Rod Serling’s original Twilight Zone is rightly recognized as one of the finest genre series of all time, an anthology of terrifying tales that used metaphor to address the real-life problems of the day, but which still holds up wonderfully today. Part of that timeliness can be traced to the fact that, in addition to Serling’s masterful talents, the series featured writing by some of the most talented science fiction, fantasy, and horror writers of its era, a lineup that includes names like Richard Matheson, Charles Beaumont, George Clayton Johnson, Ray Bradbury, and Damon Knight. But while you are almost certainly familiar with the original, you might never have seen the also excellent ’80s revival of The Twilight Zone, and if that’s the case, a new full-series DVD box set is the perfect excuse to remedy that problem.
Airing three seasons on CBS between 1985 and 1989, the Twilight Zone revival is, just like the original, a who’s who of familiar names, with a cast that includes the likes of Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman, Martin Landau, Frances McDormand, and Giovanni Ribisi, just to name a few. Things are even more impressive behind the cameras. Check out this jaw-dropping line-up of writers: Harlan Ellison, J. Michael Straczynski (Babylon 5), Rockne S. O’Bannon (Farscape), George R.R. Martin (Game of Thrones), Stephen King, Richard Matheson, Charles Beaumont, Ray Bradbury, David Gerrold, Theodore Sturgeon, Joe Haldeman, Robert Silverberg, Roger Zelazny, Ron Cobb, George Clayton Johnson, and Arthur C. Clarke. It’s the genre writer equivalent of the freaking Expendables.
The mere involvement of those names should make the ’80s Twilight Zone a must-have for any serious sci-fi fan, and the series includes some genuine classics, such as two particularly noteworthy Ellison adaptations, “Shatterday” and “Paladin of the Lost Hour.” And if you’ve still got bad memories of Richard Kelly’s The Box, check out this Twilight Zone’s “Button, Button,” a superior adaptation of the Richard Matheson short story of the same name.
The new Twilight Zone box set packages together all three seasons of the show, 65 episodes in all. Bonus features include a photo gallery, a video interview with Wes Craven (who directed five episodes), and over a dozen audio commentaries. The Twilight Zone: The Complete ’80s Series lists for $59.98, but you can currently grab a copy “on Amazon for only $49.98, a discount of 17%.
On top of all the other reasons to buy the Twilight Zone set, it put a genuinely creepy twist on the original series’ opening narration. I love that ghostly image of Serling flashing past on the smoke.