Created in the late 1950s as the brainchild of television writer Rod Serling, The Twilight Zone has held up quite nicely through the years. Serling had become frustrated during his time as a writer on other series with the censorship that went on at the behest of both the network and sponsors. He figures that placing the stories in a science-fiction setting would allow him to circumvent that censorship. He was correct.
The Twilight Zone aired for five seasons as an anthology series, which meant that each episode stood on its own in terms of stories and characters. This meant that a variety of notable television writers and actors appeared in the show without having to be worried about being tied down to a weekly series. Many actors who were not-yet-famous also made appearances in the show for this same reason.
The DVD release of The Twilight Zone is somewhat lacking. Instead of giving fans season-long boxed sets, a 40+ series of volumes was released. Each volume contains three or four episodes cobbled together around a central theme, sometimes very loosely cobbled together.
This fifteenth volume of the release on DVD is on the subject of what I call “be careful what you wish for.” It was done before in the series but the stories here are as good as those. A man who always thinks he is dying wishes for immortality; a small-time gangster wishes he has the courage to do more and stand up to the boss who pushes him around; a woman lives on the Earth at a time when there is never-ending heat and wishes for it to be colder; a magical stopwatch enables a man to suspend time so he can get his job back. Each of these scenarios doesn’t end as the central character wishes it would.
The print has been cleaned up, which is nice. The interference is gone pretty much from all of the episodes. It’s also very nice to be able to watch these episodes uncut as shows generally ran longer with less commercial time back then.
What’s also missing here is good bonus material. Basically, the same material has been put on each disc. It would have been nice to have a featurette or commentary on some of the episodes by the actors and crew who are still alive.
The show is definitely worth watching, however. My children have enjoyed it for some time, looking forward to the marathons on the Sci-Fi Channel every New Year’s Eve. It’s one of the few shows that hold up so well from nearly fifty years ago.
Walter Bedeker is a hypochondriac. Not only that, he is a hypochondriac of the worst kind, driving both his doctor and wife crazy. When his doctor tells him that he’s not dying, he pronounces the doctor a quack. When his wife leaves a window open to air out a room, he accuses her of trying to kill him.
Enter the Devil, who offers Walter immortality in exchange for his soul. Walter negotiates the deal with enough conditions to keep him alive forever. There’s just one clause the Devil adds: it’s an escape clause allowing him to die if he so chooses.
Soon he is doing things such as throwing himself in front of a train, drinking poison, and more. He is getting rich off of the insurance claims and scaring his wife out of her wits.
Nervous Man in a Four-Dollar Room
Jackie Rhoades is a small-time gangster trying to ingratiate himself with his boss, George. George tells Jackie to kill the owner of a local bar. If Jackie doesn’t do it, George will kill him.
As Jackie looks at his reflection in the mirror, he wrestles with his conscience as well as his self-doubt. Eventually, it changes and what he sees in the mirror is a reflection of himself that is a much stronger man who is willing to stand up for himself.
The Midnight Sun
Norma is an artist who lives in an apartment in the New York City. There seems to be a heat wave happening as neighbors in their building leave for Toronto. As she looks out a window she laments the life that used to exist in what looks like a now-deserted city. Mrs. Bronson, her landlady, talks of the scientist on the radio who talked about the effect of the Earth moving toward the sun.
As the temperature rises, there are other problems as well. The electricity is on for shorter and shorter periods of time. The mercury rises even more, breaking the thermometer and melting her paintings. Eventually, Norma herself collapses.
A Kind of Stopwatch
Patrick McNulty is a know-it-all who really knows very little and never shuts up. This leads to him getting fired. He goes to his local bar after work, trying to put a positive spin on the day’s happenings, but everyone pretty much sees right through him. While he’s there, he meets a man named Potts who gives him the gift of a stopwatch.
The stopwatch is no ordinary stopwatch. It can halt time for everyone except the person who has pushed the button. This allows McNulty to have quite a bit of fun at everyone else’s expense. He thinks he has found a way to use it to get his job back, but the plan backfires. Finally, in desperation, he tries to use it to rob a bank with disastrous results.
INSIDE THE TWILIGHT ZONE SPECIAL FEATURES:
• Rod Serling Bio
• Season by Season
• History of The Twilight Zone
• Reviews and Credits