“You’re traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind; a journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That’s the signpost up ahead — your next stop, the Twilight Zone.”
Image follows up its great Blu-ray release of season 1 with a second season that continues to impress. You are getting the best image possible with some of the most comprehensive bonus features you’re apt to find with any classic television series. With so many studios trying to cash in on the nostalgia trends with quickly released titles that show little or no improvement and zero features, this is an absolutely stand-out release.
It would be very hard, indeed, to argue against the impact that The Twilight Zone has had on television. To say that the series was a milestone in that medium would be an understatement of the worst kind. When Rod Serling brought his landmark series to CBS in October of 1959, television was still very new. No one was quite sure what the future held for that magical box. But that box was part of an invasion. The television set would change the face of the world. It would become the social center of our homes. It would influence who we choose as our leaders. In 1959 those fortunate enough to already have television sets in their homes would become the first to see that future. They were given a glimpse of what life might or would be. It was a gift that has continued giving 50 years later. Now it’s out on high definition Blu-ray, and that gift just got better than it’s ever been. Still, it’s important to give credit where credit is due. The Blu-ray box might say Image Entertainment on the cover. But this gift card is signed: “All The Best, Rod Serling”.
For five years Rod Serling would enter our living rooms with the most bizarre tales we’d ever seen. But no matter how exotic and strange the stories might appear on the surface, Serling always brought our own humanity into vividly sharp focus before it was over. Serling himself would pen some of the memorable tales. But he didn’t stop there. The show would feature some of the sharpest writers of their time. Richard Matheson would become one of the most prominent of those writers. Like Serling himself, Matheson had a flair for the twist ending and for placing us squarely into these alien environments and fantastic tales. We might travel to the ends of the vast universe, but always, before the final epilogue was delivered, we were suddenly reminded that we never traveled farther than our own town. It was a magical show that has been revised twice already, but never with the same success as the original. There have been countless copies. Some have come close to delivering that unique formula. Shows like The Outer Limits likely came the closest. But no one will ever reproduce what was uniquely Serling and his talented team of writers.
Then there are the guest stars. Looking at a list of stars for the first season alone reads like a who’s who of Hollywood at the time. Not only were established stars flocking to do the series, but Serling was quite a judge of talent. Some of the names he had on this show were unknown at the time, but went on to become household names. In the second season alone, look for stars like: Fritz Weaver, Dennis Weaver, Lost In Space’s Dr. Smith Jonathan Harris, Cliff Robertson, Bill Mumy, Buddy Ebsen, Burgess Meredith, Don Rickles, Michael Fox, Dick York, John Carradine, and Robert Cummings.
Join me for a look at some of the very best episodes of this or any other television show.
Everyone has their favorites. It’s hard to describe these kind of twist-ending shows without giving away the goods, so excuse me for being a bit vague. Here is list of mine from the second season:
King Nine Will Not Return:
A WWII pilot finds himself suddenly in a future world with modern aircraft. But is Embry really in the future, or is he a contemporary man locked in the past?
The Man In The Bottle:
This is one of those “be careful what you wish for” cautionary tales with a Twilight Zone twist. A shop owner discovers a genie in a bottle and is granted 4 wishes.
The Eye Of The Beholder:
This has become pretty much the best-known episode in the series. It was repeated during one of the revival shows. It’s a rather surprising look at the definition of beauty. Even though you already know how this one is going to come out, it is quite enjoyable again and again. It’s one of the most cleverly-shot episodes in the series.
Nick Of Time:
William Shatner plays a man who is haunted by a fortunetelling machine. He can’t stop looking into the future.
The Night Of The Meek:
Art Carney stars in this moving episode of a store Santa who is down on his luck. He finally discovers the true meaning of Christmas. This is another one of those great classic episodes you’ll watch time and again.
This is one of those where the images stuck with me my whole life. The story centers on a woman who is invaded by aliens who happen to only be a few inches in size. She wages a one-woman war to protect her farmhouse, or so she believes. The final frame reveal is likely known by you now, but it was quite shocking at the time.
The Rip Van Winkle Caper:
Simon Oakland is terrific in this morality tale. A group of thugs take down a bank and hide in a cave. Their plan is to put themselves in suspended animation until after the statute of limitations runs out. Of course, the plan backfires.
Of course, there’s really not a bad episode in the bunch.
Each episode s presented in its original full-frame aspect ratio. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC/MPEG-4. You might be reluctant to trust that a 50-year-old black & white television show could be worth releasing in high definition. You would be correct to consider that situation. Consider no more. These episodes look better than they have ever looked in any format, any place. The contrast is so striking that the black & white renditions look like they were just filmed now. Black levels are the real key to the whole presentation. The high-definition bit rate eliminates compression artifact and smoothes out the black levels. Now you see so many shades and levels of detail that you will likely feel like you’ve never seen the series before at all. I can’t imagine it ever looking any better. This is a showpiece release, and the image presentation lives up to that standard.
The PCM Stereo audio presentation certainly won’t blow you away like the image will. There just isn’t as much to work with here. The originals were in mono and recorded with equipment inferior to what you have in your own home today. Still, any evidence of hiss or distortion has been completely eliminated. I was particularly impressed that the higher-end tones no longer splatter as they did even on the more recent DVD’s. Dialog is clear as can be. Are there some noticeable flaws? Yes, there are. There isn’t going to be the dynamic range you’ve become used to. But this doesn’t sound like it’s 50 years old either.
Here is where Image Entertainment once again really shines with this release. To list all of the extras here would take pages. Almost every episode comes with multiple bonus features that include Audio Commentaries, Isolated Scores, Radio Dramas of that particular story, Interviews with the cast or crew, and syndicated promo spots
You really can’t ask for more jam-packed extras in the release.
We can only hope that Image continues to serve the fans and their feeding frenzy for this material. If only Rod Serling himself could have been alive to witness the popularity of his show and view these mind-blowing high-definition releases for himself. Here’s to the other three seasons in quick succession. I can’t wait to fill up my shelf with the entire series. “The signposts are in English so that we may read them more easily, but the place is the Twilight Zone.”