Twilight Zone, Episode 2.19: Mr Dingle, The Strong

Reviewed By Chris Parry
Posted 10/06/02 06:41:06

"Funny stuff, but never even close to believable."
3 stars (Average)

"Uniquely American institution known as the neighborhood bar. Reading left to right are Mr. Anthony O'Toole, proprietor who waters his drinks like geraniums but who stands foursquare for peace and quiet and for booths for ladies. This is Mr. Joseph J. Callahan, an unregistered bookie, whose entire life is any sporting event with two sides and a set of odds. His idea of a meeting at the summit is any dialogue between a catcher and a pitcher with more than one man on base. And this animated citizen is every anonymous bettor who ever dropped rent money on a horse race, a prize fight, or a floating crap game, and who took out his frustrations and his insolvency on any vulnerable fellow barstool companion within arm's and fist's reach. And this is Mr. Luther Dingle, a vacuum-cleaner salesman whose volume of business is roughly that of a valet at a hobo convention. He's a consummate failure in almost everything but is a good listener and has a prominent jaw. And these two unseen gentlemen are visitors from outer space. They are about to alter the destiny of Luther Dingle by leaving him a legacy, the kind you can't hardly find no more. In just a moment, a sad-faced perennial punching bag who missed even the caboose of life's gravy train will take a short constitutional into that most unpredictable region that we refer to as the Twilight Zone."

Luther Dingle (Burgess Meredith) is a sap. A full-time failure with a good heart but not much else. He can't sell a vacuum cleaner to save his life, not that he minds terribly, but whenever he comes into his neighborhood bar to relax a little, he ends up caught in a scrap over a ballgame, or a fight, or just about anything that causes discussion in a bar. For those around him, punching Dingle in the jaw is a favorite pasttime, and for Dingle, the attention that brings is more than he gets anywhere else...

Until the martians arrive.

Directed by Twilight Zone veteran John Brahm, Mr Dingle, The Strong can not be taken seriously in any respect. From the very opening scene we're presented with a two headed alien being that looks about as realistic as one of the local trick or treating kids during Halloween, and the presence of Don Rickles as Dingle's constant source of beatings brings more than its share of laughs.

Meredith, as always, is the quintessential Twilight Zone everyman. When the martians decide to give Dingle the strength of 300 men, he begins a slow change from wimp to braggart that very few could pull off convincingly. However, the main problem with this undoubtedly funny episode is that it's just too funny. Not so much that it will bust your gut with laughter, more cartoonish and outlandish. Unlike some of the better episodes of the series where the humor is intertwined with drama, this is all fluff and comes across like a half hour comedy sketch.

Of the co-stars, Rickles steals the show, even when he's trying to keep things toned down. James Millhollin (No Time for Sargeants, The Ghost and Mr Chicken) is very much the anonymous man in the background, James Westerfield (Birdman of Alcatraz, True Grit, On the Waterfront) spent his entire career playing bit parts in big productions, and Eddie Ryder was an uncredited day player in most of all that he was ever in, until he struck it big as director of Get Smart and the Bob Newhart Show. With these guys filling the scenery, it's no surprise Rickles, Meredith and the two-headed martian steal the show.

Not the Twilight Zone's finest hour, but some fun stuff.

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