More Goodness from The Twilight Zone
By Kristin Battestella
Sometimes you just need a Twilight Zone fix. Any fan of classic science fiction, fantasy, or the unusual and bizarre knows what I mean. The entire series is available in a variety of DVD sets, collections, and compilations; so here’s some help on two discs containing some of the 1959-64 series’ gems. The Twilight Zone: Volume 7 and More Treasures of The Twilight Zone are a fine chances to introduce young fans to Rod Serling’s iconic series or to wax nostalgic on black and white, thinking man’s television.
The Twilight Zone: Volume 7 contains four classics, two from the first season and two more from season two. ‘Perchance to Dream’ introduces us to Richard Conte (The Godfather) and his difficulty to separate his heart condition from his daily life and his dreams. We all know the tales about dying in our dreams and how the night visions can trick the brain into thinking we are dead. Charles Beaumont’s examination of the heart, mind, and body still captivates us because we understand the fear of falling asleep and the harbinger of death it can bring.
Captain Embry (Robert Cummings, Dial M for Murder) finds his plane in the desert and his crew missing next in ‘King Nine Will Not Return’. Though it harkens to World War II, Serling again makes veiled social commentaries through fanciful fiction. Lost planes and soldiers reliving former war losses and glories for real or in the mind’s eye is certainly a story that can carry on the a Vietnam veteran or a Gulf War hero.
Likewise, Charles Beaumont and guest player Dennis Weaver (Duel) blur the lines of understandable dreams and realities in ‘Shadow Play’. A man on death row tries to convince the inmates and authorities around him that this is all merely a recurring nightmare from which his waking is worse then execution. Is a good night’s sleep really more important than our most terrifying dreams? What if our waking life and the dream world were in fact, reversed? Although the sixties styles onscreen and the filmmaking technology behind the scenes may seem dated to some, the intrigue of watching an intelligent half hour of television wins out again and again for The Twilight Zone.
Lastly on The Twilight Zone: Volume 7, ‘The Hitch Hiker’ serves up Inger Stevens (The Farmer’s Daughter) as Nan Adams, a young woman driving cross-country under the threat of a mysterious, reappearing hitchhiker. Maybe Serling’s story has become obvious by now. However, in addition to great twist endings, it’s The Twilight’s Zone’s unique ability to suspend our belief in getting there that lasts. Again an all too realistic fear keeps us entertained whilst in the Zone.
Instead of weeding through volumes and volumes of expensive DVDs, More Treasures of the Twilight Zone puts some of the most famous episodes of the serious all in one place for fans to enjoy. ‘The Masks’ starts things off here with the dying Robert Keith (Guys and Dolls) and his greedy family during Mardi Gras. This memorable season five episode from Rod Serling again quietly boasts real life statements veiled as the horrific. Keith asks each member of his family to wear a mask for Mardi Gras, a mask that shows more about who these people really are then their own faces. Again, probably not so hard hitting today because its so famous and oft imitated, ‘The Masks’ still makes us uncomfortable because it touches too close to the things we’d rather not face in ourselves.
The relevant social commentary continues with two back-to-back episodes from season two. ‘The Howling Man’, stars John Carradine (The Man Who Shot
Valance) as a religious zealot who’s warnings about his howling prisoner go unheeded by a misguided guest. The acting here is a little over the top as a lot of older pictures are, but the double creepy ending warning us of the devil’s tricks and man’s weakness. The old school horror elements and the off the cuff handling of the serious subject matter keeps us thinking about the error of man’s ways fifty years on. Liberty
And of course, More Treasures of the Twilight Zone concludes with perhaps the series’ most famous tale, ‘Eye of The Beholder’. Where some folks may simple say, ‘You know that Twilight Zone episode where this happens or that person this…’, that does not happen with ‘Eye of the Beholder’. The title alone brings back all the beauty versus ugly, totalitarian commentary that The Twilight Zone is about; and of course, it’s masterfully captured in the likes of futuristic plastic surgery as only Rod Serling can write it. There really isn’t a famous star this episode, which is fitting, since the tale is about a woman waiting for the bandages to come off her new surgery-a surgery which will hopefully make her look like everyone else. Sure we know the outcome inside and out, but rewatching ‘Eye of the Beholder’ never gets old. There’s always something new here to notice and reflect upon. For most of the episode, we see no human faces-all covered up, hidden, and shadowed. How fascinating that in a visual medium, we are enthralled by a story about beauty, in which we almost see no faces! That, my friends, is the power of The Twilight Zone.
These and other Twilight Zone DVDs are available at most video retailers, online shops, or for rental. ‘Shadow Play’, ‘The Howling Man’, ‘The Hitch Hiker’, and ‘Perchance to Dream’ are also available to view free at IMdB and fancast. The Twilight Zone can also be found at Amazon on demand for a fee. The Twilight Zone: Volume 7 and More Treasures of The Twilight Zone help this timeless series keep its hold on us well into the 21st century. Relive the primitive science fiction, bizarre fantasy, and thought provoking horror again or introduce the next generation today.