Tales of Tomorrow – Another Chance (02/13/53)

Harold Mason (Leslie Nielsen) wakes up sitting at the kitchen table where he fell asleep 1) playing cards, 2) reading the newspaper, 3) drinking coffee, or 4) tidying up.  Well, we can rule out #4 because the table is a mess, strewn with newspapers, cards, coffee and Harold’s noggin.

Finally, after a full minute of him nervously taking a drink and lighting a cigarette, he looks at the headline PRICELESS BROOCH STOLEN; DIAMOND CUTTER SOUGHT.  He pulls the brooch from his pocket and turns it over in his hands until he hears footsteps in the hall.  It is his wife Carlotta returning from the grocery store.  She berates her panicky husband, sarcastically calling him a “big brave man.”  He blames her for pushing him into this predicament “ever since we were married, always griping, never satisfied!”

He hands her the brooch, but she says, “This cheap piece of junk wouldn’t buy me a cup of coffee” and slams it on the table.  Harold says, “Not after I recut the stone.”  So, it’s worthless until cut; then it is priceless?  Wouldn’t the great potential of the brooch be reflected in its current value?  Hey, PV = C/(1+r)n, motherf****r!  She pulls a suitcase out from under the bed and begins packing to leave.  After much begging from Harold, she gives him 24 hours to sell the brooch to a fence.

Fortuitously, he sees an ad in the paper I’M SURE I CAN HELP YOU!  DR. JOHN BORROW.  Dr. Borrow helpfully tells Harold he’s “made a mess of things and there’s no way out.”  Furthermore, he recognizes that Harold will just go on making the same mistakes in his life unless there is a change.  He says he can offer Harold the titular another chance.

This ad ran during the commercial break. Now, this looks like a guy who knows what teens like.

Borrow has invented a machine that can give people such an opportunity.  He says it is based on amnesia.  “With this machine, I am able control the degree of forgetfulness.  I can erase from the mind only those things I wish to erase.  A man’s conscience, his associates, his friends, these are the things I can erase.  But the ability to think, to work, to talk, to construct, to earn a living, these things remain.”  Borrow tells him that after the treatment, he will awaken in a room 1,000 miles away . . . and back 7 years in time.

Wait, is Borrow now claiming he invented a time machine?  “You’ll have no memory of these past 7 years.  The slate will be clean.  You’ll be able to start a new life.  You’ll have another chance to try life over again.”  No, I guess it isn’t a real time machine, Harold just won’t remember the past 7 years.

Harold is worried that the cops still will recognize his face.  Borrow holds up the brooch.  “Yes, but seven years ago, none of these things had happened.”  What the hell?  Is it back to being a time machine?  Manipulating memories isn’t that big a deal, but if he has invented a time machine, that should be his lead.  Anyhoo, Borrow straps him in the chair and begins the procedure.

Harold awakens in a Chicago hotel room.  A card left for him informs him that in his new life, he will be known as Jack Marshall, which is an improvement already.  There is a 1946 calendar, so I guess he really did go back in time.

After the commercial, a title card tells us it is 7 years later, back in present day.  He wakes up flopped over the table just as he did in the opening scene.  This time, the headline in the paper says SECURITIES STOLEN; BANK TELLER SOUGHT.  As before, he has the stolen goods with him.  As before, he has been hiding out in a room for 5 days.[1]  As before, his wife (Regina this time) enters and berates him as a coward.  As before, he blames her for nagging him into the heist, “always griping, never satisfied.”  As before, she pulls a suitcase out from under the bed and begins packing.  As before, he asks her for 24 hours to unload the securities.  As before, she goes to the movies.  As before, he sees an ad from Dr. Borrow in the paper.

He goes to see Borrow again.  Borrow refuses to help him this time because the securities are non-negotiable.  Harold presses the button on Borrow’s desk that opens the door to the time machine.  So I guess that memory wipe procedure has not been perfected yet.  Borrow refuses to divulge Harold’s previous life, only saying he has made the identical bonehead choices in both lives.  On the plus side, he says this is the result with all his clients.

Borrow further explains that people are who they are.  If they go back in time, they will make the same dumb mistakes.  He says the key is not to change your past, but to change your future.  Not to nitpick, but if you are sent back seven years and don’t retain your memories, that is your future.

So he goes home and strangles Regina.

This is one of the better episodes.  There is a thought-provoking story and the music isn’t as canned and awful as usual.  At first, Leslie Nielsen’s performance just seemed bizarre.  His portrayal of the paranoid, twitchy Harold seemed hammy and affected.  Gestures were exaggerated and a lot of time was spent on him doing nothing but writhing in fear, taking a drink, or lighting a cigarette.  It all came together for me when he was in the Chicago hotel, though.  I could feel his horror at not knowing who he was.

The same actress portrayed Carlotta and Regina.  I’m not sure why other than to illustrate that Harold made that same mistake twice too.  Of course, on the second go-round, she would be seven years younger than him.  A couple more iterations and they will be a typical Hollywood couple.

Other Stuff:

  • [1] Having been in the room for 5 days, I am unclear why he would be wearing a necktie.

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