"Printer's Devil" is an episode of the American television anthology series The Twilight Zone. The title comes from the expression printer's devil, an apprentice in the industry.
The initial plot set-up borrows from the classic American short story "The Devil and Daniel Webster", although this tale ultimately goes in a different direction. This hour-long episode was written by Charles Beaumont, and based on his 1951 short story "The Devil, You Say".
|“||Take away a man's dream, fill him with whiskey and despair, send him to a lonely bridge, let him stand there all by himself looking down as the black water, and try to imagine the thoughts that are in his mind. You can't, I can't. But there's someone who can - and that someone is seated next to Douglas Winter right now. The car is headed back toward town, but its real destination is the Twilight Zone.||”|
Douglas Winter, the editor-in-chief of a failing newspaper called The Courier feels there is nothing to live for after a number of employees quit, including the Linotype operator. On a bridge while drunk, he looks down into the inviting water below. When he is going to commit suicide, he is approached by one "Mr. Smith", who comments that it's a short fall and probably wouldn't do a very good job. He then asks Doug for a light, and, if he wasn't quite ready, a ride into town. Amused and forgetting about suicide, Winter gives him a lift to a café, where Mr. Smith agrees to provide the editor with money to pay off debts and continue the operation of the newspaper. Mr. Smith also signs up to replace the linotype operator and be the sole reporter. With nothing to lose, Doug agrees to the proposition.
The first scoop is a large bank robbery. Business booms for the little newspaper, as Mr. Smith out-scoops other reporters from the rival Gazette on dramatic news stories, many involving disasters. The Courier becomes a success as its stories hit the streets seemingly minutes after the events happen. It is so successful that a man from The Gazette, Mr. Franklin, tries to buy up the little newspaper. Winter is now in a position to say "No!" with confidence. Not many days later, there is a fire at The Gazette and they accuse someone at The Courier of arson.
With all the success the newspaper is having, Mr. Smith asks the editor to humor him by signing a contract guaranteeing continued success as the newspaper editor in exchange for his immortal soul, pointing out that it doesn't mean much; "it's almost like an appendix these days, not really necessary," and besides, since the devil is not real, Winter shouldn't have a problem with it. Winter hesitates, but Mr. Smith goads him by saying, "Imagine a grown man believing in the devil!" More importantly, Mr. Smith has modified the newspaper's linotype machine so that whatever is set in type subsequently happens.
Eventually, Mr. Smith makes a pass at Miss Benson, who sternly rebuffs him. Mr. Smith vows that Benson will pay the price. In retaliation for this, and trying to turn the screws on Winter, he writes a story that has the editor's girlfriend gravely injured in an auto accident. The editor concludes that Mr. Smith is, in fact, the devil, and he discovers the story that has his girlfriend apparently dying. Smith demands that Winter kill himself to fulfill his part of their bargain, or Jackie dies. In desperation, Winter uses the linotype machine to change the story so that his girlfriend survives the crash (with Mr. Smith himself the catalyst behind the steering wheel, trying to destroy Jackie as well), but also writes it so that Mr. Smith's contract is rendered void, and he must leave.
When the car is found, Jackie is safe in the passenger seat, but Mr. Smith has vanished. Winter decides to run the newspaper fairly and to destroy the infernal linotype machine. As Rod Serling narrates that Mr. Smith was a form of Lucifer, the linotype machine is being removed from The Courier by two people.
|“||Exit the infernal machine, and with it his satanic majesty, Lucifer, prince of darkness - otherwise known as Mr. Smith. He's gone, but not for good; that wouldn't be like him - he's gone for bad. And he might be back, with another ticket to The Twilight Zone.||”|
- DeVoe, Bill. (2008). Trivia from The Twilight Zone. Albany, GA: Bear Manor Media. ISBN 978-1-59393-136-0
- Grams, Martin. (2008). The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic. Churchville, MD: OTR Publishing. ISBN 978-0-9703310-9-0
- at the Internet Movie Database
- at TV.com