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
Rod Serling's closing narration for this 1959 episode begins, "The best laid plans of mice and men..." a quote from John Steinbeck's classic novel. Exactly 20 years earlier, actor Burgess "Harry Bemis" Meredith starred in the film adaptation of "Of Mice and Men."
The quote is based on a poem by Robert Burns:
"But Mousie, thou art no thy-lane, In proving foresight may be vain: The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men Gang aft agley, An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain, For promis'd joy!" See more »
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 »
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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Bespectacled bank clerk Henry Bemis (Burgess Meredith), henpecked by his wife and harassed by his boss, simply yearns for enough time to indulge in his favourite pastime: reading. He eventually gets his wish when a nuclear war wipes out everyone but himbut this being The Twilight Zone, things don't go quite as well as they might for poor Mr. Bemis...
'Time Enough At Last' is one of the best loved Twilight Zone episodes, a solid gold classic with a corker of a twist that brilliantly illustrates creator Rod Serling's warped sense of humour. The bitter irony of Mr. Bemis's final plight deftly combines both comedy and tragedy, and as the credits roll, one can easily imagine the poor fellow, so ecstatic a few minutes before, scrabbling around blindly in the ruins desperately trying to relocate the gun he had earlier.
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