Exploring The Twilight Zone, Episode #131: "A Short Drink From a Certain Fountain"
We resume our coverage of Season 5 of the original series with an episode about the fountain of life -- which seems fitting for the second day of a new year.
The Twilight Zone, Episode #131: "A Short Drink From a Certain Fountain" (original air date Dec. 13, 1963)
The Plot: Elderly Harmon Gordon (Patrick O'Neal) has a much-younger wife who constantly reminds him that he's 40 years older. Driven to the point of despair and contemplating suicide, Harmon begs his younger brother Raymond (Walter Brooke), a doctor, to inject him with an experimental serum that has reversed the aging process for some test subjects (animals) -- and killed others.
Very reluctantly, Raymond agrees, but the serum has an unexpected result for its first human subject.
The Goods: Harmon's wife Flora (Ruta Lee) is portrayed as a shrill, selfish, gold-digger, constantly berating and belittling poor, hapless Harmon. They've only been married for five years, yet Flora is already tired of her much older husband, to the point that she barely listens to anything he says, and turns a deaf ear to his needs, emotional and otherwise.
For his part, Harmon is in love with Flora's outward appearance, which blinds him to all her personality defects. As his brother Raymond reminds him, at length, he never approved of Flora, not because of her age, but because of her personality, and he is deeply troubled to see how thoroughly Harmon has morphed into a cowardly servant for her whims.
Yet Raymond loves his brother, and allows Harmon's imploring cries to affect his better judgment.
Written by Rod Serling, based on an idea by Lou Holtz, the episode features blistering denunciations by Raymond against Flora, but his anger at Harmon is tinged with great disappointment that his older brother allowed himself to be tricked and trapped. It's the kind of intimate, brotherly conversation that could (probably) only be written by a younger brother who always looked up to his older brother, and it's easy to speculate that Serling was imagining what he would say to his older brother Robert if he ever found Robert in that situation.
The Trivia: O'Neal was just 36 years old at the time the episode was filmed; Lee was ten years younger.
On the Next Episode: "An old man believes that his life will end the moment his grandfather clock stops ticking."
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.