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Image Entertainment presents
The Twilight Zone: The Definitive Edition Season 1 (1959-1960)

"Who's to say which is the greater reality: the one we know, or the one in dream, between heaven, the sky, the earth... in the Twilight Zone."
- Rod Serling narrating Perchance to Dream

Review By: Mark Zimmer  
Published: January 03, 2005

Stars: Rod Serling, Earl Holliman, Jack Warden, David Wayne, Gig Young, Dan Duryea, Martin Landau, Doug McClure, Ed Wynn, Rod Taylor, Jim Hutton, Burgess Meredith, Roddy McDowall, Fritz Weaver, Ida Lupino, Martin Balsam, Dick York, Claude Akins, Jack Weston, Kevin McCarthy, Howard Duff, Everett Sloane, Vera Miles, Martin Milner, Ivan Dixon, Janice Rule, James Daly, George Grizzard, Jack Klugman, Orson Bean, Anne Francis, Keenan Wynn, Phyllis Kirk
Other Stars: James Gregory, Ted Knight, Pat O'Malley, Ron Howard, Patrick Macnee, James Franciscus, Ross Martin, Beverly Garland, Warren Oates, Paul Mazursky, Barry Atwater, Russell Johnson, Sebastian Cabot, J. Pat O'Malley
Director: Jack Smight, Robert Stevens, Mitchell Leisen, Allen Reisner, Robert Parrish, John Brahm, William Claxton, Douglas Heyes, Alvin Ganzer, Richard L. Bare, Robert Florey, Ron Winston, Anton Lender, Stuart Rosenberg, Red Post, David Orrick McDearmon, William Asher

Manufacturer: Deluxe
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 15m:29m:39s
Release Date: December 28, 2004
UPC: 014381243925
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A A+A+B- A

DVD Review

The half-hour television anthology series is long gone. It's a tough task, setting up new characters and an intriguing situation, every single week. Perhaps the genre died with its greatest practitioner, Rod Serling, who had honed his craft in a variety of anthology series during the 1950s, winning acclaim as a serious and thoughtful writer. But he had an affinity for the fantastic, especially since it allowed examination of themes not otherwise pursuable on television at the time. His trademark series, The Twilight Zone produced some of the finest television writing ever, and the great bulk of it was done by Serling himself, who also became a household figure through his opening and closing narrations.

This six-disc collection assembles the thirty-six episodes from the show's first season, when it was still in the half-hour format. Serling, in a white heat of creativity, joined by Richard Matheson and Charles Beaumont, penned some unforgettable episodes that still resonate strongly today. What booklover doesn't fondly remember Burgess Meredith as the near-sighted reader in Time Enough at Last? Film obsessees will remember Ida Lupino's fixation with the cinematic past in The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine. And anyone who faces stress and pressure and thinks of a return to simpler days will find a kindred spirit in James Daly in A Stop at Willoughby, where his train commute takes him into a pleasant world of 1888, of fishing and penny-farthing bicycles (before The Prisoner made them into sinister objects).

Numerous episodes deal with such a desire to escape or return to an idyllic past. Walking Distance is a poignant attempt to recapture youth with unintended consequences. Human emotions are also explored effectively in such episodes as The Lonely, featuring Jack Warden as a prisoner, stuck on a desert asteroid, who gets a robot companion that becomes an object of affection. In The Fever, gambling addiction is addressed before it even had a name. One of the more memorable episodes, The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street examines xenophobia, distrust and paranoia that echoes the not-too-distant world of McCarthyism.

The series delves into several different genres; two episodes are unusual Westerns, a sly nod at the dominance of the traditional oater in the television landscape of 1959. A few episodes delve into pure science fiction, such as the pilot, Where Is Everybody, I Shot an Arrow Into the Air and And When the Sky Was Opened. These three also reflect the uncertainties of space travel in these days before Yuri Gagarin and Alan B. Shepard, but after Sputnik had created terror-filled night skies. Surprisingly, there really is little in the nature of outright horror, though there are a few disturbing episodes that generate significant queasiness. Perhaps the most effective are those in which the main character is completely disoriented, such as the pilot and The After Hours, in which Anne Francis finds herself trapped in a nightmarish situation in a department store after hours. Sometimes the explanations are a little unsatisfying, and sometimes (as in And When the Sky Was Opened) there's just no explanation given at all—just the weirdness of the Twilight Zone.

The endings of the series usually have a little O. Henry twist to them, which is occasionally predictable but generally fairly satisfying. There's a strong sense of moral justice behind the program, with punishments appropriately meted out to those who have done wrong or who make excessive use of the mystical and magical (see, e.g., Judgment Night and What You Need). This goes along with heavy doses of irony (in the proper dramatic non-Alanis sense), such as the touching finale of Time Enough at Last and the bitter twist of People Are Alike All Over, where the lead character finds out just how true that title is, but not in the sense that he expects.

Even though these were television shows shot in just a couple of days, the directors were frequently experienced hands not unwilling to try something a bit different. Third from the Sun features a disorienting use of wide angle lenses and Dutch angles throughout. The Four of Us Are Dying features a clever opening as a shaving man becomes several different men before our eyes, all without a cut.

As you can see from the above list, The Twilight Zone features an astonishing array of stars in major and supporting roles. Clearly they all respected Serling's work, and they are giving their all with some memorable performances. Particular standouts are Meredith (who would reappear three more times over the next four years), Anne Francis, Rod Taylor, and Kevin McCarthy, each of whom creates a memorable character that stays with the viewer long after the show is finished.

The episodes are presented in the original broadcast order, complete with Serling's "next episode" previews now in their proper continuity. The title cards on returns from commercials are intact, as are the network promos at the tail of each episode. The famous theme music by Marius Constant was not yet a part of the series, coming in a later season, but the music in the background is first rate, with such notables as Bernard Herrmann, Franz Waxman, Jerry Goldsmith, and Leonard Rosenman contributing scores to several episodes.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: The full-frame transfers, done in high-definition from the original negatives, look gorgeous. The original issue of the series from Pioneer, with a few random episodes on each DVD, was criticized as having been from poor transfers (possibly recycled video transfers). That complaint doesn't apply to this new set, which looks marvelous. There are occasional speckles, but otherwise the film looks pristine, with very sharp and clean picture and excellent detail and greyscale. There is a fair amount of grain at times, but considering the often shadowy picture onscreen that's not surprising. A very lovely rendition of 45-year-old television, considering they were never meant to be seen on anything more substantial than an 11" Zenith. Even on a large RPTV they look great.

Image Transfer Grade: A+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishno


Audio Transfer Review: The 2.0 mono is rather on the hissy side, with a bit of noise, but that's not too surprising considering the age of these programs. Otherwise they sound very good, with the dialogue quite clear. Not surprisingly the music is rather tinny, though the isolated scores sound pretty good. For some inexplicable reason the audio is not switchable on the fly.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 180 cues and remote access
6 Feature/Episode commentaries by Earl Holliman, Martin Landau, Rod Taylor, Martin Milner, Kevin McCarthy, William Self
Weblink/DVD-ROM Material
Packaging: Nexpak
Picture Disc
6 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. The Twilight Zone Companion
  2. Radio dramas
  3. Rod Serling lectures and interview audio tapes
  4. Original pilot, sales pitches, blooper, promos
  5. Photo galleries
Extras Review: There are a ton of extras on this set, and as befits a most unusual series, they're fairly unusual extras. The first and foremost of these is a 454-page paperback book, The Twilight Zone Companion, by Marc Scott Zicree, uniform with the DVDs, which contains just about anything you'd want to know about the series. But six surviving cast and crew members have contributed commentaries to particular episodes, and audio tape recordings of various notables discussing their work on the series with Zicree (apparently when he was researching his book) are included. Lectures by Serling, taped at Sherman Oaks College where he was apparently teaching a class in screenwriting, give a self-critical analysis of several key episodes.

But there's more. A full twenty episodes feature isolated scores, a feature that I love but that is becoming all-too-rare due to rights issues. Three radio dramatizations of episodes are included, as is the original unbroadcast pilot, with a different narrator and somewhat different cutting, complete with Serling's pitch to General Foods to act as sponsor. There's a brief blooper of Serling muffing his lines, as well as a sales pitch to the Netherlands, promos for the series, photo galleries and even a PDF file of the Gold Key comic book from 1964 (issue no. 6), though it doesn't have anything to do with this season. Even the menus have a period feel to them that puts one into the right mood for watching the series. A pretty amazing package, in all. The DVDs are in a boxed set within the boxed set, leading to the possibility that the season may someday be issued separately from the book, for those who already own it. The only shortcomings are the lack of a Play All feature and any sort of subtitling or closed captioning.

Extras Grade: A

 

Final Comments

Television doesn't get much better than this. Thirty-six classic episodes, complete and totally remastered, with lovely transfers, a ton of extras and a thick book to boot. Wow.

 


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