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Blu-ray Review
Blu-ray Disc review by Bill Hunt, Editor of The Digital Bits

The Twilight Zone: Season 1 (Blu-ray Disc)

Buy this Blu-ray now at Amazon!

The Twilight Zone: Season 1
1959-1960 (2010) - CBS (Image Entertainment)
Released on Blu-ray on September 14th, 2010
Previously available on DVD

LPCMDolby Digital

Film Rating: A
Video (1-20): 19
Audio (1-20): 14
Extras: A+

It's not very often that a TV series release truly delivers on Blu-ray, even less so a classic series. Other than Star Trek and The Prisoner, the niche has been pretty lackluster. Well, prepare to be dazzled. Image's new high-def upgrade of The Twilight Zone: Season 1 delivers truly stunning quality, packs in nearly all of the already comprehensive Definitive Edition DVD extras... AND adds a plethora of new content as well.

I'm not going to wax on about how great this show is - we've done that before. For those few of you younger readers unfamiliar with it, suffice it to say that The Twilight Zone was a highly influential, multi-genre anthology series, which delivered weekly twists, conundrums and mind-bending puzzles to its audience... and often a message or moral in the process. Created by the late Rod Serling, the series ran from 1959 to 1964 - 156 episodes total - and has oft been copied but never equaled. It's a television classic, and it's aged very well indeed.

Not so very long ago, our friends at Image Entertainment released the complete series - all five seasons - on DVD in elaborate Definitive Edition box sets. Each was loaded with more bonus content than one could possibly have imagined or expected would exist for a series of this age. And if you're a die-hard fan of the show, you probably already own these fine sets. So what you really want to know here, is are these new Blu-ray editions worth the upgrade price? Well... that's going to depend on how much you love the series, and how much spare change you have to part with. But I'll tell you this much with confidence: Image has done their level best to clinch the pro-upgrade argument for you.

I'll also tell you this: I was stunned at just how good these episodes look in high-definition. The original 35mm elements have been scanned in full 1080p, and are presented here in their original full frame aspect ratio, 'pillar-boxed' to fill the remainder of the 1.78 image area. The elements are stunningly clean and free of defects, with crisp detail and wonderfully preserved textures and contrasts. The familiar analog NTSC softness we've all become used to with this show is a thing of the past. You'll feel as if you were sitting in Rod Serling's own private screening room as you watch these episodes unfold. On the audio front, the episode soundtracks have been remastered and restored from the original masters and are presented in uncompressed linear PCM 2.0 mono. Though even the restored tracks reveal their age on occasion, the dialogue is generally clear and the episodes scores sound wonderful. The original (unrestored) tracks are also available here in LPCM 2.0 mono, and many of the episodes have bonus isolated musical scores in LPCM 2.0 mono as well (more on that in a moment). I simply can't imagine these episodes sounding better, so high marks for it. Do keep in mind though, that LPCM 2.0 mono is probably not going to dazzle anyone compared to most modern 5.1 lossless Blu-ray sound mixes.

As for the extras included on Blu-ray, they are certainly BEYOND comprehensive. Nearly everything from the Season 1 Definitive Edition has been included here too. I say nearly, because not quite everything has carried over. The Drew Carey Show clip is gone for example, as are The Mighty Casey photos and the other photo galleries, the Netherlands sales pitch, the rare Rod Serling blooper, the Liars Club piece and of course the PDF file containing the 1963 Twilight Zone comic book. (Note: It's possible that at least a couple of these will be included on a future season of the BD release.) And obviously, this Blu-ray set doesn't include the excellent, paperback-sized copy of historian Marc Scott Zicree's The Twilight Zone Companion (although that is certainly available separately). None of those are major omissions, and that still leaves a great deal of remaining DVD content - audio commentaries, isolated scores, promos, original sponsor billboards, vintage interviews, Emmy Awards footage and MUCH more. Still, you should be aware of the cuts when you upgrade, just in case you wish to keep your existing DVDs too for the missing content.

However, what's truly surprising here is just how many NEW special features have been added exclusively for Blu-ray. Among them are the series' unofficial pilot (The Time Element) in full HD, some 19 new audio commentary tracks (in addition to the 6 from the DVD), new interviews with various actors from the series, a Tales from Tomorrow episode (What You Need), a vintage audio interview with cinematographer George T. Clemens, 12 more Twilight Zone radio dramatizations (in addition to the 6 from the DVD), 1977 syndication promos, and a surprising 13 new isolated music scores (on top of the 21 that carry over from DVD) featuring the work of such composers as Bernard Herman, Jerry Goldsmith and more! Now... if you've already spent the dozens of hours required to go through all the existing DVD extras, the news that you now have dozens of hours of NEW content to experience should drop your jaw. Aside from a locket of Serling's own hair, it's hard to imagine what else Image could pack in here.

So are these new Blu-rays worth the upgrade? Well... if you're a HUGE Twilight Zone fan, then yes. Obviously, your own mileage will vary. Yes, these episodes have been released before, and the DVDs may be plenty good enough for you. But you certainly can't argue that Image has skimped on their end of this upgrade. I still wouldn't pay full SRP for it. Why would anybody these days? So look for a really good sale price. (Amazon has Season 1 for about $70 at the time of this writing - 30% off.) Bottom line: This show has simply never looked and sounded better, and never have so many great and substantial extras been available to fans. Recommended for serious fans.

Bill Hunt
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