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Twilight Zone, Episode 3.29: Four O'Clock
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by Chris Parry

"Far more politically driven than some might care to notice..."
4 stars

"That's Oliver Crangle, a dealer in petulance and poison. He's rather arbitrarily chosen four o'clock as his personal Gotterdammerung, and we are about to watch the metamorphosis of a twisted fanatic, poisoned by the gangrene of prejudice, to the status of an avenging angel, upright and omniscient, dedicated and fearsome. Whatever your clocks say, it's four o'clock, and wherever you are it happens to be the Twilight Zone."

Oliver Crangle has a screw loose. He sits in his apartment all day and keeps files on everybody, noting all their transgessions and any idle gossip that comes to his mind. When not keeping his files updated, Crangle is on the phone, harassing people he doesn't even known and trying to have their lives ruined. But today, at 4pm, Oliver Crangle has decided to do something about all this evil. At four o'clock, he's goig to make everyone in his filing cabinet (which would be everybody in the world) suddenly six inches tall. Can he be talked out of his plan before it comes to pass?

Austrian actor Theodore Bickel (The African Queen, My Fair Lady) stars in this compelling near-monologue as the crackpot Crangle, and what a performance he turns in. As good as any seen during the Twilight Zone's run, Bickel blathers on, sweats profusely and fusses about his apartment in a way that makes you wonder - is he a madman? Is he just a busybody? Is he a danger to others? You'll find it hard to tell until the very end.

What few co-stars there are in this episode are generally in and out of frame rather quickly. Linden Chiles, who plays an FBI agent summoned by Crangle to boast of his plans, doesn't exactly light up the screen in the few minutes he's present. His future would be fullof TV movies and uncredited bit parts, though he did score a part in The Forbidden Dance (remember the four day Lambada craze?) in 1990.

Broadway actress Phyllis Love (Young Doctors, Friendly Persuasion) appears as the wife of a doctor that Crangle is trying to smear out of his job, pleading for mercy and asking Crangle the question of the hour... why? Moyna MacGill (My Fair Lady, Picture of Dorian Gray), the mother of Angela Lansbury, also enjoys a walk-on as Crangle's nosy landlady, but this episode is all about Theodore Bickel being given full reign to just go hog wild.

Ably directed by Lamont Johnson, who stills directs TV shows (Felicity) and appears in many more (X-Files, VIP, NYPD Blue, The Practice), the parallels between what Crangle does in this story and what the McCarthy hearings of the time had been doing are not hard to spot. The better Twilight Zone episodes always have a point, and this one certainly does. Demonstrating the futility and inherent evil of trying to rid the world of anyone that doesn't think the same as you, perhaps the decades since have dulled the message, but you have to think that this one made a powerful point at the time it was produced.

Adapted by Rod Serling from a Price Day story featured in 1959's Alfred Hitchcock Presents: 14 of My Favorites in Suspense, the ending may well come as not much of a surprise to many, but if only for the well-directed, well-performed depiction of the first two acts, Four O'Clock is one of the greats.

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originally posted: 10/06/02 09:00:43
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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

5/23/07 action movie fan predicable but engrossing bikel is outstanding 4 stars
1/17/07 David Pollastrini Brilliant with a great twist 5 stars
7/28/06 David Cohen A bit predictable, heavy handed (even for TZ), but Bikel does a great job with his role 3 stars
11/19/05 BrendaS918 Judge not... 4 stars
10/06/02 Buddha Great stuff. It made me look up the meaning of Gotterdammerung. 5 stars
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  06-Apr-1962 (NR)
  DVD: 28-Jun-2005


  06-Apr-1962 (G)

Directed by
  Lamont Johnson

Written by
  Rod Serling
  Price Day

  Theodore Bikel
  Linden Chiles
  Phyllis Love
  Moyna MacGill

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