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Twilight Zone: Man in the Bottle (1960)

Reviewed by Geno McGahee
“I can offer you four wishes with a guaranteed performance.”—Genie (Joseph Ruskin)

Arthur Castle (Luther Adler) and his wife Edna (Vivi Janiss) own an antique shop and are not doing very well financially.  Arthur’s father owned it before him and his grandfather owned it before his father and now it was his and all three of them never were able to keep their heads above water.  He even refers to it as a “monument to failure,” and he is near bankruptcy.  That doesn’t change his good heart, however, as he buys what he believes to be an empty wine bottle from Mrs. Gumley (Lisa Golm), only because she is so poor and needs the money.  This is more than a wine bottle, however, and Arthur and Edna are going to get more than they bargained for. 

During one of Arthur’s angry outbursts concerning the bills and how life has basically shat on him, he knocks down the wine bottle and unleashes a genie.  The Genie (Joseph Ruskin) appears and offers the couple four wishes and a guarantee on the performance. 

This is a tale that sort of hits everyone, I think.  Who doesn’t want the chance to live on easy street, but this is the Twilight Zone and you are not going to get away that easily.  Once the couple starts wishing, the genie only lives up to the wish and everything begins to backfire upon them.  When they get money, the tax collector arrives to take his share…an absurdly large share.  When Arthur wants power, he is sent to Nazi Germany.  It makes you think of that saying: “Be careful what you wish for.  You might just get it.”  It’s a much better saying than: “It’s not who you know, it’s who you blow.” 

I really loved this tale.  I love any story that shows the pitfalls of free money.  The story is fantastic and it shows how Rod Serling can take a topic like a Genie and turn it into an interesting and adult oriented tale.  The acting was top notch, but I do have one question.  Vivi Janiss was in “The Fever” and was married to Franklin (Everett Sloane).  Now, did she leave poor Franklin for this guy Arthur?  I know that you might argue that Franklin is dead and she can knock boots with whomever she pleases, but I’m not 100% sure that Franklin didn’t survive that fall and how dare Arthur mow another guy’s lawn.  I wish that they made an episode where Franklin and his new friend, The Slot Machine, kick in the door of the antique shop and take back his woman. 

In the end, this is a near perfect tale with the twists and turns that we adore from the Twilight Zone.  

RSR Rating: 9/10.  Arthur, did you wish for Franklin’s Wife?

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