“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 seasons 1 and 2 with a third 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. Season three includes appearances by: Claude Akins, Bill Mumy, Veronica Cartwright, James Bond’s Richard Kiel, The Godfather’s Headless Horseman John Marley, Robert Redford, Leonard Nimoy, Buster Keaton, Cloris Leachman, Lee Marvin, Peter Falk, Jack Klugman, Jonathan Winters, Jack Albertson, and Charles Bronson.
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 third season, which includes three that were reused for the Twilight Zone: The Movie revival. Those three are:
Kick The Can: The residents of an elderly home find renewed life when a stranger arrives and invites them to a midnight game in the courtyard. You’re only as old as you feel, and these old folks are about to feel quite young again.
It’s A Good Life: Bill Mumy from Lost In Space stars as a child with supernatural powers. He soon has everyone afraid to anger him. A sequel to this episode was also included in the most recent revival with Bill Mumy’s daughter playing Anthony’s daughter. Mumy himself returns to play an adult Anthony.
A Quality Of Mercy: This one was indirectly made as the film’s segment which included a helicopter crash that killed Vic Morrow and two children during the filming. This version has a soldier trade places with his enemy, while the Morrow segment had a bigot change places with several ethnic groups including a Vietnamese soldier and a Japanese soldier is depicted here.
And, of course, there are a few other absolute classics in this collection:
To Serve Man: Another well-known classic. Aliens arrive preaching peace with mankind. They come appearing to want to help us. A scientist finally translates their tome based on the title and comes to a grisly second meaning behind its title.
I Sing The Body Electric: This one is based on a popular Ray Bradbury story about an android who plays grandmother to a widower’s children. She takes the job quite seriously and is committed to the long haul.
Dead-Man’s Shoes: A homeless man steps into the shoes of a dead gangster. Now his ghost is pushing the man to avenge the gangster’s death. It’s one of the more eerie episodes of the series in any of its forms.
The Changing Of The Guard: Okay, so this one is a rip-off of It’s A Wonderful Life. An old school teacher thinks his life has been meaningless and thinks about ending it all on Christmas Eve. His former students give him a glance at the difference he has made. Of course, these students haven’t been alive in years.
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. There’s a clip from the show Liar’s Club, a game show hosted by Serling himself. A Tell It To Groucho clip with Groucho Marx.
You really can’t ask for more jam-packed extras in the release.
Halfway through the series, Image continues to show love and respect to the fans of this immortal classic. Just think about what Serling himself would think upon seeing his beloved creation come alive in with technology that was beyond even his fertile imagination. We don’t have to imagine. After all: “The signposts are in English so that we may read them more easily, but the place is the Twilight Zone.”