Original Air Date: April 6, 1962
Writer: Rod Serling/Price Day
Director: Lamont Johnson
A heavyset obsessive man (played by actor and folk singer Theodore Bikel) is found hunched over a table filled with papers beside his pet parrot named “Pete.” He phones up a businessman named Mr. O’Conner and informs him there is one employee at his business named Mr. Brewster who is an avowed communist, a menace to society. He then calls a school administrator to inform him of a morally objectionable teacher. He then turns to his parrot “Pete” and vows that he will finally end all evil in the world at four o’clock.
“That’s Oliver Crangle, a dealer in petulance and poison. He’s rather arbitrarily chosen four o’clock as his personal Götterdämmerung, and we are about to watch the metamorphosis of a twisted fanatic, poisoned by the gangrene of prejudice, to the status of an avenging angel, upright and omniscient, dedicated and fearsome. Whatever your clocks say, it’s four o’clock, and wherever you are, it happens to be The Twilight Zone.”
Crangle is a man without empathy or forgiveness. He critiques his landlady (played by Irish actress Moyna Macgill) when she shows up to deliver his mail, and then a woman named Mrs. Lucas (Phyllis Love) arrives wondering why Mr. Crangle is intent upon destroying her husband, a respected doctor who has done nothing wrong, but Mr. Crangle presumes to pass judgement on her husband for being a murderer, because he was once unable to save a certain patient who died. Mr. Crangle then makes a dark pledge to mark every evil man in the world: to shrink him to the size of two feet tall. Mr. Crangle symbolically crosses out certain words in Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address hanging on his wall and meets with an FBI agent named Luther Hall (Linden Chiles) who decides not to punish all these people but instead suggests Mr. Crangle is mentally unsound. Predictably, when the time comes at four o’clocl Mr. Crangle himself is shrunk down to the two foot tall size of a “gnome.”
“At four o’clock an evil man made his bed and lay in it, a pot called a kettle black, a stone-thrower broke the windows of his glass house. You look for this one under ‘F’ for Fanatic and ‘J’ for Justice in The Twilight Zone.”
The idea behind the character of Mr. Crangle is a man who is incapable of seeing nuance, he has no sense of gradation in the world. He is unable to understand the difference between pure evil on the one hand and a series of simple misunderstandings and mistakes on the other. He has been studying evil for years, and he longs for retribution –punishment for evil. He is an isolated, disturbed man who is surely a greater representation of evil than the men he seeks to defame.
The Twilight Zone Trivia:
- The teleplay for this episode was based on a short story by Price Day which Rod Serling spotted in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine in 1958. Price Day is more fondly remembered today as a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist.
- The theme of “little people” is carried over
- Lead actor Theodor Bikel was an ardent civil rights activist all his life, he opposed blacklisting and McCarthyism. He later was a reader for The Twilight Zone audiobooks –he read the famous story for “The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street.”
- In his opening introduction, Rod Serling uses the German term Götterdämmerung, a reference to an ancient Norse battle of the gods which ultimately left the world renewed.
Click here to return to my survey of The Twilight Zone series.
The ending for this Twilight Zone episode may have been fairly predictable. But for its message, as well as a great performance by Theodore Bikel, it’s certainly one of the most memorable.
LikeLiked by 1 person