Director: Robert Florey
Writer: Rod Serling
Cast: Rod Serling, Everett Sloane, Vivi Janiss, William Kendis, Lee Millar, Lee Sands, Marc Towers, Art Lewis, and Arthur Peterson
Composer: None (Stock Music)
Air Date: 1/29/1960
Production Code: 173-3627
After winning a free trip to Las Vegas, Franklin and Flora Gibbs (Everett Sloan and Vivi Janiss) reluctantly spend their vacation at a casino resort. Unmoved by Flora’s enthusiasm, Franklin remains firm in his opposition to gambling and even goes so far as to chastise his wife for throwing away her money in a slot machine. With a little encouragement from an intoxicated patron, however, Franklin succumbs to an affliction far more devastating than any traditional illness.
“The Fever” benefits from Everett Sloane’s convincing portrayal of a sanctimonious husband who, within a matter of hours, effectively squanders his fortune after developing an incurable addiction to gambling. That being said, this episode is plagued by an inconsistent tone coupled with a bizarre twist ending.
It should be noted that Franklin’s personality transformation may seem unrealistic on paper; however, a subtle performance from Sloane is accentuated by the suspenseful pace at which the protagonist allows himself to circumvent his moral inhibitions, thereby preventing an otherwise predictable concept from assuming a hackneyed execution. Also worth commending is Flora’s mortified reaction to Franklin’s perpetual conflict with a malevolent slot machine, which gives the audience sufficient means of sympathizing with her helpless situation.
(Spoilers beyond this point)
As evidenced by the ridiculous note on which “The Fever” ends (Franklin is chased from his hotel window by an hallucination of the slot machine and falls to his death as a result), one may infer that Rod Serling was unable to resolve his narrative in a mature and satisfactory manner. In addition to the excessive camp contained in Franklin’s death scene, such a fate may seem needlessly cruel to sensitive viewers considering that the main character had already flushed away a lifetime of earnings and therefore did not deserve further punishment.
“The Fever” also struggles to blend ironic undertones with the somber thesis upon which it operates. Given that The Twilight Zone’s penetrating commentary on the human condition serves as a sufficient testament to Serling’s genius, perhaps the late teleplay writer would have been wise to forgo his stale comedic devices in favor of a more straightforward lesson on the dangers of not practicing what one preaches.
While “The Fever” provides a rather obvious lesson on the host of destructive habits that often stem from compulsive gambling, a more profound message is also present. Notably, Franklin’s hypocritical behavior demonstrates that prolonged self-righteousness can cause severe problems due to the suppressing effect that comes with maintaining a holier-than-thou appearance.
“The Fever” is a mildly entertaining effort. Nevertheless, those who prefer resonating analysis on human nature without Serling’s awful attempts at humor would be wise to avoid this offering.
Overall Quality: 6/10
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