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:
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.
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At the moment I'm writing this user comment, the episode "Time Enough At Last" has an amazing 9.1 rating here on IMDb. 9.1 out of 10! This also means that, in case you'd list all 156 "Twilight Zone" episodes based on their ranking from highest to lowest, this is one of the top five best episodes of this overall terrific and legendary TV-show. In all honesty, your truly wouldn't rank it as high as the rest of the show's fans, but it's undeniably a very lovable installment with a familiar but captivating plot, a stellar performance from Burgess Meredith and a suitably ironic ending. The middle-aged bank desk clerk Henry Bemis is an amiable man with thick glasses and an enormous passion for reading books, magazines and journals. Henry has one major problem, though, namely that everyone in his surrounding thinks reading is a stupid waste of time. His boss at the bank suppresses and humiliates Henry and the situation at home is even worse, since his tyrannical wife Helen even forbids him to read. Poor Henry reads in secret whenever he has the chance, but when he hides in the bank's massive vault in order to read during lunch break, the entire nation is struck with an exploding H- bomb. When he emerges from the ashes, Henry initially feels sad and lonely, until he realizes he now finally has time and opportunities enough to read without getting criticized for it. John Brahm, the massively underrated director of unknown '40s horror highlights such as "Hangover Square" and "The Undying Monster", here masterfully depicts the weakness of the heartfelt Henry Bemis versus the callous bank director and the repellent wife Helen. Like Henry, you don't really regret that the apocalyptic bomb wipes them both out and you honestly wish for him to be able to read in peace, but it obviously wouldn't be "The Twilight Zone" if there wasn't still a painfully ironic end-twist in store. The bomb impact is most definitely a very powerful sequence. Many movies and series deal with the theme of judgment day and post-apocalyptic life, but I've rarely seen it illustrated more convincingly then here from inside the bank vault.
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