Thursday, February 6, 2020

Review of The Twilight Zone, Season 1, Episode 17: "The Curse of Oak Island"

I fell behind on watching The Twilight Zone episodes because I noticed that the new season of The Curse of Oak Island was available on Hulu. When I first noticed the show, The Curse of Oak Island, on Hulu, something nagged at the back of my mind. I started watching it and when they mentioned The Money Pit, a long lost memory of reading about The Money Pit hiding treasure on Oak Island while in Junior High came flooding back to me. I was hooked. Not long into the first season, I knew they were never going to find anything. But that made watching it even more enjoyable. Some people can't look away when they see a train wreck. I can't look away when I see people desperately waiting to see a train wreck that's never going to happen. These idiots have now spent millions and millions of dollars over six years (televised! They've been searching for the treasure even longer than that!) to find a few coins, two Bobby Dazzlers (Australian for jewelry, I guess?), a lead cross, and some pottery. But they still believe they're going to eventually find "the one thing" which will assure them the treasure is real and they haven't been wasting their time. Although I don't know what would be different if they found "the one thing." Because without finding "the one thing," they continue to go back to the island every year and throw millions of dollars into the money pit. The only people getting rich off of this treasure hunt are the people they hire to drill into the island.

Coincidentally enough, the latest episode of The Twilight Zone was also about some jerk who threw away all of his money in search of a fortune. The episode, called "Fever," iss about a righteous Midwestern man who winds up in Las Vegas with his wife on a free vacation. He's against gambling but that's only because he's never felt the thrill of it! As soon as he puts one dollar into a slot machine, he's hooked. He's got the fever, baby! And he just knows the island is going to eventually pay out! I meant the slot machine. If he just puts enough money into it, he'll win the ten thousand dollar jackpot. He stays up all night losing money until the machine takes his last dollar and breaks down. Upset not over his foolishness but over the machine cheating him out of one dollar, the man smashes it to the ground and is hauled off by security. He hasn't slept for over 24 hours which, in The Twilight Zone, means you have to throw yourself out of a window. Unless that means you're supposed to die of heart failure on the bed while dreaming you threw yourself out of a window. I think they're basically the same thing, at least for the person who dies.

The story seems to be a morality tale warning against the dangers of gambling. Unless it's warning against the dangers of strict adherence to moral platitudes. Because it's always the people who absolutely abstain from a thing who wind up diving dangerously into that thing when they finally submit to the temptation. I bet that's the real moral. Self-righteous people are just ticking time bombs!

Anyway, that's what the story seems to be. But I think the story is really just the tale of a mentally ill man succumbing to his schizophrenia. He begins hearing voices and he thinks the slot machine is calling to him. He is stricken with insomnia and unable to get any rest. He begins hallucinating that the slot machine is after him. He is convinced that he will win the jackpot if he just keeps playing long enough. He acts erratically, screaming at his wife and vandalizing the casino. Ultimately, unable to live in the world he thinks is real, he throws himself out of the hotel window and bleeds out on the streets of Las Vegas. Rod Serling says he took a detour through The Twilight Zone but really he was just suffering from abnormal brain chemistry. The poor guy. I don't think people knew that much about schizophrenia in 1959 so the guys that run the casino just take it in stride. "This kind of greed fever happens all the time," they say. "Just not to that extent!"

"Greed Fever" was probably part of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders up until the 80s when it just became Trickle Down Economics. "What's wrong with wanting more money at the expense of the middle class's comfort? Why shouldn't we change tax rates so that CEOs and upper management can make more money rather than putting it back into the company to provide health insurance, pensions, and cost of living wage increases to avoid paying 90% taxes on the income? That's not greed fever! That's just the common sense that comes with tying huge tax breaks to the same political ideology that believes in more access to guns and less access to abortions!" Too bad Rod Serling wasn't around to write scathing morality tales about Reagan-era greed! Just imagine all of the episodes he could have ended with people throwing themselves out of windows!

My favorite part of The Curse of Oak Island is when they find something and somebody, say Gary the Metal Detector Guy, says something like, "It's a hook!" And then the narrator, needing to make the show interesting and having graduated from Keith Morrison's Dramatic School of Narrating, says, "A hook? On Oak Island? Perhaps used for hauling treasure chests? Could it be a sign that the treasure is finally within reach? Is it possible that aliens made the hook and sold it to the druids who wrote a manifesto predicting the coming of the Templar Knights? For the Lagina brothers, it's a sure sign that they're closer than ever to discovering the secret of Oak Island." Man, that's good stuff!

My favorite part of Fever was when the wife screamed after her husband fell out of the window. She probably screamed because she was so surprised that the window broke so easily when he merely backed slowly up against it and then somehow flung himself out and over the sill. Maybe schizophrenics are more nimble than average people. I bet the next day, she sued the hotel for such shoddily built and unsafe windows and won way more than ten thousand dollars. Then she probably fucked a young Wayne Newton. Maybe I'll start writing a The Twilight Zone fan-fiction series entitled "The Next Day" so I can continue the stories of all the people in the episodes. Like that guy who was fucking the robot on an asteroid and he had to watch as the rocket ship pilot casually shot her in the face because she was too heavy to take back to Earth. That guy probably murdered everybody in the rocket on the journey back home.

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