Leonard Nimoy, in his directorial debut, does what he can with yet another Night Gallery vampire story, this one “Death on a Barge,” starring Leslie Ann Warren and reviewed here.
Season 3 Episode 12—aired 3/3/73
“Death on a Barge” **1/2
Teleplay by Halsted Welles • Story “The Canal” by Everil Worrill
Directed by Leonard Nimoy
Lesley Ann Warren as Hyacinth
Robert Pratt as Ron
Lou Antonio as Jake
Brooke Bundy as Phyllis
Jim Boles as Hyacinth’s Father
Artie Spain as the Coastguardsman
Dorothy Konrad as Customer No. 33
De De Young as Customer No. 32
Night Gallery aired stories dealing with vampirism many times, often in “comic” blackout sketches. This is one of the full-length serious stabs at the genre and it has mixed results. The high point is the casting of Leslie Ann Warren as Hyacinth, a beautiful young woman who spends her nights on deck of the barge she shares with her father, which is tethered ashore in a small fishing village.
Often shot in gauzy compositions by first-time director Leonard Nimoy, Warren is meant to portray a dangerous, unattainable object of desire, and she certainly possesses the ability to communicate that. Barefoot, in a flowing white dress and with a face that could have launched a thousand barges, one can easily see why young fishmonger Ron (Robert Pratt) awakes at midnight after an early day’s work to come to the dock to try to get to know her better.
She keeps him at arm’s length, she on the barge, and he across a span of perhaps fifteen feet of water. She is at first coy as to the reasons why she won’t let him come aboard or why she won’t disembark her vessel, but one night, after Ron’s girlfriend Phyllis (Brooke Bundy) follows Ron on his nocturnal visit and climbs aboard the barge to find Hyacinth climbing into a crypt to sleep near dawn, the reason becomes clear.
Hyacinth attacks Phyllis and as Phyllis escapes the barge’s underneath into the dawn’s early light, Hyacinth reacts in agony as the sun’s rays fall upon her. Later, at the living quarters Ron shares with his co-worker Jake (Lou Antonio), Phyllis reads up on both the history of Hyacinth and her father and also the subject of vampirism.
News accounts describe that Hyacinth and her father lived in a nearby town where some unexplained murders occurred—murders which resulted in mutilation and exsanguination—the tell-tale signs of vampirism. Ron and Jake scoff at this, but Ron’s curiosity is piqued and also, he wouldn’t mind another excuse to visit Hyacinth, so he goes to her and confronts her with these suspicions.
She admits that she’s a vampire and that she wants Ron as much as he wants her. Only, if he gives himself to her, it will mean the death of him. As they are an inch from embracing, Ron pulls away—his survival instinct trumps is sexual drive—and he leaves.
Jake, however, has followed Ron, and he sees how immensely attractive Hyacinth is (what man wouldn’t) and he either doesn’t believe she’s a vampire or doesn’t care, and he ends up dead.
Later, Ron returns near dawn to destroy Hyacinth for the good of humanity, despite his overwhelming desire. He wants to take her out into the sunlight but Hyacinth surprises him by insisting he drive a stake through her heart instead. Her lover for him (hard as it may be to understand, given that as portrayed by Robert Pratt, he ain’t no great catch) has made her decide to end her killing ways, natural though they may be to her.
Ron has the stake positioned over her heart but can’t carry out the act and is about to finally submit to her deathly kiss when Hyacinth’s father suddenly comes upon the scene, and in a big surprise, rather than fighting Ron off, he finishes the act of driving the stake through his daughter’s heart himself. Hyacinth then dissolves into a skeleton as we fade to black.
Some good and some bad in this tale. In addition to Leslie Ann Warren, the good includes some clever compositions from Nimoy. The bad, in addition to Robert Pratt’s uninspiring performance, include an opening scene that is one of the worst attempts at “day for night” shooting I have ever seen. It does not look at all like nighttime, but the gauzy compositions do give it a certain quality that I thought signaled something otherworldly which was unintended.