A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
Every year at Oscar time, somebody comes up with the bright idea of making the Academy Awards into a fair fight. Instead of making the voters choose among five widely different performances, they say, they ought to have five actors playing the same scene. That way you'd really be able to see who was best. It's an impractical idea, but "Twilight Zone -- The Movie" does almost the same thing.
It takes four stories that are typical of the basic approach of the great "Twilight Zone" TV series, and it has four different directors try their hand at recapturing Rod Serling's "wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination." And 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.
The superstars are John Landis ("The Blues Brothers") and Steven Spielberg ("E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial"). The relative newcomers are Joe Dante, whose "The Howling" was not my favorite werewolf movie, and George Miller, whose "Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior" is some kind of a manic classic. 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.
Landis directed the first episode, which stars Vic Morrow in the story of a bigot who is transported back in time to Nazi Germany and Vietnam and forced to swallow his own racist medicine. This segment is predictable, once we know the premise, and Landis does nothing to surprise us. Because we know that Morrow was killed in a helicopter accident during the filming of the segment, an additional pall hangs over the whole story.