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 »
And the best thing, the very best thing of all, is there's time now... there's all the time I need and all the time I want. Time, time, time. There's time enough at last.
[goes to pick up a book, but in doing so his glasses fall off and break. He slowly raises his glasses to his face, seeing they are completely broken]
That's not fair. That's not fair at all. There was time now. There was, was all the time I needed...
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Burgess Meredith is indelible as poor bank teller Henry Bemis, who is much put-upon by his shrewish, cold wife Helen, who cannot stand Henry's desire to read, and his love of books. Neither can his boss or customers, but when an atomic war occurs as he is reading in the bank vault, Henry is at first desolate, but when he realizes that he now has all the time in the world to read, his spirits briefly rise, until cruel fate and broken eyeglasses leaves him just another victim in a smashed landscape... Masterpiece of imagery and character, with Bemis the ultimate victim in a cruel, indifferent world not of his making. Superb direction and set design as well in unforgettable episode.
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