Exploring The Twilight Zone, Episode #3: "Mr. Denton on Doomsday"
The Twilight Zone (Episode #3): "Mr. Denton on Doomsday" (airdate 10/16/59)
The Plot: A pathetic town drunk finds a mysterious gun ... as forces beyond his control battle for the man's soul.
The Goods: Once again, Serling takes a simple old Western tale and laces it with more insight and cleverness than many feature-length horse operas. He doesn't shy away from presenting "rummy" Al Denton as a sad little lost cause of a man -- but just as Al reaches the bottom of the barrel (thanks to a bully who pushes him too far), he becomes empowered by finding a gun. Obviously, Serling is making a point about how weapons make a person feel instantly powerful, but that message only holds water until the mid-episode commercial break. From there, we head into some territory covered in our previous episode: how the natural benevolence of the human spirit can (and often will) overcome the low and easy options. A bit drier (no pun intended) than most of the better episodes, but "Denton" earns points (once again) for some truly excellent casting and some whip-smart Serling dialogue.
For delivering a timely parable about how a predilection for violence is something man often has to actively avoid -- and for couching it in a comfortably old-fashioned setting -- this episode earns a B plus on the Explore-o-meter.
The Trivia: The pathetic yet somehow sympathetic drunkard is played by Dan Duryea, a solid character actor who appeared in numerous films (including noirs like Lady on a Train and Scarlet Street), while the hateful bastard of a town bully is played by a rather youthful Martin Landau. And if you don't know who Martin Landau is, I think you may be reading the wrong website.
On the Next Episode: An aging bitch of a scream queen yearns for one more moment in the spotlight.
We're running through all 156 of the original Twilight Zone episodes over the next several weeks, and we won't be doing it alone! Our friends at Film School Rejects will be entering the Zone as well, only on alternating weeks. So definitely tune in over at FSR and feel free to also follow along on Twitter accounts @twitchfilm and @rejectnation.