Monday, June 20, 2011

The Twilight Zone Season 4 Blu-ray Review

It’s time to enter the fifth dimension once again with The Twilight Zone: Season 4! All eighteen episodes from the influential sci-fi/fantasy series’ fourth season are here, remastered and presented in pristine 1080p high-definition and uncompressed PCM audio. In addition, the five disc set includes hours of amazing bonus features, specially created for this Blu-ray release, as well as bonus features from the previous Definitive Collection DVD release. You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension – a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You’re moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You’ve just crossed over into the Twilight Zone…

Film (5 out of 5 stars) 

Much like Star Trek, The Twilight Zone has tackled some controversial topics by using sci-fiction as a device to tell stories that wouldn’t be allowed otherwise.   These stories were clever, disturbing, humorous, and always had a lesson to teach.  The brilliance of the show was the fact that each episode was essentially a morality tale of some kind that was also pure entertainment.  The lessons ranged from the consequences of greed, love, and often showed the views what could happen if you actually got what you wished for.  Things were never what they seemed in The Twilight Zone and those last minute twists could serve as a reminder of how to do it right for M. Night Shyamalan.
Rod Serling was an incredible writer himself but he wisely included many other talented and well known authors to write for the show like: Charles Beaumont, Richard Matheson, Jerry Sohl, George Clayton Johnson, Earl Hamner, Jr., Reginald Rose, Harlan Ellison and Ray Bradbury.  The actors that starred in the show was also impressive and many of them later became superstars with names like Burt Reynolds, Robert Duvall, Dennis Hopper, Martin Balsam, Lee Marvin, Cliff Robertson, and of course who could forget William Shatner freaking out over the gremlin in “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” (which was directed by Richard Donner).
This season of Rod Serling’s classic series was lengthened to an hour which worked well for most of the episodes since it gave more time to build up the tension.  This collection of episodes has a lot of good ones and it’s interesting to see early work by a lot of well known actors.  Some, like Dennis Hopper (who plays a neo-Nazi) are incredible, while others do good work but it’s wasted on a weak premise like Robert Duvall’s episode where he falls in love with a miniature doll.  Obviously, it’s incredibly difficult to maintain the high level of quality that Serling aimed for every time, so there are some episodes that don’t resonate as much as others.  Overall, this is an amazing show that still works today which is an impressive feat considering this show was filmed almost sixty years ago!
The following is a list of the Season 4 “Twilight Zone” episodes along with their original air-dates;
1. “In His Image”, Jan. 3, 1963 - A young man grapples with an urge to kill and confusion about his origins.
2. “The Thirty-Fathom Grave”, Jan. 10, 1963 - In the early 1960′s, as a U.S. Navy ship cruises near Guadalcanal in the South Pacific, its sonar detects muted hammering on metal undersea. The eerie sounds emanate from a submarine on the ocean floor, maybe there since World War II. A very nervous crew member (Mike Kellin) on the ship served aboard that sub – and he was its sole survivor.
3. “Valley of the Shadow”, Jan. 17, 1963 - A reporter stumbles into a peaceful town where miracles seem to occur due to technology and the townsfolk won’t let him leave.
4. “He’s Alive”, Jan. 24, 1963 - Around 1960, a tiny neo-Nazi organization struggles pathetically to succeed in a big city. A mysterious figure begins to ruthlessly guide a young, insecure U.S. Nazi leader, and the group begins to draw more attention.
5. “Mute”, Jan. 31, 1963 - The orphaned daughter of telepathic parents must learn to speak and deal with a world she cannot communicate in.
6. “Death Ship”, Feb. 7, 1963 - An interplanetary expedition from earth finds an exact duplicate of their ship and themselves crashed on the planet they were surveying. Should they stay or risk taking off and crashing?
7. “Jess-Belle”, Feb. 14, 1963 - Appalachian beauty Jess-Belle can’t bear to lose the object of her passion to the local rich girl, so she turns to the local witch for aid. The results bring unexpected and tragic consequences.
8. “Miniature”, Feb. 21, 1963 - Mousie misfit Charlie Parkes finds the world unfolding before him in a museum doll house to be more real than his boring job and overbearing mother.
9. “Printer’s Devil”, Feb. 28, 1963 - A man sells his soul to the devil to save his failing newspaper and gets more than he bargained for.
10. “No Time Like The past”, Mar. 7, 1963 - A scientist attempts to use a time machine to prevent tragedies, both in world history and in his own past.
11. “The Parallel”, Mar. 14, 1963 - Astronaut Robert Gaines returns from space to a world that is not exactly the one he left from.
12. “I Dream of Genie”, Mar. 21, 1963 - A wiseacre genie appears from a lamp to a meek man, George P. Hanley. Hanley is so used to bad luck, he imagines how each of three possible wishes could go very wrong – but the genie will grant him only one wish!
13. “The New Exhibit”, April 4, 1963 - A wax-museum employee fights to preserve five figures of famous murderers.
14. “Of Late I Think Of Cliffordville”, April 11, 1963 - Aging tycoon William Feathersmith is bored with life and makes arrangements through a devilish travel agency to return to the Cliffordville of his youth and start all over again.
15. “The Incredible World of Horace Ford”, April 18, 1963 - Horace Ford longs for his childhood which was not as idyllic as he remembers it.
16. “On Thursday We Leave For Home”, May 2, 1963 - For thirty years, a colony has barely survived on a sparse planet baked by two suns only because of their megalomaniac leader William Benteen, who treats them like children. A conflict arises when a rescue ship arrives and offers them a new life back on Earth, threatening to end Benteen’s leadership.
17. “Passage on the Lady Anne”, May 9, 1963 - A young American couple, the Ransomes, who are trying to salvage their troubled marriage, insist on booking passage on an old trans-Atlantic cruise liner. But other passengers try to persuade them to disembark immediately.
18. “The Bard”, May 23, 1963 - Julius Moomer, a talentless self-promoting hack who dreams of becoming a successful television writer, uses a book of magic to summon William Shakespeare to write dramatic teleplays that Moomer will pass off as his own. Shakespeare becomes irritated by Moomer’s lack of appreciation and is even more appalled when he discovers the changes wrought on his plays by cynical television executives.

Video (4 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

I own every season of The Twilight Zone Definitive Edition on DVD and I was very happy with the picture quality of those sets until now.  This 1080p (1.33:1) transfer from the original 35mm film prints is pristine and without a doubt, the best I have ever seen this show.  It’s amazing how much restoration work must have been done to get the show to look this good.  The black and white photography is a marvel to see in high definition.  The picture’s clarity and detail is so good that you can see details never seen before.  There is still a little bit of  source damage but that’s to be expected for a show this old and it’s so minimal that it doesn’t detract from the the rest of it.

Audio (4 out of 5 stars) 

Image Entertainment was kind enough to offer two choices for your audio pleasure.  You can either choose the new remastered audio track (LPCM 2.0 Mono) or if you are a purist, you can select the original audio (LPCM 2.0 Mono) track.  I preferred the remastered track myself, since it has a lot less hiss and also just because it sounds  a lot cleaner and it’s more audible.  If you select play all as an option, the default track choice is the remastered one.  Dialogue is clear although at times it seems louder than necessary.  The effects and the music also sound excellent and overall I am very happy with this restoration.

Special Features (5 out of 5 stars) 

Much like the previous seasons, this set has a ton of extras that are reason enough for fans of the show to buy this set.  There are thirteen new commentaries, previous commentaries, a Saturday Night Live skit with Dan Ackroyd, past interviews with the show’s writers and stars, isolated music scores for each episode for music buffs, and a whole lot more !
  • Thirteen New Audio Commentaries, featuring The Twilight Zone Companion author Marc Scott Zicree, author/film historian Gary Gerani (Fantastic Television), Twilight Zone writer Earl Hamner, writer William F. Nolan (Logan’s Run), author Bill Warren (Keep Watching the Skies! American Science Fiction Movies of the Fifties), writer/producer Jeff Vlaming (NCIS, Fringe, Battlestar Galactica),writer/producer Joseph Dougherty (thirtysomething, Judging Amy, Saving Grace), authors/historians Scott Skelton and Jim Benson (Night Gallery: An After Hours Tour), and writer/producer Jaime Paglia (Eureka).
  • Vintage Audio Interview with director of photography George T. Clemens

  • Audio Commentaries by Marc Scott Zicree for Death Ship and William Windom for Miniature
  • Vintage Audio Recollections with Herbert Hirschman, Ross Martin, Burgess Meredith, Pat Hingle, Earl Hamner, Buzz Kulik and Anne Francis Video Interviews with Morgan Brittany, Anne Francis, Paul Comi and John Furia, Jr.7 Radio Dramas featuring Blair Underwood, Jason Alexander, Lou Diamond Phillips, H. M. Wynant, Mike Starr, Barry Bostwick and John Ratzenberger
  • Isolated Scores for all 18 episodes featuring Fred Steiner, Van Cleave, Rene Garriguenc and others
  • Rod Serling Promos for “Next Week’s” Show
  • Rod Serling Blooper from He’s Alive
  • Saturday Night Live Clip – Skit with Dan Ackroyd
  • The Famous Writers School Promo with Rod Serling
  • Guinness Beer Spot
  • Twilight Zone Season 4 Billboards

Final Thoughts (5 out of 5 stars) 

The Twilight Zone is one of the greatest shows ever made and there’s a reason why people still refer to it when there’s something a little off about something or why we often hum the show’s theme when faced with the unexplained.  The show was a brilliant blend of many different genres, all mixed together for one purpose – to entertain while passing on some valuable life lessons.  Image Entertainment has done an incredible job restoring this show and this season set is well worth your money and is highly recommended!  Now I just have to bide my time until season five is released!
Click on the link and journey to The Twilight Zone!

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