The Twilight Zone: The Complete Series DVD Review
Created by Rod Serling
Written and directed by various
1959-1964, Region 1 (NTSC), 4524 minutes, Not Rated
DVD released on November 19th, 2013
Hosted by Rod Serling
Classic. Iconic. Legendary. These are all words that immediately come to mind when I hear the words The Twilight Zone. For those of you who have been living under a rock all of your lives, Rod Serling's black and white series that hit televisions in October of 1959 forever changed the way how stories were shown to the masses. Portraying the best and worst of humankind, benevolent and malevolent forced and out-of-this-world phenomenon, a brand new narration was brought to the homes of Americans. In many ways, these half-hour long episodes were exactly what people needed to see: the horrors of a nuclear world, the retribution of bad men and the infinite possibilities a world has to offer with just a little bit of imagination. Having grown up with the series, every New Year's Eve night I would view episode after episode, taking a glimpse back in time to an era where America's Cold War fears had just begun and alien invasion was a fear among the masses. As hard as I would try every year, I'd never get through the whole marathon and hated myself for missing a single episode. Now, through the miracles of modern science and the awesomeness of the powers that be here at HorrorTalk.com, I've been given the chance to redeem myself and watch every single episode!
However, this was no easy task. With a running time of 4524 minutes (over 75 goddamn hours), powering through the complete series, jam-packed with enough intros, you'll start seeing Rod Serling's bushy eyebrows everywhere you go, it will seem like a part-time job for a few weeks. So instead of rambling on like a psychotic fan boy and explaining the pros and cons to every single season, I rather talk about my favorite episode from each season. Sure, there are seasons with stories that are hit and miss and some will always stand out more than others, but this wasn't an hour-and-a-half reviewing endeavor so bear with me.
One can argue that season one of The Twilight Zone set the tone for how the subsequent seasons and stories would unfold. Plots of post-war trauma and the threat of a nuclear end to life as it once was were quickly established as fears that all kept in the backs of their minds until Serling talked about the elephants in the room. The episode that instantly got me hooked is titled "Time Enough At Last". Henry Bemis is in love with books. His boss cannot understand his urge to escape his mind from his day work as a banker and his wife is a demanding woman whose bossiness leaves little to desire. One day, while sneaking down into the bank's vault to read, an explosion occurs, leaving Henry unconscious. Once he comes to, he realizes the worst: the world has been destroyed by nuclear weaponry. He wanders about and finally comes upon a library and now all the time in (what's left of) the world to read in peace. When he unexpectedly falls and breaks his glasses, Henry is literally left as one of the only men left alive, with unlimited time and surrounded by the things he loves but unable to enjoy what he loves most. This is irony at its most sinister and eye-opening. It also sends a clear message to do what you love most before its too late.
Not so long ago, I reviewed season two here on HorrorTalk, so if you're looking for my in-depth opinions on all of that jazz, you can check that out here. As for the episode that stuck with me through all twenty-nine shorts, "The Lateness of the Hour". After living her entire life with her parents and their robotic, human-like servants, curious and rebellious Jana yearns to be outside in a world free of walls and doors. When all of their efforts are in vain, Jana's parents must tell her a startling truth before it is too late. Within this story, Serling once again revisits the all too familiar theme of isolationism, only this time it's not being alone that's the real struggle. The struggle is accepting who (and what) you are, regardless of the circumstances.
Season three has a very interesting episode titled "The Shelter" that clearly shows everyone's fears in Cold War America. In a neighborhood, a threat of "the bomb" has sent families and neighbors into a frenzy and the only man with a bomb shelter has gone underground with his wife and child. With the possibility of eminent doom and destruction at their doorsteps, desperation takes hold and each neighbor debates breaking into the shelter and having it for themselves. When the threat appears to have been a false alarm, the damage has already been done and a once united community now has to deal with the pains of their actions. Fast forward to the present, we can be a bit more jaded about the nuclear destruction of the planet, especially terrorism and all the other horrors that are real in our society. Would we turn our backs on our friends and acquaintances when things all fall apart? You can always just trip the fat guy and run.
If I had to pick a season of The Twilight Zone that falls short of the others, it would have to be season four. That doesn't mean that there aren't good episodes that will stick with you, but the fact that they had switched formats and each episode became an hour long greatly decreased the volume of stories and variety. One story titled "On Thursday We Leave for Home" did tickle my fancy. After spending 30 years on a barren planet, space pioneers of the Pilgrim I are preparing to return to Earth when their ship arrives. Realizing that most of the community will go their separate ways when they arrive back home, Captain William Benteen decides they should all stay. The group is clearly against this idea and tensions clearly rise. The reason this stuck with me over time is because of my fear of space. That's first and foremost. The theme of the individual versus the many returns as well, even if the individual is the one who is seemingly wrong.
Season five returns to the original format of the show, delivering well over 30 episodes, some of which are my all-time favorites. From this season, one that always horrified me was "Living Doll". I'm a guy who isn't afraid of much in life. Sure, I may have an irrational fear of the bottom of the ocean and extraterrestrials but none that hinder my day to day functionality as a human being. Another fear happens to be dolls, particularly the ones that say shit and have moving eyes. I remember gouging the eyes out of my Teddy Ruxpin doll when I was a toddler. So when Serling and company concoct an episode that focuses on an indestructible, killer doll and a father's attempt to rid his family of it by any means necessary, it turns me back into that paranoid little kid who clearly just needed his mommy and a hug.
The Twilight Zone is one of those television series that has proven its worth and stood the test of times, even against all of the proposed instant modern classics. Serling's mastery of executing a meaningful story with captivating stories in a variety of different settings in such a short amount of screen times (sans season four) will always be amazing in itself. I challenge TV shows that exist today to deliver the same number of iconic episodes in such a short running time and with the limits on technology that existed back in the late '50s, early '60s.
Video and Audio:
The Twilight Zone: The Complete Series is presented in black and white with its original 1:33:1 aspect ratio that will remind you how much you hated visiting your archaic relative's house during the holidays.
There are no special features included in this box set, because after spending nearly two work weeks watching this, shunning your family, friends and loved ones, it would probably warrant your wife filing for divorce if there were such features included.