Director: Richard L. Bare
Writer: Martin M. Goldsmith
Cast: Joan Blondell, William Demarest, Sterling Holloway, Sandra Gould, Howard Wright, and Herbert Lytton
Composer: None (Stock Music)
Air Date: 3/13/1964
Production Code: 2635
After having his TV fixed by an eccentric repairman (Sterling Holloway), cab driver Joe Britt (William Demarest) sees a terrible future for himself on the screen. Disturbed by his potential role in the murder of his wife Phyllis (Joan Blondell), Joe tries to avert the scenario presented on his television set—with a horrifying twist.
A nihilistic remake of “A Most Unusual Camera,” this episode may evoke criticism for its recycled premise and mean-spirited execution. “What’s in the Box” does, however, benefit from the performances of Joan Blondell, William Demarest, and Sterling Holloway (known for voicing Winnie the Pooh).
In spite of his unpleasant personality, Joe Britt may earn sympathy due to the uncontrollable nature of his circumstances. Specifically, Joe goes out of his way to make amends with his wife, give up his philandering ways, and prevent himself from murdering Phyllis in a fit of rage—actions that ironically result in the very outcome that Joe wishes to avoid.
“What’s in the Box” is marred by cruel, unlikable characters whose constant screaming, taunting, and bickering border on excessive. Phyllis, for example, takes tremendous pleasure in mocking and belittling her husband, even spurning his attempt to reconcile after twenty-seven years of marital conflict. Though less obnoxious than Phyllis, Joe also fails to treat his spouse with love, respect, and compassion, instead resorting to vicious threats and violent behavior when provoked. Viewers may therefore struggle to relate with both Joe and Phyllis, who behave like savages when communicating with each other.
Combining temporal anomalies with domestic turmoil, “What’s in the Box” has all the ingredients of a classic science fiction piece. Fans of The Twilight Zone may nevertheless take issue with this offering, which suffers from a nasty, malicious tone throughout.
Overall Quality: 6/10
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