013 – The Four of Us Are Dying

Original air date – 1/1/60

Based on short story by George Clayton Johnson  | Adapted by Rod Serling  |  Directed by John Brahm

Starring Harry Towne, Ross Martin, Philip Pine, Don Gordon, Peter Brocco, Beverly Garland, Bernard Fein

The Four of Us Are Dying (watch here on YouTube) was the first episode to air in 1960. Harry Towne played Arch Hammer, a con man with a supernatural gift: he can change his face to look identical to anyone in a photograph as long as he has time to concentrate on the image.

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It appears to be Hammer’s routine to check into a hotel room, unload clippings of news stories about recently dead guys from his suitcase and decide on who to become before setting off nto the night.

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On this particular night, Hammer transforms himself into a dead musician, Johnny Foster (Ross Martin). As Foster, he walks into a club and seduces Maggie (Beverly Garland), Foster’s ex-girlfriend who is overjoyed to see her boyfriend returned from the dead.

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Next, Hammer puts on the face of a dead mobster, Virgil Sterig (Phillip Pine), to extort money from the man (Bernard Fein) who killed him. Before he gets his money, the man’s bodyguards show up.

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With Sterig’s face, Hammer makes a hasty exit pursued by the bodyguards, only to run into a dead end alley. The bodyguards are closing in on him. With no photos in his possession, Hammond sees a poster of a boxer Andy Marshak (Don Gordon) on the wall and quickly transforms himself into Marshak before the bodyguards reach him.

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Safely disguised as Marshak, Hammer strolls out of the alley. There he comes face to face with an old man (Peter Brocco), who turns out to be Marshak’s father. It appears that Marshak is a horrible son who has hurt his family a great deal in the past. Hammer quickly gets away from the old man.

Back at the hotel, Hammer is visited by a cop who wants to take him back to the station for questioning. In order to make the escape, Hammer has no choice but to change himself to someone else’s likeness. Unfortunately, he has chosen the wrong person to be this time. As Marshak, he turns the corner from the hotel only to find Marshak’s father waiting for him down the street…with a gun. The old man opens fire at what he thinks is his son before Hammer has the chance to change his likeness one last time to save his life.

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The Four of Us Are Dying was originally a short story named All of Us Are Dying, written by George Clayton Johnson (Logan’s Run).  Like Richard Matheson and Charles Beaumont, Johnson also wrote many episodes for TTZ. Penny for Your Thoughts is among one of my favorites. That’s episode 52 and I’ll get to re-watch that one in a few months.

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