“Everything I plant grows. I have ‘Green Fingers’” says Elsa Lanchester’s Mrs. Bowen, as you’ll see in this Night Gallery review.
Season 2 Episode 15—aired 1/5/72
“Green Fingers” ***
Teleplay by Rod Serling • Story by R. C. Cook
Directed by John Badham
Cameron Mitchell as Michael J. Saunders
Elsa Lanchester as Lydia Bowen
Michael Bell as Ernest
George Keymas as Crowley
Harry Hickox as the Sheriff
Bill Quinn as the Doctor
Larry Watson as the First Deputy
Jeff Burton as the Second Deputy
“Green Fingers” begins to the strains, appropriately, of “Greensleeves” in an off-kilter, synthesized version, as we see 77 year-old Lydia Bowen (Elsa Lanchester, yes, the Bride of Frankenstein thirty-six years earlier) tending to the lovely garden around her tidy house. The music changes instrumentation when two cars arrive, one of which contains wealthy business magnate Michael J. Saunders (Cameron Mitchell).
Saunders is a man who always gets what he wants, but he has met his match in the somewhat eccentric lady of this house. Saunders has planned to build a series of factories in the area and has succeeded in persuading every other landowner in the area to sell their property to him—except for Mrs. Bowen. Confidently, he tells his subordinate Ernest (Michael Bell) that everyone has their price and he’ll soon find hers.
But when he goes to speak with Mrs. Bowen, Saunders finds out that she is more stubborn than he imagined and that she apparently does not have a price. She simply does not want to sell her home at any price. This is where she has lived her entire life and she has spent untold hours toiling in her garden, with abundant results to enjoy. She explains, to Saunders’ disinterest that she has “green fingers. Everything I plant grows.”
Concluding that he can’t get her to sell, Saunders hires an unsavory character, Crowley (George Keymas) to do whatever it takes to get her off the property. Crowley comes by at night and chops off one of her fingers with an axe as a none-too-subtle warning.
When the police arrive in the morning, they amazingly find the injured Mrs. Bowen tending to her garden. Crowley died in a car crash that night trying to make his getaway.
At the hospital, Mrs. Bowen succumbs to the loss of blood and the shock to her 77 year-old body’s system.
The next night, Ernest drives up to the Bowen property and finds Saunders there, engaging in a sort of gloating victory lap, just him, his ever-present cigar and the beautiful garden, which he now grudgingly admits he admires. Some of the plants Mrs. Bowen grew are the same as he knew growing up in Atlanta.
Disgusted by his boss, Ernest drives off. Just then, Saunders notices something moving in the dirt. To his shock, it is two hands pushing their way upward, then the top of a head emerges. He turns to the road and screams for Ernest to wait, to no avail. When Saunders turns back to where the hands were working their way up, there is now just a large hole.
Freaked out, he runs into the house, where he finds Mrs. Bowen in a rocking chair, covered in dirt, with roots and branches jutting from her body, and seemingly very much alive. “Mr. Saunders, I have green fingers,” she tells him again. “Do you know that? Everything I plant grows. Even me.”
His sanity shattered, Saunders staggers outside. With his hair and mustache now white, he addresses the camera directly and in a scene that is too over-the-top and takes us out of the mood of the piece, says, “From little acorns, mighty oaks grow. That’s a fact. But do you know what grows from an old lady’s fingers? Old ladies!”
Overall, this is a fairly strong segment, with fine direction again from John Badham, who did a similarly good job in a very different story, Camera Obscura, earlier in the season, and good performances from Lanchester and Mitchell.