The Twilight Zone Episode 39: Nervous Man in a Four Dollar Room

Technical Specs

Director: Douglas Heyes

Writer: Rod Serling

Cast: Joe Mantell and William D. Gordon

Composer: Jerry Goldsmith

Air Date: 10/14/1960

Production Code: 173-3641



While living in a cheap hotel room, petty criminal Jackie Rhoades (Joe Mantell) is visited by a gangster named George (William D. Gordon) and assigned with killing the owner ofthe-twilight-zone-nervous-man-in-a-four-dollar-room a local bar. Having been bullied into submission his entire life, Jackie begins contemplating how to proceed when a reflection of his alter ego appears in a mirror and intervenes.

Devoid of the profound substance for which The Twilight Zone is defined, “Nervous Man in a Four Dollar Room” is a decent but underwhelming episode. The convincing manner exemplified by Joe Mantell throughout his expository tirades does, however, compensate for an absence of penetrating commentary on the human condition.



Operating on a shoestring budget, “Nervous Man in a Four Dollar Room” generates tension from the limited surroundings in which a distraught protagonist is forced to reside. Notably, George’s comments about the insufferable heat and poisonous little creaturesthe-twilight-zone-nervous-man-in-a-four-dollar-room inside Jackie’s hotel apartment serve to plant subtle suggestions of claustrophobia, mental anguish, and physical discomfort in the viewer’s mind. A more conspicuous method of psychological manipulation occurs when Jackie gets into a shouting match with a manifestation of his own conscience, thereby drawing attention away from the fact that every scene takes place within the confines of a single room.



It should be noted that the techniques used to accomplish Jackie’s mirror confrontation have held up considerably well after fifty plus years. That being said, there are times when Jackie’s reflection may unintentionally elicit audience laughter despite the serious nature of Rod Serling’s subject matter (the spinning mirror effect in particular comes the-twilight-zone-nervous-man-in-a-four-dollar-roomacross as somewhat comical, especially in conjunction with Mantell’s melodramatic response to said effect).



“Nervous Man in a Four Dollar Room” stresses the importance of commanding one’s destiny, a message that will no doubt resonate with victims of passive-aggressive (and perhaps overtly aggressive) people. Though a tad clichéd, the life lesson contained in this narrative is emphasized with remarkable effectiveness due to the compelling, albeit occasionally overplayed, conversations between Jackie and his mirror image.


Concluding Comments

A cute episode, “Nervous Man in a Four Dollar Room” will appeal to fans of The Twilight Zone’s simple offerings. Specifically, the budgetary constraints detailed above actually accentuate rather than detract from the poignancy inherent to Serling’s thesis—a surprising, if not exceptional, outcome.


Overall Quality: 7/10


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2 thoughts on “The Twilight Zone Episode 39: Nervous Man in a Four Dollar Room

  1. I’ve not been most favoring of episodes that basically spend the whole episode with one person in a room blabbing the whole episode and basically nothing else. This episode though still better than the awful “Night of the jocky” with Mickey Rooney. Two reasons that make this one better than that one is the added character of George who was delightfully menacing and with good lines. The other reason is that the dialogue in this one is better and more interesting too. Jackie shows a good combination of a small time scammer who is both itchy for some minor action, but it’s revealed that he is way too scared to take things beyond minor. George demands that Jackie steps up in the world and that he is shoot a bitter bar owner who hasn’t treated people very well. Jackie refuses but George tells him how he’s the one nobody will suspect because he’s so well known for being just a small time scammer. I like George’s response to Jackie saying he has no guts, George: “then get guts! I don’t care where, find them under a bed, buy them from a vendor, grow them in a pot, but get guts!”
    Then, alot of the episode revolves around Jackie and his braver, more confident reflection in the mirror telling him to learn to stand up. That part gets a little too long though.
    SPOILER: At the end when Jackie stood up to George, George got pretty easily manipulated by Jackie now, after how menacing he was before. But I’m sure thats just because Jackie was holding the gun, even though he wasn’t pointing it at him. My question is, when then Jackie throwing the gun onto the floor on the hallway behind George, and Jackie going back into his room. Couldn’t George then have easily come back, picked up the gun and gotten him back? It seemed like it could’ve been quite easy for him to do so. I didn’t fully understand that part. The episode was OK though, and like I said, much better than the other “man in his room the whole episode” “Night of the jocky”.

  2. This episode was telegraphed from the first moment mirror Jackie appeared. The banter between the characters was taken from the monologue playbook of first year acting students. The set was drab and boring and it seems the zone was hurting for a buck. Ultimately who gave a spit if Jackie two walks out of the mirror or Jackie prime grows a pair? This stinker does not need to be analized since it was a lazy effort from all concerned. Parhaps zone fans should come to the realization that many zones were turkeys. Wasted effort.

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