The Twilight Zone Episode 86: Kick the Can

General Information

Director: Lamont Johnson

Writer: George Clayton Johnson

Cast: Ernest Truex, Russell Collins, John Marley, Hank Patterson, Earl Hodgins, Marjorie Bennett, Lenore Shanewise, Anne O’Neal, and Burt Mustin

Composer: None (Stock Music)

Air Date: 2/9/1962

Production Code: 4821



The Twilight Zone Kick the CanUnsatisfied with his current circumstances, senior citizen Charles Whitley (Ernest Truex) calls on his fellow nursing home residents to join him for a game of kick the can—a favorite pastime of the neighborhood children. Meanwhile, Ben Conroy (Russell Collins)—a man of Charles’ age—worries about the mental condition of his old acquaintance.

Coupling fantastic subject matter with a bittersweet conclusion, “Kick the Can” earns its reputation as a classic episode. Especially poignant is the life lesson presented in this offering, which provides an optimistic outlook on old age.



“Kick the Can” deserves praise for the contrasting performances of Ernest Truex—whom fans of The Twilight Zone will recognize from “What You Need”—and Russell Collins. The Twilight Zone Kick the CanNotably, Truex’s portrayal of Charles Whitley embodies an air of youthful optimism (exemplified quite humorously during the sprinkler sequence) that one would hardly expect of a weak, elderly man. Collins’ character, on the other hand, assumes the role of a hardened skeptic, frequently encouraging Charles—a lifelong friend of Ben Conroy—to accept his predicament with grace, dignity, and realistic expectations.



A slow-moving episode, “Kick the Can” forgoes riveting supernatural plot twists in favor of copious (albeit emotionally stirring) dialogue.



The Twilight Zone Kick the CanAs opposed to “The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine” from season one, “Kick the Can” suggests that youth, though commonly associated with specific life stages, can also be achieved through a positive state of mind—an inspiring premise from writer George Clayton Johnson, whose perspective on old age appears to differ from that of Rod Serling.


Concluding Comments

“Kick the Can” is a well-acted, heartwarming entry of The Twilight Zone. Worth commending in particular is the twist ending of this episode, which emphasizes the potential benefits of taking risks—extraordinary or otherwise—over leading a monotonous, excitement-free existence.


Overall Quality: 9/10


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