I have a confession to make; one that will surprise and possibly upset you: as of November 1st, 2013, I had seen more episodes of 2002's Twilight Zone revival starring Forest Whitaker than I had the original series that ran from 1959 to 1964. Over the years I've seen a few on late night TV, and 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 a recent acquisition of the series boxed set (a newly packaged version from RLJ that is now in stores) has given me the opportunity to fix that. This post is part of a new limited series column, 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 2, Disc 5
Little Girl Lost
Person Or Persons Unknown
The Little People
Hocus-Pocus And Frisby
I just noticed that the next disc only has five episodes, which is baffling since all of the others had eight. Spread the wealth equally, ya goons! Furthermore, I just became aware that Season 4 had hour long episodes - but only 18 episodes. So this column may be adjusted a bit for that season because that comes out to only three or four episodes a disc and I'd basically be reviewing every episode. NOT GONNA HAPPEN.
Favorite Episode: Little Girl Lost
This was "Person Or Persons Unknown"s to lose, and then it did, with its copout "it was a dream" ending followed by some "but it's still kind of happening, or something, I guess..." nonsense. Otherwise I really liked how it sold the main character's frustration over his predicament (no one in the world could remember him) and how it wasted no time getting started. But "Little Girl Lost" also got off to a relatively quick start (some of these don't tip their hand to the "Twilight Zone" aspect until the 5-6 minute mark) and stuck the landing! A girl disappears in her own home, but her parents can still hear her so she HAS to be there, somewhere... right? Thankfully, the father can connect dots like no other human being can, and rather than call the cops or the fire department, he calls his physicist friend, because he'd know whether or not she was in another dimension!
So yeah it seems a bit reverse engineered, plotting wise, but who cares when it's this fun? It's one of the more exciting episodes of the season (it's hard not to get anxious over a missing child), features some great Bernard Herrmann music, and best of all, it was ripped off blind by Steven Spielberg when he "came up" with Poltergeist. There's a minor conspiracy theory that Richard Matheson (who wrote this episode) got the job writing most of 1983's Twilight Zone movie in exchange for not bringing the matter to courts after 1982's Poltergeist lifted so many ideas from this episode sans credit, which is also kind of fun since it adds to that film's ever expanding behind the scenes drama. Some of the episodes fall a bit flat for me since I've seen so many things that ripped them off, but in this case I was more charmed to discover such an obvious influence on what was one of the first horror movies I ever saw.
I also liked how they handled the reveal at the end; the dad brings the girl back and then his buddy tells him that the hole to the other dimension was closing, so if he had taken another few seconds he would have been cut in half. Nowadays we'd be aware of that BEFORE he got to safety, as the screenwriter/director would be mistakenly convinced the audience would believe that such a gruesome thing would happen. Way better just finding out after, matter-of-factly. "By the way, you almost died horribly!"
Not A Classic: The Little People
Some fun effects shots aside, this is just a dull combination of "I Shot An Arrow Into The Air" (arguing astronauts) and "The Invaders" (little people), but not nearly as compelling as either one. Worse, anyone seeing it after May of 1999, as I am, will have no choice but to think of Phantom Menace's idiotic "There's always a bigger fish" sequence(s!), as it's basically the same thing. But even that piece of shit movie made its point in like a tenth of the time and gave us a bemused Liam Neeson to boot. Hell, this doesn't even have anyone good for Starwatch! Claude Akins and Joe Maross have both appeared in episodes already (the latter man was in "Third From The Sun," yet another episode that played with the notions of our place in the world), and the other two guys have barely appeared in anything else (one of them only has a single other credit to his name).
Please note that "The Gift" and "The Fugitive" came thisclose to being chosen instead. They were just as weak, but ultimately I let them off the hook because neither of them was constantly reminding me of previous episodes (though "Fugitive" had some basic similarities to S1's "One For The Angels").
Starwatch: Hocus-Pocus And Frisby
Pretty slim pickings on this disc - the only thing I got was the late Dabbs Greer as one of Frisby's pals. Now, he had been acting for over a decade at that point and thus was hardly a fresh face, but he's probably best known to folks from my generation as the old Tom Hanks from The Green Mile (and the hilarious old dude in Con Air! "You don't have to take a piss!"), so I'll allow it.
And while we're talking about this episode, I just want to point out that the alien "monster" Frisby encounters was a question at last month's horror trivia (we got a sheet with images of monsters from TV shows, we had to identify which show it came from), and I guessed it was Twilight Zone even though I hadn't seen it yet, simply because it was the only one on the sheet that was in B&W and I figured one of them had to be from the Zone. But my teammates didn't think it was right and guessed Outer Limits or something instead. So if I had just gotten to this one sooner I'd have proof! All the more reason to make sure you get around to the things people mock you for not having seen.