Henry Bemis loves to read. The only problem is that he can find neither the time nor the place to enjoy his pastime. At work, his boss has let him know in no uncertain terms that he is not to read during working hours. At home, his shrewish wife won't even let him read a newspaper, let alone a book. One day, he sneaks down to the vault in the bank's basement to read a bit and suddenly, there is a huge explosion above. He emerges to find the world destroyed in a nuclear holocaust. He does find books from the library and he sees a great deal of reading time ahead of him. Except for one small unintended event. Written by
Mr. Bemis expects to live "years and years and years" post-attack. In 1959, the effects of nuclear fallout were still under initial study and not widely understood. We see Bemis emerging from the bank vault more or less immediately after a thermonuclear blast (bomb-shelter protocol says to wait at least two weeks for the worst of the radioactivity to decay), eating packaged food that was probably irradiated, etc. So even with his glasses, Bemis would have not lived to enjoy his books for very long. See more »
Rod Serling - Narrator:
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.
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Possibly the Most Horrific Half-Hour of Television Ever.
Such a powerful piece of drama this. It gives us a character so vulnerable and sympathetic that we, perhaps, see a little of the dreamer within ourselves in him. A small, mousy, child-like man at the mercy of his grouchy employer and domineering wife until World War III gives him a world of his very own.
This, like most Twilight Zone episodes, begins with a vaguely light-hearted feel that could go either way but by the end we are exposed to a reversal of fortune so tragic and so deeply ironic that I for one have never been able to return to watching this episode; the best laid plans of mice and men gone horrible awry.
Presumably this is meant as a warning against letting our dreams and fantasies get the better of us or perhaps it is intended to condemn those who force us to live too much in the real world. Stirling was always one to say the things we did not want to hear but in this, he succeeded only too well. It is perhaps merciful that Stirling had a sense of humour (let alone a heart) because if every episode of The Twilight Zone had reached this standard it would, conversely have been unwatchable because an audience cannot put up with this much cruelty every week.
If you see, it will affect you. I was left shattered and I don't intend to sit through it again. You may may only be able to take it once, but do see it.
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