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
|Year Released||1959 - 1963|
|Running Time||100:22 minutes|
|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|
|Theatrical Aspect Ratio||1.33:1||
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||Yes, minor in credits|
Happens to me all the time. Funnily enough, it usually happens when I get home from work and sit down to do some reviewing. Yes, yet another volume in the ongoing series from Warner Vision Australia of this ground breaking series comes to the top of the review pile. Pondering some sort of witty introduction to this review, it struck me that here I am again reviewing yet another The Twilight Zone collection and I have yet to come close to tiring of the task. Indeed, the presence of these DVDs in the review pile often serve as some form of reward for reviewing something less compelling. Now I know that I am not entirely normal in my views about these sorts of things (heck, I have had plenty of feedback to let me know this!), but what exactly is the attraction about The Twilight Zone? I know I have pondered this question before, but every so often it comes to the surface and commands some sort of reflection thereon. The answer may change, based upon whatever influences me at the time, but one thing that does remain constant is the knowledge that I never watched this much Zone on the television! And that is something that really does perplex me more and more.
What is it that makes these DVD presentations so enjoyable such that no matter how many I watch, I still look forward to the next one? Aside from watching a series that borders on being iconic in nature, I really wish I could pin down the answer to this question. Still, does it really bother me if I enjoy the task as much as I do? Not really!
The episodes on offer on Volume 18, in the running order on the DVD, are:
I Shot An Arrow Into The Air (Episode 15, Jan 15 1960, 24:44 minutes) - Arrow 1 is the world's first manned space mission (remember that the episode predates the escapades of Yuri Gagarin) and everything seems to go well with the launch. Inexplicably, contact is lost with the spacecraft and ground control has no idea what has happened. The astronauts do though! The rather largish crew apparently crashed on an asteroid with dire consequences. Several are killed outright and another dies shortly after the crash: the rest of the crew are faced with the prospect of trying to survive on this desolate piece of rock in the cosmos. As the prospects for survival diminish as quickly as the water is drunk, the mission commander slowly but surely loses control of the group as self-preservation freak Corey ruthlessly pursues his right to life - with somewhat dire consequences for the other survivors. But the mysterious symbol drawn by one survivor points to the futility of the whole episode. Aside from the fact that modern space flight has highlighted the rather gaping holes in the concept of manned space flight circa 1960, the episode is let down somewhat by some unnecessarily over-the-top acting from Dewey Martin and Edward Binns. Directed by Stuart Rosenberg.
Death Ship (Episode 108, Feb 7 1963, 50:39 minutes) - The second of the hour length episodes to appear on DVD, this is one that is certainly remembered. Earth in 1997 is an overpopulated planet and spacecraft are dispatched into the cosmos to find planets suitable for habitation. So it is that the three astronauts on spacecraft E-89 find themselves investigating yet another potential planet, when they discover something rather odd that entices them to land on the planet for further investigation. The anomaly that drew them down turns out to be a wrecked spacecraft awfully similar to their and in which they discover their own bodies. What was the strange sequence of events that resulted in this state of affairs, and exactly what should they do about it? Captain Paul Ross is determined to discover the logical answer to the enigma, but logic does not always have a place in The Twilight Zone. This episode is well-remembered for a number of reasons, but not the least of which is the decidedly B-grade spacecraft effects! This is an episode firmly planted in those B-grade sci-fi flicks of the 1950s and 1960s and these effects really have not worn well in the passage of time. However, the episode is also remembered as it has one of the better screenplays of the hour long episodes from Series 4 and there are just enough subtle twists here to sustain the length of the show. Highlighted by a slightly stoic performance from Jack Klugman, the episode was directed by Don Medford.
Still Valley (Episode 76, Nov 24 1961, 24:59 minutes) - The setting is The American Civil War and confederate scouts are out looking for the Union soldiers. Outside of a small town, they hear the sounds of the Union troops moving into the town - until an immediate silence permeates the valley. The lead scout heads down into the town to discover what has happened - fully expecting the worst - and is stunned by what he finds. Hardly crediting what he is seeing, the answer is provided by an old man and his book. He gives the scout the answer to the Confederacy's biggest problem - a way to win the war, but at slight cost. To do so, an alliance must be forged with a rather unsavoury ally. Starring Mr Bette Davis (Gary Merrill), this is a small episode in the overall series and really smacks of being a series filler in many ways. Nonetheless, a nice change of pace with respect to the out-of-this-world nature of the other two episodes on the DVD. Directed by James Sheldon.
After the significant improvement in the technical quality of the previous volume in the series, there was some niggling thought of expecting a slight reversal here in quality. Thankfully, that really did not happen and whilst not quite as good, there is certainly nothing in this volume to really complain about. Whilst the first episode on the DVD is a little dark, which results in some degradation in detail and shadow detail, it is not especially bothersome. Overall, this is another example of a decently sharp transfer that continues a refreshing trend towards improvement in this area. There is good to excellent definition throughout and an overall decency to the detail that is hard to fault in source material of this age. Indeed, at times the detail is a little too good as the sparsity of the sets at times in Death Ship does not really come up especially well in the digital domain. As suggested, shadow detail remains good and clarity is again very nice with no real evidence of grain problems here at all. There does not appear to be any real issues with low level noise in the transfers.
As indicated, I Shot An Arrow Into The Air is just a little dark in the transfer which does not really aid a natural feel to the greyscale here, but other than that there is nothing much to complain about in the black and white presentation. Perhaps Death Ship demonstrates just a little more in the way of shades of grey rather than black and white, but the result is nothing at all objectionable.
There did not appear to be any significant MPEG artefacts in the transfer. Once again there is a noticeable improvement in the aliasing problems prevalent in other volumes, such that really there is very little in the way of film-to-video artefacts present in the transfer. Film artefacts were just a little more prevalent here, especially in I Shot An Arrow Into The Air, which seems to include some stock footage that is especially plagued with nice black dirt marks and the like. Whilst a little disappointing, the result is certainly no worse than we could reasonably expect in material of this age and it is balanced by the other two episodes which are relatively clean.
Of note is the fact that Death Ship
does not have a title still prior to the episode showing the date of first
airing, which seems a little odd since the other two episodes do have them.
The dialogue for all episodes was clear and easy to understand, and there did not appear to be any audio sync problems in the two final episodes on the DVD. However it should be noted that the dialogue work on the first episode is not the best and it consistently gives the impression that it is very marginally out of sync.
Once again the ever useful stock sources contribute the music for two of the episodes with only Still Valley having any music credits. The music for that episode comes from Wilbur Hatch, and really is nothing overly exciting or memorable.
Apart from the fact that the first two episodes on
the DVD have noticeably hissy soundtracks, these are generally identical
audio transfers to those on earlier volumes in the series. I Shot
An Arrow Into The Air is by far the most noticeably hissy soundtrack
and it does get a little grating at times - at least until your ears become
accustomed to the extraneous noise. The soundtracks are generally free
from any significant distortion or congestion and this is generally very
decent sounding mono.
|Surround Channel Use|
© Ian Morris (have
a laugh, check out the bio)
9th May, 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|