You know a TV show is a classic when it's around 50 years later and you still want to watch every single episode over and over. Rod Serling's 'Twilight Zone' is as classic as television comes. Premiering in 1959, Serling took audiences on trips of the mind and imagination that, at that time, were never thought possible. From Sci-fi, to horror, and even a few episodes that could be considered fantasy here and there 'Twilight Zone' is one of the few shows that can still capture the imagination after so much time has already passed.
Most TV shows follow around the same characters doing the same things. That's partly why the 'Twilight Zone always felt so fresh and new. Each week was a new story, a new set of characters, and new circumstances. Some of them were very serious like in "Walking Distance" when Martin Sloan suddenly finds himself back in time in his hometown. Others had very comedic and light-hearted overtones, like the episode "Escape Clause," where a hypochondriac makes a deal with the devil for immortality.
Each and every story has something to say about the human condition, something deep within the recesses of our own minds and hearts. What would we do if we were thrust back in time to find out what made us happy? Would we go completely nuts if we were left on an asteroid miles from Earth for a crime we didn't commit?
Serling's stories always captured perfectly, a single human emotion that made it easy to relate to the characters in the story. In the "Sixteen Millimeter Shrine" a lovely actress battles with her pride as she's no longer the sexy starlet she once was. "Where is Everybody" features a man combating loneliness as he finds out the city he's in is completely deserted.
Such simple characters, with simple yet strong emotions. That's what the 'Twilight Zone was best at conveying. That's what keeps everyone coming back for more, even 50 years later. I know that's what keeps me coming back. The stories transcend time. Sure some of the futuristic stuff in "The Lonely" looks hokey by today's standard, but the production design and special effects were never the centerpiece of a 'Twilight Zone' episode. The human struggle with internal emotions always took center stage. Nowadays we're bombarded by movies and TV shows that have us ogling at the latest and greatest in CGI, leaving little to be discovered about the actual characters that populate the show. The 'Twilight Zone' allowed us, in a mere half an hour, to become acquainted with a new person, and feel for their plight.
'The Twilight Zone' is the quintessential character driven drama. We feel for these characters mostly because we've had the same types of feelings they're having. The way Serling tapped into the human consciousness is still one of the crowning achievements of TV.
It's wonderful to see Serling's classic show brought to new life on Blu-ray. Now we can all enjoy these original stories in high definition. It's true I've done nothing but praise the show throughout this review, but after such a long time 'The Twilight Zone' still has a hold on people. That counts for a lot. Let's hope for all of our sakes, Image Entertainment sees the value in releasing each and every season of this show, so we don't get stuck owning only two or three seasons on Blu-ray.
'The Twilight Zone' is infinitely rewatchable. You can revisit it any time, even if it's your favorite episodes over and over, and get something new from it. I just flat out love the show!
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
The set comes packaged in a nice sturdy keepcase that has swinging arms inside that hold four discs back to back, while the fifth disc is inset with a disc hub in the back. As far as I'm concerned all TV seasons should come with this exact same packaging. It's easy to get discs in and out, and you don't feel like you're going to break them (take note Universal!).
The set comes complete with 5 50GB Blu-ray Discs. A pamphlet is included that you'll definitely want to keep. It's thin paper, which is a shame because over time it will become worn, but for right now it looks good. It gives each episode name, a synopsis of the episode, when it originally aired, and the special features you can expect to experience with each episode. It's a great guide to a great set. A cardboard slipcover is also provided, but it has the exact same artwork as the Blu-ray case has, so no surprises there. Each episode features Rod Serling's preview for the next episode, which I thought was really nice to have. Each disc also has a Play All feature.
If you're a real 'Twilight Zone' fan and you picked up the DVD versions when they came out take a minute and pop those in. Check out the video quality. They're not bad, but still, they could use a lot of work, especially in the contrast and detail departments. Now stick in the Blu-rays. Compare them. You'll be able to see right off the bat that you're getting an astounding visual upgrade. Absolutely astounding.
Remastered from the original film negatives, these Blu-rays feature crisp and clear 1080p detail, the likes of which you've never seen before during this show. Where the DVD contrast was totally blown up out of control, here the image is filled with subtle shades of gray that add perfect depth and dimensionality to the picture. With this remastering also comes a heavy improvement in the fine detail that is visible. Wow, some of the scenes look like they were filmed only a couple years ago in black and white. The detail is amazing. From individual hairs on people's heads to the faint stubble on some of the main characters.
Comparing this to the DVD is no contest. It's completely and totally worth the upgrade. Where the DVD was almost just black and white, the Blu-ray offers a completely different more realistic picture that fans have been clamoring for. When deep blacks are applied to the picture they appear perfectly inky with adding detailed shadows that are never crushing.
If there's one complaint it's source noise. It's expected that there be some source noise due to age, but take the episode "Escape Clause" for example. The source noise runs rampant during that entire episode, especially during the opening scenes where the devil is making his deal for the man's soul. The noise comes in all shapes and sizes, from tiny white flecks to larger ones that appear to be hair or some other foreign object that found its way onto the film. There is a layer of grain to the picture, but it only adds to its realism and filmic look.
Barring the source noise, the rest of this video presentation is downright brilliant. It's free from technical anomalies like blocking, aliasing, or banding. The noise can be looked over since the rest of the presentation is wonderful. Kudos on the work you put into this fine presentation Image Entertainment. They've really shown here that they care deeply about the fans of this show and have provided a top-notch video presentation to please each and every one of us.
'The Twilight Zone' on Blu-ray comes complete with a restored 2.0 uncompressed PCM mono track. Using the two front channels only this audio gives us a surprisingly lively soundfield, which is able to handle all of the dialogue, musical soundtrack, and sound effects without skipping a beat. From Serling's tight-lipped introduction, to his always fantastic conclusions the audio on this release shines.
Dialogue is presented cleanly through the front channels. Dialogue is always audible and never muffled. All sound is presented in the two front channels giving the presentation a feeling of directionality even though the same audio is being pumped through both channels. The famous musical soundtrack is given ample room to breathe, adding suspense to every scene. It's really nice that they didn't try and force a surround sound experience out of this. I'm glad they stuck with the 2.0 presentation and didn't risk it sounding totally unrealistic had they remixed the track for a 5.1 arrangement.
There are a few episodes that feature some hissing in the soundtrack, one of them being the episode "Judgment Night." Like the source noise in the video presentation, hiccups like this are to be expected. If the hissing continued throughout the entire season then we'd have real problems, but it seems that it's only isolated to a few of the episodes.
While the audio portion doesn't offer as much of a jaw-dropping production as the newly restored video does, it holds its own and offers us the best sound 'Twilight Zone' we can have on home video at the moment.
The special features on this set are extensive to say the least. I would almost use the word "overwhelming" to describe all the features this set contains. While I adore Image Entertainment's willingness to provide for the fans, this feels a little like special feature overload. They've set the bar high though, so it means that if they start skimping on extras on the subsequent releases, people are going to get mad.
Since the features are categorized in the menu under each episode I'm going to divide them here by discs and then episodes.
Note: In order to get this review up in a timely fashion, I couldn't listen to each and every audio commentary in its entirety. In order to get this review to all of you great readers before next year, I sampled portions of the numerous commentaries, and overall, they offer great wells of information about each and every episode. The commentaries where Serling is lecturing at Sherman Oaks College are fascinating, but hard to hear.
Episode 1: "Where is Everybody?"
Episode 2: "One for the Angels"
Episode 3: "Mr. Denton on Doomsday"
Episode 4: "The Sixteen Millimeter Shrine"
Episode 5: "Walking Distance"
Episode 6: "Escape Clause"
Episode 7: "The Lonely"
Episode 8: "Time Enough at Last"
Episode 11: "And When the Sky Was Opened"
Episode 21: "Mirror Image"
Episode 24: "Long Live Walter Jameson"
Episode 25: "People Are Alike All Over"
Episode 30: "A Stop at Willoughby"
Episode 31: "The Chaser"
Episode 34: "The After Hours"
Episode 36: "A World of His Own"
When I heard that Image Entertainment would finally be releasing 'The Twilight Zone' on Blu-ray I was excited to say the least. Like many other fans out there, I've wanted for years to see one of the best TV shows of all time come to high definition. Image Entertainment hasn't disappointed with their release. It features video I just never thought possible. These look amazing. Simply amazing. The restored 2.0 sound is also fantastic, and the extras just keep going and going. There are so many extras here that you may face extras overload like I did, but hand it to Image for not skimping. They've pulled out all the stops to release season one of the 'The Twilight Zone' the best way possible. This is one of the best Blu-ray releases of the year and quite possibly one of the best catalog releases in the history of Blu-ray. This is a must own for sure.