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:
[Middle narration - While Bemis wanders through the ruins of the destroyed city]
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 that was once his house and now is rubble; they lie at his feet as battered monuments to what was but is no more.
Helen! Helen! Where are you!
Rod Serling - Narrator:
Mr. Henry Bemis, on an eight...
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The tale of a bank worker who yearns to be a book keeper.
"Time Enough At Last" is an episode of The Twilight Zone that many people will rate as the number one of all time. It's definitely in the top five, easily, and it's one of those episodes that has such a great punchline you may already be well aware of it even if you haven't seen it. Don't let that put you off though, there is still so much to enjoy here with the usual high standard of writing and a faultless performance from Burgess Meredith in the lead role.
Meredith plays Henry Bemis, a bank worker who just loves to read. The problem is that his wife (Jacqueline DeWit) doesn't allow him to indulge in his favourite pastime. Poor Henry doesn't get a minute to himself with any reading material and resorts to sneakily reading at work whenever he gets the chance. He uses his lunch break to go down to the bank vault and read a few precious pages, a habit that leads him directly into The Twilight Zone on one fateful day.
Written by Rod Serling, from the short story by Lynn Venable, and directed by John Brahm, there is really nothing here to find fault with. Okay, the actual central premise is something we now know to be pretty impossible but ignorance is bliss - watch the episode and grow to love the central character as horror overwhelms his life in a variety of ways.
Not to detract from any other aspect of the production, Burgess Meredith takes this episode from greatness to unmissable classic. His portrayal of the bespectacled Henry Bemis is absolutely wonderful from start to finish. It would be wrong to generalise and say that TV performances are often overlooked (TV has often proved to be a great touchstone between live stage work and movies) but I think it would be completely within reason to argue that great performances like this one are often slightly overshadowed by the umbrella of the TV show itself. If you can name me five one-off TV performances as good as this work by Meredith then I will do my best to see them and appreciate such great acting.
This is essential viewing for anyone who is a fan of the show, a fan of Burgess Meredith or just a fan of some of the finest acting you could hope to see.
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