A long-ill sister dies but her spirit lingers in the Night Gallery story “Certain Shadows on the Wall,” reviewed here.
“Certain Shadows on the Wall” **
Teleplay by Rod Serling, Story “The Shadows on the Wall” by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman
Directed by Jeff Corey
Louis Hayward as Stephen Brigham
Agnes Moorehead as Emma Brigham
Rachel Roberts as Rebecca Brigham
Grayson Hall as Ann Brigham
Emma Brigham (Agnes Moorehead) lies in bed, deathly ill. Her physician brother, Stephen (Louis Hayward), ministers to her after giving up his practice, including nightly readings to her of works of her favorite author, Charles Dickens. Her spinster sisters, dour, pragmatic Ann (Grayson Hall) and sweet Rebecca (Rachel Roberts) live with Emma.
Note: once again, the stairwell in this house looks quite familiar, I would not be surprised if it was the same one used in “The House” and “The Cemetery.” The set design department certainly got their money’s worth out of that staircase.
Stephen shares Emma’s prognosis with Ann and Rebecca, telling them Emma has but days to live. They are startled by a crashing sound and Emma has died, knocking over a table while reading Dickens’ “Bleak House” in her final moments.
Soon thereafter, that well-used staircase becomes the focal point once again as an image of what looks to be the late Emma sitting up in bed appears on the wall of the staircase. It is a silhouette, seemingly a shadow, yet on closer inspection, it is not a shadow, but rather an image directly on the wall.
Stephen, initially in denial, insists it is a stain or discoloration. After the siblings return from Emma’s funeral, the image is still on the wall.
The funeral home phones asking for the cause of death and Stephen says it was dyspepsia and, becoming agitated and defensive, says that there is no need for them to verify.
Stephen becomes nearly obsessed with finding an explanation for Emma’s image on the wall and when Rebecca finds a bottle of sedatives, she apparently makes a connection that we would not have expected her to make, given her seemingly sunny outlook on people and life.
As Stephen continues cataloging the many possessions in Emma’s home, possessions which he is now imagining enriching the three surviving siblings, Rebecca convinces him he needs some rest and to that end has prepared him a cup of hot tea. “Drink your tea, you’ll feel ever so much better,” she coos.
Rebecca confides to Ann that she ground up some of the sedatives and put them into Stephen’s tea. Ann seems slightly surprised, but not alarmed. It is a lethal dose. His death is ruled accidental and he is buried alongside Emma.
When we next see the staircase wall, Emma’s shadow has been joined by one of Stephen, reading to her, now one would surmise, forevermore.
For me, “Certain Shadows on the Wall” largely falls flat. The potential chills of Emma’s accusatory shadow on the wall don’t particularly materialize and the irony of Rebecca’s and Ann’s indifference to that bit of the supernatural is downplayed to the point of having no impact. Strong acting from the three leads makes it watchable, but it comes off as too slow and stifling (there are no locations other than the house) to be enjoyable.