Original Air Date: April 21, 1961
Writer: Rod Serling
Director: Justus Addiss
“Introducing, four experts in the questionable art of crime: Mr. Farwell, expert on noxious gases, former professor, with a doctorate in both chemistry and physics; Mr. Erbie, expert in mechanical engineering; Mr. Brooks, expert in the use of firearms and other weaponry; and Mr. De Cruz, expert in demolition and various forms of destruction. The time is now, and the place is a mountain cave in Death Valley, U.S.A. In just a moment, these four men will utilize the services of a truck placed in cosmoline, loaded with a hot heist cooled off by a century of sleep, and then take a drive into The Twilight Zone.”
“The Rip Van Winkle Caper” is a strange and somewhat campy episode. It concerns four thieves (played by Oscar Beregi, Simon Oakland, Lew Gallo, John Mitchum) who rob a bullion train and escape to a lair in the desert where they promptly gas themselves to sleep in a glass cryo chambers. They plan to sleep for a century and when they awake their robbery will be forgotten so the group will be free to spend their stolen riches.
Three of them awaken in the next century (one died when a rock crushed his glass encasing). They decide to walk toward town together but their partnership soon devolves into infighting while they all suffer from dehydration. The last man standing dies just as a strange, futuristic vehicle pulls alongside him. As the man dies offering gold, the people of the future state that gold has not been valuable for many years since it has been easily manufactured. It is an amusingly whimsical twist ending.
“The last of four Rip Van Winkles, who all died precisely the way they lived, chasing an idol across the sand to wind up bleached dry in the hot sun as so much desert flotsam, worthless as the gold bullion they built a shrine to. Tonight’s lesson – in The Twilight Zone.”
The Twilight Zone Trivia:
- The episode was filmed just outside Lone Pine, California in conjunction with the previous episode “A Hundred Yards Over The Rim.” Props were also reused however the futuristic car was borrowed from the film Forbidden Planet.
- The episode is sometimes compared to B. Traven’s Treasure of the Sierra Madre, a 1927 novel.
- The title alludes to early American writer Washington Irving’s famous short story “Rip Van Winkle.”