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Recap / The Twilight Zone S 2 E 38 The Man In The Bottle

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Rod Serling: "Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Castle, gentle and infinitely patient people whose lives have been a hope chest with a rusty lock and a lost set of keys. But in just a moment that hope chest will be opened and an improbable phantom will try to bedeck the drabness of these two people's failure laden lives with the gold and precious stones of fulfillment. Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Castle, standing on the outskirts and about to enter the Twilight Zone."

Air date: October 7, 1960

Kindhearted Mr. Castle, a poor pawnshop owner, gets more than he bargained for when he accepts an older lady's trade of an old bottle for a few dollars. The bottle contains a genie capable of making their most impossible desires come true.

The Tropes in the Bottle:

  • Be Careful What You Wish For: A hard-up antiques dealer gives an equally destitute old woman a couple of bucks for an empty wine bottle she found in the trash. The bottle turns out to house a genie, who grants him four wishes. After using the first wish to have the genie prove his power by fixing a cracked glass display case, the shopkeeper uses the second to wish for a million dollars cash; after he and his wife have gotten the money and given a fair chunk of it away to their friends and neighbors, the couple are presented with a tax bill from the IRS, which leaves them with a mere $5. The shopkeeper then wishes to be made the leader of a powerful, modern foreign country, one who cannot be voted out of office; he finds himself turned into Adolf Hitler in his bunker at the end of World War II. He then uses his fourth and final wish to return to his old life, which now looks better to him than ever before... even after he accidentally re-breaks the glass case, leaving him completely back at square one.
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  • Bottle Episode: With the exception of one scene in Adolf Hitler's bunker, the episode takes place entirely in the Castles' pawnshop.
  • Exact Words: Mr. Castle does everything he could to make a wish that can't screw him over. After he and wife look at every possible downside or loopholes in the details, Mr. Castle wishes to be a leader of a powerful, foreign country that can't be voted of office in a contemporary setting. Unfortunately for him, the genie knows a leader who fits that description and places Mr. Castle in a time period closest to the present day (i.e. Battle of Berlin).
  • Face-Revealing Turn: After the genie grants Mr. Castle's third wish, it cuts to a crying leader with his head on the table while his subordinate screams at him about the war going outside. The sound of the bomb startles the leader and he turns his head to reveal... Mr. Castle as Adolf Hitler.
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  • Genie in a Bottle: It seems he can only come out every century plus one year.
  • Grail in the Garbage: The bottle with the genie looks like just an ordinary wine bottle, and even Mr. Castle thought it was just a useless piece of trash when he accepted it — though it doesn't really improve anything but his outlook.
  • Historical Domain Character: Adolf Hitler is used as a character (and Eva Braun is mentioned).
  • Jackass Genie: The genie clearly acts to ruin Mr. Castle's wishes. The first time he's a jackass by inaction, neglecting to mention the tax issue. Then, after Mr. Castle wishes to be a ruler with absolute power, the genie is a more active jackass, making him Hitler in the bunker in April 1945.
  • Mundane Wish: The couple's first wish (out of four) is to have a pane of glass in their shop repaired, in order to test the genie's power first. The couple then proceeds to waste their remaining wishes, but in the end console themselves with the thought that at least the glass got repaired. Arthur then accidentally breaks the pane with the end of his sweeping brush. He and Edna begin laughing.
  • Prestige Peril: Mr. Castle wishes to be the leader of a modern country who cannot be voted out of position...only to find that he's Adolf Hitler, and it's the end of World War II.
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: The genie wears an elegant suit.
  • Suicidal Sadistic Choice: After being turned into Hitler, Mr. Castle is given a choice between ingesting the cyanide poison given to him or risk being captured by the Allies and put on trial for war crimes. Castle, desperate for a third option, uses his final wish on the cyanide bottle, pleading the genie to undo his wishes and go back to his mundane life again.
  • Taxman Takes the Winnings: The Castles' second wish is for a million dollars in cash. After they give away some of the money, an IRS agent shows up and gives them a bill for the taxes (Federal and state) they owe on it. This leaves them with only five dollars.
  • Wishing for More Wishes: The genie explicitly forbids this. He tells Arthur Castle that he dreads to think of the consequences of making such a wish.

Rod Serling: "A word to the wise, now, to the garbage collectors of the world, to the curio seekers, to the antique buffs, to everyone who would try to coax out a miracle from unlikely places. Check that bottle you're taking back for a two-cent deposit. The genie you save might be your own. Case in point, Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Castle, fresh from the briefest of trips into The Twilight Zone."