Buster Keaton in The General
Movies - TV
The Twilight Zone Butchered Buster Keaton’s Only Appearance On The Show
The episode of "The Twilight Zone" called "Once Upon a Time" is one of the show's not-so-successful attempts at comedy and starred silent film legend Buster Keaton.
Keaton plays a janitor named Woodrow Mulligan living in 1890. The mad scientist he works for lets him use a time-travel helmet so he can see his hometown in the future.
Mulligan is disappointed by the year 1961, so he returns to 1890 with a curious scientist named Rollo, who is then disappointed by the backwards technology of the time.
Buster Keaton's involvement couldn't save the episode from being terrible, and multiple crew members have stated that working with Keaton was a massive case of dropping the ball.
In Marc Scott Zicree's "The Twilight Zone Companion," producer Buck Houghton said, "The experience with Keaton was absolutely wonderful. [...] Here's a legend in his own time."
However, the episode’s script simply didn't nail the right humorous tone, and Houghton recalled agonizing with an editor about how to salvage some of the episode's duller moments.
They salvaged a sequence by pulling frames, but this shortened the episode, so Houghton brought in director Les Goodwins to direct an abysmal scene in the 1961 repair shop.
The new scenes were, according to writer Richard Matheson, complete death. The repair shop sequence wasn't manic like he had envisioned, and it made the episode feel much slower.