Picks and Pans Review: Twilight Zone

updated 07/04/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/04/1983 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Somewhere, in whatever different dimension he's inhabiting these days, the late Rod Serling is probably mad as hell. Eight years after his death, the Hollywood hotshots finally make a movie version of his famed TV scare series. And they botch it. Divided into four segments, three based on stories for the series, the film boasts top technical talent and four name directors. Things begin promisingly with a prologue featuring Dan Aykroyd and Albert Brooks driving on a deserted road at night, reminiscing about old Zone TV episodes. Written and directed by John (Trading Places) Landis, the prologue leaves a delicious tingle. But Episode One, also directed by Landis, leaves only a bad taste. Vic Morrow stars as a bigot who finds himself punished by being tossed to the Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan and a Gl patrol in Vietnam. Everything about this episode is oppressive, even without the memory of the helicopter accident that decapitated Morrow and killed two Vietnamese children during filming. In Episode Two, directed by Steven Spielberg, Scatman Crothers has the power to give some retirement-home oldsters a chance at childhood again. The Spielberg whimsy, so effective in T, is chokingly sticky this time. It's a rare Spielberg misfire. Episode Three takes a scarier turn as Kathleen Quinlan is kidnapped by a boy, Jeremy Licht, with mind-control powers a la Carrie, and taken to a house run by the child's rules. Director Joe (The Howling) Dante pulls out some eye-popping special effects, but the story runs out of steam. Episode Four is best, with John (The World According to Garp) Lithgow playing a passenger who thinks he sees a monster trying to rip an engine off the airplane wing. Australian director George (The Road Warrior) Miller works visual wonders in a confined space, and Lithgow gives an Oscar-caliber performance. The rest of the episodes bypass imagination in their fixation on a more lucrative dimension: the box office. (PG)

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