James B.W. Bevis – Orson Bean
J. Hardy Hempstead – Henry Jones
Mr. Peckinpaugh – Charles Lane
Margaret – Florence McMichael
Narrator: Rod Serling
I will warn you now, the snark will probably be strong in this one so if it’s one of your favorite episodes you may want to avert your eyes now.
Trigger Warnings: A quite racist clock on Mr. Bevis’ desk that he seems quite fond of.
Twilight Zone has a new intro. It opens with a close-up of an eye, with a lot of mascara. The pupil fades into a sun and a black bar slowly creeps into the scene. The title screen comes up, fades into stars and pans down into the episode. So it’s a bit shorter, that’s good. As it plays Rod Serling narrates:
“You are about to enter another dimension. A dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land of imagination. Next stop, The Twilight Zone.”
As it pans down we hear organ grinder music. Kids are playing in the street together. They all gather around the organ grinder and the monkey. In the apartment above there’s a guy sipping a cup of coffee or tea. His house is cluttered with various toys and whatnot. I really like the Viking-looking ship and the shark jaws. It’s so cluttered that he has to step over things to get ready for work. He takes his coat down from a gazelle skull, which is pretty freaking awesome looking.
In the parlance of the 20th century this is an oddball. His name is James B.W. Bevis and his tastes lean toward stuffed animals, zither music, professional football, Charles Dickens, moose heads, carnivals, dogs, children, and young ladies. Mr. Bevis is accident-prone, a little vague, a little discomboomerated with a life that possesses all the security of a floating crap game. But this can be said of our Mr. Bevis – without him, without his warmth, without his kindness, the world would be a considerably poorer place. Albeit a little saner.
Kind of makes you wonder if he collects children and young ladies. Mr. Bevis heads out the door but then darts back in to leave his teacup on the sofa cushion. With the cup still half full. Which is disgusting. As he goes downstairs he literally runs into a third of the things he’s fond of. first he runs into a puppy, then a young lady who tells him good morning, and a boy. I wouldn’t be surprised if he walked outside and into a carnival.
Mr. Bevis is eyeballing the banister and the young boy tells him to go for it. Bevis slides down it backwards, shooting off the end (and incurring a pretty wicked looking hit to the goods). He tumbles out of the door and down the front steps of the building. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why you slide down a banister facing forward. And if there’s any kind of finial or decoration at the end I recommend the gentlemen not try it at all unless you’re wearing a cup. The boy covers his eyes but Mr. Bevis is grinning and perfectly fine.
He lands at the feet of a thin, little woman who does not look happy with him. She stares him down until he runs away to throw the football for the kids. Dang, it was football, not a carnival. A fruit vendor passing by tosses him an apple and says hi to Mr. Bevis. We get it. Mr. Bevis is beloved by the whole neighborhood.
James B.W. Bevis is a fixture in his own private, optimistic, hopeful little world. A world which has ceased being surprised by him.
Bevis stops to wipe a bit of dirt off of his fender. As he goes to get into his car he sees a ticket under his windshield wiper. He gives a very exaggerated “Aw, darn it” face then whistles with his fingers. I could never do that. All of the neighborhood kids come running to help Bevis get his car off to a running start. He waves goodbye cheerfully as he leaves them in a cloud of exhaust. Bye, kids! Thanks for starting my car, have some black lung! I will give it credit for being a very diverse neighborhood at least. That’s a bit surprising for the time period.
James B.W Bevis, on whom Dame Fortune will shortly turn her back but not before she gives him a paste in the mouth. Mr. James B.W. Bevis, just one block away from the Twilight Zone.
We get an overview of a typing pool. Most of the desks are neat and tidy except for, you guessed it, Mr. Bevis’. Theres a bottle, a vase with flowers, a picture, a bull and a stuffed squirrel. There’s some other junk, too. There’s a banner of a smiling guy and the camera pans down to show the same guy but very unsmiling now. The boss tells one of the other workers to tell the gentleman that when he finally reports to work the boss wants to see him. He shakes his head again at the desk and goes back to his office. The acting in Twilight Zone is usually pretty decent but this episode smells strongly of ham.
Bevis comes in and, whaddya know? Everyone loves him here, too. The lady in the desk behind his tells him that Mr. Peckinpaugh wants to see him. Bevis goes to the boss’ office and all of the typing stops as they stare for a minute. They all lean forward to eavesdrop better. The boss tells Bevis that his book-keeping sucks, his desk is messy and Bevis keeps bringing phonograph records to work. Ironically he’s telling Bevis that his ‘eccentricities’ are distracting the office as they’re showing this lovely bit of kitsch.
Bevis also hires carolers to come in and serenade the office during it’s busiest hours. I think we’re supposed to find these traits charming but frankly, they would annoy me too. And having a dead squirrel on your desk is just gross. Apparently everyone knows he’s fired because as soon as Bevis comes out, some guy brings Bevis a box to clear his desk. He shakes his head at Bevis. Enough with the head shaking!
Margaret comes to commiserate and Bevis says it’s the sixth job he’s had this year. She offers to help him pack. Bevis picks up a wooden ship and says he was carving it for one of the kids. So, what? You have to stop because you got fired? It seems like he’d have more time to finish it. Bevis says the only job he’s held for more than six months was during the war, when he was in the Navy.
Bevis lugs out his box of stuff. It’s so big that it’s hard to see over. He tries to grab for the door handle of his car but it’s not there. A shiny new car accidentally caught bumpers with Bevis’ car and when it takes off it drags Bevis’ car to the middle of the intersection. Where it causes chaos. Fortunately the only car that’s flipped over or harmed is Bevis’. A cop strolls over and asks if the car belongs to Bevis. Bevis says it’s his and the cop asks if the car does that often. Bevis says it’s the first time as far as he knows. The cop gives him a head shake. One more shake of the head and I’m out of here. Bevis says he’ll call for a tow truck and then asks the cop if he wants to buy the car, it’s a ’24 Rickenbacker. What follows is kind of bizarre. The cop says he’s got his eye on a ’27 but wants to wait for the newer models. I feel like it’s just a joke that I’m not getting.
Bevis finally gets home with his big box of crap. On the way in he sees a box of other crap from his apartment. On his way up he passes his landlady carrying more of his stuff. She tells him that he’s been evicted. He’s six weeks behind in his rent. To be honest, I’ve never rented so I don’t know if this is reasonable or unreasonable. I think it’s supposed to make us feel bad for Real Life crushing this poor dreamer but I don’t.
After the eviction Bevis heads to the local bar. Maybe you should throw some of that whiskey money towards rent, there, Bevis. He sees a guy waving at him in the mirror behind the bar. The man gestures to Bevis to join him at his table. Bevis shrugs a “Why the hell not” and turns around to join him. But when he turns he sees that the table is empty. Startled, Bevis whips to the mirror The man is still there and gestures again for Bevis to join him. Bevis calls over the bartender and asks him what was in the drink. The bartender tells Bevis that he put everything in there but atomic energy. Bevis wants to know if that’s why he can see the other man in the mirror but not at the booth (I’m looking at the man in the mirror-yow!) The bartender asks Bevis who he sees. Bevis would be an excellent reviewer because he corrects the bartender’s grammar and tells him “Whom, objective case”. The man in the mirror agrees.
Bevis goes over to the table and start looking around it and under it. Bevis sits down with his drink on the table and the man pops into view saying, “We meet at last, Mr. Bevis.” Bevis says great, who the hell are you. The stranger corrects him and tells him that it’s “whom”. He introduces himself as J. Hardy Hempstead, Guardian Angel. We get a close-up of Bevis’ overly exaggerated confused face and it fades to black.
As the bartender walks up Bevis waves at the empty side of the table and introduces Hempstead. The bartender picks up the empty shot glass, sniffs it and says, “And a Happy Thanksgiving to you”. Man, they say some weird stuff in this one. Hempstead pops back into the booth after the bartender leaves. He lays it out for Bevis. Way back when an ancestor of Bevis’ performed a great act of courage and so was rewarded with a guardian angel for each of the descendants – currently it’s Mr. Bevis’ turn. He says that many Bevis’, under their care were famous explorers, members of the British Parliament, and Gunner Louis. Who was the first Marine to land at Nicaragua. Apparently that’s “Uncle Louie!”. Bevis says he’s going to close his eyes and when he opens them he wants Hempstead to be gone.
Hempstead says he’s not a delusion. He’s there to help Bevis with assistance by small, minor miracles. So where the hell were you when he was getting fired? A chandelier starts to very slowly descend over Bevis’ head. Hempstead snaps his fingers and it goes back to where it belongs. Then he says “Watched over. Get the picture?” Hempstead points out that Bevis had an uncomfortable time of it lately, getting fired from his job, yadda yadda. Bevis says that Mr. Peckinpaugh doesn’t like zither music. I don’t think I’ve ever heard zither music so I can’t say if it’s any good or not. Hempstead says they’ll go back to that morning and make it a little better. Bevis gets excited and says they can do that? Hempstead says of course, they’ll make some changes of course.
The first thing Hempstead changes are Bevis’ clothes from a loud checker pattern into a nice black suit. Bevis doesn’t like it, he says he looks like an undertaker. Hempstead walks through the door and for some reason Bevis thinks he can. Of course he runs into the door. Sooo funny.
Re-starting the day. Bevis goes downstairs and tries to pet the puppy but it growls at him. He says hello to the same young lady as earlier but she’s very cold to him. Bevis goes to slide down the banister but Hempstead says nu-uh. The land-lady is really nice to him, however. He tries to play football with the kids but they ignore him. He says hi to the fruit vendor and asks what about his apple. Tony tells him to bug off. He looks for his Rickenbacker but now he’s got a fancy new car. But Bevis liked his Rickenbacker. Dang it, he likes giving the neighborhood kids a face full of exhaust. Hempstead says that to have his new life Bevis has to give up his eccentricities. Although inviting the carolers to work did get Bevis some approval from “The Organizatiion’. Apparently God is the mafia.
They go to his work and Bevis says someone has cleared off his desk. Hempstead tells him no such thing and says “you’ll see” and teleports away. Bevis says hello to everyone but they ignore him. He asks Margaret where all of his stuff is but she doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Mr. Peckinpaugh comes out beaming at Bevis and says that Bevis has just gotten a raise to ten dollars a week and that his work has been superb. Uhh, is that a good idea? To announce raises like that?
Bevis freaks out and runs away. Bevis doesn’t want a raise. He wants to go home and play football with the neighborhood kids. Hempstead says that’s not going to happen. Bevis leaves in the elevator. Hempstead asks Bevis to level with him and tell him what it is that Bevis really wants. Hempstead doesn’t ‘get’ Bevis. He’s used to Bevis’s with big dreams. He’s used to Big Bevis’ (heh heh). Bevis say he doesn’t want to seem ungrateful but he wants his old like. He goes into a long monologue about how his dreams are worth more than $10.00 a week.
So, Bevis goes back to his own life, fired, eviction and all. Little things start changing like a police officer going to give him a ticket for parking in front of the hydrant and the hydrant moves in front of another car. And that’s it. He makes plans to get another job and apartment and finish the model ship and I am so done with this episode. I’ll let Serling take it from here.
Mr. James B.W. Bevis, who believes in a magic all his own. The magic of a child’s smile, the magic of liking and being liked. The strange and wondrous mysticism that is the simple act of living. Mr. James B.W. Bevis, specie of 20th century male who has his own private and special Twilight Zone.
Ugh, this episode is so annoying. So, apparently, you can’t be a good person with a little bit of money and being responsible. Thank Cthulhu that the next episode is The After-Hours, which is an excellent episode.
Join us for next week’s episode: The After-Hours