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|
|Teleplay by||Rod Serling|
|Based on||"The Depository" by Marvin Petal|
|Featured music||Stock from "A Hundred Yards Over the Rim"|
|Original air date||December 22, 1961|
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.
A uniformed U.S. Army major wakes up to find himself trapped inside a large metal cylinder, where he meets a hobo, a ballet dancer, a bagpiper, and a clown who, ironically, seems to be the one among them all who reasons the most. All of them have different theories regarding their presence here, although they admit none of them are realistic. They also have no memory of who they are, or how they became trapped, and they do not seem to have any need for food or water. 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.
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 clanging 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 cylinder. As he turns to survey the area surrounding the cylinder, he tumbles to the ground outside. The clown inside the cylinder briefly bemoans the loss, admitting that the major was right after all: they're all in Hell.
The scene cuts to a little girl picking up a doll from the snow, in the dress of an army major. The cylinder is a Christmas toy collection barrel for a girls' orphanage, and all five characters are nothing more than dolls. The loud clanging was the ringing of a bell, used by a woman to attract donations; she tells the girl to return the doll to the barrel.
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 as her eyes fill with tears.
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.
- Susan Harrison as Ballerina
- William Windom as Major
- Murray Matheson as Clown
- Kelton Garwood as Hobo
- Clark Allen as Bagpiper
The episode's title is a variation on the Pirandello play Six Characters in Search of an Author. Dolls were specially crafted for the final shot that closely resembled the actors who had played the parts.
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 its episode "Help for the Lovelorn"; both episodes were directed by Lamont Johnson.
- "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.