DVD Review: The Twilight Zone (The Complete Fourth Season)

The fourth season was the time that almost wasn’t for The Twilight Zone. Then it became the season that’s rarely syndicated. Trouble began for Rod Serling when the series lost Liggett & Myers as its main sponsor in 1962. This was at a time when the sponsor was more important than the ratings since they provided a bulk of the production costs. CBS had completed its fall schedule by the time The Twilight Zone had found a different cigarette company as a sponsor. The network wanted the series to be a spring replacement series for an hour long slot. This proved to be a major challenge for Serling and his crew since the tone and pacing of the show had to be adjusted. They couldn’t do their usual shock reveal payoff that worked so well in thirty minutes. The hour-long format eventually proved tricky when it came to syndication. There were 138 episodes that lasted 30 minutes so the 18 hour long episodes weren’t necessary to create an attractive package to TV stations. Instead of editing them down or turning them into two-parters, the season 4 episodes were often kept in the vault. A few daring TV stations would run them as “The Lost Twilight Zone Episodes.” But many fans of watching Twilight Zone on their local UHF and PBS stations had no clue that these episode exist. Odds are high that The Twilight Zone: The Complete Fourth Season might just be all new to you.

“In His Own Image” has George Gizzard (Law & Order) as a normal enough guy who flips out in a subway station. He wants to get back to his hometown, but things don’t add up when he arrives. His memory is off. What’s really wrong with him? It goes beyond his skin. “The Thirty-Fathom Grave” has a ship discover a submarine that was sunk 21 years before during World War II. Turns out the ship’s chief served on the submarine. Is he being haunted? Bill Bixby (The Incredible Hulk) and Simon Oakland (Kolchak: The Night Stalker) are on the waves. “Valley of the Shadow” is the ultimate tourist trap. A reporter discovers a town with an astounding secret. The townspeople give him a choice of living forever with them or being executed. James Doohan (Scotty on Star Trek) is part of the decision. “He’s Alive” lets Dennis Hopper (Blue Velvet) become inspired by the ghost of Hitler. Something spooky about seeing Hopper become a fascist leader. “Mute” is a communications exploration. Ann Jillian (It’s a Living) is an orphan whose parents never taught her to talk. But it turns out there’s a reason for this.

“Death Ship” takes Jack Klugman (Quincy) and Ross Martin (The Wild Wild West into outer space. They are on a mission to find a new habitable planet. They think they find such a place, but there’s something wrong with the location since it somehow is linked to their past. “Jess-Belle” makes Anne Francis (Honey West) go out of her way to stop an ex-lover from marry. She enlists a witch to put a hex on them. However she doesn’t realize the full price of such a service. “Miniature” puts Robert Duvall (The Godfather) into a doll museum. He thinks something odd is happening. “Printer’s Devil” contains a rather current subject as Burgess Meredith runs a failing newspaper. He makes a deal with a guy to run the operation and make it profitable. But is that really a good deal? “No Time Like the Past” deals with the trouble in building a time machine so you can go back and kill Hitler. “The Parallel” has an astronaut orbiting the Earth finds himself back home. He has no memory of the landing. What happened during splashdown? “I Dream of Genie” has down on his luck Howard Morris (Ernest T. Bass on The Andy Griffith Show) gets a few wishes when he rubs the right antique. Jack Albertson (Chico and the Man) is the dapper Genie. “The New Exhibit” is a wax museum tale. The building is going to be torn down for a shopping mall so Martin Balsam takes a few figures home. Who doesn’t want Jack the Ripper in their living room? “Of Late I Think of Cliffordville” is a tale of a rich man who yearns for a simple life. Julie Newmar (Batman‘s Catwoman) gives him a chance to live his life over again, except there’s a nasty catch. “The Incredible World of Horace Ford” has a toy designer (Batman‘s Pat Hingle) discover that none of his childhood friends have aged. “On Thursday We Leave for Home” has a stranded space mission saved. But are they ready to rejoin humanity? Tim O’Connor (Buck Rogers) is part of the rescue.

The fourth season does take a little bit of adjusting for viewers so used to the pacing of the 30 minute episodes. The stories have a bit more of a dramatic flavor since they can’t expose the twist so early. In a sense this season helped set up The Outer Limits that attempted to fill an hour slot the following TV series. The Twilight Zone would return to its more familiar 30 minute format for its fifth and final season. There is a major appeal to the fourth season that it hasn’t been overplayed for most casual fans of the series. This is a boxset well worth using for private marathon seasons.

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The transfers appear to be from the recent HD remastered episodes that came out on Blu-ray. The black and white images look crisp. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. The mix is fine with music not stepping on the dialogue.

There are no bonus features.

The Twilight Zone: The Complete Fourth Season contains the odd time when the series went to the hour long format. Rod Serling and his writers were able to adapt to the double long scripts. There’s plenty of intrigue and shock in their stories. This is a a barebones collection for those who just want the episodes without the bonus features.

RLJ Entertainment presents The Twilight Zone: The Complete Fourth Season. Hosted by Rod Serling. Starring: Jack Klugman, Anne Francis, Ross Martin, Dennis Hopper, Burgess Meredith and Robert Duvall. Boxset Contents: 18 episodes on 5 DVDs. Released: August 5, 2013.

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