Easter eggs in movies can take numerous forms, and the best ones tend to work on multiple levels. Long before the advent of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, filmmakers liked to have fun sneaking Easter eggs into their movies that built connections between films: Kevin Smith took his characters Jay and Silent Bob around the View Askewniverse, and Quentin Tarantino still has his fictional Red Apple cigarettes turn up in every one of his features. Yet one of the earliest crossover Easter eggs to turn up in a film came before either of those filmmakers had begun working.
Director John Landis, who made both 1978’s “Animal House” and the first segment of the 1983 anthology film “Twilight Zone: The Movie,” snuck a cheeky, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it reference to an “Animal House” character in his “Twilight Zone” segment — one which not only establishes a shared universe between the two films, but acts as a clever punchline, too.
The Fate Of Lieutenant Neidermeyer
The “Animal House” Easter egg within “Twilight Zone: The Movie” pays off a gag that had appeared as an on-screen “where are they now”-style legend at the end of “Animal House.” In that film, the character of Douglas C. Neidermeyer (Mark Metcalf) is a member of the Omega House frat at Faber College in the early 1960s. He relentlessly torments the slobs of the Delta House frat, a task he’s adept at given his status as an ROTC head. At the end of the film, it’s revealed that Neidermeyer destined to be “killed in Vietnam by his own troops.”
During Landis’ “Time Out” segment of “Twilight Zone: The Movie,” the unapologetically racist Bill Connor (Vic Morrow) finds himself thrown through various time periods in the shoes of people of color and other persecuted groups. One of these time periods is during the height of the Vietnam War, whereupon Bill encounters a troop of scared American soldiers who seem to be missing a commanding officer. One of the soldiers reveals why: “I told you guys we shouldn’t have shot Lieutenant Neidermeyer!” he exclaims. A great punchline to another movie’s joke and a clever crossover Easter egg all in one.
A Dimension Of Imagination — And Easter Eggs
The “Animal House” Easter egg is far from the only callback found within “Twilight Zone: The Movie,” as it’s positively rife with references to the original 1959-64 “Twilight Zone” TV show. With the exception of Landis’ “Time Out,” each segment of the movie is a remake of a classic “Zone” episode: “Kick the Can” (directed by Steven Spielberg), “It’s a Good Life” (directed by Joe Dante), and “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” (directed by George Miller). Hidden inside these segments are references to other “Zone” episodes (such as a mention of the town Willoughby, from the episode “A Stop at Willoughby”), and other films entirely.
For instance, Dick Miller’s character is named Walter Paisley, the name of his character from 1959’s “A Bucket of Blood.” The prologue segment (also directed by Landis), which sees Dan Aykroyd and Albert Brooks gabbing while driving down a lonely road, contains oodles of references to classic television. Dante’s segment features numerous clips of vintage Warner Bros. cartoons. In keeping with the film’s ethos, “Twilight Zone: The Movie” is a celebration of its namesake series as well as the work and interests of its creators.
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