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The Twilight Zone 2.19 – Mr. Dingle, the Strong

This blasted son of mine watched the Batman story “Fine Finny Fiends” literally three days ago and he still didn’t recognize Burgess Meredith, who made his second Twilight Zone appearance in this delightful little comedy. I figured he was due something light after the last two super-creepy episodes of the show, and since rain killed our hiking plans this afternoon, it’s a good day to sit around and watch a little classic TV.

While Meredith and Don Rickles are the most recognizable faces in this cast, there’s a deep bench of character actor talent in this story. James Milhollin, Michael Fox, and Eddie Ryder are also in this story, although sadly it was the final part for Douglas Spencer, who died before the episode was first broadcast. That’s Spencer above as the Martian’s left head and arm, turning a ray on the incompetent vacuum cleaner salesman Mr. Dingle, giving him the strength of three hundred men. Dingle is another of Rod Serling’s quiet and well-read everymen. We learn little about Dingle beyond his poor salesmanship and his appreciation of Abner Doubleday. A similar production today would probably have the Dingle character more familiar with a tawdry reality show than the alleged origins of baseball.

The sight gags are really quite funny in this episode, with some clever special effects and cute ideas for how Dingle will demonstrate his new Samson-like powers. Naturally, he wastes this gift, but there’s a cute little twist in the end and he gets a fabulous vocabulary. If you enjoyed Meredith’s command of seventy-five cent words as the Penguin, the audiences of 1961 got a sneak preview of it at the end of this story!

We were also amused by the very, very end of this story. Most of the episodes on the “Complete Definitive Collection” DVD contain the original sponsor tags and quick reminders to check out other CBS programming “on most of these stations,” often advertising CBS’s flop sitcom My Sister Eileen. This one, though, contains a blurb for The Andy Griffith Show, which debuted that season (1960-61). I told our son that the little boy in the boat is Ron Howard, the man who directed the next Star Wars movie, and he just fell over.

Huh. We’ve got seven movies to watch before Solo is released. Probably better get started on those.

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