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
Having 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.
Despite trampling a child to death while under the influence, Luís Gallegos will no doubt elicit sympathy from the audience. Notably, the expressions of 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.
Though potentially stirring from an emotional standpoint, the conclusion to this episode is marred by a clichéd execution (no pun intended).
(Spoilers beyond this point)
Hackneyed 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.
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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