Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Twilight Zone - Episode 6 - Escape Clause

"You are about to meet a hypochondriac.  Witness Mr. Walter Bedeker, age fourty-four.  Afraid of the following:  death, disease, other people, germs, draft and everything else.  He has one interest in life and that's Walter Bedeker.  He has one preoccupation, the life and well-being of Walter Bedeker.  One abiding concern about society:  If Walter Bedeker should die, how will it survive without him?"

And thus begins out Faustian tale of a man who gets far more than he bargains for when he strikes up a deal for immortality.  After a visit from his doctor, who informs Mr. Bedeker that there is nothing wrong with him, and that all of his perceived aches and pains are imaginary, Walter gets a visit from a portly fellow named Cadwallader....who is quite apparently The Devil.  In return for his soul, Bedeker will get to live forever.

Walter Bedeker....hypochondriac extraordinaire

Bedeker strikes not only a deal for immortality but for indestructibility as well.  Literally nothing can harm him.  Thus, Old Scratch puts an Escape Clause into the contract stating that at any time, Bedeker can invoke the escape clause at which time Cadwallader will appear to claim his soul and grant him a swift departure.  

Mr Cadwallader....aka....Ol' Scratch, Satan, Mephistopheles...

Walter embarks on a thrill seeking campaign...jumping in front of subway trains, drinking lethal household chemicals and such.....all trying to search for a thrill.  After drinking said chemicals, and discovering that it tasted like weak lemonade to him, Bedeker decides that he will jump off the roof of his apartment building. His wife, Ethel, desperately tries to talk him out of jumping and accidentally falls from the roof herself.  

Hey, watch out for that third rail there....

Walter sees this as a thrill seeking opportunity.  He phones the police and tells them that he's killed his wife....wanting to see what it would be like to get the electric chair.  Unfortunately for him, his lawyer is a pretty good one and gets his sentenced reduced from death to life imprisoned with no chance of parole.  Well, there's not going to be much thrill seeking at the penitentiary....unless he's into dropping the soap.....I think you can see where this is headed.  

Devil:  1   -  Bedeker:  0

Ah well, you know what they say....the best laid plans of Mice and Men and all that jazz....blah blah 

This episode is darkly comedic.  It walks a fine line between the whimsical (the dialog with Cadwallader) and the dark and disturbing (Bedeker leaping in front of a speeding subway train).  While this particular episode carries the much used "Be Careful What You Wish For" parable, it does it quite well and is quite a memorable episode.  David Wayne is fantastic as Walter Bedeker....and I would be willing to bet that Bill Murray used him as a bit of inspiration for his role in Groundhog Day.  

Midnight Factoids:

- Originally aired November 6, 1959
- Escape Clause was one of the three episodes in production that Rod Serling mentioned before the pilot episode....along with The Lonley and Mr. Denton on Doomsday.
- The Tower of Terror Ride @ MGM has a plaque in the basement stating that the last time the elevator was checked, it was October 2, 1959 by Mr Cadwallader.

Tales From The Celluloid Crypt:

- David Wayne appeared in several episodes of the original Batman series as The Mad Hatter.  He also starred in The Andromeda Strain as Dr. Charles Dutton.
- Thomas Gomez, while mainly appearing in westerns had his first role in Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror as R.F. Meade
- Virginia Christine starred in Billy the Kid vs Dracula as Eva Oster.

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