Twilight Zone, feature film spinoff from Rod Serling’s perennially popular 1960s TV series, plays much like a traditional vaudeville card, what with its tantalizing teaser opening followed by three sketches of increasing quality, all building up to a socko headline act.
Pic consists of prolog by John Landis as well as vignettes, none running any longer than original TV episodes, by Landis, Steven Spielberg, Joe Dante and George Miller. Dante and Miller manage to shine the brightest in this context.
Landis gets things off to a wonderful start with a comic prolog starring Dan Aykroyd and Albert Brooks.
Landis’ principal episode, however, is a downbeat, one-dimensional fable about racial and religious intolerance. An embittered, middle-aged man who has just been passed over for a job promotion, Vic Morrow sports a torrent of racial epithets aimed at Jews, Blacks and Orientals while drinking with buddies at a bar. Upon exiting, he finds himself in Nazi-occupied Paris as a suspected Jew on the run from the Gestapo.
This is the only sequence in the film not derived from an actual TV episode, although it does bear a thematic resemblance to a 1961 installment titled A Quality of Mercy.
Spielberg’s entry is the most down-to-earth of all the stories. In a retirement home filled with oldsters living in the past, spry Scatman Crothers encourages various residents to think young and, in organizing a game of kick the can, actually transforms them into their childhood selves again.
Most bizarre contribution comes from Dante. Outsider Kathleen Quinlan enters the Twilight Zone courtesy of little Jeremy Licht, who lords it over a Looney-Tune household by virtue of his power to will anything into existence except happiness.
But wisely, the best has been saved for last. Miller’s re-working of Nightmare at 20,000 Feet, about a man who sees a gremlin tearing up an engine wing of an airplane, is electrifying from beginning to end.