Two four-star segments in a row? It must be time for a clunker. “The Last Laurel” is reviewed here.
“The Last Laurel” *1/2
Teleplay by Rod Serling, Story “The Horsehair Trunk” by Davis Grubb
Directed by Daryl Duke
Jack Cassidy as Marius Davis
Martine Beswick as Susan Davis
Martin E. Brooks as Dr. Armstrong
After a fantastic, long (40 minute) segment, Night Gallery had to pad out the hour-long time slot and so we have the 9 minute conclusion to the final episode of Season 1, “The Last Laurel.” Interestingly, on the initial broadcast, this segment aired first, followed by “Tim Riley” which makes more sense, having this one as the “warm up act” before the main segment but on the DVD the order is reversed.
Jack Cassidy, almost always very interesting on screen, even in subpar material, here overplays his part as ex-star runner/athlete Marius Davis, who is now a middle-aged shell of his former self, confined to a bed from a crippling automobile accident.
He summons his doctor to accuse him of “robbing me of my wife and I have every intention of dealing with it.” Privately, his wife tells the doctor that Marius is convinced she is having affairs with many men, not just him and she also adds that she thinks she saw her husband walking out of her room one recent night, which would be impossible given his current physical state.
Then we get an overly long segment of Marius narrating how he has honed the mental acuity to leave his body thru sheer force of will (astral projection). We see a ghost-like image of him, in less than convincing special effects walking about. He then picks up a heavy candlestick in the hallway in a driving rainstorm in order to do away with the doctor who is supposedly cuckolding him. He enters a room, strikes the sleeping figure in bed, enjoys a moment of satisfaction, then sees the trophies in the room and realizes he mistakenly went into his own room and killed himself. When his astral projection will expire is not explained as the episode ends here with this “shocking” conclusion.
Not sure how much more could have been done with this story in the brief time they had; if this one had been twice as long, it may have proven to be a good one; as it is, it’s just another misfire.
Thus concludes the first season of just six episodes (if you read the introduction to this, you may recall that Night Gallery was part of a “Four in One” experiment where four different shows were rotated in the same time slot. The ratings were good enough that it was given its own non-shared weekly spot in a second season of twenty-two episodes, the one “full” season of the program.