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"Time Enough at Last" is the eighth episode of the The Twilight Zone.
From the CBS Video Library cover:
"Henry Bemis, a bookish little man with thick horn-rimmed glasses wants only one thing out of life; the time to read. Reading is his only passion in an otherwise mundane existence...yet, it's almost an impossibility due to a shrewish wife who deems reading silly...a boss at the bank who's interested in efficiency not education...and the unrelenting hands of the clock. Now all that is about to change. As he does everyday, Bemis sneaks down to the vault to read during his lunch hour, but today when he emerges from his private sanctuary, he will enter a new world. A world that might or might not fulfill his life-long dream."
Witness Mr. Henry Bemis, a charter member in the fraternity of dreamers. A bookish little man whose passion is the printed page but who is conspired against by a bank president and a wife and a world full of tongue-cluckers and the unrelenting hands of a clock. But in just a moment Mr. Bemis will enter a world without bank presidents or wives or clocks or anything else. He'll have a world all to himself, without anyone at all.
Mild-mannered and myopic, bank teller Henry Bemis loves to read, but neither his shrewish wife nor efficiency-minded boss give him much chance. Sneaking into the vault on his lunch hour to read, he is knocked unconscious by a mammoth shock wave. When he comes to, he discovers that the world has been devastated by a nuclear war and that he, having been protected by the vault, is the last man on Earth.
Seconds, minutes, hours. They crawl by on hands and knees for Mr. Henry Bemis, who looks for a spark in the ashes of a dead world. A telephone connected to nothingness. A neighborhood bar, a movie, a baseball diamond, a hardware store, the mailbox of what was once his house and is now a rubble. They lie at his feet as battered monuments to what was, but is no more. (Bemis: "Helen? Helen! Where are you"?) Mr. Henry Bemis on an eight-hour tour of a graveyard.
Bemis decides to commit suicide, but at the final moment his eyes fall on the ruins of a library. For him, it is paradise. Gleefully he piles the books high, organizing his reading for years to come. But as he settles down to read the first book, his glasses slip off his nose and smash, trapping him forever in a hopelessly blurry world.
Henry despairs, remarking "That's not fair. That's not fair at all. There was time now. There was all the time I wanted...! That's not fair!" and bursts into tears, surrounded by books he will never be able to read.
The best laid plans of mice and men and Henry Bemis, the small man in the glasses who wanted nothing but time. Henry Bemis, now just a part of a smashed landscape, just a piece of the rubble, just a fragment of what man has deeded to himself. Mr. Henry Bemis... in the Twilight Zone.
Preview for Next Week's Story
Next week we enlist the considerable literary talents of Charles Beaumont, and invite you to join us in a strange and shocking dream. Our story is called "Perchance to Dream" and stars Richard Conte. I hope you'll be able to join next week's excursion into The Twilight Zone. Thank you and good night.
- Rod Serling as Narrator (voice only); uncredited
- Burgess Meredith as Henry Bemis
- Vaughn Taylor as Mr. Carsvillle
- Jacqueline DeWit as Helen Bemis (Credited as Jaqueline deWit)
- Lela Bliss as Mrs. Chester
- Rod Serling (executive producer: Cayuga Productions)
- Buck Houghton (producer)
- Leith Stevens (Music by)
- George T. Clemens (director of photography)
- Bill Mosher (film editor)
- Millie Gusse (casting; credited: Mildred Gusse)
- George W. Davis (art director)
- William Ferrari (art director)
- Rudy Butler (set decorator)
- Henry Grace (set decorator)
- Ralph W. Nelson (production manager)
- Edward O. Denault (assistant director; credited: Edward Denault)
- Franklin Milton (sound; credited: Frank Milton)
- Jean G. Valentino (sound; credited: Jean Valentino)
- Van Allen James (sound effects editor; uncredited)
- United Productions of America (UPA) (animated title)
- Following the episode, Burgess Meredith gained popularity almost on par with Rod Serling.
- Rated #25 on TV Guide's "100 Memorable Moments in Television".
- Of the 92 episodes written by Rod Serling, this was his personal favorite.
- John Brahm was awarded a Director's Guild award for his work on this episode.
- One of four times Rod Serling used a mid-episode narration.
- When Helen starts ripping pages out of the poetry collection, Bemis' glasses fall, similar to the end, foreshadowing what will happen.
- The ending is also foreshadowed in the bank vault when the camera shows the pages of the book turning, followed by the glass breaking on the timepiece.
Notes and References
- CBS Video Library: Twilight Zone #0308 "Time Enough At Last/The Changing of the Guard/The After Hours/The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street" ; UPC: 000308100198, EAN: ?, ASIN: ?; Format: NTSC, VHS, Collector's Edition (1987)