My Friend Paul And The Twilight Zone

I was looking for something to read and so flipped through the Arts and Entertainment section of the Sunday Times. It didn’t take me long to come to an article about the new Twilight Zone DVDs – a project spearheaded by my friend Paul Brownstein.

I’ve written about Paul before, so I won’t labor you with repeated praise. However, the Times article was very flattering about all the parts of this DVD that Paul touched – interviews and commentary, re added original scenes, crisp remastered prints, and old long forgotten extras.

Here’s the article, or if you stumble upon this at some distant date, it’s also included after the ‘jump’ link.

I’ve been waiting for Paul to receive this kind of praise for years.

July 17, 2005

The Return of the Pig-Faced People


MORE than 45 years after its debut, “The Twilight Zone” continues to elicit a special frisson of shared recognition. Such is the show’s staying power that even nonfans can recall some of its signature moments – like the demon child Billy Mumy killing his neighbors with a single thought in “It’s a Good Life.” Or the myopic bookworm Burgess Meredith breaking his glasses after a nuclear holocaust in “Time Enough at Last.” Or Agnes Moorhead being tormented by tiny aliens in “The Invaders.”

Rod Serling, the creator, host and main writer of “The Twilight Zone,” lived to see his brainchild acquire cult status, but he fretted over its fate. “You wouldn’t recognize what series it was,” he once said in a newspaper interview after the show went into syndication in the late 1960’s. “Full scenes were deleted. It looked like a long, protracted commercial separated by fragmentary moments of indistinct drama.” Previous VHS and DVD releases of uncut episodes have repaired this damage. Now, Image Entertainment has gone one better with “The Twilight Zone: The Definitive Edition.” The first three of the show’s five seasons were released on DVD in December, in March and on June 28; the last two arrive in October and December.

These sharp-as-glass episodes, remastered from the original camera negatives and magnetic soundtracks, reaffirm that at its best, “The Twilight Zone” was more than an exercise in clever creepiness. Produced when 50’s conformity and cold war paranoia were running at full throttle, the show offered its own brand of corrective sanity. Episodes like “The Eye of the Beholder,” wherein pig-faced people are considered beautiful, or “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street,” which depicted suburbanites morphing into a lynch mob, still endure as classic morality plays. Though sometimes preachy and heavy-handed, Mr. Serling’s writing remains uniquely righteous – a quality enhanced by the show’s literal black-and-white pallor.

Features from the show’s initial run on CBS, including advertising spots and Mr. Serling’s promotions for forthcoming episodes, help recreate the original viewing experience.

Audio commentary is offered by many of the principal actors, among them Cliff Robertson, Dennis Weaver, Jonathan Winters and Rod Taylor. The most revealing inside information from cast and crew, however, comes from audio recordings made over two decades ago by Marc Scott Zicree, author of “The Twilight Zone Companion,” in which details are provided on all aspects of “Zone” production, from casting decisions to specific camera angles. A copy of the volume accompanies the first-season set.

“What’s astonishing about ‘The Twilight Zone’ after all these years is its freshness,” Mr. Zicree said in a telephone interview. “Look at what it was competing against – westerns and detective shows that were derivative imitations of movies and radio programs made years before. Rod was not merely creating a new form of television, he was making direct observations about real life.” And, as these “Definitive Edition” DVD’s make compellingly clear, Mr. Serling’s observations were always delivered with an indelible “Twilight Zone” twist.

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