Today, April 17th, This Day in Twilight Zone History and The Twilight Zone Encyclopedia celebrate the 1964 premiere of "The Jeopardy Room."
Martin Landau, who had made a strong impression as an obnoxious gunfighter in the first season's "Mr. Denton on Doomsday," returns to star in this suspenseful episode about Major Ivan Kuchenko, a defecting Soviet Army officer who's holed up in a shabby hotel room and targeted for assassination by pompous Commissar Vassiloff (John Van Dreelen) and his assistant (Bob Keljan).
They feel confident that Kuchenko is trapped like the proverbial rat – but if they bothered to look at the cover page of their script, they'd have noticed that this is The Twilight Zone.
Rod Serling could have easily sold his script to Alfred Hitchcock – it really plays as a Hitchcockian mystery short - but TZ was still alive in its fifth and final season, so it became a Zone. Landau is perfectly cast and was just beginning the get the plaudits that would propel him into being one of America's elite character actors... and a future Oscar winner, to boot. And if you were watching television in the 1960s, you probably noticed that Dutch actor John Van Dreelen played villains on virtually every show – ex-Nazis, Soviet agents, Eastern European power brokers, etc.
So let’s raise a glass of vodka to the magic of Landau, the mustache-twirling villainy of Van Dreelen, the crisp dialogue of Rod Serling, and the never-ending pleasures of The Twilight Zone.