The Twilight Zone: Season 4, Episode Nine “Printer’s Devil”

Original Air Date: February 28, 1963
Writer: Charles Beaumont
Director: Ralph Senensky

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Based on Charles Beaumont’s short story “The Devil, You Say?” (1951), the episode “Printer’s Devil” introduces us to Douglas Winter (Robert Sterling) an indebted owner of The Dansburg Courier, a struggling local newspaper. Sadly his newspaper has fallen on hard times, there is simply too little news to report and a competing paper has arrived in town, The Gazette. The death knell seems to come when the long-time linotype writer Andy Praskins (Charles Thompson) leaves the Courier for the Gazette. Despite the pleadings of Doug’s girlfriend Jackie Benson (Patricia Crowley) Doug goes on a drinking binge that leads him to a suicide attempt from the top of a bridge outside town. However, a strange man suddenly appears and requests a ride back into town from Doug.

“Take away a man’s dream, fill him with whiskey and despair, send him to a lonely bridge, let him stand there all by himself looking down at the black water, and try to imagine the thoughts that are in his mind. You can’t, I can’t. But there’s someone who can—and that someone is seated next to Douglas Winter right now. The car is headed back toward town, but its real destination is the Twilight Zone.
-Rod Serling

The strange man reveals himself to be Mr. Smith (played by classic Twilight Zone actor Burgess Meredith), an experienced linotype operator. Doug brings him back to the Courier but strange things begin to happen –Mr. Smith can type at lightning speed, and it is almost as if he types the news before it unfolds. Soon the rival Gazette burns to the ground and other advantages come to the Courier. In exchange for his work, Mr. Smith requests the possession of Doug’s immortal soul. Strange events continue to unfold while Jackie suspects something unusual is afoot.

In the end, Mr. Smith reveals his true identity: the Devil. He writes a news story which claims that Jackie will soon die in a fiery car wreck so Doug unsuccessfully attempts to shoot Mr. Smith. As Mr. Smith simply smiles and walks away, Doug decides to use the linotype machine himself. He begins to write a story that leads to a car wreck for Mr. Smith while he is driving Jackie to the airport. Doug has been able to effectively write the Devil out of his life while rescuing Jackie –but is the Devil truly gone forever?

“Exit the infernal machine, and with it his satanic majesty, Lucifer, prince of darkness—otherwise known as Mr. Smith. He’s gone, but not for good; that wouldn’t be like him—he’s gone for bad. And he might be back, with another ticket….to The Twilight Zone.”
-Rod Serling

The Twilight Zone Trivia

  • This episode represents another “Deal with the Devil” theme in The Twilight Zone, as found in other notable episodes like “Escape Clause,” “The Howling Man” or “Of Late I Think of Cliffordville.”
  • Charles Beaumont’s “The Devil, You Say?”was his first professional sale in 1951. The Twilight Zone episode and the original contain a number of differences, including swapped genders for the lead role. The story was being considered for a feature film starring Bela Lugosi (a hopeful comeback for the aging actor) however the film was never brought into production.
  • While no longer in use, linotype machines were used from the 18th century up until the 1970s.
  • Niccolo Paganini is alluded to in this episode, an Italian violin virtuoso whose skills were so impressive it was rumored he had made a compact with the Devil.
  • The title for the episode refers to a colloquial expression for a printer’s apprentice.
  • A complex rig of wires and lighting gel were used in a notable scene in which Burgess Meredith snaps his fingers in order to light a cigar.

    Click here to return to my survey of The Twilight Zone series.

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