A very weird tale of a lonely girl and the monster she befriends one summer in the Night Gallery segment “Brenda,” reviewed here.
Teleplay by Douglas Heyes (under pseudonym Matthew Howard) • Story by Margaret St. Clair
Directed by Allen Reisner
Glenn Corbett as Richard Alden
Laurie Prange as Brenda Alden
Robert Hogan as Jim Emsden
Barbara Babcock as Flora Alden
Sue Taylor as Elizabeth Emsden
Pamelyn Ferdin as Frances Anne Emsden
Fred Carson as the Thing
Spending her summer vacation on an island where her parents have a cottage, Brenda Alden is a strangely socialized 12 year-old girl. Seeing sometime playmate Frances Anne on the beach, putting the finishing touches on an elaborate sand castle, Brenda doesn’t walk up to the girl to engage her in conversation about her creation; rather, she marches purposefully at it and stomps right through the thing, pulverizing it.
Then, she wants to make friendly conversation, but Frances Anne is understandably upset and is in no mood to share pleasantries through her tears. Brenda has an unusual way of trying to make friends.
With no one left to talk to, Brenda heads off by herself into the woods where, upon hearing a rustling sound, she sees a sort of creature that frankly looks like a guy in a big, heavy suit covered in leaves, moss and long fur. Like Brenda, it may be lonely, too, or at the very least curious.
Scared, but also curious as well, and no doubt desperate for a friend, Brenda calls out to it, “Here I am! Can’t catch me!” and she leads it on a sort of tentative chase through the forest. She gets a ways ahead of it, then settles down near the grassy edge of a pit to watch it approach.
Not knowing the terrain as well as her, the monster falls into the pit. Slightly injured, it gets up but cannot scale the steep rocky inclines of its walls. While it attempts to extricate itself from its prison, Brenda taunts and teases it some but also shows a more thoughtful, sympathetic side as she muses aloud, “I think you’re very, very old. I think you must have been the way you are for a long, long time.”
The creature holds up its arms at Brenda, seeming to request her help. She leans down to extend a helping hand and asks the creature, “What are you waiting for? Do you want to be born?” It’s a very odd segment and it had me believing this was likely all in her imagination.
That night, Brenda leaves the door of her house open, hoping her new “friend” might come calling. And it does, causing a great commotion with her parents and neighbors as they drive the creature out of their home with flashlights, then torches and if the previous scene didn’t make you think of Frankenstein, this one certainly does. Brenda is delighted because “they can’t kill it,” as she says.
The townsfolk drive the creature back into the pit and cover it with stones. Brenda and her family leave the island as summer is ending.
Next summer, she returns to the island and the pit where the rock pile remains unchanged. Brenda has undergone a maturation since last summer. Gone are her braids and her manner is less childish. She speaks emotionally to the creature within the rock pile, with a tear on her cheek, promising it “we’ll be born together; I’ll give you love. We’ll be born, you and I, together.”
What a strange and unique story this is indeed. While all over the map in some ways, too literal perhaps at times, and with a creature who is laughably lame in terms of today’s standards, this is an example of how Night Gallery, even when not entirely successful, was ambitious and could create memorable stories that would not be attempted elsewhere. Special mention must go to Laurie Prange, who was 19 when she played the part of Brenda, for creating a character who seemed alternately insane and just a girl lonely for human understanding.