Five Characters in Search of an Exit
|"Five Characters in Search of an Exit"|
|The Twilight Zone episode|
|Episode no.||Season 3
|Directed by||Lamont Johnson|
|Written by||Rod Serling from the story "The Depository" by Marvin Petal|
|Featured music||Stock from "A Hundred Yards Over the Rim"|
|Original air date||December 22, 1961|
A uniformed Army Major wakes up to find himself trapped inside in a large metal cylinder, where he meets a hobo, a ballet dancer, a bagpiper, and a clown. None of them have any memory of who they are or how they became trapped. The Major, being the newest arrival, is the most determined to escape. He is told there is no way of either breaking through or climbing up the cylinder. The Major's questioning reveals that the characters have no need for food or water.
Eventually, the major suggests a plan to escape: forming a tower of people, each person on the other's shoulders. However, the dancer at the top of the tower is still a few inches short of the cylinder's top, and a loud sound shakes the cylinder and sends the five tumbling to the ground. Now even more determined, the Major fashions a grappling hook out of loose bits of clothing and his sword. By reforming the tower, he manages to grapple onto the edge of the container. As he turns to survey the area surrounding the cylinder, he tumbles to the ground outside.
The scene cuts to a little girl picking up a doll from the snow, a doll in the dress of an army Major. A woman tells her to put it back in the barrel with the rest. The cylinder is a Christmas toy collection bin for a girls' orphanage, and all five characters are nothing more than dolls. The loud noise was the shaking of a handheld bell which the woman uses to attract donations.
The final shot is of the five characters, now seen as dolls with painted faces and glass eyes. The ballet dancer moves to hold the hand of the Major and her eyes fill with tears.
- William Windom as Major
- Murray Matheson as Clown
- Susan Harrison as Ballerina
- Kelton Garwood as Tramp
- Clark Allen as Bagpiper
- Carol Hill as Woman with bell
- Mona Houghton as Girl
- Paul Wexler as Hobo
|“||Clown, hobo, ballet dancer, bagpiper, and an Army Major—a collection of question marks. Five improbable entities stuck together into a pit of darkness. No logic, no reason, no explanation; just a prolonged nightmare in which fear, loneliness, and the unexplainable walk hand in hand through the shadows. In a moment, we'll start collecting clues as to the whys, the whats, and the wheres. We will not end the nightmare, we'll only explain it—because this is the Twilight Zone.||”|
|“||Just a barrel, a dark depository where are kept the counterfeit, make-believe pieces of plaster and cloth, wrought in a distorted image of human life. But this added, hopeful note: perhaps they are unloved only for the moment. In the arms of children, there can be nothing but love. A clown, a tramp, a bagpipe player, a ballet dancer, and a Major. Tonight's cast of players on the odd stage—known as—The Twilight Zone.||”|
- The title is a variation on the Pirandello play Six Characters in Search of an Author and Jean-Paul Sartre's No Exit.
- The last shot of the episode, in which the five characters are seen in doll form, does not feature the actors; rather, specially made dolls were crafted that closely resembled the five actors who played the parts, and these are shown.
- The little girl who appears at the end of this episode was portrayed by the daughter of longtime Twilight Zone producer Buck Houghton.
- End titles screen features the street corner Christmas toy collection drive.
- The episode was reportedly an inspiration for the 1997 film Cube.
- The TV series Felicity paid homage to "Five Characters in Search of an Exit" in the season 2 episode 11 episode "Help for the Lovelorn"; it was directed by Lamont Johnson.
- Zicree, Marc Scott (1982). The Twilight Zone Companion (Second ed.). Sillman-James Press. p. 234.
- "Biography of Vincenzo Natali". IMDb. Retrieved 2011-08-04.
- Chan, Lisa (2001). "Sophomore Year (Season 2) Episode 11: Help For The Lovelorn". Felicitypage.com. Archived from the original on 2001-03-07. Retrieved 2012-11-25.