Escape Clause

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For other uses, see Escape Clause (disambiguation).
"Escape Clause"
The Twilight Zone episode
Episode no. Season 1
Episode 6
Directed by Mitchell Leisen
Written by Rod Serling
Production code 173-3603
Original air date November 6, 1959
Guest actors

David Wayne (Walter Bedeker)
Thomas Gomez (Mr. Cadwallader)
Virginia Christine (Ethel Bedeker)
Joe Flynn (insurance man)
Wendell Holmes (Bedeker's lawyer)

Episode chronology
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"Walking Distance"
Next →
"The Lonely"
List of Twilight Zone episodes

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

Plot summary[edit]

Opening narration[edit]

You’re about to meet a hypochondriac. Witness Mr. Walter Bedeker age forty-four. Afraid of the following: death, disease, other people, germs, draft, and everything else. He has one interest in life and that’s Walter Bedeker. One preoccupation, the life and well-being of Walter Bedeker. One abiding concern about society, that if Walter Bedeker should die how will it survive without him?

Main plot[edit]

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. However, his lawyer is too good and instead, he is sentenced to life in prison without 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 does not use it, the man nods and suffers a fatal heart attack. The guard discovers his lifeless body and sighs, "Poor devil..."

Ending narration[edit]

There's a saying, "Every man is put on Earth condemned to die, time and method of execution unknown." Perhaps this is as it should be. Case in point: Walter Bedeker, lately deceased. A little man with such a yen to live. Beaten by the devil, by his own boredom, and by the scheme of things in this, the Twilight Zone.

Production[edit]

"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.

Impact[edit]

"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.

Disney's Twilight Zone Tower of Terror has a reference to this episode located the basement of the attraction. The elevators have a certificate of inspection plaque, signed by "Cadwallader", bearing the inspection number "10259". These numbers represent October 2, 1959, the date The Twilight Zone first aired.

Further reading[edit]

  • Zicree, Marc Scott: The Twilight Zone Companion. Sillman-James Press, 1982 (second edition)*DeVoe, Bill. (2008). Trivia from The Twilight Zone. Albany, GA: Bear Manor Media. ISBN 978-1-59393-136-0
  • Grams, Martin. (2008). The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic. Churchville, MD: OTR Publishing. ISBN 978-0-9703310-9-0

External links[edit]