Every weekday, we’re going to review an episode of Rod Serling’s classic sci-fi/horror TV series “The Twilight Zone“. We’re starting from the beginning and we will be working our way through every episode the series has offered, including the episodes from the 80’s. You can see all the reviews right here.
“The Fever” – Directed by Robert Florey
Broadcast date: Juanuary 29th, 1960
Franklin and Flora Gibbs have won an all expenses paid stay at a Las Vegas hotel/casino. Flora seems thrilled by the prize but Franklin is surly and annoyed. He is furious when she tries to gamble, thinking that she’s just throwing money away. As he walks away, a drunk man hands him a coin and practically forces him to play a round of slots, which he wins.
As he walks away to put the money in their hotel room, he hears his name called out, seemingly from one of the slot machines. As he lays in bed the first night, the stack of coins he won by chance keeps calling out to him, seemingly multiplying itself to show what could happen if he kept winning. When Flora wakes up to see Franklin standing with the money, she wonders what’s going on. He comes up with a silly story that his morals require him to give the “tainted” money back. Next thing they know, he is cashing checks to get more and more money to feed into the machine. Flora pleads with him to stop but he refuses, cursing the machine but refusing to stop his attempts to win his money back. As he puts his last dollar coin in, the machine ceases up.
Later that night, he begins hallucinating, seeing the same machine chasing him in his hotel room, calling his name. Flora is unable to see the machine and begs him to calm down. Backing away from the machine in terror, Franklin falls through the hotel room window to his death. As his body lays on the ground, a silver dollar rolls along the ground and comes to a rest near his hand. The camera pans over and we see that the coin came from the machine that haunted him up until his death, a light-up smile gracing its mechanical torso.
In Gordon F. Sanders’ book “Serling: The Rise and Twilight of Television’s Last Angry Man“, it’s written that Serling became obsessed with slot machines during a celebratory weekend in Las Vegas after the signing of “The Twilight Zone”. This became the basis of “The Fever” as his wife was also present during this bender.
The episode is all about the dangers of gambling and the addiction that can come with it. It’s a warning to all people against the call of such temptations and it does it with great efficacy. On top of showing that it is a very effective way to lose all your money, it also shows the damage and toll it can have on the relationships people have with the ones they love as well as with the people around them.
Something I couldn’t shake was the feeling that Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem For a Dream must have taken inspiration from the slot machine for the refrigerator that Mrs. Goldfarb becomes terrified by in her drug-induced hallucinations. There is a similarity there that is impossible to shake.
Overall, it’s a great episode as a moral story but the ending lacks that twist and oomph that the show is known for, especially given the previous few episodes and their brilliant climaxes.