Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, June 13, 2013


A bizarre image from "Good Life"
TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE (1983). Multiple directors. Narrated by Burgess Meredith.

This big-screen adaptation of the famous TV show does not begin auspiciously with a dragged-out, unfunny framing sequence with Dan Aykroyd and Albert Brooks as ambulance men who sing theme songs from old television shows to pass the time; this builds up to a gag that is neither scary nor amusing.

The first segment of the movie is a new story entitled "Time Out," in which an embittered man (an excellent Vic Morrow) takes out his dissatisfaction with life on minorities such as Jews and Blacks, but then winds up back in Nazi Germany [as a Jew] and in the South [as a black], and so on. The tragic deaths that occurred during filming this segment and the repercussions were chronicled in the superb book Outrageous Conduct. "Time Out" is well-directed and edited, but it basically marked the end of director John Landis' big-screen career.

The original "Kick the Can" on The Twilight Zone [season 3], set in the Sunnyvale nursing home in which some of the inhabitants magically turn into children, has a good idea but is poorly developed, although it has a touching opening scene when one resident packs to go home with his son only to be told he has to stay in Sunnyvale. [The old people in the episode all seem too lively and lucid to be in a nursing home, which is also true in the movie.] The movie's adaptation is an improvement -- instead of just letting the "children" run off to go who knows where, it deals with the possible consequences of their transformation -- where would the kids go and do they really want to live life all over again? Murray Matheson and Scatman Crothers give good performances along with the rest of the cast. Directed by Steven Spielberg.

The adaptation of "It's a Good Life" is discussed in the post on Jerome Bixby's short story and the different film and TV versions of it. 

"Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" [season 5] starred a notable William Shatner as a man who'd already had one nervous breakdown on a plane, and has the misfortune of being on another plane when a gremlin or alien creature decides to poke about on the wing outside his window. This was a good episode, even if the monster looked like a hairy Harpo Marx. The creature's appearance is improved in the movie. and the sequence -- while played like a black comedy as is "It's a Good Life" -- is often intense and exciting. John Lithgow is okay as a more nervous and hysterical passenger than Shatner played. Directed by George Miller. 

Verdict: Overall, this is really just so-so. **1/2.

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