Two segments shot for Night Gallery’s second season, but unaired, made their way into the syndication package. The first, “Die Now, Pay Later” is reviewed here.
“Die Now, Pay Later” *1/2
Teleplay by Jack Laird
Based on the short story “Year End Clearance” by Mary Linn Roby
Directed by Timothy Galfas
Will Geer as Walt Peckinpah
Slim Pickens as Sheriff Ned Harlow
Funeral director Walt Peckinpah (Will Geer) is holding a January clearance sale and not coincidentally the death rate in his town of Taunton, Massachusetts has skyrocketed over the month. Sheriff Ned Harlow (Slim Pickens), a southern translplant, is durned agitated over what he sees as a connection and drops by the funeral parlor to confront the director.
Peckinpah, a gentlemanly sort, breezily points out that all sorts of other businesspeople run similar sales. The sheriff, worked up into the type of lather that only Slim Pickens can offer, points out that many of these recent deaths were of people who were long wanted dead by other town residents.
And according to Mrs. Harlow, Peckinpah has relatives in Salem and is a descendent of a warlock who was burned at the stake many years ago. Peckinpah is bemused at the assertion, but Harlow is worried that if the sale doesn’t end, his wife will spread a rumor around town that the funeral director is somehow casting spells and causing these long-simmering feuds to spill over into murder.
The phone rings, and it’s Harlow’s wife, calling to scold the sheriff for stopping in to see Peckinpah. Stung by the tongue-lashing, he looks sheepishly at Peckinpah, who helpfully suggests that “it wouldn’t hurt all that much to let the sale go on one more day, would it? Might even help.” The sheriff grudgingly nods his assent.
A comic blackout sketch stretched to over ten minutes, this is pretty thin gruel, made more palatable by Geer and to a lesser degree Pickens, doing his typical schtick.