"Mr. Denton on Doomsday" is the third episode of the first season of The Twilight Zone, first broadcast in October of 1959. It starred veteran character actor Dan Duryea, and was one of the first television appearences of Martin Landau.
The story is set in the Old West, where a disheveled man (the titular Mr. Denton, played by Dan Duryea) is thrown into the street and forced to beg for a drink of alcohol. He is being bullied by a gang led by Dan Hotalling (played by Martin Landau). He picks himself off the ground to find a gun laying mysteriously by him. He picks it up and ends up (accidentally) winning a duel with the bully Dan. His backstory is then revealed: he was the "fastest gun in town", but after shooting a 16 year old boy who challenged him, he became an alcoholic. But the magic gun has allowed him to regain his self-respect. But when he is challenged again, what will happen? And what role does the mysterious peddler "Henry J. Fate" play in this?
Twilight was a "high concept" show, with the episodes usually revolving around a single notion. This episode involves a lot more character development, and a more complicated plot, which is somewhat unwieldy to describe.
Much like the first two episodes, this episode takes a classic American scene, The Old West, and attempts to place a mysterious edge on it. I think that despite good production and acting, it doesn't succeed as well as they do.
One of the problems with this episode, and the one most relevant to me watching Twilight Zone as a horror series, is that it conveys very little of the eerie. Like the first two episodes, it is brimming with 1950's American optimism, and even the brief suspense and mystery afforded by the presence of the mysterious traveler comes to an overly simple conclusion. Al Denton's problems with both alcohol and violence are treated with a literal magic bullet. And incidental to this, the gunshots in this story all strike people in the hand, causing no visible damage. I don't think it is possible to get shot in the hand and not bleed or show signs of pain.
So while this episode is well-produced and well-acted, it fails somewhat in coming to too quick of a conclusion, and by failing to include the eerieness and mystery that is the hallmark of the Twilight Zone.
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