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Monday, 22 August 2011

Man in the Bottle

To open up my Twilight Zone marathon, a familiar parable about a genie in a lamp. Arthur Castle is a pawnbroker struggling to pay the bills and unable to abandon his charity for a poor elderly lady, who one day brings him a seemingly worthless bottle to pawn. A genie inhabits this bottle, which appears to Arthur to grant him 4 wishes - but warns him of the consequences.

Although this episode is a fairly predictable narrative and the moral message takes the oft heard form, 'be careful what you wish for', it nonetheless has one very memorable moment when Luther Adler's Arthur wishes to become the leader of a modern country 'who cannot be voted out of office' - only to become Adolf Hitler at the end of the Second World War. It becomes unintentionally funny when Adler, adorned with the fuhrer's moustache, turns round and realises his mistake - 'I'm Hitler, I'm in a bunker !" - but it remains a great illustration of what man might do were he given four wishes by a genie. John Ruskin also gives a good performance as the foreboding genie, quietly awaiting Arthur's catastrophic wishes but granting them all the same. The admonition 'be careful what you wish for' seems to occur frequently in The Twilight Zone, and to invoke psychoanalytic theory, Serling engages with the notion that humans can never achieve or realise their desires without provoking consequences or debts (To be consumed or ridiculed accordingly).

Next: A classic of the Twilight Zone pantheon involving a lot of bandages. A lot.

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