Once Upon a Time (The Twilight Zone)
|"Once Upon a Time"|
|The Twilight Zone episode|
Keaton as Woodrow Mulligan
|Episode no.||Season 3
|Directed by||Norman Z. McLeod (with an uncredited sequence by Les Goodwins)|
|Written by||Richard Matheson|
|Featured music||William Lava (piano score played by Ray Turner)|
|Original air date||December 15, 1961|
Woodrow Mulligan (Buster Keaton) is a grumpy janitor in 1890, dissatisfied with his time and place: a backwater town called "Harmony" with 17-cent cuts of meat, $2 hats, livestock freely roaming the streets, and penny-farthing bicycles that knock him down while going the speed limit (8 mph). He works for Professor Gilbert (Milton Parsons), who has just invented a time helmet.
Pouncing on the opportunity, Mulligan uses the helmet to transport himself to 1960, which, of course, turns out to be a surprise with even higher prices and more noise. He meets Rollo (Stanley Adams), a scientist and authority on the 1890s, which he regards as "charming."
Rollo tries to go back alone, but Mulligan jumps on him and they go back together. The 1890s turn out to be not entirely what Rollo thought of them. Mulligan, however, is relieved and has a new appreciation for his own time. One week later, he hears Rollo griping. ("This guy sounds worse than my mother-in-law," Mulligan observes through an intertitle). So he sets the helmet for 1960, puts it on Rollo's head, and sends him back to his own time.
- Buster Keaton as Woodrow Mulligan
- Stanley Adams as Rollo
- Jesse White as Repairman
- James Flavin as First 1960 Policeman
- Gil Lamb as Officer Flannagan
- Milton Parsons as Professor Gilbert
- Warren Parker as Clothing Store Manager
- Harry Fleer as Second 1960 Policeman
- George E. Stone as Fenwick
- Arthur Tovey as Sidewalk Onlooker
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|“||Mr. Mulligan, a rather dour critic of his times, is shortly to discover the import of that old phrase, 'Out of the frying pan, into the fire'—said fire burning brightly at all times—in The Twilight Zone.||”|
|“||'To each his own'—so goes another old phrase to which Mr. Woodrow Mulligan would heartily subscribe, for he has learned—definitely the hard way—that there's much wisdom in a third old phrase, which goes as follows: 'Stay in your own backyard.' To which it might be added, 'and, if possible, assist others to stay in theirs'—via, of course, The Twilight Zone.||”|
- The parts set in the 1890s are done in the style of a silent film with intertitle cards and feature only a soundtrack of a saloon piano (and, of course, Rod Serling's customary opening and closing narration). Much is made of the fact that Mulligan shows up in the 1960s with no pants due to his getting run over by a "high speed" bicycle and falling into a water trough, forcing him to remove the pant while they dry. A running gag has a pants-less Mulligan being chased by a policeman in both the past and the present.
- Buster Keaton was one of the biggest stars of the silent era, starring in and devising elaborate stunts and gags for such classic comedies as The General and Steamboat Bill, Jr. His career suffered with the advent of sound films, and he spent decades struggling in Hollywood. This episode was intended as an homage to his early work.
- End-titles screen features the time-dial helmet.
- 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