OUTRAGEOUS CONDUCT: Art, Ego, and the Twilight Zone Case by Stephen & Marc Green Farber

OUTRAGEOUS CONDUCT: Art, Ego, and the Twilight Zone Case

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The story of the spectacular helicopter accident, cover-up, and trial revolving around the John Landis segment of The Twilight Zone--The Movie anthology film. The segment featured fading film-TV star Vic Morrow, who saw his role in a Steven Spielberg production as a comeback opportunity with wings on it. He played a bigot who (in a typical Twilight Zone ironic fantasy) is sent to Vietnam--via the astral--where he becomes a grunt who redeems himself by saving two Vietnamese children from a holocaust that engulfs their village. Carrying two live young children (rather than dummies), Morrow waded into a river while tremendous explosives blew up the children's village behind them. However, feverish director Landis had had the village overloaded with explosives (""You haven't seen anything yet!"" he told his crew) and the resulting fireball knocked out a helicopter hovering 25 feet above Morrow. The rotor blades decapitated him and one child and crushed the other. Morrow may well have been aware of the danger they were in, but he was high on his comeback and--this books suggests--would risk anything. Even so, prime responsibility fell upon Landis, a souped-up, raging, delayed adolescent raised on movies, who was more than willing to push Morrow into danger and--for filmic effect--to vastly increase the explosives being used. The two Vietnamese, children of emigrants, were hired and working at the post-midnight hour against the child-labor laws, and their parents were being paid under the table. During the resultant trial for manslaughter, Landis and his fellow workers were hidden as much as possible behind a Warner Bros. stone wall, and a subsequent attempt to buy off the grieving parents. The Landis trial was mishandled by its final prosecutor, Lea D'Agostino, who went in for overkill and alienated the jury. Almost nobody denied that Landis was guilty, but he beat the charge and has gone on to increased success (though the Twilight Zone movie was panned, it made money). Fascinating and thorough, this tale of shame should leave those responsible with several long needles through their hearts.

Pub Date: May 31st, 1988
Publisher: Arbor House/Morrow