Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)

Article 5417 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 4-7-2017
Directed by John Landis, Steven Spielberg, Joe Dante and George Miller
Featuring Dan Aykroyd, Albert Brooks, Vic Morrow
Country: USA
What it is: Horror anthology

Four eerie tales are told. A bigot finds himself thrust back into time, a magical stranger offers youth to residents of an old folks home, a child has amazing mental powers, and a troubled man believes he sees a monster destroying the wing of a plane.

When it comes to watching movie versions of old TV series, I have a rule of thumb; if it doesn’t manage to catch that particular element that made the series memorable, then it hasn’t really succeeded. In this movie version of the Rod Serling anthology series, only the first and fourth stories manage to catch it, though the first suffers because it’s reminiscent of some of the weaker and more obvious episodes of the series (it’s basically the supernatural comeuppance of a jerk) and because it was never completed due to the accident that killed Vic Morrow. The fourth one manages to catch it largely because it’s a well-mounted cinematic version of a series episode that remains relatively faithful to the original. That leaves us the second and third episodes, both also based on episodes of the series but which make radical changes to the story. The second episode (directed by Spielberg) is overthought and overwritten; it tries a bit too much and becomes unfocused. The third story takes one of the most nightmarish episodes of the series and turns it into something of a cartoonish comedy; it feels nothing like the original series, but may be the most entertaining of the bunch because of Joe Dante’s love of fifties SF and cartoons. The cast of this segment features Dick Miller (as Walter Paisley), William Schallert, Kevin McCarthy, and Bill Mumy, who played the boy in the original episode. The cast of this segment also features Nancy Cartwright, and I find her role in the episode to be particularly prescient; she’s the sister who is condemned to spend her life in cartoonland, which is a fitting end for the woman who would become mostly famous as the voice of Bart Simpson. This segment also contains my favorite touch in the whole movie; when the TV is cracking up, I couldn’t help but notice that on the wall to the right there is one of those perfect, cartoon-style mouseholes.

In the end, this one was a real mixed bag. It could have been much better.


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