Director: Ted Post
Writer: Richard Matheson
Cast: Howard Duff, David White, Frank Maxwell, Eileen Ryan, Gail Kobe, Peter Walker, Susan Dorn, and William Idelson
Composer: Van Cleave
Air Date: 3/11/1960
Production Code: 173-3624
Having been inexplicably pulled away from his traditional work and home life, successful businessman Arthur Curtis (Howard Duff) is forced to assume the identity of actor Gerry Reagan. Despite his insistence to the contrary, “Gerry” is informed by Brinkley (David White)—a sympathetic agent—that Arthur Curtis exists only as a character in a shooting script.
For demonstrating his ability to blur the lines between two distinct but equally convincing realities, writer Richard Matheson should be commended. Also worth mentioning is Howard Duff’s portrayal of Gerry/Arthur, whose suffering will strike a chord with viewers trapped in miserable circumstances (e.g. failed marriages, financial ruin, and careers that stifle one’s creative passion) attributable to a broken society.
Though entirely fantastic, the premise for “A World of Difference” maintains an air of realism due to the genuine expressions of fear, paranoia, and suffocation conveyed by Gerry/Arthur—an aspect that also works to elicit sympathy from the audience, especially when coupled with the incessant nagging of Gerry’s ex-wife Nora (Eileen Ryan); it should likewise be noted that Nora’s vile personality poses a stark contrast to that of Arthur’s wife Marion (Susan Dorn), who instead embodies the sweet, feminine charm that one would expect of a typical 1960s housewife.
There are times when “A World of Difference” struggles to achieve a satisfactory level of suspense, likely a consequence of revealing the most significant plot twist in the opening scene.
(Spoilers beyond this point)
In the closing sequence, a transition between both realities inhabited by Gerry/Arthur is employed—a technique that effectively conceals whether either identity was ever more real than the other, at least from the protagonist’s frame of reference. If, however, it is to be assumed that Arthur—whose situation would no doubt be coveted by all but the most satisfied of men—serves only as a release valve for the mentally disturbed Gerry, then Matheson’s narrative should best be taken as a warning against following society’s life “script,” lest one unintentionally trample all hopes and dreams while treading the path to success.
A fascinating piece of experimental television, “A World of Difference” will appeal to fans of The Twilight Zone. Audiences who enjoy commentary on the human condition may also wish to view this episode, which sheds light upon man’s perpetual struggle to find contentment in a world marred by the stresses of everyday life.
Overall Quality: 9/10
If you enjoyed this post, please center your email address in the subscription box to stay tuned for more updates.