The Twilight Zone

Volume 17

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Details At A Glance

Category Sci-Fi / Television Biography - Rod Serling
Production Notes - Season By Season
Production Notes - History of The Twilight Zone
Reviews and Credits
Year Released 1959 - 1964
Running Time 100:14 minutes
RSDL/Flipper No/No
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 2,4 Directors Alvin Ganzer
Richard L Bare
Don Medford
Alan Crosland Jr

Warner Vision
Starring Ernest Truex
Steve Cochran 
William Demarest 
Joan Blondell
Sterling Holloway
Peter Falk
Vladimir Sokoloff
John Anderson
James Coburn
Case Transparent Amaray
RPI $34.95 Music Van Cleave

Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English (Dolby Digital 1.0, 96 Kb/s)
French (Dolby Digital 1.0, 96 Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 1.33:1
Macrovision Yes Smoking Yes
Subtitles Dutch 
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, minor in credits

Plot Synopsis

   Fed up with the rubbish that passes for television in the new millennium? I have to confess that after a few weeks away from DVDs and having to put up solely with television of an evening, there is certainly little in the way of good programming around nowadays such as to entice me to watch much at all. And so the luck of returning to DVD Land with four episodes of The Twilight Zone is doubly fortuitous, since it means the chance to see some quality television programming (albeit forty years old), as well as a slightly more pleasurable way of returning to the task of DVD reviewing.

    This is a rather intriguing collection of episodes ranging from the first series to the final series, that at first sight seem to have little in common. The tag line on the collection here is "Justice applied ... in The Twilight Zone" - and an interesting collection of applications it is too, and the aptness of the tag line soon becomes apparent. A pity then that this is not the most memorable of collections in the series.

    The episodes on offer on Volume 17, in the running order on the DVD, are:

    What You Need (Episode 12, Dec 25 1959, 25:10 minutes) - Fred Renard is something of a thug and not an especially nice person. He is always looking for a way of making a cheap buck or two. So, when a sidewalk salesman wanders into the bar where he is slowly imbibing in a drink and starts doling out apparently inconsequential items to the patrons on the basis that the items are what they need, he takes little notice. However, when those items do indeed turn out to be exactly what those people need, he sees the chance to improve his lot fairly easily. When he forces the salesman on the issue of what he needs, he is a bit perplexed by the item received until an unfortunate situation highlights that it was indeed exactly what he needed. Now he starts to get greedy and forces the salesman even more. Trouble is that the salesman does indeed know something very important and is trying his darndest to avoid the result he has foreseen. A nice little episode which manages to just avoid being a little too obvious, and highlighted by a nice performance by Ernest Truex. Directed by Alvin Ganzer.

   What's In The Box (Episode 144, Mar 13 1964, 25:08 minutes) - Joe Britt has a secret that he is trying to keep from his wife Phyllis - but which she already suspects anyway. After all, how does a cab driver always manage to end up coming home late after always getting last minute fares to the far flung reaches of New York City? It does not help that their marriage is not exactly perfect. Things really start to go haywire when a television repairman manages to fix their television to play a personal channel that plays some programming that Joe really does not want Phyllis to see. The result is a forewarning of an event that Joe desperately wants to avert but which he is unable to. This episode features three well-known names in William Demarest, Joan Blondell and Sterling Holloway (the latter especially well known to devotees of Winnie The Pooh). They are the focus of the entire show and even though Joan Blondell is just a tad over-the-top at times, this is an instance where the performances across the board hit the right mark to propel the story to its inevitable conclusion. Directed by the relatively prolific Twilight Zone helmer Richard L Bare.

    The Mirror (Episode 71, Oct 20 1961, 24:46 minutes) - Ramos Clemente has risen from the ranks of peasant farm workers in a Central American dictatorship to lead a revolution against the incumbent tyrant. However, his accession to the role of revolutionary leader is not a happy one as the recently deposed tyrant issues a sombre warning. The warning quickly eats away at Ramos who soon starts to see assassination conspiracies everywhere - courtesy of a mirror. Nothing really terrific here in this thinly disguised poke at the recent revolutionary regime in Cuba led by Fidel Castro. Lots of clichéd Cuban revolutionaries here and an excruciating performance by Peter Falk (and I thought his Colombo days were pretty bad...) in their own way create an unforgettable episode: this is certainly not a high point in The Twilight Zone oeuvre. Directed by Don Medford.

    The Old Man In The Cave (Episode 127, Nov 8 1963, 25:10 minutes) - The year is 1974 and it is now ten years after the Earth almost managed to completely destroy itself in nuclear war. In a small, isolated community a group of survivors manage to continue their existence with the aid of a mysterious man in a cave whom they have never seen. But their leader Goldsmith seeks out the wisdom of this unseen guardian and returns to present the latest pontifications and prognostications of this guardian. The survivors implicitly follow the prognostications until a group of militia types led by a man named French descends upon the village proclaiming themselves to be the voice of law and order. Wishing to exert their influence over the group, they challenge Goldsmith to reveal the mysterious guardian, which he eventually does with dire consequences to both the guardian and the village. Highlighted by a stoic performance by John Anderson as the self-appointed leader of the community, the appearance of another big name in James Coburn again demonstrates the stature of actor that the show was able to attract. Directed by Alan Crosland, Jr.

Transfer Quality


    The transfer is presented in the usual aspect ratio of television shows of the era, namely 1.33:1.

    This volume really sees a significant improvement in the quality of the transfer across the board, and is easily the best that I have yet seen in the series. Sharpness is generally very good, with very little evidence of lapses at all throughout the DVD. As a result of the improved sharpness, there is also an improvement in the detail on offer here and there is no evidence of the slight murkiness that has hitherto been somewhat inherent in some episodes selected for release. Naturally this is not up to modern film standards across the board but is certainly a welcome improvement in this material. Shadow detail is good. Clarity was also good, with little in the way of grain being noted throughout the transfer. 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 also a general improvement for the series, with What You Need being especially noteworthy as regards the depth of the tones and the definition in the grey scales. This indeed is the single best looking episode yet in all the DVDs I have reviewed from this series. There in general seems to be a lot more depth to the tones in this collection and the grey scales are in general better than good.

    There did not appear to be any significant MPEG artefacts in the transfer. Film-to-video artefacts were significantly reduced in this collection with a marked reduction in the ever-present aliasing which afflicts the series. Whilst still not completely absent and by no means unnoticeable, it is nonetheless an obvious improvement here. The obligatory display of film artefacts is again presented here but on the whole the episodes are cleaner than most I have yet seen - and once again What You Need is a standout in this regard.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-to-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The usual standard of two soundtracks are on offer on the DVD, being Dolby Digital 1.0 efforts in English or French.

    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.

    The only episode here to have music credits is What You Need, which comes from Van Cleave. Whilst not especially terrific, it is at least better than the omnipresent stock sources used for the other episodes on the DVD.

    Another virtually identical audio transfer to the earlier volumes in the series. Not an awful lot to say really, although What You Need is blessed with a slightly hissy soundtrack, especially noticeable during the closing credits. The soundtracks are generally free from any significant distortion or congestion and this is generally very decent sounding mono.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    Once again we continue along in the same vein, although the Reviews and Credits have lost the credits bit again.


Biography - Rod Serling

Production Notes - History Of The Twilight Zone

Production Notes - Season By Season

Reviews and Credits


    As far as we have been able to ascertain, there are no censorship issues with this title.

R4 vs R1

    The same as the Region 1 version in broad terms, the Region 4 version would be the version of choice owing to PAL formatting.


    The Twilight Zone - Volume 17 is not exactly the most memorable collection of episodes, but the improved video transfer certainly lifts this one somewhere close to top of the tree in that department. Certainly there is nothing here to stop the fans of the series from adding this to their collection, but perhaps not the best place for non-fans to start, other than for the significantly improved video transfers.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris (have a laugh, check out the bio)
7th May, 2001.

Review Equipment
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