Original Air Date: January 20, 1961
Writer: Rod Serling
Director: James Sheldon
“This, as the banner already has proclaimed, is Mr. Harvey Hunnicut, an expert on commerce and con jobs, a brash, bright, and larceny-loaded wheeler and dealer who, when the good Lord passed out a conscience, must have gone for a beer and missed out. And these are a couple of other characters in our story: a little old man and a Model A car – but not just any old man and not just any Model A. There’s something very special about the both of them. As a matter of fact, in just a few moments, they’ll give Harvey Hunnicut something that he’s never experienced before. Through the good offices of a little magic, they will unload on Mr. Hunnicut the absolute necessity to tell the truth. Exactly where they come from is conjecture, but as to where they’re heading for, this we know, because all of them – and you – are on the threshold of the Twilight Zone.”
Harvey Hunnicut (played by Jack Carson) is a quick-talking used car salesman. Day after day he swindles his customers into buying valueless cars, until one day an old man shows up at Mr. Hunnicut’s lot selling his old Model A car for next to nothing. The only catch is that the car is haunted. Mr. Hunnicut scoffs at the idea and buys the car anyway.
However, shortly after buying the car Mr. Hunnicut suddenly is unable to tell lies or even exaggerations. The haunted car has forced him to tell the truth in all situations. His business starts losing money as he can no longer spin yarns about his terrible vehicles.
Then one day none other than Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev arrives at the lot in order to buy an ‘average American automobile.’ Mr. Hunnicut sells him the car and we are left to wonder what happens to a politician when he can no longer tell lies and propaganda. The episode closes as Mr. Hunnicut calls Washington and asks for Jack Kennedy. This whimsical episode ends on an amusing note.
“Couldn’t happen, you say? Far-fetched? Way-out? Tilt-off-center? Possible. But the next time you buy an automobile, if it happens to look as if it had just gone through the Battle of the Marne, and the seller is ready to throw into the bargain one of his arms, be particularly careful in explaining to the boss about your grandmother’s funeral, when you are actually at Chavez Ravine watching the Dodgers. It’ll be a fact that you are the proud possessor of an instrument of truth – manufactured and distributed by an exclusive dealer – in The Twilight Zone.”
Admittedly, I loved this farcical little episode. It continues a familiar Twilight Zone theme in which inanimate objects have a mind of their own, and it plays into the superstitions believed by many ordinary, everyday people. The topical Cold War commentary was a welcome little respite from some of the hard science fiction in the series!
The Twilight Zone Trivia:
- John F. Kennedy was sworn in as the 35th president of the United States at the inaugural ceremonies held in Washington the afternoon of the day this episode originally aired. Jack Carson’s final line was one of the rare times that a current president was actually mentioned during a Twilight Zone episode.
- “The Whole Truth” was one of six Twilight Zone episodes shot on videotape instead of film in an attempt to cut costs.
- An amusing scene was cut from Serling teleplay: an earlier draft showed Nikita Khrushchev, after buying the Model A from Hunnicut, facing reporters at a press conference in which Khrushchev involuntarily champions the American standard of living in comparison to that of the Soviet Union because he cannot tell a lie.
Click here to return to my survey of The Twilight Zone series.