There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone.
Thus began the opening of one of the most influential shows on television, Rod Serling’s “The Twilight Zone”. Beginning in 1959 and going through to 1965, the run of the original series opened doors for sci-fi to be taken seriously by adults, and to scare the snot out of little children. Viewers never knew what to expect, and even decades after it aired, knowing the endings still does little to take away the often uneasy surprises that lurked at the conclusion of each 30 minute show.
Image Entertainment has been releasing the complete series of the show on DVD since last year, and this Summer they have released a special collection in honor of the 55th anniversary, “The Twilight Zone: Essential Episodes”. Featuring 17 episodes on two DVDs, this collection truly has the most well-known classics that fans have come to love, giving many young actors their break throughs in the business, as well as offering veterans another chance to shine. Here is the full episode list with a rundown of the stars:
• Walking Distance (with Ron Howard)
• Time Enough at Last (Starring Burgess Meredith)
• The Hitch-Hiker (With Leonard Strong and Inger Stevens)
• The Monsters are Due on Maple Street
• A Stop at Willoughby (with James Daly)
• The After Hours
• The Howling Man (with John Carradine and H.M. Wynant)
• The Eye of the Beholder (with Donna Douglas)
• Nick of Time
• The Invaders
• The Obsolete Man
• It’s a Good Life
• The Midnight Sun (with Lois Nettleton and Betty Garde)
• To Serve Man (with Richard Kiel)
• Nightmare at 20,000 Feet (starring William Shatner)
• Living Doll (With Telly Suvalas and June Foray as the voice of “Talky Tina”)
• The Masks
I don’t feel the need to review every single episode on this since I am not reviewing the series, just this DVD set. I can say that this is really the best way to introduce a new generation to this classic series, as well as a way for the casual fan to relive the twists and turns of episodes like “The Eye of the Beholder”, “To Serve Man”, and “The Midnight Sun”, ironic endings like “Time Enough at Last” and “The Masks”, and social commentary that is still relevant, such as “The Monsters are due on Maple Street”. Plus, don’t forget the straight-up frightening and creepy like “Living Doll” and “The Howling Man.”
While there were many great episodes, the word is “essential” is important to use here, rather than saying “the best of”. A title like “best” is subjective, but calling this “essential” would be a very accurate description of what you are getting with this two-disc set. Lucky for me, most of these were already my favorites so having this set completes what I want to watch and show people of this show to whet their appetites for more (although it is missing two personal favorites, “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?” and “Five Characters in Search of an Exit”) . Plus, you don’t have to sit through some of the “meh” episodes (cough “Mr. Bevis” cough), making this the textbook of “Twilight Zone” collections.
The video quality and audio is great on these DVD’s, shown in their original aspect ratio. With over seven hours of content squeezed into these two discs, there was no room for any special features which would have been very cool to have (maybe a mini-doc or commentary on certain episodes), but they have to save something for the big 60th anniversary. This is a bare-bones set and that is not necessarily a problem, since this is a budget set in some ways, but a very smartly packaged way of selling a budget set.
You can order Twilight Zone: Essential Episodes (55th Anniversary Collection) from Amazon.com for under $20, and is the perfect price for the perfect collection of Twilight Zone episodes. It’s perfect for a Halloween party to pop into the DVD player and just leave on, and is a superb way to keep the series on your shelves without taking up extra space with full season sets. I don’t need to talk much about how good the show was since we all already know that for a fact, so take a step into the Twilight Zone once again and try to find your way out.