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OUT OF THE HAT REVIEW OF 'TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE'

year: 1983 cast: Vic Morrow, John Lithgow rating: ***
The tragic deaths of actor Vic Morrow and two children aside, this theatrical version of Rod Serling’s groundbreaking television series has a few other problems...

The first story, directed by John Landis, centers on Morrow as a racist loudmouth spouting epitaphs in a bar – overheard by a group of tough black dudes who, if they only beat him up when he walked out the door, would have deleted any need for the character’s descent into various historical settings where racism reigned: From walking a ledge as a Jew in Nazi Germany to sloshing through swamps as a Vietnamese native (the tragic helicopter sequence was filmed there), Morrow discovers sticks and stones have nothing on words.

Not Shining Here
The story itself is somewhat intriguing – you’ll wonder what’ll happen next – but the ultimate punishment of the main character, as unlikable as he might be, is too forced and would have been much different had there been no on-set tragedy: Vic Morrow's Bill Conner could have learned his lesson and saved the Vietnamese children.

The worst of the lot is Steven Spielberg’s KICK THE CAN. Making for an eerily nostalgic fable on the original series, Speilberg's take, with his flowing signature style overdosing to the point of seeming like a Spielbergland Theme Park, is a mushy melodrama centering on rest home old-timers who yearn for youth. The discontented coots turn into youngsters that seem part of a corny stage play. The child actors, instead of simply being children, are doing imitations of their older selves, so the entire episode feels like a parody. Veteran icon Scatman Crothers, as the mysterious traveler who wields the magic, tries his best but to no avail.
Bart Simpson's voice actress stalked by killer cartoons

Leading to the third entry as THE HOWLING director Joe Dante re-imagines one of the coolest episodes of the original series. Remember Billy Mumy as a sinister child holding his family, and the residents of a small town, at bay with evil powers to send chosen people into the Cornfield?

The boy this time around is, like director Dante himself, heavily into cartoons. His house has a TV in each room and his family makes sure everything goes his way. When the maniacal brat brings home a beautiful passerby (Kathleen Quinlin), she witnesses this strange behavior. Although it can get too bizarre for its own good, Dante builds suspense nicely, setting a taut vibe where anything can happen – including the actress who’d later voice Bart Simpson being hunted by demonic cartoons: inside a television set!

The Monster on the wing in the best segment
Leading to the last, and by far the best, episode: John Lithgow (reprising William Shatner) plays a man terrified to fly. Stuck on a plane during a raging lighting-packed thunderstorm, he sporadically witnesses a scheming creature on the wing.

MAD MAX director George Miller paints an intense canvas. From the claustrophobic fuselage to the storm-struck exterior where the monster wreaks havoc, each element adds nightmarish touches of one man’s descent into a personal hell. Lithgow turns-in the best performance, balancing manic desperation and edgy pathos, eventually facing off with the sinister ALIEN-looking Gremlin. And although Landis's first story fails in content... His prologue/epilogue involving hitchhiker Dan Aykroyd getting a ride from nice guy Albert Brooks – jovially discussing old TV shows like THE OUTER LIMITS and, yes, THE TWILIGHT ZONE – is both humorous and ultimately intense, leading to a terrific twist ending... Making you forget the first half was practically, and tragically, a complete throwaway.
The demonic alligator creature just ate Bart Simpson...
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