A triumphant Night Gallery swan song in her fourth appearance, Joanna Pettet (even though she’s a woman) is “The Girl with the Hungry Eyes,” reviewed here.
Season 3 Episode 2—aired 10/1/72
“The Girl with the Hungry Eyes” ***
Teleplay by Robert Malcolm Young • Story by Fritz Leiber, Jr.
Directed by John Badham
James Farentino as David Faulkner
Joanna Pettet as the Girl
John Astin as Munsch
Kip Niven as Harry Krell
Bruce Powers as the Man on the Street
Through seemingly mysterious forces, commercial photographer David Faulkner (James Farentino, who previously co-starred the previous year in “Since Aunt Ada Came to Stay” ) stumbles upon a new subject.
A mysterious young woman who won’t give him her name and forbids him to follow her, she is nonetheless a gorgeous and transfixing subject for his camera. Joanna Pettet plays the young woman in this, her fourth and final appearance on Night Gallery, and for fans (particularly male fans, I would imagine) it is a sort of victory lap. It is her best performance, she looks gorgeous, and the entire story is built around her appeal.
David has a meeting with the owner and namesake of Munsch Beer (John Astin, another series veteran, both for acting and directing). Munsch is looking for a model to appear in his beer’s billboard ads and David shows him his portfolio of head shots. Munsch thumbs through them, quickly moving on to the next, searching for the right face.
For whatever the reason, David places Joanna Pettet’s face last, causing him some anxiety as he worries that he won’t have one of his photos selected. When Munsch comes to the last photo, that of the “girl,” he knows he’s found “the one.”
Her face goes on billboards and gains quite a lot of notice. One man who notices is David’s friend Harry (Kip Niven), who visits David one evening and really, really wants to meet the girl, almost as if obsessed. She has this effect on men, and on David, too.
After he sends Harry away, disappointed, the girl (and I wish I had something else to call her because it seems silly to call her “the girl” but she gives no name and that’s what she’s credited as) emerges from the second floor of David’s apartment—if only Harry knew! She says she’s going out for a bit (David knows he’s not allowed to follow her) and seeks out Harry on the sidewalk outside.
Harry can’t believe his eyes. And then we can’t believe her eyes, as she comes close to him, gives him a look and her eyes, well, it’s hard to explain, but we get a video effect of a greenish-colored jewel or something. In any event, it’s meant to convey other-worldly evil, so, despite the cheapness of the effect, we get its intent. She then walks away with him to a nearby park, begins to give him a kiss, and he tumbles down an embankment. David saw the two of them outside, but didn’t see what happened after they walked away.
Late the next morning, David is awakened, hungover, by a phone call alerting him to the fact that there was a murder in the park quite near his apartment. He takes in his newspaper and discovers the victim was his friend Harry.
Beer magnate Munsch is also obsessed with this “girl” and, like Harry, is quite keen on meeting her. Having more power, he insists on such a meeting but David continues to stall him, saying he can’t arrange it. Munsch follows her as she leaves the photo studio one night and winds up dead, too, though we don’t get a scene of this, which I found out from Scott Skelton and Jim Benson’s indispensable book “Rod Serling’s Night Gallery: An After-Hours Tour” was because they didn’t have the budget to pay John Astin for an additional day’s work!
One night, David does follow her and finds her seduce and kill some random guy on the street. She sees David and moves toward him, with a seductive, yet cold stare. She moves in for the kill, er, kiss, and he breaks free just before their lips meet.
David runs back to his apartment and she has somehow beat him there. The walls of his place are adorned with a vast collection of glamor shots of her, some fantastic work done in reality by famed Hollywood photographer Harry Langdon, Jr. (this fact also courtesy of Benson and Skelton’s book).
David begins tearing down the photos and creating pile of them on the floor which he begins to douse in lighter fluid. We get a sort of hysterical speech from David. “I know you now! You’re the eyes that pick our pockets and spend our lives. You’re the lure, the bait. We lust for you, for what those eyes hold out. And you, you suck the love from us because that’s what feeds you.”
So we get it all laid out for us, but, still, is she some creature? Where did she come from? Is she even real? Real enough to go down in flames. David lights the pile of photos and it erupts into a burning pyre. The girl catches fires, too, and she bends as if a photo herself, then crumples into ash.
David, spent, looks at the remaining photos of the girl still on his walls and sees that her eyes are now empty white spots. No more devouring hunger in them.
If this story had been a little better fleshed out, it could have been a classic. As it is, it stands as a Joanna Pettet fanboy highlight of the Night Gallery.