Starring: Dan Durya as Mr. Denton, Martin Landau as Dan Hotaling, Jeanne Cooper as Liz, Ken Lynch as Charley, and Malcolm Atterbury as Henry J. Fate
Portrait of a town drunk, named Al Denton. This is a man who’s begun his dying early. A long, agonizing route through a maze of bottles. Al Denton, who would probably give an arm, a leg or part of his soul to have another chance. To be able to rise up and shake the dirt from his body and the bad dreams that infest his consciousness. In the parlance of the times , this is a peddler. A rather fanciful-looking little man in a black frock coat. And this is the third principal character of our story. It’s function? To perhaps give Mr. Al Denton his second chance.
A drunk either stumbles or gets tossed out of the local saloon (cowboy days) Bully Cowboy Dan dumps a drink on Denton’s face to wake him up. Which seems like a waste of good booze if you ask me. Bully Dan has one of the freakiest grins I’ve ever seen. He looks like a shark.Bully Shark requests a song of drunk Denton:’How Dry I Am’. Which is chronologically impossible. I looked it up. How Dry I Am was written in 1919 as part of a piece of music by Irving Berlin called In the Near Future. This episode, even though an exact date is never given, is clearly set before then. Impressed with my Googling ability yet? Denton’s sweat stain also drastically changes between shots.
In the background a traveling salesman watches the humiliation. Hooker with a Heart of Gold and Bartender listen from inside. Hooker with a Heart asks the Bartender to stop it but he wusses out. Back outside Denton has finished his song and Dickhead Dan breaks the bottle and throws it on the ground. Denton goes scrambling after it. And then does one of my biggest pet peeves in movies and television. In them there are people who want water or a drink very badly. Resources are scarce so what do they do? They pour it all down their face. Ugh! That drives me nuts!
Ahem, anyways, Hooker with a Heart is disappointed in Denton and Denton is sad. Denton tries to get the last few drops out of the broken bottle and almost gets run over by a passing wagon. Maybe if you hadn’t dumped half of it down your face you’d have more, wouldn’t you? As the peddler walks by a gun materializes in the sand by Mr. Denton. The narrator proclaims that it’s function could be to give Mr. Denton a second chance. He picks it up of course and checks it out while the peddler looks on. Hooker with a Heart comes out to talk to Al. Her name is Miss Smith. Wow, original.
She notices the gun and asks if it’s his. He says he found it. Miss Smith gives us some exposition about how good Denton used to be with a gun. He says he hasn’t held a gun in…a long time. With the pause you can just bet that something traumatic caused him to drop the gun and pick up a bottle. My guess would be he shot a kid but it’s just a guess.
Miss Smith wants to know why he drinks so much. His insightful answer is that he just got the habit. Dickhead Dan (I’m not sure who the actor is but with his smile he’d make a great Joker.)
He wants to hear Denton sing again because he’s just a prick who lives to torment Denton, I guess. Miss Smith urges him not to do it but Denton wants his drink. she says she’ll buy him one instead (which begs the question why she didn’t earlier but, whatever). Denton decides he’s a degenerate drunk and deserves the humiliation. I’m just inferring from the scene really, but it looks like he’d rather humiliate himself than have Miss Kitty pity him and buy him a drink.
Dickhead Dan lets him go get his drink but as Denton takes his walk of shame into the bar Dan notices the gun. (and, bonus observation, Denton is holding it properly for safety, with his finger along the trigger guard) and gets very happy. He calls Denton a ‘gunner’ and asks where he got the ‘artillery’. I’m no historian so maybe you guys can tell me. Are those words that were used at that time? Because they don’t seem accurate to that time period to me. But, please, if I’m wrong, let me know.
Dan gets all excited and decides to have some ‘fun’ with Denton. He tries taunting him into having a showdown. Denton really doesn’t want to. Miss Kitty tries to intervene but Dan shoos the silly woman away. What is really weird is that Dan’s having his little showdown right outside the saloon. And by right outside I mean his back is right against the saloon doors. The bartender pops up over Dan’s shoulder (which seems like a bad place to be during a showdown but what do I know) to tell him to stop it. Dan kicks the door into the bartender.
Dan moves to the street but Denton is still in front of the bar. As he’s begging Miss Kitty to help him he is waggling the gun in Dan’s general direction. The peddler gives it a Significant Look and the gun goes off. and hits Dan in the wrist. Somehow. The angle should have been the stomach but I guess it was Fate that it hit Dan without doing serious harm.
Dan’s pissed and Denton’s scared. He tries getting Miss Kitty to help him. Everyone gets insanely excited over what was basically an accidentally lucky shot. and the bartender wants to give him a drink on the house. sure, give him a drink after he shoots someone but not to prevent his humiliation. Aren’t you just a prince!
They all go into the bar to celebrate Dan getting shot and leave Dan rubbing his wrist. Which looks pretty ok. no blood or anything. Dan comes in, a little pissy about the wrist wounding. Dude, he barely grazed you! The peddler looks on from the door. Dan threatens Denton with a slug in the belly. Denton keeps stammering at him (whilst waving the gun around, of course) the peddler gives another Significant Look and the gun goes off again, this time hitting the chandelier, knocking the gun out of Dan’s hand. And again, the angle is way off. The actor is doing his best to swing it high enough to hit it, it’s still too low.
They’re all excited and respectful, calling him ‘Mr. Denton’. He’s still swinging the gun around, pointing it right at people. Which doesn’t seem too safe considering that it’s gone off twice now by itself. Al, the bartender, pour him a drink but lo and behold! Denton’s rampant alcoholism is suddenly cured and he doesn’t want it. He wants to go get a shave and on his way out the door gives Dickhead Dan a bitch slap. Serves him right, the prick.
Denton leaves the saloon and Miss Kitty follows. She’s all happy that everything is a-ok now. Charlie says that Denton is “as good with a gun now as you ever were”. Denton scoffs at this and rightfully so. Those two shots were just blind luck (or Fate).
We get a little exposition about how Denton was soooo good that someone would ride into town to test him. Unless he’s exaggerating for effect then once a day seems like a lot. These people seriously didn’t have anything better to do than travel to see him and test themselves against him? The reason for the alcoholism was the last guy who had to prove something was 16 years old. I can see why that would bother him but at the same time the kid came to him looking for a gunfight. So, maybe the kid should have kept his ass at home.
Denton knows that it will start all over again but he knows he’s not good enough so he’ll be the one to die. And he wants to get cleaned up and shave so he can look proper the day he dies. So he goes in for his shave. How he can afford it is anybody’s guess since he was literally just singing for his drinks. The peddler, Mr. Henry J. Fate, looks on.
All cleaned up and Mr. Denton is looking pretty sharp.
Some mysterious cowboys ride up outside. Looks like Denton was right.Word does spread fast. It looks like it’s been a day, at most. They describe Denton which isn’t too impressive since they walked right into his door and are staring at him. He’s Top Gun in those parts now and they want proof. Denton tries to talk them out of it but one smirk silences him and he nods, resigned. And I stand corrected, it’s been less than a day. So word travels really fast.
He goes out for a bit of target practice and he’s right. He sucks. He can’t hit a bucket five feet away. Later that night he spies the peddler and goes out to have a chat with him. This has got to be the longest day ever. To recap: He sings, drinks, shoots Dan, shoots the chandelier, goes for a shave and general clean-up, accepts a challenge, practices, packs and talks with the peddler. The showdown is scheduled for 10:00 that night so all of this happens over the course of a day. And not even a full day at that.
The peddler tells Denton he sells potions. Then says that Denton shouldn’t run away. Denton disagrees because he’s not too keen on being shot to death. Then he curses finding the gun. Henry J. Fat tells him he shouldn’t curse it, but use it. Fate (very subtle) offers him a potion “that will solve his problem”. It’s called The Fast Gun Developer (wtf’s with the name?!) and it works for approximately 10 seconds. Short, but in that time you’ll be the fastest of the fast and the bestest of the best. He gives Denton a trial potion. Whereupon Denton murders an innocent gas lamp. Ok. The peddler says the potion works for 10 seconds. Denton drinks it and the peddler tells him to shoot the lamp twice. I counted. Denton shoots the lamp around the 8 or 9 second mark. Then the peddler counts down from 6 as though only 4 seconds have passed between the time he told Denton to drink it and the shooting of the light. So, either the potion doesn’t work until you first pull the trigger or they screwed up the countdown. It seems to me the potion would work right when you drink it and since he tells Denton that he should drink it as soon as Mr. Grant (the challenger) enters the bar then I’m going with that it works as soon as you drink it.
Denton asks how much and the peddler replies that it’s just a service so that he might remember “the night Fate stepped in”.
Everyone’s waiting at the saloon for the showdown. Which doesn’t seem to me the smartest place to be if there’s going to be a shoot-out. Everyone is just waiting quietly. Even the doctor’s hanging out there. either to maybe try to save the guy who loses or pronounce him dead. Denton is shaky and nervous but refuses a drink. Miss Kitty is there, too.
They hear horses outside and it’s Mr. Grant coming into town. So did the guys ride ahead to make the challenge and then ride back to Grant? Why not just all ride in together and save themselves a trip? Mr. Grant comes in the bar after a round of dramatic close-ups. Hes pretty young. Maybe 19 or 20. They Manly Man chat a bit and it looks like they’re going to draw right in the saloon. Um, couldn’t they go outside? Do they really have to shoot up the poor guy’s bar?
Denton turns to drink his potion and turns around just in time to see Mr. Grant swallowing the same potion.
They both shoot at the same time, hitting each other’s hands. The shoot-out is considered a draw. Denton’s hand is now ruined for gunslinging from now on. But they’re all impressed he was so brave while facing his imminent death.
Denton stops to talk to the kid and tells the kid he should consider himself blessed. “He’ll never fire a gun again in anger” is how Denton puts it. But the way the shoot-outs go down don’t look angry. More cold-blooded than anything if you ask me. Well, nobody did ask me so moving right along now, the kid ponders this and leaves.His buddies outside ask if he got Denton and he says it was a draw. Fate’s watching. They ride off into the evening. You’d think they’d have gone inside to make sure it was a fair fight.
Mr. Henry J. Fate: dealer in utensils, pots and pans , liniments and potions. A fanciful little man in a black frock coat who can help a man climbing out of a pit. Or another man from falling into one. Because, you see, Fate can work that way, here, in The Twilight Zone.
Ok. This was a long one. Some are, some aren’t. In Danse Macabre, by Stephen King, he lists this as one of the “bow-wows” with Rod Serling’s name on it. First of all, Stephen King has had a few duds himself so I’m thinking he should be a tad less judgmental. And second of all, I love this episode. so, yeah, I’m biased because I like it. My opinion.
The acting is good. For a lot of these I don’t know many of the actors and have rarely seen them on anything else. So I really can’t compare their acting on this with other shows or movies.Anyways, Dan Durya does a great job from looking humiliated, to fear, to resignation and, finally, hope. Everybody else are merely side characters. Miss Kitty I think would be good but she doesn’t have much to do. The only other character that stands out is Mr. Fate. He has a pretty impressive figure for being mostly in the background. I like the moral and ending, even if it is a bit heavy-handed. Subtlety was never The Twilight Zone’s strong suit.
Sorry for the week I skipped but there was a lot going on. but I’m back. Tomorrow I’ll do my review of Extraordinary Tales. I’m watching it on Netflix right now and it is amazing! I don’t know how I didn’t hear of this before.
So, so long for now. As always if you want to talk about the episode, have any suggestions for movies or how I can make the blog better just drop me a comment!