A tour-de-force haunted house story with lots of early ‘70s special effects and the scariest Night Gallery segment ever, “A Question of Fear” is reviewed here.
Season 2 Episode 6—aired 10/27/71
“A Question of Fear” ****
Teleplay by Theodore J. Flicker • Story by Bryan Lewis
Directed by Jack Laird
Leslie Nielsen as Colonel Denny Malloy
Fritz Weaver as Dr. Mazi
Jack Bannon as Al
Ivan Bonar as Fred
Owen Cunningham as the Waiter
Paul Golden as the Apparition
At a private club, the gentlemanly Dr. Mazi (Fritz Weaver) regales the men in the room with a story about a terrifying night he spent in an abandoned house, reputed to be haunted, adding that afterward he was committed to a mental institution for three years. One brash guest, Colonel Denny Malloy (Leslie Nielsen, in his earlier tough-guy persona, a characterization similar to the one he portrayed two years later on M*A*S*H* as Colonel (again a Colonel) Buzz “The Ringbanger” Brighton), scoffs at Dr. Mazi’s account, calling him a coward.
Colonel Malloy, wearing an eyepatch and mustache, is a longtime soldier-for-hire and boasts that he is incapable of fear. Dr. Mazi makes him a $15,000 bet that he can’t spend one whole night in that house without being frightened to death. Malloy gladly accepts the bet, laughing that “for $15,000, I would spend a night in hell.”
At dusk one evening, Mazi’s limousine drops off Malloy, carrying a backpack for his night’s say, at the house. The front door opens itself, Malloy enters cautiously, and it shuts itself behind him. Immediately, the chills begin.
He hears a man’s voice laughing/moaning. He sees a large spider in a web. Blood drips from above him onto his hand. A weird image of a disembodied head, in a yellowish/greenish light appears, floating around and there is more laughing and moaning.
Moving on to the dining room, Malloy finds a long table set for dinner, but crawling with rats. The flashlight he has with him dies and takes a candelabra for illumination, then walks out of the room. The candelabra remaining on the table blows out as he leaves and there is more cackling from an unseen voice.
He turns on a backup flashlight and a man, fully engulfed in flames appears. Malloy shoots at it with his revolver and it disappears. More blood drips onto the floor.
Malloy enters the basement, begins to descend the stairs and the door above him shuts on his own and locks behind him. A step breaks and he falls to the bottom where he is greeted with more maniacal laughter and sobbing.
He then enters a room and the voice becomes louder, as if it source is within. A ghostly man appears, charges him, and he shoots at it until his gun’s chamber is empty. The man then disappears.
Malloy notices more droplets of blood on the floor, near where he shot at the spectral man. Heavily breathing and sweating, he escapes this area and finds a quiet place to take a break of hot coffee from his thermos along with a cigarette. It should be noted here that this is a long, extended rollercoaster ride of fear, largely without dialogue and excellently directed by series producer Jack Laird.
The sounds of a piano disturbs his silent break and he follow the sounds, opens a door and finds a male mannequin playing. The mannequin turns around and its hands burst into flames. Noticing a power cord, Malloy cuts it and the mannequin falls over.
Feeling confident, he addresses Mazi and the two others from the club aloud, saying they’ll “have to do better than that.”
He goes upstairs to bed, checks the bed and all seems ok although he notices a power cord under the bed which he severs. He staggers as he removes his boots, suggesting he may be drugged. Once relaxed and in bed, steel restraints suddenly emerge and cover his chest, locking him in. Then a swinging razor-sharp swinging pendulum descends, moving closer and closer to his neck. Just short of slicing his throat, the pendulum stops. He yells out that the things Mazi wants to see him afraid. He then falls asleep.
The next morning, he’s awakened by an alarm. The restraints and pendulum are gone. He goes downstairs and enters the kitchen where coffee is made and toast pops up. Mazi then appears on a two-way tv. Mazi admits he drugged Malloy’s coffee thermos.
Mazi then explains that his father was in the Italian forces during World War II when Malloy captured him. He was a concert pianist. Malloy remembers. Mazi reminds Malloy that when his father could not provide the information Malloy sought, Malloy then poured gasoline over his hands and set them ablaze, reducing them to burned stumps. Mazi’s father never played piano again.
Mazi swore revenge on his father’s deathbed. A biochemist, Mazi says he injected Malloy with a serum that will transform him into an earthworm. His bones will break down. Malloy scoffs at this and Mazi suggests he go down to the cellar and look at his colleague who is already a form of slug. Malloy sees a slimy trail on the kitchen floor. Fearing his fate, Malloy declares “you still lose, Mazi!” and shoots himself to death.
On the television screen, Mazi calmly replies, “no, you lose. There is nothing in the cellar.”
A great, chilling, scary segment of Night Gallery. If you want to see a scary one, see “A Question of Fear.”