A longtime fisherman, angry and bitter at his lot and at the sea, finally snares something to change his heart—a mermaid—in this Night Gallery review of “Lindemann’s Catch.”
Season 2 Episode 16—aired 1/12/72
“Lindemann’s Catch” ***1/2
Written by Rod Serling
Directed by Jeff Corey
Stuart Whitman as Captain Hendrick Lindemann
Jack Aranson as Dr. Mordecai Nichols
John Alderson as First Mate Granger
Harry Townes as Abner Suggs
Annabelle Garth as the Mermaid
Jim Boles as Bennett (Innkeeper)
Ed Bakey as Ollie
Matt Pelto as Phineas
Michael Stanwood as Charlie
First off, an aside: on these more recent reviews I have had to go back and re-watch the episodes because I saw most of them last summer, and while I took notes, the process of getting the notes transcribed into these reviews has taken, well, six months at this point, and that time has in some cases caused my memory of my initial viewings to fade.
So I watched “Lindemann’s Catch” for the second time a few nights ago and was struck by how much better I thought it was this time around than the first time. I’m at a loss to explain what caused me to put two stars next to this very well-done tale back in August, whereas now I am bumping that up a full star and a half. Mostly, I’ve moved things a half-star if at all, but for some reason last summer I failed to fully appreciate this one. Should you watch it and be disappointed the first time, might I suggest a second viewing?
On to the review…
Set in a seaport presumably in New England some decades ago, the story begins in a fisherman’s ale house where a sort of soothsayer, Abner Suggs (Harry Townes, quite good in this supporting role), is scrounging among the patrons for a bit of spare coin in exchange for fortune-readings, medicinal potions and whatnot.
Captain Hendrick Lindemann (Stuart Whitman, excellent) then enters the establishment, fresh off yet another exhausting trip out to sea to make his living catching fish. There to escape his numbing, soul-crushing routine if only for a little while, with a whiskey or two, he is approached by Suggs, who offers the Captain a palm-reading in exchange for a drink.
This benign, if annoying act, causes Lindemann to explode in a violent rage. He pushes Suggs’ head into a spittoon then slugs him with across the face, sending him sprawling onto his back. Dr. Mordecai Nichols (Jack Aranson) comes to Suggs’ aid and offers a mild rebuke to Lindemann for an unjustly violent response to the pest’s usual pitches.
Lindemann storms out of the bar and back to his boat where his crew insists he take a look at something incredible that they’ve caught. Tangled within a net is a living, breathing (haltingly breathing) mermaid. The Captain’s reflexive response is to throw her back into the sea but when she turns her face to him and reaches her arm out, he changes his mind immediately as he has become convinced of her humanness.
His crew sees dollar signs and wants to take her on the road and display her as a sort of carnival freak. The Captain says he’ll think on it and cuts her loose from the net and carries her down below.
A few days pass and, realizing the non-eating mermaid is barely clinging to life, Lindemann calls in Dr. Nichols to examine her and better yet, make her well. He tells the doctor they communicate, but not with words. The doctor says the only cure for her is to let her go back into the sea. The captain still refuses this obvious solution.
Dr. Nichols returns to the bar and fills in the patrons, who want to seize her. Nichols realizes the mermaid has given the very lonely Captain Lindemann something to finally love.
Suggs returns alone to the ship to offer Lindemann a potion which he swears will give the mermaid human legs. Desperate to transform the mermaid fully into a woman, the Captain accepts.
In the morning, Lindemann goes below and sees the legs of a woman protruding from the blanket that covers her. Elated, he rushes upstairs to the deck and calls out to his crew that something wondrous has happened.
As the group of men gather around to witness this miracle, Lindemann begins to go down to escort the woman up but he (but not us) see something that makes him recoil in horror and in sorry. We see the legs walking up the stairs and then as the camera pans up, we too are horrified to see that the mermaid’s once lovely human face has turned into that of a fish. Unfortunately, the makeup job here is actually not completely horrifying but also somewhat laughable, but still grotesque, and we get the point.
The mermaid, spying the water, takes a couple of quick steps and dives in. Lindemann follows suit and the waters gradually calm, neither one of them to be seen again.
A fine script by Rod Serling, well-directed by Jeff Corey and an outstanding lead performance from Stuart Whitman make this a memorable and moving segment.