Four Tales of Time Travelling in the Twilight Zone
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 12/08/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"There is an interesting pattern to the episodes collected on Volume 10 of "The Twilight Zone" DVD series since the third episode essentially merges the first two together. But the key element here is obviously Time Travel. "The Last Flight," written by Richard Matheson, was sold to "The Twilight Zone" on the strength of a simple idea: a World War I pilot lands at a modern airbase. The pilot is Flight Lt. Decker (Kenneth Haigh), who fled during a dogfight, leaving his best friend surrounded by enemy fighters, doomed to die. After flying through a strange white cloud, similar to the Matheson employed in "The Incredible Shrinking Man" one would assume, Decker lands at a modern day American air field in France (you have to pretend we had them). There Decker learns that he might have a chance to redeem himself and more importantly, a reason to do so. "Once Upon a Time," also written by Matheson is a rare opportunity for outright slapstick in the Zone. The show features the great silent comedian Buster Keaton as janitor Woodrow Mulligan. Disgusted with the fast paced and high priced society of 1890, Woodrow steals a "time helmet" from the inventor who employs him, and travels to 1962. Of course, he is in for quite a bit of future shock. The 1890 sequences are down in silent fashion, with cards instead of dialogue, but the humor is trite rather than funny. Keaton is fine, but the gags are second-rate at best, which is really a surprise since the episode was directed by Norman Z. McLeod, who directed the Marx Brothers films "Horse Feathers" and "Monkey Business." This is just one of those cases were major talents come together and produce a small pop instead of a big bang.Cliff Robertson stars as Christian Horn, traveling to a new life in California in 1847 in "A Hundred Yards Over the Rim," written by Rod Serling. Similar to "The Last Flight," this episode hinges on a pivotal image: while searching for water and food for his dying son, Horn walks "over the rim" to discover a paved highway, telephone poles, trucks and a diner. However, the conclusion of this episode ends up paralleling "The Last Flight" way too much to avoid eye brow raising. Still, the performance of Robertson makes this one work on its own terms. Finally, "The Trouble With Templeton," written by E. Jack Neuman, features Brian Aherne as Booth Templeton, an aging actor who longs for the happy days in the Twenties when his wife as still alive. Late for a rehersal of a play he finds himself back in 1927. Finding his wife Laura (Pippa Scott) alive at a local speakeasy he is stunned to find that while she is as beautiful as he remembers her, she is a vulgar little flirt. His perfect memories destroyed, he returns to the present at which point he makes a rather stunning discovery. I have a special fondness for this episode because I did not see the twist coming. Sydney Pollack plays Willis, the young director who is not happy with Templeton's commitment to his craft. This was Neuman's only Zone script, although he did write/produce several notable television series including "Dr. Kildare," "Mr. Novak" and "Police Story." This is an above average collection of "Twilight Zone" episodes helped alone by the thematic unity of the quartet of stories."