The Four Of Us Are Dying
Arch Hammer – Harry Townes
Virge Sterig – Phillip Pine
Johnny Foster – Ross Martin
Andy Marshak – Don Gordon
Penell – Berard Fein
Mr. Marshak – Peter Brocco
Detective – Milton Frome
Maggie – Beverly Garland
A man in a suit with mismatched luggage walks down a bustling street scene, in the company of swinging sax music and lots of neon signs. He eventually decides on the Hotel Real.
His name is Arch Hammer. He’s 36 years old. He’s been a salesman, a dispatcher, a truck driver, a con man, a bookie, and a part-time bartender. This is a cheap man, a nickel and dime man, with a cheapness that goes past the suit and shirt. A cheapness of mind a cheapness of taste. A tawdry little shine on the seat of his conscience and a dark-room squint at a world whose sunlight has never gotten through to him. But Mr. Hammer has a talent discovered at a very early age. This much he does have. He can make his face change. He can twitch a muscle, move a jaw, concentrate on the cast of his eyes, and he can change his face. He can change it into anything he wants. Mr. Archie Hammer, jack of all trades, has just checked in at $3.80 a night with two bags, some newspaper clippings, a most odd talent, and a master plan to destroy four lives.
Inside the Hotel Real Arch picks up an obituary of a man named John Foster, a musician who met his untimely end at a railroad crossing. After staring at it a moment he heads out the door. He walks down another jazzy street with an Arcade, Water Show, Chit-chat with Beautiful Girls and Wine Sport. I have no idea what a wine sport would be. On the way to The Blue Car he passes a couple awkwardly smooshing their lips together on a bench.
Inside The Blue Car there’s a beautiful young woman at the piano, playing sad torch songs. Oh great Cthulhu, it’s “Make it one for my baby, and one more for the road”. Argh! Every time I hear that song I get it in my head.
She looks a little bummed out as she steps off the stage. A drunk guy tries to grab her around the waist as she walks by. She tells him to “unravel the flesh”. He asks her if she wants a drink and she says yes. But a solitary one. He’s disappointed and she goes to sit by herself at a table in the corner.
Arch lurks at her from behind a palm tree. She starts to take a drink but something startles her and she dribbles a bit and looks stunned. Arch, looking like Johnny Foster, approaches her. She grabs her drink quickly and I’m not sure if she’s going to slam it down or throw it in his face. It kind of looks like she’s going to throw it at him. She wants to know if he’s a ghost or something. He thinks that’s funny. I think it’s a reasonable reaction. He says he just popped in to check out the funeral and obituaries. To see how the mourners felt about him. She says if he wants tears he should come to her room. She has buckets of them. Which I know she means metaphorically but it conjures up a very odd mental picture.
Maggie says she heard it one night on the radio and just cried. He touches her face and she grabs his hand, looking like she can’t believe it’s him. Then she washed her face, put on some make-up and went to work. Now she only plays sad songs. Songs for piano and bourbon. He tells her it was a different guy, not him. Maggie, quite reasonably, wants to know why he didn’t tell anyone he’s alive. He says he wanted to just get away from everything/ She’s thrilled he’s back. I’d be more than a little ticked off myself. He tells her that mourning becomes her. She says her and Electra. She wants to know if he’s staying or what. He says he’s leaving town and she’s coming with. They’re going to run away to…Chicago or Detroit. Yes, so romantic. The two cities with the highest murder rates in the world. He tells her to get packed and he’ll be back for her later. She’s thrilled all to pieces and I really hate Arch. What a dick, messing with her emotions like that! Not to mention smooching a woman he doesn’t even know.
He leaves and the trumpet player notices him and follows him out. He grabs Arch-John’s shoulder but when Johnny turns around it’s Arch. the guy apologizes then goes back inside. Arch talks a bit to himself, saying he never had a dish like Maggie before so why not now? Although, Arch is fairly good-looking even with his normal face so I don’t see why not. He listens to Maggie sing a minute and then walks off into the neon night.
Back at the Hotel Real Arch is staring at another clipping. This times it’s a man named Virgil Sterig who was killed in a gangland hit. He talks to the clipping for a minute then leaves again, looking like Virgil Sterig.
After walking through another bit of neon he gets in an elevator and goes to the penthouse. Mr. Penell (I’m assuming the gang boss, maybe) is very surprised to see Arch/Virgil, judging from the way he stupidly rams his beer into his TV set. Arch/Virgil has stopped there pretty much just to get money for his trip with Maggie. Weirdly Arch seems to know more about these people than he should. Like the fact that Virgil was carrying a package for Mr. Penell. Or who Maggie was. Neither were mentioned in the articles.
Arch/Virgil goes to leave just as two goons come in. A merry thug chase ensues. They chase Arch down into a dead end alley. Arch starts freaking out and wants to change his face. After a bit of panic he sees a poster plastered to the wall of a boxing match. He changes his face to the boxer’s just in time. The thugs come running up, guns drawn. Arch/Unknown Boxer wants to know what’s up? Why are they trying to “finger him” *snicker*.
They thought he was someone else and excuse themselves. Arch snickers to himself and walks off down the alley, too. He walks near a newspaper stand. The older man behind the stand seems to recognize him. And looks very surprised. He rushes out and calls Arch/Unknown Boxer by the name of Andy. Arch/Andy tries to blow him off and go on his way. The vendor wants to know what’s wrong with him? Doesn’t Andy recognize him? He wants to know if Andy’s punchy or something. Arch/Andy says yeah, he’s a little punchy, should he recognize the older man?
The older man says yeah, yeah, Andy should recognize his own father. Whoops! Looks like you picked the wrong face this time Andy. Andy asks if he’s his son. Andy’s Dad says that he was. Before he ran out, before he broke his mother’s heart, before he left a girl alone and (I’m assuming) with child. Andy’s father says that Andy is nothing to him now. As Arch/Andy tries to walk away Andy’s Father starts yelling at the street that Andy Marshak is a dirty little punk who spit in his mother’s eye and ruined a decent girl. Arch/Andy pushes him away. Andy’s Father keeps talking to himself, saying look at the monster, look at his son.
Back at Hotel Real Arch is packing to go when a cop comes in and says he has a warrant in Detroit. The cop is very nice though, he lets Arch get his coat. They walk down the stairs and into the revolving doors. Arch gets the cop tied up in the doors and by the time the cop releases himself, Arch has changed his face back into Andy’s.
He’s very pleased with himself. That is…until he runs into Andy’s Father again. Andy’s Father, who’s holding a gun. Andy tries to talk him out of shooting him. Tries to think of a face, to show Andy’s Father that he’s not who he thinks he is. It’s too late however, Andy’s Father shoots him. Arch’s face goes through the different faces he just was as he dies.
He was Arch Hammer. A cheap little man who has just checked in. He was Johnny Foster, who played a trumpet and was loved beyond words. He was Vergil Sterig, with money in his pocket. He was Andy Marshak, who got some of his agony back on a sidewalk in front of a cheap hotel. Hammer, Foster, Sterig, Marshak and all four of them were dying.
Andy’s Father doesn’t look all too disturbed that the guy he just killed doesn’t look like he’s all that upset that the guy he just killed no longer looks like his son.
Not much to comment on this one. Arch is a jerk and got what he deserved. Too bad the real Andy wasn’t along for the ride. Actually, my only concern was for Maggie. She’s going to be waiting at the bus station and Johnny isn’t going to show up. Then the poor girl will probably think she was either drunk or crazy. I’m probably overthinking this but I like to think that after it she realizes that she doesn’t need him and finds someone better. There, happy ending for Maggie!
Thank you for reading and join me next time for the next episode: Third From the Sun. It’s an awesome episode and one that got me into The Twilight Zone in the first.