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The Twilight Zone (Episode #148): “Caesar and Me” (airdate 4/10/64)
The Plot: An Irish dummy takes life advice from one probably made in China.
The Goods: Jonathan West is an Irish immigrant to America whose only skill appears to be ventriloquism. “Appears to be” but really isn’t, because West actually has no skills and the dummy is somehow alive. With no job and bills to pay West lets the dummy talk him into committing a string of burglaries. But can a man with no perceivable talents find success in a game where one wrong move can send him to jail?
“Susan, I’m warning you for the last time now, you stop playing with those poison darts.”
We’re first introduced to West (Jackie Cooper) selling his personal items at a pawn shop, and while he claims he’ll be back to retrieve them we get the sense that recent history proves otherwise. He lives in a boarding house, can’t find a gig, and is behind on rent, and even when he can sweet talk the landlady her bitchy little niece Susan (Suzanne Cupito) constantly reminds him that he’s a loser. Her nagging is only equaled by the constant cajoling that West gets from Caesar.
Caesar of course is his dummy. The little guy walks and talks without assistance, and while no one else is aware of it West appears quite used to the behavior. How is this possible? Who knows. The episode isn’t telling.
West gives in to the pressure and follows Caesar’s advice on how to earn a few extra bucks. The problem is that while West is compliant he’s far from competent, and after just a two robberies he’s fingered by Suzanne and arrested for the crime.
Up until this point the episode has been bland and uninteresting. Viewers are given no explanation for Caesar’s ability, West (and Cooper’s weak and generic performance) is far from captivating, and the story never quite takes hold. But once West is arrested and led off to jail we’re left with a rather empty experience.
At the very least it’d be nice to see Susan get hers for being such a little snot.
Thankfully, the final minute of the episode grants that wish. Sure, some of us would have preferred her to die whining and writhing on the floor, but the denouement we get is a bit more complicated and nuanced.
The episode overall is an underwhelming experience. The old talking-dummy/doll gag has gotten pretty old by the fifth and final season, and it’s been done far better in almost every previous incarnation. Cooper as a lead is far from engaging, and his character is equally bland.
What do you think?
The Trivia: The little girl, Suzanne Cupito, grew up to continue her acting career under the name Morgan Brittany.
On the Next Episode: “A KGB agent who is trying to defect is trapped in his hotel room.”
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.