Escape Clause

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{law, state, case}
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David Wayne (Walter Bedeker)
Thomas Gomez (Mr. Cadwallader)
Virginia Christine (Ethel Bedeker)
Joe Flynn (insurance man)
Wendell Holmes (Bedeker's lawyer)

"Escape Clause" is an episode of the American television anthology series The Twilight Zone and aired on CBS on November 6, 1959.

Contents

Synopsis

A mean-spirited, abusive hypochondriac sells his soul to the Devil (appearing as a rotund rogue who calls himself "Cadwallader" here, as he likes the way the name rolls off his tongue) in exchange for immortality, adding enough conditions to keep him out of Satan's clutches forever. He is puzzled when the Evil One doesn't put up much of a fight, only stipulating an escape clause which allows the man to die if he so wishes, but doesn't worry too much about it.

He uses his newfound invulnerability to collect insurance money and cheap thrills by hurling himself into life-threatening accidents. Soon growing bored with this game, he confesses to the murder of his wife (who actually accidentally fell off the roof of their apartment building trying to stop him from jumping), hoping to experience the electric chair. His lawyer is too good, however, and he is sentenced to life in prison without any chance of parole. In the last scene, the Devil shows up and reminds the man of the escape clause. Realizing he will face eternity in prison if he doesn't use it, the man nods and suffers a fatal heart attack. The guard discovers his lifeless body and sighs, "Poor devil..."

Production information

"Escape Clause" was one of the three episodes-in-production mentioned by Rod Serling in his 1959 promotional film pitching the series to potential sponsors, the others being "The Lonely" and "Mr. Denton on Doomsday" (referred to as "Death, Destry, and Mr. Dingle").

Wendell Holmes played Walter Bedeker's lawyer. Holmes was a regular voice actor in the 1950s science fiction radio shows Dimension X and X Minus One.

Groundhog Day

Bedeker's enjoyment of his newfound invulnerability by hurling himself into life-threatening accidents would be replicated in a different context in the Bill Murray film, Groundhog Day.

Impact

"Here was a little gem. Good work, Rod Serling. This little piece about a hypochondriac who gets tangled up with an obese, clerical devil ranked with the best that has ever been accomplished in half-hour filmed television." —Excerpt from the Daily Variety review.

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