Television Reviews

The Twilight Zone: Volume 9 – Terrific Stories, Needs More Extras

Back when Rod Serling created The Twilight Zone, the television climate was much different than it is today. Sponsors shied away from any controversy, and the network censors were much stricter than they are now. As much as some get upset about Janet Jackson’s boob or some write letter campaigns when a show presents ideas they don’t agree with, back then anything that questioned the status quo or even hinted at sex even between a husband and wife would have been stricken from the airwaves.

To get around some of the more controversial ideas and commentary he wanted to present, Serling couched the allegories he made in a science fiction setting, figuring the connections wouldn’t get made. He was right.

The Twilight Zone was an anthology series, with a different cast and story each week. This made it possible to cover a wide variety of ideas and thoughts so that by the time the censors and sponsors caught on, Serling was off on another topic. This also explains the multitude of actors and actresses who appeared in the series who would become household names.

When the series was first released on DVD, it was done so by putting together four episodes across various seasons and in no particular order that seemed to be connected by a loosely applied theme. At times that “theme” worked better than others. Volume 9 consisted of four episodes having something to do with the powers of the mind. Nick of Time has a couple believing that a roadside cafe has a machine holding their future in its hands. The Prime Mover has a man using a friend with the ability to move objects to help him win big at gambling. The Mind and the Matter reminds me of Time Enough At Last, which appeared on an earlier disc in the series where a man uses his mind to wish away all the people and finds it’s not all that it’s cracked up to be.

Finally, It’s a Good Life has a little boy who uses his mind to create a world to his liking and terrorizes the people of his small town. It’s one of the most memorable episodes of the series, if only for Billy Mumy’s excellent performance as the boy named Anthony. It was also controversial to many due to the hatred leveled at a child, but that was exactly what Serling was going for when he adapted this short story by Jerome Bixby for the show.

Guest stars included William Shatner, Buddy Ebsen, and the previously-mentioned Billy Mumy, all of who have appeared multiple times in the series, as well as Cloris Leachman.

We enjoy watching The Twilight Zone even after all these years. This volume in particular has some terrific episodes that hold up very well even almost forty years later. They don’t seem to become as dated as others did and my kids really enjoyed watching it, even in black and white. The restoration is good. It’s not as crisp as more modern shows that are filmed in black and white, but there was no interference or snow and the picture was clear.

I would like to see the series released in season-long sets with some extras, as that is my biggest complaint with the way they have been released up until now. The extras which do appear on this disc are the same that have been present in other volumes of the series. They could have surely dug up some of the actors or others to comment on the series – even Billy Mumy talking about his experience would have been terrific.

This would be definitely worth viewing, if only to see the episodes uncut and uninterrupted. It was nice to watch the episodes like this, rather than with all the commercials the way we have watched them in the past.

Nick of Time

A couple traveling on their honeymoon from Ohio to New York City are forced to stop in a small town awaiting repairs to their car. In a small diner, Don and Pat put a penny into a fortune-telling machine for fun. It gives YES or NO type answers back, like using a Magic 8-ball.

A few pennies later, Don calls his work and learns he has a promotion, after the machine stated It has been decided in your favor. He keeps asking questions, and soon seems to be a prisoner to the machine, asking questions and feeding it pennies.

His new wife finally convinces him not to be a prisoner to the machine.

The Prime Mover

At a roadside cafe, a scene plays out where one worker, Ace, puts quarters in a slot machine, constantly losing. Ace is an ardent gambler and flips for a meal, losing his last quarter. The deliveryman he loses it to promptly puts it in the machine and seems to win.

The artist behind these events is actually the cook, Jimbo Cobb, who has telekinetic powers. When a car accident happens near the diner, he is forced to reveal his powers to Ace. Ace wants to capitalize on the powers by using them to win at gambling. They take the waitress, Kitty, with them, and for a while, things are going good and Ace is winning.

After a tiff with Kitty, Jimbo starts to get tired while Ace makes a date to gamble with one of the biggest names in the city.

The Mind and the Matter

Mr. Beechcroft is a crotchety man who’s had his fill of people. He visualizes the rest of society as interference in his own life. A clerk in his office gives him a book on the power of the mind. He reads it and believes that if he concentrates hard enough, he can make anything happen. He proves this to himself by making his landlady disappear when she comes around for the rent.

When he goes to work the next day, everything is empty; the streets, the train, his office. After a while, the emptiness wears on him and he creates duplicates of himself, thinking that would be the perfect world.

It’s a Good Life

In the town of Peaksville, Ohio, a little boy lives with his family. The boy has special powers which has isolated Peaksville from the rest of the world – they cannot even get supplies in and the local store is running low.

He controls the people through terror. They all have to smile and act happy at whatever Anthony does, no matter how hideous it is. Even his mother sometimes wishes he would go away, everyone is so frightened of him. When a farmer down the road just had a thought that what Anthony was doing wasn’t good, Anthony made him go on fire. Anthony hates dogs, so any dog that comes around he “puts them in the cornfield.”

When a group of friends gets together for “television night” where Anthony makes shows on the television, they also celebrate a neighbor’s birthday. The man gets drunk and says what many of them are already thinking, causing Anthony to get very, very mad…


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