The Twilight Zone: Season 2, Episode Four “A Thing About Machines”

Original Air Date: October 28, 1960
Writer: Rod Serling
Director: David Orrick McDearmon

“Mr. Finchley, in this conspiracy you speak of, this mortal combat between you and the appliances, I hope you lose.”

Rating: 5 out of 5.

“A Thing About Machines” is a brilliant little episode that reintroduces a familiar recurring theme throughout The Twilight Zone: growing fear and anxiety regarding newfangled 20th century technology as it continues to encroach on everyday life. Do we own our devices, or do they own us? The tale of Mr. Bartlett Finchley would suggest the latter.

“This is Mr. Bartlett Finchley, age forty-eight, a practicing sophisticate who writes very special and very precious things for gourmet magazines and the like. He’s a bachelor and a recluse with few friends, only devotees and adherents to the cause of tart sophistry. He has no interests save whatever current annoyances he can put his mind to. He has no purpose to his life except the formulation of day-to-day opportunities to vent his wrath on mechanical contrivances of an age he abhors. In short, Mr. Bartlett Finchley is a malcontent, born either too late or too early in the century, and who, in just a moment, will enter a realm where muscles and the will to fight back are not limited to human beings. Next stop for Mr. Bartlett Finchley – The Twilight Zone.”
-Rod Serling

Bartlett Finchley (played by classic Hollywood actor Richard Haydn) is a wealthy, aging, misanthropic, curmudgeonly magazine critic who despises machines –and it seems the feeling is mutual. For months odd things have been happening to Mr. Finchley: his television, radio, and clock have all been awakening him in the middle of the night. When a repairman arrives at his home, Finchley berates the poor man. And when his secretary abruptly quits, Mr. Finchley is left alone with his devices which he believes are conspiring against him.

His typewriter begins to spell out “GET OUT OF HERE, FINCHLEY” and shortly thereafter his television and telephone follow suit. In an iconic Twilight Zone moment, Mr. Finchley is chased down the hall by his serpent-like electric razor. Outside, Mr. Finchley’s car chases him straight into the pool, killing him. Wen the police arrive, they wonder why his body has remained at the bottom of the pool, rather than floating to the top -it was as if something were holding him down.

“Yes, it could just be. It could just be that Mr. Bartlett Finchley succumbed from a heart attack and a set of delusions. It could just be that he was tormented by an imagination as sharp as his wit and as pointed as his dislikes. But as perceived by those attending, this is one explanation that has left the premises with the deceased. Look for it filed under ‘M’ for Machines – in The Twilight Zone.”
-Rod Serling

The Twilight Zone Trivia:

  • On standard high-resolution screens today, the fish line attached to the serpent-like electric razor can clearly be seen holding the razor upright and pulling it down the stairs.
  • The car featured in this episode is a 1939 Lagonda V12 Drophead coupé.

Click here to return to my survey of The Twilight Zone series.

Click here to read my reflections on Rod Serling’s short story “A Thing About Machines.”

1 thought on “The Twilight Zone: Season 2, Episode Four “A Thing About Machines”

  1. The biggest challenge with stories like this is whether or not it’s all in the main character’s mind. I like it when it’s more open for interpretation and I applaud Richard Haydn’s grand performance.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s