Arts & Entertainment

'Twilight Zone: The Movie' may serve as warning for Warner Bros

A still from the classic Twilight Zone episode
A still from the classic Twilight Zone episode "Eye of the Beholder."
Kollage Kid/Flickr

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A fatal incident on a movie set 30 years ago Monday set off the kinds of arguments in Hollywood that have swirled around the opening weekend of “The Dark Knight Rises.”

“Twilight Zone: the Movie” was supposed to be an edgy update of the popular anthology TV series that inspired it. In one segment, veteran actor Vic Morrow played a character who traveled back in time in the shoes of people he despised, including villagers escaping a bombing during the Vietnam War.

On the last day of production, Morrow and two child performers, Renee Shinn Chen and Myca Dinh Le, died in a convergence of special-effects explosives and a low-flying helicopter. Warner Brothers — the same studio behind the latest Batman film — released “Twilight Zone” the summer after the incident.

At the time, some observers questioned whether that was a good idea. The movie met with mixed reviews, and with mixed feelings among people attracted or repulsed by its notoriety.

The families of the three actors killed sued the studio, claiming negligence. Prosecutors charged segment director Jon Landis, the helicopter pilot, the special effects coordinator and two other crew members with involuntary manslaughter. It may have been the first time a movie director faced criminal charges for occurrences on the set.

Five years after the fatal day, a jury acquitted all the defendants. But the episode led to revised laws regulating child labor, nighttime production and the use of special effects on movie sets.