gen. X or this new “Millennium Generation” really has ever seen the old episodes or cares about ’em. So….just like us baby boomers….that old gas station will turn to dust and return to the earth too…lol. Seriously…thanks for the great effort to provide us fans the before and after shots of the location. God Bless joel In tucson

  9. Amazing research. Thank you.

  10. Great job with your research — thank you! Has anyone tracked down the location of the small Western town seen in the “Twilight Zone” episode “Dust”?

    In response to Joel’s comment above, fortunately I think a lot of us Baby Boomers still have some good mileage left, and if we keep plugging away at it and leave behind a legacy of solid research tracking down filming locations for the classic productions — as exemplified by Sal and Paul’s great work on display here — I believe there will be those among the later generations who will eventually pick up where we leave off.

    Gen-X’ers and Millennials may not have the childhood memories of “Twilight Zone” and other classic shows that we Boomers do, but a few of them are likely to take an interest as long as the reruns continue to circulate.

    The better the research foundation this generation creates, the better the job later generations will be able to do to “complete” our work. I put “complete” in quotes because as any location hunter is well aware, this work is never completed.

    If you get a chance, check out the location history work being done in connection with the Iverson Movie Ranch and other classic location ranches:

    iversonmovieranch.blogspot.com

  11. Rick
    I would like to see if you can find out the backdrop (mountains in distance) on Second Season Episode “Dust” which appear behind the gallows. They look like the backside of the Sandia Mountains in New Mexico looking South from near Santa Fe (LA Bajada hill)

  12. Absolutely outstanding. What a wonderful surprise to stumble across tonight. I raised both of my daughters (now in their 20s) on my favorite show and they love the twilight zone and know every episode just as I do. We have talked for years about going to the desert and doing exactly what you did. However, I can’t imagine that we ever could pull it off as well as you did! Perhaps someday we will get out there now that you have shown us the way 🙂 In the meantime, THANK YOU for your magnificent work – truly a work of art!

  13. Christian Horn says:

    Great work, but I agree with Robert who posted on August 8 of 2014. Please be so gracious as to provide grid coordinates so that we, too, can visit these sites. I am an Army officer at Fort Bliss, Texas, and would love to fly to southern California and explore these areas before my tour here is finished and I have to move on (further away). I know where Zabriskie Point is, but I do not know the locations of the Rip Van Winkle Caper, The Lonely, and A Hundred Yards Over the Rim. Thank you.

  14. We are near Olancha now. Can’t wait to see the “diner”. The Twilight Zone has been one of my favorite shows since I was a child in the sixties. Thanks for all of this great information. It was super interesting. Dns

  15. Now that I know where this town is, I want to plan a trip in the winter
    When it’s not 115 degrees !! I live in the SF Bay Area
    Thank you !!
    Hey we should do arenuion tour Zone buffs like the Trekes do !

  16. Noticed many years ago that the semi-truck that causes Horn’s gun to go off in a Hundred Yards Over the Rim is they same Moving van truck used in Rip Van Winkle Caper.

  17. Wonder where that semi is now !

Leave a Reply

error: Content is protected !!