When I was a kid, The Twilight Zone scared the hell out of me. It’s wasn’t that it was a scary show, or that any one particular episode stood out as particularly terrifying, but, rather, the series’ nightmarish quality that bothered me so much. From its surreal title sequence to its patented twist ending, the show always managed to pull the rug out from under my tiny, impressionable feet, and creator Rod Serling’s predilection for decidedly downbeat endings made it all the more distressing. Rarely did Serling’s subjects emerge unscathed, although, oftentimes that was precisely the point. Whether the subject was time travel, magic, aliens, or death, itself, the episodes almost invariably revolved around a person or persons wanting something they shouldn’t/couldn’t have, getting said thing, and then, ultimately, regretting it. Who can forget episodes like “Time Enough at Last”, where Burgess Meredith plays an anti-social bookworm who, after an atomic attack that wipes out the rest of mankind finally affords him the time and solitude to live out his dream existence, breaks his glasses; or “A Short Drink from a Certain Fountain”, in which an man imbibes a youth serum to make himself more appealing to his callous younger wife only to find himself a child who grows to watch her age. While, of course, not every episode of The Twilight Zone revolved around this theme, the episodes that did were the ones that stuck with me the most, and have since grown to become favorites.
The second season of the series, now available on Blu-ray courtesy of Image Entertainment, features many such episodes, including the excellent “The Man in the Bottle”, in which a genie grants a destitute shop owner four wishes, each of which lead to much bigger problems (including a rather hilarious bit where the man wishes for power and finds himself in a certain dictator’s body whilst the allies storm Belin). In “The Thing About Machines”, we meet Bartlett Finchley, a technophobe whose hatred of machines brings about the startling revelation that said hatred is mutual! Amongst my favorites of the season, “The Rip Van Winkle Caper” best captures the classic “be careful what you wish for” plot device, with a group of gold thieves putting themselves in suspended animation for a century only to awaken in a world in which gold is worthless! It’s episodes like these that showcase what a darkly humorous and inventive writer Serling was.
Other standouts in the set include the classic “Eye of the Beholder”, in which a woman we are led to believe is disfigured is revealed to be a beauty living in a world in which disfigurement is the norm! Another fan favorite, “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up” centers on a group of disparate folks at a roadside diner where one of the customers may or may not be a visitor from another planet. This episode features some of the series’ lighter moments, as well as a scene-stealing turn from a young Jack Elam.
Like every series, The Twilight Zone has its share of misfires, and this season features a couple of shrug-inducing episodes (including the overwrought “King Nine Will Not Return” and the schmaltzy “Mr. Dingle, The Strong”, the first of two season two episodes starring Burgess Meredith), but, like the superlative first season, this second season of The Twilight Zone features much more good than bad, and it’s a kick to see these episodes in such fine form on Blu-ray.
Presented in their original 1.33:1 aspect ratio, the image quality is, quite frankly, superb, especially given the age of the source material. These are some clean looking transfers, I’ll tell ya! There’s hardly a speck or a fleck to be had, with only the finest layer of pleasing grain throughout. The level of detail is high, especially in close-ups, while edges are well defined, and deep true blacks lend a nice sense of depth and dimension. The picture is complemented by a very clean mono soundtrack that’s surprisingly robust, with crisp sounding dialogue and a wonderfully nuanced score.
Extras are abundant, with all 29 episodes featuring a variety of episode-specific offerings, ranging from isolated score tracks to all-new commentaries (25 in all!), as well as interviews, vintage sponsor messages, behind-the-scenes photos (some in color!), and episode radio reenactments featuring a host of celebrity voice performances, including Jason Alexander, Jim Caviezel, Henry Rollins, Jane Seymour, and several others.
Twilight Zone fans who already own Image’s excellent Blu-ray presentation can attest to the amount of care and attention to detail Image put into that set, and I’m happy to say that the company have given the same amount of consideration to season two. The series has never looked and sounded so good, and the bountiful extras offer hours of added entertainment. Highly recommended!
The 29 episodes in the collection are as follows–
King Nine Will Not Return
The Man in the Bottle
Nervous Man in a Four-Dollar Room
A Thing About Machines
The Howling Man
Eye of the Beholder
Nick of Time
The Lateness of the Hour
The Trouble with Templeton
A Most Unusual Camera
The Night of the Meek
The Whole Truth
A Penny for Your Thoughts
The Odyssey of Flight 33
Mr. Dingle, the Strong
The Prime Mover
Long Distance Call
A Hundred Yards over the Rim
The Rip Van Winkle Caper
The Mind and the Matter
Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?
The Obsolete Man.