This review is sponsored by
|Category||Sci-Fi / Television||Biography - Rod Serling
Production Notes - Season By Season
Production Notes - History of The Twilight Zone
Reviews and Credits
|Running Time||100:22 minutes|
William D Gordon
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||English (Dolby Digital 1.0 mono,
French (Dolby Digital 1.0 mono, 96 Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Theatrical Aspect Ratio||1.33:1||
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||Yes, minor in credits|
So what exactly makes this forty year old television series so special that the prospect of reviewing another 97 episodes (if that is to be my fortune) far from fills me with dread? Very good question! Perhaps it is the quality of the stories, perhaps it is the calibre of the performances, perhaps it is the calibre of the guest stars brought in to provide those performances, perhaps it is the slightly off-beat nature of the program, perhaps it is seeing Rod Serling introducing yet another episode whilst holding a smouldering cigarette? Well, perhaps you can forget the last one, but certainly the other reasons are part of the reason why this series still holds so much fascination. But perhaps most of all it is what was done with the show week in, week out for five years on a very limited budget in the space of a few days only. In many ways this was raw television programming that pushed a few boundaries within the confines of a very restrictive medium (at least in the United States), and that is something that very few programmes have ever done. And those that have in many ways have drawn heavily upon what The Twilight Zone did. It is that uniqueness of inspiration and influence that makes The Twilight Zone so special, and after fifteen volumes (with many more to come) it seems an appropriate time to thank Warner Vision Australia for letting us enjoy this unique show in all its glory all over again.
But enough of my ramblings and on with the show! The episodes on offer on Volume 15, in the running order on the DVD, are:
Escape Clause (Episode 6, Nov 6 1959, 25:06 minutes) - Walter Bedacker is a chronic hypochondriac convinced that he is on his death bed, despite his doctor telling him he is perfectly well. Walter nonetheless continues to bemoan the fact that man has such a short span on this Earth and when the Devil comes calling, he is willing to do the ultimate deed: sell his soul to the Devil for immortality and indestructibility. This starts out well enough but it soon becomes apparent that immortality is boring - after all, when there is no risk, there is no excitement. So he experiments with new ways of thrilling himself with somewhat unexpected consequences. David Wayne may not be the most familiar name to most people but you might well recognize the face, and this is a good indication of his talent. Nicely done episode with just a nice bit of a twist to round out the programme. Directed by Mitchell Leisen.
Nervous Man In A Four Dollar Room (Episode 39, Oct 14 1960, 25:05 minutes) - Jacky Rhodes is a long time hoodlum, albeit of rather minor league standing. So when his boss orders him to commit murder, he has some serious conscience wrestling to do. However, his introspection takes on a new dimension in of all things the mirror in his four dollar a night hotel room. There he finds the man he has always wanted to be, the man desperate to find a way out before it is too late. Single person shows did not come along often in The Twilight Zone, but when they did they were usually of fine quality. Whilst this is not quite a one man show, it is not far from it and the quality is indeed fine. Joe Mantell stars as the hoodlum wrestling with his conscience. Directed by Douglas Heyes.
The Midnight Sun (Episode 75, Nov 17 1961, 25:04 minutes) - For reasons that don't need to be explained in The Twilight Zone, the Earth has suddenly shifted its orbit and is now inexorably moving towards the Sun. As the Earth moves slowly towards its destruction, temperatures rise and New York slowly evacuates as people head in search of cooler climes and water. Norma and her neighbour hang tight in their apartment building as the heat rises and the water dries up and the power dies. As her neighbour dies in her arms, Norma is left to face the end of the world seemingly alone. Just remember - this is The Twilight Zone. A nice little ensemble piece held together by the performances of Lois Nettleton and Betty Garde. What probably makes this episode so unusual is the fact that for a fair chunk of the show, Lois Nettleton is wearing just her petticoat - pretty raunchy stuff for American television of 1961! Directed by Anton Leader.
A Kind Of Stopwatch (Episode 124, Oct 18 1963, 25:07 minutes) - Intolerable bore Patrick McNulty has for a whole year been making idiotic business suggestions to his boss and the final result is his firing. Drowning his sorrows at his local watering hole, this intolerable motor mouth once again succeeds in virtually emptying the bar in as rapid a pace as you are ever likely to see. The sole remaining occupant of the bar, upon receipt of one beer, presents McNulty with a stopwatch. But this is no ordinary stopwatch for it has the ability to freeze time. Since everything boils down to money, McNulty uses the stopwatch to rob a bank - with dire consequences. Featuring Richard Erdman, the depressing thing here is the fact that we all probably know someone like McNulty. The fact that McNulty is an entirely unsympathetic character would indicate the great job that Richard Erdman did in the role! Directed by John Rich.
This volume certainly maintains the general standard of the series so far, with the usual concerns on display. Sharpness is generally quite adequate with adequate detail on offer throughout. There are a few odd lapses in focus but these seem to be an inherent quirk of the series. Shadow detail is actually quite good here and this was a slightly better effort in that regard compared to most seen thus far. Clarity was also a little improved here I feel, with grain being less of a problem than normal. The only downer on the clarity side of things is the fact that certain parts of the latter two episodes on the DVD are just slightly affected by light blemishes as if light has leaked into the print. No big deal, although some might find it a bit more off-putting than I. There did not appear to be any significant problems with low level noise in the transfer.
The black and white presentation of these episodes is again more consistent than some of the earlier volumes in the series. This broadly means that we do not get to see much in the way of solid blacks and whites and are pretty well confined to the mid range grey scales for most of the transfer. Nothing much wrong with that although some improvement in the last episode on the DVD does illustrate how much we can miss those deeper tones. Still, the overall effect is very much in keeping with the general standard of the series.
There did not appear to be any significant MPEG artefacts in the transfer, although the usual minor loss of resolution on pan shots is here - which I believe is partly inherent in the source material anyway. Film-to-video artefacts were again fairly prevalent in the form of the ever-present aliasing which seems to afflict the series. None of the instances were especially upsetting, but there was more of an issue with cross colouration and moiré artefacting in The Midnight Sun: check out 15:11, 18:10 and 18:27 for an indication of these slightly too noticeable problems. The obligatory display of film artefacts is again presented here and one or two are rather hard to ignore.
Interestingly, those missing title screens before
each episode reappear on this DVD, so maybe they were just an aberrant
omission from Volume 14.
The dialogue for all episodes was clear and easy to understand, and there did not appear to be any audio sync problems in the transfer at all.
Somewhat unusually for the series thus far, the music for the majority of the episodes is actually credited: Jerry Goldsmith for Nervous Man In A Four Dollar Room and Van Cleave for The Midnight Sun and A Kind Of Stopwatch. The ever reliable stock sources provided the music for the other episode. The Jerry Goldsmith score is actually quite effective in supporting the confined atmosphere of this episode, and Van Cleave's efforts are decent enough too.
Another virtually identical audio transfer to the
earlier volumes in the series and therefore there really is not an awful
lot to add about the soundtrack, as it is obviously a reflection of the
limitations of the period in which it was recorded and the medium for which
it was recorded. The soundtracks are generally free from any distortion
or congestion and this is actually very decent sounding mono. Escape
Clause is blessed with a slightly hissy soundtrack, especially noticeable
during the opening credits. I soon adjusted to the sound, but some may
have more quibble here than I.
|Surround Channel Use|
© Ian Morris (have
a laugh, check out the bio)
27th February, 2001.
|DVD||Pioneer DV-515; S-video output|
|Display||Sony Trinitron Wega 80cm. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in|
|Amplification||Yamaha RXV-795. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL|