A lonely mortician’s evening is interrupted by a fugitive on the lam in the Night Gallery story “A Death in the Family,” reviewed here.
Season 2 Episode 2—aired 9/22/71
“A Death in the Family “ **1/2
Teleplay by Rod Serling, Story by Miriam Allen DeFord
Directed by Jeannot Szwarc
E. G. Marshall as Jared Soames
Desi Arnaz Jr. as Doran
Noam Pitlik as the Hearse Driver
James B. Sikking as the State Trooper
John Williams Evans as the Second Trooper
Bill Elliott as the Third Trooper
Bud Walls as the Grave Digger
A hearse pulls up to Soames Funeral Home and two men bring in a body. The men explain to Jared Soames (E. G. Marshall), the funeral director, that this is a “charity case.” The salt-of-the-earth driver launches into some oddly poetic Serling dialogue regarding the facts of man’s life. Stripped of the poetry, the guy spent the last thirty years in a nursing home, had no friends and received no letters, so there is no one to tend to his arrangements
Soames wants more formality, more honor for the man, at least a headstone. His surprise at this situation is odd given how many years he must have been at this job. Had he not encountered a pauper’s burial before?
“You lived eighty-one years. You deserve more than a $100 funeral. You deserve more. You deserve much more. You deserve eternity,” Soames muses aloud. Marshall delivers a fine performance in this story, full of empathy and feeling.
When the casket is buried, the grave digger observes “sure is light.” Soames replies, “he was old, body wasted away.”
While driving, Soames is stopped by police who warn him of an escaped criminal on the loose.
Back at the funeral home, we get an interesting shot from a hallway of a room’s door partially open. We can hear Soames singing “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow.” He then comes out of the room, looks back and says “be back soon.”
Suddenly a window is smashed and a young man, Doran (Desi Arnaz Jr.) enters. He, too, overhead the singing and asks Soames “who’s a jolly good fellow?” Soames doesn’t answer and Doran opens the ajar door and finds “a stiff sitting in a chair.”
Doran is the escapee the police warned Soames about. He is bleeding from a gunshot wound and Soames lets him rest on a sofa. They get to talking and find out they both have in common the lack of family during their childhoods. The incidental music here is light-hearted and doesn’t suit the mood of the scene.
Doran awakes from sleep and again hears Soames singing “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow” in the distance. He gets up to investigate and finds Soames in the basement. He opens the door to the room he’s in and he and we see a “family” of corpses, all dressed and seated around a dinner table. Soames introduces them. There is a wife, two girls, a mother, brother and a father, “just arrived tonight.” It’s a creepy scene. Obviously living actors are used here and still as they try to be, slight movement can be detected.
There’s a knock at the door. Soames tells Doran he’ll get rid of them. Doran starts to leave with Soames, but Soames tells him to go back to “the family. You belong here.” Soames is freaked out by this and again, we get some inappropriately cutesy music.
The police are there and they come downstairs after they hear shots and find the room. Soames refers to Doran, who now also appears to be dead, as his son. Soames then takes a sip from a glass of wine and collapses of an apparent chest wound, the scene completed in front of the disbelieving police.