Twilight Zone – Once Upon A Time

★★★1/2  December 15, 1961 Season 3 Episode 13

If you want to see where we are…HERE is a list of the episodes.

This episode stars my favorite silent movie film maker and comedian Buster Keaton. It doesn’t rank as one of the best episodes but it has its moments. It’s a comedy time travel episode and when they are in 1892 it is a silent movie with subtitles…when they travel to 1962 it goes back to normal dialog. This episode will not be for everyone but a 66 year old Buster Keaton is worth it to me. The man was in great shape to do the things he did in this one. 

Buster Keaton’s popularity had been rising again since James Agee did an article in Life magazine in 1948 about the silent movie comedians Charles Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd and Harry Langdon.

For me this one is a 5 star episode because of Buster Keaton alone. Him and Chaplin made the best silent comedy films of the twenties. 

It’s really interesting how Serling portrays the past and future. When someone from the past comes into the future…the noise is always noted…how noisy we are today comparted to the past. He did this in an earlier episode called Execution. 

According to Rod Serling’s promo in the previous episode, Richard Matheson wrote this script especially for Buster Keaton.

The old-fashioned clothes wringer that Buster Keaton is using to wash his pants in the beginning is the same kind of wringer that crushed his right forefinger when he was 3 years old. A curious little boy, he got his finger caught in the rollers and a doctor had to amputate it at the first knuckle. In this short, he gets the same finger caught in the wringer for laughs.

This marks the 78th episode overall…that means with this post/episode we are half the way through to 156…again I appreciate everyone who has been along for the ride. 

This show was written by Rod Serling and Richard Matheson

Rod Serling’s Opening Narration: 

Mr. Mulligan, a rather dour critic of his times, is shortly to discover the import of that old phrase, ‘Out of the frying pan, into the fire’—said fire burning brightly at all times—in The Twilight Zone.


In 1890, janitor Woodrow Mulligan uses his employers’ invention to transport himself to the future. He imagines an Eden but finds a polluted, busy world that he doesn’t find at all attractive. He meets Rollo who is also disgusted with the world he lives imagining life in the 1890s as idyllic. When Woodrow goes back to his own time Rollo goes with him but he is soon bored without any of the conveniences of modern life.

Rod Serling’s Closing Narration:

‘To each his own’—so goes another old phrase to which Mr. Woodrow Mulligan would heartily subscribe, for he has learned—definitely the hard way—that there’s much wisdom in a third old phrase, which goes as follows: ‘Stay in your own backyard.’ To which it might be added, ‘and, if possible, assist others to stay in theirs’—via, of course, The Twilight Zone.


Rod Serling… Narrator / Self – Host (uncredited)
Buster Keaton… Woodrow Mulligan
Stanley Adams… Rollo
James Flavin… 1962 Policeman
Gil Lamb… Officer Flannagan
Jesse White… Repair Man
Harry Fleer… 1962 Policeman #2 (uncredited)
Norman Papson… Trumpeter (uncredited)
Warren Parker… Clothes Store Manager (uncredited)
Milton Parsons… Prof. Gilbert (uncredited)
George E. Stone… Fenwick (uncredited)
Arthur Tovey… Sidewalk Onlooker (uncredited)


Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

16 thoughts on “Twilight Zone – Once Upon A Time”

  1. Buster Keaton- certainly one of the biggest stars to appear in a Twilight Zone- his star had long faded by the time of this episode but still- great that he was a part of the series. .

    Liked by 2 people

    1. At 66 he was falling off a bicycle and running about…Chaplin hated TV and he asked Keaton what kept him in shape…Keaton…knowing this said acting in “TV”

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Mulligan was a very interesting name to use for this character, as it becomes an aptronym, which is a name that matches the occupation or character of its owner, often in a humorous or ironic way. In golf a Mulligan is a do-over a shot that is not counted and you get another try and here Mulligan is looking for the same thing.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes a do over is what I think of… it’s cool that they wrote that just to have him on there. He is probably the biggest star like Hans said…they ever had.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. very cool… just the format (half silent movie, half with audio) seems like it makes it worth seeing. I really have no idea what time period I would choose if I could be myself and live any time ever… there are a lot of things about the mid-20th Century that were appealing, but I’d miss a lot of modern conveniences.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. A pretty creative episode – I liked the premise a d thought it was a fun episode – different from the normal one. And cool that Keaton was in it – like you said probably the biggest star they ever had

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I didn’t realize it was Keaton at first and I think it’s because he’s talking. I kept thinking he looked familiar and it became apparent quickly that he was a seasoned actor and looked up the credits and was happily surprised. I like the look of the time machine contraption. Nice blend of these two icons (Keaton and TZ.)

    Liked by 2 people

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