If the premise of Real Steel sounds familiar, it’s because the last time you saw it was in black and white, coming to you from the Twilight Zone.
“The Twilight Zone episode called Steel with Lee Marvin, written by Richard Matheson, was in the ’60s,” says Real Steel director Shawn Levy.
“It was about a robot boxing promoter, a guy who owns robots and fights them for money. From there we beefed it up.”
In its original run the anthology series mixed and matched science fiction, comedy, supernatural and occult stories usually featuring ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances.
Hosted by Rod Serling, it was must see TV with a catchy theme song, which influenced thousands of writers and directors.
Three series and a movie have officially claimed the Twilight Zone name but dozens of other films have been either directly — or indirectly — inspired by the show.
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Submitted for your approval, here is a list of movies that owe a debt to one of the greatest television shows ever:
- The 1996 Kyle MacLachlan thriller The Trigger Effect was a reworking of a classic episode called The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street, which shows the effects of a power failure on a neighbourhood. Named the best Twilight Zone episode by Time Magazine, the show is still shown in classrooms to illustrate how lethal a mix intolerance and panic can be. The film pays tribute to its television roots by placing its main characters at the corner of Maple and Willoughby Streets, a reference to another famous episode, A Stop at Willoughby.
- The Cameron Diaz movie The Box was a remake of Button, Button, a story from the series’ 1980 reinvention and Child’s Play, the movie which introduced the murderous doll Chucky seems to have looked to a 1963 episode called Living Doll for inspiration.
Two towering artists of modern horror can count the Twilight Zone as seminal to their work:
- The show perfected the use of the twist ending, which M. Night Shyamalan would later incorporate into his work. His most famous film, The Sixth Sense has echoes of Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, a 1964 episode about a man who is revealed to be dead.
- In Danse Macabre, Stephen King called the show “damn near immortal” and it’s been hinted that his novel Christine (later made into a movie) was inspired by the driverless car episode A Thing about Machines.