The Twilight Zone Episode 38: The Man in the Bottle

Technical Specs

Director: Don Melford

Writer: Rod Serling

Cast: Luther Adler, Vivi Janiss, Joseph Ruskin, Olan Soulé, and Lisa Golm

Composer: None (Stock Music)

Air Date: 10/7/1960

Production Code: 173-3638

 

Overview

Shop owner Arthur Castle (Luther Adler) spends his last dollar on a wine bottle which, unbeknownst to him at the time, contains a powerful genie capable of granting four wishes. the-twilight-zone-the-man-in-the-bottleDespite the reluctance of his wife Edna (Vivi Janiss), Arthur decides to take full advantage of the djinn’s offer; however, unforeseen “consequences” quickly ensue.

Those who enjoy The Twilight Zone’s lighthearted episodes are advised to view “The Man in the Bottle” for its comedic material. That being said, Rod Serling’s approach to the “genie in the bottle” trope results in a disappointingly predictable outcome.

 

Pros

A magnificent character actor, Joseph Ruskin embodied the subtle but malevolent condescension that one would expect of an unscrupulous genie. Contrasting the sly, deceitful manner the-twilight-zone-the-man-in-the-bottleexemplified by Ruskin, Arthur and Edna Castle come across as two humble yet hopelessly naïve individuals who cannot help but fall prey to the obvious trickery of their ostensible servant. Especially worth commending are those sequences wherein Arthur meticulously ponders what his next wish will be, at which point Edna’s sensible reservations are ultimately overshadowed by the genie’s compelling arguments to the contrary.

 

Cons

the-twilight-zone-the-man-in-the-bottleThough somewhat tongue-in-cheek, the concept of an IRS employee collecting a tax on “wish money” borders on the absurd. Also unrealistic are the exorbitant fees imposed on Mr. and Mrs. Castle, which could be legitimized only under a socialist government (perhaps such is a deliberate, albeit hyperbolic, commentary on why a “tax the rich” policy would have the unintended consequence of harming small-business owners).

 

Analysis

“The Man in the Bottle” relies upon a clichéd narrative device (i.e. be careful what you wish for) for the purpose of teaching an important, if overly simplified, lesson the-twilight-zone-the-man-in-the-bottleon being grateful for one’s circumstances, whether meager or not. (On a side note, Rod Serling could have conveyed his message without employing subject matter of a disturbing nature; specifically, Arthur proves himself to be a kindly old man willing to make extraordinary sacrifices for the benefit of others and therefore does not deserve to endure the unpleasant situations, e.g. losing all his money and assuming the role of Hitler, that Ruskin’s genie happens to conceive.)

 

Concluding Comments

Mean-spirited humor notwithstanding, “The Man in the Bottle” contains a number of cute, wholesome, and amusing moments to compensate for an otherwise generic premise. Notably, the benevolent characteristics of Arthur serve to counterbalance his remarkably foolish behavior and set a positive example as a result.

 

Overall Quality: 7/10

 

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3 thoughts on “The Twilight Zone Episode 38: The Man in the Bottle

  1. This was not the best Twilight episode at all. First of all, the two lead characters were complete morons.
    A man Arthur and wife Edna run a pawn shop, but not very well and they’re real behind on bills. Arthur gives an old lady who says what she has is a treasured heirloom, a dollar inspire of his own financial troubles. I guess I can accept that one because he had a good heart. But then the lady admits she lied about it being an heirloom and anything valuable. Arthur should’ve grabbed that dollar back from her then since the lady revealed to be deceitful.
    Next is where the real idiocy of Arthur and Edna come in. A genie comes out of the bottle and tells them they have four wishes. After the “test” wish which Arthur uses to repair the glass in their display casing (similar to movie “Bedazzled” where the test wish was a big mac and coke), Arthur and Edna wish for a million smackers. Here’s their first idiotic move; they just mindlessly hand out bundles of cash to dozens of people from all over the neighborhood without counting any of what they’re giving away or what they’d have left. And Arthur a short time later complains about how they didn’t even pay one bill yet with their wish money. I did not feel for him when crying about that. The tax collector comes in and demands over 900,000 (90%) of the winnings to go to taxes. I do, however, realize that they may’ve not thought that there’d be any taxes from their winnings since it wasn’t from a state or reality based source like the lottery. They won the money from a supernatural source and I guess that I can buy them not seeing the huge tax thing coming. But it was still stupid them so carelessly given so much money away without keeping any count of it.
    The next idiotic move was Edna refusing to wish for more money even though Arthur swore he’d be more careful with the winnings this time. Why not wish for more, even more than a million this time?But just carefully budget and not spend any of it until they first see what their tax amount will be. But no, the next wish was Arthur wishing to be ruler of a developed country that can’t be voted out. This was the biggest idiotic move of the episode. Arthur couldn’t figure out that Hitler fit that description? And he knew now of the style of the genie’s deceptions. It just was not a good scene either as well as it being such a stupid move.
    There are definitely better TZ episodes.

    • I fully agree with your analysis, and I was probably too kind in my review of this one. If the main characters had simply wished for a billion (why not make it a trillion, for that matter?) dollars the second time around, they would still have plenty left over after taxes. Then again, why would they even bother reporting money that came from a supernatural source? The IRS would have no way of tracking it in the first place.

      • Yeh, no kidding. All of their actions were so careless and without any thinking or analysing whatsoever. If you do get a million dollars and you know it’s a huge break for you, you still have to keep track of what you spend and not just throw hugs wads of cash into so many people’s arms not knowing how much it is.
        And again, it made absolutely no sense Edna refusing to wish for more money. Why? They could have wished for more, written down a budget, and this time they’d know about the guy from the IRS. And they wouldn’t need to give any more to people in the neighborhood because they already done that. And like you said, they could have wished for more, ten million, ten billion. Even if they’d take out 90% in taxes each time, wishing for higher amounts still would’ve left them with more for themselves after taxes. But no, Edna refused for any more money. Even seconds after complaining how they still hadn’t paid their bills. They mentioned in the last scene about giving their lives a paint job, they could’ve used the 10% of money after the taxes for that. But, these people didn’t think of using there heads like that.