Exploring The Twilight Zone, Episode #95: "Hocus-Pocus and Frisby"
The great character actor Andy Devine plays a teller of tall tales who draws the attention of two visitors from, let us say, "elsewhere," and he is faced with the consequences of his storytelling.
The Twilight Zone, Episode #95: "Hocus-Pocus and Frisby" (original air date April 13, 1962)
The Plot: Good ol' country boy Frisby (Andy Devine) sits in his general store, surrounded by his cronies, telling stories about his great exploits during the Great War. His friends roll their eyes, because they've heard this tall tale -- or a thousand others like it -- many times before. When they press for details, Frisby shifts easily to another, equally outsized lie with a lazy grin.
Frisby is an older gentleman who lives in a small town called Pitchville Flats and is content with his lot in life. He is not an industrious sort; as the episode begins, an even older customer is puttering about the shop, shopping, and when he tells Frisby he's ready to pay, Frisby tells the fella to add up the bill himself. Of course Frisby trusts the man, but as one of his friends says behind his back, "the only industrious thing about Frisby's whole body is his mouth."
Two visitors drive up in a convertible. Dressed in business suits, they are polite, and immediately fascinated by Frisby as he brags that he designed the vehicle in which they're driving, among other lies. They are quickly convinced that they've stumbled upon "an incredible specimen ... obviously a key man" and invite him to go on an adventure. When he hesitates, he's whisked away anyway, and then must deal with the consequences of his storytelling.
The Goods: Rod Serling wrote the folksy, humorous teleplay, adapting a story by Frederic Louis Fox. As is often the case with Serling, his humor is quite broad, but rolling off the tongue of Andy Devine, the dialogue sounds completely authentic, as though it were received Southern wisdom.
Devine, a familiar character actor with a distinctive, scratchy voice (the result of a childhood accident), is entirely at home in the setting, and when he confronts the visitors with the same ol' boy charm he displays with his friends, it's so incongruous it's funny. Even though you can see the denouement coming from a country mile away, it's a very clever and appropriate resolution, both for the story and the character.
The Trivia: The career of the great Andy Devine stretched back to the Silent Era; the very thing that might have limited his prospects -- his voice -- instead became his most identifiable feature, and he worked steadily right up until he died of leukemia in 1977.
Yes, that familiar-looking spaceship is from Forbidden Planet.
On the Next Episode: This concludes our week of coverage, so tune into Film School Rejects on Monday evening to see what happens to an elderly couple who "shop for younger replacement bodies, then resort to desperate measures to cover the cost."
We're running through all 156 of the original Twilight Zone episodes, and we're not doing it alone! Our friends at Film School Rejects have entered 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.