Director: Don Medford
Writer: Rod Serling
Cast: Joseph Schildkraut, Oscar Beregi, Karen Verne, Robert Boon, and Ben Wright
Composer: None (Stock Music)
Air Date: 11/10/1961
Production Code: 4804
Gunther Lutze (Oscar Beregi), once a captain in Hitler’s SS, returns to Dachau concentration camp for the first time in seventeen years. While reminiscing fondly over atrocities committed during the war, Captain Lutze is approached by the ghost of prisoner Alfred Becker (Joseph Schildkraut) and put on trial for maiming, torturing, and executing thousands of inmates under his supervision.
By offering a personal perspective on the devastating aftermath of the Holocaust, “Deaths-Head Revisited” explores the human capacity for evil through heart-wrenching drama. There are times, however, when Captain Lutze comes across as a one-dimensional stereotype of a Nazi war criminal, thereby preventing the audience from comprehending his atrocities (or more specifically, the motivations thereof) through a meaningful or lasting framework.
Confronted with the demons of a past life, Captain Lutze gradually transitions into a raving, tormented shadow of his former arrogant self. In one scene, for example, the ghostly moans of Lutze’s tortured victims prompt the captain, eyes bulging with terror, to bellow in agony before collapsing on the ground and sobbing hysterically—a well-acted, haunting display that will appeal to viewers who possess a firm sense of justice.
Even when forced to answer for his crimes against humanity, Captain Lutze—a cartoonish villain with no apparent motive beyond pure sadism—makes little if any attempt to justify himself in a logical, compelling, or emotionally persuasive manner (e.g. shifting blame to his superiors, downplaying the extent of his terrible misdeeds, and presenting other excuses to portray himself in a positive or innocent light). Many will thus find it difficult, if not thoroughly impossible, to understand or relate to the character of Lutze, who lacks a human element to counterbalance his vile, sociopathic tendencies.
Though hampered by a lack of nuance, “Deaths-Head Revisited” rightly indicates that the greatest monster of all lies within the human soul—a disturbing notion that benefits from the penetrating insight of Rod Serling.
The second episode of The Twilight Zone to feature the talents of Oscar Beregi Jr. (known for appearing in season two’s “The Rip Van Winkle Caper”), “Deaths-Head Revisited” should be commended for its dramatic tension, top-notch performances, and powerful subject matter. Especially profound is the central message presented in this offering, which draws an important distinction between revenge and retribution.
Overall Quality: 7/10
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