Director: Richard L. Bare
Writer: Charles Beaumont
Cast: Dane Clark, Buddy Ebsen, Christine White, Nedson Booth, Clancy Cooper, and Jane Burgess
Composer: None (Stock Music)
Air Date: 3/24/1961
Production Code: 173-3647
Restaurant owner Ace Larson (Dane Clark) wishes to marry Kitty Cavanaugh (Christine White), but cannot afford to do so. One evening, a simple-minded employee named Jimbo Cobb (Buddy Ebsen) reveals his ability to manipulate objects with his mind. Thereafter, Ace takes a trip to Las Vegas and, with a little “help” from Jimbo, becomes quite rich overnight. No longer satisfied with casino play, Ace contacts Big Phil Nolan (Nesdon Booth)—a gangster from Chicago—and attempts to double his winnings, with predictable results.
“The Prime Mover” is a cute and amusing episode of The Twilight Zone. Though mostly unremarkable, this installment should be praised for utilizing comedic subject matter to teach a valuable life lesson.
By realistically conveying the desperation of a gambling addict, actor Dane Clark strengthens the credibility of an otherwise fantastic premise. Note that in addition to risking everything on a foolish bet, Ace repeatedly shuts out his fiancée and best friend, even going so far as to ignore Jimbo’s headaches (a consequence of using telekinesis too often) whenever money is at stake—a convincing, albeit disturbing, depiction of compulsive behavior.
Also excellent is the character of Jimbo, who serves as a compelling (if frequently ignored) moral compass for Ace. Similar to his performance on The Beverly Hillbillies, Buddy Ebsen portrayed Jimbo with a great deal of small-town charm, thereby allowing the audience to relate with him despite the implausible nature of his talent.
A simple but commendable cautionary tale, “The Prime Mover” employs quirky humor in conjunction with science fiction elements to warn of the dangers of habitual gambling.
The first episode of The Twilight Zone to feature actress Christine White (the second being “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet”), “The Prime Mover” contains a worthwhile narrative for the whole family to enjoy. Nevertheless, the twist ending will hardly come as a surprise to the majority of viewers.
Overall Quality: 8/10
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