The third and final season of Night Gallery begins with Vincent Price and Bill Bixby in “The Return of the Sorcerer,” reviewed here.
Season 3 Episode 1—aired 9/24/72
“The Return of the Sorcerer” ***
Teleplay by Halsted Welles • Story by Clark Ashton Smith
Directed by Jeannot Szwarc
Vincent Price as John Carnby
Bill Bixby as Noel Evans
Tisha Sterling as Fern
Noel Evans (Bill Bixby), responding to an ad for an Arabic interpreter, comes to the home of John Carnby (Vincent Price). Carnby studies sorcery from the Latin Necronomicon, but he has need for a translator of another, more obscure book of sorcery that is in Arabic. Two men previously hired to do this translating quit before completing their task, and Noel is similarly inclined once he begins reading the text, but Carnby threatens the young man’s life if he does not carry out the translation, so he reluctantly agrees to continue.
The passage he has been hired to translate is especially grotesque, involving the powers that a sorcerer maintains after his death, even after his body has been dismembered. Also, the passage states that “may he who reveals this secret be flayed slowly over burning coals and then thoroughly dismembered.” No wonder Noel and his predecessors wanted out of this job.
Carnby has an assistant, Fern (Tisha Sterling, with quite memorably fetching eyes) and she explains to Noel after a bizarre dinner that features a seated goat who is supposedly Carnby’s father that Carnby’s twin brother is recently deceased, at the hands of Carnby, dismembered (!) and buried amongst trees behind the house. Also, she totally comes on to Noel and he seems willing to reciprocate her advances.
Carnby is, to say the least, distressed at what the passage reveals, as his brother was, too, a sorcerer.
The next scene has Carnby beginning a series of indecipherable incantations designed to protect him from his late brother when he stops at the sounds from outside the room: a sort of dragging along the carpet. Noel throws open the door and finds a dismembered hand and foot slowly making their way to the door.
Carnby admits to what he’s done because “I hated him because his magic was stronger. But Fern—she caused it! She wanted to be stronger than both of us.” Fern, it seems, is a sorceress and she leads Carnby to a “black mass” where she will preside with Carnby and his brother.
This scene is difficult to understand. Difficult in that Carnby submits to Fern as his brother is seemingly put back together again (also played by Price, natch) and he lays his head on an alter while Fern chants her own incantations and the brother raises a blade to…
As Noel is hurriedly packing his bags to get out of there pronto, he hears a clang, then rushes to the room where the “mass” is being held, yet the scene seems normal. “You’re too late for mass,” says Fern. “Sorry you missed it. The brothers are together again—fragmented, but together.”
Again, she turns to Noel in an amorous way and invites him to come with her to her room. He wants her, but has a lingering concern. “Fern, in the preamble, threatening anyone who translated the passages from Arabic with fire and dismemberment? You don’t suppose there’s anything to that, do you?” She grins at him and without a word, they leave together.
There are some silly moments to this, but overall, it plays out decently well and so I give it a mild “thumbs up.”