Musings in the Dark: My Twilight Zone Tribute: S4E9


My Twilight Zone Tribute: S4E9

 "Printer’s Devil"

This season of Twilight Zone (the “The” was dropped) featured hour-long episodes because it was a mid-season replacement for a show that replaced it.  Rod Serling wasn’t happy with this change because it meant padding the runtime of a show he thought was the perfect length at 30 minutes.

Honestly, I thought that some of the hour-long episodes were the best of the entire show.  Yeah, there may have been some padding, but overall I enjoyed them.  So let’s get to it with “Printer’s Devil.”

Douglas Winter is a man at the end of his rope.  He’s the owner and editor of a small newspaper that’s being forced out of a business by a large conglomerate.  His employees abandon him because he can’t pay them.  His entire life is wrapped in his newspaper and he can’t deal with losing it.  So he drives to a bridge to commit suicide.  While on the bridge, he’s approached by a strange little man named Mr. Smith who convinces him to live.  The reason for this is because Mr. Smith wants to work for Winter’s paper, the Courier.  Winter says that he can’t pay Mr. Smith because he owes the bank $5000 ($42,742.16).  Mr. Smith whips out his wallet and loans Winter the money he needs to pay off his debts.

Shortly after starting work for the Courier, Mr. Smith shows an uncanny knack for reporting news.  He’s able to get scoops on stores mere hours after they happen, to the detriment of the Gazette, the rival newspaper.  Business begins to boom for the Courier and the owner of the Gazette offers to buy the paper from Winter.  Winter refuses and the next day, the Gazette burns down.  The owner of the Gazette, Franklin, accuses Winter of arson.  Winter asks Mr. Smith if he started the fire and Smith dodges the question.  Winter’s girlfriend Jackie is suspicious of Mr. Smith and prods Winter on where and how he met the man, but Winter refuses to tell her.

Mr. Smith reveals why he wanted to work for Winter; he wants him to sign a contract for his continued services in exchange for Winter’s soul.  Winter signs the contract, but later realizes that Mr. Smith is the cause of the events he writes about that the Courier makes money off of.  He tells Mr. Smith that he has to leave, but Mr. Smith refuses and writes a story detailing Jackie’s death--which will take place two hours in the future.  He tells Winter that he modified the linotype machine so that anything written on it will happen and Jackie will die as directed unless Winter kills himself.  Winter goes looking for Jackie, but she shows up at the office to confront Mr. Smith.  Smith says he will leave if she drives him out of town and she agrees.

Winter, unable to find Jackie, goes back to the office and writes a story on the cursed linotype machine reversing her intended murder and nulling the contract he signed by stating he did not understand the terms of the original agreement.  With Jackie safe, Winter has the linotype machine destroyed.

This episode has some unintentional hilarity.  Burgess Meredith hams it up as the demonic Mr. Smith.  He practically carries the entire episode and scenes without him are weak.  He calls a waitress he’s leering at “a big ‘un,” and on my Ma she wasn’t a hair over a size 4.  Noob and I agree: stories/eps about Satan are usually good ones.  We both love “The Howling Man” (S2 E5).  But definitely give “Printer’s Devil” a try.  

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