Which Nightmare Do Your Prefer?
Hmm... this is an interesting experiment: someone has created a mash-up that places video from both versions of the classic Twilight Zone episode "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" side-by-side and sets it all to music by the band Pop Will Eat Itself. "Nightmare" is arguably the most famous Zone story; it's the one where a nervous flyer, played by a pre-Star Trek William Shatner in the original television segment and by John Lithgow in the 1983 TZ feature film, sees a gremlin tearing apart the plane and tries desperately to get someone to believe him. It's been parodied or referenced dozens of times, most notably in one of the The Simpsons' Halloween specials. I'm not sure what the intention of this video may have been, but it gives us movie-buffs a handy way to compare and contrast the two versions. You can probably guess which I prefer:
While I greatly admire John Lithgow and have always enjoyed his performance in Twilight Zone: The Movie, I think The Shat -- long derided as an over-the-top cheeseball of an actor -- actually delivers a more subtle performance than Lithgow in this role. In fact, I've long maintained that Shatner is -- or at least used to be -- a far better actor than most people believe. If you study his pre-Trek work in The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, and other early television anthology series, or for that matter his performances in the first two seasons of Star Trek, you'll see a talented and charismatic young man who was destined for stardom. My personal belief is that he got lazy along the way, simultaneously weighed down by the burden of having been Captain Kirk and puffed up by the adoration of the Trekkies, and from the mid-70s onward, it took a strong directorial hand to force him to deliver the goods. (Nicholas Meyer squeezed a good performance from him for The Wrath of Kahn -- not counting the "Kaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhnnnnnn!!!!" scene -- and his old buddy Leonard Nimoy did the same for The Search for Spock. The scene in TSFS when Kirk learns over the radio that his son has just been knifed to death is absolutely heartwrenching.)