Director: David Lowell Rich
Writer: Rod Serling
Cast: Albert Salmi, John Anderson, Wright King, Guy Raymond, Christine Burke, John Harmon, Hugh Sanders, and Julie Newmar
Composer: None (Stock Music)
Air Date: 4/11/1963
Production Code: 4867
Feeling nostalgic, businessman William Feathersmith (Albert Salmi) stumbles into a local office and makes a deal with Miss Devlin (Julie Newmar)—a sly, attractive woman who allows Mr. Feathersmith to return to Cliffordville, Indiana in the year 1910 and reacquire his extravagant fortune from scratch. Complications occur when Mr. Feathersmith, planning to purchase a plot of land with oil buried underneath it, forgets to account for one significant problem.
Combining time travel elements with moral commentary, “Of Late I Think of Cliffordville” is a clever and thought-provoking episode. Especially worth noting is the character transition of Mr. William Feathersmith, whose cocky and arrogant behavior is later followed by misery, desperation, and a newfound respect for those who occupy the lowest ranks of society.
By talking down to a humble janitor and driving a longtime associate to financial ruin, Mr. Feathersmith will evoke contempt from those with a sense of justice and fair treatment. In spite of his odious behavior, however, the main character benefits from a relatable motive: to relive his past experiences while employing the wisdom of advanced age. Compassionate viewers may therefore sympathize with the protagonist, who, though incredibly mean-spirited, offers a compelling reason for going back in time and altering history to his personal liking.
“Of Late I Think of Cliffordville” deserves criticism for its unconvincing makeup effects (e.g. Albert Salmi’s cringe-inducing bald cap), which fail to make credible the physical transformation of Mr. Feathersmith.
After a poignant opening sequence, “Of Late I Think of Cliffordville” introduces the character of Miss Devlin—The Twilight Zone’s first and only female interpretation of the devil—in a tongue-in-cheek manner. Fans of a serious temperament may thus take issue with this episode, which occasionally suffers from tonal inconsistencies.
Despite its lack of subtlety, “Of Late I Think of Cliffordville” contains a powerful lesson on the dangers of taking things for granted, viewing history through rose-tinted glasses, and placing too much value on class distinction. (That being said, the final scene of this episode indicates that tremendous wealth, hard-earned or otherwise, will necessarily corrupt those of a decent or upright nature—a dubious implication from Rod Serling.)
“Of Late I Think of Cliffordville” is a well-acted and intelligently written episode of The Twilight Zone. Specifically, series enthusiasts may enjoy this offering for its unique twist on the devil character—featured previously in “Escape Clause,” “The Howling Man,” and “Printer’s Devil.”
Overall Quality: 9/10
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