The 1983 anthology film comprises of a prologue, four segments (either based solely or loosely on Zone episodes), and an epilogue, strung together by series favorite Burgess Meredith’s narration.
The Prologue and First Segment belong to John Landis, whose previous work has been almost entirely in comedy, which explains the appeal of The Prologue. It’s a notably funny and frightening introduction to our expectations for the next 101 minutes—ones barely mentioned let alone met. Two men drive on what must be the darkest night of the year, dueting to CCR’s Midnight Special, only to have the deck devour the tape. So they resort to games: Brooks turns the beams off while they play Name that TV theme, the paranormal theme from the original series cleverly mentioned, along with classic episodes.
Landis’ follow-up First Segment is the only “original” of the quartet, though it takes mild derivations from A Quality of Mercy and Deaths-Hand Revisited. We find Vic Morrow (who was infamously decapitated while filming) as a ranting bigot, unleashing a stream of jabs in a bar filled of his targets. The story, as fantastical fate would have it, puts Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, and American soldiers in Viet Cong in pursuit of Morrow.
Most Twilight Zone episodes ended with a moral of sorts. Landis’ segment instead leaves his protagonist whimpering for help (not after recognizing the disgust of racism, but in response to his own selfishness) and his audience whirling their Nazi rally flags, in hopes of at least ending Landis’ disjointed effort.
Steven Spielberg (who of course also produced) directs the Second Segment. Retirement center Sunnyvale is a place of reminiscence, both for youth and the 151 other episodes Spielberg could have adapted. Instead, he chooses Kick the Can, a sappy piece that is neither as cute nor funny as intended. Spielberg has gotten away with sentimental tripe before and he’ll do it again — but that was in Hollywood. This is The Twilight Zone, a dimension where we question our morals and purpose, not the directorial choices of an Oscar winner.
The anthology hits a long-awaited high in Joe Dante’s manic Third Segment, the plot of which stems from It’s a Good Life, about a boy’s imagination-turned-reality. Whereas the first two segments could have been filmed in 1959, Dante’s work is the only true upgrade in the whole, splashing out modern special effects and imaginative set design, creating an expressionistic piece of surrealism that truly brings The Twilight Zone to a new audience.
The Fourth Segment, directed by George Miller, pits John Lithgow in the feverishly paranoiac role William Shatner played 20 years earlier in Nightmare at 20,000 Feet. The story (along with Time Enough at Last and To Serve Man) is one of the definitive Zone selections, an almost daring feat for Miller to embark. But with Lithgow onboard giving the picture’s standout performance, the Fourth Segment slices every nerve its source did in 1963. —Joblo.com
With as much monkeying-around as his movies frequently display, it should come as no surprise to John Landis fans that one of his earliest inspirations as a filmmaker was the original 1933 version of King Kong. The man behind such carefree comedies as Animal House, Landis has also helped to blur the lines between comedy and horror with such efforts as An American Werewolf in London and Innocent Blood, in addition to crafting such fine-tined social satire as Trading Places.
Born in Chicago in August of 1950, Landis originally worked in the mailroom at Fox and later as a stuntman before making a name for himself as a director. Landis was in his early twenties when he decided it was time to make a feature, and after a brief flirtation with the idea of crafting an underground porn film, the aspiring director raised the funding needed for his directorial debut from family and friends. The result of his tireless efforts was the relentlessly juvenile but infectiously silly Schlock… read more
Undoubtedly one of the most influential film personalities in the history of film, Steven Spielberg is perhaps Hollywood’s best known director and one of the wealthiest filmmakers in the world. Spielberg has countless big-grossing, critically acclaimed credits to his name, as producer, director and writer. He was born in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1946. He went to California State University Long Beach, but dropped out to pursue his entertainment career. He gained notoriety as an uncredited assistant editor on the classic western “Wagon Train” (1957). Among his early directing efforts were Battle Squad (1961), which combined World War II footage with footage of an airplane on the ground that he makes you believe is moving. He also directed Escape to Nowhere (1961), which featured children as World War Two soldiers, including his sister Anne Spielberg, and The Last Gun (1959), a western. All of these were short films. The next couple of years, Spielberg directed a couple of movies that would… read more
Joseph Dante Jr. was born on November 28, 1946 in Morristown, New Jersey, and raised in the nearby borough of Parisippany. His parents were professional golf players and his father wrote some books on the instructions of playing golf some of which included Four Magic Moves to Winning Golf, and Stop that Slice. After a bout with polio that nearly crippled him at age 7, he slowly recovered and decided to take up drawing rather than athletics as his parents did.
Dante studied at the Philadelphia College of Art after graduating from high school. As a teenager, he contributed to Castle of Frankenstein and Famous Monsters of Filmland magazines with various drawings, and upon graduation from he College of Art, he became a film critic for the Film Buletin newspaper for which he later became the managing editor. With a friend, named Jon Davidson, Dante cut together a series of movie clips and film trailers and edited them into his first short film which was titled The Movie Orgy (1968… read more
Dr. George Miller, the original Aussie Renaissance man, has divided his life between two great passions: medicine and cinema. Consequently, his most enduring big-screen works as a writer/director/producer — arguably, the Mad Max series and Lorenzo’s Oil — combine these interests in subtle and not-so-subtle (but consistently electrifying) ways.
Born in 1945 in the bustling metropolis of Brisbane, Queensland, Northeastern Australia, Miller was christened George Miliotis by his Greek immigrant parents, the Balloyoulus, but he anglicized his surname as a young man. He grew up in the nearby bucolic town of Chinchilla, Queensland, and developed an enduring infatuation with cinema from an early age, but medicine (and more specifically, the physiology of the human body) entranced him with competing force. He and his twin brother, John, thus enrolled jointly at the New South Wales Medical School in the late ‘60s, and George interned at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney upon graduation… read more
John Landis directs the best of the segments, arguably the best not just for it's great ideas but because when you realise that the rest of the segments are just high budget remakes of Twilight Zone episodes the film becomes a bit tedious. Spielberg's segment is definitely the worst although Scatman Crothers is fantastic as always. Dante's segment is very good but I haven't seen the episode it's based on...
so I have no idea how original it is. The final segment is ok... it's nothing special but has a really good performance from John Lithgow. Ultimately it's a mystery to me and a real shame that they didn't create new stories but the stories they present are very entertaining to watch (with the exception of one... I'm looking at you, Steven). A fun film with some great set design and acting. 3/5