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“THE TWILIGHT ZONE: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON” (DVD Review)

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Image Entertainment has done a solid job keeping THE TWILIGHT ZONE alive in the digital format for a decade, including the recent immaculate Blu-ray releases that re-presented all five glorious seasons with every kind of extra, both old and new. Because of this, there‘s little reason to write anything about yet another re-release. And yet, we’re gonna do just that.

Anytime we get the chance to muse on the house that Rod Serling built is a good day, so it’s worth some website real estate to announce the budget release of the RLJ Entertainment (a subsidiary of Image) re-packaging of THE TWILIGHT ZONE Season 2, the successful follow-up to the Emmy-award winning writer’s landmark first season. To the uninitiated – all six of you – THE TWILIGHT ZONE was a portal for the cerebral moralist to covertly criticize society and prejudice by cloaking it in fantasy, horror and science fiction and ran for five seasons from 1959 to 1964. Its legacy transcends cult status, rather Serling’s words – and those of his hires, specifically Richard Matheson and the late Charles Beaumont – helped change the landscape of what genre filmmaking could and should do. Simply put it is one of the most important filmed entertainments ever made and its power continues to inspire.

Season Two offers some of the best episodes in that influential run. Joe Mantell gives a powerhouse turn in “Nervous Man in a Four-Dollar Room”; Donna Douglas (and, under bandages Maxine Stewart) runs afoul of her own societal-inflicted self-loathing in the nightmarish “The Eye of the Beholder”; Beaumont’s chilling story “The Howling Man” comes to equally shuddery life; Art Carney is unforgettable in the moving Christmas story “Night of the Meek”; Agnes Moorehead battles malevolent, kitchen knife wielding space-men (or are they?) in “The Invaders”; Cliff Robertson goes “A Hundred Yards Over the Rim”; Burgess Meredith is pitted against Big Brother and Fritz Weaver in “The Obsolete Man”; William Shatner gets paranoid in Matheson’s “Nick of Time”….the list runs to 29 episodes and there ain’t a dud in the bunch.

Not a dud, but what Season Two does have as a hampering element is sporadic use of cheap looking video that realizes some of its finest installments. THE TWILIGHT ZONE was a program shot on film. It was and is cinematic, a high contrast monochromatic noir. But CBS bosses were dismayed at just how costly the show was to produce and forced Serling and company to adopt more economical video and the results – though thankfully short lived – still made its presence known long enough to mar a few key episodes. The worst offender is the otherwise superlative “Long Distance Call,” in which TZ vet Billy Mumy (“It’s a Good Life”) plays a little boy who receives endless calls on his toy telephone from his dead Granny, urging him to join her in death! A clear line inspiration for POLTERGEIST, this one is truly chilling and morbid and one can only imagine how much more profound it would play if presented in classic TZ celluloid skin. Other video-captured episodes, including  the aforementioned “Night of the Meek” as well as “Static,” might be somewhat aided by the too-real atmosphere that the medium provided but like “Long Distance Call”, the eerie “The Lateness of the Hour” and “Shadow Play” might have become essential TZ efforts if they just felt a little more stylized.

But these are minor gripes. I’m reaching to find flaw in that which time has made next to flawless. The real reason you’re reading this is to determine if the five DVD set is worth the buy. For the hardened fan, the answer is no sir, unless you’re a real deal collector and want the alternate packaging. For the casual fan, newbie and for those wanting a quick fix, it’s just fine. The transfers and menus are the same as the previous OOP Image DVD releases but stripped of any and all extra features. But that said, those transfers are indeed sterling in both audio and visual presentation, so why carp?

If you want to drop a few dollars and are serious about your TZ collection, hold out and grab those still hanging around Blu releases. Otherwise, these bare bones sets are more than worth it for those just wanting to see what power the show still maintains.

Package: 3_skull

Series: 4_skull

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About the author
Chris Alexander
Author, film critic, teacher, musician and filmmaker (not to mention failed boxer) Chris Alexander is the editor-in-chief of FANGORIA Magazine. He got his first professional break as the “Schizoid Cinephile” in the pages of Canadian horror film magazine RUE MORGUE before making the move to FANGO in 2007. His words have appeared in The Toronto Star, Metro News, Wired, Montage, The Dark Side, Tenebre and many other notable publications and he appears regularly on international television and radio.
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