The Twilight Zone Episode 48: Dust

General Information

Director: Douglas Heyes

Writer: Rod Serling

Cast: Thomas Gomez, John Larch, Vladimir Sokoloff, John Alonso, Paul Genge, Dorothy Adams, Duane Grey, John Lormer, Andrea Margolis, and Douglas Heyes

Composer: Jerry Goldsmith

Air Date: 1/6/1961

Production Code: 173-3653

 

Overview

the-twilight-zone-dustHaving killed a young girl with his coach, drunk driver Luís Gallegos (John Alonso) is convicted in court and sentenced to hang. After failing to evoke pity from the parents of said young girl, Mr. Gallegos (Vladimir Sokoloff)—Luís’ caring but tragically naive father—enlists the aid of Peter Sykes (Thomas Gomez), a lowlife peddler whose magic dust (i.e. a bag of ordinary sand) can supposedly save the life of a condemned man.

“Dust” is an occasionally underwhelming episode of The Twilight Zone. Rod Serling enthusiasts may nevertheless wish to view this offering, which compensates for lackluster scene progression with poignant and thought-provoking subject matter.

 

Pros

Despite trampling a child to death while under the influence, Luís Gallegos will no doubt elicit sympathy from the audience. Notably, the expressions the-twilight-zone-dustof John Alonso convey the guilt, sorrow, and silent resignation that one would expect from a man burdened by conscience after killing an innocent.

Also moving are the actions taken by Luís’ father, whose desperation to save his son generates additional compassion for the Gallegos family. Even while enduring the cruel taunts of his fellow townspeople, for instance, the Gallegos patriarch maintains his belief in the magic dust (implicitly symbolic of a higher power) sold to him by the despicable Peter Sykes—an aspect that should inspire and tug the heartstrings of even the most skeptical viewers.

 

Cons

Though potentially stirring from an emotional standpoint, the conclusion to this episode is marred by a clichéd execution (no pun intended).

 

Analysis

(Spoilers beyond this point)

the-twilight-zone-dustHackneyed plot devices notwithstanding, “Dust” delivers a powerful message about the value of forgiveness. Note that according to the eye-for-an-eye principle of the Old West, the parents of a slain child would have every right to demand lethal retribution against the one responsible; however, Mr. and Mrs. Canfield eventually decide to pardon Luís for his crime, realizing that a life of emotional torment carries with it a greater cost than a swift and relatively painless death—an effective critique of justice in circumstances where mercy would be more appropriate.

 

Concluding Comments

A touching episode, “Dust” will appeal to those of a sensitive inclination. Especially worth praising are the performances of Alonso, Gomez, and Sokoloff, which reinforce the redemption arc central to Serling’s narrative.

 

Overall Quality: 7/10

 

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One thought on “The Twilight Zone Episode 48: Dust

  1. Something I don’t see mentioned often enough in discussions of the episode is the importance of its setting. A drunk driver who hit a child in a modern era, with paved roads and street lamps, would be treated by Serling as a villain awaiting his punishment. Here, that is not the case, and I believe the difference is in the context. He’s a drunk driver in only the most technical sense. The “roads” back then were indistinguishable from empty fields, the nights were black as pitch. While certainly culpable for driving anything while intoxicated, the man in this instance is far less GUILTY due to the reality of the situation.

    He’s a man riding drunk, yes, but not in a car with headlights- but a carriage. Not down a street, but through a patch of desert. Accidents like that happened to people when SOBER due to the lack of dividing lines, signs, or lights. And yet the townspeople found no sympathy. Notably, a town of white people couldn’t find sympathy for a Mexican man for what was – due to the circumstances – an ACCIDENT far more than it was manslaughter.