“You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension: a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You’re moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You’ve just crossed over into… the Twilight Zone.”
Twilight Zone: The Movie is a 1983 American science fiction horror anthology film produced by Steven Spielberg and John Landis as a cinematic interpretation of the 1959–64 TV series created by Rod Serling.
We open with a short about two friends driving down a lonesome, dark road. They’re discussing the scariest episodes of The Twilight Zone. The passenger asks his friend if he wants to see something really scary, and attacks his friend. Thus our first tale begins…
“You’re about to meet an angry man: Mr. William Connor, who carries on his shoulder a chip the size of the national debt. This is a sour man, a lonely man, who’s tired of waiting for the breaks that come to others, but never to him. Mr. William Connor, whose own blind hatred is about to catapult him into the darkest corner of The Twilight Zone.”
Bill Connor (Vic Morrow) is bitter after being passed over for a promotion in favor of a Jewish co-worker. Drinking in a bar after work with his friends, Bill utters slurs towards Jews, POC, and Asians. A black man sitting nearby asks him to stop. Bill leaves the bar angrily, but when he walks outside, he finds himself in Nazi-occupied France during World War II. A pair of SS officers patrolling the streets interrogate him. Bill cannot answer satisfactorily since he does not speak German. A chase ensues, and Bill ends up on the ledge of a building, where he is shot at by the officers. What follows is Bill experiencing several different oppressed people’s points of view.
This story is a strong opening and indeed shows the dark side of The Twilight Zone. Not to be too political here but I’m sure we would all enjoy people who share Mr Connor’s opinion getting a small taste of reality. It’s equal parts satisfying and sorrowful to watch.
Kick The Can:
“It is sometimes said that where there is no hope, there is no life. Case in point: the residents of Sunnyvale Rest Home, where hope is just a memory. But hope just checked into Sunnyvale, disguised as an elderly optimist, who carries his magic in a shiny tin can.”
An old man named Mr. Bloom (Scatman Crothers – The Shining) has just moved into Sunnyvale Retirement Home. He listens to the other elders reminisce about the joys they experienced in their youth. Mr. Bloom says just because they are old does not mean they cannot enjoy life anymore. He tells them that later that night, he will wake them and that they can join him in a game of kick the can. Leo Conroy (Bill Quinn) objects, saying that now that they are all old they cannot engage in physical activity. They do all wake up and become young again for one night. But, eventually realise that they wouldn’t want to start their life again and are happy to be their own ages.
Although this story isn’t a horror, it’s still very sweet and captures the feelings of every human being. Ageing is scary but forgetting all you’ve learned and starting again is much worse.
It’s a Good Life:
“Portrait of a woman in transit: Helen Foley, age 27. Occupation: schoolteacher. Up until now, the pattern of her life has been one of unrelenting sameness, waiting for something different to happen. Helen Foley doesn’t know it yet, but her waiting has just ended.”
Helen Foley (Kathleen Quinlan), traveling to a new job, visits a rural bar for directions. While talking to the owner, she witnesses Anthony (Jeremy Licht)—a young boy playing an arcade game—being harassed by a local. Helen comes to the boy’s defense. As Helen leaves the bar, she backs into Anthony with her car in the parking lot, damaging his bicycle. Helen offers Anthony a ride home. Anthony’s house is a replica of the house from Mouse Wreckers. When Helen arrives, she meets Anthony’s family: Uncle Walt, sister Ethel, and mother and father. Anthony’s family are excessively welcoming. Anthony starts to show Helen around the house, while the family rifles through Helen’s purse and coat.
Helen eventually discovers that Anthony has no relatives and he’s keeping these people here against their will. He’s sick of them all being afraid of him when he does everything he can to make them happy. Helen offers to be his teacher and they leave happily together in her car.
It’s a Good Life is a fantastical tale, it really feels as if you’ve stepped into some bizarre cartoon. If I had to pick any of the stories to have their own movie I’d like to watch this one be more fleshed out for sure. The effects are great and add to this disturbing feature.
Nightmare at 20,000 Feet:
“What you’re looking at could be the end of a particularly terrifying nightmare. It isn’t. It’s the beginning. Introducing Mr. John Valentine, air traveler. His destination: The Twilight Zone.”
While flying through a violent thunderstorm, airline passenger John Valentine (John Lithgow) is in an airplane lavatory as he tries to recover from a panic attack. The flight attendants coax Valentine from the lavatory and back to his seat. Valentine notices a hideous gremlin on the wing of the plane and begins to spiral into another severe panic.
Nightmare at 20,000 feet is definitely the most famous story in this movie, whether you’ve heard of it or seen parodies of it, or even watched the original, you know about the gremlin on the wing. John Lithgow is one of my favourite actors and he plays his role perfectly. I feel his anxiety and stress with every sweat bead dripping off his face.
Twilight Zone: The Movie is one of the best anthology’s I’ve ever watched. Every tale is great and well-acted, which isn’t something you can say about most anthology movies. I have to say that personally I’ve never watched the Twilight Zone tv series as it was way before my time, but of course the episodes and show itself have been parodied a lot and I still have great appreciation for it as I adore science fiction. If the show is anything remotely like the movie then I’m sure I’d love that too.
My favourite tale out of all them has to be Nightmare at 20,000 feet. As I said above John Lithgow is one of my favourite actors. I’m an absolute sucker for eccentric over-acting and he’s one of the best at it. His facial expressions are amazing and he makes this story both terrifying and hilarious to witness.
An added horror to this film is an event that took place in our reality. During filming of Time Out (the opening story) Morrow’s character was to have traveled back through time again and stumbled into a deserted Vietnamese village where he finds two young Vietnamese children left behind when a U.S. Army helicopter appears and begins shooting at them. Morrow was to take both children under his arms and escape out of the village as the hovering helicopter destroyed the village with multiple explosions which would have led to his character’s redemption. Unfortunately, an explosion from a pyrotechnic effect caused the helicopter to spin out of control. It crashed into Vic Morrow and the two small children, killing them instantly. It’s these sorts of horrific accidents that ensure actors have a safer working environment today, but it doesn’t lessen the tragedy and I hope somehow Vic Morrow knows that he went out performing one heck of a role.
Twilight Zone: The Movie