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Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Twilight Zone: The Complete Fifth Season DVD Review

Reviewed by Sean Ferguson

twilight zoneIt’s time to enter the fifth season of the fifth dimension when The Twilight Zone: The Complete Fifth Season returns with all 36 episodes from the groundbreaking sci-fi/fantasy series’ final season.  Submitted for your approval, is the wildest and (dare we say) weirdest season of Rod Serling’s iconic series, containing such memorable episodes as “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” “A Kind of a Stopwatch,” “Living Doll” and the Oscar nominated short film “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.” This season also rolls out some great guest stars including Bill Mumy, George Takei, James Coburn, Lee Marvin, Martin Landau, Mickey Rooney, Shelley Fabares and William Shatner.

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Show (4 1/2 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, James Coburn, 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 and included in this set).
This fifth season was also the final season and it went out pretty strong.  This season had a lot of great guest actors and some very good directors too.  In fact, I didn’t know it until I saw this season, but one of my favorite directors Richard Donner, was responsible for directing a good portion of this season.  Another great aspect of this season is that the late great writer Richard Matheson wrote many of the episodes (including most of the best ones in this season).  There’s plenty of excellent episodes this season including, “In Praise of Pip,” “Steel,” “The 7th is Made up of Phantoms,” and of course “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” just to name a few of them.  Not every episode is a masterpiece however, as a couple of them like “Probe 7 Over and Out” and “The Long Morrow” just don’t work and end up coming off as pretentious.  Another interesting fact for this season, is that they went back to the thirty minute long episodes instead of the hour long episodes that they tried out the previous season.
This season also seemed to focus largely on the idea of man versus machine with episodes like “Steel,” “From Agnes, With Love,” and the “Brain Center at Whipples.”  In that order, we see robots replacing man in boxing matches, a computer that falls in love with humans, and lastly the effects of what happens when machines take over jobs from humans.  Considering that this show is over fifty years old, it’s amazingly prescient in just how accurate much of these episodes are.  There’s also a couple of episodes that stand out just because they are unique to the show such as “The Last Night of a Jockey” where Mickey Rooney essentially performs a one man show and “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,” which wasn’t even an official “Twilight Zone” show as it was a French production that Serling liked enough to add to the show and one that went on to win at the 1962 Cannes Film Festival, and an Oscar in 1964.  ”The Twilight Zone” is such a a good show that even the weakest episodes have something interesting in them.  Fortunately for us, the good ones far outweigh the weak ones and this final season is just as good as the previous ones and it will make you wish that the show had continued even longer.
Here are the episodes that are included in this season:
  • “In Praise of Pip” - Jack Klugman plays a bookie who receives word that his son has been seriously wounded in combat.
  • “Steel” - Lee Marvin plays a boxing promoter trying to get the most out of his obsolete robot boxer.
  • “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” - William Shatner plays a salesman recovering from a breakdown—until he sees a creature on the wing of his plane. Directed by Richard Donner.
  • “A Kind of a Stopwatch” - A nonstop talker (Richard Erdman) acquires a stopwatch that halts time and motion, except for himself.
  • “The Last Night of a Jockey” - Mickey Rooney delivers a solo performance as a disgraced jockey granted his greatest wish, but not without repercussions.
  • “Living Doll” - Telly Savalas as an unpleasant man who’s threatened—literally—by his stepdaughter’s new talking doll, voiced by June Foray, alter ego of Rocky the Flying Squirrel.
  • “The Old Man in the Cave” - James Coburn plays a soldier who directs upheaval in a community of atomic-war survivors who are guided by an unseen cave dweller.
  • “Uncle Simon” - Cedric Hardwicke plays a discordant inventor, and Constance Ford his long-suffering niece, who finds no solace in his passing. Directed by Don Siegel.
  • “Probe 7 Over and Out” - Richard Basehart plays a crash-landed space explorer who learns his home planet has been destroyed by nuclear war. Then, outside his ship, he finds a footprint.
  • “The 7th Is Made Up of Phantoms” - The past comes alive for three National Guardsmen at the site of Custer’s last stand.
  • “A Short Drink from a Certain Fountain” - To save his May-December marriage, an elderly man (Patrick O’Neal) gambles on his doctor-brother’s untested youth serum.
  • “Ninety Years without Slumbering” - Ed Wynn portrays a man who believes he will die if the grandfather clock he’s owned all his life stops running.
  • “Ring-A-Ding Girl” - A fan-club A hit-and-run driver (Edward Andrews) finds his car is not going to let him walk away from the crime. gift draws a movie star (Maggie McNamara) back home, where she disrupts local plans for a town picnic by offering a one-woman show.
  • “You Drive” - A hit-and-run driver (Edward Andrews) finds his car is not going to let him walk away from the crime.
  • “The Long Morrow” - Star-crossed lovers are played by Mariette Hartley and Robert Lansing, he an astronaut about to embark on a 40-year mission.
  • “The Self-Improvement of Salvadore Ross” - An angry, spurned suitor (Don Gordon) finds that he can trade his physical assets for others’, including years of their lives. Directed by Don Siegel.
  • “Number 12 Looks Just Like You” - Suzy Parker and Richard Long play multiple roles in this story about a society in which everyone is beautiful—and practically identical.
  • “Black Leather Jackets” - Shelley Fabares plays a romantic interest who’s unaware that her fella is really part of an alien invasion force.
  • “Night Call” - A lonely, elderly woman (Gladys Cooper) is plagued by mysterious phone calls. Directed by Jacques Tourneur.
  • “From Agnes – With Love” - Wally Cox plays a computer programmer (in 1964) who takes advice on his love life from a computer named Agnes. Directed by Richard Donner.
  • “Spur of the Moment” - Bride-to-be Anne Henderson (Diana Hyland) is terrorized by a woman on horseback, but she knows not why.
  • “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” - When the rope breaks, a Confederate spy flees his hanging and makes his way back to his wife and plantation. Based on a story by Ambrose Bierce, this French production won the 1962 Cannes Film Festival, and an Oscar in 1964.
  • “Queen of the Nile” - After many years on the screen, a movie queen (Ann Blyth) shows no signs of aging.
  • “What’s in the Box” - Joan Blondell and William Demarest as unhappily marrieds whose troubles turn up on their newly repaired television.
  • “The Masks” - Ida Lupino directed this gripping tale of a dying millionaire who makes his heirs wear masks reflecting their inner natures.
  • “I Am the Night – Color Me Black” - On the morning of a hanging, the sun fails to rise.
  • “Sounds and Silences” - A man’s obsession with loud noises prompts his wife’s departure, which is followed by a radical change within himself. Directed by Richard Donner.
  • “Caesar and Me” - Jackie Cooper plays a struggling ventriloquist who turns to crime, on advice from his suddenly vociferous dummy.
  • “The Jeopardy Room” - Martin Landau plays a political refugee in a cat-and-mouse game with an assassin, whose penchant for artistry proves ill-advised.
  • “Stopover in a Quiet Town” - After drinking at a party, a couple wake up in a town where there’s no trace of life—except the distant laughter of a child.
  • “The Encounter” - A samurai sword stirs up feelings of hatred between a WWII veteran and a Japanese-American (George Takei).
  • “Mr. Garrity and the Graves” - Townsfolk grow apprehensive after a stranger (John Dehner) resurrects a dead dog and promises the same for the town cemetery.
  • “The Brain Center at Whipple’s” - Richard Deacon (“The Dick Van Dyke Show”) plays a factory owner determined to replace men with machines. Directed by Richard Donner.
  • “Come Wander with Me” - Gary Crosby plays a singing star who looks for an authentic folk tune in the hinterland, where he runs afoul of some locals. Directed by Richard Donner.
  • “The Fear” - A state trooper responds to a secluded woman’s reports of lights in the sky, and more strange incidents follow.
  • “The Bewitchin’ Pool” - Two children are offered escape from their quarreling parents by a child who appears in their swimming pool. Script by Earl Hamner Jr. (“The Waltons”). Sport: Mary Badham (Oscar nominated as Scout in “To Kill a Mockingbird”).
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Video (4 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

These episodes are presented in their original 1.33:1 fullscreen ratio and they look incredible considering the age of the show and the fact that they are on DVD and not Blu-ray.  While the detail isn’t up to the same standards as “The Twilight Zone” Blu-ray sets, it’s still remarkable for DVD and much better looking that the repeats that you see on television.  The black and white footage looks very sharp and clean and there’s only a handful of episodes where you can see some age related defects.  Image Entertainment has done an incredible job restoring the show.
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Audio (3 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

“The Twilight Zone’s” Dolby Digital Mono track is also fairly good but it’s not at the same level as the video quality.  For a mono track it surprisingly has a bit of power to it, as you’ll see on episodes like “You Drive” where the car comes to life with incessant honking and other automobile sounds.  The dialogue is clear but can be occasionally louder than you’d expect (especially the aforementioned honking which made me turn the volume way down).  I was glad to hear that there wasn’t any hissing in the soundtrack which pops up a lot in these older shows.
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Extras (0 out of 5 stars) 

Be forewarned, this isn’t the big deluxe Definitive Edition or the jam packed Blu-ray Edition that contains tons of extras. This is the episode only set that makes it a lot cheaper for fans that aren’t worried about special features.  Knowing what kind of extras that are on the other sets, it makes me sad that I don’t get any on this set, but it is great to get all of the episodes in this set especially when they look this good.
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Summary (3 out of 5 stars) 

I know that I don’t have to sell “The Twilight Zone” itself as pretty much everyone already knows how awesome the show is already.  Most of you are probably just curious to see how this set stacks up compared to the Definitive Edition and the Blu-ray version.  The good news is that these episodes look fantastic even though they are on DVD and the price is a lot more affordable that the other sets.  The only drawback is the lack of special features which has also unfortunately brought down the final score.  If you want the extras then you should pick up the Definitive Edition or the Blu-ray set, but if you aren’t worried about those, then this is the set for you.
 Order your copy today!
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