My beautiful wife gave me the first season of the original Twilight Zone series, probably not long after I read The Twilight Zone Encycolopedia. I don’t know if she’d forgotten that, but she got me a couple of these individual DVDs with four episodes per for another gifting opportunity this year. So instead of figuring where I’d left off on the first season of the program, I popped in this DVD when I wanted to watch some shorter bits of television.
I definitely got the sense from watching that these episodes were chosen from a later season. I seem to recall from the book that the show had an auspicious beginning, but that the powers that be cut its budget and messed with its formula in later seasons (of course, I could be thinking of Star Trek based on Star Trek Memories). Maybe that was just the way back in those days. But the episodes on this disc really had a low budget feel to them, the kind of thing I associate a lot with the black-and-white speculative digest programs (I guess my other experience back in the day was with The Outer Limits).
The DVD includes:
- “The Passersby”, wherein Civil War soldiers pass an old derelict plantation house whose owner sits on the porch and watches them go by. One soldier stops and asks for a drink of water, which leads them to discover–they’re in The Twilight Zone! DUN DUN DUN!
- “The Grave”, wherein a villain is gunned down by the townspeople of his home town. When another gunman comes to town, one that the townspeople hired to track and kill the badman, he is challenged to visit the villain’s grave. DUN DUN DUN!
- “Deaths-Head Revisited”, wherein a former Nazi camp commandant stops in a small town and discovers it is the place where his camp was–so he revisits the camp and enjoys some good memories until the ghosts of the dead return to put him on trial. DUN DUN DUN!
- “The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank”, wherein a young man climbs out of the coffin at his funeral and tries to convince the suspicious townsfolk that he is not a threat to them. But is he? DUN DUN DUN!
So we’ve got four period pieces which can reuse sets from the Western television shows (“The Grave”, “The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank”, “The Passersby”) with stories that thematically deal with the evils of war (“Deaths-Head Revisited”, “The Passersby”). They’re so themeatically similar and so aesthetically similar that they really didn’t provide the same sense of wonder nor the same inspiration to write other stories. And even though they’re still only 30 minute episodes–actually 25 minutes or so–they can seem a little longer than they needed to be, particularly “The Grave”.
I have a couple more of these four-episode collections, and I will undoubtedly get to them by and by, but I was disappointed with this one to say the least.
Your mileage may vary, of course. At least “The Grave” had Lee Marvin in it.