- Movie Rating -

Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)

| June 24, 1983

I have seen a lot of Rod Serling’s “Twilight Zone” TV episodes in reruns enough to comment that the series seems to run about half and half.  For every two good episodes there is one that kind so-so.  Twilight Zone The Movie is sort of the same way – four stories, two of which are good and two of which are boring and obvious.  Therefore, it is left up to you to decide if the two good stories are worth sitting through the two bad ones.  The good are directed by minor league players (i.e lesser known): Joe Dante, who made The Howling, and George Miller who made The Road Warrior.  The boring stories are directed by major league players John Landis and Steven Spielberg.

The stories are not named, only numbered by segments.  “Segment One” is directed by John Landis and stars Vic Morrow as a bitter racist who is passed over for a promotion and sits at a bar one night spouting anti-Semitic remarks.  Very soon, true to the spirit of the show, he finds himself spinning out of time, hunted by Nazis in World War II then being dropped in 1950s Mississippi where he is pursued by the Klan.  This one I’ll put in the lackluster category.  It’s interesting but the ending doesn’t really teach a lesson.  It kind of ends of an obvious note.

“Segment Two” is my least favorite, which is ironic because it was directed by one of my favorite directors, Steven Spielberg.  His story is pure Spielberg, maybe too much.  It takes place at an old folks home where the residents are feeling the tide of their age and wish for a chance to recapture their youth.  Their salvation comes in the form of Mr. Bloom (Scatman Crothers), an old man with a twinkle in his eye and a promise that he can make them all young again.  It’s a sweet little story but the message of “Once around is enough” is really hammered home.  Much of the story feels like leftovers from E.T. with all that sentimentality and pathos gumming things up.

Much better is “Segment Three” which stars Kathleen Quinlin as woman on the road, heading to a new job.  She stops in a roadside café and meets a little boy who is being harassed by the locals.  She comes to his defense but then ends up backing over his bike when she tries to leave.  She takes him home where she meets his family who live in fear of him.  Seems the kid can manifest cartoon characters out of thin air and has a habit of using his ill-temper to punish the family members.  This one, directed by George Miller, was a lot of fun.  It is visually creative and very scary.

The last is the best.  “Segment Four” catches up with John Valentine (John Lithgow) an airline passenger who is having panic attacks due largely to the violent thunderstorm outside.  Coaxed out of the lavatory, he returns to his seat only to look out the widow and see . . . something on the wing.  He goes berserk trying to calm himself and trying to convince the other passengers that he is not seeing things.  Lithgow gives a great performance as Valentine.  This segment is scary, bracing and the truest to the spirit of the show.

So, two very good segments and two segments that challenge you to stay awake.  How to recommend this film.  I would say, go in late if that’s possible.  About halfway through the movie when “Segment Three” begins you’ll have a good time.  Is that an endorsement?

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.