"Escape Clause" is the sixth episode of the The Twilight Zone.
From the CBS Video Library cover:
"Forty-four-year-old Walter Bedecker (David Wayne) is a hypocondriac par excellence. So when the Devil in the form of fat, jolly Mr. Cadwallader (Thomas Gomez) appears and offers him immortality and indestructability in exchange for his soul, Bedecker jumps at the chance. He insists on an escape clause, however: if at any time he tires of life, all he need do is summon Cadwallader. Soon, Bedecker is delighted to find that nothing can harm him -steaming radiators can't burn him and throwing himself in front of speeding subway trains only rips his clothes. Insurance agents are lining up to pay off handsomely for all his little "accidents." And yet, something is missing...life lacks a certain zip. Bedacker has a nasty feeling Cadwallader has pulled a fast one. And, in his quest for bigger and better thrills, Bedecker is setting himself up for a nasty shock....courtesy of the Twilight Zone. "
"You're about to meet a hypochondriac. Witness Mr. Walter Bedecker, age forty-four, afraid of the following: death, disease, other people, germs, draft, and everything else. He has one interest in life, and that's Walter Bedecker. One preoccupation: the life and well-being of Walter Bedecker. One abiding concern about society: that if Walter Bedecker should die, how will it survive without him?"
Walter Bedecker, a mean-spirited, abusive hypochondriac is growing tired of his life, but doesn't wish to die. In fact, that is his greatest fear. He keeps a doctor on call at all hours and his dutiful wife, Ethel, a tired and anxious woman. Their marriage seems to be one where the love is merely one-sided as Walter doesn't really care much for any other person than himself.
Though his doctor continues to assure him that there's nothing wrong with him except for the ailments he's manufactured for himself, he doesn't trust the diagnosis. He is convinced that his problems are more than imaginary, his doctor is a quack, and his wife can't wait to collect from his death. He feels cheated by life and so when he finds an opportunity to cheat death via a pact with the Devil in exchange for immortality, he gladly accepts after adding enough conditions to keep him out of Satan's clutches forever. He is puzzled when the Wicked One doesn't put up much of a fight, only stipulating an escape clause which allows the man to die if he so wishes, but doesn't worry too much about it.
He uses his newfound invulnerability to collect insurance money and cheap thrills by hurling himself into life-threatening situations, such as drinking poison or being hit by a bus or train. Soon growing bored with this game, seeking out ever escalating stunts, he decides to jump off of his apartment building roof. Unfortunately for his wife, she finds her husband about to end his life -not knowing its impossibility- and rushes toward him in a futile effort to stop him. Instead, she lunges over the edge herself, falling to her death.
Seeing the opportunity to experience an unique thrill in the form of an electric chair, he confesses to the murder of his wife (though she truly died by accident, unlike her husband's "deaths"), and soon finds himself before a judge. His lawyer is too good, however, and he is sentenced to life in prison without any chance of parole.
In the episode's final scene, a dismayed Walter contemplates spending an infinite duration of time locked in a cage and how useless his immortality has become. On cue, the Devil shows up and reminds the man of the escape clause. Facing eternity in jail, the man nods and suffers a fatal heart attack.
"There's a saying, 'Every man is put on Earth condemned to die, time and method of execution unknown.' Perhaps this is as it should be. Case in point: Walter Bedecker, lately deceased, a little man with such a yen to live. Beaten by the Devil, by his own boredom, and by the scheme of things in this, the Twilight Zone."
Preview for Next Week's Story
"One of next week's stars is alongside me now. She'll appear in a most unusual tale called "The Lonely". It's a story that takes place on a - (female voice) an asteroid, and it's a most intriguing premise. (Serling) Sounds it. Next week on The Twilight Zone, Jack Warden, John Dehner, and Jean Marsh appear in a bizarre tale of a man and a - a woman? (camera pans to a woman that's actuality a robot, then cuts back to Serling) I don't understand it either. Thank you and good night."
Response and Analysis
Aired early in Twilight Zone's first season, "Escape Clause" was a popular favorite that propmted Daily Variety to comment, "Here was a little gem. Good work, Rod Serling. This little piece about a hypochondriac who gets tangled up with an obese, clerical devil ranked with the best that has ever been accomplished in half-hour filmed television.”
Disney's Twilight Zone Tower of Terror has a reference to this episode. In the basement, the elevator has a plaque that says the last time the elevator was checked, it was checked on October 2, 1959 (the date The Twilight Zone first aired) and was checked by Mr. Cadwallader.
Notes and Annotations
There was a king of Gwynedd named Cadwaladr (also known as Cadwaladr ap Cadwallon) who lived in the 7th Century. There is no suggestion that Rod Serling chose the Cadwallader character's name from this historical character, but it is thought that the king's standard was the red dragon. The Red Dragon is a grimoire, also known as The Grand Grimoire, that contains instructions purported to summon Lucifer, for the purpose of forming a Deal with the Devil.
- Rod Serling as Narrator (voice only); uncredited
- David Wayne as Walter Bedecker
- Thomas Gomez as Cadwallader
- Virginia Christine as Ethel Bedecker
- Raymond Bailey as Doctor
- Wendell Holmes as Cooper
- Dick Wilson as Insurance Adjuster
- Joe Flynn as Adjuster
- Nesdon Booth as Guard [Credited as Nesden Booth]
- George Baxter as Judge; uncredited
- Paul E. Burns as Janitor; uncredited
- Allan Lurie as Subway Guard; uncredited
- Rod Serling (executive producer: Cayuga Productions)
- Buck Houghton (producer)
- George T. Clemens (director of photography)
- Bill Mosher (film editor)
- Millie Gusse (casting; credited: Mildred Gusse)
- George W. Davis (art director)
- William Ferrari (art director)
- Rudy Butler (set decorator)
- Henry Grace (set decorator)
- Ralph W. Nelson (production manager)
- Edward O. Denault (assistant director; credited: Edward Denault)
- Franklin Milton (sound; credited: Frank Milton)
- Jean G. Valentino (sound; credited: Jean Valentino)
- Van Allen James (sound effects editor; uncredited)
- "Escape Clause" was one of the three episodes-in-production mentioned by Rod Serling in his 1959 promotional film pitching the series to potential sponsors, the others being "The Lonely" and "Mr. Denton On Doomsday" (referred to as "Death, Destry, and Mr. Dingle").
- This episode was directed by Mitchell Leisen, who also was the director of the original Death Takes a Holiday (1934), which contains some thematic similarities to the episode "One for the Angels" aired earlier in the season.
- David Wayne was the star of the TV series House Calls in which he played Dr. Amos Weatherby, whereas in this episode his character played a doctor's nightmare patient.
- Thomas Gomez would later star as another duplicitous character in Season 3's "Dust".
- Raymond Bailey later appeared in two more episodes, Season 2's "Back There" and Season 5's "From Agnes-With Love".
- Dick Wilson also appeared in the Season 5 episode, "Ninety Years Without Slumbering".
- Nesdon Booth appeared in Season 2's episode, "The Prime Mover".
- Wendell Holmes played Walter Bedecker's lawyer. Holmes was a regular voice actor in the 1950s science fiction radio shows Dimension X and X Minus One.
Errors and Goofs
- Revealing mistakes: When the main character proclaims, "...the new Walter Bedecker!" you can see the frames are running back and forth. You can tell by looking at the window curtains behind him.
- Main article: List of memorable quotes from the first series
Notes and References
- ↑ CBS Video Library: Twilight Zone #0319 "Escape Clause/Jess-Belle/The Long Morrow" ; UPC: 000319060009, EAN: ?, ASIN: ?; Format: NTSC, VHS, Collector's Edition (1987)
- ↑ A.E. Waite, "Of Black Magic and Of Pacts", from the Introduction to The Grand Grimoire.
- ↑ Internet Movie Database: Escape Clause: Goofs; Retrieved on 2009-04-16
- Zicree, Marc Scott: The Twilight Zone Companion. Sillman-James Press, 1982 (second edition)*DeVoe, Bill. (2008). Trivia from The Twilight Zone. Albany, GA: Bear Manor Media. ISBN 978-1593931360
- Grams, Martin. (2008). The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic. Churchville, MD: OTR Publishing. ISBN 978-0970331090
- Internet Movie Database. "Escape Clause". Retrieved: 2009-04-30.