Twilight Zone Tuesday – The After Hours

The After – Hours

Marsha White – Anne Francis
Mr. Armbruster – James Millhollin
Mr. Sloan – Patrick Whyte
Saleswoman – Elizabeth Allen
Elevator Man – John Conwell
Ms. Keevers – Nancy Rennick
Narrator – Rod Serling

An attractive young lady is wandering through a department store, looking around. She walks up to a counter and the attendant asks if she can help the young woman. She replies, “No, that’s not what I’m looking for.” Ok, that’s a weird answer to that question. She wanders around a bit and gets in line for the elevator. There’s quite a line and she hears a man asking if she’s going up and she walks over and gets in. Oddly, none of the other shoppers get in with her or even seem to hear the man.

For some reason she’s standing really close to him. They’re the only ones in the elevator and she’s like right over his shoulder. He asks her what she’s looking for and she replies that she’s looking for gold thimbles, the ones the store advertised. He tells her that she’ll want Specialties. Before he closes the door she finally steps back from him. We get a shot of the elevator which says the building has floors B-G-M-3-4-5-6-7-8-R.

As the elevator ascends she’s back to lurking over his shoulder. Then she leans against the wall and says she’s not accustomed to such service. He doesn’t know what she means. She tells him there were a lot of people waiting for the elevator and she gets her own, private one. He tells her it’s an express elevator to the 9th Floor. The others are all locals at that time of day. She looks a bit confused.

Express elevator to the 9th floor of a department store, carrying Miss Marsha White on a most prosaic, ordinary run-of-the-mill errand.

The elevator marker shows it going past the ‘R’, to the presumed 9th Floor. The elevator man announces the floor and Marsha gets out but stops short. The entire floor looks bare. She turns back and says there must be some mistake, there’s nothing there. He doesn’t say anything, just slides the doors shut in her face.

Miss Marsha White on the 9th Floor, Specialties Department, looking for a gold thimble. The odds are that she’ll find it. But there are even better odds that she’ll find something else because this isn’t just a department store. This happens to be the Twilight Zone.

Marsha walks around the empty showroom, looking a bit ticked off. From out of nowhere a voice asks her if she’s being helped. A very elegant looking brunette asks Marsha if she can show her something. Marsha looks a bit startled and says of course. She explains to the saleswoman that she’s looking for a golden thimble for her mother. It kind of sounds like something out of a fairy tale, doesn’t it? Especially since the saleswoman is very fairy tale looking herself. Kind of like a witch or an evil, handsome queen. Ok, done rambling, I promise!

The saleswoman tells Marsha that she might have something she’d like, follow her. The saleswoman keeps eye contact with Marsha the whole time she’s walking around the counter which is really creepy looking. She also has a slight smile on her face. She takes Marsha over to another set of display cases, empty except for a jewelry box holding a fancy looking thimble. The saleswoman tells Marsha that it’s 14-karat gold and quite distinctive looking. After a second the saleswoman says “Don’t you?” After she stares uncomfortably at Marsha for a minute Marsha agrees. Marsha says that it will do. The saleswoman asks if it will be a charge. For some reason this seems to confuse Marsha and the saleswoman asks again. This time Marsha says no, no she’ll pay for it. The saleswoman asks if Marsha would like it gift-wrapped. At first Marsha agrees but then changes her mind and snatches it up. She starts to walk away with it until the saleswoman reminds her of the payment.

She tells Marsha that it’s $25.00 even. Marsha kind of slams the money down but it doesn’t seem to bother the saleswoman. Marsha snatches up the thimble and starts to clip away. I would say stomp but you can’t stomp in heels and they make a sharp clipping sound when people walk quickly in them. So, she starts to clip off but stops and says “That’s odd”. The saleswoman looks a little peeved as Marsha walks away but when Marsha says “That’s odd” the saleswoman looks up with a slight smile and says, “What is it, Marsha?”

Marsha doesn’t notice it at first but says that it’s odd that the floor looks so empty but they happen to have the very thing she wants, a gold thimble. Finally she notices that, even though she didn’t introduce herself, the saleswoman knew her name. The lady apologizes for being so forward but Marsha blows that off and wants to know how the lady knew her name. The lady says that she must have seen her in the store before. Marsha says that’s impossible, she’s never seen the sales lady. Neither of their assertions make much sense. The sales lady may have seen Marsha around the store but unless Marsha were wearing a name tag then she probably wouldn’t know Marsha’s name. And just because Marsha has never seen the saleswoman before does not mean the saleswoman has never seen her.

Marsha says that she doesn’t want to make a big thing of it but what kind of place is this? All she wanted was one gold thimble and on this floor it’s entirely empty except for the one thing she wanted. So she’s unhappy that she got what she wanted? The saleswoman has either gotten annoyed or bored because she’s turned her back on Marsha.  Marsha says that maybe the lady is a bit more sophisticated than she but Marsha finds it downright weird. The lady finally turns around and tells Marsha to come again, anytime. She gives Marsha an Ice Queen stare until Marsha turns away and starts clipping off again. The Ice Queen calls her back, using Marsha’s last name. Which stops Marsha in mid-clip.

The saleswoman asks Marsha if she’s happy. This throws Marsha for a minute, then tells the saleswoman that it’s none of her business. The saleswoman laughs and says “Oh, really? It’s none of my business?” She says (quite sarcastically) that, fine, it’s none of my business, Miss White. This is the second time that Marsha has failed to notice that the saleswoman has used her last name as well. They stare at each other for a bit, Marsha looks confused and the saleswoman just smiles at her.  The saleswoman has a very cryptic smile and it’s a little creepy. Before Marsha can react, the doors slide open and the elevator man asks if she’s going down. Ok, Mr. Tyler, trying to get a little love in an elevator? Marsha tears her eyes away from the saleswoman and gets in the lift.

Mr. Tyler, the elevator operator (he’s credited as Elevator Operator so he’s now Mr. Tyler) has a look like he knows more than he’s letting on. He asks politely if she found what she was looking for. She says she did. That in fact, it was literally the only thing for sale on that floor. She says somebody in efficiency ought to look into how efficient devoting a whole floor to the sale of one gold thimble. I agree, it does seem like a waste of space but really, what’s it to her? She also says that someone should report the ‘oddball’sales lady there. Ok, she was kind of scary but she wasn’t that bad. I’ve run into a lot worse..

Looking at the thimble again, Marsha notices that not only is it scratched but it’s also dented. She shows it to Mr. Tyler who looks like he could care less.  He tells her that the Complaints Department is on the 3rd Floor.  She insists that he look at it again. “Complaints Department, 3rd Floor” is his only response. The doors open on the Complaints Floor. Marsha gives Mr. Tyler one last look and gets off. He stares after her for a moment and then closes the door.

When the door closes it fades to another door with a name plaque reading: Mr. Sloan, Manager. A skinny little guy is explaining to Mr. Sloan, he of the door, I presume. Skinny guy is telling Mr. Sloan that he explained that the only thimbles they have are in Gifts and if it’s damaged then they will replace it. Mr. Sloan wants to know why, if that’s the case, Mr. Armbruster is making such a big, hairy deal about it. Mr. Armbruster says the young woman didn’t get it in Gifts, she has a crazy story about buying it on the 9th Floor.

This catches Mr. Sloan’s attention and Mr. Armbruster gives a creepy little chuckle. Mr. Sloan points out the obvious. They don’t have a 9th Floor. Armbruster says he tried to tell her this but she insists she was taken to the 9th Floor and waited on by a strange woman. Armbruser tells Sloan that this young woman should know another ‘odd’ woman very well. Sloan says that he’ll talk to the young lady. He puts on his prettiest customer face and goes out to do so.

Sloan asks Marsha what seems to be the problem. She tells him that the thimble she just purchased is dented and scratched and hold it out for him to see. He agrees, then tells her to take it back to the Gifts Department. She tells him that she did not purchase it there but was taken to the 9th Floor. Sloan tells her that he doesn’t understand because they don’t have a 9th Floor. She insists that she was taken there and waited on by a very odd woman. She paid cash. Armbruster asks to see her receipt. This takes her aback a bit. She tells him that she didn’t get a receipt and that she paid cash. She might have gotten a receipt if she had waited one hot second. The lady was writing something out that looked like a receipt. Through the crowd she sees the back of the woman who waited on her and starts to call her.

As she’s speaking a man comes over and lifts the ‘odd’ woman up, revealing her to be a mannequin. Marsha is startled. It’s the exact image of the woman she talked to.

I’m guessing Marsha got a bit woozy and perhaps even fainted because the next scene a woman is telling Mr. Armbruster that the young lady is resting, perhaps even asleep. Armbruster tells her to wake Marsha up because they’re closing. He says if she comes back the next day they’ll give her an exchange or refund or whatever, anything to get the crazy lady out of their hair. As Ms. Keever goes to get the young lady she is called away to help wait on another customer and the clock shows us it’s 6, closing time.

At 6:30 Marsha awakens on a couch. Everything’s dark and she looks confused. So they actually forgot her? Ms. Keever got so caught up with her customer that she forgot a whole person? She walks out to the main floor and promptly gets startled by her reflection in the mirror. I’d like to say something snarky but truth is I’d probably shriek and hit the ceiling myself if I were startled by my reflection. She walks through the creepy and empty department store. Because they are creepy after closing time. Especially the ones with mannequins.She’s walking a lot more slowly now, trying to keep her heels from making a lot of noise. She finds the elevators and hits the button to call them. The first one is stuck on the Ground Floor, which makes sense. The second is stuck on the Fifth Floor, which is a little weird.

She sees the stairway and tries that but the doors to it are locked as well. She tries to keep her composure as she calls that she’s locked in there. I’ve got to say the actress does a great job at giving her voice the perfect mix of authority, pleading and embarrassment at finding herself locked in and forgotten. As she calls she starts to sound more frightened. Giving up on the door she runs back to the main area. She gets a little panicky as she runs around looking for someone.

She  forces herself to walk and as she walks by a mannequin she notices that its clothes are rustling and its purse is moving but she didn’t touch it. Backing away from it she accidentally bumps into another mannequin. This time a gentleman dressed in sporty clothes. When it falls she sees its face and realizes that it’s the Elevator Man. She slowly backs away from him and then begins running. She ends up at the other end of the room where there are two mannequin women, dressed in ball gowns.

She hears her name being called by the mannequins. I think at this point I would find the bed department, hop in a bed and pull the covers over my head until morning. They start saying things like “Who do you think you’re fooling” and “You know who you are”. What follows are a bunch of freaky close-ups of mannequins and them whispering to her. It is really creepy. Especially the guy mannequin and the close-ups of their painted eyes.

She starts crying and backs up to an elevator, which obligingly opens for her. The floor indicator shows it going past the R, heading for the dreaded 9th Floor. The door opens and Marsha is greeted by the mannequin of the odd woman who waited on her. Marsha crumples in a corner of the elevator and starts crying. The elegant lady comes up to her, alive now, and tells her “Forgive an observation, dear but you’re acting like a silly child”. The lady helps her up and Marsha kind of falls against her for a second, still crying. The other woman disentangles herself rather quickly and leads Marsha by the hands out into the room. Which I’m guessing is some kind of mannequin storage room.

As they walk in Marsha now has her head on the other woman’s shoulder. The other mannequins get off their pedestals to follow them. The music is pretty awesome here. It starts out creepy and a little like a funeral march but then lightens up to a bit more subtly lighter. She looks around at the former mannequins who are now people. The only really terrifying ones are the guys in the ski mask.

The elegant lady asks Marsha if she remembers now. They’ll help her. Marsha looks confused at first but slowly the truth seems to dawn on her and she says she seems to remember. She’s a mannequin. The lady tells her that it was Marsha’s turn to go away for a month and live with the outsiders. She was due back yesterday but she didn’t show up. The elegant lady is slightly cross because yesterday was her turn and now she’s delayed a day. Marsha apologizes and says she forgot. That when they’re out with the ‘real’ people everything seems different. As though they’re just like the outsiders. The elegant lady says there’s no serious harm done and she’s off for her month with the real people. All the manne-people see her to the door, except for Marsha and the elevator guy.

He asks her if she enjoyed herself and she smiles and says it was ever so much fun.she repeats it with a bit of wistfulness in her voice.

The next morning Armbruster is making his way through the sales floor, pompously trying to be friendly. He walks by the mannequin of Marsha and does a double-take, his eyes buggier than normal.

Marsha White in her normal and natural state. A wooden lady with a painted face. Who, one month out of the year, takes on the characteristics of someone as normal and as flesh and blood as you and I. But it makes you wonder, doesn’t it? Just how normal are we? Just who are the people we nod our hellos to as we pass on the street? A rather good question to ask, particularly in the Twilight Zone.

Even though it’s full of gaping plot holes this is still one of my favorite episodes. Because I’m curious. Where do they live? Do they eat? If they’re stuck in the clothes they’re dressed up in then it seems like the ski apparel guys would stand out a bit. As would the women dressed in bridal gowns and bathing suits. And a month seems kind of short. Maybe that’s as long as they can go for without the store people missing them? And where do they get their money?

Join us again on Twilight Zone Tuesday for next week’s episode: The Mighty Casey (warning: heavy snark storm next Tuesday)