Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983/HD-DVD + DVD-Video)
B/C+ Sound: B/B- Extras: D Film: C
every revival of Rod Serling’s TV classic The
Twilight Zone (1959 – 1964) has been an absolute disaster. Several TV sequel series (three so far) have
all bombed, no matter what the talent involved.
In 1983, Steven Spielberg co-produced a feature film revival he hoped
would lead to an anthology series, but Twilight
Zone: The Movie (1983) was very uneven, tried to do an ideological revision
of the series that backfired and the death of three persons during the shooting
of one of the four segments (including Vic Morrow) turned most against it.
arrives on HD-DVD and DVD-Video in an upgraded, basic edition that features the
most famous of the failed revivals. They
had the biggest names and most money, but was quickly forgotten by all but a
few fans and those who catch it occasionally on TV. The opening and closing pieces with Dan
Aykroyd are silly, but unfortunately foreshadow the condescending would-be
comic humor that mocks the legacy of the series more than celebrating and
continuing it. Then there are the four
segments of this anthology. All are
A Quality Of Mercy is the Morrow segment directed by
John Landis, which is more serious than Landis is used to being. Morrow is a racist who must face his
prejudices, but his loss is obvious as the segment is not as conclusive as it
should be. Many blamed Landis for the
death and failure of the segment, but with Morrow gone, it never felt finished
and it is more obvious than ever.
It’s A Good Life is Joe Dante’s unnecessarily
remake of the classic episode where a young pre-teen male is able to bring to
life and wish (and horror) his heart desires.
The problem here is Dante tries too hard, tries to make this too
expressionistic, too colorful and it backfires as a mockery (intended and not)
of the brilliant original.
Kick The Can is Spielberg’s mindless,
problematic, revisionist remake of the classic original in which citizens at an
old folks home are at the end of their lives, questioning existence, life
spent, life wasted and life lived. The
original was existential, dealt with mortality and joy, as kicking a can
suddenly becomes metaphor for life lived for one’s self. In one of Spielberg’s weakest works ever, he
makes it into a parable about childishness, white guilt and the benefits of
being an airhead. Simply put, Scatman
Crothers goes around to old people with a can, gets them to kick it, makes
everyone happy (which has some racism issues in itself when most to all of them
are white) and odes nothing more with his life but this. He essentially becomes an anti-Grim Reaper
Santa Claus and we are supposed to be happy about this? What a condescending wreck.
Nightmare At 20,000 Ft. is known as the one segment that
worked, at least until the end, with John Lithgow in George Miller’s remake of
the enduring classic (the original has one of William Shatner’s best
performances ever) as an airplane passenger who sees a demon on the wing of the
airplane trying to kill all inside. Is
he nut, or is he just seeing what the rest of the passengers and operators are
not. If only the other directors were
half as ambitious as Miller, this would have been a respectable film series and
not a disappointing curio.
1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image is better than the anamorphically
enhanced DVD-Video version of the film, but not by that much. The four segments vary in picture quality and
try to look distinctive, but none have a distinct, memorable look. The Dolby True HD 5.1 and Dolby Digital Plus
5.1 mixes on the HD and standard Dolby 5.1 on the DVD are about the same,
trying to do their best to upgrade the Dolby A-type analog sound found on the
35mm prints, but all show their age. The
combination is better than the copies before on home video and TV, but oddly
cannot compete with the new HD transfers Image issued on DVD of the original
series. The only extra in both cases are
an old low-def copy of the theatrical trailer, which is not much.
- Nicholas Sheffo