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Category:    Home > Reviews > Thriller > Fantasy > Horror > Science Fiction > Anthology > TV > Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone – Season One (1959 – 1960/Image Entertainment Blu-ray)

Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone – Season One (1959 – 1960/Image Entertainment Blu-ray)

 

Picture: B+     Sound: B-     Extras: A     Episodes: A

 

 

Like radio drama and feature films before it, television embraced the anthology format early on.  This is a series that features a different self-contained story each week with the focus on a genre and even clever concept.  Radio hits like Suspense, Inner Sanctum and Escape are prime examples of these shows.  TV took over and did their share of early anthology shows, including the underrated One Step Beyond, which wanted to be more than just a thriller series, but it left itself open for improvement and a young writer named Rod Serling filled that gap.  The result was The Twilight Zone, one of television’s all-time classics and the greatest anthology TV series of all time.  It is therefore no surprise that Season One (1959 – 1960) is one of the first classic TV series to be released on Blu-ray and the first complete season of any black and white series to make it to the high definition format anywhere.

 

Still delivering an impact today and casting a long shadow over all the anthology series like it that followed (including many failed imitators and a few revivals using the same name that did not work out), these first 36 half-hours were so shocking and powerful that many are all-time classics in all of the television medium, were so effective that it is one of the reasons TV became a competitor to motion pictures and killed network radio, is so smart and enduring that it is still considered one of the all-time supreme achievements the television medium will ever produce.

 

And that may be understating the situation.  Serling would write many of the episodes, oversee the series and narrate all of them, eventually appearing on camera as host.  He was a true genius, already a big success as a writer on many anthology shows, especially making an impact with his critically acclaimed works Patterns and Requiem For A Heavyweight.  He was more than just a great storyteller, he was a writer with something to say about the human condition and though this series, he picked up where the Film Noir era left off (the show began the year after Orson Welles’ Touch Of Evil ended it all) and delivered a show up to the greatest expectations his fans and critics expected he could deliver.

 

 

The following list of those 36 shows includes the writer and director listed, plus all include audio commentary tracks and (usually) isolated music tracks in every case:

 

1) Where Is Everybody? (Rod Serling/Robert Stevens) – Earl Holliman plays a man who finds himself in a strange, isolate town.  It looks like it is lived in, but the more he looks, the more he realizes its population has disappeared.  He also has amnesia and must figure out what is ahead before something happens to him.  James Gregory also stars in this great opening show that is brilliant in giving the audience totally what they should be expecting from this show going onward.

 

2) One For The Angels (Rod Serling/Robert Parrish) – In another brilliant, classic episode of the show, comic legend Ed Wynn plays a sidewalk salesman named Lew who is visited by Mr. Death (a great performance by Murray Hamilton of Jaws fame) that he must die at midnight, but Lew does not want to go, so Death has a little girl hit by a car instead.  She now has a date to go for good, unless Lew can make a sales pitch to Death that prevents him from making his fatal appointment.

 

3) Mr. Denton On Doomsday (Rod Serling/Allen Reisner) – Dan Duryea (The 4 Just Men) plays the title character, a drunken cowboy in the Old West with no future until a mysterious figure gives him a potion that turns around his fortunes and makes him the quickest gun in the west, but it also makes everyone who can get there want to have a gun match with him.  And then there is another deadly catch…  Martin Landau, Jeanne Cooper and Ken Lynch also star.

 

4) The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine (Rod Serling/Mitch Leisen) – Ida Lupino plays Barbara Jean Trenton, a once-great big screen Hollywood movie star who lives in the past watching her films all the time at home in the big mansion her fortune has bought her, but the people around her start to worry about her health and future.  However, she cannot let the past, her youth or happiness go and she may just have one final performance in her to give her what she really wants.  Martin Balsam co-stars in this ingenious episode that remains one of the series’ great achievements.

 

5) Walking Distance (Rod Serling/Robert Stevens) – Yet another masterpiece of the series has the great Gig Young as tired business executive Martin Stone taking car ride back to where he grew up, then strolls through his old neighborhood.  When things turn out to be more unchanged than he expected, he realizes he is three decades back when he grew up there.  Can he get back?  Will he want to leave?  J. Pat O’Malley and a young Ron Howard also star and an alternate audio mix is included.

 

6) Escape Clause (Rod Serling/Mitch Leisen) – A hypochondriac (the always great David Wayne) is so afraid of sickness and death, he finds a way to make a deal with Satan so nothing like that can happen to him.  Unfortunately, this deal with the Devil makes his life dull as… well, you can guess, so he has to get out of it, but will it cost him his soul?

 

7) The Lonely (Rod Serling/Jack Smight) – In yet another great episode, criminals are sent to prison, but on isolated asteroids that support life.  One of them (Jack Warden) gets a special delivery one day of a woman named Alicia (Jean Marsh) so he can handle the isolation, but she turns out to be an android and the ramifications are quiet unexpected.  John Dehner and Ted Knight also star.

 

8) Time Enough At Last (Rod Serling/John Brahm) – Burgess Meredith is brilliant as bank teller Henry Bemis, a bookworm who would rather read books all the time than have to ever deal with a human being again.  He gets his wish when a nuclear war breaks out and he is the only survivor, but it is not the radiation that will get in his way first.

 

9) Perchant To Dream (Charles Beaumont/Robert Florey) – Richard Conte plays a man whose psychiatrist tells him that a woman he keeps seeing in nightmares will kill him should he fall asleep.  Beaumont’s first show fit into the series perfectly and he would become one of its most important writers.  Suzanne Lloyd also stars.

 

10) Judgment Night (Rod Serling/John Brahm) – A German man (Nehemiah Persoff) is on a ship circa 1942 and does not know how or why he is there, just that the ship is going to be sunk at 1:15 A.M. by a U-Boat.  Will anybody believe him and can he stop the disaster from happening?  Please note that this is often confused with the One Step Beyond episode Night Of April 14th which also co-starred Patrick Macnee of The Avengers, but that show was about the sinking of The Titanic.  Both debuted on CBS in 1959.  James Franciscus also stars.

 

11) And When The Sky Was Opened (Rod Serling/Douglas Heyes) – Three astronauts return from an experimental space flight, but things become odd when one of them disappears and no one remembers they even exist.  And then there were two…  Rod Taylor, Jim Hutton, Charles Aidman, Maxine Cooper and Sue Randall star.

 

12) What You Need (Rod Serling/Al Ganzer) – Another classic of the series has Ernest Truex in an unforgettable performance as a street salesman who has an amazing knack to know how the simplest items might be a big help to others, but when a greedy man wants to exploit him for profit, it turns into a moral showdown with dire consequences.

 

13) The Four Of Us Are Dying (Rod Serling/John Brahm) – Arch Hammer (Harry Townes) can change his face to look like anyone he wants to and intends to use this to become rich, but his plan backfires when his reckless identity theft backfires.  Ross Martin, Don Gordon and Beverly Garland also star.

 

14) Third From The Sun (Richard Matheson/Richard Bare) – A scientist (Fritz Weaver) strongly believes the world will blow itself up with nuclear armaments and intends to use an experimental spacecraft to avoid it, but his evil boss stands in his way.  Matheson (I Am Legend, The Night Stalker) wrote this first of many for the show, including some of its best episodes and also helped to make it a classic.

 

15) I Shot An Arrow Into The Air (Rod Serling/Stuart Rosenberg) – The spaceship Arrow One crash lands with five survivors and limited water, so the survivors work together, until one of them becomes murderous.  Well directed by Rosenberg (Cool Hand Luke), it is one of the few shows that has not dated as well, but is very much worth watching.

 

16) The Hitchhiker (Rod Serling/Alvin Ganzer) – Nan Adams (Inger Stevens) has a tire go flat on her way to California and starts to notice a strange man (Leonard Strong) seems to be following her.  However, he seems to be able to move faster than her car!  Another classic (not to be confused with the horror films of the same name) put this show on the map.  Mitzi McCall also stars.

 

17) The Fever (Rod Serling/Alvin Ganzer) – This all-time classic episode has a couple going to Las Vegas for a trip they’ll never forget.  Flora Gibbs (Vivi Janiss) has won a “fabulous trip” to the adult playground of the world, but her husband Franklin (Everett Sloane in another great performance) does not want to go and hates gambling.  But when a drunk (Art Lewis) forces a silver dollar into his hand and both into the slot of a slot machine, a big payoff changes Franklin’s mind… and life!

 

18) The Last Flight (Richard Matheson/William Claxton) – A British Royal pilot (Alexander Scourby) flies into a strange cloudy in 1917 and comes out of it in 1960, only to discover he needs to get back quickly or his fellow pilots will be lost forever.

 

19) The Purple Testament (Rod Serling/Richard Bare) – William Reynolds plays a Lieutenant who finds out he can predict who will lice and die in WWII battles in the Philippines, but his secret gets out and causes chaos, which becomes grim when he believes he will be next.  This interesting installment also stars Dick York, Barney Phillips, Warren Oates and Paul Mazursky.

 

20) Elegy (Charles Beaumont/Douglas Heyes) – Space travelers from earth find an asteroid very much like earth, except that all the living creatures (man and animal) are frozen in place.  Is something more sinister going on?  Cecil Kellaway and Jeff Morrow star.

 

21) Mirror Image (Rod Serling/John Brahm) – Vera Miles (Psycho) is Millicent Barnes, stuck at a bus terminal on a rainy November evening when total strangers start to claim they just saw and talked to her variously despite the fact that she has never seen them and has zero recollection of them.  Martin Millner and Naomi Stevens also star.

 

22) The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street (Rod Serling/Ron Winston) – Another masterpiece of the series think an alien ship has arrived when they see an Asteroid or something flying through the sky, overreacting to ay the least.  This includes wondering if the aliens can look like people, replace them and find ways to take over their neighborhood.  Soon, they are waiting for an attack, even when attacking each other.  Have aliens really arrived?  Claude Akins, Jack Weston, Barry Atwater and Mary Gregory head the cast.

 

23) A World Of Difference (Richard Matheson/Ted Post) – Howard Duff plays a man who is living the life of Arthur Curtis when the room he is in turns out to be a sound stage, yet he is sure he is real and a real life person, not a fictitious character.  Instead, he is treated as an actor with the same name playing someone else in a movie.  Eileen Ryan also stars in this decent entry.

 

24) Long Live Walter Jameson (Charles Beaumont/Tony Leader) – Kevin McCarthy is the title character, a man who knows history so well, it is as if he actually lived it.  When someone near him suspects something is wrong about him being so right, he is in for the shock of his life.

 

25) People Are Alike All Over (Rod Serling/Mitchell Leisen) – Roddy McDowall is one of two surviving astronauts who crash lands on another planet having a great fear of meeting Martians and expects them to be horrible.  Now alone, he meets the people of the planet and something more twisted than he could ever suspect is waiting for him.

 

26) Execution (Rod Serling/David Orrick McDearmon) – A man being hanged in 1880 (Albert Salmi) suddenly disappears and lands up in 1960, thanks to the experiment of a scientist (Russell Johnson of Gilligan’s Island) and needs to send him back, but that will be much tougher.

 

27) The Big Tall Wish (Rod Serling/Ron Winston) – An aging African American boxer (Ivan Dixon) wins a fight he should not be able to thanks to the wish of a young African American child, but the boxer is not convinced and cannot shake his doubt, so back in the ring he goes for better or worse.

 

28) A Nice Place To Visit (Charles Beaumont/John Brahm) – A petty crook (Larry Blyden) is shot and killed, but a kind man who calls himself Mr. Pip (Sebastian Cabot) shows up and convinces him that he can grant him his every wish.  However, it is not the comfortable set-up it seems and the strings attached may be more of a living nightmare than a dream come true.

 

29) Nightmare As A Child (Rod Serling/Alvin Garner) – Janice Rule is a woman who finds a little girl at home on her steps who is there to make the older woman remember a brutal murder, that of her mother.  At the same time, the killer is alive and wants her to forget!

 

30) A Stop At Willoughby (Rod Serling/Robert Parrish) – A worn-out executive (James Daly) falls asleep on a train and finds himself going to a town that seems to good to be true, but something is not normal about this route and he needs to figure it all out quickly before it is too late.

 

31) The Chaser (Robert Presnell, Jr./Douglas Heyes) – Roger (George Grizzard) is in love with a woman (Patricia Barry) who is not interested, but a doctor (John McIntire) has a love potion that is supposed to change things and it does, but not the way Roger had hoped.  J. Pat O’Malley also stars.

 

32) A Passage For Trumpet (Rod Serling/Don Medford) – Jack Klugman is a musician who is at the end of his rope and tries to kill himself, but he awakens, yet no one can see or hear him until another trumpeter named Gabriel (John Anderson) shows up.  A fan favorite, Ned Glass (Charade) also stars.

 

33) Mr. Bevis (Rod Serling/Robert Parrish) – Orson Bean is the title character, whose life is a wreck until a guardian angel (Henry Jones) shows up to help him, but the help does not improve matters as expected.  William Schallert and Vito Scotti also star.

 

34) The After Hours (Rod Serling/Douglas Heyes) – Anne Francis stars in this masterpiece episode about a department store customer who cannot find the item she was looking for, a gold thimble on the 9th floor of the building, then is told there is no 9th floor!  Then the thimble turns out to be defective and she thinks she sees the saleslady, but is shocked when…  This is one that never fails to work, no matter how many times you watch it.

 

35) The Mighty Casey (Rod Serling/Douglas Heyes) – A doctor (Abraham Soafer) bring a new player named Casey (Robert Sorrells) to help the worst baseball team around which makes Mouth McGarry (Jack Warden) happy, but things turn out to be problematic when the new player is a robot!

 

36) A World Of His Own (Richard Matheson/Ralph Nelson) – Keenan Wynn is Gregory West, a man who may be having an affair with another woman, or two, or three and his wife (Phyllis Kirk) is not happy, but Gregory has a much dirtier secret and it is one that might make him unstoppable.

 

 

A few episodes have not dated as well as others, but they are in a minority and even those lesser shows have a new luster and appreciation on Blu-ray in High Definition here, showing us how important and groundbreaking this show really was.  Even older than the Blu-ray sets for the classic original 1960s versions of Star Trek (all three separate seasons) and The Prisoner (complete series), Twilight Zone proves that great classic television (especially when filmed on 35mm film) takes on a whole new greatness when you can see it with a high new quality only previously afforded to feature films.   In this case, it shows how great black and white film can look in High Definition, especially from underrated TV production.

 

 

The 1080p black and white 1.33 X 1 digital High Definition image is absolutely amazing throughout on each print of every single episode, thanks in part to CBS storing and preserving the original film materials properly.  The result is a giant leap forward in detail, gray scale, richness of Video Black, depth (it does try to look like Film Noir) and overall presentation in prints that have limited grain and are in exceptional shape.  Director of Photography George T. Clemens, A.S.C., composed these shows for the full frame and the effectiveness of the narrow-vision approach goes beyond just filling an old TV screen.  Joseph LaShelle, A.S.C., shot the first episode, which was filmed at Universal and not MGM like the rest of the series.

 

Clemens and company achieved a new look and feel for this show that no television show and especially no anthology show ever had before, so distinctive that you can see immediately the difference between a Twilight Zone episode and any other black and white series in TV history.  The lighting is not simple, offering a definite sense of darkness, even when there is light; light that is added in unique ways that are subtle and not often discussed.  Serling understood that writing stories that were otherworldly or of an alternate dimension needed to go beyond the printed page, so its visual style put it ahead of its forerunners and imitators.  This Blu-ray set is amazing in finally revealing over 50 years later just how smart and complex this narrative-forwarding approach really is and how it is more effective than ever.

 

The PCM 2.0 sound comes in original Mono and an “enhanced” version that is essentially more stereophonic.  The playback in both cases are very good, all coming from the original magnetic sound masters also preserved and in good shape, but I preferred the “enhanced” versions because they sound cleaner, clearer and allow the exceptional music scores, Bernard Herrmann’s brilliant & creepy first theme song for the series, sound effects and dialogue come through.  The result is as good as any non-multi-channel film production of the 1950s and will even impress audiophiles.

 

New extras debuting on this Blu-ray set include new interviews with actors Dana Dillaway, Suzanne Lloyd, Beverly Garland and Ron Masak, the Tales of Tomorrow version of the episode "What You Need", a vintage audio interview with director of photography George T. Clemens (Part One), 1977 syndication promos for "A Stop at Willoughby" and "The After Hours" which was a highly successful reissue, 18 radio dramas versions of the show and no less than 34 isolated music scores featuring Bernard Herrmann, Jerry Goldsmith, Leonard Rosenman, Nathan Scott, Lyn Murray, Lucian Moreweck, René Gurriguenc, Van Cleave and others who contributed to this debut season, 19 new audio commentaries, featuring The Twilight Zone Companion author Marc Scott Zicree, author and film historian Gary Gerani (Fantastic Television), author and music historian Steven C. Smith (A Heart at Fire's Center: The Life and Music of Bernard Herrmann), music historians John Morgan and William T. Stromberg, writer/producer David Simkins (Lois & Clark, Dark Angel), writer Mark Fergus (Children of Men, Iron Man), actor William Reynolds and director Ted Post (Beneath The Planet Of The Apes) and the extremely rare, never-before-released unofficial Twilight Zone pilot, "The Time Element," written by Rod Serling and hosted by Desi Arnaz and in High Definition.

 

Extras imported from the upgraded DVD set includes a paper foldout inside the Blu-ray case with technical information and very brief episode guide, audio commentaries by actors Earl Holliman, Martin Landau, Rod Taylor, Martin Milner, Kevin McCarthy, and CBS executive William Self, vintage audio recollections with actors Burgess Meredith and Anne Francis, directors Douglas Heyes and Richard L. Bare, producer Buck Houghton and writer Richard Matheson, Rod Serling audio lectures from Sherwood Oaks College, Rod Serling promos for ‘Next Week's’ Show, Original Unaired Pilot Version of "Where is Everybody?" with Rod Serling's Network Pitch and footage of the Emmy Award wins for the series.

 

Though we had stories with surprise endings before, Twilight Zone became known not only for being a show with the best twist endings in TV history, but they did it so well so often that it distinguished itself from all other imitators.  Not that some did not do it as well (Roald Dahl’s Tales Of The Unexpected was a worthy successor) but TZ (as it is also known) did it best first.  Twilight Zone – Season One is amazing on its own and when you consider all the great talent working just for these first episodes, often doing some of the greatest work of their careers.  Whether you are a huge fan, someone who likes the show or has never seen it before, this Blu-ray set is stunning all around and easily one of the most important releases of the year.

 

It has never been a better time to revisit this fantastic other dimension.  For more, try the links to the rest of the series in these later season Blu-ray sets:

 

Season Two

http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review/10554/Rod+Serling%E2%80%99s+The+Twili

 

Season Three

http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review/10736/Rod+Serling%E2%80%99s+The+Twili

 

Season Four

http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review/10930/Rod+Serling%E2%80%99s+The+Twili

 

Season Five

http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review/11106/Rod+Serling%E2%80%99s+The+Twili

 

 

-   Nicholas Sheffo


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