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The Twilight Zone (Episode #128): “Uncle Simon” (airdate 11/15/63)
The Plot: A woman gives in to greed and allows her mean old uncle to die prematurely in an effort to speed up her inheritance.
The Goods: Barbara has lived with her Uncle Simon for 25 years, the entirety of her adult life, but her dedication has little to do with love or familial responsibility. Simon is extremely wealthy, and Barbara is in line to inherit it all when he passes. It hasn’t been easy for her though as the man is a complete and utter prick. She keeps her eye on the prize, takes the abuse, and counts the days until the old bastard keels over.
Until the day he really does fall over… and lands in a crumpled and twisted heap at the bottom of the stairs. He pleads for her help, but Barbara simply chastises the dying man and walks away.
“You have all the grace and femininity of a high-buttoned shoe.”
Barbara’s plan succeeds and we next see her at the reading of her dead uncle’s will. Every last thing goes to her. The house, the holdings, the money and accounts… all of it. With two ridiculous stipulations.
She has to remain in the house, and she has to take care of Simon’s belongings including a secret project that has yet to be revealed. And which turns out to be a robot that’s every bit as rude, insulting and demanding as her uncle ever was.
Neither character here is very nice and both are deserving of their fate, but Barbara’s feels more than a little drawn out. The punchline ending, that her expected freedom from her uncle has been thwarted by a replica who she can never hope to outlive, should really have been a zinger in the final two minutes. Instead the robot is revealed halfway through the episode and spends the remaining ten minutes being a dick to Barbara. It loses any real impact it could have had.
Still, the dialogue here is some of the zippiest and meanest to ever pour from the mouths of Twilight Zone denizens as uncle and niece zing each other at a near constant rate. “You peanut headed sample of nature’s carelessness…” being one of my favorites. It keeps things moving fairly quickly even if the content underwhelms.
There’s also some madness happening on the production side as the episode features some crazy zooms and musical cues. It feels like a template Sam Raimi would follow decades later for Drag Me to Hell. And what’s up with that will? Once it’s all in Barbara’s name no further stipulation can take effect right? She could cash it all out and walk at that point.
This episode is definitely a middle of the road entry with the highs of the script’s dialogue being balanced out by the structure and invasive camera/sound cues. And then it ends with a visual that induces laughter when we should be feeling the ironic “a ha!” of Barbara’s fate… a robot with a cane is just silly looking.
What do you think?
The Trivia: Director Don Siegel is also the man behind Dirty Harry and the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
On the Next Episode: “Space explorer Adam Cook crash lands on a seemingly deserted planet.”
We’re running through all 156 of the original Twilight Zone episodes over the next several weeks, and we won’t be doing it alone! Our friends at Twitch will be entering the Zone as well on alternating weeks. So definitely tune in over at Twitch and feel free to also follow along on our Twitter accounts @twitchfilm and @rejectnation.