“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.”
We finally come to the last year of the original show’s run. The hour-long episode experiment didn’t last, and the show returned to its traditional half-hour format. This was not a case of a series winding down. You’ll find the same quality of writing and production that existed all along for the show. Television itself was changing. What no one could have predicted, however, was the lasting effect the series and its creator would have on the landscape of television for more than 50 years. Explore with me now that final season of: The Twilight Zone.
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 five includes appearances by: Bill Mumy, Jack Klugman, Lee Marvin, William Shatner, Mickey Rooney, Telly Savalas, Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Ian Wolfe, Richard Basehart, Harold Gould, Warren Oates, Greg Morris, Randy Boone, Patrick O’Neal, Ed Wynn, William Sargent, Vic Perrin, Robert Lansing Mariette Hartley and Michael Constantine.
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 fifth season.
Steel: It’s a world where boxing among humans has been outlawed. Now robots populate the sport. But when one robot breaks down, it’s up to his human manager to take his place.
Nightmare At 20,000 Feet: This was another episode later used in the feature film. In the original it’s William Shatner who plays the airline passenger who sees a gremlin creature ripping apart the aircraft. He can’t get anyone to believe him, so he takes drastic steps to protect the flight.
You Drive: This one has been adapted again since. A man hits a child with his car but drives away hoping to hide the evidence. It’s one of the more chilling and haunting horror episodes of the series.
From Agnes With Love: This is one of those jealous computers, later used with some musical success in Electric Dreams.
An Occurrence At Owl Creek: This was actually not originally a Twilight Zone episode. It was a rather compelling short film that Serling had wanted to include for some time. A man is being hung from a bridge and makes a miraculous escape… or does he?
I Am The Night – Color Me Black: This is one of the more minimalist episodes but shows how much atmosphere the show could pack into a simple story. It takes place at the hanging of a criminal which leads to a pitch-black sky and concern among the attendees.
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. But, in case you do, you’ll find additional extras:
A Mike Wallace Interview from 1959, More Serling Lecture Clips and Rare George Clayton Johnson Home Movies.
By the time the last episode aired in 1964 no one had yet understood the impact the show was destined to have. Unfortunately, Rod Serling himself died just ten years later and never really saw the life the show still had. Just think about what Serling himself would have thought 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.”