Definitions

Escape Clause

Escape Clause

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“Escape Clause” is an episode of the American television anthology series The Twilight Zone and aired on CBS on November 6, 1959.

Opening narration

You're about to meet a hypochondriac. Witness Mr. Walter Bedeker, age forty-four, afraid of the following: death, disease, other people, germs, draft, and everything else. He has one interest in life, and that's Walter Bedeker. One preoccupation: the life and well-being of Walter Bedeker. One abiding concern about society: that if Walter Bedeker should die, how will it survive without him?

Synopsis

A mean-spirited, abusive hypochondriac sells his soul to the Devil in exchange for immortality, adding enough conditions to keep him out of Satan's clutches forever. He is puzzled when the Evil One doesn't put up much of a fight, only stipulating an escape clause which allows the man to die if he so wishes, but doesn't worry too much about it.

He uses his newfound invulnerability to collect insurance money and cheap thrills by hurling himself into life-threatening accidents. Soon growing bored with this game, he confesses to the murder of his wife (who actually died by accident), hoping to experience the electric chair. His lawyer is too good, however, and he is sentenced to life in prison without any chance of parole. In the last scene, the Devil shows up and reminds the man of the escape clause. Facing eternity in jail, the man nods and suffers a fatal heart attack.

Closing narration

There's a saying, 'Every man is put on Earth condemned to die, time and method of execution unknown.' Perhaps this is as it should be. Case in point: Walter Bedeker, lately deceased, a little man with such a yen to live. Beaten by the Devil, by his own boredom, and by the scheme of things in this, the Twilight Zone.

Preview for Next Week's Story

One of next week's stars is alongside me now. She'll appear in a most unusual tale called "The Lonely." It's a story that takes place on a - (female voice) an asteroid, and it's a most intriguing premise. (Serling) Sounds it. Next week on The Twilight Zone, Jack Warden, John Dehner, and Jean Marsh appear in a bizarre tale of a man and a - a woman? (camera pans to a strange-looking woman then cuts back to Serling) I don't understand it either. Thank you and good night.

Trivia

Disney's Twilight Zone Tower of Terror has a reference to this episode in the basement, the elevator has a plaque that says the last time the elevator was checked. It was checked on October 2 1959 (the date The Twilight Zone first aired) and was checked by Mr. Cadwallader.

"Escape Clause" was one of the three episodes-in-production mentioned by Rod Serling in his 1959 promotional film pitching the series to potential sponsors, the others being "The Lonely" and "Mr. Denton on Doomsday" (referred to as "Death, Destry, and Mr. Dingle").

Wendell Holmes played Walter Bedeker's lawyer. Holmes was a regular voice actor in the 1950s science fiction radio shows Dimension X and X Minus One.

Critical response

“Here was a little gem. Good work, Rod Serling. This little piece about a hypochondriac who gets tangled up with an obese, clerical devil ranked with the best that has ever been accomplished in half-hour filmed television.” —Excerpt from the Daily Variety review.

References

  • Zicree, Marc Scott: The Twilight Zone Companion. Sillman-James Press, 1982 (second edition)*DeVoe, Bill. (2008). Trivia from The Twilight Zone. Albany, GA: Bear Manor Media. ISBN 978-1593931360
  • Grams, Martin. (2008). The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic. Churchville, MD: OTR Publishing. ISBN 978-0970331090

External links

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