Director: Justus Addiss
Writer: Rod Serling
Cast: Simon Oakland, Oscar Beregi, Lew Gallo, John Mitchum, Wallace Rooney, and Shirley O’Hara
Composer: None (Stock Music)
Air Date: 4/21/1961
Production Code: 173-3655
Having stolen one million dollars’ worth of gold from a train, criminals Erbie (John Mitchum), Brooks (Lew Gallo), and De Cruz (Simon Oakland) spend a hundred years in suspended animation chambers designed by Farwell (Oscar Beregi)—the mastermind of the operation. Upon awakening, the surviving men encounter more surprises than they had expected.
“The Rip Van Winkle Caper” puts a compelling, science-fiction-themed spin on an iconic tale penned by Washington Irving. Rod Serling enthusiasts would therefore be wise to view this episode, which also benefits from the menacing performance of Simon Oakland (known for appearing in classic films such as West Side Story and Psycho) and Oscar Beregi’s portrayal of Farwell—a more timid, intellectually driven character.
For generating an atmosphere of isolation coupled with a sense of impending doom, “The Rip Van Winkle Caper” deserves praise from fans of The Twilight Zone. Especially worth noting are the scenes wherein Farwell and De Cruz traverse the desert together, which indicate, at least initially, that human civilization had been destroyed at some point during the past century, leaving no one alive to purchase the stolen bars of gold—an ominous implication that, in addition to heightening the perception of loneliness felt by both characters, serves to conceal the ironic twist of fate awaiting the only man “fortunate” enough to outlive the other.
“The Rip Van Winkle Caper” contains an obvious—albeit thought-provoking—commentary on how greed, selfishness, and stupidity often result in harrowing consequences, especially when favored over attributes of a noble variety (e.g. willingness to cooperate with others in order to achieve a common goal).
By offering insight into the most petty and disturbing aspects of human nature, “The Rip Van Winkle Caper” earns its reputation as a true series classic. Also excellent is the choice of location for this episode (i.e. Death Valley), which, as in “The Lonely” and “I Shot an Arrow into the Air,” works to enhance the feelings of seclusion that motivate each character to behave irrationally.
Overall Quality: 10/10
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