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Twilight Zone: The Movie, by Robert Bloch Book Review | SFReader.com
Twilight Zone: The Movie, by Robert Bloch Genre: Movie Novelization Publisher: Warner Books Published: 1983 Review Posted: 7/5/2005 Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: 9 out of 10
Twilight Zone: The Movie, by Robert Bloch
Book Review by Jeff Edwards
Have you read this book?
Robert Bloch lends his name to the impressive roster of creative forces behind Twilight Zone: The Movie. Perhaps acknowledging that genre giants don't normally write motion picture novelizations, the publisher euphemistically describes the book as "a four-part fantasy novel." Bloch even rearranges the order of the movie's segments, in an effort to provide better transitions between stories: for instance, the first part ends "as the train rumbled through the twilight," and the second begins as "[t]he plane plunged into the twilight."
With such impressive pedigree - the author of "Psycho" adapting stories by the likes of Richard Matheson from a concept created by Rod Serling - Twilight Zone: The Movie ought to be a treasure trove for speculative fiction fans. And yet, most of the book feels oddly flat and empty. The main shortcoming is that only half of the four stories include anything resembling character development.
The first two tales are one-note from beginning to end. It's not Bloch's fault - in fact, a tragic accident during the movie's production forced a dramatic change to the first segment: what was to be a story of redemption instead took the darkest turn possible at its conclusion. In that story, "Bill," an intensely prejudiced man gets a taste of his own medicine. And in "Valentine," an airplane passenger with an overwhelming fear of flying watches in horror as a creature destroys his plane's engines mid-flight. Bloch effectively adds brush strokes to a psychological portrait - creating far more ambiguity in print than existed on screen: when Valentine tries to photograph the monster through the plane's window, it turns out that "[h]e had taken a photo of his own reflection."
The final two stories barely seem original now - a child with god-like powers, and a group of elderly people magically transformed into children - but Bloch includes character arcs to compensate for the cliches. In "Helen," a disillusioned schoolteacher finds herself energized by the prospect of helping a young boy understand his "terrible, wonderful gift." At the beginning of the story, Helen thinks, "What was the sense of trying to teach when nobody listened?" But by the end, she is ready to start over: "[T]he thought of teaching again filled her with joyful anticipation." And in "Bloom," a new arrival at the Sunneyvale Retirement Home brings a breath of fresh air and the promise of a second childhood. When he first checks in, Mr. Bloom finds a roomful of people who have given up on life - some bitter, some merely resigned to their fate. But Bloom teaches them the importance of staying young at heart: "The day we stopped playing is the day we started getting old."
Twilight Zone: The Movie is hardly ground-breaking - three of the four segments are nothing more than remakes of early 1960s episodes from the iconic television series. Having Robert Bloch write the novelization was an inspired move, but it would have been more refreshing to go back to the original source material: the work of George Clayton Johnson, Jerome Bixby and Richard Matheson.
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