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A Town Has
Turned to Dust
TV Guide
Salon Magazine

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It's a twist that the Master himself might appreciate...

The censorship of Fifties Television, and the 1958 gutting of his teleplay "A Town has Turned to Dust" in particular, drove Rod Serling to disguise his passionate morality plays as fantasy and science fiction. He said:

By the time "A Town Has Turned to Dust" went before the cameras, my script had turned to dust. Emmitt Till became a romantic Mexican. The setting was moved to the Southwest of the 1870s. The phrase "twenty men in hoods" became "twenty men in homemade masks." They chopped it up like a roomful of butchers at work on a steer.

In an ironic compliment to Serling's legacy, Nineties cable TV reworked the ruined teleplay and set it in a Twilight Zonish future that he had never planned for it. And though Serling felt that his teleplay's social observation had been diluted and hidden, forty years later the story speaks clearly to problems still not solved.

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If you think Judy Collins playing a sheriff's in a Western set hundreds of years in the future is a concept straight out of The Twilight Zone, you wouldn't be far wrong: The legendary singer costars with Ron Perlman and Stephen Lang in the Sci-Fi Channel movie A Town Has Turned to Dust (June 27 [1997] at 9 P.M./ET), based on a long-forgotten teleplay by Rod Serling. Originally seen on Playhouse 90 in 1958 it's a cautionary tale of racism and mob violence among the last inhabitants of Earth. "It's amazing how the script still speaks to us," says Collins, 59. "It's as if Serling had written it today." Collins has only rarely peppered her illustrious music career with acting roles (in 1968, she made her New York stage debut in "Peer Gynt" for producer Joe Papp, then didn't act until the '90s with a recurring role on Christy and the big screen comedy "Junior"). "But [Dust producer] Nelle Nugent has known me for years and was very sneaky. She said, 'You can't refuse this role. She's the moral, spiritual center of the script.' How do you say no to that?"

Michael Logan, TV Guide