Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)

Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)

“Hey — you wanna see something really scary?”

During a long road trip, a driver (Albert Brooks) and his passenger (Dan Aykroyd) play “guess that T.V. show theme song” to pass the time, and soon are catapulted into the Twilight Zone, where four differently spooky stories are introduced by a narrator (Burgess Meredith): in John Landis’s “Time Out”, a deeply racist bigot (Vic Morrow) is sent back in time to experience the horrors of Nazi-occupied France, lynchings by the Ku Klux Klan, and being under fire in the jungles of Vietnam; in Steven Spielberg’s “Kick the Can”, a cheerful resident (Scatman Crothers) of a home for the elderly convinces some of his fellow inhabitants to play childhood games in an attempt to regain their youthful vitality; in Joe Dante’s “It’s a Good Life”, a teacher (Kathleen Quinlan) on a road trip is invited into the home of a young boy (Jeremy Licht) who has the power to completely control his environment; and in George Miller’s “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet”, a terrified passenger (John Lithgow) can’t get anyone to believe him when he sees a monstrous creature on the wing of their plane.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Albert Brooks Films
  • Burgess Meredith Films
  • Dan Aykroyd Films
  • Dick Miller Films
  • Episodic Films
  • Elderly People
  • Evil Kids
  • Fantasy
  • Horror Films
  • Joe Dante Films
  • John Landis Films
  • John Lithgow Films
  • Kathleen Quinlan Films
  • Kevin McCarthy Films
  • “No One Believes Me!”
  • Science Fiction
  • Steven Spielberg Films
  • Supernatural Powers

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary opens his review of this episodic sci-fi horror flick by noting that “since Rod Serling’s classic anthology series is still seen in syndication throughout America, there was no need to make this film, particularly since three of the four episodes are remakes of old shows that hold up quite well.” However, he concedes that “one can’t feel harshly toward the directors because John Landis, Steven Spielberg, Joe Dante, and Australian George Miller loved the show when they were kids and wanted to pay homage to it and its creator.” With that said, “as anyone could have predicted”, while these new episodes “are better made than the originals, they aren’t better” — and the “‘feel’ of the original series is missing, as is the late Serling as host and narrator.” Meanwhile, the “young filmmakers have slightly altered the stories, changing the themes to better fit modern times”.

Peary accurately notes how disappointing Spielberg’s “Kick the Can” is on every level, and laments that the ending of “It’s a Good Life” has turned moralistic, with “even a boy… capable of terrible deeds want[ing] help, need[ing] sincere friendship, and prefer[ing] guidance… to being a spoiled brat.” He argues that the final episode — in which “John Lithgow takes over William Shatner’s role” — is the best, and that it works well to have Lithgow playing a “sane man” who “no one will believe” rather than a “former mental patient.”

Finally, Peary discusses the tragedy of “Time Out”, which infamously resulted in the death-by-helicopter of Vic Morrow and two illegally hired children he was acting with, thus making “it difficult to appreciate the episode on any level.”

He notes that “special-effects experts Rob Botton and Craig Reardon should be singled out for creating some truly spectacular creatures”:

— and that “best of all is Landis’s truly wacky and terrifying prelude with Dan Aykroyd and Albert Brooks.”

Note: Watch for Dick Miller (naturally!) in a cameo role during the beginning of “It’s a Good Life”:

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • John Lithgow as John Valentine
  • Impressive special effects

  • Creative sets

Must See?
No, though it’s worth a one-time look for its better elements.


2 thoughts on “Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)

  1. A once-must: but only for the wild, cinematic energy of the prelude and the Dante and Miller sequences. (I recommend skipping the other two parts.)

    My feeling about this compilation is similar to that of ‘Spirits of the Dead’ – which is only saved by its concluding Fellini story.

    Compilations, in general, tend to be mixed bags, so the overall uneven quality here is not all that surprising.

    Dante’s episode is some of his best work as a director (and, personally, I don’t mind that the tone veers from the TZ original.) He has a gung-ho cast and I find the Quinlan-Licht relationship appropriately disquieting.

    Miller’s work with the finale is also exciting and engaging, with Lithgow in fine, frenetic form.

    And, yay, Dick Miller! 😉

  2. ⭐️⭐️⭐️ out of ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

    Slick, competent fun but nit must see. The Dante segment is my favourite.

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