Deaths-Head Revisited

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
"Deaths-Head Revisited"
The Twilight Zone episode
Episode no. Season 3
Episode 9
Directed by Don Medford
Written by Rod Serling
Featured music Stock
Production code 4804
Original air date November 10, 1961
Guest appearance(s)

Oscar Beregi, Jr.: Captain Lutze (Mr. Schmidt)
Joseph Schildkraut: Becker
Karen Verne: Inn Keeper
Robert Boon: Taxi Driver
Ben Wright: The Doctor
Chuck Fox: 23575 (uncredited)

Episode chronology
← Previous
"It's a Good Life"
Next →
"The Midnight Sun"
List of season 3 episodes
List of Twilight Zone episodes

"Deaths-Head Revisited" is episode 74 of the American television anthology series The Twilight Zone. The story was later adapted for The Twilight Zone Radio Dramas starring H.M. Wynant. The title is a play on the Evelyn Waugh novel Brideshead Revisited.

Opening narration[edit]

Plot[edit]

Gunther Lutze, a former SS captain, checks into a hotel in Dachau, Bavaria, under the name "Schmidt". The receptionist seems to recognize him, but he deflects suspicion by claiming to have spent the war serving on the Eastern Front. After harassing the woman by forcing her to explain what the Nazis were doing in Dachau, he returns to the ruins of Dachau concentration camp to recall his time as its commandant during World War II. As he strolls around the camp, he revels in the recollections of the torment he inflicted on the inmates.

Lutze is surprised to see Alfred Becker, one of the camp's former inmates and a particular victim of Lutze's cruelty. Lutze supposes that Becker is now the caretaker of the camp, to which Becker replies "In a manner of speaking." As they talk, Becker relentlessly dogs Lutze with the reality of his grossly inhumane treatment of the inmates, while Lutze insists that he was only carrying out his orders. Lutze tries to leave, but finds the gate locked. In one of the camp buildings, Becker and several other inmates put Lutze on trial for crimes against humanity and find him guilty. Becker is about to pronounce the sentence when Lutze remembers that he killed Becker 17 years ago on the night American troops came close to Dachau. As punishment, Lutze is made to undergo the same horrors he had imposed on the inmates in the form of tactile illusions. He screams in agony and collapses. Before departing, Becker's ghost informs him, "This is not hatred. This is retribution. This is not revenge. This is justice. But this is only the beginning, Captain. Only the beginning. Your final judgment will come from God."

Lutze is found and taken to a mental institution for the criminally insane, since he continues to experience and react to his illusionary sufferings. His finders wonder how a man who was perfectly calm two hours before could have gone insane. The doctor looks around and asks, "Dachau. Why does it still stand? Why do we keep it standing?"

Closing narration[edit]

Episode and cast notes[edit]

  • Hungarian-born actor Oscar Beregi Jr (SS Captain Lutze) had many screen roles as villains and 'heavies', and would have been familiar to American TV audiences of the time for his work in the popular TV detective series The Untouchables, where he had a recurring role as thuggish mobster Joe Kulak. This episode also marked Beregi's second appearance in The Twilight Zone - his first was as the leader of the criminal gang in the Season 2 episode "The Rip Van Winkle Caper".
  • Kaaren Verne, who makes a brief but memorable appearance as the hotel receptionist in the episode's opening scene, had enjoyed a flourishing career in the Berlin State Theatre before she and her first husband were forced to flee Germany in 1938. She eventually settled in the USA, where she soon became an outspoken opponent of the Nazi regime. In the mid-1940s she was married for several years to renowned expatriate German actor Peter Lorre.
  • Veteran British-born character actor Ben Wright (The Doctor) trained at RADA with Ida Lupino and worked on stage and screen in the UK before emigrating to the USA in the 1946. After becoming established in Hollywood, Wright's much-admired facility with accents and dialects saw him play a wide range of character parts in radio and on screen, portraying English, German, French, Australian and even Chinese characters. He was also a noted voice actor, and performed featured voice parts in Disney's 101 Dalmatians and The Little Mermaid, which was his final screen credit before his death.
  • The casting of this episode is notable for several reasons. One is that all of the leading cast were European-born: Beregi was Hungarian, Schildkraut was Austrian, Robert Boon (the taxi driver) was Dutch, Ben Wright (the doctor) was English, and Kaaren Verne (the hotel receptionist) was born in Germany. Nearly all of the main cast also had personal connections to the subject matter - as well as his noted work in The Diary of Anne Frank, Schildkraut (who was Jewish) lost many members of his extended family in the Holocaust, Verne had been forced to flee Germany to escape the Nazis, and both Boon and Ben Wright (the Doctor) had served with the Allied armed forces during WWII.
  • In an archival audio interview, attached as a special feature to the episode in the Twilight Zone DVD boxed set. series producer Buck Houghton recalled that for this episode, the production was able to shoot the episode's exterior scenes in a large frontier fort set that had recently been built for the pilot for an unnamed Western TV series. Because that series had not been picked up by any of the networks, this very expensive set - which, according to Houghton, had cost a whopping US$200,000 (around US$1.6 million in 2016) - was then sitting abandoned on the MGM backlot, and only required minimal redressing to serve as the episode's setting, the Dachau concentration camp.
  • Speaking of episode director Don Medford, Houghton recalled that while Medford was mainly known as an "action" director, he was chosen both for his ability to create effective "shock" moments, and for his willingness to allow emotional scenes to play out as long as he felt necessary. According to Houghton, Medford was also known for his meticulous preparation, although Houghton also recalled that Medford could become flustered if events during production (such as the unexpected unavailability of an actor) forced him to deviate from his production plans.
  • Houghton also heaped praise on the work of British-born actor Ben Wright (who appears briefly as The Doctor at the end of the episode), noting that Wright had a remarkable ability to master any kind of accent or dialect convincingly, and this allowed him to play a wide range of nationalities during his long screen career.
  • Houghton also recounted that the original edit of the episode included several scenes (totalling about ten minutes of footage) that were ultimately removed in the final cut, to achieve the optimal running time of around 25 minutes.

Critical Response[edit]

Gordon F. Sander, excerpt from Serling: The Rise and Twilight of Television's Last Angry Man:

Serling meted out nightmarish justice of a worse kind in "Deaths-Head Revisited" (directed by Don Medford), Serling's statement on the Holocaust, written in reaction to the then-ongoing Eichmann trial, in which a former Nazi, played by Oscar Beregi, on a nostalgic visit to Dachau, is haunted and ultimately driven insane by the ghosts of inmates he had killed there during the war.

References[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
  • Zicree, Marc Scott (undated), audio interview with Twilight Zone producer Buck Houghton. Episode Special Feature, 'The Twilight Zone' DVD boxed set, Season 3, Volume 1, Disc 2 (CBS Broadcasting Inc., 2007)

External links[edit]