A graduate student attempts to learn the black magic secrets of a long-dead ancestor who was a sorcerer in the Night Gallery story “There Aren’t Any More MacBanes,” reviewed here.
“There Aren’t Any More MacBanes” ***1/2
Teleplay by Alvin Sapinsley • Story “By One, by Two and by Three” by Stephen Hall
Directed by John Newland
Joel Grey as Andrew MacBane
Howard Duff as Uncle Arthur Porter
Darrell Larson as Elie Green
Barry Higgins as Mickey Standish
Mark Hamill as the Messenger Boy
Vincent Van Lynn as the Manservant
Ellen Blake as the Demon
It’s graduation day at Bard College and Elie Green (Darrell Larson) and Mickey Standish (Barry Higgins), still in cap and gown, drop by the apartment of their slightly older friend, Andrew MacBane (Joel Grey). Andrew is a graduate student, struggling to complete his Master’s in Philosophy and his benefactor, Uncle Arthur Porter (Howard Duff) is already there and is running out of patience with his nephew.
He delivers an ultimatum: Andrew must find a job within six months or be completely cut off financially, which would not only mean living expenses but ultimately a sizable inheritance as he is only living relative.
Elie and Mickey are stunned at this and suggest that Andrew accept a position at a bookstore, but Andrew is unconcerned over the threat to his financial stability. Instead, he is obsessed with finding ten missing pages to a journal of sorcery kept by a long-dead relative, Jedediah MacBane, reputedly a 17th century wizard, who was able to kill at great distances through the use of black magic.
This somehow got Jedediah himself killed after he killed his worst enemy, his best friend and his best friend’s wife. Andrew is certain that finding the missing ten pages of the journal will solve this mystery. The three young men drink a toast then smash their glasses into the fireplace, agreeing to meet again in six months’ time.
When six months have passed, the two friends meet again at Andrew’s apartment at night and, as Andrew is still not employed, his uncle is on hand to disinherit him in person, which will become official the next morning when his bank opens.
The uncle leaves and Andrew begins to recite a spell. As Porter walks to his car, we see red eyes through the nearby trees, then a growl, then suddenly something is upon the uncle and as we cut back Andrew’s apartment we hear screams.
Elie and Mickey hear something outside Andrew’s door, something like growling and scratching and they ask Andrew if he has a dog, which he says he does not. They leave and on their way to their car, they discover Uncle Arthur Porter’s mutilated corpse. They rush back to Andrew’s apartment and inform him that his uncle was killed by “something wild.”
Andrew inherits his uncle’s fortune but chooses to live in the family’s old ancestral home in Salem, a house without telephone service or electricity.
One night, Elie (who looks a lot like a young Phil Simms, former NFL quarterback and current game analyst) returns home to his apartment after work and a young man is at his front door to deliver a telegram. In a cameo role, it’s Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker from Star Wars!). The telegram is from Andrew and says that Mickey is in terrible danger.
Mickey was working in the African nation of Chad and Elie phones Mickey’s mother but before he can give her the warning, he receives the news that Mickey is dead, presumably from an attack by a leopard.
Elie hears growls and scratches outside his door, similar to what he heard after Andrew’s uncle was killed. He goes into the hallway, hears roars and runs down a stairwell and into a basement storage area where the roars increase. Suddenly, through a grated window, red eyes appear, paws break through the glass and Elie, screaming, loses consciousness.
Surprisingly, after a time, he wakes up, unharmed but not unalarmed. He immediately goes to Andrew’s house to tell him what occurred and to confront him as to whether he found the ten missing pages of Jedediah’s journal.
Andrew admits he did find it and now possesses the power to conjure up the same creature his relative did. The creature was inactive over the last 300 years because no one knew how to summon it—until Andrew. He was able to briefly stop the creature from killing Elie, but he can’t fully control it and now—it’s here, roaring and scratching at the door. When it finally comes in, it’s a bit laughable as it’s an old woman with hooks for hands, kind of a witch, which would be sort of scary, but when you’re expecting a savage leopard-like creature, it’s a big disappointment.
The creature and Andrew battle it out, both ultimately dying.
The story ends in a sort of disappointing way, but throughout it is a taut, well-directed (by John Newland of One Step Beyond fame) piece, with a fine, offbeat lead performace by Joel Grey, who had become a big star that year for his role in Cabaret.