Director: Lamont Johnson
Writer: Rod Serling
Cast: Theodore Bikel, Phyllis Love, Linden Chiles, and Moyna MacGill
Composer: None (Stock Music)
Air Date: 4/6/1962
Production Code: 4832
Determined to eradicate evil from the world, busybody Oliver Crangle (Theodore Bikel) makes an extraordinary declaration: at exactly four o’clock in the afternoon, every terrible person on Earth will undergo a dramatic transformation. Surprisingly, Crangle’s prediction comes true—with an ironic twist.
“Four O’Clock” contains a worthwhile lesson on how meddling in the affairs of others, even those of an ethically dubious nature, can result in devastating consequences. This episode does, however, deserve criticism for its mediocre presentation.
Despite believing in absurd fantasies, the character of Crangle maintains a realistic quality due to the performance of Theodore Bikel. Notably, Crangle embodies all the passion that one would expect of a moral crusader, adding a hint of menace to his otherwise laughable, paranoid suggestions for punishing wrongdoers.
Lacking the nuance of a well-written villain, Crangle never presents a compelling motive to justify his contempt for humanity. Viewers may therefore struggle to identify with Crangle, whose characteristics often border on cartoonish.
In addition to being rather silly and predictable, the twist ending of “Four O’Clock” is marred by an illogical execution. Specifically, no explanation is provided to indicate how Crangle—an ordinary man with a god complex—manages to shrink all the evil people, including the main character himself, to two feet tall.
As opposed to Invasion of the Body Snatchers, “Four O’Clock” struggles to offer subtle, thought-provoking commentary on the effects of McCarthyism, instead portraying anti-Communism as a form of prejudice against well-meaning individuals.
Combining fantasy tropes with a relevant social message, “Four O’Clock” may appeal to enthusiasts of The Twilight Zone. Casual fans, in contrast, should likely avoid this episode for its preachy subtext, hackneyed dialogue, and cringe-inducing finale.
Overall Quality: 5/10
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