Tuesday, March 26, 2019

The Twilight Zone (1959) -- Season 2 Episode 2 (The Man in the Bottle)

Genie stories tend to be somewhat predictable.  Mere mortals make wishes and the genie either misinterprets the intent or deliberately gives the person something other than what they wanted.  Wishmaster did this well.  A djinn was granted unlimited power, but could only use it if asked.  He would then twist the wish to suit his own needs.  When he wants to escape from a police station, he uses a wish to make a suspect shoot people to create a distraction.

The Man in the Bottle has Arthur and Edna Castle finding a genie who grants them four wishes.  Arthur tests this by having the genie fix a broken display window.  When the genie obliges, Arthur’s next wish is for a million dollars.  The Castles give so much of it away that when the tax man comes, they’re left with only $5.

Arthur’s next wish is to be put in a position of power where he can’t be voted out.  The Genie puts him in charge of Nazi Germany as Adolf Hitler.  To make matters more pressing, Arthur finds himself in the bunker, ostensibly right before he’s to swallow his capsule.  Arthur uses his last wish to put everything back.  He even ends up cracking the display window again.

The episode sets up the premise pretty well.  The genie isn’t so much someone who grants wishes, but rather makes people realize what they have.  The story doesn’t quite bring it all the way to completion, though.  Yes, the Castles have bills to pay.  However, it doesn’t seem like they’re any better off financially, nor do they have any new prospects.  Yes, things could be worse, but they could also be better.

I suppose an argument could be made either way.  Giving the Castles money, even without the burden of a 90% tax rate wouldn’t solve anything.  After a while, they’d be right back where they started.  Then again, maybe they need more of a bump to get things going.  At least send them a customer or two.

I suppose everyone thinks of how they could reword the wish to get what they want, but the underlying fact remains that wishing for something is rarely the answer.  It might help you along for a little while, but the change has to come from within.

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