Five Characters in Search of an Exit – The Twilight Zone
Five Characters in Search of an Exit

Five Characters in Search of an Exit

“Five Characters in Search of an Exit” is Twilight Zone episode 14 of Season 3. It first aired on Dec 22nd, 1961 on the CBS television network. It is on the Top 10 list of many Twilight Zone fanatics.

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A Little About Rod Serling

Five Characters in Search of an Exit

Before we dive into “Five Characters in Search of an Exit”, we’d like to share something about the brilliant writer and creator Rod Serling.

Rod was a huge fan of Pulp Fiction stories and gobbled up any books and articles he could find. At the same time, he was incredibly interested in themes about social issues such as racism, society, war, psychology and government. All of these ideas combined made his writing immensely deep. It’s very hard to find any writers who were as creative in this way.

“Five Characters in Search of an Exit” – 1961

Opening narration:

“Clown, hobo, ballet dancer, bagpiper, and an army major: a collection of question marks. 5 improbable entities stuck together into a pit of darkness. No logic, no reason, no explanation: just a prolonged nightmare in which fear, loneliness, and the unexplainable walk hand in hand through the shadows. In a moment, we’ll start collecting clues as to the whys, the whats, and the wheres. We will not end the nightmare, we’ll only explain it: because this is the Twilight Zone”

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Five Characters in Search of an Exit: Intro

It begins with the awakening of an Army major in a confined cylindrical chamber, devoid of any discernible exit. The towering walls are impervious to climbing or puncturing. Inside the chamber, he finds himself accompanied by a clown, a bagpiper, a ballerina, and a hobo, all equally disoriented, lacking any knowledge of their identities, their purpose there, or the duration of their captivity. Curiously, they remain impervious to sensations, periodically disrupted by a jarring clang that sends them sprawling.

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Despite their collective attempts to find an escape route, their efforts prove futile. The Army major, resolute in his determination to break free, explores various strategies, even striking the unyielding walls with his sword, which only shatters upon impact. The notion that they may be trapped in Hell is suggested.

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The Climb

Ultimately, the five characters conclude that their sole means of escape lies in forming a human tower. However, as the ballerina nears the pinnacle, the clanging sound echoes once more, causing them all to plummet. Undeterred, they make another attempt, but this time, the major tumbles over the edge and out of the cylinder.

Video: Five Characters in Search of an Exit – The Twilight Zone – Explained

In an abrupt twist, the scene transitions to a young girl picking up a doll from the snow and placing it back inside a toy barrel—a doll resembling the Army major. It is revealed that the occupants of the cylindrical chamber were, in fact, toy dolls, and the chamber itself serves as a collection point for an orphanage, with the clanging sound emanating from the bell rung by the collector

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“I’m a clown. Which is neither here, there, nor anyplace. I could be a certified public accountant, a financier, a left-handed pitcher who throws only curves. What difference does it make?”The Clown

Five Characters in Search of an Exit: Closing Narration

“Just a barrel, a dark depository where are kept the counterfeit, make-believe pieces of plaster and cloth, wrought in a distorted image of human life. But this added, hopeful note… perhaps they are unloved only for the moment. In the arms of children, there can be nothing but love. A clown, a tramp, a bagpipe player, a ballet dancer, and a major. Tonight’s cast of players on the odd stage – known as – The Twilight Zone”

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Five Characters in Search of an Exit” Cast:

    Susan Harrison - Ballerina
    William Windom - Major
    Murray Matheson - Clown
    Kelton Garwood - Hobo
    Clark Allen - Bagpiper
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Dolls were meticulously designed to closely resemble the actors who portrayed the characters in the final scenes

Five Characters in Search of an Exit

The Twilight Zone Series Trivia

  • A Twilight Zone movie was produced by John Landis and Steven Speilberg in 1983. The great actor Vic Marrow lost his life after a helicopter blade decapitated him. The film was narrated by Burgess Meredith
  • Producers tried to revive the series in 1985 but after 3 seasons, it was canceled. It just wasn’t the golden age of sci-fi TV any more
  • In 1993, a made-for-TV movie called Twilight Zone: Rod Serling’s Lost Classics was released. It featured two of Rod Serling’s works. The narrator was the great James Earl Jones, who also hosted the movie
  • Mr Serling invited viewers to submit scripts and he receive over 1,500! He read over 500 of them and two were actually used
  • Rod Serling wanted voice actor Richard Egan to do the narration but when Egan reported that he was not available, Rod did it himself
  • After naming his show, Rod found out that “The Twilight Zone” was a term already used by US Air Force pilots. It means crossing over from a day sky to a night sky above the earth
  • Desi Arnaz was technically the first host of The Twilight Zone. It was DesiLu Productions that produced the show. Thank goodness Rod Serling took control and hosted himself

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