Twisted vengeance from a rejected suitor delivered Night Gallery-style in “A Feast of Blood,” reviewed here.
“A Feast of Blood” ***
Teleplay by Stanford Whitmore • Story “The Fur Brooch” by Dulcie Gray
Directed by Jeannot Szwarc
Sondra Locke as Sheila Gray
Norman Lloyd as Henry Mallory
Hermione Baddeley as Mrs. Gray
Patrick O’Hara as Frankie (First Cyclist)
Barry Bernard as Gippo (Second Cyclist)
Cara Burgess as the Haughty Girl
Gerald S. Peters as the Chauffeur
Mrs. Gray (Hermione Baddeley, previously a maid in Mary Poppins and later in Maude as sassy old British housekeeper Mrs. Naugatuck) here is not a housekeeper so far as we know, but rather a very excited mother.
The source of her happy state of mind is a gift delivered by her daughter’s date for the evening. Sheila (Sondra Locke, beautiful and convincing as a young woman who knows how attractive she is, though not so much with her attempts at a British accent) reluctantly accepts a freaky brooch which resembles a red-eyed mouse as her mother pins it on her coat.
The gift-giver: one Henry Mallory (Norman Lloyd), considerably older and ostensibly Sheila’s backup plan as she has hopes that her other, younger suitor John will soon propose to her. Keeping her options open, she has agreed to go out with Henry for perhaps the fourth or fifth time.
Henry has gentlemanly manners but looks a bit like a vampire, though his teeth are not sharp, but rather quite discolored. Also, Henry does not appear to be British, though it’s not explained that he’s American.
He takes her to a fancy restaurant where she can barely conceal her boredom and does not hide from him her hopes to marry John rather than him. Henry says he’s figured out how to never lose, ever since he was a schoolboy. We begin to suspect that the brooch may either be alive or possessed. As they prepare to leave, he removes the pin from the brooch and explains that the mouse-like thing’s feet will keep it affixed to her coat and adds that no matter how much it is shaken, it will never fall off. Foreshadowing of something nasty to come for sure!
As Henry drives her home, he stops at one point and makes a desperate move—forcing two kisses upon her. Disgusted, she rejects his inappropriate advances and gets out of the car to walk home, though it is a cold night on a dark, deserted road, presumably a long way from home. “I’d sooner die than stay with you,” she spits. Calmly, he replies, “I shall remember you as you were Sheila—beautiful and deserving.”
As she walks, in order to ward off the chill, she pulls at her lapel to bring her coat closer to her and yelps as she has cut her finger. In short order, the same thing happens again, and as she begins to run, we get an unfortunately ridiculous sequence where the mouse/broach grows progressively larger finally into a giant sized creature (shades of the giant spider in “A Fear of Spiders”) and she meets a grisly, bloody demise.
Two old British sots on bicycles then appear, one of whom thinks he saw something resembling a giant hedgehog cross the road. They walk into a clearing where they find Sheila’s bloody remains.
At the same time, Henry has taken up a stool at a bar and is attempting to charm another attractive young woman who initially is cold to him. Moving in for the kill, so to speak, he tells her, “I am compelled to honor beauty,” and produces a small brooch which he pins on her.
This story is immensely watchable, though at times predictable and ridiculous, largely due to Norman Lloyd’s excellent portrayal of Henry. Lloyd was in Alfred Hitchcock’s Saboteur in 1942, produced Alfred Hitchcock Presents in the 50s and 60s, achieved household recognition on St. Elsewhere in the 80s and is still with us today at age 99. November 8 will mark his centenary. Here’s to you, Norman Lloyd!