On August 6, 1945 - the last day of World War II - a forward platoon acting as artillery spotters get an eager and aggressive Lieutenant Katell. The artillery has been unable to dislodge a Japanese unit from a cave and Katell decides that the unit is going to attack. He suddenly finds himself in 1942 however, leading a Japanese unit that is about to attack Americans who are holed up in a cave. He looks into a mirror of sorts when his Japanese superior orders destroy the American stronghold. When he flashes back to 1945, he has second thoughts about the attack.Written by
When the Lieutenant first raises his binoculars to see the Japanese position, he hits the binoculars on his helmet. This is scripted. It's supposed to show that the Lieutenant is new to the battlefield. Although he acts tough and bloodthirsty, he is still new to being out in the field. See more »
'The quality of mercy is not strained, it droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath. It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.' Shakespeare, the Merchant of Venice, but applicable to any moment in time, to any group of soldiery, to any nation on the face of the Earth - or, as in this case, to The Twilight Zone.
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If you know your way around "The Twilight Zone" somewhat, it's fairly easy and logical to see why this particular episode got selected - although uncredited - to serve as model for one of the four segments featuring in the 1983 movie remake/tribute. It's a prototype tale, exactly like the great late Rod Serling liked to serve them. A headstrong and obnoxious protagonist, in this case a fanatic army lieutenant, is literally forced to alter his ideologies and prejudices because he's inexplicably transferred into the shoes of an opponent. Young Lieutenant Katell insists on making a few more Japanese causalities on the very last day of WWII, when the surrendering of Japan is practically certain, despite the protest of his new platoon. Something banal, like dropping a pair of binoculars, causes for Katell to suddenly have become a Japanese Lieutenant, in pretty much the same albeit reversed situation, in 1942. Naturally he now wants to spare the lives of the American soldiers trapped in a cave, but he clashes with the same type of stubborn superior that he is. Redemption, the foolishness of warfare, shapeshifting, time travelling... These are all hobbyhorses of Serling and frequently featured in "The Twilight Zone". Competent director Buzz Kulik "A Quality for Mercy" brings them all neatly together in a compelling story, with a sublime double role for Dean Stockwell. Recommended.
Note: the segment in the aforementioned 1983 film, which is based on this episode, became notorious due to the tragic helicopter accident resulting in the death of actor Vic Morrow and two Vietnamese children.
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