Directed by: Don Medford
Written by: Rod Serling
One of the sleeper episodes of the third season of The Twilight Zone, Deaths-Head Revisited is not for the faint of heart. In fact, it’s a downright savage episode that on occasion borders on offensive. But the message here isn’t offensive so much as a few key moments and the manner in which one of the episode’s focal personalities responds to his situation that proves offensive. Of course, when you’ve got a former Nazi grinning ear-to-ear as he explores a camp he once oversaw, it’s bound to tap a nerve in viewers.
Former Captain Gunther Lutze makes his way through a small town when he’s recognized by a resident. It takes us moments to learn that this smug bastard was once a Captain that loomed over the Jewish prisoners of a nearby concentration camp. He takes his pompous self to the site of his old crimes and seems to relish the memories he has of torturing innocent men, women and children before senselessly executing them. He spends extended moments with a look of pure joy carved in his facial features, his pearly whites shining, revealed by an enormous grin. Until a familiar face appears out of thin air. One of the old prisoners that was tortured by Lutze has come to greet him, and he – along with the spirits of the other innocents that were slaughtered – are about to see to it that the man faces punishment for his crimes, which he likes to undermine by calling them “small mistakes.”
The power of this episode lies in the performances as much as the message. Oscar Beregi Jr. is so convincing as a sadistic monster that he sends a wave of nausea through the viewer. I’m not certain I hate any character introduced in The Twilight Zone as much as I hate this repulsive beast, and that emotion instantly develops a unique response to Deaths-Head Revisited. It immediately catapults it into the more memorable and impacting episodes of a series that produced a staggering amount of sublime stories.
This has never been an enormous fan favorite, but it’s also an episode that often goes overlooked during Twilight Zone marathons. If you happen to catch it on TV, or if you own the third season of The Twilight Zone, give this one another, much closer look, it deserves your time and attention.