Today, April 6th, This Day in Twilight Zone History and The Twilight Zone Encyclopedia celebrate the 1962 premiere of "Four O’Clock." Theodore Bikel makes his TZ debut as miscreant Oliver Crangle, a bespectacled peddler who, according to Rod Serling, deals in "petulance and poison" – a man who wakes up every morning and decides to besmirch and destroy the reputations of good people.
Serling enjoyed tackling issues that were too controversial for TV. This episode was his opportunity to attack the kind of personalities that created and nurtured the black list in America. Working from a short story by Price Day, Serling shows us Crangle's twisted methodology, working from a dingy apartment cluttered with filing cabinets filled with misbegotten "evidence." He's even visited by the wife of one of his victims (Phyllis Love) who pleads for Crangle to have pity on her good doctor husband who failed to save a hospital patient – even though he made gallant efforts to do so.
But Crangle doesn't believe in gallantry – he's a coward with a capital C, and he continues to spread his poison into all circles. Imagine what he could have done with the Internet.
Bikel is terrific in the role. I always remember him as Curt Jurgens' portly second in command aboard a German U-boat battling Robert Mitchum's destroyer in director Dick Powell's riveting The Enemy Below. He also spent many years on the stage as a terrific Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof.
So let's hoist a glass of sour grape soda to Oliver Crangle, a man who can't wait for his watch dial to turn to 4 in a world where comeuppance sometimes lies just around the corner in The Twilight Zone.