Based on the popular television series, TWILIGHT ZONE--THE MOVIE is a frightfully lopsided omnibus that begins with two wretched episodes by John Landis and Steven Spielberg and finishes with an engrossing pair by Joe Dante and George Miller. The episodes are bookended by a comic bit with Dan Aykroyd and Albert Brooks as ambulance drivers. Unfortunately,...read more
Based on the popular television series, TWILIGHT ZONE--THE MOVIE is a frightfully lopsided omnibus that begins with two wretched episodes by John Landis and Steven Spielberg and finishes with an engrossing pair by Joe Dante and George Miller. The episodes are bookended by a comic bit with
Dan Aykroyd and Albert Brooks as ambulance drivers. Unfortunately, the film is best remembered today for the controversy (and subsequent trial) that surrounded the death of actor Vic Morrow and two Vietnamese extras (six-year-old Renee Chen and seven-year-old Myca Dinh Lee) during the shooting of
a helicopter scene for Landis' episode. In the first segment, the only one not adapted from the television program, a loud-mouthed bigot (Morrow) with an intense hatred for Jews, blacks, and Vietnamese gets the tables turned on him when he is sent back in time as a Jew during WW II, a black during
a KKK rally, and a Vietcong member during an aerial attack. Spielberg's piece, "Kick the Can," embodies almost everything intolerable about his work. It's the sugary tale of an old man (Scatman Crothers) who arrives at a retirement home and transforms the resident oldsters into youthful
incarnations of their days gone by. The anthology takes a sharp turn for the better in the third segment, directed by Joe Dante and based on the TZ episode "It's a Good Life." Helen (Kathleen Quinlan), a young traveler who has lost her way, meets a young boy named Anthony (Jeremy Licht) who
initially seems sweet, but is really a tyrant who has imprisoned his family in a cartoon existence. The result is wildly imaginative and stunningly directed with much credit due to set designer William J. Teegarden, special makeup effects master Rob Bottin, and Sally Cruikshank, who created the
cartoon segments. The momentum continues with the fourth episode, "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet," directed by George Miller (MAD MAX) and starring John Lithgow as an airline passenger who is deathly afraid of flying. He wrestles with his phobia and manages to keep in control until he sees something
standing out on the wing--a crazed demon who is wreaking havoc with the engines. Judging from the order of the segments, it seems coproducers Spielberg and Landis were well aware that their episodes were of a lesser caliber. The moderate success of TWILIGHT ZONE--THE MOVIE paved the way for a
resurgence of the anthology series on television. Spielberg came up with the idea for "Amazing Stories," most of which were less than amazing, while "The Twilight Zone" and "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" were similarly resurrected for network television.
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