Friday, April 6, 2012

TZ Promo: “Four O’clock” (4/06/1962)

Season 3, Episode 29 (94 overall)
Cayuga Production # 4832

"I don't threaten people, I compile them. I compile them, and I investigate them. I analyze them, then I categorize them, and I judge them. If they're impure and evil, then they must be punished. If, on the other hand, they are simply misled or naive (or unsophisticated), then I point out to them the right way."

Ugh. I’ve been dreading this one. I’ve only seen it once, probably 25 years ago, and I hated it. It’s probably not quite as terrible as “Mr. Bevis,” but my memory tells me it’s damned pretty close. I’m just gonna rush through this one as fast as I can. And heads up: I don’t care if I spoil the ending or not.

“Four O’clock,” written by Rod Serling from a short story by Price Day, turns 50 tonight. It stars the esteemed Theodore Bikel (who certainly deserved something better than this dreck in his sole TZ appearance) as Oliver Crangle (jeez, what a name). Crangle is a pious, self-righteous judgmental right wing nutjob whose apparent sole purpose in life is to ferret out and malign anyone who violates his strict moral code (liberals, in other words). Know anybody like that? I’m imagining Rush Limbaugh in this role, and that jackwad is nailing it, boys and girls.

One afternoon, Crangle decrees in his maniacal, delusional glee that, at precisely 4:00 that day, every evil person in the world will shrink to a mere two feet tall (you know, to make them easy for the authorities to apprehend and whatnot). How does he plan on accomplishing this? He doesn’t appear to have any magical powers. There’s no genie in a bottle granting wishes for him. Although it’s not explicitly stated, I’m guessing he’s counting on God himself to make the shrinkage happen. He is, after all, doing the Big Guy’s work, right?

Serling goes completely overboard convincing us that Crangle is both thoroughly repellant and batshit loony. At one point, he is shown marking out the line “all men are created equal” from a framed copy of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. As if his over-the-top behavior isn’t enough, we’ve got his pet parrot Pete (hey, say that fast three times) cackling the word “nut” several times, as if we need a periodic reminder that Crangle is in fact as dry roasted as they come.

Because Crangle is so utterly detestable, we can’t help but detest him. And because we detest him, we can’t help but rejoice when he receives his comeuppance in the end. The whole thing is a bit too paint-by-the-numbers in that respect. We aren’t shocked in the least when, at precisely 4:00, Crangle himself shrinks to two feet tall. When Pete the (suddenly) enormous parrot looms menacingly over him, we hope like hell that it’ll swoop down and eat the (newly) little bastard. I like to think that it does exactly that, right after the end credits.

What’s the point of all this? Judge not, lest thou be judged? Do unto others as you would have them do unto you? Some other hippy-dippy greeting card platitude? I dunno. I suppose the case could be made that Crangle is mentally ill and therefore not responsible for his actions, and further, that Serling is a bully for punishing him in light of this. But you know what? I can’t make myself care enough to go there. “Four O’clock” is 25 minutes of sheer unpleasantness either way, and it’s the low point of the entire season.

Next week, “Hocus-Pocus and Frisby” introduces us to a highly annoying bigmouth and then asks us to give a shit when he’s abducted by aliens. *Sigh*


Joel Benedict Henderson said...

Really? Worse than Cavender is Coming and The Gift?

Brian Kirk said...

I agree that this one doesn't offer much. I prefer the Twilight Zone's were the person learns a lesson and has a chance for redemption. I have always assumed that, because Serling paints this character as being so over-the-top, that the guy has a mental problem (who else spends their lives in a tiny apartment cataloging people?) so the ending is not as satisfying as it could be.

Love your blog by the way!

Craig Beam said...

Brian - thanks!

Joel - yes, worse... but not by much.