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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.
When I first watched this film at the age of seven, I must have been freaked out for weeks. Never had a movie had that kind of effect on my psyche, especially "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet." While some will label this as a bad film due to the fact it didn't faithfully reproduce the original stories very well. I say 'Who Cares!' Sometimes, fear and entertainment is all that one needs in regard to a cool movie such as this one. While it is certainly not a film that will rank highly in the greatest films of all time category, at least it proved this concept in story telling is pertinent today, even in today's cynical culture.
An affectionate homage to the old TV series. Three old episodes were
updated and a new one was written. It's also narrated by Burgess
Meredith who starred in quite a few of the original TV series episodes.
It starts off with a quick little prologue with Albert Brooks and Dan Aykroyd. It's quick, funny and provides a nice little jolt.
The first segment was newly written for the movie. It involves a bitter and racist man (Vic Morrow) getting a taste of his own medicine. This episode is clouded by the three deaths it caused--Morrow was decapitated by a helicopter blade and two Vitenamese children were crushed. John Landis (who directed this) was found not guilty in the deaths. As it stands this isn't very good. It's simplistic and heavy-handed--like a bad Zone episode.
The second one is directed by Steven Spielberg. It involves an old man (Scatman Crothers) gently bringing to life the old people at a retirement home. I'll be the first to admit that this is way too syrupy--but I have a fondness for it. The acting is good, it has a great music score and, I admit, it leaves me a little misty-eyed.
The third is directed by Joe Dante. It's a remake about a little boy who can make all of his wishes come true. It's well-directed with some truly incredible special effects and a good performance by Kathleen Quinlan. But it's seriously damaged by a silly happy ending (the original didn't have that). Billy Mumy (the star of the original) has a bit part and Dante regular Dick Miller shows up as Walter Paisley.
The fourth is the best. It's directed by George Miller and is a remake of the William Shatner episode where he spots a gremlin tearing apart the plane he's flying on. The gremlin in the original looked pretty ridiculous--like a teddy bear. Here John Lithgow plays the passenger and the gremlin is more than a little scary-looking. This segment moves and has a few great jolts. Also Carol Serling (Rod Serling's wife I believe) has a bit part.
All in all an enjoyable film. I liked it when I saw it in a theatre in 1983 and it still holds up today. I give it an 8.
It is very hard to think of another film anywhere that had such a great
potential as TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE had, only to have a senseless and
totally preventable tragedy--the deaths of actor Vic Morrow and two
illegally hired Asian child actors--mar the impact. Aside from that, and
some heavy-handed moralizing that even the original show's creator Rod
Serling would have had problems with, this is a fairly good tribute to what
was perhaps the best TV series in history.
The prologue (with Dan Aykroyd and Albert Brooks) and Segment 1 are both originals, written and directed by John Landis. The segment deals with a very embittered white man (Morrow) who, after being dealt the denial of a promotion at work in favor of a Jew, unleashes his bigotry at a bar. But when he steps outside, he soon gets a dose of his own bitter medicine: persecution by the Nazis in Vichy France circa 1943; stalked by the KKK in Alabama in 1956; attacked by US soldiers in Vietnam circa 1969. Landis' penchant for hamfisted dialogue and erratic direction dilute what could have been an effective piece; and the tragedy that occurred on his watch taints not only this segment but much of the rest of the movie.
Segment 2, a remake of the 1961 episode "Kick The Can", directed by Steven Spielberg, stars Scatman Crothers as an elderly magician who brings a sense of youth to the residents of a senior citizens home, though over the objections of a veritable old fuddy-duddy (Bill Quinn). Spielberg has often been attacked, mostly unnecessarily, for his tendency toward sloppy sentimentality, but here a lot of the attacks may be justified, despite the best of intentions. He is still my favorite director, but this is one of his weakest.
Segment 3 remakes "It's A Good Life." Under the inventive hands of director Joe Dante (THE HOWLING), this film stars Jeremy Licht as a boy with the power to enslave and terrorize his family when he comes to feel that they hate him. Kathleen Quinlan stars as the teacher who unintentionally gets caught up in the melee, only to wind up volunteering to teach Licht how to better use his powers before they become too big for him to control (a la CARRIE). Dante's use of inventive special effects (courtesy of Rob Bottin) and black comedy enliven this segment, despite some weird overacting from the rest of the segment's cast (including William Schallert and Kevin McCarthy).
Segment 4 is a reworking of the famous episode "Nightmare At 20,000 Feet." With George Miller (MAD MAX) at the director's helm, the segment stars John Lithgow as an incredibly anxious passenger with a morbid fear of flight who constantly sees a monstrous gremlin tearing apart at the wings of his plane during a severe storm. His anxiety explodes into terror and madness, and the other passengers think he is certifiable. But when the plane lands, and the damage is inspected...
The final score on this is that Landis and Spielberg, who also produced, come up with the weaker segments, and Dante and, especially, Miller come up with the best ones. Miller's segment is a truly kinetic piece of suspense and terror, though I did find the little girl (Christina Nigra) an extremely obnoxious and unnecessary presence. Lithgow, who takes over for William Shatner (who had the role in the TV episode), gives a bravura performance, arguably paving the way for his role in "2010" as an astronaut deftly afraid of heights.
Jerry Goldsmith's usual efficient score and some good special effects work help to make TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE not only an above-average tribute to a great TV show, but also a good anthology film that combines fantasy, suspense, and mystery. It is a shame that the film is tainted by a pointless tragedy. But if one can ignore that, there are rewards to be had by seeing this.
"Twilight Zone: The Movie" is a mostly entertaining anthology film based on
Rod Serling's classic TV series of the 1960s. Four bizarre tales are told
through the minds of four different filmmakers: John Landis, Steven
Spielberg, Joe Dante, and George Miller (Landis and Spielberg also
produced). "Twilight Zone: The Movie" starts with a brief prologue starring
Dan Aykroyd and Albert Brooks. Then comes segment #1, directed by Landis.
This is the part of the movie that made headlines around the world when a
freak accident killed actor Vic Morrow and two children while shooting a
helicopter scene (which is not seen in the film). This story is about an
angry man (played by Morrow) who is not happy with America because of all
the different races that are living in the country. Then something strange
happens. When the man steps outside of a bar, he finds himself on a street
in Nazi Germany; a few minutes later he's confronted by the Klu Klux Klan;
then he discovers he's in the middle of the Vietnam War; and so on. As for
how this segment goes, it's only so-so. However segment #2, directed by
Spielberg, is the weakest story of the bunch. Scatman Crothers stars as an
elderly man who comes to live at a retirement home. After making friends
with some of the elderly people living there, he talks them into playing a
spirited game of kick the can. This is no ordinary game. Let's just say that
its a game with a fountain of youth twist to it. I found this segment real
boring. Up to this point, "Twilight Zone: The Movie" is disappointing. But
then the film picks up with the strong last two segments. Segment #3,
directed by Dante, stars Kathleen Quinlan as a woman who meets a little boy
after accidentally knocking him off of his bike with her car. She decides to
give the boy a ride home. But this is no ordinary home. It's a house where
every TV set has a cartoon on, and the boy's family act like a bunch of
crazy people (like their cartoons themselves). Quinlan begins to realize
that this kid is not normal. This segment works because it's creepy (the
look of the house on the inside is fascinating) and funny (every member of
the kid's family is a complete nut). Ah, but the best segment comes last.
Segment #4, directed by Miller, is a truly scary tale starring John Lithgow
(from TV's "3rd Rock From the Sun") as a terrified passenger of an airplane
flying through a severe thunderstorm. Things get worse when Lithgow see's
something on the wing of the plane. What is it? A man? Or is it a monster?
This segment literally had me on the edge of my seat. It's an excellent
finale to "Twilight Zone: The Movie". So my advice is skip the first two
segments, but watch the last two.
Here's my separate ratings for each segment (out of four stars):
Segment #1: **1/2; Segment #2: *1/2; Segment #3: ***1/2; Segment #4: ****
This adds up for an estimated combined rating of *** stars.
After the opening prologue with DAN AKYROYD and ALBERT BROOKS, as bored
drivers on a lonely country highway who like to play pranks, TWILIGHT
ZONE: THE MOVIE offers four stories, supposedly in the vein of stories
that Rod Serling wrote for the famous TV series. Not until the final
segment, NIGHTMARE AT 20,000 FEET does it offer the kind of fright
stuff worthy of being in this anthology.
And it's a minor gem of its kind with JOHN LITHGOW giving an amazingly deft performance as a man totally afraid of flying who should have taken tranquilizers before he peered out the window. What he saw on the wing of the plane would have frightened anyone out of their wits--and, of course, no one believes him.
It's this final episode that makes the film itself worth watching. None of the other segments have enough punch to keep the viewer awake, let alone entertained. VIC MORROW's unfortunate accident came about during filming of a Vietnam sequence which does not appear in this version of the film--but he does give a convincing portrait of a bigot who gets his comeuppance. Very ironic.
Summing up: All of these stories were told with more style and suspense on the old TV shows. Strictly second-rate.
Feature film expansion of legendary TV series is uneven overall, but it
does have its moments, and it does thankfully follow the rule of saving
the best for last. Four prominent directors are brought together to
create, in glorious colour, some classic episodes of the series, with
an impressive roster of stars and character players. At least along the
way it manages to create some enjoyable jolts. Burgess Meredith, star
of 'Time Enough at Last', one of the best known and most beloved of all
episodes, is the narrator for this trip into some bizarre places.
Unfortunately the movie will always have an enormous stigma attached to it due to the untimely and horrific death of actor Vic Morrow and two child extras during the shooting of Segment 1. That may very well leave a bad taste in the mouth of many people watching. It's up to the individual viewer as to how much this affects their enjoyment of the film.
The prologue and the first segment are actually originals written by director John Landis. Dan Aykroyd and Albert Brooks are fun as a passenger and driver who come up some with some amusing ways to entertain each other until Aykroyd decides it's time for Brooks to get a good scare. This gets us off to a good start because Landis does understand that with the TV show the payoff was a most important element.
Segment 1 sees Morrow playing an unrepentant bigot who gets a major dose of his own intolerance when he's mistaken for a Jew by Nazis, a black by KKK members, and a Vietnamese man by American troops in 'Nam. This is a very dark episode that doesn't end too satisfactorily, but Morrow is excellent, the look of Paris during WWII is nicely realized, the pacing is effective, and there's a great in joke referring back to Landis's "Animal House".
Segment 2, Steven Spielberg's remake of "Kick the Can", sees wonderfully genial Scatman Crothers injecting some magic into the lives of senior citizens in an old folks' home. Like Segment 1, it's unfortunately not subtle about its message, and is so syrupy sweet that it really doesn't fit in with the other segments here. The actors are very likable, fortunately; Crothers manages to make it worth sitting through.
Segment 3 tells the tale of "It's a Boy's Life", in which a creepy kid (Jeremy Licht) makes the acquaintance of travelling schoolteacher Kathleen Quinlan. This kid can bend reality to suit his whims, lives in a house with bizarre designs, likes his hamburgers with peanut butter topping, and lives for cartoons. And his "family" lives in mortal terror of him. The work of Joe Dante, this serves as a counterpoint to Spielberg's tale the way that it depicts childish fantasies run amok. Great cartoon style monster work by Rob Bottin helps in the enjoyment of this segment; this is where the film starts getting really good. Bill Mumy, the kid in the original episode, plays a diner patron.
Segment 4, directed by George Miller of the "Mad Max" series, is far and away the best, an over the top remake of "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet", in which terrified airplane passenger John Lithgow believes he sees a creature busy destroying the planes' engines as it flies through a storm. Lots of good atmosphere and intensity here, with a top notch unhinged performance by Lithgow and a great creature, designed by Craig Reardon & Michael McCracken and performed by actor Larry Cedar.
With a lot of familiar faces in the small roles (ex. Charles Hallahan, Doug McGrath, Bill Quinn, Selma Diamond, the almighty Dick Miller (once again playing 'Walter Paisley'), Kevin McCarthy, William Schallert, Cherie Currie, Nancy Cartwright, John Dennis Johnston, Eduard Franz, and Donna Dixon), and wonderful music by Jerry Goldsmith, this certainly remains an entertaining film to watch for its duration, if not a great one. Hopefully it will inspire people to check out the TV series and see why it's so admired.
Seven out of 10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I got tired of all the comments about remaking old episodes and decided to share how good this movie is. The Twilight Zone movie is very fun to watch. As you've probably read it's split up into several different plots/episodes but there's no credits it just rolls right into the next situation with a little narration. It is well directed with names like John Landis and Steve Spielburg you can understand why. The movie starts off with a couple friends (one of whom is Dan Akryod )driving down a cross county road at night guessing tunes off the radio and talking stories. The dialogue between them is pretty classic not to mention Creedence Clearwater Revivals MidNight Special playing in the background just sets the mood great. Everything just seems so normal and the spontaneity makes you feel like you're there. Akryods friend says do you wanna see something scary? he says alright. So he turns off the headlights and its pitch black, you can't see the road at all - Akroyd says hey turn the lights back on this isn't funny. His friend laughs and turns em back on saying its a straight road and they were really safe. Again this really gets you comfortable with Akroyds character as the passive one of the two. Where it gets driven home is a few minutes later when Akroyd asks his friend if he'd like to see something REALLY scary? He convinces him to he has to pull the car over to show him so they do. His friend says alright what is it? Akroyd holds up his finger hinting just a sec, and turns as if to put on a mask or do some magic trick. When he turns around he has a hideous face and you realize it isn't a mask at all ! He grabs his friend and chokes him to death. The camera pans up off the car still running on the side of the road and the classic twilight zone tune plays to the title. And all this happens before the title ! Needless to say anyone who likes interesting and new perspectives should check this movie out. There's not a lot of blood, it isn't a gorry film, it's an intelligent film with at least something for everyone to see at least once. By the way the gremlin segment is absolutely one of my favorite sequences in any movie ever. Again,don't miss this one just because someone told you it has episode remakes in it, please watch it ! -christopher haggerty
This movie opens with a rather humorous opening featuring Dan Akroyd and Albert Brooks as it has them discussing various things when they finally come upon the "you want to see something scary" topic of discussion. This is a kind of pre credit introduction to the horrors and wonders of the twilight zone. It then proceeds to a story of a man who is rather racist so he is the first to enter the realm and of course he is put through a lot including being in a rather bad story that was not very twilight like that ended up being part of a tragic Hollywood story as a helicopter accident would take the lead actor Morrow and two child actors. The second story follows a group of elderly people in a nursing home who are about to get a visit from an older man who has a special kind of gift from them. This story was weak too, as it was just a bit to cutesy for my tastes. Finally, the movie gets good as we have the story of a boy with a special secret. He is hit by a woman and she proceeds to take him home to meet his very strange family. This story is good, but it ends rather weakly. Finally, the highlight of this movie a story featuring John Lithgow as a passenger on a plane that is in the middle of a rather violent storm. Add to that he has a dreaded fear of flying and add to that the fact he seems to see a person on the wing of the plane and this person or thing is doing harm to the engines. Add a better ending to story three and just get two different stories all together for the first film and maybe this movie would not have to rely on one story to save the day which the last one does.
I'm a huge fan of the series, and I remember being obsessed with TZ The
Movie when it was released. I was 12, after all!!
Recently watched the film again for the first time in at least 15 years. I was blown away by the final segment, it's truly a classic which really scared the stuffing outta me. That evil little girl who takes Polaroids of everything freaked me out to no end. For me, it's the only segment in which the quality of the writing matches the direction and visuals from beginning to end.
I saw the original episode upon which Joe Dante's (3rd) segment is based when I was spending the night at my friend's house in 4th grade. It, too, really frightened me. I remember thinking to myself how hopeless the situation was-- if you even TRIED to not think bad thoughts about Anthony, you would end up thinking them, and he could still get you!! And didn't he "wish someone away to the cornfield"?? Man, that's some serious freakiness.
I thought the design of that segment in the movie was incredible, I'll never forget the mom holding the fishbowl, or the ferocious rabbit creature, or what happens to Ethel ("Run, Ethel....!") But the ending is truly atrocious and almost ruins what has come before.
What can I say about the other two segments? Better scripts were needed in order to make them work. And in the case of "Kick the Can", sticking more closely to the original episode would have given it more impact. (Not to mention firing Steven Spielberg.)And it's sad seeing Vic Morrow in his final role-- I'll always think of him as the sadistic coach in THE BAD NEWS BEARS, which is one of my all-time favorites.
All in all, a very uneven movie which improves steadily as it goes along. 6/10.
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