Twilight Zone S4 – The New Exhibit (04/04/63)

We open in Ferguson’s Wax Museum.  Do these things even exist anymore? [1]   Mr. Ferguson himself is leading a tour which includes two sailors on the tamest furlough since Gomer Pyle went back to Mayberry. After checking out waxy Marie Antoinette [2] (who is sadly not topless in either sense of the word), they move on to waxy Cleopatra. This place ought to be called the Museum of Murdered Women.[3]

Next they are led to “the most infamous black-hearted killers of all time.”  They first meet the flesh-and-blood curator Martin Senescu who introduces them to the Murderer’s Row exhibit:

  • William Burke & William Hare – They suffocated their victims with pillows, frequently prostitutes.
  • Henri Desire Landru – French serial killer of spinsters and lonely widows.
  • Jack the Ripper – English serial killer of prostitutes.
  • Albert W. Hicks – A mate on an oyster boat who killed his entire crew with an axe. Given the attitude of this museum, I have to suspect that it was an all-girl crew.

Martin Balsam is excellent as Senescu.  He is clearly devoted to this exhibit, and is slightly creepy.  He steps on a switch that causes Mr. the Ripper to slash away with his knife.  This is a pretty good gag, but freaks out the sailors who “blow this creepy joint.”

Later as Senescu is dusting Landru, Ferguson tells him that the museum is going to close so he can sell the location a company for a supermarket.  Ferguson decides not to open a new museum because, even 60 years ago, he sees this is a dying industry.  He reasons that people see too much horror in every day life.

tznewexhibit03Senescu asks to buy the wax figures as he can’t bear to see them destroyed; although, he doesn’t seem to care much for Cleopatra and Marie Antoinette.  Movers deliver the figures to Senescu’s house.  He installs the exhibit in the basement which he has rigged up with a new industrial strength air conditioner.[4]

Weeks later, Senescu’s very patient wife is concerned that her husband still has no job and the new A/C is costing a fortune.  Senescu seems to spend all his time in the basement acting as a valet for his new friends.  Emma tells her brother Dave about the problems she is having with her husband.  He suggests that sabotaging the A/C might solve the problem.

That night, Emma sneaks down to the basement to take care of the A/C.  She is creeped out by the figures, but makes her way to the plug.  As she reaches to unplug it, Jack the Ripper’s arm slashes toward her and she screams.  The next morning, Senescu finds her dead on the basement floor and detects blood on Jack’s knife.

Fearing he will be blamed, Senescu buries his wife in the basement and repaves the floor.  Emma’s idiot brother Dave — an incredibly obnoxious performance — stops by and becomes suspicious.  After Senescu throws him out, he breaks into the basement. When he finds traces of Emma’s blood, Albert Hicks takes an axe to him.

tznewexhibit07Ferguson stops by and tells Senescu that a museum in Brussels wants to buy the figures.  While Ferguson is measuring them for shipment, Landru garrotes him.  When Senescu sees another dead body, he chews the wax figures out for betraying him.  He grabs a crow bar to destroy them, but they become animated.  They stiffly move toward Senescu claiming that he committed the murders, and fall on top of him.

At the Murderer’s Row home in Brussels, there is the titular new exhibit — Martin Senescu leaning on a shovel as he digs his wife’s grave.

After several very good 4th season scripts from Charles Beaumont, this one was a bit of a let down.  Everyone has an off-week, but this one might be due to the fact that Beaumont’s deteriorating health forced him to farm the job out to another writer.  There are a few rough edges that maybe Beaumont could have polished.

The causes of death are a little muddled.  Emma’s murder could be related to the switch that Senescu revealed during the museum tour — was she murdered or did she just step on that switch which made the wax figure slash her throat?  Dave’s murder is not seen which lends credence to the figures’ assertion that Senescu is the real murderer.  Then when Ferguson is murdered, we actually see Albert Hawks strangle him.  So are the murders 1) accidents, 2) committed by Senescu, or 3) committed by the wax figures?

When the wax figures advance on Senescu, how does he die?  He is portrayed as a murderer in the titular new exhibit, so it must have been a heart attack.  If he had been axed, suffocated, slashed or strangled, he would have been considered just another victim.

All of that is mostly just being churlish.  The strength of the episode is in Martin Balsam’s performance as Senescu.  He and Will Kuluva as Ferguson ground the episode.  Despite a few rough spots, this is still a good episode in the unfairly maligned 4th season.


  • [1] Apparently they do exist, and there are even a couple of chains.  Here is fun article from Vice about a visit to one.
  • [2] Like Cersei on Game of Thrones, Marie Antoinette was put on trial for multiple crimes including incest.  Both had their hair cut off and were stripped naked (Marie at least got to put on a simple white dress (in front of her guards)).  Both were paraded through town to the jeers of the peons.  Marie was tied up, but at least got to ride in an open cart while Cersei was perp-walked naked on foot.  On the plus side, they didn’t chop off Cersei’s head at the end of the trip.
  • [3] It is not clear whether Cleopatra was murdered or committed suicide-by-snake. It is interesting that, like Cersei and Marie, her downfall was a nude-fest.  Several paintings (many sharing the unimaginative title The Death of Cleopatra) portray her as topless at her death.
  • [4] Oder, auf Deutsch.
  • Martin Balsam was last seen in The Equalizer.


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