David McCallum, looking not unlike Justin Hayward, is searching for his own nights in white satin, with a possible female werewolf in the Night Gallery tale “The Phantom Farmhouse,” reviewed here.
Season 2 Episode 5—aired 10/20/71
“The Phantom Farmhouse” ***
Teleplay by Halsted Welles, Story by Seabury Quinn
Directed by Jeannot Szwarc
David McCallum as Dr. Joel Winter
David Carradine as Gideon
Linda Marsh as Mildred Squire
Ivor Francis as Pierre
Ford Rainey as the Sheriff
Trina Parks as Betty
Bill Quinn as Dr. Tom
Gail Bonney as Mrs. Squire
Martin Ashe as Mr. Squire
Ray Ballard as Mr. Grouch
Frank Arnold as the Shepherd
“The Phantom Farmhouse” is an odd segment, even by Night Gallery standards. Adapted from a story written in the 1920s, it also features some of the most contemporary (1971 contemporary) set design and characterizations, combined with other design and characters more turn-of-the-century (the previous century). Uneven, it still works, largely in the older-period motifs.
It begins with David Carradine (Gideon) in full beard and longish hair (this was filmed the year before Kung Fu began, so he lost the beard in between) playing an acoustic guitar while seated in a pop-art treehouse of large primary-colored discs nestled amongst large tree limbs. He is in a bucolic setting at Delphinium House, a sanitarium in the countryside. Along with him in the trees on different colored discs are fellow residents there for a “session” with psychiatrist Joel Winter (David McCallum). If you like far-out, over-the-top early 70s kitsch, you’ll love this opening scene.
One guy complains about Gideon playing his guitar. Dr. Winter asks him to stop playing. Gideon does so by smashing his guitar to bits (Pete Townshend fan, no doubt).
The session begins in earnest as Gideon says his parents “pay $39,000 a year to keep me locked up for my own good,” then launches into a story about a house in the nearby forest with a beautiful woman that everyone is in love with even if they haven’t met her. Dr. Winter thinks this is one of Gideon’s hallucinations. Gideon denies this, saying he told a patient the story and that the patient was found dead, exsanguinated after what Gideon believed was an attempt to find this woman in the woods.
Later that afternoon, Dr. Winter goes out for a walk outside the sanitarium grounds and to his surprise, finds the house Gideon described. He hears a growling sound and retraces his steps. At the sanitarium gate, he encounters Pierre (Ivor Francis), an oddly French-accented man in this apparently US-set tale, who tells him that there is no house, it burned down years ago.
Dr. Winter returns to the spot where he found the house and it is there again. This time, a beautiful, shy young woman, Mildred (Linda Marsh), emerges from within. He asks her for a drink of water from the front yard well. She goes inside and we hear “This one is mine, I tell you. You do your own hunting,” then a growl. This is, to say the least, a bit heavy-handed.
Mildred comes out again and “explains” that she and her father argue over game now that it’s hunting season. I wouldn’t believe it if I were Dr. Winter.
He notices her index finger is longer than the others, then he meets her parents as they come out on the porch. Dad suggests he (Winter) return after dark (this comes off as funny as we can begin to guess what is going on, but it’s not meant to be, at least I don’t think it is).
Back at the sanitarium, Gideon eagerly shows his books on werewolves to Dr. Winter, telling him the index finger of a werewolf is longest. I did not know that. Winter is disbelieving at this and other descriptions of werewolves’ characteristics, to which Gideon explodes “what do you think May saw before he was torn to pieces,” referring to the patient he discussed while on the pastel-colored disc.
Later, Dr. Winter finds Pierre with another surprisingly French-speaking shepherd (Frank Arnold) saying a sheep of theirs has been killed. They say that the footprints are like hands with the index fingers the longest. The doctor rejects Pierre’s offer of a silver crucifix to ward off werewolves before he returns to the forest.
Winter walks back into the forest and sees sheep chased by wolves. He runs to the farmhouse, but no one is there. Then Mildred walks up the path. She says she wants to be with Winter but tells him he can’t see her again. He asks why and he says “because I love you.”
Upon his return to the sanitarium, Pierre tells Dr. Winter that one of the patients, Betty (Trina Parks) was alone in the meadow and now she is dead, similarly mauled to death as was his sheep.
Back in the treehouse setting, Dr. Winter notices pentagrams inked on Gideon’s hands and asks how long he’s had them. Gideon tells the doctor that he’s sorry he got him to go to the farmhouse, adding that anyone who’s seen it is marked as a victim.
Winter returns to the farmhouse that night, finding Mildred there. She somberly tells him to return tomorrow at dawn with a prayer book and to read services for burial of the dead from it by the three gravestones in the yard.
Her eyes have been downcast. When she finally looks up, her eyes are black. Winter runs away. Chased by wolves, he falls and is attacked. In an action-filled scene, a third wolf comes and fights the other two (that would be Mildred fighting her parents). Winter escapes and stumbles back to the sanitarium.
The next morning, he returns and as requested, reads from the prayer book at the graves. We hear a loud commotion of howling and growling. Finally, he faints. Pierre and another psychiatrist from the sanitarium find him and get him up. There is no house there. Dr. Winter cries “Mildred!” over and over again as we fade to black.
The gothic romance element of this story works surprisingly well, despite the distractions of the pop-art treehouse and the inexplicably French-speaking shepherds in the rural American midst.