BC Finally Enters THE TWILIGHT ZONE

Brian kicks off a new column revisiting the land of both shadow and substance.

I have a confession to make; one that will surprise and possibly upset you: I have seen more episodes of 2002's Twilight Zone revival starring Forest Whitaker than I have the original series that ran from 1959 to 1964. Over the years I've seen a few on late night TV, and while usually not paying much attention to boot - I've probably "seen" more episodes via Simpsons parodies (or 1983 feature film remakes) than the right way. It's depressing, really.

But RLJ has come to the rescue for me and others who find themselves equally ignorant: just in time for the holidays, they are releasing a new boxed set of all 156 original episodes on 25 discs (grouped by season). True, this isn't the first time the series has been collected, but by stripping all the bells and whistles out and offering just the actual episodes, it's never been this AFFORDABLE to own on physical media, either. Sure, I wouldn't mind some basic "bonus features" like subtitles or a "Play All" option on the discs, but I very rarely bother with the extras on TV shows that I buy on disc anyway (unlike films, where I go through them all if I can). The retail on the series set with all the extras is $300; this one is currently a mere $119 on Amazon. If paying over double for the bonus features is worth it for you, by all means go for it - this is the one you get if you just want the classic episodes to treasure forever.

The set hits November 19th, which is barely enough time for me to get through the first season, but the box has given me the opportunity to launch a new limited series column, hopefully two posts a week, where I will go through a disc at a time and offer some highlights on each as I make my way down the path of being a much more educated genre fan (not to mention someone who will understand 7-8% more "Treehouse of Horror" gags). Join me, won't you?

Season 1, Disc 1
Episodes:
Where Is Everybody?
One For The Angels
Mr. Denton on Doomsday
The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine
Walking Distance
Escape Clause
The Lonely

Favorite episode: Walking Distance
A busy guy named Martin has to kill some time while a mechanic fixes his car, and finds himself in a small town that he lived in as a child. Walking down memory lane, he starts to notice things are eerily similar to the way they were when he lived there 20 years or so ago. This being The Twilight Zone, he has indeed stepped back in time, and sure enough eventually he encounters his younger self (and a young "Ronnie" Howard!) and parents, who shockingly don't believe his explanation that he's their son from another time.

This one really hit home for me; I am constantly daydreaming about the opportunity to go back and tell my younger self what and what not to do, and bemoaning wasting many a summer day sitting in the house watching TV or playing video games. And I'm sure many others feel the same way, perhaps even Rod Sterling, which is why (spoiler for 55 year old TV show ahead) he ends it by having the older version inadvertently cause his younger self to get seriously injured, leaving him with a bad limp in the modern day - he actually makes things worse while trying to make them better. So the moral is, do it right the first time and accept the past. Fine, Mr. Sterling. Jerk.

Not a classic: The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine
Sort of the exact opposite of Walking Distance, at least in terms of the lesson to learn, this one has an aging actress (Ida Lupino) refusing to live in the present; re-watching her old movies and getting offended at the idea that she's now old enough to play mothers in supporting roles instead of leading ladies. And at the end, she somehow transports into the films and lives there happily, I guess. It's a baffling conclusion (her maid "finds her" and shrieks as if she stumbled upon a bloody corpse), with the moral being... uh, wish hard enough to defy the laws of time and space, and you will, I guess. And only Martin Balsam will be sad.

Starwatch!
A treasure trove! Martin Landau as a young man (in "Doomsday") was pretty sinister, and I already mentioned young Ron Howard (even in B&W, his ginger-ness shines through). Plus Balsam and Jack Warden ("The Lonely"), looking younger-ish. But my favorite was probably Murray Hamilton as the Angel in "One For The Angels"; I'm only familiar with his work in '70s films like Jaws and Amityville Horror so I had fun seeing him 20 years younger, albeit still trying to make sure everything runs as planned (the beaches in Jaws, or the life/death cycle here). Also, the only episode not shot at MGM (I think?) was "Where Is Everybody?", which was shot at Universal and thus you can recognize a few locations from Back to the Future and what not.

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