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DVD Review: “The Twilight Zone (1959) – The Complete Second Season”

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While the Writers Guild of America just recently voted Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone the third best written series of all-time, viewers have long known how special this iconic anthology series was. Serling, who wrote 20 of the episodes this season, and his team of writers, which included Charles Beaumont, Richard Matheson, and George Clayton Johnson, told fascinating tales of science fiction and fantasy that appealed beyond fans of those genres because the stories were so identifiable in the way they spoke to the human condition and morality. Image Entertainment continues its episode-only, complete-season DVD releases of The Twilight Zone with The Complete Second Season, debuting in a five-disc set at the very affordable price of $29.98.

The Second Season earned Serling an Emmy for Outstanding Writing Achievement in Drama and the series was nominated for Outstanding Program Achievement in the Field of Drama and won the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation. Notable stories from this season include “Eye of the Beholder,” where a woman hopes plastic surgery will allow her to fit in society; “A Most Unusual Camera” that takes pictures of the future; “A Penny for Your Thoughts” finds a man (Dick York) develop the ability to read minds after a flip of a coin; an episode that is almost entirely silent finds an elderly woman (Agnes Moorehead) dealing with “The Invaders” in her attic; and possibly my favorite of the whole series, “The Night of the Meek,” where an alcoholic, department-store Santa brings a bit of joy into the lives of everyone he encounters. Other notable actors who appeared this season are John Carradine, Buddy Ebsen, Burgess Meredith, Don Rickles, Cliff Robertson, and William Shatner.

During this season, 29 episodes aired between the fall of 1960 and spring of 1961, seven less than the First Season. This reduction in shows was a cost-cutting measure by James Aubrey, a new executive at CBS, who also decided six episodes should be shot on videotape. They are “The Lateness of the Hour,” “The Night of the Meek,” “The Whole Truth,” “Twenty-Two,” “Static,” and “Long Distance Call.” These episodes not only have a different visual look to them because they were recorded on film from a monitor, but they were executed in a different manner as well. Instead of editing the videotape, the show was cut live in the studio, resulting in the episodes resembling plays from the early days of television. This new method saved just a minimal amount of money and was determined not worth the limitations put on the stories and their production, so the idea was dropped.

There were other notable changes between this season and the first. Serling went from voice-over narrator to being seen on screen. Marius Constant’s unsettling guitar-and-bongo theme was chosen over Bernard Herrmann’s theme. The opening visuals had been changed as had Serling’s introduction which now was:

You’re traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind; a journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That’s the signpost up ahead—your next stop, the Twilight Zone.

The DVD image looks good though there is some minor dirt and damage evident. The audio has some issues. For example, the levels of “Eye of the Beholder” are uneven, sounding as if part of it was re-recorded at a later time, and during “Lateness of the Hour,” a hiss can be heard at the beginning. The best part about this DVD collection is seeing Serling preview the next episode.

Although The Twilight Zone is one of those shows that always seems to be playing on some channel, this collection from Image Entertainment is well worth owning, especially considering the price puts it at $1.01 an episode.

I also reviewed The Complete Third Season, The Complete Fourth Season and The Complete Fifth Season

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About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS
  • John Lake

    You mention right at the top that “The Twilight Zone” was the third best written series of all time. I have felt that way about the series — best written — for as long as I can remember! Back in the earlier days of television, shows were written primarily by one writer; today of course the top shows are written full staff of writers, writing in concert. The concert approach makes for great TV, but what we had in the past should be an inspiration to all of us.
    The series was original, and the scripts wonderful and enduring.

  • gkubrick

    That’s according to WGA voters. I’d vote it ahead of Sopranos and Seinfeld, both of which grew repetitive. Thanks for stopping by

  • gkubrick

    also, highly recommended is The Twilight Zone Companion by Marc Scott Zicree. Not sure if still in publication, but a must-own for fans of the series

    • http://blogcritics.org/writers/barbara-barnett Barbara Barnett

      It’s definitely still in print. I interviewed Marc a few months ago. We talked extensively about Twilight Zone. The series ranks among my favorite of all time, and it’s always our New Year’s Eve/Day marathon.

  • Sunni Brock

    We did a documentary about Charles Beaumont who died of a mysterious neurological problem at age 37. Marc Scott Zicree is one of the key interviewees along with Ray Bradbury (RIP), Richard Matheson, Harlan Ellison, William Shatner and many other amazing folks. Beaumont was fascinating as a person and a writer.

    • gkubrick

      I believe I am a fan of your FB page. Would there be an opportunity for me to review the doc? If so, would like to talk to you about it

      • Sunni Brock

        That would be great! Contact me at sunni (at) jasunni.com with your mailing address and I will send a copy out.

  • gkubrick

    thanks to everyone stopping by and making this such a “hot” article. If I had known the Twilight Zone was going to be so popular. I would have reviewed the series years ago

  • gkubrick

    RIP Richard Matheson, writer of two great episodes this season: “Nick of Time” and “The Invaders”