Original Air Date: December 16, 1960
Writer: Rod Serling
Director: John Rich
“A hotel suite that, in this instance, serves as a den of crime, the aftermath of a rather minor event to be noted on a police blotter, an insurance claim, perhaps a three-inch box on page twelve of the evening paper. Small addenda to be added to the list of the loot: a camera, a most unimposing addition to the flotsam and jetsam that it came with, hardly worth mentioning really, because cameras are cameras, some expensive, some purchasable at five-and-dime stores. But this camera, this one’s unusual because in just a moment we’ll watch it inject itself into the destinies of three people. It happens to be a fact that the pictures that it takes can only be developed in The Twilight Zone.”
A thieving couple, Chester and Paula Dietrich (played by Fred Clark and Jean Carson respectively), have just robbed a curio antique shop. They return to their hotel room with a pile of useless junk -save for a unique vintage camera with an unknown French inscription on the top. The camera is soon revealed to possess a unique ability. It takes pictures of events that are soon to transpire. One picture shows Paula’s brother standing in the doorway though he is in prison, but sure enough moments later he appears in the doorway (he is played by Adam Williams).
They take the camera the horse races to reveal the winners while cashing in big. When they return to their hotel room a French waiter (played by Marcel Hillaire) enters who reads the inscription on the camera: “ten to an owner.” Presumably, the camera’s owners are given ten photographs. The group discerns that they have taken eight photographs, leaving them with two.
Chester and Paula’s brother get into a fight and accidentally take a photo which shows Paula screaming. In the course of the scramble both men fall out an open window to their death while Paula screams. She decides to take the money but she snaps one final picture of the men on the ground below for posterity. However, the French waiter reveals that there are more than two bodies in the photograph she has taken. In shock, she rushes to the window and trips over an electrical cord which sends her flying to her death. The waiter rushes to the window and now counts four bodies in the photograph. Moments later, we hear him fall to his death offscreen. It is an amusing, albeit silly episode.
“Object known as a camera, vintage uncertain, origin unknown. But for the greedy, the avaricious, the fleet of foot, who can run a four-minute mile so long as they’re chasing a fast buck, it makes believe that it’s an ally, but it isn’t at all. It’s a beckoning come-on for a quick walk around the block—in The Twilight Zone.”
As in “A Thing About Machines,” “A Most Unusual Camera” displays humans at the mercy of, and ultimately betrayed by their own machines. A camera shows only what it can capture in frame, but in this case it reveals great deal more. A familiar theme we have seen trod out in The Twilight Zone –a certain uneasiness with the apparent magic of newfangled technology.
The Twilight Zone Trivia:
- Director John Rich would later direct and produce All In The Family.
- Marcel Hillaire, who plays the French waiter, led a fascinating life. Of Jewish descent, he grew up in Nazi Germany and escaped the Holocaust by performing in traveling theatre troupes. He narrowly avoided execution before emigrating to the United States, changing his name, and assuming a French persona which led to numerous French roles in Hollywood (like his role in this episode).