You wouldn’t think a story about an African witch doctor would be a Night Gallery strength. And you’d be right. “Logoda’s Heads” is reviewed here.
“Logoda’s Heads” *1/2
Teleplay by Robert Bloch • Story by August Derleth
Directed by Jeannot Szwarc
Patrick Macnee as Major Crosby
Brock Peters as Logoda
Denise Nicholas as Kyro
Tim Matheson as Henley
Albert Popwell as Sergeant Imo
Zara Cully as Emba
Roger E. Mosley as the Second Askari
This is one of the worst Night Gallery segments not part of the group of generally dreadful comic blackout sketches, marked by poor acting, unconvincing set design, and mainly, a terrible script, adapted by Robert Bloch (Psycho), of all people.
In some jungle in some African country in some part of the colonial period presumably, British military officer, Major Crosby (Patrick Macnee, he at least is decent) is taking a young American, Henley (Tim Matheson, completely amateurish,) to see a tribal elder who may know something about the recent disappearance of Henley’s brother, an anthropologist.
First, they have to get through the dancing Emba (Zara Cully, yes, Mother Jefferson in The Jeffersons a few years later), who lets them know that Logoda will grudgingly see them.
When they enter his hut, Logoda (Brock Peters, stolid, doing what he can to give this role some dignity) denies that he has seen Henley’s brother. Major Crosby treats him with respect but Henley seems to want to threaten him to get the information he is after.
A young woman from a neighboring village, Kyro (Denise Nicholas, quite fetching, though also, not well-directed—this is a real nadir for longtime series director Jeannot Szwarc, too, as the poor acting performances reflect badly on him), enters the hut and confirms the two white mens’ fears: that Henley’s brother is indeed dead.
She says Henley’s brother was in her village ten days before and when he heard of Logoda’s collection of shrunken heads, he ventured out to find the witch doctor. She indicates a curtained-off room where Logoda’s collection of heads are and Crosby gets Logoda to allow him and Henley to accompany the man inside the room, though not before Logoda threatens Kyro with a curse if she says any more.
There, they find a string of shrunken heads on along a bar. Henley searches for his brothers but does not find him (it?). Then Logoda begins chanting and the heads begin swaying. This is actually somewhat of a chilling scene. The heads’ motion stops and Logoda informs the white men that he has divined from the heads that Henley’s brother drowned in a nearby river.
The white men prepare to leave and Kyro begs them to take them with them back to, presumably their British colonial base, for protections from Logoda’s threat. There, she insists on an armed guard at her bedroom door, which Crosby grants.
The next morning, Kyro awakes alive and well, but a messenger comes to inform them that during the night Logoda was murdered. We get a cringe-inducing cutaway to Kyro casting her eyes down at this news, thus telegraphing her guilt in the matter. Come on, Jeannot Szwarc, you’re better than that!
Crosby, Henley and Kyro return to Logoda’s village to investigate what has happened and what Crosby finds is Logoda’s body torn apart as if by wild animals. Kyro intones solemnly, “there were no beasts, Major. Only my magic.” She knew Logoda killed Henley’s brother but could not prove it, so she dished out some justice, Night Gallery-Africa style, which in this case is lame, heavy-handed and borderline racist. “I knew Logoda could make the heads speak,” she adds, “I know how to make them kill.”
Even if we assume this was a well-intentioned segment, it does come off as paternalistic at best and racist at worst, and beyond that, is weak dramatically. Peters tries to make his character less than a caricature and Macnee’s character shows some respect but this is probably not an area that Night Gallery should have attempted to enter.
In the indispensable “Rod Serling’s Night Gallery An After-Hours Tour,” Tim Matheson admitted that this debacle “is one of the things that made me decide I’d better learn what I was doing,” so at least there is some good that came out of this—that we can thank it for Matheson’s fine performance as Eric Stratton in Animal House in 1978.