Director: John Brahm
Writer: Rod Serling
Cast: Burgess Meredith, James Westerfield, Edward Ryder, Douglas Spencer, Michael Fox, Donald Losby, Greg Irwin, Douglas Evans, Phil Arnold, Frank Richards, James Millhollin, Jo Ann Dixon, Jay Hector, and Don Rickles
Composer: None (Stock Music)
Air Date: 3/3/1961
Production Code: 173-3644
When confronted by a bully in the bar of Anthony O’Toole (James Westerfield), Luther Dingle (Burgess Meredith)—a weak, unimposing vacuum cleaner salesman—is given the strength of 300 men, courtesy of two invisible Martians (Douglas Spencer and Michael Fox) conducting a psychology experiment. Having found his confidence, Dingle makes an ostentatious display of his new abilities.
Operating on a one-note premise, “Mr. Dingle, the Strong” may fail to interest all but the most nostalgic of television fans. Even the late Burgess Meredith, an otherwise talented and dignified actor, could not redeem the stale material that sours every interaction between Dingle and his tormentors.
Though quite juvenile, the physical appearance and scientific jargon of both aliens may, for obvious reasons, appeal to fans of classic sci-fi cinema.
By relying on slapstick violence for comic effect, “Mr. Dingle, the Strong” fails to present itself as a witty, intelligent satire on the human condition—much in contrast to the majority of stories written by Rod Serling. Especially cringe-worthy are the antics of Don Rickles, whose trademark insult humor is taken too far at times (the abuse that Rickles’ character heaps on Dingle is both unprovoked and malicious, so much so that viewers of a sensitive inclination may wish to avoid this entry altogether).
(Spoilers beyond this point)
In the final scene, two childlike aliens with deep voices appear in O’Toole’s bar and provide Dingle with phenomenal intelligence—a campy, groan-inducing note on which to end Serling’s narrative. (It should also be noted that a similar twist would later be employed more effectively in “The Corbomite Maneuver,” one of the most iconic Star Trek episodes ever made.)
A “weak” episode, “Mr. Dingle, the Strong” should be viewed only by the most dedicated enthusiasts of The Twilight Zone. Casual audiences, on the other hand, may be wise to look elsewhere for a compelling science fiction piece.
Overall Quality: 3/10
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