017 – The Fever

Original air date – 1/29/60

Written by Rod Serling  |  Directed by Robert Florey

Starring Everette Sloane, Vivi Janiss

The Fever (watch it here on Imdb) is about what happens at any casino when you find yourself obsessing about winning it big, sweating from the fatigue of repeatedly cranking a slot machine and from knowing how much trouble you have got yourself into now that winning big, let alone breaking even, is a remote possibility.

In this Twilight Zone episode, we follow Franklin and Flora Gibbs, an elderly couple who win a contest for a trip to Las Vegas. Upon their arrival, Franklin acts like a curmudgeon who seems to have made up his mind not to enjoy a single minute of this trip. He has determined that both he and Flora are not going to waste any money gambling.

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His determination is for a good reason because it doesn’t take long before we find Franklin waking up in the middle of the night in their hotel room only to obsessively walk down to the casino for what turns out to be an all night and day session of playing the one-armed bandit.

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Cashing check after check only to drop coin after coin into the machine and lose more than win (apparently Franklin doesn’t know that you don’t really get ahead by playing slots), Flora tries to pull him away to no avail. The only thing that stops Franklin is when the arm of the machine gets stuck which makes him so furious that he tries to destroy the machine until security guards come to escort him out of the casino.

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Back in the hotel, Franklin hears a voice in his head that sounds strangely like coins dropping in a slot machine payout calling his name over and over again.

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Could the voice be the slot machine or just an hallucination brought on by fatigue? After all, Franklin didn’t sleep a wink in the past 24 hours. Only Rod Serling would know for sure, an anecdote connected to this episode recounts how Serling took a trip to Vegas with his wife when TTZ first launched and found himself similarly obsessed to winning at the slot machine, which inspired the writing of this episode. Because this is a TTZ world, the episode concludes with the slot machine comes alive and inches into the hotel room beckoning Franklin with it’s jangly metallic voice. Franklin backs out the hotel window and falls off to the concrete sidewalk below, finally free of the machine and all that there is left of his retirement life. Fortunately for us, Serling did not end up like Franklin or I’d be watching and blogging The Alfred Hitchcock Presents in chronological order instead of TTZ right now.

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A heavy-handed cautionary tale against losing your soul at gambling, this TTZ episode is thin on plot. Directed by Robert Florey, who previously directed the 9th TTZ episode in the series, Perchance to Dream, was a prolific director during his four-decade career making over 50 films and a number of television works in his later life, Florey was “widely acclaimed as the best director working in major studio B-films.” Returning one more time for the fifth season, Florey will direct his last episode for TTZ for a more memorable The Long Morrow.

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