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Twilight Zone, Episode 1.06: Escape Clause
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by Chris Parry

"Can a deal with the devil ever turn out okay?"
3 stars

“You’re about to meet a hypochondriac. Witness Mr Walter Bettiger, age 44; afraid of the phone, death, disease, germs, other people, draft and everything else. He has one interest in life, and that’s Walter Bettiger, one preoccupation; the life and well-being of Walter Bettiger; one abiding concern about society, that if Walter Bettiger should die, how will it survive without him?”

A fun, if somewhat silly, episode of the Twilight Zone, Escape Clause tells the tale of a man so obsessed with ensuring he doesn’t die that the devil sees him as an ideal source of a soul. The horned one offers Bettiger eternal life in return for his most valuable commodity, and though Walter thinks he’s made a heck of a good deal, what are the chances he’s actually right?

Directed by Oscar-winning Art Designer turned romantic cinema directing legend, Mitchell Leisen, the man responsible for such classic feature films as Easy Living, Midnight, Remember the Night, and Death Takes a Holiday (the original version of Meet Joe Black), Escape Clause is a film that looks just great. Leisen’s flair for set design and architecture can be seen in spades in many shots late in the episode (particularly one looking down from a building rooftop where as lights in downstairs apartments switch on a black empty space is revealed as a cavernous hole).

On the performance front, David Wayne goes a little over the top in the lead role. In Wayne’s defense, some of Serling’s writing seems to be leading the actor into places that it would be tough to fight your way out of with a good performance, but Wayne doesn’t really compare to many others that made a splash in the series (Jack Klugman, Martin Landau, Bill Shatner, Burgess Meredith). As Wayne’s character tries to find new and improved ways to risk his life and get a little excitement back into his world, the endless stream of insurance adjusters that roll through his home are just silly, as is how he deals with them.

In the end, Escape Clause is on the fence of Twilight Zone quality but never really delivers on its early promise. The really effective episodes of this series are entrenched in reality, and it’s that reality that has us relate to the characters and give a damn about what happens to them. This episode, in contrast, offers nobody to relate to, no reality, and an ending that, while you can’t see it coming, it’s not really a big twist.

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originally posted: 07/11/02 06:05:21
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This episode of Twilight Zone has been reviewed as part of an ongoing retro TV series. For more in the Twilight Zone Episodes series, click here.

User Comments

11/04/13 action movie fan good story a good deterrent to murder 4 stars
9/16/11 steven hamill worth a look 4 stars
11/19/05 BrendaS918 Not bad. 3 stars
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  06-Nov-1959 (NC-17)



Directed by
  Mitchell Leisen

Written by
  Rod Serling

  David Wayne

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