003 – Mr. Denton on Doomsday

Original air date – 10/16/59

Written by Rod Serling  |  Directed by Allen Reisner

Starring Dan Duryea, Martin Landau, Doug McClure, Malcolm Atterbury, Jeanne Cooper, Ken Lynch, Arthur Batanides, Robert Burton, Bill Erwin

When I was about to start watching Mr. Denton on Doomsday, I didn’t remember what it was about. My Twilight-Zone-walking-encyclopedia of a husband walked by and said, “You’re going to enjoy this.” I thought, ‘Goody, another good show and I don’t remember the story.’ It’s like one of those rare times when you want to have your memory wiped out in order to watch a good show over again.

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But as soon as the the starry dark sky of title credits panned down to reveal a parched landscape and a horse-drawn wagon in the midground, I knew my husband was probably just being sarcastic and that I was screwed for the next 25 minutes. He knows that westerns is one of my least favorite genres, but I’d have to forge ahead which is the the whole point of this blog – to watch every single episode. So let’s make this a quick one today.

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Al Denton (Dan Duryea) was a gunslinger (is that, like, a job?) who is now retired to become the town drunk because he fatally shot a 16-year-old boy years ago. On this fateful day, he finds a gun and is challenged by Hotaling (the town bully played by Martin Landau) to a duel. That same time, we see a man, who looks like a snake oil salesman, whose name must be Henry J. Fate because his carriage bears the words “Dealer of Everything Henry J. Fate.”

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With Fate staring at Al, Al’s gun automatically fires out some shots, one of which subdues Hotaling. And faster than a wild stallion, Al finds himself the unwilling focus of every hotshot in the wild west again.

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One night as Al is getting ready for another duel, Fate gives Al a bottle of elixir which, with a sip, guarantees ten seconds of accuracy.

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Al enters the saloon to meet his young gunslinger. As Al drinks in his elixir, he notices his opponent also drinking from a similar bottle. Both draw their guns and shoot at each other’s hands. The hand jury will prevent both men from shooting again. Al is free from having to kill another soul.

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The reason I don’t like westerns or spaghetti westerns is because I just don’t get the savagery of the era. I remember, as a little girl, being dragged with my family to sit in movie theaters watching the Clint Eastwood westerns (films were not rated in Thailand and most of the Asian countries at that time) and wondered who in his right mind would live in this kind of barbaric world where your worth was measured by how fast your could draw your gun. To my dismay, this gun-drawing continues in this country to this day and not many people are trying to put a stop to it. Just about a month ago, while I was in Bangkok visiting my dad, one of his friends asked me during one of my dad’s dinner gatherings, “Do you think America is barbaric?” I, who am now married to an American and raising an American daughter, often find myself taking the middle ground when comparing my homeland (Hong Kong and Thailand) and my adopted home (United States). That night, all I could say was “well, America was originally the wild west…”

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