The Twilight Zone (1959–1964)
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Five Characters in Search of an Exit 

An army major awakens in a small room with no idea of who he is or how he got there. He finds four other people in the same room, and they all begin to question how they each arrived there, and more importantly, how to escape.



(teleplay by), (based on a short story by) | 1 more credit »

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Episode complete credited cast:
... The Ballerina
... The Major (as Bill Windom)
... The Clown
Kelton Garwood ... The Tramp
Clark Allen ... The Bagpiper
... Woman
Mona Houghton ... Little Girl


It all starts when an army major wakes up in a small cylindrical room with no way out. The walls are too high to climb and they're too hard to puncture. Trapped inside with him is a clown, a bagpiper, a ballerina, and a hobo. They have all woken up inside there and have no idea where they are, what they're doing there, how long they've been there or even who they are or how long they'll be there. They apparently are unable to feel anything, and every now and then a loud clanging sound makes them all fall down. All of them have tried various ways of finding an exit, unsuccessfully. The army major especially is determined to escape. He tries all sorts of ways to find an exit, but he cannot find one. Even when he hits the walls with his sword, it shatters. The major suggests that they are in Hell, so there IS no way out. Eventually the five characters decide that the only way out is to make a human tower. But then when the ballerina nearly reaches the top, the clanging sound goes again ... Written by almightyone

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis






Release Date:

22 December 1961 (USA)  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


The title "Five Characters in Search of an Exit" combines those of the play by Italian writer Luigi Pirandello: "Six Characters in Search of an Author," and the play by French writer Jean-Paul Sartre: No Exit. See more »


After they fall from the attempted escape, the ballerina lies with her leg straightened, but in the following shot, is kneeling and facing another way. See more »


[closing narration]
Narrator: Just a barrel, a dark depository where are kept the counterfeit, make-believe pieces of plaster and cloth, wrought in a distorted image of human life. But this added, hopeful note: perhaps they are unloved only for the moment. In the arms of children, there can be nothing but love. A clown, a tramp, a bagpipe player, a ballet dancer, and a major. Tonight's cast of players on the odd stage - known as - The Twilight Zone.
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Referenced in Unknown (2006) See more »

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User Reviews

His duty is to escape
27 May 2014 | by See all my reviews

This Twilight Zone story begins with a somewhat disheveled William Windom in the uniform and rank of an army major finding himself in a cylindrical type room with no apparent entrance or exit save a hole where the roof should be. He finds he's not alone though, there's quite a motley crew in there with him. Susan Harrison a ballerina, Murray Matheson a clown, Kelton Garwood a tramp, and Clark Allen a bagpiper.

The others seem curiously resigned to this prison they find themselves in. But Windom being a military man knows his duty is to escape. He devises a way, but when one of them reaches the top and sees what's out there beyond this room, it's quite the shock.

It will be one for the viewer as well. We might very well be ourselves what these characters are in a much larger scale.

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