The Whole Truth (The Twilight Zone)
|"The Whole Truth"|
|The Twilight Zone episode|
|Episode no.||Season 2
|Directed by||James Sheldon|
|Written by||Rod Serling|
|Original air date||January 20, 1961|
The dealership of glib used car salesman Harvey Hunnicut is visited by a mild-mannered elderly gentleman who offers to sell his vintage Model A car for a pittance. The old gent warns Hunnicut that the antique contraption is haunted and that the owner is compelled to tell the truth. Laughing off such superstitious nonsense, Hunnicut buys the jalopy, intending to quickly unload it. To his dismay, he realizes that the previous owner was indeed being truthful, as he himself must now be. When Irv, one of his employees, asks about the raise he was promised and Harvey confesses again to having lied, telling him that he's not getting a penny more, Irv punches Harvey out and quits.
After a series of vain attempts to sell his substandard merchandise, Hunnicut concludes that his livelihood depends on his ability to rid himself of this supernatural burden. Just as he's losing hope of ever doing so, he sees a newspaper story about the U.S. playing host to visiting Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. Surmising that, like every totalitarian state, the Soviet Union owes its existence to a tissue of lies, the politically savvy Hunnicut calls the Soviet embassy and convinces its representatives to visit his dealership. By being absolutely half-truthful, he sells the car as a potential anti-American propaganda tool, exemplifying shoddy, outdated U.S. automobile workmanship. By the concluding scene, it seems that Hunnicut is about to change the course of history, since the passenger watching the sale from the embassy limousine now has his name on paper as the haunted vehicle's owner. It appears to be none other than Khrushchev himself. Hunnicut telephones Washington, asking if he could possibly get in touch with one "Jack... Kennedy?".
Five weeks into The Twilight Zone's second season, the show's budget was showing a deficit. The total number of new episodes was projected at twenty-nine, more than half of which, sixteen, had, by November 1960, already been filmed. CBS suggested that in order to trim the production's $65,000 per episode budget, six episodes should be produced in the cheaper videotape format, eventually transferred to 16-millimeter film. The studios of the network's Television City, normally used for the production of live drama, would serve as the venue. There would be fewer camera movements and no exteriors, making the episodes seem more akin to soap operas (and Playhouse 90), with the videotaped image effectively narrowing and flattening perspective. Even with those artistic sacrifices, the eventual savings amounted to only $30,000, far less than the cost of a single episode. The experiment was thus deemed a failure and never attempted again.
Even though the six shows were taped in a row, through November and into mid-December, their broadcast dates were out of order and varied widely, with this, the third one, shown on January 20, 1961 as episode 14. The first, "The Lateness of the Hour" was seen on December 2, 1960 as episode 8; the second, "Static" appeared on March 10, 1961 as episode 20; the fourth was the Christmas entry "Night of the Meek" shown as the 11th episode on December 23, 1960; the fifth, "Twenty Two" was seen on February 10, 1961 as episode 17; and the last one, "Long Distance Call" was transmitted on March 3, 1961 as episode 22.
This episode shows an artifact of the image orthicon tube used in television cameras of the era. When the shiny fenders of the cars catch the light, the glint produces an unwanted dark halo around the glint. Such artifacts can also be seen in "The Night of the Meek".
John F. Kennedy was sworn in as the 35th President of the United States at the Inaugural ceremonies held in Washington the afternoon of the very day this episode originally aired. Therefore, Jack Carson's final line was not only a very topical one, it was one of the rare times that a current president was actually mentioned during a Twilight Zone episode.
- 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
- "The Whole Truth" at the Internet Movie Database
- TV.com episode page
- Full video of the episode at CBS.com