Television Reviews

DVD Review: The Twilight Zone: Volume 3 – Four Comments on the Human Condition

The Twilight Zone was a series created by Rod Serling which had its run from the fall of 1959 to the spring of 1964. It’s a testament to the all-around quality of the episodes that they are as well-liked today by a new generation as they were back then. Our family used to sit down on New Year’s Eve and watch the marathon on the Sci-Fi Channel with various appetizers. My kids loved the show as much as I did when I first saw it.

The good thing is that each episode stands on its own and tells its own story. This is good because the way these volumes were created for the initial DVD release really had no rhyme or reason to them. The episodes selected for each DVD aren’t in the order they were aired and even span several different seasons.

The stories contained in this disc are meaningful comments on humanity. Kick the Can comments on growing older and dying; of being forgotten and of wasted youth. They say youth is wasted on the young, but what happens when you grow old and so set in your ways that you forget to let go and have fun? Steel shows the desperate lengths a man will go to when his back is to the wall, even if it means that he allows himself to be beaten nearly to death. A Game of Pool sends the message that winning and being “the Champ” isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be. Age and not appreciating our childhood is again revisited in Walking Distance.

There were many actors and actresses who appeared in episodes of The Twilight Zone who were not yet famous but would go on to be. On this disc, there is Lee Marvin, Jack Klugman, Jonathan Winters, and a very young “Ronnie” Howard.

In general, the quality of the release is decent. I think a better job could possibly be done with the re-mastering as there are spots where the black-and-white picture deteriorates, but there’s no interference or snow in the picture. It just seems to go out of focus for a bit.

The only big negative is that there is really no bonus material to speak of on these discs. What is there is a short and an overview of the entire series, nothing episode specific. It would have been nice to have some commentary by the actors about what they remember of the series or any of the crew involved who are still with us.

Still, you can’t go wrong with these episodes uncut, even if it has the feeling of being cobbled together instead of released in season-long boxed sets with some decent bonus material. It’s something the whole family can enjoy together and has as much meaning today as it did when it first aired.

Kick the Can

At a retirement home filled with elderly people who feel discarded and unwanted by their relatives, the residents watch local children playing a game of “kick the can”. One resident, Mr. Whitley, remarks that when kids stop playing the game they grow old; it’s almost like playing the game keeps them young. He convinces the other residents to join him in a game, except for one old friend of his, Ben. Remarkably, when Ben and the home’s superintendent go outside there is a new group of children playing the game, including one who looks much the way Ben remembers Whitley as a boy.

It was so nice to see a time when the games were so simple and didn’t need all the electronics and batteries that everything seems to need now. The kids played a game with a discarded can. Have we gone so far away from the simplicities of life that we can’t appreciate them anymore?

Steel

Set in the “future” of 1974, prizefighting has been outlawed due to the brutality. Instead, machines are used in place of the men. Steel Kelly and his partner Pole own a robot known as Battling Maxo. He’s an older model and isn’t working correctly, so Steel disguises himself as the android and enters the fight against another machine, Maynard Flash. Steel is brutally beaten, but gets enough prize money that he can repair Maxo before the next fight.

A Game of Pool

Jack Klugman stars as Jesse Cardiff, a pool player who wants to play the ultimate game of pool against Fats Brown. The only problem is that Fats is dead. As Jesse laments the fact that he can’t compete against the legend, Fats suddenly appears in the pool hall, ready to play Jesse in a contest. The stakes are Jesse’s very life. The game is tense with Fats seeming to have the upper hand until finally, all Jesse has to do is sing one very easy shot. Fats warns Jesse that winning isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be. Jesse sinks the shot anyway and faces his newfound fame as the player everyone else on Earth now wants to beat.

Walking Distance

Martin Sloan is on a drive, searching for something he feels is missing in his life. As he travels toward his hometown, Homewood, his car breaks down and he’s forced to walk to town. When he arrives there he finds it exactly as he remembers it in his youth. He realizes he has gone back in time and tries to find his younger self to caution him against all the mistakes he’s made. When he does, his younger persona is about to ride a merry-go-round and flees from the older Martin, falling from the merry-go-round and breaking his leg.

Martin’s father seeks him out, believing his story and sending him back to his own time with the caution that everyone only gets one summer. Martin now revisits Homewood in the present day with the limp he acquired as a child when he fell off the merry-go-round.


INSIDE THE TWILIGHT ZONE BONUS MATERIAL:

• Season by Season
• Rod Serling Bio
• History of Twilight Zone
• Reviews & Credits


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