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The Twilight Zone: Season 2(TV) (1960-1961)
The complete second season of Rod Serling's classic, groundbreaking series exploring the fantastic and the frightening.
For more about The Twilight Zone: Season 2 and the The Twilight Zone: Season 2 Blu-ray release, see the The Twilight Zone: Season 2 Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on November 22, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Writers: Rod Serling, Richard Matheson (I)
Starring: Jack Klugman, William Shatner, Robert Redford, William Windom, Cliff Robertson, Burgess Meredith
» See full cast & crew
The Twilight Zone: Season 2 Blu-ray Review
In the eye of this beholder? Beautiful.
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, November 22, 2010
"You're traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound, but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of the imagination. That's the signpost up ahead. Your next stop, The Twilight Zone."
And what a stop it is. Nowadays, we often think of The Twilight Zone as a quaint mid-century sci-fi show with a penchant for twist endings, but it's oh-so-much more. Writer/show-runner Rod Serling's creation, in the late 1950s and early '60s, was a kind of Trojan horse for the TV-auteur's subversively loaded scripts about science and progress, politics and religion, aesthetics and ethics—topics that were generally avoided or hushed on prime-time television. Serling was able to push his social criticisms past the censors in the guise of sci-fi allegories, fantasy fables, and macabre morality plays because, at the time, no one gave much thought to the capacity of "genre" stories—the juvenile domain of kids' comic books—for harboring serious ideas. While some of Serling's philosophizing can seem overly didactic by today's standards, this was envelope-pushing stuff in a paranoid society facing the start of the Cold War. And besides, The Twilight Zone isn't just a vehicle for ideas, it's also a home to whip-smart writing, clever storytelling, and no shortage of creepy crawly, heebie-jeebies-inducing scares.
In September, Image Entertainment released The Twilight Zone: Season 1, a five-disc Blu-ray set that is, in Twilight Zone terms, the very definition of "definitive." After several technological generations of home viewing—from hazy TV re-runs and blurry VHS releases to good- but-not-great DVD sets—The Twilight Zone's Blu-ray debut was and is nothing short of spectacular, with pristine high definition transfers, newly remastered audio, and a bounty of special features. If you picked up that set—and you'll find our glowing review here—you might reasonably wonder if Image could possibly maintain the same level of audio/video quality, not to mention the sheer quantity of bonus materials, for Season 2. Rest assured, readers, this follow-up, from a technical standpoint, is just as superlative and fully loaded as its predecessor.
Writing-wise, however, the show's second season—understandably, given the harried production schedule and budget cuts under CBS head honcho James Aubrey's iron fiscal fist—isn't quite as innovative or gripping as the first. The Twilight Zone was always unapologetically and effectively formulaic—the cold-open mystery, the slow-burn second act, the neck-snapping, brain-frying twist at the end that recontextualizes everything we've just seen—but in season two we start to see Rod Serling repeating himself, borrowing elements from his previous scripts. A good example is the season two opener, "King Nine Will Not Return," which is almost a wholesale repackaging of the season one premiere, "Where Is Everybody?" Instead of a man wandering through a strangely deserted town, growing increasingly more paranoid, we have a crashed WWII bomber pilot wandering around the strangely deserted wreck of his B-25, growing increasingly more paranoid. And the similarities don't end there. Fortunately, this is the only time when he blatantly rips off an entire plot from himself; more frequently he chooses to recycle old motifs, to play variations on his favorite themes.
Throughout season two, Serling and his likeminded writers—including Charles Beaumont and Richard Matheson—return often to the topic of isolation and its psychological effects. In "Nervous Man in a Four Dollar Room," a small-time crook with a few hours to spare comes face to face with his own reflection and sees a mirror version of himself that's more confident and ambitious. "The Invaders" follows the mounting terror of a woman trapped alone in a farmhouse with tiny spacemen, and "A Hundred Yards Over the Rim" finds a 19th century settler stumbling through the desert into modern-day New Mexico. Most devastatingly, "The Silence" examines the horrific lengths to which a loquacious man will go when he stands to win half a million bucks on a bet if he can remain quiet for an entire year.
"The Silence" overlaps with another common subject: greed. Serling presents the love of money—and materialism in general—as the root of many evils and a sure-fire way to end up unhappy or dead or worse. When a curio shop owner discovers a wish-granting genie in "The Man in the Bottle,"—an episode that embodies the "be careful what you wish for" mantra—his lack of foresight brings him to a horrific end. A similar fate follows for two thieves who discover "A Most Unusual Camera" that can take photos of the future. And ditto for the poor shmuck in "The Prime Mover" who decides to exploit his business partner's telekinetic abilities at a Las Vegas casino. These episodes, along with "Nick of Time,"—in which William Shatner plays a young business exec obsessed with a fortune telling machine—also point at the dangers of toying with destiny, of altering the "natural" outcome of events or buying into vague, horoscope-style superstition. Serling is certainly at his most moralistic and preachy when railing against the almighty mammon and the perils of divination, and yet there's something sadly satisfying about seeing his corrupted characters get what's coming to 'em.
Serling's worldview is a reflection of his times—he's clearly cynical about the post-WWII optimism of the 1950s, an attitude and era that's inverted and dissected by The Twilight Zone's topsy-turvy take on the state of Cold War America. Season closer "The Obsolete Man," starring Meredith Burgess, presents a bleak vision of a totalitarian future where books are outlawed and executions televised. Technology and its hold on humans is lampooned in "A Thing About Machines," and "Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?" might as well be called "Will the Real Commie Please Stand Up?" Of course, no discussion of season two would be complete without mentioning "The Eye of the Beholder," a meditation on the perception of beauty and one of the all-time great Twilight Zone episodes.
But it's not all high-falutin' ideas. Sometimes you just wanna have the bejeebers scared out of you, and The Twilight Zone: Season 2 definitely has a few tales of goosebump-raising, cold-chill-up-the-spine-provoking terror. Just try to not be creeped out by the Gothic, Satan-trapping insanity of "The Howling Man." Go ahead, attempt to escape the spiraling, recurring nightmare of "Twenty-Two." By all means, fight against the mounting, dialing-from-beyond-the-grave dread of "Long Distance Call." You can't. You'll succumb. Resistance is futile.
The Twilight Zone: Season 2 Blu-ray, Video Quality
Image Entertainment's presentation of The Twilight Zone: Season 1 was just about perfect, and Season 2 is no different. Going back to the original 35mm negatives, all-new 1080p/AVC-encoded transfers—framed in the original 1.33:1 TV aspect ratio—have been struck for each episode, and the picture, quite simply, is stunning. I'm not sure if the source materials themselves were clean to begin with, or if a restoration team went frame- by-frame through each episode, cleaning up damage, but either way, the image is nearly pristine, with only a few scattered white specks on the print, and no major scratches or stains. Even better, the grain structure of the black and white cinematography is fully intact, with no trace of excess filtering, noise reduction, or edge enhancement. Nor are there any overt compression issues, like banding or macroblocking. The picture looks natural and bold, with a crisp monochromatic gradation composed of inky deep blacks, bright but rarely overblown whites, and a rich spectrum of grays. Of course, there's also an enormous leap in clarity from previous home video releases, and there are times when you'll be awed by the amount of detail contained in the 35mm negative. Herringbone suits yield up their woolen patterns, the thin mesh of face-covering bandages is easily visible in "Eye of the Beholder," and skin texture is easily discerned.
If you're a longtime Twilight Zone fan, you'll already know that, as a cost-cutting experiment, six episodes from season two—"The Lateness of the Hour," "Static," "The Whole Truth," "The Night of the Meek," "Twenty Two," and "Long Distance Call"—were shot on videotape and have a distinctly soap opera-ish look to them. Image Entertainment has presented these episodes in 1080i, and while they aren't nearly up to the standard set by the shot-on-film material—the picture is blurry and fine detail indistinct—I'm confident that they look as strong as possible, considering the shortcomings of primitive 1960s videotape. Note that screenshots 18, 19, and 20 are taken from shot-on-video episodes.
The Twilight Zone: Season 2 Blu-ray, Audio Quality
As with the first season, Image Entertainment gives us two Linear PCM mono options, both sourced from the original magnetic soundtracks. Each episode defaults to a newly restored and remastered mix that has been digitally cleaned up and optimized. The results are solid; the dialogue is impeccably reproduced, the various sound effects are clean and even dynamically punchy on occasion, and the scores—many by Jerry Goldsmith—sound wonderful. For comparison, you can also select the original, unmastered audio, which is noticeably murkier, with slightly muffled dialogue at times and a low but persistent tape hiss. The remastered mixes are preferable by far, but it's commendable that Image thought to include the untouched audio as well. Each episode also includes white, easy-to-read English SDH subtitles, which are aligned with the lower left corner of picture.
The Twilight Zone: Season 2 Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Episode List and Bonus Features
Like the Season 1 set, Image Entertainment has loaded up Season 2 with an impressive—and informative—array of special features, including, yes, twenty-five commentary tracks with input from a bevy of Twilight Zone experts, audio interviews conducted by The Twilight Zone Companion author Marc Scott Zicree, fifteen radio dramas, isolated scores (in Dolby Digital 2.0), sponsor billboards, and more.
#37 King Nine Will Not Return
The Twilight Zone: Season 2 Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Image Entertainment has done it again—their release of The Twilight Zone: Season 2 is just as beautiful and bountiful as September's debut of Season 1. All twenty-nine episodes have been given stunning high definition transfers and newly remastered audio, and there's a true wealth of supplementary materials here, including twenty-five all-new commentary tracks, fifteen radio dramas, and an episode of Suspense penned by Rod Serling. For sci-fi geeks, horror hounds, fantasy fans, and lovers of the strange and supernatural, this is a must-have release. Look out for the third season in February!
The Twilight Zone: Other Seasons
Blu-ray bundles with The Twilight Zone: Season 2 (2 bundles)
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The Twilight Zone: Season 2 Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Twilight Zone Season 2 Blu-ray Announced - August 3, 2010
Image Entertainment has announced The Twilight Zone: Season 2 for release on Blu-ray on November 16, just two months after the release of Season 1. Like the first season, it will be presented in 1080p 1.33:1 video with mono LPCM sound, and English subtitles. Note ...
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