12 August 2011

The saddest "Twilight Zone" episode

Fans of The Twilight Zone will almost certainly recognize this studio still of Burgess Meredith in a post-apocalyptic setting -
“The best laid plans of mice and men and Henry Bemis, the small man in the glasses who wanted nothing but time. Henry Bemis, now just a part of a smashed landscape, just a piece of the rubble, just a fragment of what man has deeded to himself. Mr. Henry Bemis, in the Twilight Zone.”
Since I've always enjoyed last-man-on-earth fantasies, this episode really appealed to me - until the very conclusion, which was a crushing disappointment (and I think totally unnecessary):
I had totally suppressed my memories of this ending until I was reminded by that photo at the top, which I found at Old Hollywood.

24 comments:

  1. I beg to differ on the ending being totally unnecessary! The ending is what makes the episode a Twilight Zone and is what gives us the "teaching moment" that we need more than just physical objects to be happy - even if those physical objects are things that can expand our learning.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Definitely a wrenching moment, but I think that was a big part of what made Twilight Zone what is was.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I tend to agree. I thought at the time and do to this day that a better ending would have been Henry's discovery of the loss of a good book's necessary companion - someone to talk about it with.

    ReplyDelete
  4. To cure you of your fandom of post-apocalyptic SF. It didn't work for me either, but Varley has a point.
    http://www.varley.net/Pages/Manhattan.htm

    ReplyDelete
  5. jk, my lastmanonearth fantasies don't require a nuclear holocaust. I prefer an "alternate universe"-type scenario in which my earth has no people and I have a flying transparent sphere and a vest with bottomless pockets from which I can retrieve foods and liquids.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I agree with Dan and Timothy Benfield as well as Anonymous. But the first two commenters speak directly to the Twilight Zone--just deserts.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Only sad for a moment, if you stop to think that if Burgess Meredith was the last person left alive, he could simply find an optometrist's office and rifle through the ruins to get or make himself another pair (he said himself, that he had all the time in the world, now).

    ReplyDelete
  8. As someone who actually IS that blind, I remember crying while watching this one with my dad. He gave me a rundown on likely sources of lenses that I could make due with until I dug out an optometrist office.

    I have no idea if any of those suggestions would actually work, but I feel better...

    ReplyDelete
  9. I used to think that the broken glasses were important. But I think most viewers would recognize that while books might be satisfying for a very long time, at some point, this man would long to speak with someone, to tell someone of what he read. While the lost glasses makes his situation immediate, I think most viewers would have seen that he was in a predicament even if the glasses had been spared.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I always thought the point was that no good can come from global war... not even for those who avoid conflict and love the life of the mind.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Agreed. The ending was a wholly unnecessary kick in the teeth for the protagonist. I liken it to a detective in a novel who, after 300 pages of investigation, leaves to arrest the perpetrator of a murder and gets run over by a garbage truck. This is also why I never liked the second Outer Limits series.

    Lurker111

    ReplyDelete
  12. Put another way, shock endings for the sake of shock endings tend to fall flat, not satisfy the viewer or reader, and tend to be written by hacks.

    Lurker111

    ReplyDelete
  13. I agree with 9:24. Anyone who thought nuclear war was survivable (and there were people claiming it was true, and others who chose to ignore the situation in the hope it would resolve peacefully), anyone who feels the "big picture" isn't their problem (then or now), should see themselves in the little man who wouldn't even stand up to his own wife for totally defacing his books but instead accepted that he would have to content himself reading for an hour, locked into a safe at lunchtime.

    -prospero

    ReplyDelete
  14. Cue up the Rolling Stones: "You can't always get what you want..."

    ReplyDelete
  15. Didn't most Twilight Zone stories end with an ironic twist? I recall several that had the theme of "be careful what you ask for."

    ReplyDelete
  16. This was the first Twilight Zone I ever saw. I was a child. I was crushed. I remember that I went to bed and cried. Decades later, I still cannot watch that episode.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Lurker111, to say Twilight Zone was written by hacks because you don't understand the ending is laughable. Like Miss Cellania said, Twilight Zone was known for it, it is why people watched the show and it is what made the series what it was.

    ReplyDelete
  18. +1 for the, 'be careful what you ask for' theme. I always thought the glasses were for the children in the audience (like when characters reminde each other of the obvious). Clearly, the time that he pined for would still not be his for reading - until he found sources of food and shelter...

    ReplyDelete
  19. It's worth mentioning up Futurama's take on this particular episode: http://videosift.com/video/Futurama-The-Scary-Door-The-Last-Man in case you haven't seen it before.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Sad? I think it's hilarious, but then again, I do have a cruel sense of humour.

    ReplyDelete
  21. The Saddest in my opinion was the ring-a-ding girl.That was really a melodramatic episode.

    ReplyDelete
  22. The Passersby is sad from the get go. That aerial shot of dishevelled soldiers walking (limping) by, accompanied by the melancholy and ominous string arrangements of the theme song.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I just watched it on YouTube. Tx. An interesting episode I don't remember having seen.

      Delete
  23. I discovered your wonderful blog by accident. Which is what I love about the internet and traveling (which, unfortunately, I can neither afford to do, nor fit into a plane's seat, but that's beside the point...if I COULD travel, I would love to wander). (Right now, I just get lost a lot, and it's almost as good, I guess, although very scary.) Another thing I love is when I've been talking or thinking about something, and then I hear or see something about it soon afterward. That may be due to being a Pisces, or God, or whatever. Anyway, I recently found out that my granddaughter watches "The Twilight Zone", which I told her is too otherworldly and frightening for someone her age, (about the same age that I was when I watched it). I then proceeded to tell her all about the episodes which I have never forgotten because they had had such an upsetting effect on me. This was at the top of the list. Thanks for posting it. I won't watch it, but I'm going to send it to her. ~ Phyllis Coppolino

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...