One could do worse than sharing a ride in a convertible on a warm, sunny afternoon with the 28-year-old Joanna Pettet. Review of the Night Gallery episode “The House” is here.
Season 1 Episode 3—aired 12/30/70
“The House” **1/2
Teleplay by Rod Serling, Story by André Maurois
Directed by John Astin
Joanna Pettet as Elaine Latimer
Paul Richards as Peugot
Steve Franken as Dr. Peter Mitchell
Jan Burrell as the Nurse
“The House” is a pleasantly haunting, atmospheric episode that ultimately made me go “huh” rather than “wow.” Directed by actor John Astin (who does not appear in this), it was his television directorial debut and the first of three stories Night Gallery stories he would direct.
“The House” begins with the idyllic scene described above. Elaine Latimer (Pettet, in the first of her four Night Gallery appearances) drives through a sunlit countryside, her long blonde hair billowing in the wind. With a slight sense of déjà vu, she comes upon a lovely two-story house, pulls up its driveway and approaches it. Astin shoots this in slow-motion and as Pettet walks to the house, her long dress billows just as her hair does. It is an enchanting, inviting scene.
The house gives her a feeling of welcoming and a sense of peace, serenity and permanence. She knocks at the door but no one answers, until she drives off and the door opens a crack.
It turns out she is describing this scene to a psychiatrist, Dr. Peter Mitchell, at the sanitarium from which she is being discharged the next day. She says she has had this recurring dream the last ten years.
Upon her release, she drives through a countryside much like the one she has dreamed of and arrives at, you guessed it, the house. Coincidentally (or not), a real estate agent, Peugot, happens to be at the property and informs Elaine that the house is for sale. Inside, she knows the layout even though her dreams only involve the house’s exterior. The asking price is surprisingly low, and apparently the realtor’s moral (or legal) code was strong back in 1970 because with just a little prodding, Peugot reveals that the house is haunted.
But haunted in a non-violent way. No bloody crimes have been committed here; Peugot thinks the “haunting” is psychological inside the previous owners’ heads. Not dissuaded in the least, Elaine agrees to buy it.
While sleeping there, she has the recurring dream again. She hears a car come up the driveway, goes outside, but no one is there. Peugot then pulls up but swears he only just arrived. She phones Dr. Mitchell at the sanitarium to share with him the news that she’s found the house of her dreams (literally). While on the phone with him, there is a knock at the door. She puts down the phone to see who it is, then returns to tell the doctor “I am the ghost.”
She drifts off to sleep, again hears a knock at the door, hurries downstairs (note: the stairwell here looks very similar to the one in “The Cemetery” from the pilot episode; it’s possible the same set was used) and catches a glimpse of her red convertible driving away, thus concluding the story.
This segment was certainly not leading up to a big scare, but still, I found this ending unsatisfying, yet enjoyed the journey well enough.