Pat Boone plays a widower on a tour of a military school for his wayward son in the Night Gallery story “The Academy,” reviewed here.
“The Academy” ***1/2
Teleplay by Rod Serling, Story by David Ely
Directed by Jeff Corey
Pat Boone as Mr. Holston
Leif Erickson as the Academy Director
Larry Linville as Cadet Sloane
Ed Call as the Drill Instructor
Stanley Waxman as Bradley
Robert Gibbons as Simmons
E. A. Sirianni as the Chauffeur
John Gruber as the Cadet in Reception
Wealthy widower Holston (Pat Boone) steps out of his chauffeured limousine amidst marching drills at the entrance of Glendalough Military Academy. Walking up the stairs toward the building, he passes a by statue which would seem to serve as a sort of welcome, but oddly, the two figures depicted, a man in military dress seeming to show the way to a young boy, are facing toward the building rather than away from it. This produced quite a chilling effect on me; simple, yet disturbing.
Holston is there to meet with the Academy Director (Leif Erickson, very good). He explains that his son is “not a bad kid,” but he “lacks motivation” and is “undisciplined.” Surveying the boy’s transcript, the Director asks Holston about his wife’s death. She drowned when she and the son, who was ten at the time, were in a rowboat. The director’s questioning of Holston has creepy undertones, seeming to insinuate that the boy may have had some role in his mother’s “accidental” death.
As the Director takes Holston on a tour of the academy, we see that some of the “cadets” are clearly adults, including Sloane (Larry Linville, who was brilliant as Major Frank Burns on M*A*S*H* beginning the following year). Holston vaguely recalls from news reports years ago a teenaged Sloane who was involved in an assault case. “If that’s the same Sloan, he’d have to be in his thirties.”
Holston asks the Director about the inward-facing statue and the Director explains, “All that a boy needs is to be found right here. And for that reason, the statue symbolizes welcome—not farewell. For us, the most important thing is the academy. This is our world.”
Holston seems to have misgivings, even seems alarmed at this, and this is where the casting of Pat Boone is quite clever. We assume that anyone played by Pat Boone is going to be a good guy, so we are now set for Holston to conclude that this is not the place for his son.
Outside we see a cadet fall and a drill instructor yells at him to “get up and run three more miles!”
Asking the Director how long his son will stay, he responds, “I assumed you understood that. Indefinitely. Most of the parents prefer it that way.”
Again, a chilling moment as we realize that this academy is a place where parents can dump their problem children forever.
What happens next is perhaps even more chilling. Pat Boone (as Holston) nods and says his son will arrive tomorrow.
On his way out, he discovers that the late-middle aged gatekeeper is also a cadet. “I was fifteen when I arrived, sir. I’ll soon be fifty-five.” As he steps into his limousine, he remarks to his driver, “my son’s a rotter. This’ll be just the place for him,” and it’s surprisingly cruel to hear coming from the lips of Mr. Nice Guy Pat Boone.