Judge Erich Asperschlager hopes his life has a twist ending.
Our reviews of The Twilight Zone: Season One (Blu-ray) (published October 29th, 2010), The Twilight Zone: Season Three (Blu-ray) (published February 15th, 2011), The Twilight Zone: Season Four (Blu-ray) (published May 17th, 2011), The Twilight Zone: Season Five (Blu-ray) (published August 29th, 2011), and The Twilight Zone (2002): The Complete First Season (published October 6th, 2004) are also available.
"You're traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind; a journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That's the signpost up ahead—your next stop, The Twilight Zone."
When acclaimed TV writer Rod Serling decided to create a science fiction anthology show, critics and industry folks thought he was crazy. Why throw away a career as a "serious" writer for something so frivolous? Serling answered his critics, and secured his legacy, by turning out one of the best and most influential TV shows of all time: The Twilight Zone. For years, the show has been the stuff of PBS re-runs, New Years marathons, and countless home video releases. Image Entertainment, who put out the so-called "definitive" DVD collections not too long ago, follow the recent Blu-ray debut of the show's first season with the hi-def release of The Twilight Zone: Season Two—rescanned and remastered to look and sound better than ever, with enough bonus features to keep fans busy until Season Three hits shelves early next year.
Facts of the Case
The Twilight Zone: Season Two has 29 episodes across four Blu-ray discs:
* indicates episode was shot on videotape
The Twilight Zone's first season was an unqualified success, garnering a slew of awards and a rabid fanbase. Serling answered the clamor for more with a second season that was just as good the first. Despite an ill-advised foray into shooting on videotape instead of film, and being seven episodes shorter than the first year, Season Two proved that Serling and his talented group of writers and filmmakers hadn't run out of ideas.
That's not to say that every Season Two episode is wholly unique. There's an overabundance of time travel, people with strange powers, and enchanted objects. But even the weaker episodes have that Twilight Zone spark, oft-imitated but never matched. As for the good episodes, Season Two has some of the best, including fan-favorites "Nick of Time," "Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?," and "The Odyssey of Flight 33" (the best of the time travel bunch). It's also got two of the series' most memorable twist endings, in "The Eye of the Beholder" and "The Invaders"—don't worry, I won't spoil them.
The season also boasts an impressive list of famous actors, including Burgess Meredith (as "Mr. Dingle, the Strong" and "The Obsolete Man"), Buddy Ebsen (as a telekinetic in "Prime Mover"), Agnes Moorehead (as a woman trying to fend off "The Invaders"), Art Carney (as a downtrodden Santa in "The Night of the Meek"), and the Twilight Zone debut of William Shatner (as a superstitious newlywed trapped by a fortune-telling napkin holder in "Nick of Time").
The Twilight Zone: Season Two on Blu-ray looks just as stunning as the first season set. By going back to the original negatives and scanning them in at high-definition, Image Entertainment ensured that these AVC-encoded 1080p episodes look sharper, richer, and just plain better than they ever have before. The level of detail is astounding, and the tonal range is wide open, with inky blacks and velvety greys. Almost every episode is a joy to look at. I say "almost" because, during the second season, CBS decided that the show was getting too expensive and asked that six episodes be shot on videotape. The results of that experiment are here (presented in 1080i) and the difference in quality is striking. Not only do the episodes have the harsh look of early videotape, but also an extreme softness that completely negates the benefits of Blu-ray. The requirements of the live camera set-ups affected the actual episodes as well. Although the creepy "Long Distance Call" and Christmas-themed "The Night of the Meek" work in spite of the presentation, all of them are hamstrung by being limited to only a few sets.
Audio for Twilight Zone: Season Two comes in two flavors: original mono and a restored uncompressed 2.0 mono. The restored tracks are as sharp and impressive as the picture, with a lack of hiss and crisp separation between dialogue and music. The audio for the taped episodes is slightly muddier, but it's still pretty darn good. 22 of the episodes also have the option of watching them with isolated music scores—and that's only the beginning of the bonus features.
Like the first Blu-ray set, The Twilight Zone: Season Two comes with a treasure trove of extras. Many were ported over from the already full-to-bursting "definitive" DVD collections, with plenty more added as Blu-ray exclusives. There are 31 audio commentaries—most episodes have at least one, and some have more—recorded by film historians, writers, and Twilight Zone experts including Martin Grams, Jr., Gary Gerani, Scott Skelton, Jim Benson, Len Wein, Joseph Dougherty, Steven Smith, Jon Burlingame, Matthew Weiner of Mad Men fame, Michael Nankin, George Clayton Johnson, William Idleson, and Marv Wolfman; and with actors from the show, including Donna Douglas ("The Eye of the Beholder"), Don Rickles ("Mr. Dingle, the Strong"), Bill Mumy ("Long Distance Call"), Dennis Weaver ("Shadow Play"), and Shelley Berman ("The Mind and the Matter").
Marc Scott Zicree, author of The Twilight Zone Companion, appears in the most bonus features; not only in commentaries, but in a series of audio interviews that he recorded in the late '70s. Zicree interviews a variety of people associated with the show, including directors Buzz Kulik and Douglas Heyes, actress Maxine Stuart, writer George Clayton Johnson, and Rod Serling's brother Robert, who helped write the cockpit dialogue in "The Odyssey of Flight 33."
In addition to the 25 Blu-ray exclusive commentaries, disc four has two more Marc Scott Zicree interviews: Part 2 of an interview with George T. Clemens that covers his recollections of Season Two (Part 1 can be found in the Season One set); and a nearly hour-long interview with makeup artist William Tuttle, the man responsible for some of the series' most memorable special effects.
The biggest new extra is an episode of the CBS series Suspense that was written by Serling, called "Nightmare at Ground Zero" (sadly not a prequel to Twilight Zone's Season Five classic "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet"). Presented in rather crummy-looking-and-sounding standard definition, "Nightmare" is the tale of what happens when a man who constructs dummies for model houses is pushed too far by his nagging wife. It's a decent story that reaches its climax with a gut-punch reveal at the end of the first act, then backpedals towards a wishy-washy conclusion. Although it shows glimpses of Serling's brilliance on The Twilight Zone, it's interesting mostly as a bit of TV history.
Rounding out the bonus features are original sponsor billboards from companies like Colgate and Sanka; production slates for the six videotaped shows; and a collection of 15 episodes from the 2002 The Twilight Zone Radio Dramas series, starring actors like Ed Begley, Jr., Adam Baldwin, Fred Willard, Michael York, Henry Rollins, and Jim Caviezel.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
It's no secret that the Blu-ray release of The Twilight Zone: Season One had problems. Some consumers—including DVD Verdict's own Judge Tom Becker—couldn't play one or more of the discs. Whether the problem lay with the discs themselves or outdated firmware is unclear, but I'm happy to report that my copy of Season Two plays fine, and based on a quick scan of the same online forums that complained about problems with Season One, other sets seem to be fine, too. So I guess this doesn't count as a rebuttal; it's just good news.
Aside from the videotaped episodes, The Twilight Zone: Season Two is one of the best TV-on-Blu-ray sets I've ever seen. Even taking the taped episodes into account, it's still one of the best seasons of TV ever. Though not quite as jam-packed as the five-disc Season One set, Season Two's high-def debut brings Serling's seminal sci-fi series even closer to the futuristic realities he imagined 50 years ago.
Not guilty! In this dimension, at least.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Image Entertainment
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