Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983) Short Review (Rated PG)

I figured it’s ‘that time of the season’ so I figured I would post some horror movie reviews. Twilight Zone: The Movie isn’t straight horror of course, but it’s a good movie to ease into the Halloween Season with.  This was a pretty good take on the classic television series and one of the better film anthologies out there. There are 4 solid vignettes (and a bookend segment with Dan Aykroyd that takes you in and out of the film). Each segment is conducted by a different superstar director. There are some creepy moments in the film and maybe a good scare or three towards the end.

The first episode, ‘Time Out’,  is about an angry racist played by Vic Morrow. His fate in the Twilight Zone is to face the same kind of hatred (albeit a little bit more of an extreme nature) at the hands of the Ki Klux Klan, a group of American soldiers in Vietnam (he also hated Asians) and  the all time bad guys: The Nazis. Morrow was tragically killed in a horrible accident during the making of the film along with two child actors, Myca Dinh Le and Renee Shin-Yi Chen, who I believe were working on the set … ‘illegally’…. Allegedly… Morrow was a great actor that excelled in the jerk role. I would have liked to have seen the entire version of the segment. I get the idea from what was being filmed that Morrow’s character was to have had a change of heart, that would have made for a little bit more of a hopeful story. It sounds like they had to change the ending because of the accident. That overshadows the segment, at least for me. This also brought Director John Landis career which was ON FIRE at the time to an absolute halt. He had trouble getting work long after this, being blamed for the deaths.

The second installment “Kick The Can’, involves two new residents at an old folks home. One, Leo Conroy (Bill Quinn), is unhappy to be left there by his family and is deeply depressed by it. The other, a mysterious man named Mr. Bloom (and played by the always affable Scatman Crothers) seems happy to be there. Some of his enthusiasm begins to rub off and shakes things up with the other residents’ usual routines. It’s the sweetest of the four, probably the most positive and not surprisingly directed by Stephen Spielberg. I think he was originally going to direct a different episode, but because it involved kids, a night shoot and special FX was understandably scrapped because of the Morrow accident.

I’ve always found the third episode ,’It’s A Good Life’, the creepiest. Its probably the most twisted of the four main segments. It involves a woman named Helen traveling across country to a new job, comes across a very unusual child named Anthony. At first she feels sorry for him and (after bumping him with her car) takes him home. She soon finds there is more to Anthony and his family than at first glance and becomes a reluctant guest in their home. As usual, director Joe Dante featured several actors from B-movie classics (like the great Kevin McCarthy and Dick Miller who were Dante film regulars along with Bill Mumy making a cameo. He played the original Anthony).

I think most people are going to like the last of the four stories ‘Nightmare at 20,000 Feet'(with John Lithgow), the most. John Lithgow plays John Valentine, a man suffering from an acute case of aerophobia while traveling by plane in foul weather. But that’s the least of his problems. Midway through the flight, he begins to think that he’s seen a man… or something… on the wing.  And it’s tearing up the engines. This one ramps up the tension to a far greater degree than the rest of the film. It has several good jump moments and one of the creepiest movie monsters I think ever created. I always used to worry about looking out my window and seeing that thing looking in like he does at Valentine. Lithgow should have gotten more recognition for his crazed, manic performance. I think he deserved an Oscar for at least a supporting role in a film. It always made my mom ill watching him hyperventilate. It was that good. It probably wouldn’t be nearly as good without the brilliant direction of George Miller, though. he combines humor and scares in this portion far better than any of the others. I would give this part a ‘5’ and it brings up the rest of the film not in small part because of the strong finish.

The tone of the entire film is a little choppy becuase of the vastly different subject matter (even if it is tied together by the weirdness of the Twilight Zone).  But it’s still a pretty good film based on an an iconic series. Most film anthologies don’t work very well. This one’s an exception. There was some great work done by a really talented crew here and the movie made my Top 10 List of 1983.

4 of 5


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