A Halloween post of the chilling Night Gallery story “Lone Survivor” is here.
“Lone Survivor” ***1/2
Written by Rod Serling
Directed by Gene Levitt
John Colicos as the Survivor
Torin Thatcher as the Captain
Hedley Mattingly as the Doctor
Charles Davis as Wilson
Brendan Dillon as the Quartermaster
William Beckley as Richards
Terence Pushman as the Helmsman
A ship at sea in 1915, the Lusitania, comes upon a shipwreck with a lone survivor (let’s just get the meaning of the title out there right away). The crew sees, to its astonishment, that the ship in question is the Titanic, wrecked three years earlier.
The crew brings the survivor aboard, who is dressed in women’s clothing. But this person is not a woman, but rather a man. He explains that he was terrified and took the cowardly way out by dressing as a woman (the old “women and children first” get to go to the lifeboats was not such a cliché apparently).
He tells the ship’s doctor that this ship will be hit by a torpedo and sunk in 18 minutes. The doctor is naturally stunned at this prognostication. The survivor says he’s “beginning to understand that I’m a flying Dutchman…damned and doomed…an eternity of lifeboats, rescues, then forever being picked up by doomed ships” as a punishment for his cowardice aboard the Titanic.
Then, just as predicted, a torpedo hits the Lusitania. The scene then shifts and we are aboard a different ship, but the action is just like that in the first scene where the Lusitania rescued a lone survivor from the Titanic. This crew sees that the wrecked ship is the Lusitania, which in their time was sunk 40 years ago. A zoom in on the cap of a crewman reveals the ship’s name: the Andrea Doria (famously sunk off the coast of Massachusetts in 1956).
This is a taught, well-directed (by Gene Levitt) episode, that keeps up the level of stress and anticipation in the viewer. John Colicos, who plays the survivor, really gives it his all, nearly overplaying it, but he seems genuinely terrified of the fate he realizes has befallen him. This makes up for the fact that the budget did not apparently allow for much in the way of sets, but this adds to a sense of claustrophobia that works here.