“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.”
This was a special year for the series. While the experiment only lasted a season, this collection features 1-hour episodes. These haven’t shown up in syndication very often, so you might be less familiar with these episodes than any other year. The hour-long format didn’t work with syndication packages that only had the half-hour air budget.
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 four includes appearances by: Burt Reynolds, Batman’s Alan Napier, Burgess Meredith and Julie Newmar, Pat Hingle, Martin Balsam, Jack Albertson, Dana Andrews, Robert Duvall, Anne Francis, Jack Klugman, Ross Martin, Dennis Hopper, Simon Oakland, Bill Bixby and Pat O’Hara.
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 fourth season.
The Thirty-Fathom Grave: This is one of the creepiest episodes of the series. I still remember the first time I saw it as a kid. When a Navy ship is sent to investigate a sunken submarine, the crew hear a strange tapping sound. Some crewmen have visions of the sub, driving one man to suicide. So, what was the tapping sound? Was it the loose periscope mount they found, or that dead seaman with a hammer in his hand?
He’s Alive: Of course, what could be more frightening than a neo-Nazi speaker who is being guided by the ghost of Adolf Hitler?
Miniature: A man falls in love with a doll at a museum exhibit. After spending time in a mental institution he returns to the exhibit and disappears. And doesn’t that new doll look remarkably like crazy Charlie?
I Dream Of Genie: Don’t look for Barbara Eden here. When someone finds the old genie in a lamp, they get just one wish. What would that perfect wish be?
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.
There’s a Saturday Night Live skit, a blooper from one of the season’s episodes, A Rod Serling writing school promo and beer ad.
This season takes a little getting used to. I’m not sure it’s as good as the others. More time doesn’t really fit Serling’s storytelling style. Still, you can’t leave it off your collection. It’s Twilight Zone, and it’s in high definition. 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.”