Saturday, June 14, 2014

REVIEW: The Twilight Zone: Essential Episodes (55th Anniversary Collection) - A Best of the Zone Compendium

Having reviewed the entire set of Twilight Zones from a similar collection of the last year, I want to let you know that this is the same type of product we've discussed before. The quality is good, not HD/Blu-ray but it's perfectly great to watch a show filmed int he 60's. Never you worry. The Essential Episodes collection really is a best of  17 episodes that have that spark. These are episodes that are nearly always playing during the July 4th or New Year's Eve marathon. 

Before we get run through each of the episodes with a brief note on each, let me say that I recommend this release to fans of the Zone. If you're not sure whether you need to buy the whole collection just now, pick up just the essentials. It's a great stocking stuffer and a truly excellent way to surprise someone who needs to have a different point of view imparted on him from the fifth dimension.

• Walking Distance - not one of my favorite zones, but I will say that none of them are exactly bad. This is a great way to rid your regrets of which we surely all let consume us sooner or later if only for a short time.

• Time Enough at Last - Burgess Meredith really did stun a few folks with this tale of a bank worker who just wanted a little time to read a book. Well, I get that. Finding time to write while life is happening, while my day job consumes... it's enough to make you wish for an atom bomb while being trapped in a fault. I wonder if I could figure out how to make a Blu-ray player work in the post-nuclear age.

• The Hitch-Hiker - Going... my way. I love the cadence in the hitchhiker's voice. This is one of the first Zone's I ever had the chance to enjoy. It's stuck with me and on occasion it even gets under my skin. Listen to the sultry sound of the hitchhiker's voice and feel the terror that he will always be there. He will follow you until your death.

• The Monsters are Due on Maple Street - Ah the witch hunt episode of the Twilight Zone. This is one of my favorite ones. It remains relevant to this day and shows the worst side of humanity, a side we get to see only too often.

• A Stop at Willoughby - when I used to drink, I'd watch this episode on repeat all night long. I identified with the protagonist. I truly felt that there was a better world somewhere older, some time lost. The hustle and the bustle and the crazy and the noise and the stress... it catches up with you. Man did I just love Willoughby. I didn't really want to go there I suppose, but I understood the lead so well that it became impossible not to agree with his desire.

• The After Hours - Mannequins talking. It's miraculously creepy, and even though you know the punchline by now, it's easy to forget just what it's like to see a human voice transposed onto an inanimate object.

• The Howling Man - I had only seen this one recently, not growing up with it as a child, but it was always advertised on those Time Life commercials as one of the most important episodes. This is true fantastical Sci-Fi with a hint of original and perfect irony.

• The Eye of the Beholder - No change at all! That's the line that sticks with me. That and the poor, unfortunate victim's screams that she wants the bandages to come off. This is one of the episodes that has me waking up in the middle of the night thinking that I've awoken in a strange pigfaced world, and of course I haven't really yet.

• Nick of Time - This is the superior William Shatner episode of the Zone. We've all gone to the fortune teller or opened up a fortune cookie, been a little superstitious... or maybe a lotta superstitious. Shatner's lines are perfect, the couple is lovable and the damn fortune telling devil head is cool as Hell.

• The Invaders - This was another one of my first episodes and the twist at the end has stuck to me. This also has produced some very handsome collectible toys in recent years. The fact that the entire episode is nearly dialogue-free is pure genius.

• The Obsolete Man - this is another relatively new Zone for me featuring Burgess Meredith. I'm not sure that I would have said this is essential. For me The Dummy fits in better in this particular spot, but the once again Meredith is man who loves books and this time... maybe he sort of wins? Check it out.

• It’s a Good Life - Twilight Zone the movie did a great redo of this one, but the original is just terrifying. Children with absolute power are almost as scary as adults with absolute power. Well acted and some effects and camera play that shocks to this day. Frightening. Absolutely essential.

• The Midnight Sun - Maybe this one could be relevant to us now if we just think of it terms of global warming, but the concept of the Earth being knocked off its orbit and thrust toward the sun or elsewhere isn't entirely believable. Still, I always turn the AC up just a couple notches more when it comes on.

• To Serve Man - This has classic Twilight Zone library music that has been used in just about every low budget horror movie of the late 60's and early 70's. The story of strangely friendly aliens come to earth to save humanity is a familiar one, especially when the dinner bells rings. This might be the first episode I ever watched during the Twilight Zone marathon on Channel 11 WPIX as a kid. I remember the entire day and this episode and even the commercials. I had a great time at my uncle's house and watched the Zone late into the night.

• Nightmare at 20,000 Feet - I like the Twilight Zone The Movie remake better. That's blasphemy, but if it wasn't for this classic and the performance afforded by William Shatner we might not have seen John Lithgow make the crazy eyes and see a little demon the wing of an airplane. I always though the creature in the Shatner version looked like characters that belong in the Air Man level of Megaman 2.

• Living Doll - Telly Savalas is one bad mamma jamma in this one. It's a fantastic episode filled with genuine scares, a good moral and some top notch acting. As a stepdad myself, I actually think back to this episode all the time just to keep myself in check. I may not be the bastard like Savalas in the show, but you never know what little dolls think of parents calling a time out or grounding every once in awhile.

• The Masks - Man wouldn't those masks make the best Halloween costumes. Somebody should probably get on releasing a set of them. They don't have to be high quality. Maybe just paper mache? With a healthy twist and a clear victor in the battle over bad behavior, The Masks should be enjoyed in much the same way as Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory should. 

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