10 Amazing Facts About Amazing Stories

David Hollander in the "Welcome to My Nightmare" episode of Amazing Stories (1985).
David Hollander in the "Welcome to My Nightmare" episode of Amazing Stories (1985).
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Television shows have been trying to be their generation's Twilight Zone ever since Rod Serling's trippy anthology first scrambled its viewers brains. Pulpy, one-off episodes featuring celebrity actors are at least a half-century old, but they're new (and popular) again thanks to a Jordan Peele-led reboot of The Twilight Zone, Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror, and, now, a second coming of Steven Spielberg's 1980s Twilight Zone wannabe Amazing Stories.

The original incarnation spanned 45 episodes over two seasons and saw Spielberg delivering an anthology series that was more concerned with adventure than twists. Thirty-five years later, Apple TV+ is now streaming a 10-episode revival meant to thrill and amaze.

Here are 10 astounding facts about the original '80s show.

1. Rod Serling gave Steven Spielberg his start.

CBS Television, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

It may have been a surprise for viewers to see Steve Spielberg go from Indiana Jones and Close Encounters of the Third Kind to a series of small screen stories, but it was a return to his roots. The now-legendary director got his start making the Joan Crawford-starring segment of the first episode of Serling's Night Gallery. Crawford was initially horrified that a 21-year-old would be directing her, but changed her mind quickly upon meeting him. Spielberg also produced and directed a segment for 1983's The Twilight Zone: The Movie before trying to make his own, original anthology concept.

2. The Amazing Stories name came from the first magazine dedicated to science fiction.

Bursting onto the scene in April 1926 with stories from H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, and Edgar Allan Poe, Amazing Stories was the brainchild of Hugo Gernsback. He decided that the world was ready for a magazine focused on sci-fi, and he was right. Universal Studios secured the rights for the name and some of the stories before launching the anthology show with Spielberg.

3. One of the Amazing Stories stories was made into a movie instead.

Originally called "Gramps and Grammie and Company," Spielberg idea for an Amazing Stories episode just kept growing until it became the feature film *batteries not included. The movie sees a group of building tenants threatened by a real estate developer who are rescued by robotic aliens, so, yes, it feels very, very Amblin. E.T. meets Johnny Five with a dash of Spielberg's obsession with real estate developers tearing things down.

4. In Italy, three episodes were strung together and released as a movie.

Sometimes you've got to pivot to sell something to a non-American audience. The producers behind Amazing Stories packaged The Mission (about a turret gunner stuck inside a WWII bomber), Mummy Daddy (about an actor in a horror costume attacked by a small town), and Go to the Head of the Class (where students curse their English teacher played by Christopher Lloyd) into a single film called Storie Incredibili in order to win over Italian fans.

5. Four of Amazing Stories's episode directors went on to win Best Director Oscars.

A photo of Clint Eastwood.Roy Jones/Evening Standard/Getty Images

Amazing Stories was a cattle call of impressive talent, from Joe Dante and Irvin Kershner to Mick Garris and Lesli Linka Glatter (hello, The Walking Dead fans). Spielberg attracted top names, and four of them would go on to win Best Director Oscars: Clint Eastwood directed an episode about a grieving artist, Martin Scorsese directed an episode about a haunted horror writer, and Robert Zemeckis directed the episode where the students use magic against Christopher Lloyd. The fourth director on the list is Spielberg himself, of course, who directed the pilot episode about a man building a house on the location of a tragic train accident and the WWII bomber episode (as well as writing the stories for dozens of episodes).

6. Amazing Stories also launched a young director's career

Just as Spielberg got his start under Rod Serling's wing, Spielberg repaid the favor by hiring the young Phil Joanou right out of USC film school after seeing his short film/student project The Last Chance Dance. In addition to directing several music videos for U2 and Tom Petty, Joanou went on to direct Three O'Clock High (1987), Final Analysis (1992), and Gridiron Gang (2006).

7. One Amazing Stories episode was based on something that happened to Boris Karloff.

Tom Harrison in Amazing Stories (1985).Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

The episode Mummy Daddy features Tom Harrison as an actor on a horror movie set stuffed into a mummy costume who gets word that his wife is in labor. Like a toilet paper-wrapped Daniel Day-Lewis, he stays in costume while racing to the hospital. Things get terrifyingly absurd when the townsfolk think he's the real deal and try to kill him. Presumably no one tried to kill Boris Karloff when he got word of his daughter's birth while filming Son of Frankenstein and went to the hospital, bolts and all. It's ... a little difficult to verify that story, but at the very least it's the kind of apocryphal tale that Spielberg and company were aware of and built a story around.

8. Another Amazing Stories episode was based on the real-life murder of a man who was hard to kill.

In One For the Road, a handful of scummy speakeasy patrons try to kill a fellow alcohol-enthusiast as part of an insurance scheme. The episode was based on the 1933 murder of Mike Malloy, whose killing was far more complicated than his tormentors had planned on. Rasputin-esque, Malloy drank for an entire day without dying; ingested turpentine, rat poison, and antifreeze without dying; and spent a night drunk-sleeping in the snow with several gallons of water poured on his chest without dying. He also ate a sandwich with rotten sardines and carpet tacks and was hit by a car—neither of which fully stopped him from dropping by the bar for more drinks.

9. June Cleaver made a cameo

Remote Control Man follows the familiar trope of the put-upon husband with a horrid wife ("There was time now!") whose only joy is escaping into the TV. His new, amazing set delivers characters right into his living room, including June Cleaver from Leave it to Beaver. Barbara Billingsley reprised her iconic role two decades after the wholesome sitcom had gone off the air in order to make a cameo appearance in Spielberg's sci-fi show.

10. It's only animated episode got a spin-off show.

From Brad Bird no less. The director behind The Iron Giant and several of Pixar's best pictures made an offbeat animated episode of Amazing Stories about the life of a dog, where we got to see the family's escapades from canine-level. In another weird turn of events, the episode spun-off into its own show eight years later on a different network, starring Martin Mull. It only lasted 10 episodes, which makes sense considering its pedigree. Despite having so many episodes and big name directors and stars, Amazing Stories wasn't a hit either, which is why it was canceled after its second season.

10 Reusable Gifts for Your Eco-Friendliest Friend

Disposable tea bags can't compete with this pla-tea-pus and his friends.
Disposable tea bags can't compete with this pla-tea-pus and his friends.
DecorChic/Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

By this point, your eco-friendly pal probably has a reusable water bottle that accompanies them everywhere and some sturdy grocery totes that keep their plastic-bag count below par. Here are 10 other sustainable gift ideas that’ll help them in their conservation efforts.

1. Reusable Produce Bags; $13

No more staticky plastic bags.Naturally Sensible/Amazon

The complimentary plastic produce bags in grocery stores aren’t great, but neither is having all your spherical fruits and vegetables roll pell-mell down the checkout conveyor belt. Enter the perfect alternative: mesh bags that are nylon, lightweight, and even machine-washable.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Animal Tea Infusers; $16

Nothing like afternoon tea with your tiny animal friends.DecorChic/Amazon

Saying goodbye to disposable tea bags calls for a quality tea diffuser, and there’s really no reason why it shouldn’t be shaped like an adorable animal. This “ParTEA Pack” includes a hippo, platypus, otter, cat, and owl, which can all hang over the edge of a glass or mug. (In other words, you won’t have to fish them out with your fingers or dirty a spoon when your loose leaf is done steeping.)

Buy it: Amazon

3. Rocketbook Smart Notebook; $25

Typing your notes on a tablet or laptop might save trees, but it doesn’t quite capture the feeling of writing on paper with a regular pen. The Rocketbook, on the other hand, does. After you’re finished filling a page with sketches, musings, or whatever else, you scan it into the Rocketbook app with your smartphone, wipe it clean with the microfiber cloth, and start again. This one also comes with a compatible pen, but any PILOT FriXion pens will do.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Food Huggers; $13

"I'm a hugger!"Food Huggers/Amazon

It’s hard to compete with the convenience of plastic wrap or tin foil when it comes to covering the exposed end of a piece of produce or an open tin can—and keeping those leftovers in food storage containers can take up valuable space in the fridge. This set of five silicone Food Huggers stretch to fit over a wide range of circular goods, from a lidless jar to half a lemon.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Swiffer Mop Pads; $15

For floors that'll shine like the top of the Chrysler Building.Turbo Microfiber/Amazon

Swiffers may be much less unwieldy than regular mops, but the disposable pads present a problem to anyone who likes to keep their trash output to a minimum. These machine-washable pads fasten to the bottom of any Swiffer WetJet, and the thick microfiber will trap dirt and dust instead of pushing it into corners. Each pad lasts for at least 100 uses, so you’d be saving your eco-friendly friend quite a bit of money, too.

Buy it: Amazon

6. SodaStream for Sparkling Water; $69

A fondness for fizzy over flat water doesn’t have to mean buying it bottled. Not only does the SodaStream let you make seltzer at home, but it’s also small enough that it won’t take up too much precious counter space. SodaStream also sells flavor drops to give your home-brewed beverage even more flair—this pack from Amazon ($25) includes mango, orange, raspberry, lemon, and lime.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Washable Lint Roller; $13

Roller dirty.iLifeTech/Amazon

There’s a good chance that anyone with a pet (or just an intense dislike for lint) has lint-rolled their way through countless sticky sheets. iLifeTech’s reusable roller boasts “the power of glue,” which doesn’t wear off even after you’ve washed it. Each one also comes with a 3-inch travel-sized version, so you can stay fuzz-free on the go.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Countertop Compost Bin; $23

Like a tiny Tin Man for your table.Epica/Amazon

Even if you keep a compost pile in your own backyard, it doesn’t make sense to dash outside every time you need to dump a food scrap. A countertop compost bin can come in handy, especially if it kills odors and blends in with your decor. This 1.3-gallon pail does both. It’s made of stainless steel—which matches just about everything—and contains an activated-charcoal filter that prevents rancid peels and juices from stinking up your kitchen.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Fabric-Softening Dryer Balls; $17

Also great for learning how to juggle without breaking anything.Smart Sheep

Nobody likes starchy, scratchy clothes, but some people might like blowing through bottles of fabric softener and boxes of dryer sheets even less. Smart Sheep is here to offer a solution: wool dryer balls. Not only do they last for more than 1000 loads, they also dry your laundry faster. And since they don’t contain any chemicals, fragrances, or synthetic materials, they’re a doubly great option for people with allergies and/or sensitive skin.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Rechargeable Batteries; $40

Say goodbye to loose batteries in your junk drawer.eneloop/Amazon

While plenty of devices are rechargeable themselves, others still require batteries to buzz, whir, and change the TV channel—so it’s good to have some rechargeable batteries on hand. In addition to AA batteries, AAA batteries, and a charger, this case from Panasonic comes with tiny canisters that function as C and D batteries when you slip the smaller batteries into them.

Buy it: Amazon

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15 Extremely Valuable Funko Pop! Figures That Might Be Hiding In Your Collection

In the 1990s, collectors salivated over Beanie Babies. In the 2000s, it was Pokemon. Today, the collectibles market is dominated by Funko Pops!, the ubiquitous vinyl figures that turn pop culture characters into block-headed, saucer-eyed cute bombs.

While Funko has a deep bench of licenses, many figures are exclusive to retailers, available for a limited time, or are otherwise hard to find. After perusing recent auction sales and Funko online price guides, we’ve excavated a few figures that are being bought and sold for stacks of cash larger than the toys themselves—and could be hiding in your very own collection. Take a look at 15 of the most sought after and valuable Funko Pop! figures that could net you a small fortune on the secondary market.

1. Ghost Rider Metallic Freddy Funko // $4210

The spirit of vengeance was unleashed as an ultra-exclusive variant edition that's a mash-up of the Marvel hero with Funko mascot Freddy Funko. Released in 2013, it was limited to just 12 figures. As a result, it’s a high-ticket item. The Pop Price Guide, which tracks Funko Pop! values and sales, estimates it at $4210.

2. She-Ra // $690

Funko

The warrior princess of the 1980s Masters of the Universe spin-off cartoon made a splash in 2013. The figure wasn’t a limited edition, but so many fans snapped her up that she’s hard to find.

3. Mike Wazowski Glow-in-the-Dark // $1960

The jolly green creature from 2001’s Monsters, Inc. was available in a limited glow-in-the-dark edition beginning in 2011, but collectors had to go on a scavenger hunt—only 480 were produced.

4. Reggae Rasta // $1200

Walmart

This Bob Marley-inspired figure has been sought after by collectors for sporting a limited-edition green outfit instead of the multi-colored one in the image seen above. That regular version sells for around $400.

5. Holographic Darth Maul // $5070

The horned villain from The Phantom Menace, 1999’s Star Wars prequel, got the glow-in-the-dark treatment from Funko in 2012. San Diego Comic-Con attendees had first crack at the variant, which was limited to 480 figures.

6. Master Chief // $650

Funko

The hero of the Halo 4 video game was a Blockbuster Video exclusive and commands $650 on the open market.

7. Ken Griffey Jr. Bronze // $3150

One of Major League Baseball’s most celebrated players got the Pop! treatment in 2018, with just 24 gold-finish variants made for fans at Seattle's Safeco Field (which was renamed T-Mobile Park in late 2018). The current market value is $3150.

8. Headless Ned Stark // $980

Funko

One of the most tragic and unexpected deaths on Game of Thrones was immortalized in this 2013 San Diego Comic-Con exclusive, which features the head of the Stark family and his detachable melon. The Pop Price Guide has valued Stark at $980.

9. Black Ranger Freddy Funko // $1850

This hybrid of Funko mascot Freddy Funko and the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers was limited to fans attending the Funko Fundays event at 2017's San Diego Comic-Con. Only 24 were produced, which is why they’re extremely difficult to find, even on auction sites.

10. The Notorious B.I.G. Metallic // $1930

Funko

The late rap headliner got the deluxe treatment in 2011, with a metallic coat and hat version that was limited to 240 pieces. (The regular version is pictured.) Its listed value is $1930.

11. Batman Blue Metallic // $1400

The Dark Knight is looking a little more ostentatious in this 2010 San Diego Comic-Con offering, with a shiny blue cowl and accessories.

12. 1970s Elvis Presley Glow-in-the-Dark // $2170

Funko

A 1970s-era Elvis (above) comes in a special glow-in-the-dark version that has an estimated value of $2170. Another limited chase figure that depicts him at the height of his powers in the 1950s will run you as much as $1700.

13. Clown Dumbo // $5900

The ear-shaming of Disney’s 1941 animated classic Dumbo continues to strike a chord with people. The 2013 edition of Dumbo in clown make-up was limited to 48 pieces for San Diego Comic-Con attendees.

14. Planet Arlia Vegeta // $3500

Funko

The flame-haired Vegeta from Dragon Ball Z was exclusive to fans at the 2014 New York Comic Con and the Toy Tokyo store in New York City.

15. Bob’s Big Boy // $850

This iconic advertising character was a San Diego Comic Con exclusive in 2016. Only 1000 were made.

This story was updated in 2020.