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February 15, 2010

Midnight in The Twilight Zone - Dust

Welcome to Midnight in The Twilight Zone, a new feature in which I look at some of my favorite episodes of what I consider the most fantastic anthology of the unknown ever produced. Each installment will feature one episode, starting tonight with Dust.

"There was a village, built of crumbling clay and rotting wood. And it squatted ugly under a broiling sun like a sick and mangy animal waiting to die. This village had a virus, shared by its people. It was the germ of squalor, of hopelessness, of a loss of faith. With the faithless, the hopeless, the misery-laden, there is time - ample time - to engage in one of the other pursuits of men. They begin to destroy themselves."

If you haven't seen the episode, you can view it at IMDB by
clicking HERE.

Though Rod Serling did far better than I ever could, I present Dust, one of the most heartbreaking episodes of the series I've ever seen. In a town where a penitent young man is about to hanged for an accident that killed a young girl, the pig of a salesman (Thomas Gomez in a completely-vile-yet-PG-drunken-Orson-Welles-esque performance) that sold the hanging rope offers the boy's immigrant father a bag of magic dust which "turns hate into love". Of course, the dust is simply dirt he grabbed at the moment, and has no significant background.
Watching the boy's father, played by Vladimir Sokoloff, become ridiculed in front of the town's uncaring residents as he pleas for his son's life is one of the most tear inducing moments from the series' run. Sokoloff died just over a year after the episode aired, and it's sad to say that the aging Russian actor looked the part of a man in despair. As he flails his arms and screams for sympathy, the townsfolk do what most people today would do too - they break out in laughter. It's a breathtakingly sad moment.

But, things are not always as they seem in The Twilight Zone and the episode's plot comes to a more satisfying conclusion than many of its counterparts. While it's a bit heavy with its message and climaxes too early, Dust is a fantastic example of what The series asked us to "pay heed to the magic" many times before (and many more times after) Dust aired in the first week of 1961, but few episodes look as deeply into human despair as Serling's story for this episode did. And as he sums it up, in the human heart there is "a wizardry that costs far more than a few pieces of gold".

I'm not sure I know what that means, but I'm glad he said it with Dust.

1 comment:

Hey! Look Behind You! said...

I'm currently watching the 80's version. It's the one I grew up with the most. Good times