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Recap / The Twilight Zone S 1 E 13 The Four Of Us Are Dying

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"I just need a little more time!"

Rod Serling: His name is Arch Hammer. He's thirty-six years old. He's been a salesman, a dispatcher, a truck driver, a con man, a bookie, and a part-time bartender. This is a cheap man, a nickel and dime man, with a cheapness that goes past the suit and the shirt; a cheapness of mind, a cheapness of taste, a tawdry little shine on the seat of his conscience, and a dark room squint at a world whose sunlight has never gotten through to him. But Mr. Hammer has a talent, discovered at a very early age. This much he does have. He can make his face change. He can twitch a muscle, move a jaw, concentrate on the cast of his eyes, and he can change his face. He can change it into anything he wants. Mr. Archie Hammer, jack of all trades, has just checked in a three-eighty a night, with two bags, some newspaper clippings, a most odd talent, and a master plan to destroy some lives.
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Air date: January 1, 1960

A man called Arch Hammer (Harry Townes) has a special talent—he can change his face to fit the appearance of any man he sees. First of all, he takes the image of a murdered trumpet player, Johnny Foster (Ross Martin), in order to steal his girlfriend Maggie (Beverly Garland). To cover the finances, he impersonates Virgil Sterig (Philip Pine), a dead gangster, and demands money from the mob member who put the hit on him. After Hammer leaves, the gangster sends two men after him. To evade them, Hammer changes his face yet again so that he now resembles Andy Marshak (Don Gordon), a boxer. However, as he emerges from the alley, he meets Marshak's father (Peter Brocco), who is none too pleased with the things his 'son' did...and a later encounter will teach Hammer that this business is not all it's cracked up to be.

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Rod Serling: He was Arch Hammer, a cheap little man who just checked in. He was Johnny Foster, who played a trumpet and was loved beyond words. He was Virgil Sterig, with money in his pocket. He was Andy Marshak, who got some of his agony back on a sidewalk in front of a cheap hotel. Hammer, Foster, Sterig, Marshak, and all four of them were dying.

The Four of Us Are Troping:

  • Adaptational Superpower Change: In the original short story, Hammer's shapeshifting involuntarily causes him to appear as whoever a person wants to see the most. Here, he has to change through concentration.
  • Bed Trick: Although he never gets the chance to actually get her into bed, Arch Hammer's first face disguise is meant to seduce the dead trumpeter Johnny Foster's girlfriend Maggie. She agrees to go away with him.
  • Heroic BSoD: Maggie tells the disguised Hammer how she slumped into depression after Foster's death. She still went to work, but the only songs she could sing were unhappy ones.
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  • Honor-Related Abuse: Marshak's father had been looking for the boxer for some time because Marshak brought dishonor to his family for some unspecified crime. Unfortunately for Hammer, that means shooting the "son".
  • I Have No Son!: Marshak's father tells the disguised Hammer that he used to be his son, but he's nothing to him after whatever unspecified nasty thing he did.
  • Karmic Death/Laser-Guided Karma:
    • In the original short story, Hammer's undoing comes when a gas station attendant sees him as the man he's spent the last ten years wanting to kill.
    • In the episode, he's shot when he takes on the appearance of Mr. Marshak's wayward son Andy, who "broke his mother's heart and did dirt to a sweet little girl."
  • The Mafia: Arch Hammer imitates Virgil Sterig, a gangster who was murdered on the orders of the mob boss Penell.
  • Noodle Incident: While Andy Marshak was stated to have broken his mother's heart and "did dirt" to a girl who was devoted to him. It's never said how he specifically did either. The original story doesn't tells us why the attendant wants to kill the man he wishes to, either.
  • Shapeshifting Seducer: Hammer turns into torch singer Maggie's dead boyfriend Johnny to get her to come with him.
  • Shapeshifter Swan Song: Hammer changes from face to face when he is shot by Marshak's father.
  • Spanner in the Works:
    • Hammer willingly shape-shifted to Marshak in order for him to get away from people trying to hurt him and it looked he was going to do a clean escape... and then some random guy (later revealed to be Marshak's father) blows him away instead (for a completely unrelated reason).
    • The original story has Hammer walking away with a lot of crimes only to run into a schmuck that had a very obsessive desire to kill some guy that wronged him when he stopped for some gas.
  • Villain Protagonist: Hammer. Serling notes that he's a bad guy in the introduction.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: Hammer's ability — he can change his appearance if he concentrates.

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