Best of The Twilight Zone: ‘Mr. Denton on Doomsday’ (Season 1 Episode 3) Review
Original Air Date: October 16th, 1959
Director: Allen Reisner
Writer: Rod Serling
The Story: Al “Rummy” Denton has allowed his life to spiral out of control. Once a feared gunfighter, he’s been reduced to little more than a begging drunkard, willing to embarrass himself for a swig of decent booze. But “Rummy” has a valid reason for his constant battle with the bottle and his persistent fits of depression. As a prime fighter he was once forced to kill a teenage boy, and since that moment he swore off the gun while embracing the bottle’s inner demons. A chance encounter with one Mr. Henry J. Fate (who sells all kinds of interest goods, including magical little potions) will force the story into even deeper, more intricate depths, as Al Denton is moments away from meeting another hungry young gunfighter. And this gunfighter is no stranger to Henry J. Fate – or his magical elixirs – himself.
Thoughts: One of the rarer Twilight Zone episode that wraps on a truly positive note, there’s much to be taken away from this chunk of amazingness. The aspect that resonates more than anything else comes in the emphasis on inner strength and the ability to overcome the obstacles that plague our evolution as human beings. The brain is one of the body’s most powerful tools, but the heart, and the will of man also command respect, as sometimes it’s the determination to be unbreakable, the desire to succeed at all costs that see us through to a fresh new day.
Mr. Al Denton learns that in this specific episode. But the beauty of it all is, he’s forced to the bottom of the barrel before he battles his way to the top. He falls, and responds not as a drunkard, but as a man with a desire to be better. It’s strangely touching, and witnessing the gamut of emotions and the numerous difficulties the man faces is about as engrossing as it gets.
We can feel sympathy for Denton. Some of us can feel empathy. All of us can feel his determination creeping from the screen, and that’s riveting stuff.
But beyond the general impact and moral of the story, we get some awesome bonuses. The old west sets look extremely convincing and there are an assortment of quality performances to absorb. The most noteworthy, surprisingly, isn’t the work turned in by Dan Duryea, who portrays Denton; it’s a young Martin Landau that truly stands out in the mind. Landau handles the role of the cruel hearted, villainous Dan Hotaling, who pushes every button Al has to be pushed. He’s nasty on every level, but ironically, his savagery is what gives way to Denton’s salvation.
Verdict: Overlooked by many, and often dismissed as something of a filler episode, there’s a lot to take away from this entry in the first season of the famed series. There isn’t much here in the way of deficiencies or technical weaknesses; the story is deceptively impressive and complex and a fresh viewing could serve to cast a new light on a strong episode among a younger crowd. Let’s remember, Twilight Zone’s popularity hasn’t exactly wavered.
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