Editor’s note: Since his last post was so ridiculously awesome, we’ve asked Gallery 1988 co-owner and pop culture art curator Jensen Karp back to write up another entry. You still might want to wear protection.
With the entire original run of The Twilight Zone available to watch instantly, we’re partnering with Twitch Film to cover all of the show’s 156 episodes. Are you brave enough to watch them all with us?
The Twilight Zone (Episode #115): “The New Exhibit” (airdate 4/4/63)
The Plot: A man takes the wax figures of five famous murderers back to his home despite his wife’s wishes.
The Goods: Growing up with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is rather exciting…if you love being nervous all the time. Listen, it’s no fun, and I’m proud of how I’ve healed because it used to be pretty bad (I was a baseball pitcher most of my childhood, so that involved more rituals than a Catholic mass). I was able to kick “counting” with some therapy, and the only real aspect of OCD that stuck with me, even today, involves collecting. Whether it was the dozens of Startling Lineup action figures I had boxed and untouched under my bed or the pristine 12” rap LPs I hoarded throughout the birth and mainstreaming of rap music, I was VERY concerned about having every single one, and keeping them in a mint condition that just isn’t possible once human hands have touched them.
Today, this horrid predisposition is still visible with my DVD and Blu-Ray collection. I am very serious about how they’re displayed, stored, purchased, played and dealt with. My girlfriend has moved into my place and basically she can do whatever she wants décor wise, except touch my movie collection, or even think about mixing her titles into my alphabetized allotment (in my defense, she has the complete series O.C. box set). So, whenever I watch The New Exhibit, I fully emphasize with Martin Lombard Senescu (the obsessive collecting part, not so much the murdering).
Martin, played by Martin Balsam (who I recognized from 12 Angry Men), works at Ferguson’s Wax Museum as the curator of a rather peculiar and creepy part of the tour: Murderer’s Row. With life-size, and totally alarming, wax renderings of Jack the Ripper, Albert W. Hicks, Burke & Hare and Henri Desire Landru (all complete with weapons and Kung-Fu Grips), this might not be the part of the museum you want to try and kiss your date in. But don’t say that to Martin, who is incredibly passionate about his work and the retelling the madmen stories to tourists everyday for over 30 years. Even with Martin’s enthusiasm and loyalty, Ferguson unfortunately has to sell his museum due to low attendance (it’s going to be demolished to be a super market, and most likely NOT a Whole Foods!) much to his best employee’s chagrin.
Somehow, Martin convinces his boss to let him store just his 5 beloved murderer figurines in his basement, in hopes that he can raise funding to build his own museum soon. He may have kept his precious figures in mind with this decision, but he definitely forgot about his wife, who is rightfully concerned with this new development, especially when he explains he needs to install a heater and air conditioner for an ideal setting. After months pass without a perspective investor, electricity bills mount leaving the Senescus broke. Martin spends every waking minute dedicated to the meticulous upkeep of Murderer’s Row, which might seem normal for ODC collectors like myself, but keep in mind, he’s also having conversations with them.
Advised by her brother, Emma (Maggie Mahoney) decides things must stop, so she plans on disconnecting the air conditioner and letting her husband’s prized possession melt like their income. But when she sneaks downstairs, Jack the Ripper comes alive and stabs her mid-attempt. Martin finds his dead wife, puts two and two together thanks to Jack’s now bloody knife, and panics. Knowing no one would believe his story; he buries the body in the basement and covers the scene with cement. Things seem to be all good in Martin’s Land of Creepy, until his wife’s brother shows up, concerned he hasn’t heard from his sister. Martin makes up a bunch of stories, even claiming he’s gotten rid of the wax figures, which would’ve been a great plan had the basement’s air conditioner not been running at full speed. No matter how much the brother asks Martin to let him into the locked basement to verify the fabricated story, it wasn’t until the brother snuck in from another entrance that he confirmed things were fishy. While investigating the wet cement and connecting the dots – BAM – he’s sliced by Albert W. Hicks’s ax. Martin must now deal with a second body, digging a second plot next to his dead wife.
Then he drives away in a white Bronco.
Or at least he wishes, because his former boss, and mentor, Mr. Ferguson (Will Kuluva), surprisingly visits with good news! He found a prospective buyer for the 5 wax killers: the Marchand Museum in Brussels, who will display them and let them creep everyone out in all their glory. This news doesn’t seem to bring joy to Martin as much as Ferguson, as he almost ignores it and goes back to focusing on any small detail that might need repair. Even when Martin does finally protest, Ferguson explains there’s nothing that can be done to stop the sale. With that, Martin goes upstairs to get some tea, and the wax Landru makes sure Ferguson finds the same fate as everyone else who tried to take Martin away from his best friends, strangling him to death with a rope.
Even with his blind obsession, this is just too much for Martin. He LOVED Mr. Ferguson, in the way that Jesse Pinkman probably loves Walter White, and now it’s time for these figures to be destroyed. They’ve ruined his life, killed his family and now taken the life of a man he looked up to. As he details his plan to rid his life of Murderer’s Row, each of them come to life, slowly creeping up on the now mortified Martin Senescu, now engulfed by their angry wax arms. As they attack our disturbing main character they explain, through mental telepathy apparently, that it wasn’t them who killed all those
people, IT WAS HIM!
We fade out to find ourselves watching a tour at the Marchand Museum in Brussels. We see our recognizable 5 serial attackers from the basement, but they’ve now be joined by a new wax figure of Martin Lombard Senescu, a cold-blooded killer who took the lives of his wife, brother-in-law and employer.
And cue Rod Serling.
Listen, I don’t want to make Twilight Zone too complicated, or make myself seem slow, but until I did a little research for this analysis, I thought the wax figures were master manipulators and actually did kill Martin’s loved ones, then somehow turned him into a wax figure and pinned the blame on the former curator. But a lot of experts say that in a Fight Club-esque manner, Martin really did do the killings and was even more of a nutjob than we thought. Which is a theory I would totally buy, if we didn’t see the first killing executed by the wax figure, with our own eyes. I’m all for suspending belief, but let’s do it without playing tricks on the audience. I think I’ll settle for saying, come up with your own conclusion, because this one might step on its own feet a bit.
I do remember this episode vividly from my childhood Thanksgiving marathons, and the story still resonates. What if my obsession with Starting Line-up figures destroyed my life and everyone I cared about? What if my current DVD and Blu-ray display systematically fell on every person I consider near and dear to my heart? And all I did to combat their evil doings was clean the dust of their cases because the thought of losing inanimate objects meant more than losing loved ones. Because that’s something I would do. It’s a disorder, people. And please get your hands off my Magnificent Seven Blu-ray.
It’s a great episode written by Jerry Sohl, but credited to TZ legend Charles Beaumont, because Beaumont had a CRAZY disease that made him age insanely at a rapid pace, forcing him to hire ghostwriters in his 30s (which by the way sounds like a way more horrific episode than wax figures killing you). What if Beaumont was obsessed with Twilight Zone scripts? And he had to rewrite them 75 times a day? And dissect every single word until it sounded perfect? Then the scripts started talking to him and killing his friends, so he had to hire freelancers to write new ones, just so he could take care of the old ones and dispose of bodies, then eventually it all caught up and the scripts teamed up to engulf him with their stapled binders? WHAT IF?
Cue Rod Serling.
What do you think?
The Trivia: Wax museums have been a popular time waster since the late 1700s when Marie Tussaud took her sculptures around Europe.
On the Next Episode: Julie Newmar sexes up the Zone with devil horns and an offer we can’t refuse.
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.
Jensen Karp is a massive fan of The Twilight Zone, the co-owner of Gallery 1988 which focuses on pop culture-infused art, raps under the name Hot Karl, used to write for the WWE, has graced Reject Radio with his presence and hosts his on podcast on Kevin Smith’s SModcast Network called Get Up On This.