Original Air Date: March 3, 1961
Writer: Rod Serling
Director: John Brahm
“Uniquely American institution known as the neighborhood bar. Reading left to right are Mr. Anthony O’Toole, proprietor, who waters his drinks like geraniums but who stands foursquare for peace and quiet and for booths for ladies. This is Mr. Joseph J. Callahan, an unregistered bookie, whose entire life is any sporting event with two sides and a set of odds. His idea of a meeting at the summit is any dialogue between a catcher and a pitcher with more than one man on base. And this animated citizen is every anonymous bettor who ever dropped rent money on a horse race, a prize fight, or a floating crap game, and who took out his frustrations and his insolvency on any vulnerable fellow barstool companion within arm’s and fist’s reach. And this is Mr. Luther Dingle, a vacuum cleaner salesman whose volume of business is roughly that of a valet at a hobo convention. He’s a consummate failure in almost everything but is a good listener and has a prominent jaw. And these two unseen gentlemen are visitors from outer space. They are about to alter the destiny of Luther Dingle by leaving him a legacy, the kind you can’t hardly find no more. In just a moment, a sad-faced perennial punching bag, who missed even the caboose of life’s gravy train, will take a short constitutional into that most unpredictable region that we refer to as The Twilight Zone.”
Burgess Meredith reappears in this episode as Mr. Luther Dingle, a weakling and a vacuum cleaner salesman. Don Rickles also makes an amusing appearance in this episode. One day at the bar which he frequents, two strange floating martians enter (two heads, one body) and offer Mr. Dingle a gift -superhuman strength. Suddenly, Mr. Dingle is able to toss around his vacuum cleaners like a feather and he rips the front door off of the bar.
For the rest of the day, he shuffles around lifting cars and statues while accomplishing other impossible feats of strength while he being photographed for the local paper. Soon enough a television crew films his incredible strength. Mr. Dingle lifts a bar stool and then breaks a table, earning him the applause of the audience, however soon the Martians quietly reappear. They are disappointed in Mr. Dingle’s decision to exploit his powers exclusively for himself and his vanity, rather than achieving something constructive for humanity. The Martians remove Mr. Dingle’s powers and he is once again mocked as a weakling and a laughingstock.
In an amusing epilogue, on their way out of the bar, the Martians bump into a pair of aliens from Venus (played by two nine year olds). They are looking for a human in whom to implant superhuman intelligence (500 times the intelligence of a normal human). The Martians suggest that the Venusians use Mr. Dingle for their experiment. Thus concludes “Mr. Dingle, the Strong” -a silly screwy comedy episode of The Twilight Zone. It is not a great episode but it certainly boasts an extraordinary cast.
“Exit Mr. Luther Dingle, former vacuum cleaner salesman, strongest man on Earth, and now mental giant. These latter powers will very likely be eliminated before too long, but Mr. Dingle has an appeal to extraterrestrial notetakers as well as to frustrated and insolvent bet losers. Offhand, I’d say that he was in for a great deal of extremely odd periods, simply because there are so many inhabited planets who send down observers, and also because, of course, Mr. Dingle lives his life with one foot in his mouth—and the other in The Twilight Zone.”
This was a bit of a thin episode –another comedic installment in the series. However, it reunites actor Burgess Meredith and director John Brahm after the smash success of Season 1’s “Time Enough At Last.” In addition, Don Rickles makes his only appearance in The Twilight Zone, appropriately as a barfly. It returns us to the theme of a silent alien invasion of Earth which, unbeknownst to any of us, intends to test our moral compass.
The Twilight Zone Trivia:
- This was the second of four appearances of Burgess Meredith in the series. This was the only episode in the series that Don Rickles ever appeared in.
- Per Marc Scott Zicree, a year prior to this episode a reporter misquoted “Mr. Denton on Doomsday” as “Mr. Dingle on Doomsday” hence where Rod Serling likely got the name. However, per Martin Grams Jr., Rod Serling wanted to use the name “Dingle” directly instead of Al Denton.
- This was Director John Brahm’s first Season 2 episode (Brahm and Burgess last worked together on the classic Season 1 episode “Time Enough At Last”).
- This episode went a thousand dollars over budget.
- James Millhollin appears briefly in this episode (he previously appeared in Season 1’s “The After Hours”).
- James Westerfield plays the bartender, Anthony O’Toole, in this episode. He had a long career in Hollywood which included appearances in such as classic films as The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) and On the Waterfront (1954).
- The two-headed Martian was played by Michael Fox and Douglas Spencer –this was Spencer’s last credited role as he died a few months before the episode aired.
- A pair of nine year old actors played the twin Venusians in this episode: Donald Losby and Greg Irwin.
Click here to return to my survey of The Twilight Zone series.
Click here to read my reflections on Rod Serling’s short story “Mr. Dingle, the Strong.”