Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Production code: 173-3603
Writer: Rod Serling
Director: Mitchell Leisen
Walter Bedeker: David Wayne
Ethel Bedeker: Virginia Christine
A hypochondriac sells his soul to the devil in exchange for immortality. He uses it 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... hoping to get a ride on the electric chair. His lawyer makes a good case, however, and he is sentenced to life in prison.
- The following is an excerpt from Rod Serling's pitch to potential sponsors of his new show, The Twilight Zone. It was included as an extra on "Twilight Zone's" DVD release, and was transcribed by Matthew Cregg.
"Object in point here, a file cabinet containing a contract, all very legal and proper except the party of the first part in this case...well, what do we call him? He has a lot of names. Beelzebub, Mr. Scratch. Well, that happens to be the party of the first part in a somewhat charred contract. Only in our story, which we call "Escape Clause," his name is simply Mr. Cadwallader. As portrayed, he has all the charm of a well-tipped waiter. He makes a deal with a little man who has a psychotic fear of dying. It's really a simple contract. Mr. Cadwallader supplies the immortality and the little man supplies his soul. And then our little man proceeds to live it up, or down depending on the moral view. But he gets bored with immortality and he then proceeds to live a very out of the ordinary kind of a life. A life best described as simply violent. He was so bored with constantly being the only survivor. So, he now turns to homicide, happily aware that while a jury might convict him there isn't a single modus operandi that the state can use to put him away. The gas chamber? Impossible. They can't kill him. Hanging, electrocution, none of these things are operative on our little friend. He's immortal. But what happens, and we'd be most appreciative if you wouldn't tell this to your friends, is that a very good lawyer pleads his case and gets him life imprisonment. Poor little guy. Yeah, he has immortality. He can live forever, right here, behind these things. We'll hold up on telling you the ending. Just think about it. It'll come to you."
Death is an inescapable part of life, a theme also explored in One for the Angels and Nothing in the Dark .
- "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.
- Zicree, Marc Scott: The Twilight Zone Companion. Sillman-James Press, 1982 (second edition)
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