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With: William Shatner, Lee Marvin, Jack Klugman, Billy Mumy, Mickey Rooney, Telly Savalas, Constance Ford, Cedric Hardwicke, Richard Basehart, Richard Erdman, Patrick O'Neal, Ruta Lee, Ed Wynn, Maggie McNamara, Edward Andrews, Robert Lansing, Don Gordon, Colin Wilcox, Gladys Cooper, Wally Cox, Diana Hyland, Ann Blyth, William Demarest, Robert Keith, Terry Becker, John McGiver, Jackie Cooper, Martin Landau, Barry Nelson, Nancy Malone, Neville Brand, George Takei, John Dehner, Richard Deacon, Gary Crosby, Peter Mark Richman, Hazel Court, Mary Badham, Jeffrey Byron
Written by: Rod Serling, Richard Matheson, Charles Beaumont, Earl Hamner Jr., etc.
Directed by: Richard Donner, Don Siegel, Ida Lupino, Jacques Tourneur, Joseph M. Newman, Richard C. Sarafian, Ted Post, Robert Florey, John Brahm, etc.
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 920
Date: 18/03/2013

The Twilight Zone - Season 5 (2011)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Just Crossed Over

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Could the fifth season of "The Twilight Zone" (1963-1964) be the best one? It doesn't seem likely after the downfall of the fourth season, wherein the network switched to an hour-long format and changed time slots. Most fans agree that the new format just didn't fit the well-established rhythms of the show. The fifth season was a return to form, but with a vengeance. This season includes some of my all-time favorite film directors, such as Don Siegel, Jacques Tourneur, and Ida Lupino.

It also includes some of the very best episodes, starting with Nightmare at 20,000 Feet (which aired October 11, 1963). Writer Richard Matheson based this on one of his great short stories, adding a new psychological element; the character had just recovered from a nervous breakdown and was returning home for the first time. William Shatner is at his sweaty best here, and Richard Donner directs with skill. The disc includes an interesting interview with Matheson.

Next up we've got Living Doll (from November 1, 1963), where a doll called "Talky Tina" -- voiced by the legendary June Foray -- torments the uptight Telly Savalas. The disc includes a commentary track and an interview with Foray (who is perhaps best known as the voice of "Rocky" the Flying Squirrel, and "Witch Hazel" in the Bugs Bunny cartoons).

Ida Lupino directed the supremely disturbing The Masks (March 20, 1964), wherein a dying millionaire surrounds himself with his ungrateful family on the evening of Mardi Gras, and makes them wear masks until midnight to win their inheritance. Jacques Tourneur's episode Night Call is another of my favorites, again written by Matheson, about an old lady (Gladys Cooper) who begins receiving mysterious phone calls.

Notably, this season also includes An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge (February 28, 1964), which director Robert Enrico made in France in 1962; it won the Oscar for Best Live Action Short in 1963. It's based on a short story by Ambrose Bierce (one of my favorite writers). It has very little dialogue, and instead uses a strange song called "Livin' Man." Though its rhythms are slightly different, "Twilight Zone" creator/host Rod Serling was able to perfectly fit it into the show's time frame, with room for the introduction, conclusion and commercial break. (When the 1983 Twilight Zone movie premiered on cable, this short was shown alongside it.)

Other memorable episodes include Steel (with Lee Marvin), A Kind of a Stopwatch, Ring-a-Ding Girl, Number 12 Looks Just Like You, I Am the Night -- Color Me Black, Stopover in a Quiet Town, and two from Don Siegel: Uncle Simon and The Self-Improvement of Salvadore Ross. The five-disc Blu-Ray set comes with tons of commentary tracks, interviews, and radio dramas, many of them exclusive to this collection.

What more can I say about this show, other than it belongs in my personal list of the top 5 television shows, ever? (Alongside "The Simpsons" and "The Sopranos," at least.) It was uncommonly intelligent, even poetic. The stories were dark and cynical and didn't care a whit about coddling viewers or restoring order in the universe. The events in these shows happened to innocent people, for no reason. And perhaps, sometimes, those people weren't so innocent at all. Perhaps none of us is innocent.

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