Four directors collaborated to remake four episodes of the popular television series 'The Twilight Zone' for this movie. The episodes are updated slightly and in color (the television show was in black-and-white), but very true to the originals, where eerie and disturbing situations gradually spin out of control. Written by
Tad Dibbern <DIBBERN_D@a1.mscf.upenn.edu>
As is the case with movie anthologies, "Twilight Zone - The Movie" is hit and miss. If there was a movie destined to have four short stories that were all home runs it was this one. But the film falls short partially due to the expectations of the fans of the TV show and partially due to the fans expectations of the results of the four directors. What was most interesting back in 1983 was which ones hit and which ones missed.
The prologue gets things going in the right direction with Albert Brooks and Dan Aykroyd as two guys traveling down a dark and seemingly lonely road. What transpires in pure Twilight Zone. Then we move into the first story which is directed by (as was the opening prologue) John Landis. Landis, who got the whole project off the ground, foolishly decided to go with an original story instead of updating a classic episode. His story is that of a bigot who constantly and bitterly complains about the minorities who are getting job promotions and moving into his neighborhood. Of course the bigot then gets a real taste of what it feels like to be frowned upon as a minority. Basically that is the whole story in a nutshell. Landis provides no real twists to his story to give us that Twilight Zone flavor after the first few minutes. Once we see where the story is headed it never changes directions. For film buffs Landis adds a nice touch with a subtle reference to his classic "Animal House" in the Vietnam section of the story. Of course it should be noted that this was the story being shot when Vic Morrow and two children were tragically killed which would explain its abrupt ending. The two children are never seen which would suggest perhaps Landis had more to tell but we'll never know. Of the four this is the weakest story.
Story two is not much better then the first which is particularly surprising since Steven Spielberg is at the helm for this one. It's a remake of "Kick the Can" which was not one of my favorite episodes from the series and Spielberg adds nothing to his version. It's the tale of residents of an old folks home who encounter a new resident who promises them something no one of this Earth could possibly give them. While the story and individual moments are very sweet it goes absolutely nowhere. Having just come off "E.T." perhaps Spielberg was in that same gushy mood at that time.
Story three picks things up drastically and heads us in the right direction. Directed by Joe Dante who, at that time, was best known for "The Howling" with films such as "Gremlins" still in his future, this is the story of a little boy who hears people's thoughts and has a way of "wishing people away" if he gets angry enough at them. Kathleen Quinlan plays an unsuspecting traveler who goes to the boy's home and realizes almost immediately things are not normal. The star of this story is the art direction and sets as we are transformed into almost cartoon like worlds that are both funny and frightening.
The last and best story is the tale of a frightened airline passenger (well played by John Lithgow) who threatens the safety of everyone when he seems to be the only person that sees a creature on the wing of the airplane. George Miller, best known for the "Mad Max" movies, was smart enough to pick a popular episode from the series and he delivers with a bang. When you leave the theater this is the story you remember most.
On the whole the film is worth watching especially after the first 45 minutes. Landis and Spielberg perhaps were a little too high on their horses and thought whatever they did would work. Apparently they under estimated the legions of Zone fans. I'd love to see someone try another Twilight Zone movie someday and try re-working some of the other most famous episodes. I should also mention the terrific musical score by Jerry Goldsmith. Its one of his least mentioned but I think it's one of his best.
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