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The Twilight Zone (Episode #60): “The Rip Van Winkle Caper” (airdate 4/21/61)
The Plot: Thieves in the future use suspended animation to elude capture. Their plan goes about as well as could be expected.
The Goods: A large semi truck and a sedan pull up to a remote, mountainous area in the desert, and four men exit. They’ve pulled off a fantastic train heist and gotten away with millions in gold bricks. Farwell (Oscar Beregi), the man behind the plan, knows that the theft was the easy part compared to getting away with it, but his plan to avoid capture is simple. The four of them will lock themselves in a cave with the gold and a truck, and they’ll go to sleep in hyperbolic chambers for one hundred years… at which point they’ll awaken as millionaires who aren’t on the run from the law.
Trouble starts almost immediately as three of the men awaken to discover the fourth is now no more than a skeleton thanks to a crack in his glass chamber. The remaining thieves, already greedy people as evidenced by their job description, suddenly see their share of the gold increase. They head out into the harsh sun where De Cruz (Simon Oakland) immediately offs Brooks (Lew Gallo) and inexplicably destroys their truck. Now down to two, Farwell and De Cruz load their packs with a lot of gold and a little bit of water and start walking across the desert.
The heat bears down on them as they walk the deserted road, and when Farwell realizes he’s lost his canteen De Cruz seizes the opportunity… he’ll offer the thirsty man one sip of water from his own supply in exchange for one gold bar. The thirstier he gets the quicker he runs out of gold. But thirst and the sun aren’t the most dangerous elements on this trek.
It seems even in the future greed and malice are at the forefront of the human experience, and has been a common theme throughout the series men who practice such things are most always punished by episode’s end. This one is no different, and the tale of four thieves trying to outwit justice ends not only with their comeuppance but also with a patented TZ twist. It’s a minor twist to be sure, but there’s still some satisfaction to be found as it caps off a solid entry.
Three things stand out in this episode starting with De Cruz and that damn truck. He kills Brooks by hitting him with the truck, which in itself is overkill, but then he sends the vehicle flying into a ravine where it crashes and burns. Why? No clue. There’s a brief shot of the pedals meant to imply (I think) that the brakes have failed, but it doesn’t explain why he drove it toward the canyon in the first place or why he stands up from his dive roll out of the car with a smile of satisfaction on his face. Destroying the car like that is a poorly scripted way to set the survivors off on foot.
But it does bring us to the second stand out element here… the episode feels bigger and more expansive than earlier ones (especially the preceding eps shot on video). There’s a lot of exterior action, and the truck crash looks to be one of the series’ bigger stunt pieces. And let’s not forget that awesome futuristic car at the end of the episode. That masterpiece of bubbly design probably cost more than the past three episodes combined.
And last, why exactly is Farwell dicking around with train heists when he’s invented suspended animation! The guy should be working for NASA or selling his design to the highest bidders. Although I guess Megamind (not to mention many of the James Bond movies) has shown us that sometime genius has no other option in this world of ours than to turn to wrongdoing.
What do you think?
The Trivia: The futuristic car at the end of the episode probably didn’t actually cost the producers all that much seeing as it was originally built five years earlier for the film Forbidden Planet.
On the Next Episode: “Annoyed by a club member’s constant chatter a man bets him he can not remain silent for a year living in a glass enclosure in the club basement.”
Catch-Up: Episodes covered by Twitch / Episodes covered by FSR
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.