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The Twilight Zone: Season 3(TV) (1961-1962)
The complete third season of Rod Serling's classic, groundbreaking series exploring the fantastic and the frightening.
For more about The Twilight Zone: Season 3 and the The Twilight Zone: Season 3 Blu-ray release, see the The Twilight Zone: Season 3 Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on March 16, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Jack Klugman, William Shatner, Robert Redford, William Windom, Cliff Robertson, Burgess Meredith
» See full cast & crew
The Twilight Zone: Season 3 Blu-ray Review
I sing the Blu-ray electric.
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, March 16, 2011
Image Entertainment has been cranking out these Twilight Zone season sets with fan-appeasing regularity, and I've got to say—these are simply must-have releases for anyone who enjoys retro television. Like seasons one and two, season three has been given a remarkable visual overhaul and newly remastered audio, and the 5-disc set comes fully loaded with special features, from commentary tracks and interviews to radio plays, isolated scores, and sponsor billboards. If you've already got dusty VHS or DVD copies of the five Twilight Zone seasons lying around, you're probably wary of double, or even triple-dipping, but Image's Blu-ray re-releases are the most comprehensive—not to mention strikingly beautiful —versions of the series to ever hit home video, and this is one instance where the upgrade is most definitely worth it. While hardcore Twilight Zone connoisseurs will want to pick up all five seasons on Blu-ray—look out for season four in May—I can understand that some folks may just want a quick TZ fix. The question, then, for those who might only buy one set, becomes "which season has the highest ratio of classic episodes?" The answer, for my money, is season one. Although season three has some bonafide thrillers, it also has an unusually high percentage of duds. Let me explain.
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 imagination. Next stop, the Twilight Zone.
If The Twilight Zone is indeed a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination, season three of the venerated series saw those boundaries closing in. Rod Serling, who perhaps wore too many hats as the creator, narrator, executive producer, host, and lead writer of the show, was exhausting himself and running short on new ideas. After he personally penned forty-eight of the sixty-five stories in the first two seasons, writer's fatigue was inevitable, and it began to show in his new scripts, many of which recycled already-used premises and re-tread the same old thematic territory. Exacerbating the problem, CBS ordered a whopping thirty-seven episodes for season three. It's a quandary numerous show-runners have faced over the years: How do you balance quality with the network's demand for quantity? Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof of Lost found one solution by negotiating an end to their series and cutting back on the number of episodes per season, but Serling took another route—he doled out teleplay duties more generously to other writers and forged ahead. The result is an extremely uneven batch of episodes. There are some fantastic stories here—even a few of the series' best—but you'll have to slog through plenty of filler to get to the good stuff.
Nowadays, season premieres—especially for shows that follow in TZ's footsteps, like Lost and Fringe—are where show-runners pull out the big guns, usually for an action-packed episode that leaves viewers wanting more, anxious to tune in next week. Not so for The Twilight Zone, which tended to open each season with a slow-burning story about isolation, like season one's "Where Is Everybody?" and season two's "King Nine Will Not Return." Season three starts off with a similar whimper in "Two," a nearly dialogue-free post-apocalyptic snoozer about the two lone survivors of a nuclear holocaust. One of them is played by revenge-film legend Charles Bronson, but chucking some water in co-star Elizabeth Montgomery's face is unfortunately about as badass as he gets here. The following two episodes also seem like retreads. "The Arrival," about an airplane that lands with its passengers and crew missing, harkens back to numerous other aeronautically awry scripts, and "The Shelter," while a decent episode, is clearly an attempt by Serling to recapture the America-could-destroy-itself-from-within Cold War paranoia that made season one's "The Monsters are Due on Maple Street" such brilliantly incisive social commentary. The first real winner of season three is "A Game of Pool," which features The Odd Couple's Jack Klugman as a hustler playing for his life against the ghost of a legendary pool shark.
If I could only own one disc of this five-disc set, I'd choose disc two, which contains three all-time great Twilight Zone episodes. Everyone remembers "It's a Good Life," starring Lost in Space's Billy Mumy as a creepy six-year-old who reads minds, telekinetically kills dogs, and banishes anyone who disobeys him to "the cornfield" outside an existentially isolated Ohio town. Speaking of existential, Serling borrows liberally from Jean-Paul Sartre's famous play "No Exit"—the one that gave us the phrase "hell is other people"—for "Five Characters in Search of an Exit," which follows a clown, a hobo, a ballet dancer, a bagpipe player, and an Army major as they find themselves inexplicably trapped in an enormous cylinder. And then there's one of the show's darkest episodes, "Deaths-Head Revisited," about a former Nazi guard and sadist who returns to the ruins of the Dachau concentration camp after the war, only to receive justice from the ghosts of the prisoners he tormented. Also on this disc is "Once Upon a Time," which isn't the greatest episode, but is notable for being shot in the style of a silent comedy and featuring Buster Keaton as a time-traveling janitor.
Disc three is where you'll find the season's doldrums, a series of largely unmemorable episodes. There are two exceptions; "Nothing in the Dark" stars a young Robert Redford as a wounded police officer who may or may not be Death incarnate, and "Kick the Can" has a group of senior citizens discover the rejuvenating powers of the age-old children's game. (This one was remade in the 1983 Twilight Zone movie, to diminished effect.) The fourth disc has its share of tedious stories with I saw that coming a mile off twists, but here you'll find one of the series' most memorable episodes, "To Serve Man," about a race of 9-foot-tall aliens called Kanamits who have one imperative—yes, to serve man—although this aim is fraught with linguistic uncertainties. I'm also fond of "Little Girl Lost," which almost seems like a precursor to Poltergeist, sans angry ghosts. Finally, disc five continues the hit-or-miss-but-mostly-miss nature of season three. Aside from "The Dummy," a terrifying episode about a mentally unstable ventriloquist, and "The Trade-Ins," which explores the complications that arise when an elderly couple seeks to transplant their consciousnesses into new, younger bodies, the season's final stretch is a series of disappointments. The greatest let-down is "I Sing the Body Electric," the only Ray Bradbury-penned script for The Twilight Zone to ever be filmed. Despite the unsettling premise of an "electric grandmother," the episode dissolves into syrupy sentiment.
The Twilight Zone: Season 3 Blu-ray, Video Quality
Consider Image Entertainment three for three. After near-perfect presentations of the first two seasons of The Twilight Zone, season three's Blu-ray debut displays just as much love and attention. You'd have to be a soulless Kanamit to find any real fault here. Using original 35mm negatives, all-new 1080p/AVC-encoded transfers have been struck for each episode—framed in the standard 1.33:1 TV aspect ratio—and the results are unanimously gorgeous. As I mentioned in the reviews of the first two seasons, I'm not sure if the source materials were near-pristine to begin with, or if these new masters required extensive restoration work, but regardless, the prints display no damage whatsoever aside from a few scattered white specks. (They're also untouched by DNR. The grain structure is rich and stable.) What's really impressive here is the newfound clarity that has emerged. You've seen The Twilight Zone on DVD, but you've never seen it like this. The textures of the actors' faces, the fibers of Rod Serling's herringbone suits, the details of the props—everything is refined and clear, without showing any signs of edge enhancement. Just as importantly, inky blanks, bright but not overblown whites, and a smooth gradient of a gray tones come together for an image with real depth and presence. There are a few scattered moments of moiré-like shimmer—noticeable in fine patterns—but there are otherwise no encode issues worth reporting.
The Twilight Zone: Season 3 Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Continuing the custom established in seasons one and two, there are two audio options for each episode of season three, 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 sound wonderful. For comparison, you can also select the original, unmastered audio, which is a bit murkier, with slightly muffled dialogue at times and a low tape hiss that can be made out if you listen carefully. The remastered mixes are preferable in my opinion, 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 3 Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Like the previous sets, season three comes with a generous array of bonus material, including 21 commentary tracks—19 of them new—from a bevy of Twilight Zone experts, audio interviews conducted by The Twilight Zone Companion author Marc Scott Zicree, numerous radio dramas, isolated scores (in Dolby Digital 2.0), sponsor billboards, and more. Here's an episode listing and a full breakdown of what's featured:
The Twilight Zone: Season 3 Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The third season of The Twilight Zone contains a handful of the series' best episodes, but overall you can sense the writer's fatigue that was beginning to affect Serling, who, in an effort to deliver a 37-episode season, was forced to recycle many of his old themes and story structures. Regardless, if you're a Twilight Zone fan this is a must-own set, and once again Image Entertainment has delivered the goods, with all-new high definition transfers, remastered audio tracks, and a bevy of special features. Recommended!
The Twilight Zone: Other Seasons
Blu-ray bundles with The Twilight Zone: Season 3 (2 bundles)
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The Twilight Zone: Season 3 Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Twilight Zone Season 3 Blu-ray Announced - November 1, 2010
Image Entertainment continues releasing Twilight Zone season sets on Blu-ray at a brisk pace. Now it has announced The Twilight Zone: Season 3 with a street date of February 15, 2011. This five-disc set will include all 37 episodes of the third season of Rod Serling's ...
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