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Recap / The Twilight Zone 1959 S 1 E 3 Mr Denton On Doomsday

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"Just a service of Henry J. Fate, just so you might remember the night Fate stepped in".

Rod Serling: Portrait of a town drunk named Al Denton. This is a man who's begun his dying early—a long agonizing route through a maze of bottles. Al Denton, who would probably give an arm or a leg or a part of his soul to have another chance, to be able to rise up and shake the dirt from his body and the bad dreams that infest his consciousness. In the parlance of the times, this is a peddler, a rather fanciful-looking little man in a black frock coat. And this is the third principal character of our story. Its function? Perhaps to give Mister Al Denton his second chance.
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Air date: Oct. 16, 1959

Al Denton (Dan Duryea) is the drunken laughingstock of the town, so desperate for beer that he even goes as far as singing drunken songs at the bequest of young bullies led by Dan Hotaling (Martin Landau). One day he finds a gun lying on the ground. The bullies take notice and try to goad him into a shoot-out, as Denton used to be hot stuff. Denton tries explaining that he doesn't have it anymore, but the gun goes off, shooting the bully's gun out of his hands. While this wins the town's respect and awe, Denton feels he's gotten himself in trouble.

Denton admits that his alcoholism was born of fending off an endless parade of challengers, trying to build their reps by taking him on, the last being a teenage boy. Denton knows that it's going to happen all over again, and is proven right when he receives a challenge from one Pete Grant (Doug McClure). Denton tries to practice, but all he learns is that his earlier feat was just a fluke. The night before the duel, Denton meets a peddler by the name of Henry J. Fate (Malcolm J. Atterbury), who goads him into buying an elixir that will make him an expert marksman for about 10 seconds. Denton buys it, but knows that he's just prolonged his end by about one duel.

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At the saloon, Denton meets Grant, a young hopeful who thinks he's unbeatable. Denton sees that Grant has a bottle like the one he bought from Fate, and realizes that they've been set up. The two gunslingers shoot their guns out of each others' hands, causing minor damage that has ended their ability to pull a trigger. Denton tells his young rival that they've been given a chance for a better life, as now neither of them will be able to shoot a gun in anger. Before riding out of town, Fate tips his hat to Denton.

Rod Serling: Mr. Henry Fate, dealer in utensils and pots and pans, linaments and potions. A fanciful little man in a black frock coat who can help a man climbing out of a pit—or another man from falling into one. Because, you see, Fate can work that way...in the Twilight Zone.


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Mr. Denton on Tropesday:

  • The Alcoholic: Al Denton was once the fastest gun in the West but he became a severe alcoholic when the latest man to challenge him turned out to be a sixteen-year-old boy. Like all of the others, he killed him. Denton gets a second change from a peddler named Henry J. Fate.
  • Blasting It Out of Their Hands: A subversion of the usual effects of this trope, as both men suffer permanent damage. Grant's reaction isn't clear, but Denton is thrilled to finally be free from having to prove himself.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Downplayed. Denton didn't mean for his new gun to scare Hotaling, but after a shot or two, he makes it clear that they should stop demeaning him if they know what's good for them.
  • Dramatic Gun Cock: Hotaling does this prior to his second and more serious showdown with Denton.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Denton fell into a habit of trying to drink away his bad memories of killing challengers as a gunslinger at some point in the past.
  • The Gunfighter Wannabe: Grant is the latest in a long, long line (with the implication that said line is what broke Denton to begin with).
  • He’s Back: "Don't call me Rummy ever again!!"
  • How the Mighty Have Fallen: Before he found the gun Fate left for him, Denton was once a famed gunslinger who men for miles around would challenge to a duel. After a moral dilemma caused by shooting a young man dead, Denton's been reduced to a drunkard who sings to entertain the bullies who pick on him.
  • Jerkass: Hotaling, who enjoys tormenting Denton way too much.
  • Kick the Dog: Hotaling gets his kicks making Denton feel like dirt, begging like a dog for free alcohol and singing just to amuse him and his friends.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Is Fate just a normal peddler, or something more?
  • Meaningful Name: The peddler is Henry J. Fate.
  • Miss Kitty: Liz Smith (Jeanne Cooper), a saloon girl who takes pity on Denton.
  • The Perils of Being the Best: Mr. Denton, it turns out, used to be a famous gunslinger, but all the challenges from would-be-gunfighters who wanted to beat him to take his fame for themselves (particularly the young ones) and the subsequent deaths on his conscience psychologically broke him and turned him into a shell of his former self.
  • Sore Loser: Hotaling goads Denton to draw against him, and the former gunslinger winds up outdrawing him. Instead of just accepting his loss, Hotaling follows Denton into the saloon and threatens to shoot him in the stomach, with only another Fate-induced quick draw keeping him from doing so.
  • The Wild West: Land of six-guns, shootouts, bars with batwing doors...
  • Weird West: A place where mysterious strangers may give you magic potions and conjure guns out of nowhere.

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