Peter Falk plays a bearded, cigar-smoking Latin American revolutionary. Hmm, I wonder if the character was based upon a real-life dictator who rose to power in the early 1960s?
The Twilight Zone, Episode #71: "The Mirror" (original air date October 20, 1961)
The Plot: Ramos Clemente (Peter Falk), a peasant, has led an uprising against a tyrannical government. Now that he and his friends are in power, it is time to settle scores with the ousted leaders.
The first man that Clemente confronts is haughty General De Cruz (Will Kuluva), the deposed dictator. A furious Clemente pushes him around, yelling about the outrages he has committed against the people. Clemente says he will strip him naked, cover him in honey, and let the ants eat him. Clemente will drink wine and ridicule the general: "I want you to take a long time to die."
General De Cruz name-checks Trujillo and Castro, telling Clemente that he is no better than any of them, and that he will soon learn about the negative aspects of ruling by force. And then he points out a mirror, which an old woman gave him ten years before; supposedly, by looking into the mirror, a man will see his assassin. Clemente dismisses the general, discounting his words, into he looks into the mirror himself and sees one of his fellow revolutionaries, with a gun pointed at him.
The Goods: Trujillo was the military dictator of the Dominican Republic from 1930 until May 30, 1961, when he was assassinated. Castro, who spoke out against Trujillo's rule, became prime minister of Cuba in February 1959. Rod Serling clearly had their histories in mind when writing this episode.
The speeches are elegantly written, and the role of Ramos Clemente is forcefully portrayed by a very powerful Peter Falk, but the episode is too 'on the nose' to have staying power.
It took courage to speak out against tyrannical rules who were then in power, even if names could not be named more specifically. Watching the episode today, however, feels like reading a dated editorial. The arguments are still valid, but we watch more for historical interest, and to see Peter Falk give a dynamic performance.
The Trivia: The Cuban missile crisis took place about one year after the episode aired.
Peter Falk, who first found TV work in 1957, began making a mark in supporting roles in feature films a couple of years later (It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, Robin and the 7 Hoods, The Great Race) before he found his signature role as Columbo in a 1968 TV movie.
Directer Don Medford worked on a total of five TZ episodes; later, he helmed three episodes of the short-lived "Mrs. Columbo" TV show in 1979.
On the Next Episode: "Old West lawman Conny Miller visits the grave of a man who he failed to track down to prove he was never afraid of him but gets more than he bargained for."
We're running through all 156 of the original Twilight Zone episodes, and we're not doing it alone! Our friends at Film School Rejects have entered the Zone as well, only on alternating weeks. So definitely tune in over at FSR and feel free to also follow along on Twitter accounts @ScreenAnarhcy and @rejectnation.