"The Last Sixty Seconds" was a story printed in the sixth issue of The Twilight Zone comic published by Gold Key.
Paul Travers was an up-and-coming performer in the Paris club scene with a popular ventriloquist act. He had managed to book a headlining tour through Europe and had fallen in love with a wealthy socialite. Things could not have been going better for him. That is, until the night he watched in horror as one of his dolls jumped up and dove out his balcony window! This would be just the start of Travers' voyage into madness and murder...in the Twilight Zone.
Cast of characters
- police officer #1
- Frenchman #1
- stage actor #1
- stage actress #1
"A car races faster and faster through the rain-drenched streets of Paris...but the driver, Paul Travers, is oblivious to his reckless speed! Voices in the night are driving him on--on to the most important sixty seconds of his life...in the Twilight Zone!"
Part OneAmerican Paul Travers was driving through the streets of Paris when he suddenly began to hear a disembodied voice chant, "You are guilty, Paul Travers...Guilty!" As he crossed a bridge over the river Seine, he noticed the source of the voice! In his back seat stood a small, ginger-locked imp in a green cap and blue plaid jacket! Paul slammed on his brakes, fled from the car and desperately flung himself over the edge of the bridge to evade the voice's taunts. As he fell, he recalled the fantastic events that had led him to this tragic point in his life.
After college, Paul Travers had decided that he was destined to become famous in the world of entertainment. He began a ventriloquist act named "Travers—and his incredible dummies: Wynken, Blynken and Nod." After some time, he had found his success in the club scene of Paris, France. After he signed a contract to tour Europe, he had hoped his success would help him to win the affection of a wealthy, socialite named Simone. She felt that he worked too hard for his wealth, which denied her of his full attention.
Later that night, while he was packing his things in preparation of the tour, he was shocked by an amazing sight: the ventriloquist dummy named Blynken yelled "I've had it with you, Travers," and then ran and leaped over the terrace balcony! Paul rushed to the balcony and found the dummy lying face down in the hotel fountain. He tried to convince himself there was a rational explanation. He had been overworked and must have placed the dummy a little too close to the balcony's edge and the wind had blown it over. Over the next few days, he would begin to lose faith in any rational explanation and would be forced to admit that his dummies were talking—and this time without him!Traver's troubles would soon deepen, as the dummies began to attack him and fly about the room, taunting him when he tried to sleep. They called him a weakling and blamed him for taking all their credit. The worst of all of them was Blynken, the dummy that he had dressed in a blue plaid jacket. It harassed the ventriloquist mercilessly, berating him, calling him a fraud, threatening to quit and accusing him of only being interested in Simone for her rich family's money. One night, as he applied his make-up in front of a mirror before an act, the monicled imp finally threatened to tell Simone of this alleged devious plan and ruin not only his act but his life.
A shaken Paul managed to get through the act that night but awoke the next morning to read this headline: "Wealthy Socialite's Home Robbed --Caretaker killed in jewel theft." It had taken place at Simone's home! As the troubled entertainer turned to get dressed, he noticed, to his horror, that a diamond necklace lay at his feet! As he picked it up, he wondered how it could have gotten there. Then he heard Blynken's voice answer the question: "'You took it home with you, Travers--after robbing your fiancees' drawing room safe...you're a thief and...killer!"Travers could not believe the stituation he had found himself in. He wondered how it could have been possible that he had savagely murdered a man and then robbed the family of his betrothed, all with no memory of the event. Someone else had to be responsible. Though, even if he was innocent, he could not explain how his dummies had come to life. He could not accept this thought any more than he could think of himself as a murderer, but could find no other rational explanation. Either he was insane or his dummies really had been speaking to him and worse yet—what they had said was true. He didn't know which was worse and neither assessment made sense to him. He had to get away and have some time to himself to think. This is what had driven him to get behind the wheel to escape the torment and, when that failed, to tragically leap from the bridge.
As he sank to the bottom of the Seine, toward the only refuge that he felt he could find, Paul was still troubled by those questions. As he thought about it, he remembered something. When Blynken had confronted him the night before the show, Paul could remember feeling his accuser's hot breath on his neck! It had even clouded over the dressing room's mirror, so that Paul was forced to wipe it off with a towel before appying his make-up. An imaginary vision could not fog up a mirror, so it could not have been a delusion! He figured it must have been someone real, someone he knew. He could only think of one person that could have passed himself off as Blynken, Doko the Midget! He and his manager, Andre, had always been jealous of Travers' act and the two were acquaintances of Simone. Paul Travers had realized he was an innocent man just as he reached the bottom of the river and ran out of air.
"And so, as Paul Travers sinks to the bottom of the Seine, it would appear he has solved the riddle in the Twilight Zone...but too late..."
The following day, Doko and his manager gloat over a newspaper with a headline reporting the ventriloquist's drowning. They had engineered the whole scenario to acquire both Simone's jewels and Travers' act. Suddenly, the devious pair heard a voice cry out, "Hello...killers!" and "You'll never get away with it!" They admitted it sounded like Paul Travers, but tried to console themselves by dismissing it as their imagination. Doko heard the voice again during his act, jeering at him and constantly distracting him. Andre scolded him for letting his guilty conscience interrupt his performance. The gruff, taller man ordered Doko to relax. To help, he agreed to take Doko out on the town to celebrate their windfall.After they had visited several cafes, the two criminals were feeling very relaxed. That was, until they heard the disembodied voice once more! Then, they looked down a nearby alley and witnessed the horrific source of the voice. It was the ghostly, white reanimated corpse of Paul Travers! The water-logged zombie lurched toward the men and gave chase as they proceeded to run down the narrow streets of Paris. Their flight came to an end when they reached a closed-off bridge. As the spectral ventriloquist drew ever closer, they realized their only option was to seek refuge in the closest available building: the police station! Andre and Doko rushed into the precinct and admitted everything in exchange for police protection.
As the two felons were being processed, the police captain let them in on a secret. With a wry smile, he confessed that they had never been in danger from a walking corpse. It had all been part of Travers' plan to force the men to surrender themselves!
After the murder at Simone's residence, the police had been sent a broken vase from the crime scene which had the true culprits' fingerprints all over it. Along with the vase, the captain had received the picture projector that Doko and Andre had used to project images of Travers' dummies about his room, taunting him while he tried to sleep. It turned out that it was Travers that had done all of this. He had discovered the culprits behind the scheme to implicate him and told the captain that he could make the men confess to their crimes and clear his good name.In a letter included with the evidence, he had advised the captain to block off the street and promised that he would appear once he prodded the frightened criminals into confession. However, even with the villains in cutody, the heroic mastermind behind the plot never did appear.
"To this day neither Paul Travers nor Simone have been heard from! Did the tragedy make them decide to take their love into hiding? Or did a new Twilight Zone open before them? Perhaps it will always be a secret of the Seine..."
Response and analysis
- This story bears a resemblance to other The Twilight Zone stories featuring animated ventriloquist dummies, perhaps most memorably the television episode, "The Dummy", which was aired in May of 1962. Another similar episode, "Caesar and Me" would be aired in April of 1964, two months after this story was published in the comic. It should be noted that in this story, unlike those television episodes, the dolls were not truly animated by supernatural means, but by subterfuge.
- The film Devil Doll (1964) features a similar premise in which a ventriloquist and his dummy conceive a secret plot to seduce a wealthy socialite, although in the film the doll is alive and seeking to make the affluent woman a companion. The movie's ending is more similar to "The Dummy", from the third season of The Twilight Zone. The movie was based on an original story written in 1951 for London Mystery Magazine.
- A well-known mystery story involving ventriloquism with a supernatural tinge and a love triangle is the Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode, "And So Died Riabouchinska", aired in February, 1956. The episode itself is based on a Ray Bradbury short story, dramatized first on the radio show Suspense on November 13, 1947 and later remade into a television episode of Ray Bradbury Theater.
- Other ventrilogquist mysteries with love triangles include Ben Becht's short story "The Rival Dummy", adapted for the silver screen (1929, as "The Great Gabbo"), radio (1946, Molle Mystery Theater), and television (1949, Studio One), Knock on Wood, a 1954 comedy, and Dead of Night, a 1962 film—later used in the anthology series Escape—which is claimed to be the inspiration for later eerie ventriloquist stories "The Dummy" in 1962 and Magic in 1978.
Notes and annotations* The Seine is a slow-flowing river in France popular with tourists in providing a romantic backdrop in photographs of Paris. There are over 37 bridges over the River Seine within the Paris city limits alone and dozens more erected outside the city. The name of the bridge from which Paul Travers made his fatal leap is never provided within the story and little clues are given to hint at any potential candidates, though it does bear some resemblance to the famed Pont Alexandre III.
- Originally published in color
- Printed on newsprint, 10 pages
- The number on Paul Travers' license plate is "M84301."
Notes and references
- ↑ Wikipedia contributors. "Devil Doll (film)." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Version: May 5, 2009. Retrieved: July 4, 2009.
- ↑ Hal Erickson. "Alfred Hitchcock Presents: And So Died Riabouchinska." allmovie.com. Retrieved: July 4, 2009.
- ↑ Alfred Hitchcock Wiki contributors. "." [Radio: Riabouchinska (Suspense, 13/Nov/1947) Alfred Hitchcock Wiki]. Version: March 28, 2008. Retrieved: July 4, 2009.
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 Christine A Miller. "Ventriloquists Dummies." Escape and Suspense!. Version March 5, 2007-June 29, 2008. Retrieved: July 4, 2009.
- ↑ Wikipedia contributors. "The Great Gabbo." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Version: June 16, 2009. Retrieved: July 4, 2009.
- ↑ Wikipedia contributors. "Seine." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Version: June 16, 2009. Retrieved: July 4, 2009.
- Bob Klein and Mike Tiefenbacher. "The Twilight Zone no 6 (1962 series)." Grand Comics Database. Retrieved: June 29, 2009.