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January 1, 2010

The Twilight Zone: Time Enough At Last (1959)

The Twilight Zone episode Time Enough at Last
World's greatest literature enthusiast runs into a sight - er - slight dilemma during the post-atomic apocalypse.

As the holiday season quickly comes and goes it's time to rememember that other annual tradition - The Twilight Zone marathon. The Sleazeblender is proud to begin a tradition of it's own, new for 2010, each day for the next two weeks The Seaze-A-Saurus will publish a review of the episodes that made the series great.

Ladies and germs, welcome to the Twilight Zone Episode Guide.

Rod Serling, the creator of the series, was a brash genius who used his one-of-a-kind production talents to examine cultural traditions, oppressive fear and military morality into 21-minute-long suspense driven episodes confronting post-war American life. For TV, even by modern standards, this is unheard of. TV, for generations, has existed to obscure reality not to confront it! To confront paranoia and prevailing social anxieties in the "duck and cover" era of Lassie and the Dick Van Dyke Show in the 1950's seems an impossible challenge. Cue Jerry Goldsmith's guitar-and-bongo riff right here. Welcome to the 5th dimension campers - the Twilight Zone.

Time Enough At Last (from the first season of the series, episode 8) was first broadcast in November 1959, as the fear of a imminent devastating nuclear war with Russia seemed inevitable. Time Enough tells "the story of a man who seeks salvation in the rubble of a ruined world".

The episode begins with Serling stepping into frame to deliver his sly, trademarked setting of the scene, doing so unnoticed in the middle of a busy bank:

"Witness Mr. Henry Bemis, a charter member in the fraternity of dreamers. A bookish little man whose passion is the printed page but who is conspired against by a bank president and a wife and a world full of tongue-cluckers and the unrelenting hands of a clock. But in just a moment Mr. Bemis will enter a world without bank presidents or wives or clocks or anything else. He'll have a world all to himself, without anyone."

Enter henpecked bank teller Henry Bemis, played by Burgess Meredith. He loves books, yet is surrounded by those who prevent him from reading them. The episode follows Bemis through the end of the world, touching on social issues as unlikely as anti-intellectualism, atomic warfare, and the difference between solitude and loneliness.

Bemis, gathering books by the hundred, is at last undone by fatefull accident. The civilized world that had prevented him from reading has been swept away and is no longer present to make a simple repair his broken glasses. The episode closes as Bemis bemoans his fate, surrounded by years worth of books he'd intended to read, clutching the remains of his broken glasses and wailing: "That's not fair. That's not fair at all. There was time now. There was all the time I needed...!"


References:
Wikipedia, Time Enough At Last
The Offical: Burgess Meredith.com


Season One of The Original Twilight Zone is available at:
Season One of The Original Twilight Zone on Amazon

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