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Twilight Zone: The Movie

Original 1983 theatrical poster
Directed by John Landis (prologue and segment 1)
Steven Spielberg (segment 2)
Joe Dante (segment 3)
George Miller (segment 4 and epilogue)
Produced by John Landis
Steven Spielberg
Kathleen Kennedy (segment 2)
Jon Davison &
Michael Finnell (segment 3)
Written by Rod Serling (television series)
John Landis (prologue and segment 1)
George Clayton Johnson (original screenplay 'Kick the Can', segment 2)
Richard Matheson and
Melissa Mathison (segment 2)
Jerome Bixby (story 'It's a Good Life', segment 3)
Richard Matheson (segment 3)
Richard Matheson (short story 'Nightmare at 20,000 Feet' and screenplay, segment 4)
Narrated by Burgess Meredith (uncredited)
Starring Dan Aykroyd
Albert Brooks
Vic Morrow
Scatman Crothers
Kathleen Quinlan
John Lithgow
Kevin McCarthy
Dick Miller
Music by Jerry Goldsmith
Cinematography Allen Daviau
John Hora
Stevan Larner
Editing by Malcolm Campbell
Tina Hirsch
Michael Kahn
Howard E. Smith
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date(s) June 24, 1983 (USA)
Running time 101 min.
Language English
Budget $10,000,000 (estimated)
Gross revenue $29,500,000 (USA)
Preceded by The Twilight Zone

Twilight Zone: The Movie is a 1983 film produced by Steven Spielberg as a theatrical version of The Twilight Zone, a 1950s and 60s TV series created by Rod Serling. It starred Dan Aykroyd, Albert Brooks, Vic Morrow, Scatman Crothers, Kathleen Quinlan, and John Lithgow. Burgess Meredith, who starred in several episodes of the original series, took on Serling's position as narrator, although unlike Serling he did not appear on screen, nor did he receive screen credit.

The film remade five classic episodes of the original series and included one original story. John Landis directed the prologue and the first segment, Spielberg directed the second, Joe Dante the third, and George Miller directed the final segment. The promotional song from this movie, "Nights Are Forever", written by Jerry Goldsmith with lyricist John Bettis, and sung by Jennifer Warnes, is heard briefly during the jukebox scene in the opening segment with Vic Morrow.

The film is perhaps best known for the Helicopter crash which took the lives of actor Vic Morrow and two child actors during the filming of Landis' segment. The deaths led to high-profile legal action, although in the subsequent trial no one was held criminally culpable for the accident.





The film starts with a driver (Albert Brooks) and his passenger (Dan Aykroyd) driving very late at night, singing along to Creedence Clearwater Revival's cover of "Midnight Special" on a cassette, which then breaks. The pair make a game between themselves about TV theme songs, then the conversation turns to what scares them. They begin to talk about their favorite episodes of The Twilight Zone. The passenger then asks the driver, "Do you want to see something really scary?" The driver is in doubt and after much reluctancy, the driver pulls over, and his friend turns away from him and back around, becoming a demonic, corpse-like monster, who then attacks the driver. The scene cuts to outside the car as the familiar Twilight Zone opening theme music and monologue begin, spoken by narrator Burgess Meredith, a veteran of the original TV series.

You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension. A dimension of sound. A dimension of sight. A dimension of mind. You're moving into a land of both shadow and substance of things and ideas. You've just crossed over into... The Twilight Zone.

First segment

You're about to meet an angry man: Mr. William Connor, who carries on his shoulder a chip the size of the national debt. This is a sour man, a lonely man, who's tired of waiting for the breaks that come to others, but never to him. Mr. William Connor, whose own blind hatred is about to catapult him into the darkest corner of the Twilight Zone.

The only original segment was the first, directed by John Landis. It is loosely based on the original Twilight Zone episodes "A Quality of Mercy" and "Deaths-Head Revisited". Vic Morrow plays Bill Conner, an outspoken bigot who is bitter after being passed over for a promotion. Drinking in a bar after work with his friends, Bill makes prejudiced remarks and racial slurs towards Jews, blacks and Asians, attracting the attention of a group of black men sitting near them who, of course, strongly resent his racist comments. Bill leaves the bar very angry. When he walks outside, however, he is not in the parking lot. Instead, he finds himself in Vichy France during World War II. He is spotted by a pair of SS officers patrolling the streets, who see him as a Jewish man. After a chase around the city, Bill time travel jumps to the rural South during the 1950s, where the Ku Klux Klan sees him as an African American whom they are about to lynch. Bill is scared and confused and vehemently tries to tell them he's white. While trying to escape the Ku Klux Klan members, he time travels into the Vietnam War, where he is a Vietnamese man nearly blown to bits by U.S. soldiers. Bill has become the selected nationalities of the people against whom he was always prejudiced. The grenade thrown by the soldiers blasts him back to Vichy France, where he is captured by Nazi soldiers and put into an enclosed railroad freight car, along with other Jewish Holocaust prisoners, with no possibility of redemption or rescue, futilely screaming for help as the train pulls away, presumably to a concentration camp or death camp.

Second segment

It is sometimes said that where there is no hope, there is no life. Case in point: the residents of Sunnyvale Rest Home, where hope is just a memory. But hope just checked into Sunnyvale, disguised as an elderly optimist, who carries his magic in a shiny tin can.

The second segment is directed by Steven Spielberg and is a remake of the episode "Kick the Can." Scatman Crothers plays an old man named Mr. Bloom who has just moved into his new home at Sunnyvale Retirement Home. Upon his arrival, he sits around kindly and smiles as he listens to the other elders reminisce about the joys they experienced in their days as youths. Mr. Bloom implies to them just because they're old doesn't mean they cannot enjoy life anymore and that feeling young and active has to do with your attitude not your age. He tells them that later that night, he will wake them and that they can join him in a game of "kick the can". All agree; however, a grumpy man named Leo Conroy who is fairly skeptical in his outlook on life disagrees, saying that now that they are all old they cannot engage in physical activity and play the games they once did as children. That night, Mr. Bloom gathers the rest of the optimistic residents outside and plays a game of kick the can. They are all ultimately transformed back into child versions of themselves. Although they are extremely ecstatic to be young again and engage in the activities they once enjoyed so long ago, they also realize that being young again means you not only experience the good aspects of life again but also the bad. They request to be old again, which Mr. Bloom grants to them. Leo Conroy witnesses one resident that still remains young and says that he wants to go with him before the boy runs off. Conroy realizes that he does not have to stop enjoying life because of his old age. The segment ends with Mr. Bloom leaving to another retirement home (which leaves the audience to presume that he repeats the process eternally), and Conroy is outside happily kicking a can around the yard, for he has learned being young at heart is what really matters.

Third segment

Portrait of a woman in transit. Helen Foley, age 27. Occupation: schoolteacher. Up until now, the pattern of her life has been one of unrelenting sameness, waiting for something different to happen. Helen Foley doesn't know it yet, but her waiting has just ended.

The third segment, a variant of or sequel to the episode "It's a Good Life," is directed by Joe Dante.

Kathleen Quinlan plays a mild-mannered school teacher named Helen Foley who is traveling to her new job. While visiting a bar for directions, she witnesses a young boy (Jeremy Licht) being accosted by a group of rowdy drunks for "accidentally" turning off the TV they were watching. Soon after, Helen decides to leave. Not paying attention, she backs into the boy with her car in the parking lot, damaging his bike. Helen offers the boy, Anthony, a ride home. They eventually get to Anthony's house, which is an immense home in the country. When Helen arrives, she meets some people whom Anthony tells her are his family, his Uncle Walt (Kevin McCarthy) and his sister Ethel (Nancy Cartwright). Also included in the family are Anthony's parents. Helen notices that the family seems extremely apprehensive, though she dismisses it. Anthony shows Helen around the house, including his sister's room; Anthony tells Helen that the girl is his "other" sister, who got involved in an accident. The camera pans down and the audience view that the girl has no mouth, unbeknownst to Helen. The family have dinner, which, as Helen realizes, is a meal comprised of Anthony's favourite foods; mainly fast food, including a burger with peanut butter. During dinner, Ethel shouts at Anthony and her plate smashes on the ground, with no explanation. After satisfying her promise of taking Anthony home, Helen attempts to leave; she then discovers Anthony possesses unexplained powers that allow him to do practically anything he desires, including making cartoon characters appear in real life and making people disappear. Helen asks to leave, but Anthony insists that she see Uncle Walt's "act". Uncle Walt is unsure as to what to do with the hat that Anthony provides, and reluctantly pulls a white rabbit out of the hat. The family are relieved and applaud, only to see the rabbit become a demonic rabbit-monster before disappearing again. The people inform her they aren't his real family and that they were brought to the house under false pretense by Anthony, as she was. They also explain that they cannot leave. Helen finds a note on the floor that a family member has left, reading, "Help US! Anthony Is A Monster!". The note is shown to be from Ethel after a short investigation, and Anthony, using his mental powers, sends Ethel into the television set where she is killed by a large, frightening, somewhat dragon-like cartoon character. After the "family" has angered Anthony, he instantly makes them and the house disappear, leaving himself and Helen in a limbo-like state surrounded by literal nothingness. Helen promises Anthony that she will be his true friend if he agrees not to abuse his power anymore. Anthony agrees to use his powers for good, and he and Helen ride off together to her new home, surrounded by bright meadows filled with flowers..

Fourth segment

What you're looking at could be the end of a particularly terrifying nightmare. It isn't. It's the beginning. Introducing Mr. John Valentine, air traveller. His destination: the Twilight Zone.

The fourth segment is a remake of the episode "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet", and is directed by George Miller. John Lithgow plays the nervous and stressed-out airline passenger Mr. John Valentine. The story begins with flight attendants attempting to coax Mr. Valentine from the lavatory as he tries to recover from what seems to be a panic attack. Although not mentioned during the segment, it is most likely that Mr. Valentine is suffering from severe aviatophobia. He is repeatedly assured by the flight attendants that everything is going to be all right, but his nerves and antics disturb the surrounding passengers.

As Mr. Valentine takes his seat, he notices a hideous gremlin on the wing of the plane and begins to spiral into severe panic. He watches as the creature wreaks havoc on the wing, losing more control each time he sees it do something new. Valentine finally snaps, grabs a hand gun from another passenger, an air marshal, shoots out the window (causing a breach in the pressurized cabin), and begins firing at the creature. This only serves to catch the attention of the gremlin, who rushes up to Valentine and promptly destroys the gun. After a tense moment, the gremlin grabs Valentine's face, then simply scolds him by wagging its finger in a "no, no" manner. The creature leaps into the sky as the airplane begins to make an emergency landing. As Valentine is wrapped in a straitjacket and carried off in an ambulance, the police, crew, and passengers begin to discuss the incident, writing off Valentine as insane. The aircraft maintenance crew soon arrives however, and everyone gathers to examine the massive amounts of unexplained damage to the plane's engines.


The end of the fourth segment connects with the prologue. Valentine is in an ambulance going to a hospital when the driver (played by Dan Aykroyd, from the opening) starts playing Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Midnight Special". The ambulance driver turns around and says, "Heard you had a big scare up there, huh? Wanna see something really scary?" The film then ends as the scene fades out to a starry night sky along with Rod Serling's opening monologue from the first season of The Twilight Zone.

There is a fifth dimension, beyond that which is known to man. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone.

Helicopter accident

The making of the movie had consequences which overshadowed the film itself. During the filming of a segment directed by John Landis on July 23, 1982, actor Vic Morrow and child actors Myca Dinh Le (age 7) and Renee Shin-Yi Chen (age 6) died in an accident involving a helicopter being used on the set. Pyrotechnic explosions caused the low-flying helicopter to spin out of control and crash. The rotor blade decapitated Morrow and Le; Chen was crushed by the helicopter's skid. The helicopter's passengers suffered only minor injuries. The National Transportation Safety Board reported in October 1984:

[T]he probable cause of the accident was the detonation of debris-laden high temperature special effects explosions too near a low flying helicopter leading to foreign object damage to one rotor blade and delamination due to heat to the other rotor blade, the separation of the helicopter's tail rotor assembly, and the uncontrolled descent of the helicopter. The proximity of the helicopter to the special effects explosions was due to the failure to establish direct communications and coordination between the pilot, who was in command of the helicopter operation, and the film director, who was in charge of the filming operation.[1]

The accident led to legal action against the filmmakers which lasted nearly a decade, and changed the regulations involving children working on movie sets at night and during special effects-heavy scenes. Hollywood also avoided helicopter-related stunts for many years, until the CGI revolution of the 1990s made it possible to use digital versions. As a result of the accident, one second assistant director had his name removed from the credits and replaced with the pseudonym Alan Smithee. The incident also ended the friendship between director Landis and producer Spielberg.

Release and reaction

Twilight Zone: The Movie opened on June 24, 1983 to mixed reviews. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun Times rated each segment individually, awarding them (on a scale of four stars): two for the prologue and first segment, one-and-a-half for the second, three-and-a-half stars for the third, and three-and-a-half for the final. Ebert noted that "the surprising thing is, the two superstar directors are thoroughly routed by two less-known directors whose previous credits have been horror and action pictures... Spielberg, who produced the whole project, perhaps sensed that he and Landis had the weakest results, since he assembles the stories in an ascending order of excitement. Twilight Zone starts slow, almost grinds to a halt, and then has a fast comeback."[2]

According to, it opened at #4, grossing $6,614,366 in its opening weekend at 1,275 theaters, averaging $5,188 per theater (adjusting to $15,076,555 and a $11,825 average in 2009). It later expanded to 1,288 theaters and ended up grossing $29,450,919 (adjusting to $67,129,396 in 2009).[3] It was not the enormous hit which executives were looking for, but it was still a financial success, having cost only $10 million to make, and it helped stir enough interest for CBS to give the go-ahead to the 1980s TV version of The Twilight Zone.

It was released to LaserDisc and VHS several times, most recently as part of WB's "Hits" line, and was released for DVD, HD DVD, and Blu-ray on October 9, 2007.


Robert Bloch wrote the book adaptation of Twilight Zone: The Movie. Bloch's order of segments does not match the order in the film itself, as he was given the original screenplay to work with, in which "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" was the second segment, and "Kick the Can" was the fourth. Both the movie's prologue and epilogue are missing in the novelisation; Bloch claimed that no one told him the anthology had a wraparound sequence. Bloch also said that in the six weeks he was given to write the book, he only saw a screening of two of the segments, and that he had to hurriedly change the ending of the first segment after the fatal accident that occurred during filming.[4] As originally written, the first segment would have ended as it did in the original screenplay; the finished book reflects how the first segment ends in the final cut of the film.


A complete recording of the dramatic score, including a previously-unreleased song by Joseph Williams, was released in April 2009 by Film Score Monthly on compact disc.

References in TV and film

  • The Simpsons episode "Treehouse of Horror II" spoofs the original 1961 It's A Good Life with Bart taking the role of Anthony. On the audio commentary, it is mentioned that Nancy Cartwright who plays part also plays a part in the Twilight Zone segment, as Anthony's sister, and the commentators laugh at the realization that her fate in the segment (being trapped in a cartoon world) is similar to her endless career in voice-over since the show was created.
  • The idea of entering cartoon world was also the genesis of a segment in The Simpsons' Treehouse of Horror IX, in which Bart and Lisa enters the Itchy and Scratchy show and are hunted, like Ethel in the Twilight Zone segment.
  • Another "Treehouse of Horror" episode spoofs "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" in the segment called "Terror at 5½ Feet," in which Bart tries to stop a gremlin loosening the lug nuts on one of the bus wheels. The ending is different from the original as Bart burns the gremlin but it survives and kills Ned Flanders. The segment spoofs both the original episode and the film's remake.
  • The third segment is filled with references to various episodes of the original Twilight Zone series. First, the character played by Kathleen Quinlan, who is a schoolteacher and ultimate mentor to Anthony is named Helen Foley. In the first season, "Nightmare as a Child", the main character is also a schoolteacher named Helen Foley (the real Helen Foley was a schoolteacher and mentor to Rod Serling[5]). In this third segment of the movie, Helen is traveling in the country and gets lost. She stops in a diner to ask for directions. The counterman mentions the towns Cliffordville and Beaumont. Cliffordville is the name of a town in the fourth season episode "Of Late I Think of Cliffordville". Beaumont is most likely a reference to Charles Beaumont, who wrote a number of scripts for the series. Helen also mentions that her home town is Homewood, a reference to a town in the first season episode "Walking Distance". She also says that she is on her way to visit Willoughby, a reference to another first season episode, "A Stop at Willoughby". Bill Mumy, who played the boy in the original Twilight Zone episode "It's a Good Life", plays a man in his twenties inside the diner at the beginning when Helen meets Anthony.


  1. ^
  2. ^ Roger Ebert, "Review of Twilight Zone -- The Movie," (June 24, 1983).
  3. ^ Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)
  4. ^ Once Around the Bloch: An Unauthorized Autobiography by Robert Bloch. (1993, Tor Books), pp.388-389
  5. ^ Information about the real Helen Foley

External links


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