The Set of 400: #331 – My Favorite Punchable Child Character

Today! Because he’s got a chip on his shoulder the size of the national debt –

Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)

Directed by Joe Dante, John Landis, George Miller, and Steven Spielberg

Starring Dan Aykroyd (x2), Albert Brooks (x2), Vic Morrow, John Larroquette (x2), Steven Williams, Scatman Crothers, Selma Diamond, Bill Quinn, Murray Matheson, Kathleen Quinlan, Dick Miller, John Lithgow, Donna Dixon, Burgess Meredith (x3), Abbe Lane, Bill Mumy, Nancy Cartwright, William Schallert, Patricia Barry, Kevin McCarthy, Jeremy Licht, Priscilla Pointer, Martin Garner, Helen Shaw, Charles Hallahan, Doug McGrath

A wildly uneven movie, which is to be expected considering the basis, the highs in Twilight Zone are pretty damn high, while the lows are only mediocre – this is a wall-to-wall watchable movie, even if on paper it seems like it shouldn’t have worked at all. Bringing in the high profile quartet of directors was certainly a good first step – with the only one I tend to skip being Dante’s “It’s a Good Life.” I don’t know, it’s not an episode I particularly enjoy either, so I’m not blaming the way they execute it, I’m just not a huge fan of that asshole kid. It’s pretty meh.

But the other three – pretty solid. The only original story of the group – the Landis directed “Time Out” is a bit heavy-handed, but effectively lead by Vic Morrow (famously killed on the set of this film, requiring a different ending to be concocted). Spielberg’s “Kick the Can” is schmaltzy, but has always been my favorite segment, with its sadly sentimental senior citizens getting one night to be young again. But clearly they saved the stand-out sequence for the finale, as George Miller’s “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” surpasses the episode it’s based on (the best episode they chose to adapt, too) and gets a dynamite performance from Lithgow as the tortured passenger, seeing a monster on the wing of the plane.

Lithgow is largely not doing well

I feel like this movie was on WPIX or WWOR all the time growing up, as I didn’t watch a lot of Twilight Zone episodes until I was somewhat older, and am not sure why I would’ve sought out this movie otherwise. It wasn’t until those New Year’s Eve marathons in the late ’90s that I really got caught up on the old Serling classic. Thanks Sci-Fi Channel! (It didn’t become SyFy until 2009, nerds!)

Lithgow’s performance got bundled with his work in Terms of Endearment for some critic/guild acting nominations, but otherwise this movie did not receive a lot of mainstream accolades. Oh, it had publicity – the lawsuits surrounding Morrow’s death and that of two child actors dragged on for years – but awards? Bupkis! How about Best TV Theme Song Trivia Contest, part of the film’s introductory sequence between Dan Aykroyd and Albert Brooks?

Aykroyd and Brooks also both join the Two-Timers club, following their roles in #378 Sneakers and #334 Lost in America, respectively, along with Dan Fielding himself John Larroquette, first appearing on our list in #357’s JFK. But it’s the seventh Three-Timer who is snagging the Spotlight today – #356 Rocky III‘s Mickey and #336 Clash of the Titans’ Ammon – and a truly great Twilight Zone episode star in the likes of “Time Enough at Last” and “Mr. Dingle, the Strong,” and narrator of this film – the late, great Burgess Meredith!

Here is Meredith’s headshot when he first arrived in Hollywood, making the rounds as a young actor

Coming tomorrow! I could eat a peach for hours –


Filed under Movies

3 responses to “The Set of 400: #331 – My Favorite Punchable Child Character

  1. shortgirlnation


  2. Pingback: The Set of 400: #332 – My Favorite Door Melting | Knowingly Undersold

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