Director: David Orrick McDearmon
Writer: Rod Serling
Cast: Richard Haydn, Barbara Stuart, Barney Phillips, Henry Beckman, Jay Overholts, and Margarita Cordova
Composer: None (Stock Music)
Air Date: 10/28/1960
Production Code: 173-3645
Supercilious, hot-tempered magazine contributor Bartlett Finchley (Richard Haydn) regularly takes out his frustrations on miscellaneous household gadgets, which he claims have formed a “conspiracy” against him. Before long, Finchley launches an all-out war against the “inanimate” objects contained in and around his home.
“A Thing About Machines” forgoes the penetrating insight commonly associated with The Twilight Zone in favor of emphasizing stale, nonsensical comedic devices. While all the workings for a thoughtful, socially relevant commentary on the rapid technological advancements of the 20th century are present, this episode never explores such a theme to its full potential.
Though “A Thing About Machines” serves as a testament to Rod Serling’s bizarre and often disconnected sense of humor, those who are easily entertained may find amusing the concept of an electric razor chasing someone down a flight of stairs.
An effete, oversophisticated snob with no redeeming qualities whatsoever, Bartlett Finchley fails to elicit sympathy despite landing in a most dreadful predicament. Finchley’s inability to empathize with other people is exceptionally problematic from a narrative standpoint: while the premise of a man being driven to the edge of sanity by living machines should generate an atmosphere of paranoia, viewers are unlikely to share in the protagonist’s feeling of impending doom; rather, audiences with a compelling sense of justice may instead actively root against Finchley given the condescending and downright malicious manner with which he treats those under his employ.
For branching out from The Twilight Zone’s usual formula, Serling should be commended. That being said, “A Thing About Machines” focuses too heavily upon oddball subject matter at the expense of character development, tonal consistency, and a solid twist ending that would explain why mechanical items apparently spring to life as if prompted by a will of their own.
Overall Quality: 4/10
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