The Friday Afternoon Movie: Twilight Zone: The Movie

Every holiday has its traditions and New Year’s Day is no different. In fact, New Year’s is littered with traditions mostly involving copious amounts of alcohol, weeping, and deep, unspeakable shame. However, there is a more modern tradition indelibly etched in my mind: The Twilight Zone marathon. Once hosted, on the East Coast at least, on channel 11 WPIX out of New York, now on the hideously renamed SyFy, it was a chance to absorb all of Rod Serling’s brilliant series in one, gluttonous 48 hour period. Of course, the FAM cannot play host to all 156 original episodes so today we present the less impressive Twilight Zone: The Movie from 1983.

Twilight Zone: The Movie is a sort of greatest hits, it’s four stories, directed by John Landis, Steven Spielberg, Joe Dante and George Miller based on episodes “Kick the Can”, “It’s a Good Life”, and “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet”. Only Landis’s segment is original, based loosely on the episodes “a Quality of Mercy” and “Deaths-Head Revisited”. Landis’s segment is also responsible for the film’s infamy as it was during filming of this that actor Vic Morrow and child actors Myca Dinh Le and Renee Shin-Yi Chen (age 6 and 7 respectively) were killed when pyrotechnics caused a helicopter to spin out of control and crash. Morrow and Le were decapitated by the rotor while Chen was crushed by one of the skids. The accident and ensuing trial, led to new regulations regarding child actors and, supposedly, the end of Landis’s and Spielberg’s friendship.

It’s a shame then that the resulting film is, as previously mentioned, unable to meet the high standards of its source material. While it’s a thrill to hear series veteran Burgess Meredith’s (uncredited) turn as narrator, the rest falls fairly flat. One wonders why original stories were not drafted as even the best retelling would not have been able to overcome fans’s memories of the television show. Still, it can at least function as an appetizer, something to entice you to delve into the original series. It’s a truly fantastic body of work and you would be doing yourself a great disservice by skipping it. So go, while there are still a few hours left.

7 Responses to “The Friday Afternoon Movie: Twilight Zone: The Movie”

  1. Tequila Says:

    The film reminds me a lot of Spielberg’s other attempts at reviving the Twilight Zone formula. It’s great as an idea to talk amongst friends but it’s just no longer possible. Twilight Zone gets pegged as formulaic by many writers (and writing teachers) unfairly. It was Rod Serling’s intense talent for television as a medium and high caliber collaborators that made it work so well. A perfect storm in many ways and worth seeing the American Masters episode “Submitted For Your Approval” about Rod Serling to hear why. The film just never touches on what made the series work in it’s medium and just feels like a badly executed vanity project.

    The 80’s revival Twilight Zone series is actually worth seeing more than this film. I oddly ended up seeing nearly the entire run in Mexico were it was dubbed in Spanish. It was much creepier and has some great gems to it actually. It re-tells a few great episodes in a very good way.

    There was a documentary about the tragedy behind the Twilight Zone Movie that popped up on an AMC series about the making of classic or notorious films. You pretty much walk away with two feelings.

    1. You want to punch John Landis.

    2. You want to seriously ask if he understands what happened.

    In a nutshell a lot of the criticism leveled against him is well earned because of his behavior during the investigation, trial, and leadership on set. It’s somewhat amazing to see what a world class dick he was during all this. Definitely an image of Hollywood at its worst. More so when it was clear it never should have happened in the first place. If you dig around the net for various articles, interviews, and footage about it you can get a better picture…but none of it explains Landis’s behavior.

  2. Michael Verzani Says:

    While most of this movie leaves me lukewarm, I have to admit the Joe Dante section makes me pretty happy for the sheer crazy bat-shittedness of the cartoon imagery.

  3. Alice Says:

    A minor note, but it’s great to see that the re-branding of the SciFi Channel is pretty much universally disapproved of!

  4. joasakura Says:

    I have to say the shout-out to WPIX absolutely tickled me. I grew up on all the minor-league stations out of new york :laughs: and the twilight zone marathon was always the highlight of the holiday season. Much more than the yule log, say.

    also, “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” made me incredibly paranoid to fly at night at first ;D

  5. Tequila Says:

    Best Twilight Zone moment I had was watching another episode about a plane full of people that can never land. It’s fate is doomed to fly through time. It wasn’t a jet liner so it still had props…

    Right as the episode ended…I could hear a prop plane flying overhead. Sure enough I look up outside and it’s the SAME kind of old skool plane flying in the sky.

    Totally spooked me.

    Chances are it was simply for a local air show and the like but still, The Twilight Zone always had weird ways of bleeding into ones reality.

  6. Kristiene Says:

    Kristen Stewart is the perfect “Bella” .. All around the casting was perfect, everyone had so much so much angst that they fit the story perfectly

  7. Sharlene Morton Says:

    Does anyone know when this comes out on bluray? I just got a PS3 and I know its going to look schhaweeet.