I love the original Twilight Zone TV show. The entire series can be watched on Netflix, gloriously remastered in the original black and white. It looks tremendous. There are A LOT of episodes, so if you’re just diving into the series for the first time you may want to start with any number of lists online of the most iconic episodes.
Among other big Twilight Zone fans: The early writers for The Simpsons – who used classic episodes as inspiration for some of their best Treehouse of Horror Halloween segments. That makes it a Halloween staple.
The movie adaptation came out in ’83, long after the original series ended. An anthology of four stories (the ideal number, in my view) with a wraparound, it adapts three Twilight Zone episodes and adds one new segment that seems more like an episode of Tales from the Crypt.
I didn’t expect to see Dan Aykroyd and Albert Brooks in the opening wraparound, but it’s a fantastic sequence where two guys in a truck on the highway chit chat, and the conversation turns to television, including The Twilight Zone. “You wanna see something really scary?”
The first, all-original segment is tragically infamous for the on-set helicopter accident that took the lives of its lead actor and two child actors (the footage is on Youtube. I don’t recommend watching it.). The segment itself is actually somewhat thin and predictable. An irritable bigot bitches about jews, black people, and Asians with his bar buddies, and then is magically transported to various times and places in which he has to walk in the shoes of those he hates. A thoroughly down-the-middle comeuppance tale.
Kick the Can, the second segment, is, to put it mildly, an odd choice to make it into the Twilight Zone movie. A bunch of seniors in an old folks home get transformed into kids for a night by a Magical Negro, so that they may remember the thrill of youth. Apart from the presence of Dick Halloran himself, Scatman Crothers, there’s little to say about this one. It’s far and away the weakest of the bunch. Odd considering Steven freaking Spielberg directed it.
Luckily things pick up with the iconic “It’s a Good Life”. Joe Dante adds practical FX intensity to the classic original story of a telepathic kid holding a terrified “family” hostage under threat of horrific transfigurations should he become displeased with any of them.
Finally, we get an 80’s update to arguably the most famous Twilight Zone of them all – Nightmare at 20,000 Feet. John Lithgow steps in for William Shatner and adds more visible anxiety to the role. Not to mention the much less preposterous design of the goblin on the wing. The movie is worth watching just for this segment alone.
Next up: Tales From the Darkside.