Director: Ralph Senensky
Writer: Charles Beaumont
Cast: Robert Sterling, Patricia Crowley, Burgess Meredith, Ray Teal, Charles Thompson, Doris Kemper, and Camille Franklin
Composer: None (Stock Music)
Air Date: 2/28/1963
Production Code: 4864
Facing a rival company while on the verge of bankruptcy, newspaper editor Douglas Winter (Robert Sterling) enlists the aid of Mr. Smith (Burgess Meredith)—an eccentric, cigar-smoking man with a talent for covering newsworthy events as soon as they occur. After several months, however, Douglas must pay a terrible price for enjoying the fruits of Mr. Smith’s labor.
“Printer’s Devil” deserves praise for its wonderful acting and commendable life lesson. That being said, this episode suffers from a clichéd, if not predictable, narrative.
Despite rehashing the premise of season one’s “Escape Clause,” “Printer’s Devil” maintains an air of originality due to the performance of Burgess Meredith—known to series enthusiasts for appearing in “The Obsolete Man,” “Time Enough at Last,” and “Mr. Dingle, the Strong.” Specifically, in contrast to the jolly, animated characteristics of Thomas Gomez, Meredith’s version of the devil benefits from a sly and subtle demeanor, reinforcing his position as a conniving figure.
“Printer’s Devil” may evoke criticism for failing to conceal the true identity of Mr. Smith. After first encountering Douglas Winter, for example, Meredith’s character ignites a cigar with his finger—a trick that, though clever and amusing, reveals the extraordinary powers of Mr. Smith prior to his introduction as the devil.
(Spoilers beyond this point)
Also disappointing is the twist ending of this episode, wherein the main character nullifies his agreement with the devil—now intent on murdering Jackie Benson (Patricia Crowley), the fiancée of Douglas—by exploiting a mere technicality in the original contract.
Employing a fictional scenario to offer moral commentary, “Printer’s Devil” warns against taking unethical shortcuts, compromising the values of oneself, and bargaining with unscrupulous individuals while attempting to advance in the corporate world.
The final episode of The Twilight Zone to feature the talents of Meredith, “Printer’s Devil” will appeal to fans of supernatural stories with a tongue-in-cheek twist. Nevertheless, this offering is marred by a lack of subtlety coupled with an underwhelming finale.
Overall Quality: 8/10
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