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Tony Albarella:
Earl Hamner
The Loner

(80's Version)
By Tony Albarella

Imaginative anthologies made a comeback in the mid-1980s, as evidenced by series such as Steven Spielberg's Amazing Stories and a retread of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. The Twilight Zone, a bastion of the genre, joined the fray in 1985 and ran until 1989. Each hour-long segment spun tales of speculative fiction in various lengths and to various levels of success.

Inevitable comparisons to its predecessor worked against this incarnation. The new show was shot in color, lacked the celebrated cast and crew of the original, and faltered without Rod Serling's unifying vision. But judged on it's own merit, the series generated more successes than failures and produced a good number of notable episodes. Much like Serling's show, the 80's Zone utilized the best available talent and discovered future stars as well.

From Image Entertainment comes the complete first season of The Twilight Zone, a most worthy addition to any fan's DVD library. These 24 episodes include teleplays by legendary writers such as Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, Harlan Ellison, Arthur C. Clarke and Theodore Sturgeon, with directorial chores handled by the likes of Wes Craven, William Friedkin, Joe Dante and Paul Lynch. A distinguished stable of actors performed on the series as well: Danny Kaye, Piper Laurie, Bruce Willis, Robert Klein, Morgan Freeman, John Carradine, Martin Landau, Frances McDormand, Peter Coyote and many others.

The series makes a smooth transition into the digital medium. Picture quality rivals any modern show, and highlights the individual styles of the series' various directors. The soundtrack is also excellent, with Dolby Digital Stereo bringing episodes (like the superior "Nightcrawlers") to virulent life. Extras include a video interview with Wes Craven, a photo gallery, and audio commentaries with many of the creative forces behind the series: Harlan Ellison, Philip DeGuere, Wes Craven, Alan Brennert, James Crocker, Bradford May and J.D. Feigelson.

As with the earlier series, the comedic episodes of this Twilight Zone are the weakest, and several "classic Zone" remakes leave viewers longing for the originals. This first season, however, boasts some fine examples of horror ("Shatterday," "The Shadow Man," "Gramma"), fantasy ("Paladin of the Lost Hour," "Her Pilgrim Soul," "To See the Invisible Man") and science fiction ("Chameleon," "The Star," "Profile in Silver").
When sold into syndication, the show was cut to a half-hour length and many segments suffered mightily under the weight of heavy editing (required because of their uneven timing). The best feature of this six-disc box set release is the complete restoration of original footage and soundtrack material. After years spent floundering in syndication, the show can finally be enjoyed as originally aired. It may not wholly succeed in upholding the tradition of Rod Serling's classic series, but it does an admirable job, and shines among its contemporary competition.