The Twilight Zone

Season 2 Episode 2

The Man in the Bottle

Aired Unknown Oct 07, 1960 on CBS

Episode Fan Reviews (2)

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  • this is less a review than a corrective to the misinformation displayed in the other review for this episode.


    as a matter of fact, the tax rate for high incomes in 1960 was 91%. you can find verification at the following location--

    audiences in 1960 would have found nothing amiss watching that episode because the scriptwriters actually portrayed the tax structure of the period. it is only recently that anyone would have thought a highly progressive tax structure was anything unusual.

    as it stands, this episode is one of the better retelling of "the monkey's paw" trope in the history of television.

  • A poor shop owner and his wife come across a genie in a bottle. They wish for $1,000,000 but unfortunately, income tax leaves them in debt. The man becomes Adolf Hitler after wishing for power, and finally uses his last wish to return things to normal.

    The twilight zone excelled in introducing intriguing and unusual stories to its audience. Each week, viewers sat down with the somewhat oxymoronic expectation to see something unexpected. One of the most important aspects to the success of the weekly stories was each one's ability to toss up a common and ordinary sitution with something quite out of the ordinary. It was this that made the program what it was. It was this that made it different from the standard sci-fi fare of the day. To have an extraordinary story set in an extraordinary world was exciting and, in its era, often new. Yet it was not the Twilight Zone. This is where this episode falls quite short. It gets the ordinary and common wrong, and so prevents the extraordinary from being anything other than trite.

    The "punch line" of this particular episode is that all of the wishes granted to Mr. Castle come with some terrible consequence. This begins with an IRS agent spoiling the Castle's wish for $1,000,000 with a $902,000 income tax bill. This is a rate of over 90%, a rate so high as to make the word "absurd" inadequate. At current rates, a married couple would owe approximately $322,000 of income tax on a $1,000,000 income, and, while rates were certainly different in 1960, they were not 300% higher.

    It may seem like nitpicking to point this out. "It's only a television show," some may say. It is quite true that this is a television program, and this is precisely why this rather significant gaffe matters. The Twilight Zone is, as described above, a television show defined by its outstanding knack for turning the mundane into the extraordinary. Mr. Serling's knack was for creating a situation in which the viewers felt at home only to upheave it with some twist.

    Were the tax rate to be at 50% rather than 40, or 60% rather than 50, it could be forgiven. Viewers would take little notice of such an inflation. However, no person watching the program can fail to notice the absurdity of a 90% tax rate. The ordinary is no longer ordinary, shattering the very principle that made the show great. While the story is engaging enough to maintain the viewer's interest, the entire punch line (and second half of the episode) is based upon something transparently contrived and false, making what is ordinarily the magic of the Twilight Zone simply... ordinary.
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