Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Jeanne Cooper in "Mr. Denton on Doomsday" - THE TWILIGHT ZONE

"Mr. Denton on Doomsday" is the third episode of the American television anthology series The Twilight Zone. This is the first Twilight Zone episode to be rerun.

Plot summary

Al Denton (DAN DURYEA) was once known as the quickest draw in town, but his life was ruined after he killed a teenaged boy in a duel — he is now an alcoholic wreck and the laughing stock of the community. A mysterious salesman named Henry J. Fate (MALCOLM ATTERBURY) ostensibly further dooms Denton by causing him to inexplicably regain his expert shooting touch and once again inspire the respect and awe of the townsfolk. Denton explains to sympathetic saloongirl Liz (JEANNE COOPER) that this will only cause reputation-hungry gunslingers from miles around to seek him out and, inevitably, kill him. Just as Denton predicted, soon enough a challenge is delivered which Denton dare not refuse.

The still-weary and not-so-sure-handed Denton practices in the desert for his suicidal duel, but he misses his targets miserably and concludes that he must skip town. As he quietly packs his things and tries to flee under the cover of night, he strikes up a conversation with Fate, who seems to know things about Denton and offers him a way out. Fate claims to possess a potion guaranteed to make the drinker the fastest gun in the West for exactly ten seconds. Denton is skeptical but Fate goads him into drinking a free sample, after which Denton immediately realizes its benefits defeating bully Dan Hotaling (MARTIN LANDAU).

Still, Denton knows that with Fate's magical potion he has extended his lease on life by only one gunfight; there will be no end to the challenges he will surely continue to receive.

At the appointed time, Denton faces his challenger Pete Grant (DOUG McCLURE), a young gunfighter who behaves like he knows he can't possibly lose. Denton downs his second potion only to find his opponent holding an identical empty bottle -- Fate had slyly provided the same elixir to young Grant. Each man shoots the other in the hand, causing injuries which are minor but forever ruin both men's ability to pull a trigger.

Denton tells his young opponent that they have both been blessed because they will never again be able to fire a gun in anger. Henry J. Fate tips his hat to Denton and rides quietly out of town. Just as Fate had helped one man out of a pit, he had simultaneously prevented another from falling into one.

Episode notes

This episode is one of very few in the series whose opening sequence features an eye with heavy mascara. It was plastered over the original opening when "Mr. Denton on Doomsday" was rerun on June 24, 1960. Although the plastering of Season One intros (including the majority of episodes with this alternate intro) is not uncommon due to the Summer 1961 repeat season, this is the only case of the alternate Season One intro plastering the original. This also means this is one of only three shows where this title sequence can be still seen in syndication. As with the majority of plastered Season One intros, the original is believed lost.

In his 1959 promotional film shown to potential sponsors, Rod Serling summarized an earlier version of this episode's plot under its original title, "Death, Destry, and Mr. Dingle." As told by Serling, the basic premise is similar, but the earlier version seems to have been more comedic in tone, involving a meek schoolteacher who quite unintentionally gains notoriety as a top gunslinger. The name "Mr. Dingle" (originally intended for the Dan Duryea character) would be used by Serling for a future episode, with Burgess Meredith playing the eponymous character in "Mr Dingle, the Strong" in 1961.

Further readings

Sander, Gordon F.: Serling: The Rise And Twilight of Television's Last Angry Man. New York: Penguin Books, 1992.

Zicree, Marc Scott: The Twilight Zone Companion. Sillman-James Press, 1982

DeVoe, Bill. (2008). Trivia from The Twilight Zone. Albany, GA: Bear Manor Media.

Grams, Martin. (2008). The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic.

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