Mr. Dingle the Strong
Luther Dingle – Burgess Meredith
Anthony O’Toole – James Westerfield
Joseph J. Callahan – Edward Ryder
1st Martian – Douglas Spencer
2nd Martian – Michael Fox
1st Venusian – Donald Losby
2nd Venusian – Greg Irwin
Jason Abernathy – James Millhollin
Bettor – Don Rickles
I was going to skip this one but it has Burgess Meredith in it and it would be out of order. It’s one of the few that is just…blah. Anyways, here we go.
Uniquely American institution, the neighborhood bar. Reading left to right are Anthony O’Toole – Proprietor, who waters his drinks like geraniums but who stands foursquare for peace and quiet and for booths for ladies. This is Mr. Joseph J. Callahan an unregistered bookie whose entire life is any sporting event with two sides and a set of odds. His idea of a meeting at the summit is any dialogue between a catcher and a pitcher with more than one man on base. And this animated citizen is every anonymous bettor who ever dropped the rent money on a horse race, a prize fight or a floating crap game and who took out his frustrations and his insolvency on any vulnerable fellow barstool companion within arm’s and fist’s reach. And this is Mr. Luther Dingle, a vacuum cleaner salesman whose volume of business is roughly that of a valet at a hobo convention. He’s a consummate failure in almost everything but is a good listener and has a prominent jaw.
The aforementioned bookie and bettor seem to be in the midst of an argument. The bettor doesn’t want to pay off for what he considers a bum call. The bookie says the call was good and to pay up. This whole argument is over $5.00. If you don’t have the five bucks here’s a word of advice: Don’t bet. The bettor calls the bookie a cheat and this ticks off Callahan, the bookie. Callahan throws down his coat and gives Don Rickles about five seconds to take it back before creaming him. Mr. O’Toole, the proprietor, interrupts and tells Callahan that if he starts a fight then he’s out of there. Callahan takes offense to this as well and asks why the owner doesn’t threaten Don Rickles. He’s a no good welsher and Rickles’ father still owes Callahan’s father from the Tunney prizefight. Again Rickles says it was a bum call. Then he drags Mr. Dingle into the argument, asking him if he’d seen the fight in question. Then he goes on from that to the call in question from the ballgame the night before.
He asks Mr. Dingle if he saw the game. Mr. Dingle says that indeed, he did see the game and it was an excellent defensive play. Dickles grabs Mr. Dingle by the lapels and asks him if it was a foul or fair ball. Mr. Dingle says that the ball did indeed fall into fair territory. This pleases Callahan but Dickles says that Dingle is calling him a liar. Dickles gives him the ‘opportunity’ to fix his story but in the middle of talking, before he even says anything, Dickles punches Mr. Dingle in the jaw. O’Toole asks why Dickles is always hitting Mr. Dingle, that he hit him the week before and the week before that. So why not throw the Dickles out of the bar? He seems more trouble than he’s worth. Dickles says that Mr. Dingle is always disagreeing with him and calling him a liar. He’s got his honour to think of.
Callahan says that Dickles doesn’t have any honour and he’s so crooked that when he dies they’ll have to screw him into the ground. Dickles grabs Mr. Dingle and asks him if he thinks Dickles is crooked. I’ll say it. You’re crooked and you’re a dick. Instead of being a stand-up guy the bartender asks why Mr. Dingle can’t be neutral. Yeah. Because it’s his fault. Callahan and Dickles are bumping Mr. Dingle back and forth, still arguing about who’s the cheat. As they’re arguing a couple of Martians come in to observe.
And these two unseen gentlemen are visitors from outer space. They’re about to alter the destiny of Luther Dingle by leaving him a legacy, the kind you can’t hardly find no more. In just a moment a sad-faced, perennial punching bag who missed even the caboose of life’s gravy train, will take a short constitutional into that most unpredictable region that we refer to as the Twilight Zone.
The guys are still arguing over Mr. Dingle. The Martians are watching the exchange. Mr. Dingle looks a bit dizzy by now. The Martians say that the human are jerky looking creatures. We also only have one head. Can you imagine how much reviewing we’d get done if we had two heads? Lilyn would be an unstoppable force! The Left Head gets Mr. Dingle’s waves through his antenna and satellite dish on his head. Left Head reads Mr. Dingle as an abject coward who does not even possess minimum Earthling muscles. I’d have to disagree on the coward part. He comes to the same bar, knowing Dickles will be there and knowing he’ll get dragged into an argument. and he always tells the truth even though he knows he’ll get hit for it. I wouldn’t call that cowardly. Obtuse, maybe. Find a different bar, dude! Right Head asks Left Head if he plans on giving Mr. Dingle super-strength and Left Head says yes, they haven’t found anyone weaker. Wow. That’s pretty weak. They decide to give him 11 secograms of atomic weight. Whatever that is. Science! I guess. Whatever it is should make him 300 times stronger than the average human. They send a call to their contact through Right Head’s radio-head-thingy.
Meanwhile the insanely boring argument goes on. And all it earns Mr. Dingle is is another punch to the jaw. Bartender O’Toole has finally had enough, darn it! He pulls Dickles away and says if he ‘roughhouses’ one more time in there he’s not letting Dickles back in. Wow. Way to tell him. The Martians watch this exchange and decide to give it to Mr. Dingle, now. Right Head pushes a button on the front of…them and set off swirly light bulbs. Presumably giving Mr. Dingle the super-strength. O’Toole helps Mr. Dingle up. Mr. Dingle looks a bit dazed but whether it’s from the punch or the Martians I’m not sure. O’Toole tells Mr. Dingle that there will always be guys who get assaulted for having the audacity to prefer a certain team or player so all Mr. Dingle should do is smile or nod when anyone asks him who he likes. Mr. Dingle makes a weird face and O’Toole asks him what’s wrong. Mr. Dingle says he doesn’t know but he feels funny.
Mr. Dingle picks up his vacuum and almost throws it into the air. Because he’s strong now, get it?? Then he launches into a sales pitch saying a vacuum as light as that will lengthen the life of that wonderful partner of the American home…the housewife. Ugh. He’s surprised by its lightness. It does not look like a vacuum cleaner, it looks like an oil lamp. Mr. Dingle goes to leave and accidentally tears the door from the hinges. O’Toole comes over and says he thought Mr. Dingle was a nice guy! Why’s he tearing his door up? Ok, Mr. Dingle accidentally pops a door off its hinges and he’s a jerk but the guy who keeps decking his customers gets a mild threat. Mr. Dingle says that he’s mystified and heads out of the door. Dickles and Callahan watch, stunned. Callahan picks up a shot, takes a sip and throws the shotglass over his shoulder. Funny.
Mr. Dingle is walking down the street. To sell his one vacuum cleaner. As he heads up the walk a kid stops him and says “Are you back again? My old man said he’d punch you in the nose if you came around again”. God these people are assholes. Oh, wait. It’s supposed to be funny. Ha. Ha. Mr. Dingle says he has the wrong house and heads acros the street. As he does the brat throws his football at Mr. Dingle’s head, knocking his hat off. Mr. Dingle is mildly annoyed and says “that’s not the best of all possible manners, is it?” The kid tells him to “go away, you creep and give me my ball back”. Screw you, you brat! Ahem, anyways, Mr. Dingle throws it and it flies really, really far. A house painter is so stunned he falls off his ladder and the ball crashes through someone’s window and door and wall. Now the brat’s all nice to him, wanting to know where he learned to throw a ball like that. Mr. Dingle is flabberghasted.
He hails a taxi (that just happens to be cruising suburban small town street at that moment). He goes to get in and tears the handle off the door. When he leans in to hand the handle back he tips the car on its side. The house painter falls down his ladder again. Ugh. Is it over yet? Even Burgess Meredith can barely save this episode. He runs off to sit by himself on a bench in the park. A young woman with a pram sits down next to him. He turns to talk to her saying “Excuse me, miss?” When she turns to him he says he’s “not a masher, he doesn’t want her to think he’s a masher”. I have no idea what a “masher” is. I’m assuming it has something to do with dating but I don’t know what. I also came across it in the story ‘The Yellow Sign’ by Robert W. Chambers. A young lady in it says she made a ‘mash’.
Anyways, he asks her if she’d mind answering a question and she says it depends. He asks her if “looking at him in a perfunctory, cursory first surveil” does he look abnormal. She says not at all, unless he intends on using his vacuum in the park. He says up until a few hours ago he sold those. So, did he quit when we weren’t watching? He also says he was a miserable salesman. She listens politely as he goes on about his vacuum salesmanship. He says he fully expects to be fired but right now that’s the least of his troubles. Then he politely asks if she wouldn’t mind hearing the worst of his troubles. At least e asks and doesn’t just assume she’d be thrilled to hear. She tells him to go ahead and he says “Watch”. Then he runs around behind the bench and picks it up. Naturally she freaks out. He puts her down and then picks up a rock and breaks it in two. A reporter (who just happens to be in the area, naturally) runs over and asks Mr. Dingle to break the rock again. He also wants to know what the gag is. Mr. Dingle says there’s no gag and breaks the rock again. The reporter says he’s got to get this in the paper. Mr. Dingle picks up a statue with one hand and asks how that is?
He’s made the front page with a picture of the statue lifting and an accompanying picture of two lovelies feeling his biceps. It slides under his door as Mr. Dingle is fast asleep. His alarm clock goes off and he squishes it trying to turn it off. He does a weird little walk over to his dresser and checks out his muscles in the mirror. He picks up a very thick phone book and tears it in half, looking very pleased with himself.
Back at the neighborhood bar Mr. Dingle is sitting at his usual table with a crowd around him. One guy is trying to pitch him for the circus and another guy is trying to pitch television. Apparently he’s the embodiment of every American male’s dream. Uh-huh. Another guy pops in, trying to get Mr. Dingle to sign with him to be a boxer. That seems a little dangerous. Someone in the back asks everyone to clear out from around Mr. Dingle (who, through all of this looks slightly bemused) and they trundle in a huge camera and lights. Speaking into the camera he introduces himself as Jonathan Abernathy with the show TV Probes the Unusual. Catchy. He says they’re there to see Mr. Dingle, the world’s strongest man. Mr. Abernathy seems a little doubtful as he looks at Mr. Dingle. Abernathy asks for a demonstration and Mr. Dingle asks Mr. O’Toole if he minds. O’Toole is very happy with all of the business this is bringing in so he tells Mr. Dingle to go ahead.
He bows to the camera and then shows off his arm. Then punches a hole in the wall. Then he draws an X on the table with his finger and then hits the table, breaking it. Then it’s tearing a barstool out of the floor with one finger. walking by he eyeballs Dickles who gets a bit nervous. Mr. Dingle shoves Dickles’ cigar in his mouth and then picks him up and twirls him over his head.
The Martians are watching again. Right Head asks if that’s enough. Left Head agrees, saying it was a waste because he’s only using his strength for petty exhibition. They agree to give him thirty seconds more and then take it away. Right Head says yes, then they should be off. They have three planets on tomorrow’s itinerary and one should be particularly interesting. It’s a planet of women only. Mr. Dingle is saying that he’s going to raise the building. So he goes under a truss and starts to lift. Of course it’s at this moment that they take away his strength. Mr. Dingle gets a weird look and goes over to take a drink out of a random shotglass sitting on the counter. He tries to lift a barstool but cannot. Everyone starts to laugh and call him a fake. He tries to do a few more things and fails. Dickles comes over and twists Mr. Dingle’s nose and starts to pull back to punch him. Wow, aren’t we a big man? O’Toole stops him (about time) and tells everyone to lay off of poor Dingle. Then he kicks everyone out.
As the Martians go to leave some other aliens come in. They introduce themselves as Venusians and say they’re there doing experiments as well. They chat a bit and the Venusians say that they’re there to introduce extreme intelligence. The Venusians ask the Martians if they’ve found any interesting subjects. The Martians nod to Dingle. They say he’s sub-physical so they wouldn’t be surprised if he were sub-mental, too. Because those two things are connected…somehow? The Venusians do their weird sideways scuttle over to Dingle. They chat about Dingle for a bit and decide to give him 500 times the general mental intelligence. They ‘ray’ him and Mr. Dingle makes doofy faces.
The other three are over watching television, sounds like a baseball game. Callahan and Dickles are betting and Dickles asks Mr. Dingle what he thinks they’ll do. Mr. Dingle starts spouting math type stuff with probabilities and whatnot. He’s smart! now. Blah blah blah, he calls that the guy will hit a home run. And, what do ya know, he does!
Exit Mr. Luther Dingle, formerly vacuum cleaner salesman, strongest man on Earth and now, mental giant. These latter powers will very likely be eliminated before too long. But Mr. Dingle has an appeal to extra-terrestrial note-takers as well as to frustrated and insolvent bet-losers. Offhand, I’d say that he was in for a great deal of extremely odd periods, simply because there are so many inhabited planets who send down observers and also because, of course, Mr. Dingle lives his life with one foot in his mouth and the other in the Twilight Zone.
Yeah, not a favorite of mine. I always wondered about the ‘booths for ladies’ thing. I came across it in an older movie, too. A character says “They’ve got booths and they stomp for ladies”. And I have no clue what that means.
Join us for next week’s Twilight Zone Tuesday – Static