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Nearly forty years after its debut, THE TWILIGHT ZONE remains the single greatest anthology series to ever appear on television. Rod Serling was the man behind THE TWILIGHT ZONE. Serling, who emerged from television’s golden age, was a true visionary. Not only was Serling the series creator and primary writer, he also served as it’s on screen narrator, executive producer and overall driving force for five seasons. Sure, not every episode was an out and out classic, but the hits far outweighed the misses. That is why DVD collectors should consider themselves lucky that Panasonic Interactive Media has licensed all 156 episodes for release on the fledgling format.

The first release, TREASURES OF THE TWILIGHT ZONE ($25), features three episodes, two of which do not appear in the television syndication package. First up is the pilot episode "Where is everybody?" starring Earl Holliman and James Gregory. Holliman portrays Mike Ferris, an amnesiac wearing Air Force jumpsuit who finds himself wandering into a small town completely devoid of life. While Ferris cannot find anyone in the town, everywhere he goes he discovers evidence indicating that people were present only moments before. Things grow stranger when Ferris becomes convinced that he is continually being watched by some unseen intelligence. "Where is everybody?" is atmospheric and creepy. Holliman delivers a solid performance as a man slowly succumbing to the pressure of his situation. This episode also features music by the legendary Bernard Herrmann.

Most likely due to the racial implications of its story "The Encounter" was withheld from syndication. This two character drama stars Neville Brand as a former marine that took a Samurai sword as a trophy off dead Japanese officer during W.W.II and George Takei as a Japanese-American gardener. The two men find themselves trapped in an attic where ghosts of the past and the samurai sword soon have the two locked in mortal combat. "The Encounter" is a well written episode by Martin Goldsmith that features two strong central performances that drive the tension up to an excruciating level.

The final episode on this collection didn’t start out as an episode of THE TWILIGHT ZONE. "An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge" was originally a highly regarded French short subject that went on to win an Academy Award- a first for THE TWILIGHT ZONE. Based upon a short story by Ambrose Bierce, "An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge" is set during the American Civil War and tells the story a Confederate spy facing execution at the hands of Union soldiers. The condemned man is going to be hung from a high bridge that crosses a river. Our protagonist knows that death is at hand when a noose is placed around his neck and the plank he is standing on is pulled out from under him. Just when all appears lost, the rope breaks and he plunges into the river. For the rest of the film, the escaped prisoner makes his way home to his wife and family. Of course, in the tradition of THE TWILIGHT ZONE, "An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge" contains the expected twist ending that makes this virtually silent French short subject a true classic.

The technical quality of Panasonic’s release of TREASURES OF THE TWILIGHT ZONE really can’t be faulted. All three black and white episodes look better than they do on television. Detail is high and the contrast level was quite pleasing. Sure, episodic television never achieved the visual quality of feature films, but I’m sure that fans of THE TWILIGHT ZONE will be tickled by this presentation. Digital compression artifacts were well masked by solid DVD authoring. The digital monaural soundtrack had no discernable problems and always remained clean and intelligible.

The interactive menus had an appropriate interface with animation, music and sound. Implementation of the interface wasn’t as smooth as it could have been, but it was never truly bothersome. Through the interactive menus one can select episodes, plus the DVD’s supplemental features. Chief supplement is a Mike Wallace interview with Rod Serling. The interview is great despite the low quality of this early television recording. There is also a "pitch" film that Serling made to sell THE TWILIGHT ZONE, this film isn’t in pristine condition either, but it is fun and worth having for it’s historical value. There is also a Rod Serling biography, plus episode reviews and historical information on THE TWILIGHT ZONE. The information scrolls by a little too fast for casual readers and perhaps viewing it a page at a time would have been a better idea. Teasers for "next week’s episode" of THE TWILIGHT ZONE have also been included.

I for one am a huge fan of THE TWILIGHT ZONE and applaud Panasonic’s efforts to bring the series to DVD. Hopefully future editions will smooth over the rough spots contained in the interface of their first DVDs. Recommended.




DVD reviews are Copyright 1998 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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