Twilight Zone The Movie (1983)
Produced by Steven Spielberg and John Landis
segments directed by:
Twilight Zone The Movie took some fan favorite episodes and remade them with modern effects and in modern times (1980s). The film was quite successful in that aspect providing high budget filming in a movie anthology format. The wrap around story stars Dan Akroyd and provides a nostalgic introduction and comical ending to the film.
“Kick the Can” will sure to put a smile on your face as Scatman Crothers visits an old age home and gives the old folk one night to be young again. This is exemplary Steven Spielberg feel-good story-telling with a wonderful cast of young and old actors that really sell the tale.
In “It’s a Good Life,” a young boy with special powers brings a beautiful stranger, Helen Foley, into the fold of his family. However, she is less than amused with the family’s pandering to the child. When she gets angry, Anthony tries his best to entertain her but his childhood idea of fun only frightens her beyond belief. Dante did an amazing job at creating a world where anything is possible from the imagination of a child’s mind. Cartoon monsters explode onto the screen in a frenzy of fantastic effects and vivid color. The original stars Billy Mummy and is still a treat to watch but this one takes the story one step further giving it more closure and resolve. Directed by Joe Dante.
John Lithgow is fantastic as the paranoid nervous flyer, John Valentine, in “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.” This has to be some of the best acting of his career. You really feel the anxiety and pain in his character as he tries to convince the flight crew that there’s a gremlin on the wing of the plane. The music helps to ramp up the tension in this segment. The creature is a beautiful creation itself, a masterpiece in animatronics special effects. That was always the one thing lacking in the original TZ episode. William Shatner played the part convincingly but the creature was less than appealing to future generations. The original is a pleasure to watch but the movie version is scarier because of the realistic effects. directed by George Miller.
The first segment in the film, “Time Out,” is about a bigot who is forced to live the lives of the people he detracts. Because of the tragedy associated with this segment, the filmmakers were lucky to even get a story that feels like it has an ending. While filming the Vietnam jungle scene, an explosive caused a helicopter to crash, killing Vic Morrow and two child actors. Needless to say, this put a damper upon celebrating the release. This segment was directed by John Landis.
If there could be one thing good to come out of the tragic deaths it’s that ultimately films became safer through laws and safety regulations and the actors themselves gained the courage to say “cut” if they saw something dangerous going down. Ironically, the last thing Morrow said before shooting the scene was, “I got to be crazy for doing this, I should have asked for a stunt double.” Director, John Landis, and some of his crew spent the next 10 years in court and though they were acquitted for manslaughter, they paid out millions in Civil suits.
The movie has the tone and feel of the Twilight Zone series and is a commendable effort to bring these great stories by Rod Serling, Richard Matheson, and George Clayton Johnson, into more modern times. If you like the series you will definitely like this film. It doesn’t feel like it’s trying to replace the old stories but are more like enhanced versions respecting what has come before.
Burgess Meredith took the role of Rod Serling’s narrator (voice only). He starred in several episodes of the original series. He is tied with Jack Klugman for the most appearances in the TZ series (4).
Billy Mumy plays a small part in the segment, “It’s a Good Life,” as one of the guys who gets angry at Anthony for banging on the video game in the bar. As I had mentioned, Mumy played Anthony in the original TV series. The segment also featured parts by Kevin McCarthy and William Schallert who had likewise starred in Twilight Zone episodes.
From the 1970’s punk band, The Runaways, lead singer Cherrie Currie played Anthony’s sister in the “Good Life” segment. Ironically she had been afflicted by Anthony and no longer had a mouth.
Several Televisions in the house always had cartoons airing somewhat matching what was taking place in the story. Toons included parts of Bugs Bunny, Heckle and Jeckle, Daffy Duck, Betty Boop, Claude Cat and Hubie and Bertie/Mouse Wreckers. This is one of my favorite aspects about the “Good Life” segment.
In the wrap around, Dan Akroyd delivers an oft used quote…You want to see something really scary?
I just wanted to mention that somewhere on the web someone had stated these FX were CGI. I can assure you there were no CGI effects in 1983. Some films did use computers for framing and camera movements but not for visual subjects, that usage was still 8-10 years in the future. What we did have in 1983 was…Stan Winston!