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May 28, 2011

TV on Blu-ray Review: The Twilight Zone: Season Four (1962, Image)

There have been many outstanding television shows throughout TV history. Few though have stood the test of time like Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone series. When I think of a show I enjoyed as a child like Tales From The Darkside, that’s all it really is, a show I enjoyed as a kid. It’s cheap and in many episodes just plain dull. Even the best of shows from yesteryear exhibit a sense of datedness. Twilight Zone, while not completely without its quirks, has such a power over viewers that didn't even grow up close to the era of its birth (1959 though the 1960s). There's almost a theatrical feeling to watching an episode: The writing is first-class (Charles Beaumont, Richard Matheson and creator Rod Serling), the production value was as good as features at the time, the acting was quality and the guest stars that frequently popped up in episodes were certain to draw viewers. Image Entertainment are giving The Twilight Zone some more Hi-Def love by putting together yet another season for the Blu-ray market with Twilight Zone: Season Four.

Buy The Twilight Zone: Season 4 [Blu-ray]

The Season Four Blu-ray set consists of all 18 episodes from January 23rd, 1963 to May 23rd, 1963. These aren't a half-hour long either – they’re nearly a full hour! This longer format was quickly changed the following season. Below is a list of each show and their air-dates.

1. In His Image, Jan. 3, 1963 2. The Thirty-Fathom Grave, Jan. 10, 1963 3. Valley of the Shadow", Jan. 17, 1963 4. He's Alive, Jan. 24, 1963 5. Mute, Jan. 31, 1963 6. Death Ship, Feb. 7, 1963 7. Jess-Belle, Feb. 14, 1963 8. Miniature, Feb. 21, 1963 9. Printer's Devil, Feb. 28, 1963 10. No Time Like The Past, Mar. 7, 1963 11. The Parallel, Mar. 14, 1963 12. I Dream of Genie, Mar. 21, 1963 13. The New Exhibit, April 4, 1963 14. Of Late I Think Of Cliffordville, April 11, 1963 15. The Incredible World of Horace Ford, April 18, 1963 16. On Thursday We Leave For Home, May 2, 1963 17. Passage on the Lady Anne, May 9, 1963 18. The Bard, May 23, 1963

At an hour long in running time - as opposed to a half-hour from previous seasons - we tend to get a much more of an involved narrative, which can range from excellent in some episodes to a tad laggy in others. This essentially was an experiment by Serling that in the end brought upon some inevitable tweaking. With that said, even the more sluggish episodes are much more enjoyable than the genre-based knock-offs it spawned (Night Gallery, Outer Limits, Friday The 13th: The Series).

The absolute gems in this set are easily The Miniature, Death Ship and The New Exhibit. The majority of the episodes compiled here are top-notch but somehow these in particular stood out. The Miniature is an odd little episode that follows the life of an eccentric super mamma's boy named Charlie (Robert Duvall). Charlie has a near Oedipus complex with his mum that’s making it harder and harder for this 30 plus year-old man to get out in the real world. Enter a tiny sexy doll-lady to the equation who lives in a miniature mansion at the local museum. Now, Charlie has something to look forward to everyday other than mommy tucking him in and pulling off his socks. This episode isn't really scary; its real strength is Duvall's performance. The legendary tough-guy plays an amazingly pathetic lead and does a smashing job at it.

This season has no shortage of star-power aside from Duvall: Burgess Meredith steals Printer's Devil, Dennis Hopper gets on a Nazi kick in He's Alive and in one of my other favorites, Death Ship, a pre-Odd Couple Jack Klugman explores a haunted spaceship.One of the most intriguing things in watching Death Ship is seeing just how many movies used a similar narrative involving a haunted spaceship. Event Horizon comes to mind immediately but even that claustrophobic feel that we know and love in Alien may have some roots in this creepy episode.

The quality of the transfers are nothing short of superb. These are on par restoration-wise with another popular TV Blu-ray release from that era, Star Trek. The only difference for me is, I’m not a Star Trek fan. Seeing this show with such a considerable make-over that doesn't get in the way of Serling's vision is a joy . The new High-Definition transfers of these episodes presented are thankfully from well maintained original materials. No ghastly DNR is here to ruin the presentation either. The audio is very good, and includes isolated scores for all 18 episodes.

When it comes to extras, well, Twilight Zone fans will be in heaven when they see the wealth of supplements put forth in this collection: You get 13 New Audio Commentaries, featuring The Twilight Zone Companion author, Marc Scott Zicree, author/film historian Gary Gerani (Fantastic Television), Twilight Zone writer Earl Hamner, writer William F. Nolan (Logan’s Run) and genre author Bill Warren.

The commentaries by Zicree are solid as he just fires out random Twilight Zone facts like a Gatling gun. His commentary over Death Ship is especially interesting; pointing out how some of the costumes and parts of the set were also used in the sci-fi classic, Forbidden Planet. He also mentions something I found a bit surprising about Twilight Zone memorabilia – it’s very scarce as compared to other classic shows. The commentaries are definitely worth a listen and give enough added insight that you may not notice while watching without it on. Other extras included in the set: Numerous promotional items, a beer ad, some SNL goofiness and a star-studded collection of radio dramas that include the likes of Jason Alexander, Barry Bostwick and Lou Diamond Philips. This is as exhaustive a set of supplements as you’ll ever see on a release, all spread out through the five Blu-ray discs (with the fifth disc primarily extras).

Image Entertainment has done a masterful job putting together this set. I'm sure creator Rod Serling would be proud of how his legacy is being treated. Highly Recommended!

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