An anthropologist brings a gorilla back from the African veldt to settle a mano-a-mano grudge going back perhaps millennia in the ridiculous Night Gallery story “Hatred Unto Death,” reviewed here.

Season 3 Episode 15—aired 5/27/73

“Hatred Unto Death” ½*

Teleplay by Halsted Welles • Story by Milton Geiger
Directed by Gerald Perry Finnerman
Steve Forrest as Grant Wilson
Dina Merrill as Ruth Wilson
Fernando Lamas as Dr. Ramirez
George Barrows as N’gi
Caro Kenyatta as the First Native
Ed Rue as the Second Native
David Tyrone as the Third Native

Rather than going out with a bang, Night Gallery went out with a colossal thud. The series had its uneven moments, but apart from the silly one- or two-minute blackout sketches, most of the fuller-length stories had at least some redeeming qualities to them. Not so with the major story in this, the final episode of Night Gallery, broadcast May 27, 1973.

“Hatred Unto Death” begins with married anthropologist couple Grant and Ruth Wilson driving through the African veldt. They come upon some natives who have trapped a gorilla in a dugout pit. As the two peer down at the gorilla, the gorilla takes note of them as well. It seems to like Ruth but appears to have a strong dislike for Grant. Grant, in turn, feels a big heap of dislike for the gorilla, sensing something more than just an angry ape caught in a trap.

Breaking with the conventions of his profession, Grant decides to capture the gorilla and bring it back to an American museum for “study.” Ruth strongly protests, arguing they should release the beast.

They return to the U.S. and go to the museum where the gorilla is being kept. Their colleague, Dr. Ramirez (Fernando Lamas) shares a theory with Grant whereby beings are reincarnated again and again, thus offering the possibility that the gorilla and Grant were adversaries long, long ago and that they can both sense that, and feel the need to confront that, in their current incarnations.

The men leave and Ruth stays behind with the caged gorilla, telling him a tale of two apes who fought for the love of a female. The gorilla gets upset, either by the story or his caged surroundings, or perhaps by the wooden performance of Dina Merrill as Ruth.

Ruth unlocks the cage to comfort the beast and it escapes, going into a rage. She desperately phones Grant, who is working in his nearby office and he rushes over with a pistol.

A cat and mouse game between the old adversaries commences in a nearby storage area, allowing for hiding behind crates and taking cover while shooting the pistol. Grant hits the gorilla several times, slowing it, then finally seems to deliver a fatal gunshot with his final round.

Relieved, Grant turns back to Ruth, but the gorilla has one last burst of life in him and he picks Grant up and slams him down, impaling him on a set of animal horns, thus winning the battle this time around. I have no desire whatsoever to see the next round.

What can be said about this mess? Steve Forrest, who was so good in Season Two’s “The Waiting Room,” here can’t do much with a character who is forced to act in completely irrational ways. The script is a total embarrassment. Halsted Welles had done much, much better on Night Gallery before. Longtime cinematographer Gerald Finnerman was given the thankless task of directing and shows why he should have stuck to photographing the episodes. By far the worst of the fuller-length Night Gallery stories. And to cap the final episode off, another blackout sketch would follow to fill out the half-hour.

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