RLJ Entertainment // 1963 // 390 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // August 9th, 2013
"You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension: a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You're moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas; you've just crossed over into the Twilight Zone."
Rod Serling's Emmy award winning Twilight Zone is one of the most famous and critically acclaimed shows ever to beam across your television set. The series was like nothing audiences had every seen before; although many people think of 'horror' when they think of Twilight Zone, the truth is that Serling's brainchild was far, far more than just a television program about the things that scared us. Twilight Zone was a show about the things that enlightened us, the things that defined us, and the things that compelled us. Stretching far beyond simple scares and things that go bump in the night, Twilight Zone is about human nature, parables hidden beneath Serling's writing that often deals with the fantastical and supernatural.
A few years ago I sat down to watch every single episode of Twilight Zone, spending months pouring over each and every moment of this classic show. It took me quite a bit of time, but when I was finally done I felt as though I had watched something not just entertaining, but important. Twilight Zone felt like an actual work of art. A few years later, revisiting some of the episodes, I still feel the same way: much of Twilight Zone is a masterstroke of pitch perfect writing, uncanny performances, and a theme song that will burrow itself in your head until the day you cross over into your own personal Twilight Zone.
Reviewing Twilight Zone: The Complete Fourth Season is a conflictive proposition. On one hand, the fourth season features a handful of very good episodes that make this season more than worthwhile for checking out. On the other hand, this is truly the nadir of the series; for some reason the executives decided they wanted to try out an hour long format for the show, which was the complete opposite of what Twilight Zone needed. Twenty-five minutes was the perfect length for each episode; the compact format allowed for the writing to be tight and Serling's ideas to be succinctly executed. When the format was opened up to almost sixty minutes, the series became bogged down in exposition and filler. Serling himself even went on record as noting (before the change happened), "Ours is the perfect half hour show...if we went to an hour, we'd have to flesh out the stories, soap opera style. Viewers could watch fifteen minutes without knowing whether they were in a Twilight Zone or Desilu Playhouse."
Twilight Zone: The Complete Fourth Season consisted of only 18 episodes, and while some retain that eerie, otherworldly feel, others are almost DOA. "Miniature" features Robert Duvall (The Godfather), an oddball loner who is drawn into a miniature house setting in a museum that suddenly leaps to life. In "The Incredible World of Horace Ford," Pat Hingle (Batman) plays a toy designer who gets to go back in time and experience his childhood again, to unsurprisingly bitter results; it's a great rumination on the idea that we can't live in the past because it keeps us shackled from moving on to our future. On the creepy side, "The New Exhibit" deals with a wax museum curator (Psycho's Martin Balsam) who gets to watch over some wax figures of infamous murders in his basement. When his wife decides she doesn't want then around, things go from bad to worse for everyone when the figures suddenly come to life. My personal favorite episode is "Of Late I Think of Cliffordville", about a self-absorbed businessman (Albert Salmi, Caddyshack) who makes a deal with the devil to go back in time and remake his enormous fortune but learns that lightening doesn't always strike twice.
As you can see, this fourth season of Twilight Zone sports some unique and entertaining episodes that fans of the series will surly enjoy. Then there are the episodes that feel like they drag on for an eternity; "Jess-Bell" features The Dukes of Hazzard star James Best buying a love spell from a witch; it sounds interesting, but "Jess-Belle" is one of the weakest episodes in the entire series. The season finale, "The Bard", includes screen icon Burt Reynolds (Smokey and the Bandit) and the ghost of William Shakespeare rolled into one ridiculous package. And so it goes. While there may be just as many good episodes as bad this season, for a show as good as Twilight Zone, that's pretty a pretty poor batting average.
The bulk of these episodes were written by Rod Serling as well Charles Beaumont (who bowed out halfway through the season due to sickness) and the late Richard Matheson, both of whom have written some of the finest episodes in the show, but even their talented writing couldn't get the show back on track throughout the season. Yet, it's really hard to get too down on a season that features one of the show's most memorable episodes, "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet." This William Shatner (Star Trek: The Motion Picture) classic -- about an airline passenger who starts seeing a weird looking creature chewing on the outside of the plane -- was so popular that it was included as one of the segments in the underrated 1983 film based on four of the show's episodes. For that episode alone, Twilight Zone: The Complete Fourth Season is worth checking out.
Each of these 18 black and white episodes is presented in the original aspect ratio, 1.33:1 full frame. Each transfer looks great; I think this series has been available on DVD at least two or three times, so by this point the image should look super crisp and clean (which it does). Each soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono in English. All of these audio tracks are in very good shape with crisp, clear dialogue, music, and effects work. Obviously, each track is very front heavy and no directional effects. There are no alternate soundtracks or subtitles, and no bonus features.
As a consumer who understands the need to own the complete set of anything, I can heartily recommend Twilight Zone: The Complete Fourth Season. However, if you're just coming into the show for the first time, this fourth season should be last on your list (and you're better off buying the previous Image Entertainment versions with tons of extra bonus features).
Not guilty. Entertaining, but not nearly as good as the first three seasons.
Review content copyright © 2013 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: RLJ Entertainment
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 390 Minutes
Release Year: 1963
MPAA Rating: Not Rated