Twilight Zone

When people talk about the Golden Age of television, inevitably Rod Serling’s “The Twilight Zone” comes up. Why? Because “The Twilight Zone” defined everything that was right about television during it’s teen years. It was smartly written, sharply directed, convincingly acted, and challenged audiences raised on “I Love Lucy” and “Father Knows Best.”


twilightzoneIt was unlike anything television had ever seen, and almost forty years later, remains as vital and engaging. “The Twilight Zone” went through several incarnations, but at it’s core, it remained a platform for some of the medium’s best writers, directors and up and coming talent. One only has to look at the roster of talent that worked in front of and behind the camera to understand it’s appeal. Serling wrote many of the episodes himself, and then brought in writers whose work he respected and who he knew would maintain the level of integrity he had set.

twilightzoneI have yet to meet someone who can’t recall their favorite “Twilight Zone” episode by heart. The episodes are that memorable. They were little morality plays thinly disguised as fantasy and science fiction. Lucky for DVD owners, Panasonic has finally started releasing collections of “The Twilight Zone,” and the first two entries are impressive indeed. “Treasures of the Twilight Zone” is the first DVD in the collection, and features the series’ premiere episode, “Where is Everybody,” starring Earl Holliman as a man who suddenly finds himself in a deserted town.

The episode original ran October 2, 1959. That’s followed by “The Encounter,” aired once in May 1964 and then pulled from the syndication package after that. It’s a classic “Twilight Zone” confrontation episode that pits a World War II hero (Neville Brand) against a Japanese gardener (George Takei) against each other when the gardener becomes possessed by a samurai sword owned by the hero. Brand’s character is a racist, and it’s easy to see how this episode would get a rise out of audience members.

Finally, the Academy Award-winning French short subject “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” completes the first DVD line-up. This striking short subject was bought and aired on “The Twilight Zone” when the series needed an additional episode and didn’t have the money to film one. Most people are familiar with this haunting tale set during the Civil War about a man who is about to be hung, and finds solace in an imaginary escape. “More Treasures of The Twilight Zone” features three episodes that usually find their way into the Labor Day marathon line-up.

They include “The Masks,” a fifth season chiller where a dying man teaches his greedy children a lesson during Marti Gras; “The Eye of the Beholder,” the episode where Donna Douglas of “The Beverly Hillbillies” learns that beauty is only skin deep (unless you have a pig’s face); and “The Howling Man,” a spooky tale about a man living in a monastery who claims to have captured the Devil.

All six episodes are keepers for true fans, but if you have to make a choice, put your money on “More Treasures.” More collections are on the way, and then you won’t have to wait until Labor Day. You can create a marathon of your favorite episodes.

COMPLETE CHECK-UP

VISION: [ ] EXCELLENT [ X ] GOOD [ ] RESUSCITATE [ ] D.O.A.

The quality of the picture varies from episode to episode. On “Treasures of the Twilight Zone,” the premiere episode “Where is Everybody?” looks sensational, as does the rarely seen “Encounter,” which arrived during season five. The Academy Award-winning short subject “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,” which fills out the trilogy, looks a little ragged. There are noticeable scratches on the original negative. The introduction used on “Where is Everybody” also looks like crap, but the openings for the other two are clean and vivid. On “More Treasures,” the first episode, “The Mask,” which aired in the fifth season, is sharp and vivid. The second episode, “The Eye of the Beholder,” looks like the image was projected against a sheet of tweed bond paper and then transferred. It has that patterned look. The third episode, “The Howling Man,” looks terrific once you’re past the Rod Serling intro. There are a couple of flaws on the negative of “The Howling Man,” but overall, all of the episodes look better than anything you have seen in syndication. The black and white images are strong, although the blacks in “The Eye of the Beholder” and “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” aren’t solid. I didn’t notice any compression artifacts or pixelation, but some of the whites were extremely hot.

HEARING: [ ] EXCELLENT [ X ] GOOD [ ] RESUSCITATE [ ] D.O.A.

Each of the DVDs features a clean mono digital soundtrack that doesn’t produce any noticeable hiss or distortion. What were you expecting?

ORAL: [ ] EXCELLENT [ ] GOOD [ ] RESUSCITATE [ X ] D.O.A.

No closed captions or subtitles.

COORDINATION: [ ] EXCELLENT [ X ] GOOD [ ] RESUSCITATE [ ] D.O.A.

Each of the DVD’s features creative interactive menus (dig that crazy eyeball pointer), “Inside the Twilight Zone,” an short introspective written by Marc Scott Zicree, author of “The Twilight Zone Companion,” bio info on Rod Serling, a brief capsule of each of the show’s five seasons, Serling’s filmed pitch to advertisers, and an interview with Mike Wallace taped in 1959 before the show premiered. The printed info is okay, but it’s the filmed pitch and the interview that provide real insight. The interview is a smoker’s paradise. As it opens, Serling is already puffing away while Wallace lights up before the first question. At least they don’t try to plug their cigarette brand. Serling’s comments are just as relevant today as they were in 1959. He discusses in length the problems he encounters with advertisers over the content of his work. His funniest observation deals with an episode of “Lassie” in which the Collie gives birth. Serling recalls feeling proud that the episode presented the miracle of birth is such an honest and forthright way. Then the network receives numerous complaints from the “Deep South” about the show’s smutty content. That kind of crap goes on today. Serling’s observation that the complaints all came from the same postmark didn’t go unnoticed. I like listening to Serling talk because he sounds as intelligent as he obviously is. Here’s a genuine talent whose integrity refuses to allow him to take a job simply for the money. He wants to do good, thoughtful, mature work that challenges audiences. While he claims that “The Twilight Zone” was designed for entertainment purposes only, it’s obvious that Serling found an outlet for his very adult brand of storytelling. The filmed pitch is a real find. It begins with Serling sitting behind a desk, and then follows him through an abandoned sound stage as he tries to convince potential advertisers on the merits of the show. He’s so convincing that if I were an advertiser, I would have bought air time. Rod Serling was truly a remarkable man, and while the information on the DVD’s is sketchy at best, it does provide a quick refresher on the man. Each episode features three (3) chapter stops, but their placement is inconsequential. The duplicators also let a commercial break slip by on “More Treasures.” Instead of going from fade out to fade in, a title card for the series is visible. No big deal, but it is a little sloppy.

PROGNOSIS: [ ] EXCELLENT [ X ] GOOD [ ] RESUSCITATE [ ] D.O.A.

No, you’re not traveling through another dimension. You’re actually experiencing “The Twilight Zone” for the first time thanks to a great transfer.

VITALS: $24.98/Not Rated/Black and White/9 Chapter Stops Per Disc/Keepcase #PDV-0006/#PDV- 0014

ATTENDING RESIDENT: John Larsen

PATIENT: TREASURES OF THE TWILIGHT ZONEMORE TREASURES OF THE TWILIGHT ZONE

BIRTH DATE: 1959-1964

HMO: Panasonic



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