1/07/2010. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts
pub: Classic Sci-Fi CCTV30177. 6 DVDs 880 minutes 33 * 25 minute black and white episodes plus extras. Price: about £ 20.00 (UK) if you know where to look.
Picture this in your mind. A couple of years ago, season one of the original 1959-1960 'The Twilight Zone' drops markedly in price and eagerly bought by this editor on the assumption that the rest of the seasons will drop in price accordingly but didn't until this year. To keep some sense of continuity and time available, watching the episodes were spread out until now. Suddenly you discover that although the successive seasons are dropping in price, season one hasn't. Have you made a mistake mentioning that now or are we actually in...The Twilight Zone!
I've yet to see anyone do a review of 'The Twilight Zone' without giving some sort of soliloquy introduction a'la its creator Rod Serling. It's a little difficult to resist considering the esteemed Mr. Serling introduced all of these stories before appearing on screen for the first time with the final story based on scripts by himself, Charles Beaumont, Richard Matheson and a one-off by Robert Presnell, Jr. I recommend getting your hands on 'The Twilight Zone Companion' by Marc Scott Zicree to read between episodes and fill in the odd details. There are a scattering of audio commentaries although these tend to be, by and large, interviews hooked into the various episodes than purely about the stories as viewed.
I never actually saw many 'Twilight Zone' stories when I was young hence my memories are stronger for the original 'Outer Limits'. Apart from my young age, I think they were either shown late night or rarely over here. That doesn't mean I didn't know about them, just with little first-hand experience. That has now changed. At least for the first season.
In many respects, 'The Twilight Zone' is more drama with a plot quirk which is a turning point for the lead character's life. As such, it can end up being either fantasy or Science Fiction depending on the story but they are essentially morality plays. Even better, they still hold up well today but that's also the sign of quality writing and good casting. With the latter, it's practically a who's who of actors, many of whom, like Burgess Meredith and Jack Klugman, went on to have really big careers.
Picking out episodes could be constituted as potential spoilers cos giving the plots would mean giving away too much. They are, however, purely by their variety all gems, often sprinkled with comedy as well as the odd scary moment. It really is a tour de force in good storytelling that everyone can learn something from.
Things I have learnt. The first story, 'Where Is Everyone?', has a set that still exists today and was used with little re-dressing in 'Back To The Future'. Anne Francis makes a perfect model. Look after your glasses if you're the last man on Earth. Immortality comes at a price and be careful if you're thinking you're a...what was the word...amnesic. 'A Stop At Willoughby' was re-made as 'For All Time, a TV movie in 2000 starring Mark Harmon with a happier ending which I saw first earlier in the year.
Finally, don't think the 'Extras' in the sixth DVD is just a recap of the commentaries as its actually Serling hosting a US 'Liars Club' episode with a young Betty White in it and snippets from the Emmy Awards where he first won. Hard to believe this is fifty years-old but life goes on forever...in The Twilight Zone!
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