Night Gallery episode guide Season 2

Season 2 Episode 1—aired 9/15/71

“The Boy Who Predicted Earthquakes” ***

Teleplay by Rod Serling, story by Margaret St. Clair
Directed by John Badham
Michael Constantine as Mr. Wellman
Clint Howard as Herbie Bittman
Bernie Kopell as Reed
Ellen Weston as Dr. Peterson
William Hansen as Mr. Godwin (Herbie’s grandfather)
Gene Tyburn as the Floor Director
Rance Howard as the Cameraman

The second season (and thank goodness for all us Night Gallery fans that it was renewed, and put on a weekly schedule, rather than the every-four-weeks schedule of the first season) begins with the story of a ten-(eleven later in the segment) year-old boy, Herbie Bittman (I wonder if Eugene Levy had this character’s name in the back of his head when he created stand-up comic Bobby Bittman later in the decade on SCTV) who can predict the future.

Herbie’s talents have led him to the attention of a New York television station who puts him on the air to deliver commentaries, which start with the mundane and end with some predictions of the future. When Station Manager Wellman gets wind of this (and one wonders why he didn’t know beforehand), he is outraged that the kid is going on live tv and says that this will be Herbie’s last appearance on his station. Michael Constantine is sort of playing against his usual type, that of a less-than-self-aware funny guy (Room 222 contemporary to this, then much later in My Big Fat Greek Wedding) and so his rages are tempered by an inner softie that we know to be there. Good work by him and by the casting director.

Herbie’s grandfather (William Hansen) says that “the boy has a special talent” and it turns out he is right as on the program, Herbie predicts that a missing girl will be found in fifteen minutes and that an earthquake will hit Los Angeles at 6:00 a.m. the next morning.

After the show’s conclusion, Wellman orders the tape of the broadcast wiped (yes, kids, we used to use videotape to record things in the old days) (also, wiped meant erased). Then a news bulletin confirms the prediction of the girl being found alive. The next morning’s paper shows that the earthquake prediction came true as well.

A year later, we learn that Herbie has made 106 correct predictions (and, yes, Wellman got him his job back delivering his commentaries on tv). A university professor is sent to study Herbie, having been given a grant to learn about ESP from him.

Dr. Peterson (Ellen Weston, who delivers a fine, empathetic performance) asks Herbie some gentle questions in his makeup chair before his next show about how he does what he does.

He says the predictions just come to him. He can only predict something “if I more or less know what it is. That’s the reason why I read so many books. The more things I know about, the more things I can predict.”

Just before going on air, Herbie looks stricken and asks his grandfather to take him home. Grandpa says “then that’s just what we’ll do” which makes station manager Wellman apoplectic,not wanting to lose what must be a huge ratings grabber for the station.

Wellman appeals to Herbie by saying his fans will be frightened if he doesn’t appear today. Herbie agrees to try, tells his grandfather “it’s ok; it’s really ok.”

After talking about school, his commentary grows more serious. “Tomorrow will be different.” He talks about war, famine, hatred and says tomorrow will be different  because there will be no more war, people will live side by side and won’t be afraid anymore.

The next day, we get an eerie scene, wonderfully shot by director John Badham, in his first of seven Night Gallery stories he would direct, and who would go on to direct such feature films as Saturday Night Fever and War Games, where apparently with an orange filter, we get outdoor scenes of a traffic jam, smokestacks and large groups of congregating people cheering.

Inside their high-rise apartment, Herbie is with his grandfather and Dr. Peterson. He tells them that yesterday’s prediction was a lie because he wanted people to be happy. What he knew would happen is that today, the sun will become a nova.

Herbie doesn’t let those apocalyptic words hang in the air too long before adding these reassuring words: “Don’t be frightened, grandfather. It’ll happen so quickly, we won’t even feel it.” An excellent, eerie doomsday ending, one of the earlier such endings in 1970s science fiction, seen in other films like Silent Running and The Omega Man.

Clint Howard (Ron’s brother and Rance’s son, who has a bit part as a cameraman) also gives a good performance here in the tricky role of Hebie. Not a know-it-all, but just a curious, intelligent kid who has been somehow bestowed with this incredible power which in the end forces the weight of the world upon him, yet rather than reacting in fear, he tries to remove the fear from the one person closest to him.

A strong start to season two, many more stories to follow, most strong, some not so much, such as our next item…

———————————————————————————————————

A vignette between two heavier longer, stories, this is one of many would-be black comedy misfires from series producer, and sometime scriptwriter Jack Laird.

“Miss Lovecraft Sent Me” *

Written by Jack Laird
Directed by Gene R. Kearney
Joseph Campanella as the Vampire
Sue Lyon as Betsy

A Dracula-esque vampire (the usually distinguished Joseph Campanella) answers the door for a babysitter, bubblegum-popping young Sue Lyon (Lolita) who announces “Miss Lovecraft sent me. I’m from the agency.” Ho-ho, Miss Lovecraft—a horror inside joke referencing renowned author H.P. Lovecraft. And ho-ho, Count Dracula answering the door and expecting a babysitter.

The vampire explains that “sonny” can be difficult at times. The babysitter suggests reading the lad a bedtime story. While dad goes upstairs to his son, Betsy notices the books in the bookshelves, filled with satanic titles. Although she didn’t bat an eye at Dracula answering the door, his taste in literature spooks her so badly that combined with the growling noises from upstairs, she bolts out of the house.

Hey, at least from start to finish, this one is just three and a half minutes.

———————————————————————————————————-

A “hand with a mind of its own” story, and not a bad one at that. “The Hand of Borgus Weems” is reviewed here.

“The Hand of Borgus Weems” ***

Teleplay by Alvin Sapinsley,  Story “The Other Hand” by George Langelaan
Directed by John Meredyth Lucas
George Maharis as Peter Lacland
Ray Milland as Dr. Archibald Ravdon
Joan Huntington as Susan Douglas
Patricia Donahue as Dr. Innokenti
Peter Mamakos as Detective Nico Kazanzakis

William Mims as Brock Ramsey
Robert F. Hoy as Everett Winterreich

The story begins with Peter Lacland (George Maharis) driving in a crowded city street. He can’t seem to control his hand or his foot. Suddenly, he drives right at a pedestrian, hits him and crashes. The pedestrian is uninjured but glares at him.

After seeing an ad on a bus, he visits Dr. Archibald Ravdon (Ray Milland) and asks the doctor to cut off his hand. Ravdon asks why and Lacland writes a prescription in Latin, a language he doesn’t know and adds, “It makes my hand do things I don’t want to do.” It tried to commit murder three times Lacland stopped it. Or himself. Whatever.

The doctor refuses to amputate the hand under such conditions and wants to refer Lacland to a psychiatrist and Lacland proceeds to pick up a large, heavy paperweight and bring it down with full force on the evil hand, smashing it into uselessness, thus forcing Ravdon to remove the hand out of medical necessity.

Explaining in a series of flashbacks to Dr. Ravdon who is later joined by a psychiatrist, Lacland begins that a while back, he was to have a business meeting at a man’s apartment, and while at the buzzers, got distracted and pushed the wrong one. He goes up to the wrong apartment and meets Susan Douglas, launching a very whirlwind courtship that ended up with them engaged three days later.

But things took a near violent turn due to the hand and Lacland has resorted to demanding that Susan keep away from him to he won’t kill her. The incidental music here is a little ironic and irritating, but kind of creepy in an early-70s futuristic synthesizer sort of way.

He says he first consciously thought he was not in control of his hand when he was leafing through the phone book when suddenly his hand stopped. Then it called the number it stopped on. “It was almost as though I weren’t there—only my hand,” he explains.

A man answers the phone and the hand writes “Borgus Weems.” The man says “this is Borgus Weems speaking.” Freaked out, Lacland hangs up and burns the paper the name was written on. “Not a single one of those actions was performed by me of my own free will,” he insists.

Later at his apartment, a man named Brock Ramsey (William Mims) arrives and says he knew someone who lived at Lacland’s place five or six years ago. The hand reaches for a letter opener. Ramsey says he has reason to believe Lacland phoned him earlier (when he called Borgus Weems). The hand raises up with the weapon, the phone rings, Ramsey says “please, you don’t understand” and Lacland manages to get the hand to drop the letter opener.  It’s Susan calling.

Days later, driving to visit a client, Lacland realizes his foot is co-operating with the hand. Here we have a reprise of the opening scene where he tried to run down the pedestrian.

Afterward, he begins to plan to murder Susan. He buys a gun. Says his brain was now co-operating with the hand, concealing his own true thoughts.

He goes to Susan’s place, draws the gun, then pulls it back as his brain fights itself. He then moves the gun toward his own head but Susan pushes it away. It goes off harmlessly (except perhaps to whatever furniture it may have it). He tells her to leave.

Back in real time, Dr. Ravdon has a policeman visit Lacland at home. He knows about Weems. Four years ago, Weems was pushed to his death from a window in this very apartment and in that act, his right hand was lopped off at the wrist. The cop thinks Weems’ niece, Susan and her boyfriend Ramsey did it. The lawyer who got them off was the man Lacland tried to run down in the street. Weems used Lacland as an “instrument of revenge” the cop concludes.

Dr. Ravdon then starts to write a tranquilizer prescription for Lacland but it’s in Latin. The cop happens to read Latin and translates. It’s from Virgil. “Arise my avenger out of my bones.” Ravdon looks up, realizing Weems’ hand is now possessing his and with an expression of shock and fear says “Good Lord” as our story comes to a close.

This is a deliberately-paced segment and it kept me thoroughly interested throughout all the way to the surprising, chilling conclusion.

Ray Milland was of course a big star in the 40s and 50s. He remained active mostly in television up until his death in the mid-80s. At this point in his career, he was in the first of an unrelated trilogy of sci-fi/horror tales that, let’s be honest, were not roles as dignified as those he had played for among others, Alfred Hitchcock. The next year (1972), he would star as a rich man who hates nature and is gets his comeuppance by Frogs and, somewhat hilariously (it has to be seen to be believed), as a rich racist who plans to prolong his life by having his head attached to another body and whose head is attached to the body of black former football player Rosie Grier, except Grier’s head is still on, and they become The Thing With Two Heads.

———————————————————————————————————

Thanks to Leslie Nielsen, the rare Night Gallery comic vignette that works, “Phantom of What Opera?” is reviewed here.

“Phantom of What Opera?” **1/2

Leslie Nielsen as the Phantom
Mary Ann Beck as the Prisoner

A masked man (Leslie Nielsen), carries a beautiful screaming young woman down a stone staircase. She asks who he is. “Can you not guess?” he asks. “I am the Phantom of the Opera.”

The lights a candelabra but can’t put out the taper, which plays as genuinely funny and which, according to an interview Nielsen gave to Scott Skelton and Jim Benson in their book “Rod Serling’s Night Gallery: An After-Hours Tour,” this was done as an ad-lib due to the fact that Nielsen couldn’t blow out the taper through the silk mask he was wearing.

He sits down at the organ and plays the famous opening from Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor (the music most closely associated with the phantom at the organ with his back to us. His prisoner approaches him from behind and pulls off his mask. We see his face and it is hideous. She screams.

He’s furious and starts to strangle her, but his hands at her throat somehow dislodge her “mask” of what we would consider a beautiful face mistake, revealing a similarly misshapen visage. Now it’s his turn to scream in revulsion.

Then, realizing they’ve found the perfect match for each other, they embrace, also genuinely funny.

So at least two decent laughs and no real groaners in three and a half minutes—that’s worth two and a half stars to me.

———————————————————————————————————

A lonely mortician’s evening is interrupted by a fugitive on the lam in the Night Gallery story “A Death in the Family,” reviewed here.

Season 2 Episode 2—aired 9/22/71

“A Death in the Family “ **1/2

Teleplay by Rod Serling, Story by Miriam Allen DeFord
Directed by Jeannot Szwarc
E. G. Marshall as Jared Soames
Desi Arnaz Jr. as Doran
Noam Pitlik as the Hearse Driver
James B. Sikking as the State Trooper
John Williams Evans as the Second Trooper
Bill Elliott as the Third Trooper
Bud Walls as the Grave Digger

A hearse pulls up to Soames Funeral Home and two men bring in a body. The men explain to Jared Soames (E. G. Marshall), the funeral director, that this is a “charity case.” The salt-of-the-earth driver launches into some oddly poetic Serling dialogue regarding the facts of man’s life. Stripped of the poetry, the guy spent the last thirty years in a nursing home, had no friends and received no letters, so there is no one to tend to his arrangements

Soames wants more formality, more honor for the man, at least a headstone. His surprise at this situation is odd given how many years he must have been at this job. Had he not encountered a pauper’s burial before?

“You lived eighty-one years. You deserve more than a $100 funeral. You deserve more. You deserve much more. You deserve eternity,” Soames muses aloud. Marshall delivers a fine performance in this story, full of empathy and feeling.

When the casket is buried, the grave digger observes “sure is light.” Soames replies, “he was old, body wasted away.”

While driving, Soames is stopped by police who warn him of an escaped criminal on the loose.

Back at the funeral home, we get an interesting shot from a hallway of a room’s door partially open. We can hear Soames singing “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow.” He then comes out of the room, looks back and says “be back soon.”

Suddenly a window is smashed and a young man, Doran (Desi Arnaz Jr.) enters. He, too, overhead the singing and asks Soames “who’s a jolly good fellow?” Soames doesn’t answer and Doran opens the ajar door and finds “a stiff sitting in a chair.”

Doran is the escapee the police warned Soames about. He is bleeding from a gunshot wound and Soames lets him rest on a sofa. They get to talking and find out they both have in common the lack of family during their childhoods. The incidental music here is light-hearted and doesn’t suit the mood of the scene.

Doran awakes from sleep and again hears Soames singing “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow” in the distance. He gets up to investigate and finds Soames in the basement. He opens the door to the room he’s in and he and we see a “family” of corpses, all dressed and seated around a dinner table. Soames introduces them. There is a wife, two girls, a mother, brother and a father, “just arrived tonight.” It’s a creepy scene. Obviously living actors are used here and still as they try to be, slight movement can be detected.

There’s a knock at the door. Soames tells Doran he’ll get rid of them. Doran starts to leave with Soames, but Soames tells him to go back to “the family. You belong here.” Soames is freaked out by this and again, we get some inappropriately cutesy music.

The police are there and they come downstairs after they hear shots and find the room. Soames refers to Doran, who now also appears to be dead, as his son. Soames then takes a sip from a glass of wine and collapses of an apparent chest wound, the scene completed in front of the disbelieving police.

——————————————————————————————————–

“The Merciful” **

Teleplay by Jack Laird, Story by Charles L. Sweeney Jr.
Directed by Jeannot Szwarc
Imogene Coca as the Wife
King Donovan as the Husband

An old woman (Imogene Coca) builds a brick wall to seal her husband (King Donovan) who is apparently terminally ill, in a small room. “Makes sense to not to be eaten up by the pain,” she tells him soothingly.  “It’s so easy this way. Once the wall gets sealed, there’s nothing to do but lean back,” she adds.

After the wall is complete, the doorbell rings. The man gets up and climbs the stairs we had not seen in order to answer it. It’s a surprising and moderately amusing ending, better than the many groaners these blackout sketches produced.

————————————————————————————————————

A chilling look at a college graduating class of the future—well, of the future as of 1971. The excellent Rod Serling written Night Gallery tale “Class of ‘99” is reviewed here.

“Class of ‘99” ***1/2

Written by Rod Serling
Directed by Jeannot Szwarc
Vincent Price as the Professor
Brandon De Wilde as Mr. Johnson
Randolph Mantooth as Mr. Elkins
Frank Hotchkiss as Mr. Clinton
Hilly Hicks as Mr. Barnes
Suzanne Cohane as Miss Fields
Barbara Shannon as Miss Peterson
Richard Doyle as Mr. Bruce
Hunter von Leer as Mr. Templeton
John Davey as Mr. McWhirter
Lenore Kasdorf as Miss Wheeton
John Rayner as the Professor’s Assistant

“Class of ‘99” begins in very creepy fashion. In silence, students file in to a futuristic-looking, stark, white-on-white college lecture hall. Their professor (Vincent Price) begins lecturing and one is really not sure what is going; it’s an unsettling scene, but it’s hard to put a finger on what exactly is unsettling. Then, he begins giving an oral final exam.

He randomly calls on students and asks one young man (Johnson) a question where he must name four people for the correct answer. He can only name three and the professor is shockingly harsh in his dismissal of this “failure” which “proves (the student) incompetent.” The student protests that getting three of four names was pretty good then backs down to his professor’s harangue.

Shortly, the professor moves “to the behavioral sciences” which is “most important.” First, he sets up a race-based conflict between two students, one white (Clinton), one black (Barnes). He presents a hypothetical situation in which the two were up for the same position and asks the white student to assess his candidacy versus the black man’s candidacy. After some pointed questions, he goads the white student into saying “being black, he might be inferior.”

The professor presses him for an emotional response and Clinton says he’d probably slap him. The professor then orders him to do so and he slaps Barnes in the face. It’s a rather shocking moment.

Then the professor turns to Barnes and asks him to describe Clinton. “Bigoted, aggressive, preset prejudices, illogical attitudes,” is how he summarizes his adversary. Similarly the professor goads Barnes into an emotional response and he slaps Clinton back. Asked for a reaction to what they’ve just done, they both reply to the professor “satisfaction.” This all plays out in a highly tension-filled atmosphere.   Jeannot Szwarc, in his third of nineteen Night Gallery stories he would ultimately direct, does a masterful job keeping a long one-set scene as riveting as it could be, and he of course owes a lot to Serling’s button-pushing script.

Next, the professor calls on a female student (Miss Peterson) and asks her for someone she responds to in a negative way. She identifies a student (Miss Fields) whom she identifies as a rich snob (Miss Peterson is from a poor upbringing). Miss Peterson yanks off a necklace Miss Fields is wearing and throws it to the ground. Miss Fields responds by calling Miss Peterson “white trash” and other similar epithets and spits in her face in another shocking confrontation.

Next up in the exam is another white student (Elkins). The professor says “society is made up of your own kind. Pick out an enemy.” He picks an Asian student, Chang. When the professor asks him what kind of relationship he might have with this enemy, Elkins replies “none.” Moving forward with his brand of in-your-face logic, the professor asks how he might deal with this enemy, Elkins replies, “I would have to kill him.”

The professor produces a gun. Armed, Elkins stalks Chang but ultimately cannot shoot him and instead fires his at a classroom light. Furious, the professor demands, “why did you fail to kill the enemy?” “I’m not sure,” Elkins falters, conflicted. “He’s not the enemy. I can’t do that.” When other students seem to murmur their concurrence, the professor says, “he’s infecting the others. Deactivate all of them.” And we then get the big surprise of the segment as all the students freeze.

“Unusual to find such total resistance,” the professor remarks to his assistants. He then asks for “selective control” and if we have not yet realized, we now come to understand that this class is a roomful of robots.

He asks the first student he called upon, Johnson, to assume Elkins’ role. Johnson says Elkins is a “traitor, subversive, an unreliable” and he takes the gun and shoots Elkins. We pan down to Elkins’ robot face sparking. The professor says Johnson gets an “A.”

After this incredible series of events, we now move to another scene where Johnson is giving the commencement address. He says they have been created by man to repopulate society and comments that “many of the ancient virtues are inferior” and that “we shall be men.”

This coda comes off a little bit flat but overall, this is a terrific segment, with Serling having an axe to grind regarding race- and gender-based prejudice. It’s heavy-handed to a degree, but it works very well.

——————————————————————————————————–

A very particular (and hungry) client visits an employment agency, looking for a new employee in the Night Gallery vignette “Satisfaction Guaranteed,” reviewed here.

 “Satisfaction Guaranteed” **

Written by Jack Laird
Directed by Jeannot Szwarc
Victor Buono as the Customer
Cathleen Cordell as Mrs. Mount
Marion Charles as Miss Walters
Leigh Christian as Miss Ransom
Eve Curtis as Miss Caraway
Cherie Franklin as Miss Blodgett

Note: on the original run, a different short, “Witches’ Feast” aired in this spot but for the rerun and on the DVD, it was replaced with “Satisfaction Guaranteed.” As I have not seen “Witches’ Feast,” I can only review this one.

Victor Buono plays a man who comes to an employment agency, run by Mrs. Mount (Cathleen Cordell), looking for potential secretaries. Mrs. Mount assures him that she will have just the right candidate for the job.

One by one, he rejects several candidates on sight, all with sterling qualifications. Mrs. Mount becomes more and more flustered and finally is down to one final candidate who can’t take shorthand, can’t type or even brew a decent pot of coffee. This woman, however, unlike the others, is quite plump and the man’s eyes grow wide and he says “she’s just what I’ve been looking for.”

Mrs. Mount is astonished and asks the man when the winning candidate should report for work, to which the man replies with a bit of a lear, as he tucks a napkin under his chin and takes out a fork and knife,  “That won’t be necessary. I can just eat her here.” Cannibalism or something a little more perverted—you be the judge.

———————————————————————————————————-

Jeanette Nolan is pretty terrifying as a witch pretending to be trusting Michele Lee’s aunt in the Night Gallery story “Since Aunt Ada Came to Stay,” reviewed here.

Season 2 Episode 3—aired 9/29/71

“Since Aunt Ada Came to Stay” ***1/2

Teleplay by Alvin Sapinsley, Story “The Witch” by A. E. van Vogt
Directed by William Hale
James Farentino as Professor Craig Lowell
Michele Lee as Joanna Lowell
Jeanette Nolan as Aunt Ada Quigley
Jonathan Harris as Professor Nick Porteus
Eldon Quick as Professor Frank Heller
Charles Seel as the Cemetery Caretaker
Alma Platt as the Housekeeper
Arnold Turner as the Messenger Boy

Our story begins with a kindly-looking old lady looking out from a second-floor window at her niece Joanna (Michele Lee) as she tends to the garden. Joanna’s husband, Craig Lowell (Lee’s real-life husband at the time, James Farentino), is leaving to teach at the college where he is a professor. Joanna gives him a green carnation as he is about to drive off.

On campus, fellow professor Nick Porteus (Jonathan Harris, playing another fusspot as he did famously on Lost in Space a few years earlier) intercepts him and wants to discuss green carnations as they relate to the occult, but Professor Lowell brushes off this particular (and peculiar) conversational gambit.

Later, Craig is doing yard work while the old lady, Joanne’s Aunt Ada, is enjoying the sunshine while sitting in a chair. A moment later, he looks back at the chair and she’s vanished. He comes inside and Joanna and her aunt are having tea. When Aunt Ada sees the rose bush he’s holding, she starts to scream, saying she’s allergic to flowers. It bears noting for those who might find it interesting that James Farentino’s shirt is way unbuttoned here and so perhaps she was overcome by the sight of his manly bare chest.

She goes upstairs. Alone with his wife, he expresses misgivings about her aunt staying with them, then we cut to Ada in her room cackling, I believe, “don’t fret, little Foxport, it’s not going to be much longer,” and chuckles ominously. It should also be noted for those who might find it interesting that Jeanette Nolan is wearing ghostly white makeup on her face which makes her look rather less alive than your typical kindly old auntie.

Craig awakes after midnight, comes downstairs and is surprised to find both Joanna and Ada awake, too, again sharing a pot of tea. Ada has “herbs” to help Joanna sleep. Craig secrets one of these “herbs” away in a cloth and in the morning gives it to a lab guy at the college (played by Eldon Quick, the actor who so memorably played Captain Sloan, who would not grant Hawkeye and Trapper John’s request for “The Incubator” they were trying to procure in the early M*A*S*H* episode of the same name).

Captain Sloan, er, Professor Heller, examines it and says it’s seaweed, and adds that folklore says it’s “sinister witches’ weed.” He recommends that Craig consult Mr. Smith, er, Professor Porteus, for further amplification.

Craig studies logic and scientific matter, so when Porteus tells him that witches’ weed is “employed by the aging witch who has used up her present body to facilitate her entry into and assumption of the new young body that she has chosen for herself,” he is initially skeptical.

Porteus continues to explain that this act takes place during the twelve strokes of midnight during the first full moon after the autumnal equinox. Professor Craig Lowell proclaims this to be ridiculous. Porteus points out that Lowell always wears the one thing that can prevent this transaction (a green carnation).

Now willing to admit this may be somewhat less than ridiculous, Craig Lowell investigates Aunt Ada’s identity and discovers that Ada Quigley recently died. He then confronts Aunt Ada, in a manner reminiscent of how Captain Kirk confronted a purported Shakespearean actor whom he suspected of being a mass murderer by demanding of him point blank, “Are you Kodos?!” in the Star Trek episode “The Conscience of the King”. Craig puts it to her, “Who are you? Why are you here? What are you after?” No beating around the bush for these two strong leading men.

In the Star Trek episode, the question of identity was answered thusly: “Do you believe I am?” “I do.” “Then I am.” Here, the response is subtly different. “Ha ha ha ha ha ha,” Aunt Ada cackles. She then raises a the veil she is wearing over her head and suddenly three of her appear, then it’s back to just one.

Finally totally believing in what his colleague had to say, Craig calls Porteus while we intercut to Ada simultaneously doing an incantation. Porteus succumbs to a stroke and Ada peers wickedly to Craig over the stairway bannister—Jeanette Nolan is really believably scary here!

The next scene has James Farentino completely shirtless, digging in the yard, talking to Joanna who surprisingly tells him that Aunt Ada is going to an old folks’ home, right after the autumn equinox. Craig insists that Joanna not be out of his sight until midnight tomorrow (equinox day). Incidentally, in the story, this date was given as September 23rd, which was the same day I was watching this, which made me think, “Eeeek!”

Ada seems to will a telegram delivery man to come and bring a message to Craig asking him to substitute for another colleague to teach his class that night. Craig explains the deal to Joanna about the whole bit that Porteus explained to him about the witch transformation into a younger woman’s body before the stroke of midnight on that night and she of course laughs. But to ease his fears of them being apart, she says she’ll accompany him to the lecture he needs to give for his colleague that night.

While he gives the lecture, we again get intercutting scenes with Ada at home. She is making a pentagram. Then she gets into Joanna’s mind. We get some scary hand-held fisheye lens shots of Ada chanting while the stormy night outside brings lightning. A good time now to cite director William Hale for his fine work on this episode. Hale’s credits are largely in episodic television in the 60s and 70s and I am not familiar with these episodes but here he showed a fine hand in producing some very frightening visuals and a well-paced story on a limited schedule and budget so I am surprised to not see more familiar credits for his career.

Joanna, under Ada’s spell, slips out of the classroom, unseen by her husband as his gives his lecture. She drives home. It’s 11:50 (wow, late class). Aunt Ada is waiting expectantly as Joanna arrives. Craig realizes his wife is gone and runs home in a thunderstorm.

Inside the house, Ada asks Joanna to take one more sip of the tea she has prepared for her (with seaweed, aka witches’ weed, natch). Craig, this time in his shirt, but it is wet and clinging to his body, arrives home to the sight of multiple Ada’s surrounding Joanna. He remembers what Professor Proteus said regarding carnations. He lights the green one he has with him, throws it at the Adas/witches and they shriek, burn and die. Pretty intense scene. Joanna is ok.

We get one final scene, this of Craig driving off the next morning, realizing his is without his daily green carnation. He seems to decide, since Aunt Ada is gone, “what me, worry?” and drives off, while we see Joanna give a sidelong glance, which has a hint of anxiety, at the green carnation patch in the yard…

Quite a strong episode. A good script by Alvin Sapinsley, adapted from A. E. van Vogt’s story, strong direction and Jeanette Nolan as mentioned previously; Michele Lee, as always, keeps things grounded and real, and James Farentino, it cannot be denied, has an admirable chest.

———————————————————————————————————-

TV’s Batman, Adam West, this time *as* a scenery-chewing villain rather than fighting one, in the Night Gallery vignette “With Apologies to Mr. Hyde,” reviewed here.

“With Apologies to Mr. Hyde” *

Written by Jack Laird
Directed by Jeannot Szwarc
Adam West as Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde
Jack Laird as the Laboratory Assistant

Tuxedo-clad Dr. Jekyll (Adam West) is handed a beaker by his lab assistant (played by series Producer and writer of this script, Jack Laird), filled with a beverage which he drinks.

He begins to transform into the more monstrous-looking Mr. Hyde. When he finally sees his new visage in a mirror, he berates his assistant, “If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times: go easy on the vermouth.”

As an aficionado of dry martinis, I can appreciate that demand, which is why this short gets a full star rather than a half. It’s a mildly funny joke, but this is another of those brief time-wasters.

———————————————————————————————————

Arte Johnson as a deejay whose career—and life—may end at a remote radio station during the graveyard shift. The Night Gallery story “The Flip-Side of Satan” is reviewed here.

“The Flip-Side of Satan” ** ½

Teleplay by Malcolm Marmorsteen & Gerald Sanford, Story by Hal Dresner
Directed by Jerrold Freedman
Arte Johnson as J. J. Wilson

If you’ve ever wondered if Arte Johnson of Laugh-In fame could carry a fifteen minute piece all on his own, this is your chance to find out. He’s better than I expected in this dramatic story, good but not great, but as the only actor onscreen, it’s a lot to ask and perhaps this segment would have been lifted up further with a somewhat a bit stronger.

Johnson plays J.J. Wilson, a former big-time disc jockey, having worked fifteen years in New York City. His career on a downward trajectory—way, way down as it turns out, he’s been banished to the middle of nowhere doing the midnight shift on a low-power station. “On a clear day, you can hear across the street,” he complains bitterly.

He pumps himself up with (false?) braggadocio asking rhetorically, “Who’s better than J.J.?” then plays his canned introduction of funky music with women singing his name.

His scheduled playlist, which he has been ordered to adhere to without exception, begins with gothic organ music. Not what this early ‘70s hipster expected, he calls his manager to complain about how backward the station is.

His agent, Sid, thought J.J. and his wife were having an affair. She’s dead now, seemingly a suicide. As he ends the call, J.J. seems contrite, though not admitting the affair.

Getting back to his canned between-song repertoire, Sid tells some jokes and plays canned laughter in response. The next record is eerie electronic music. He calls Bert, a man to whom he owes money. He wants Burt to give Sid an alibi for the weekends that both he (J.J.) and Sid’s wife were both away on “separate” excursions, thus we now know they were indeed having an affair.

The next track on J.J.’s playlist has satanic conjurings and he thinks he’s being hazed by the station’s other deejays. Finally, he decides to go against orders and put on one of his own records, but it comes out as the same conjuring.

Becoming scared, he dials the operator and is told it’s a disconnected number. The record says “all have been summoned to witness the sacrifice of the condemned.” J.J. notices a gallery of portraits on the studio wall, portraits of dead deejays who worked there. The record says the sacrifice is to Lucifer and J.J. is electrocuted and we then pan up to the wall and see his portrait has been added to the gallery.

The ending of this story is a bit abrupt and if it had been expanded a bit and also perhaps had a stronger actor in the lead, this could have been quite an excellent episode. As it is, it has a certain element of creepiness to it and it’s a borderline recommended segment.

——————————————————————————————————–

If you have “A Fear of Spiders,” this Night Gallery tale may a bit much for you. And, as always, it’s reviewed here.

Season 2 Episode 4—aired 10/6/71

“A Fear of Spiders” ***1/2

Teleplay by Rod Serling, Story “The Spider” by Elizabeth Walter
Directed by John Astin
Patrick O’Neal as Justus Walters
Kim Stanley as Elizabeth Croft
Tom Pedi as Mr. Boucher

Two wonderful performances, from Patrick O’Neal and Kim Stanley, in a fine adapted script by Rod Serling and directed by last-minute replacement John Astin (yes, the actor, and in his second Night Gallery assignment) combine to produce an excellent segment to kick off Season Two’s fourth episode.

O’Neal plays Justus Walters, a food critic trying to finish some articles before deadline. He gets a phone call from his upstairs neighbor, Elizabeth Croft (Stanley), to whom he shouts “leave me in peace.”

Undeterred, she comes down and rings his doorbell. They’ve had a few dinner dates, he’s no longer interested, and he dismisses her, even more rudely and cruelly than on the phone, slamming the door on her. From outside the door, she says she prays that someday he’ll be helpless and need someone.

She trips and falls on her way up the stairs. He opens the door and to her request for help, he smirks and slams the door once more. Not the world’s nicest guy.

Back inside his apartment, he goes into the kitchen and sees a fairly large spider in the sink. He flushes it down but we can see a crack in his tough-guy demeanor as the presence of the spider has shaken him.

Going back to his typewriter, he hears a drip, returns to the kitchen and sees a spider crawling out of the drain, this one larger than the one previously seen. He flushes this one down as well, after some battling by the spider at the edge of the drain.

The building super then arrives, responding to Justus’ previous call about thermostat issues. Tom Pedi plays this as a stereotypical blue collar “dese, dem and dose” kind of guy. For what it is, it’s a bit of comic relief, but not necessary and it somewhat temporarily breaks the building mood of fear.

Justus then takes the opportunity to complain about the spiders, admitting that he has a deathly fear of them, and the super somewhat mocks him (there is a dimension of prissy femininity to O’Neal’s portrayal of Justus) in an oft-seen clash between an “old-school” man and a “modern” one.

The super leaves dismissively and unable to secure continued protection from the man, Justus then is startled by a screeching noise coming from his bedroom. He opens the door and looks in and we get a quick glimpse of a comically gigantic spider on his bed. This takes us right out of things and one can’t help but laugh. Hey, tight budgets and early ‘70s effects took their toll on projects such as this.

He runs to the super who has no interest in investigating a spider “the size of a dog” as described by Justus (it really is, a large, fake, stuffed spider, moved no doubt by someone pulling a string) and so the critic swallows his pride and seeks out the only person interested in his welfare, Elizabeth one floor up.

He needs a drink and quickly downs two brandys served by Elizabeth and confesses to her, too, his fear of spiders. She laughs when she hears his description of what’s in his bedroom. She’s read many books and has never found a description of so large a spider anywhere in literature. He wants to call the police; she says they’ll call Bellevue.

Finishing his brandy, she asks him to leave and he practically begs her to accompany him. They enter his apartment (she first). No spiders.

He asks her to check his bedroom. She looks in and sees/says it’s empty. She leads him by the hand into his room, pulls the door shut and locks him in. It’s not clear whether or not she saw the (giant) spider. She laughs. He panics. She tells him women “need a little kindness. A little love,” and says she’ll let him out at breakfast.

He hears squeaking, becomes hysterical, shouting “It’s in here!” Outside his room, Elizabeth looks non-plussed. We then hear a thud against the door and our play is at its end.  A frightening ending to a fine segment.

———————————————————————————————————

Another would-be comic blackout dud, the Night Gallery quickie (thankfully) “Junior” is reviewed here.

“Junior” *1/2

Written by Gene R. Kearney
Directed by Theodore J. Flicker
Wally Cox as the Father
Barbara Flicker as the Mother
Bill Svanoe as Junior

Two sleeping parents are awakened by the cries of their whiny child for water. Neither wants to get up to attend to him. The father does, stumbling into the child’s room, where he brings the lad a glass of water and the “child” is a full-sized Frankenstein’s monster who splashes the drink all over his face and says “thank you, Daddy.”

It’s under two minutes so no harm done, I suppose.

————————————————————————————————————

If you’re in a stranger’s home and make predictions that come true—stay sober. Review of the Night Gallery story “Marmalade Wine” is here.

“Marmalade Wine” **

Teleplay by Jerrold Freedman, Story by Joan Aiken
Directed by Jerrold Freedman
Robert Morse as Roger Blacker
Rudy Vallee as Dr. Francis Deeking

Robert Morse (still active today in his 80s on Mad Men) and Rudy Vallee, who had previously had a triumphant run together on Broadway in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, are reunited here in a story of a wandering amateur photographer, Roger Blacker (Morse), who winds up lost in a rainstorm and finds refuge at the home of Francis Deeking (Vallee), a well-known surgeon, now retired.

Deeking, who lives alone in a seemingly remote location (the sets here are the high point of the segment, there is a completely black backdrop with most of the stage furniture and props in white, creating a bizarre, futuristic stage-like atmosphere), is more than happy for the company and serves his guest glass after glass of marmalade wine.

Blacker has read about Dr. Deeking, recalling that he was famous for giving breast implants to Hollywood starlets. He also has another recollection of something peculiar about him which he can’t quite summon.

Perhaps seeking to impress his host, Blacker begins with small fibs such as that he is employed as a photographer by Life magazine. As the wine gradually has a greater influence, his lies become bigger and he tells the doctor that he has the “unique attribute of being able to foretell the future,” telling Deeking the outcome of a horse race and an election result for that day.

He falls asleep, drunk, and when he awakens the next morning, the doctor tells him he was correct about both predictions. Stunned, Blacker admits that his talent at predictions was all a bluff and that these were mere coincidences.

The doctor doesn’t believe him or care and asks him to predict some stock positions. Finally, Blacker realizes that the doctor had “flipped his lid, not allowed to practice medicine anymore,” and tries to scramble out of bed to leave.

Too late for that. Blacker finds he is chained to the bed and the doctor tells him in the grisly finale, “Don’t worry, you’ll be very happy here. While you were asleep, I took the liberty of amputating your feet. “

This is a mid-length segment (about twelve minutes) and it falls between black comic vignette and something more substantial, ultimately unsatisfying. Robert Morse plays it oddly reserved and reticent before he has too much to drink. Vallee is better as the overly gracious but ultimately mad host. They purportedly had great chemistry when they worked together on Broadway; it’s not much in evidence here.

———————————————————————————————————

Pat Boone plays a widower on a tour of a military school for his wayward son in the Night Gallery story “The Academy,” reviewed here.

“The Academy” ***1/2

Teleplay by Rod Serling, Story by David Ely
Directed by Jeff Corey

Pat Boone as Mr. Holston
Leif Erickson as the Academy Director
Larry Linville as Cadet Sloane
Ed Call as the Drill Instructor
Stanley Waxman as Bradley
Robert Gibbons as Simmons
E. A. Sirianni as the Chauffeur
John Gruber as the Cadet in Reception

Wealthy widower Holston (Pat Boone) steps out of his chauffeured limousine amidst marching drills at the entrance of Glendalough Military Academy. Walking up the stairs toward the building, he passes a by statue which would seem to serve as a sort of welcome, but oddly, the two figures depicted, a man in military dress seeming to show the way to a young boy, are facing toward the building rather than away from it. This produced quite a chilling effect on me; simple, yet disturbing.

Holston is there to meet with the Academy Director (Leif Erickson, very good). He explains that his son is “not a bad kid,” but he “lacks motivation” and is “undisciplined.” Surveying the boy’s transcript, the Director asks Holston about his wife’s death. She drowned when she and the son, who was ten at the time, were in a rowboat. The director’s questioning of Holston has creepy undertones, seeming to insinuate that the boy may have had some role in his mother’s “accidental” death.

As the Director takes Holston on a tour of the academy, we see that some of the “cadets” are clearly adults, including Sloane (Larry Linville, who was brilliant as Major Frank Burns on M*A*S*H* beginning the following year). Holston vaguely recalls from news reports years ago a teenaged Sloane who was involved in an assault case. “If that’s the same Sloan, he’d have to be in his thirties.”

Holston asks the Director about the inward-facing statue and the Director explains, “All that a boy needs is to be found right here. And for that reason, the statue symbolizes welcome—not farewell. For us, the most important thing is the academy. This is our world.”

Holston seems to have misgivings, even seems alarmed at this, and this is where the casting of Pat Boone is quite clever. We assume that anyone played by Pat Boone is going to be a good guy, so we are now set for Holston to conclude that this is not the place for his son.

Outside we see a cadet fall and a drill instructor yells at him to “get up and run three more miles!”

Asking the Director how long his son will stay, he responds, “I assumed you understood that. Indefinitely. Most of the parents prefer it that way.”

Again, a chilling moment as we realize that this academy is a place where parents can dump their problem children forever.

What happens next is perhaps even more chilling. Pat Boone (as Holston) nods and says his son will arrive tomorrow.

On his way out, he discovers that the late-middle aged gatekeeper is also a cadet. “I was fifteen when I arrived, sir. I’ll soon be fifty-five.” As he steps into his limousine, he remarks to his driver, “my son’s a rotter. This’ll be just the place for him,” and it’s surprisingly cruel to hear coming from the lips of Mr. Nice Guy Pat Boone.

———————————————————————————————————–

David McCallum, looking not unlike Justin Hayward, is searching for his own nights in white satin, with a possible female werewolf in the Night Gallery tale “The Phantom Farmhouse,” reviewed here.

Season 2 Episode 5—aired 10/20/71

“The Phantom Farmhouse” ***

Teleplay by Halsted Welles, Story by Seabury Quinn
Directed by Jeannot Szwarc
David McCallum as Dr. Joel Winter
David Carradine as Gideon
Linda Marsh as Mildred Squire
Ivor Francis as Pierre
Ford Rainey as the Sheriff
Trina Parks as Betty
Bill Quinn as Dr. Tom
Gail Bonney as Mrs. Squire
Martin Ashe as Mr. Squire
Ray Ballard as Mr. Grouch
Frank Arnold as the Shepherd

“The Phantom Farmhouse” is an odd segment, even by Night Gallery standards. Adapted from a story written in the 1920s, it also features some of the most contemporary (1971 contemporary) set design and characterizations, combined with other design and characters more turn-of-the-century (the previous century). Uneven, it still works, largely in the older-period motifs.

It begins with David Carradine (Gideon) in full beard and longish hair (this was filmed the year before Kung Fu began, so he lost the beard in between) playing an acoustic guitar while seated in a pop-art treehouse of large primary-colored discs nestled amongst large tree limbs. He is in a bucolic setting at Delphinium House, a sanitarium in the countryside. Along with him in the trees on different colored discs are fellow residents there for a “session” with psychiatrist Joel Winter (David McCallum). If you like far-out, over-the-top early 70s kitsch, you’ll love this opening scene.

One guy complains about Gideon playing his guitar. Dr. Winter asks him to stop playing. Gideon does so by smashing his guitar to bits (Pete Townshend fan, no doubt).

The session begins in earnest as Gideon says his parents “pay $39,000 a year to keep my locked up for my own good,” then launches into a story about a house in the nearby forest with a beautiful woman that everyone is in love with even if they haven’t met her. Dr. Winter thinks this is one of Gideon’s hallucinations. Gideon denies this, saying he told a patient the story and that the patient was found dead, exsanguinated after what Gideon believed was an attempt to find this woman in the woods.

Later that afternoon, Dr. Winter goes out for a walk outside the sanitarium grounds and to his surprise, finds the house Gideon described. He hears a growling sound and retraces his steps. At the sanitarium gate, he encounters Pierre (Ivor Francis), an oddly French-accented man in this apparently US-set tale, who tells him that there is no house, it burned down years ago.

Dr. Winter returns to the spot where he found the house and it is there again. This time, a beautiful, shy young woman, Mildred (Linda Marsh), emerges from within. He asks her for a drink of water from the front yard well. She goes inside and we hear “This one is mine, I tell you. You do your own hunting,” then a growl. This is, to say the least, a bit heavy-handed.

Mildred comes out again and “explains” that she and her father argue over game now that it’s hunting season. I wouldn’t believe it if I were Dr. Winter.

He notices her index finger is longer than the others, then he meets her parents as they come out on the porch. Dad suggests he (Winter) return after dark (this comes off as funny as we can begin to guess what is going on, but it’s not meant to be, at least I don’t think it is).

Back at the sanitarium, Gideon eagerly shows his books on werewolves to Dr. Winter, telling him the index finger of a werewolf is longest. I did not know that. Winter is disbelieving at this and other descriptions of werewolves’ characteristics, to which Gideon explodes “what do you think May saw before he was torn to pieces,” referring to the patient he discussed while on the pastel-colored disc.

Later, Dr. Winter finds Pierre with another surprisingly French-speaking shepherd (Frank Arnold) saying a sheep of theirs has been killed. They say that the footprints are like hands with the index fingers the longest. The doctor rejects Pierre’s offer of a silver crucifix to ward off werewolves before he returns to the forest.

Winter walks back into the forest and sees sheep chased by wolves. He runs to the farmhouse, but no one is there. Then Mildred walks up the path. She says she wants to be with Winter but tells him he can’t see her again. He asks why and he says “because I love you.”

Upon his return to the sanitarium, Pierre tells Dr. Winter that one of the patients, Betty (Trina Parks) was alone in the meadow and now she is dead, similarly mauled to death as was his sheep.

Back in the treehouse setting, Dr. Winter notices pentagrams inked on Gideon’s hands and asks how long he’s had them. Gideon tells the doctor that he’s sorry he got him to go to the farmhouse, adding that anyone who’s seen it is marked as a victim.

Winter returns to the farmhouse that night, finding Mildred there. She somberly tells him to return tomorrow at dawn with a prayer book and to read services for burial of the dead from it by the three gravestones in the yard.

Her eyes have been downcast. When she finally looks up, her eyes are black. Winter runs away. Chased by wolves, he falls and is attacked. In an action-filled scene, a third wolf comes and fights the other two (that would be Mildred fighting her parents). Winter escapes and stumbles back to the sanitarium.

The next morning, he returns and as requested, reads from the prayer book at the graves. We hear a loud commotion of howling and growling. Finally, he faints. Pierre and another psychiatrist from the sanitarium find him and get him up. There is no house there. Dr. Winter cries “Mildred!” over and over again as we fade to black.

The gothic romance element of this story works surprisingly well, despite the distractions of the pop-art treehouse and the inexplicably French-speaking shepherds in the rural American midst.

————————————————————————————————————

Skipping ahead a few episodes, I present this timely holiday season review of the four-star Night Gallery segment “The Messiah on Mott Street,” originally aired on December 15, 1971.

“The Messiah on Mott Street” ****

Written by Rod Serling
Directed by Don Taylor
Edward G. Robinson as Abraham Goldman
Tony Roberts as Dr. Morris Levine
Yaphet Kotto as Buckner
Joseph Ruskin as the Fanatic
Ricky Powell as Mikey Goldman
John J. Fox as Santa Claus
Anne Taylor as Miss Moretti

“The Messiah on Mott Street” is one of Rod Serling’s finest original scripts, a warm, uplifting story that manages to combine both the Jewish and Christian late-year holidays. Like his previous “They’re Tearing Down Tim Riley’s Bar,” this is an atypical Night Gallery segment in that largely eschews the supernatural (although there is an element of it) and instead focuses more on real human feeling and emotion.

It’s Christmas Eve in a rather shabby New York neighborhood where seventy-seven year old Abraham Goldman (the great Edward G. Robinson) lies deathly ill in the apartment he shares with his orphaned nine-year old grandson, Mikey (Ricky Powell, in a good performance).

His doctor, paying house calls back in those days, Morris Levine (Tony Roberts, from several of Woody Allen’s movies from the 70s), wants him go to a hospital. But Abraham is concerned about the welfare of his grandson, should he leave the apartment and not return. He very clearly loves the boy and the two have some touching scenes together.

Later that night, Abraham feels and thinks he sees (in the form of a large black shadow) the Angel of Death visiting him in his bed, asking him to go with him. He adamantly refuses to go. He shares this with his grandson and tells him the most important thing for him is to help try to make his grandfather well and that, according to Jewish tradition, if the Messiah comes, he will “lift us up to health and wealth and heavenly contentment.”

Mikey, as devoted to his grandfather as his grandfather is to him, goes out to find the Messiah in the snowy nighttime streets of New York. He encounters a man dressed as Santa Claus, then a man dressed as Jesus who is a sort of evangelist, preaching his gospel of gloom and doom to the passersby, including young Mikey, who has stopped before him, wondering if he is the Messiah, and frightened by his diatribe.

A large black man (Yaphet Kotto, later in Alien, among other movies) appears and clears the evangelist off, telling him to stop frightening children. Mikey thinks he must be the Messiah, in part because of his resemblance to the large black shadow (I’m not trying to be cute here; it works given that it’s from the point-of-view of a young boy).

When Mikey explains to the man, Buckner, who he thinks he is, Buckner is gently amused and agrees to accompany the boy home to see his grandfather. When they get to the apartment an ambulance is there along with Dr. Levine. Mr. Goldman says he was again visited by the Angel of Death, who has promised to return a final time at midnight.

In the living room, Levine, exasperated at what his patient seems to think are his final hours, has a stilted chat with Buckner that includes some great Serling dialogue such as “all right, Mr. Buckner, if you have some special messianic powers, I wish you’d trot them out. I could use a miracle.”

Suddenly, a strong gust of wind blows through the windows and blasts the front door open. The wind blows into Abraham’s bedroom and a concerned Mikey enters to find the shadow of death hovering over his grandfather.

Buckner closes the door and tells Dr. Levine there is nothing he can do, to which Buckner replies, “Anybody tell you that you make a lousy Messiah?” Good Serling line, good Roberts comedic delivery and we finally get a sense that this story might turn out all right.

Then the wind stops as suddenly as it blew in. The door shuts on its own. The room has now become calm. Dr. Levine, now circumspect, turns to Buckner and says, “My apologies, Mr. Buckner. That’s the problem with ghetto dwellers—and former ghetto dwellers, of which I am one—we’re mystics, and believers, and children to our dying day.” More great Serling dialogue.

Then we go into the bedroom and find a much-revived Abraham Goldman, telling a story of a dreamlike recollection much like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz after she has awoken back home in her Kansas bed at the end of the movie. We hear Christmas bells heralding the stroke of midnight and Levine remarks “It’s kind of the season for miracles, I guess.”

Answering a knock at the door, Mikey opens it to find a postman (Buckner) there with a special delivery: a letter from Goldman’s brother. Enclosed within is a check for $10,000—an old debt repaid from one brother to another, and coming at a most-needed time.

Levine wishes the Goldmans a Happy Hanukkah and takes his leave. Outside, he sees the man kneeling near a mailbox and thanks him for what he delivered. “Did it please?” the man asks. “Dear God, how it pleased,” Levine replies.

Satisfied, the postman says “every now and then, God remembers the tenements.” Only vaguely recalling the face of the man who may indeed have been the Messiah (after the windy episode, everyone seemed kind of in a daze), Levine wishes him season’s greetings and the Messiah replies, “and to you and yours and to the whole earth” as we end with the two walking off to the sound of Christmas bells, an incredibly uplifting ending to a Night Gallery story, but then, as Rod Serling proved here, he could write just about anything and do it spectacularly.

———————————————————————————————————–

Night Gallery’s adaptation of Conrad Aiken’s story “Silent Snow, Secret Snow,” narrated by the great Orson Welles is reviewed here.

“Silent Snow, Secret Snow” ***

Teleplay by Gene R. Kearney, Story by Conrad Aiken
Directed by Gene R. Kearney

Orson Welles as the Narrator
Lonny Chapman as Paul’s Father
Lisabeth Hush as Paul’s Mother
Radames Pera as Paul Hasleman
Jason Wingreen as the Doctor
Frances Spanier as Miss Buell
Patti Cohoon as Dierdre

Conrad Aiken’s classic short story “Silent Snow, Secret Snow” is challenging to adapt for the screen as it largely takes place inside the mind of a ten-year old boy as he gradually withdraws from reality. The unusual step, for Night Gallery, was to employ voice-over narration of Aiken’s beautiful prose, and they got the perfect voice to do it, that of Orson Welles. When you hear the cliché “I could listen to him read the phone book,” I’d say just about the only person I’d make that statement about would be Welles.

Insinuating, intoxicating, involving, Welles’ narration is spellbinding and helps to set a mood, aided wonderfully by Gene Kearney’s direction and the musical score of Paul Glass. These elements work wonderfully, while the reasons for the boy’s thoughts and actions remained troublingly mystifying for me upon first viewing. A second viewing proved more satisfying, but a viewer can’t be expected to watch something twice to see if he finds it more enriching upon further viewing. So I have given this a three-star rating, which splits the difference between my two viewings of the story, the first one fairly frustrating, the second more appreciative.

We begin with young Paul (Radames Pera, known mainly for his role just after this in flashbacks as the boyhood version of David Carradine’s Caine on Kung Fu), awakening one morning and realizing that he normally hears the postman’s heavy, clomping steps up the sidewalks, but this morning they are muffled and Paul knows that the reason is because it has snowed. But when he looks outside, there is no snow.

Later, his parents, who do not have the warmest, most empathetic relationship with their son, begin to notice that he’s acting odd, not listening, withdrawn. He gradually imagines the outside snowier and snowier, but every time he looks out the window, the ground is bare. He is afraid to explain to his parents or anyone his “new world” of snow and understandably so as it would seem to be apparently only to him.

Walking home from school one day, he becomes immersed in a wonderful scene of heavy snow as he runs through it joyfully. When he arrives home, the icicles hanging from the roof of his house are beginning to melt and he wonders if “it’s already ended.”

That night, the family doctor (Jason Wingreen, Harry the bartender at Kelsey’s Bar on All in the Family) visits as Paul’s parents have become increasingly concerned about his condition, how he is withdrawing from reality.

As the doctor questions Paul, Welles’ narration as the snow is increasingly commanding and seductive, and somewhat desperate. “I will surround your bed, pile a deep drift against the door so that no one will ever again be able to enter.

Paul tells the doctor and his parents that he just likes to think about snow, as if it’s perfectly normal, and to him, it is.

“Hurry, Paul, hurry, these last few precious hours…” Paul then breaks away from the adults and runs up to his room. When he throws open the door, there is a veritable blizzard happening inside. “Listen to us, Paul, in this white darkness we will take the place of everything.” Welles’ narration here is frightful, smothering, while the visuals of Paul embracing the snow are joyful. He revels in the snow falling on him.

His mother comes in and suddenly there is no snow. Paul shouts at her, “go away—I hate you!” Welles narration then in a low near-whisper asks, “Do you hear? We are leaning closer to you…” Paul’s face then becomes covered in a black shadow and there the story ends.

Again, a challenging, thought-provoking story. I found some of the questions I had upon the first viewing frustrating, then was able to enjoy the tale as if unfolded better the second time. I would very much be interested in hearing what other have to say about this, so if you read this and you watch the story, please send your comments.

———————————————————————————————————–

A tour-de-force haunted house story with lots of early ‘70s special effects and the scariest Night Gallery segment ever, “A Question of Fear” is reviewed here.

Season 2 Episode 6—aired 10/27/71

“A Question of Fear” ****

Teleplay by Theodore J. Flicker • Story by Bryan Lewis
Directed by Jack Laird
Leslie Nielsen as Colonel Denny Malloy
Fritz Weaver as Dr. Mazi
Jack Bannon as Al
Ivan Bonar as Fred
Owen Cunningham as the Waiter
Paul Golden as the Apparition

At a private club, the gentlemanly Dr. Mazi (Fritz Weaver) regales the men in the room with a story about a terrifying night he spent in an abandoned house, reputed to be haunted, adding that afterward he was committed to a mental institution for three years. One brash guest, Colonel Denny Malloy (Leslie Nielsen, in his earlier tough-guy persona, a characterization similar to the one he portrayed two years later on M*A*S*H* as Colonel (again a Colonel) Buzz “The Ringbanger” Brighton), scoffs at Dr. Mazi’s account, calling him a coward.

Colonel Malloy, wearing an eyepatch and mustache, is a longtime soldier-for-hire and boasts that he is incapable of fear. Dr. Mazi makes him a $15,000 bet that he can’t spend one whole night in that house without being frightened to death. Malloy gladly accepts the bet, laughing that “for $15,000, I would spend a night in hell.”

At dusk one evening, Mazi’s limousine drops off Malloy, carrying a backpack for his night’s say, at the house. The front door opens itself, Malloy enters cautiously, and it shuts itself behind him. Immediately, the chills begin.

He hears a man’s voice laughing/moaning. He sees a large spider in a web. Blood drips from above him onto his hand. A weird image of a disembodied head, in a yellowish/greenish light appears, floating around and there is more laughing and moaning.

Moving on to the dining room, Malloy finds a long table set for dinner, but crawling with rats. The flashlight he has with him dies and takes a candelabra for illumination, then walks out of the room. The candelabra remaining on the table blows out as he leaves and there is more cackling from an unseen voice.

He turns on a backup flashlight and a man, fully engulfed in flames appears. Malloy shoots at it with his revolver and it disappears. More blood drips onto the floor.

Malloy enters the basement, begins to descend the stairs and the door above him shuts on his own and locks behind him. A step breaks and he falls to the bottom where he is greeted with more maniacal laughter and sobbing.

He then enters a room and the voice becomes louder, as if it source is within. A ghostly man appears, charges him, and he shoots at it until his gun’s chamber is empty. The man then disappears.

Malloy notices more droplets of blood on the floor, near where he shot at the spectral man. Heavily breathing and sweating, he escapes this area and finds a quiet place to take a break of hot coffee from his thermos along with a cigarette. It should be noted here that this is a long, extended rollercoaster ride of fear, largely without dialogue and excellently directed by series producer Jack Laird.

The sounds of a piano disturbs his silent break and he follow the sounds, opens a door and finds a male mannequin playing. The mannequin turns around and its hands burst into flames. Noticing a power cord, Malloy cuts it and the mannequin falls over.

Feeling confident, he addresses Mazi and the two others from the club aloud, saying they’ll “have to do better than that.”

He goes upstairs to bed, checks the bed and all seems ok although he notices a power cord under the bed which he severs. He staggers as he removes his boots, suggesting he may be drugged. Once relaxed and in bed, steel restraints suddenly emerge and cover his chest, locking him in. Then a swinging razor-sharp swinging pendulum descends, moving closer and closer to his neck. Just short of slicing his throat, the pendulum stops. He yells out that the things Mazi wants to see him afraid. He then falls asleep.

The next morning, he’s awakened by an alarm. The restraints and pendulum are gone. He goes downstairs and enters the kitchen where coffee is made and toast pops up. Mazi then appears on a two-way tv. Mazi admits he drugged Malloy’s coffee thermos.

Mazi then explains that his father was in the Italian forces during World War II when Malloy captured him. He was a concert pianist. Malloy remembers. Mazi reminds Malloy that when his father could not provide the information Malloy sought, Malloy then poured gasoline over his hands and set them ablaze, reducing them to burned stumps. Mazi’s father never played piano again.

Mazi swore revenge on his father’s deathbed. A biochemist, Mazi says he injected Malloy with a serum that will transform him into an earthworm. His bones will break down. Malloy scoffs at this and Mazi suggests he go down to the cellar and look at his colleague who is already a form of slug. Malloy sees a slimy trail on the kitchen floor. Fearing his fate, Malloy declares “you still lose, Mazi!” and shoots himself to death.

On the television screen, Mazi calmly replies, “no, you lose. There is nothing in the cellar.”

A great, chilling, scary segment of Night Gallery. If you want to see a scary one, see “A Question of Fear.”

———————————————————————————————————–

Nazis receive their comeuppance at the hands (and teeth) of some unusual castle residents in the Balkans in the Night Gallery segment “ The Devil is Not Mocked,” reviewed here.

“The Devil is Not Mocked” ***

Teleplay by Gene R. Kearney, Story by Manly Wade Wellman
Directed by Gene R. Kearney
Helmut Dantine as General von Grunn
Francis Lederer as the Master of the Castle
Hank Brandt as Kranz
Martin Kosleck as Hugo
Gino Gottarelli as the Radio Operator
Mark de Vries as the Machine Gunner

An older gentleman (Francis Lederer) tells his grandson a story from his past to illustrate to him why he should feel pride in his national and ethnic heritage.

As the story moves to flashback, two Nazi soldiers share an easy laugh as they relax in a recently conquered area of the Balkans, one shooting at the unseen howls of wolves. They are there along with a group of soldiers led by General von Grunn (Helmut Dantine), who has a low opinion of the Balkan residents he has been defeating, saying “they have shown their true colors” and mocks Serbs, Croat and Slavs as “stupid peasants.”

The General and his men arrive at a castle, which they believe to be housing the leadership of an underground partisan movement, intending to take it. To their surprise, they are greeted by a gentleman (the same gentleman who opened our story, but 25 years younger), wearing a cape, and saying with a smile and an outstretched gloved hand, “Gentlemen, welcome.”

“We’ve come to burn you out, don’t welcome me,” replies the General gruffly. He accused the master of the castle of being the leader of the resistance, which the gentleman politely denies.

Inside the castle, a sumptuous banquet has been laid out and awaits to be served to the General and his men. Servants see to his men’s needs. The General is highly suspicious of this but eventually agrees to sit down to the wonderful meal from his astonishingly gracious host.

As midnight approaches, we hear the sound of wolves’ howls outside. Then, at the stroke of midnight, there is a commotion in the courtyard outside. The sounds of wolves are stronger and there are gunshots and screams from the men outside.

The General’s lieutenant, Kranz (Hank Brandt), falls into the dining room, screaming and a snarling unseen thing pulls him back into the hallway, his fingernails leaving grooves in the floorboards as he is helplessly taken to a savage demise.

Now in a panic, the General takes his own weapon and fires into the courtyard at the servants, who are now wolves, devouring his men. “The bullets are useless, General,” explains the gentlemanly host, “If they were silver, of course, it would be a different story.”

When the General next looks at his host, he is shocked to see a transformation in his face: paler, red eyes, and most telling, fangs.

As he clutches the General’s throat, he admits, “if it’s any consolation, General, this is the headquarters of the resistance and I am its proud commander—Count Dracula.”

We then return to the present as the old gentleman concludes his story to his grandson by saying “and that is how your grandfather served his country in the great war.”

Some fine acting here, particularly from Francis Lederer who excels at projecting an air of old-world gentlemanliness and hospitality, which serves him well as he attempts to put his uninvited guests at ease until midnight arrives and the transformation of him and his servants begins.

———————————————————————————————————–

An eerie tale of a woman picking up a hitchhiker and how their experience seems to them as if has happened before. The Night Gallery segment “Midnight Never Ends” is reviewed here.

Season 2 Episode 7—aired 11/3/71

“Midnight Never Ends” ***

Written by Rod Serling
Directed by Jeannot Szwarc
Robert F. Lyons as Vincent Riley
Susan Strasberg as Ruth Asquith
Joseph Perry as Joe Bateman
Robert Karnes as Sheriff Lewis

Driving alone at night on a long stretch of deserted highway, Ruth Asquith (Susan Strasberg) stops to pick up a guitar-carrying hitchhiker, a Marine on leave, Vincent Riley (Robert F. Lyons). A series of events on their drive together suggest a strong sense of déjà vu.

He begins whistling a tune and she says she recognizes it, but he only just wrote it, so how could she? He says “standing out there in the dark, I knew it would be you picking me up, Ruth.” She also somehow knows his name is Vincent. He thinks they’ve met before. He seems to remember more of their past experience. She remembers some, then they both gradually remember more.

Shortly, they will stop at a roadside diner. “It will be closed,” Ruth predicts, incorrectly, as it turns out. “It changes a little each time,” she notices. Vincent wonders, “I’m not sure what he wants—whoever is playing with our lives.” A gun falls out of Ruth’s purse and Vincent pockets it.

The Blue Danube Café’s owner, Joe (Joseph Perry), a kind of gruff tough-guy, has been playing solitaire, counting the minutes to midnight when he is due to close. He reluctantly lets Ruth and Vincent inside, but only for a cup of coffee.

Instantly hostile to his last customers of the day, Joe questions whether Vincent’s uniform proves that he’s in the Marines. “I got hippies coming in here all day wearing the uniforms.” He begins to add, “I can remember when I was…” then trails off. Odd, he can’t seem to remember.

Ruth then predicts, “Someone else joins us. A policeman.” “Sheriff sees the door open, comes to check,” as Vincent adds his own part to Ruth’s prediction. “Right on cue,” Vincent says as a cop pulls up and enters. They all notice a strange noise, a vibration of sorts, coming from above them.

“You on some kind of trip?” the young people are asked. “Oh, brother, am I. We all are. This is a trip that never seems to end and goes nowhere,” replies Vincent in some very dated early 70s argot.

The cop asks Ruth for her driver’s license and i.d., and she has neither. He asks Vincent for i.d. and he also doesn’t have any. “When I was in the Marines, I carried a rifle, not a guitar,” the sheriff scoffs at Vincent. When asked when that was, the sheriff can’t recall. Like Joe, he, too is speechless.

Vincent says the cop and Joe didn’t exist until he and Ruth drove up. “We don’t exist, none of us,” Vincent adds. He thinks they’re puppets in a play, but he also thinks they have the ability to choose their own destinies.

Ruth says she knows what the tapping sounds from above are (they sound more and more like typing). Vincent tries to leave and is shot by the cop.

The scene dissolves into a man, who looks just like Vincent, though no longer dressed as a soldier, typing. He pulls the sheet of paper from the typewriter and crumples it and throws it into a nearly-filled wastepaper basket. A woman’s hand picks up the paper and asks, “why did you give her a gun? Ruth seems familiar to me. Should she be?” “From an old play I wrote,” replies the man. “And the Marine?” “From a tv western.” The camera moves to reveal it is “Ruth” or at least Susan Strasberg.

“You know who I think Ruth killed? Her husband. Because he left her alone too many nights,” she says and tells her husband good night. He resumes typing and we revert back to the initial scene on the road with Ruth driving and she again stops for the hitchhiking Marine. The begin to repeat that scene and that’s where we end.

It’s difficult to describe this segment well; it presents an eerie mood and one is not sure of what is going on until well into it. It kept me at rapt attention, thanks to some interesting scenery and direction from Jeannot Szwarc as well as fine acting by Susan Strasberg and Robert F. Lyons in the leads.

———————————————————————————————————-

A very weird tale of a lonely girl and the monster she befriends one summer in the Night Gallery segment “Brenda,” reviewed here.

“Brenda” **1/2

Teleplay by Douglas Heyes (under pseudonym Matthew Howard) • Story by Margaret St. Clair
Directed by Allen Reisner
Glenn Corbett as Richard Alden
Laurie Prange as Brenda Alden
Robert Hogan as Jim Emsden
Barbara Babcock as Flora Alden
Sue Taylor as Elizabeth Emsden
Pamelyn Ferdin as Frances Anne Emsden
Fred Carson as the Thing

Spending her summer vacation on an island where her parents have a cottage, Brenda Alden is a strangely socialized 12 year-old girl. Seeing sometime playmate Frances Anne on the beach, putting the finishing touches on an elaborate sand castle, Brenda doesn’t walk up to the girl to engage her in conversation about her creation; rather, she marches purposefully at it and stomps right through the thing, pulverizing it.

Then, she wants to make friendly conversation, but Frances Anne is understandably upset and is in no mood to share pleasantries through her tears. Brenda has an unusual way of trying to make friends.

With no one left to talk to, Brenda heads off by herself into the woods where, upon hearing a rustling sound, she sees a sort of creature that frankly looks like a guy in a big, heavy suit covered in leaves, moss and long fur. Like Brenda, it may be lonely, too, or at the very least curious.

Scared, but also curious as well, and no doubt desperate for a friend, Brenda calls out to it, “Here I am! Can’t catch me!” and she leads it on a sort of tentative chase through the forest. She gets a ways ahead of it, then settles down near the grassy edge of a pit to watch it approach.

Not knowing the terrain as well as her, the monster falls into the pit. Slightly injured, it gets up but cannot scale the steep rocky inclines of its walls. While it attempts to extricate itself from its prison, Brenda taunts and teases it some but also shows a more thoughtful, sympathetic side as she muses aloud, “I think you’re very, very old. I think you must have been the way you are for a long, long time.”

The creature holds up its arms at Brenda, seeming to request her help. She leans down to extend a helping hand and asks the creature, “What are you waiting for? Do you want to be born?” It’s a very odd segment and it had me believing this was likely all in her imagination.

That night, Brenda leaves the door of her house open, hoping her new “friend” might come calling. And it does, causing a great commotion with her parents and neighbors as they drive the creature out of their home with flashlights, then torches and if the previous scene didn’t make you think of Frankenstein, this one certainly does. Brenda is delighted because “they can’t kill it,” as she says.

The townsfolk drive the creature back into the pit and cover it with stones. Brenda and her family leave the island as summer is ending.

Next summer, she returns to the island and the pit where the rock pile remains unchanged. Brenda has undergone a maturation since last summer. Gone are her braids and her manner is less childish. She speaks emotionally to the creature within the rock pile, with a tear on her cheek, promising it “we’ll be born together; I’ll give you love. We’ll be born, you and I, together.”

What a strange and unique story this is indeed. While all over the map in some ways, too literal perhaps at times, and with a creature who is laughably lame in terms of today’s standards, this is an example of how Night Gallery, even when not entirely successful, was ambitious and could create memorable stories that would not be attempted elsewhere. Special mention must go to Laurie Prange, who was 19 when she played the part of Brenda, for creating a character who seemed alternately insane and just a girl lonely for human understanding.

———————————————————————————————————-

“The Diary” reviewed in this Night Gallery tale is given as a vengeful gift and predicts what will happen to its most deserving recipient…

Season 2 Episode 8—aired 11/10/71

“The Diary” **1/2

Written by Rod Serling
Directed by William Hale
Patty Duke as Holly Schaefer
David Wayne as Dr. Mill
Virginia Mayo as Carrie Crane
Robert Yuro as Jeb Harlan
James McCallion as George
Lindsay Wagner as the Nurse
Floy Dean as the Receptionist
Diana Chesney as the Maid

Holly Schaefer (Patty Duke) is a tv gossip columnist who in recent broadcasts has savagely and delightedly reported on the alcohol-fueled misadventures of faded star Carrie Crane (Virginia Mayo, herself a star in such films as White Heat from 20-25 years before). She intrudes on Holly’s New Year’s Eve party at her high rise to deliver a gift in the form of a diary.

From the privacy of her bedroom, the two exchange harsh words and Carrie leaves. Holly opens the diary and is astonished to find a first entry already written for January 1—in Holly’s own handwriting. One thing written is “Can’t shake that miserable disquiet over Crane’s suicide.”

There is a commotion among the guests in the living room and Holly emerges from her bedroom to find them congregating in horror near the open balcony window. Peering down to the pavement, Holly sees that Carrie Crane has jumped to her death.

The next morning, New Year’s Day, her boyfriend Jeb (Robert Yuro) opens the diary and finds an entry already in it for January 2, again in Holly’s handwriting. It says the phone was out of order and she missed being able to appear on her show that evening. After returning to her apartment later, she picks the phone up from the living room to carry it into the bedroom when she trips and falls, breaking it.

At Jeb’s advice, she sees a psychiatrist, Dr. Mill (David Wayne). Incidentally, she is missing her show in order to see him, so both things in today’s diary entry have now come true. He suggests that she may be clairvoyant, telepathic and thinks she may be writing her visions down in the diary with no recollection of doing so. She scoffs at this.

Before leaving, she picks up the diary and sees an entry for the next day. It says Jeb is dead. Hysterical, she rushes to his office and discovers from his secretary that Jeb has left on a last-minute business trip to San Francisco.

In the next scene, Dr. Mill is visiting Holly at her apartment and says he called Jeb and told him to come back immediately to be with her and on his way to the airport, Jeb was killed instantly in a car crash.

There is no next diary entry which convinces Holly that she won’t live until tomorrow.

In a grim, locked down psychiatric sanitarium, we hear Holly’s voice calling for Dr. Mill. When he arrives, the new nurse on duty (Lindsay Wagner, yeah the Bionic Woman herself a few years before that show began) tells him she’s been calling him for quite some time.

Dr. Mill goes to see Holly and she is raving, apparently quite insane. She’s been asking for a pen. The doctor says she asked to be committed and specified that she be given no sharp objects. The timing of her requesting to be committed was just after she saw the blank diary entry and concluded it foretold her death.  She now thinks if she writes on that page that nothing will happen to her, she won’t die.

He goes to the nurse to retrieve a pen and explains to her that they’ve been giving Holly a pen every day for the last five years—the time which she’s been confined to the asylum.

This segment doesn’t have quite the bite, or pack quite the punch that it could have, mainly due to the “twist” ending taking too much time to think about rather than just having a visceral impact. Additionally, Rod Serling’s script throws in a fair amount of early 70s slang that doesn’t exactly jibe with his typical longer rhetorical flourishes and simply gives Patty Duke’s Holly too much dialogue to work her way through.

————————————————————————————————————

Another Night Gallery would-be comic blackout sketch involving Dracula, “A Matter of Semantics” is reviewed here in as little time and space as possible.

“A Matter of Semantics” *

Written by Gene R. Kearney
Directed by Jack Laird
Cesar Romero as Count Dracula
E. J. Peaker as the Nurse
Monie Ellis as the Candy-Striper

Count Dracula (Cesar Romero) is greeted at a blood bank by a nurse who tells him not to worry because it’s “only one pint.” Dracula says just one pint won’t do, why not three? The confused nurse replies, “I can see this is the first time you’ve given.” “Young lady, this is a blood bank,” the Count counters. “I wish to apply for a loan.”

Har-de-har-har. And supposedly Steven Spielberg directed this two-and-a half minute vignette but lucky for him, Jack Laird somehow gets that “credit” instead.

———————————————————————————————————

John Carradine is a scary old farmer who promises three boys a “Big Surprise” if they dig up something buried in this Night Gallery review.

“Big Surprise” **1/2
Written by Richard Matheson
Directed by Jeannot Szwarc
John Carradine as Mr. Hawkins
Vincent Van Patten as Chris
Marc Vahanian as Jason
Eric Chase as Dan

Three boys walk home from school each day near the run-down farmhouse of Mr. Hawkins, who is one of those people kids have likely never seen but whose legend precedes him as a crazy person to be feared and avoided.

One afternoon as the boys near his house, discussing him, the grizzled old man appears on his front porch. All are afraid to get close but Hawkins seems to gesture to one of them, Chris (Vincent Van Patten), who tentatively approaches the man. Finally, he gets close enough for the man to speak to him.

Hawkins describes an area near a particular oak tree where he says that if the boys go there, “walk ten paces, dig down four feet. There you’ll find a big surprise!”

This is classic late-period John Carradine, with the craggy face, stubble beard, creaky voice, leering, insinuating look.

The older boy, Jason (Marc Vahanian) scoffs at this, but Chris and Dan (Eric Chase) think there could be buried treasure there and so the three of them set off for the location specified by the old coot.

They find some shovels, get to the spot and begin digging. The dig and dig and dig and eventually Jason and Dan decide to leave since they have yet to find anything. Chris continues on, still believing strongly that there will be a payoff for his efforts.

Finally, his shovel hits something hard. He brushes off dirt and sees that a large wooden box is buried there. Suddenly, there is a creaking sounds and the top of the box begins to slowly open. This moment is directed well for maximum suspense by longtime Night Gallery director Jeannot Szwarc.

A figure starts to rise up from the box and to Chris’ shock, it is the aged, bony figure of Mr. Hawkins who, with a twinkling smile, says “Surprise!”

Yes, this was indeed a surprise, but frankly the ending fell completely flat for me. Is Hawkins a ghost? An illusion? What is he? Also, Chris was the one of the three who most believed what Hawkins told him, so why punish him with such a fright? Decent segment, dumb ending.

———————————————————————————————————–

Carl Reiner unwisely thunders against the gods from an ancient pagan cult in the Night Gallery segment “Professor Peabody’s Last Lecture” reviewed here.

“Professor Peabody’s Last Lecture” **

Written by Jack Laird
Directed by Jerrold Freedman
Carl Reiner as Professor Peabody
Johnnie Collins III as Mr. Lovecraft
Richard Annis as Mr. Bloch
Larry Watson as Mr. Derleth

A college lecture begins with Professor Peabody (Carl Reiner) dismissing long-ago religious cults as being foolish and ridiculous. We get a slew of hard-to-pronounce names and general mockery. One student reminds the professor that even speaking these names aloud is blasphemy, but the professor ignores this warning and proceeds his diatribe as storms begin outside.

When he starts reading aloud from the Necronomicon, the perhaps fictional occult book of magical incantations, another student issues a similar warning of terrible consequences. Undeterred, Professor Peabody goes through a long litany of citations and criticisms of the book. As his voice rises to a crescendo pitch, it is accompanied outside by a similarly gathering in fury storm. This goes on much too long, although Reiner’s energy level and commitment to his ever-increasing rage against these forces is impressive.

After quite some time of hysteria, a lightning bolt quickly ends the professor’s lecture and he is turned into a bizarre, laughable-looking being, a sort of moss-covered being with tentacles and one visible red eye. With his classroom now in stunned silence, he asks, “And now, if there are no further questions…”

This is one of the would-be comic vignettes stretched to ten minutes and it probably would have been served better had it been much shorter. Reiner, though impressive in his role, grows tiresome the longer his diatribe goes on and the ending is again a silly one, due to the budget and special effects limitations in 1971.

————————————————————————————————

Bob Crane and Jo Anne Worley, as a faltering American couple in London, buy a “House—With Ghost” in the Night Gallery  segment reviewed here.

Season 2 Episode 9—aired 11/17/71

“House—With Ghost” **

Teleplay by Gene R. Kearney • Story by August Derleth Directed by Gene R. Kearney Bob Crane as Ellis Travers Jo Anne Worley as Iris Travers Bernard Fox as the Ghost of Mr. Canby Eric Christmas as Chichester Alan Napier as the Doctor Trisha Noble as Sherry

American Ellis Travers (Bob Crane) has recently moved to London with his wife Iris (Jo Anne Worley) and already he has a young British woman as his mistress. Sherry (Trisha Noble) is impatient with Ellis and wants him to leave his wife.

He thinks he may have found the perfect solution: move with his wife into a haunted house and let things take care of themselves. After all, Iris has an interest in ghosts and she is also prone to dizzy spells. One good scare and she could “accidentally” suffer a fatal fall down the stairs.

And those stairs seem to be the stairs featured on several previous Night Gallery stories such as “The Cemetery,” “Certain Shadows on the Wall” and “The Doll.” Night Gallery sure got its money’s worth out of that one staircase.

Ellis finds out that his wife’s condition is actually terminal and she only has months to live. He phones Sherry and explains this to her, but she doesn’t want to wait for him one more day, let alone several  months,  to be free of his wife and breaks up with him over the phone.

As soon as he is hung up on by Sherry, we hear a scream and see that Iris has been yanked out of bed by the unseen ghost and thrown down the stairs to her death. Just as planned. Except for the fact that his girlfriend has just broken up with him.

And aside from the fact that the ghost, the house’s previous owner, Mr. Canby (Bernard Fox) materializes and informs Ellis that in exchange for getting rid of his wife, he’s going to charge him $2,000 a month for the rest of his life.

Wondering what need of money a ghost has, the late Mr. Canby explains that after his death, his widow cut someone out of his will—his own “bird on the side,” to whom he’d promised that same sum.

This story is played somewhat lightly at times but it neither succeeds as comedy or as horror and is one of the least-memorable segments on the series. Not horrible, just not much of anything at all.

———————————————————————————————————

Another comic blackout sketch featuring Dracula, “A Midnight Visit to the Neighborhood Blood Bank” from Night Gallery is reviewed here.

“A Midnight Visit to the Neighborhood Blood Bank” *1/2

Written by Jack Laird
Directed by William Hale
Victor Buono as the Vampire
Journey Laird as the Victim

A bat flies in through an open bedroom window and turns into a grinning Count Dracula (Victor Buono). He approaches the bed and is about to sink his fangs into the young woman in it (Journey Laird, stepdaughter of series producer and writer of this segment, Jack Laird). She sleepily tells him, “I gave at the office,” and he shrugs and flies off.

Victor Buono at least is mildly amusing in this but it’s another head-shaking time-waster.

——————————————————————————————————-

An Old West medicine man makes extravagant claims about the healing powers of what he peddles in the Night Gallery story “Dr. Stringfellow’s Rejuvenator,” reviewed here.

“Dr. Stringfellow’s Rejuvenator” ***

Written by Rod Serling
Directed by Jerrold Freedman
Forrest Tucker as Dr. Ernest Stringfellow
Murray Hamilton as Snyder
Don Pedro Colley as Rolpho
Lou Frizzell as the Farmer
Geri Berger as the Farmer’s Daughter
Matt Pelto as the Undertaker
Sandy Ward as the Bartender

In a late 1800s Western town, Dr. Ernest Stringfellow (Forrest Tucker, excellent) has set up his covered wagon and delivers a blustery, fast-talking sales pitch to the gathered townsfolk about the advantages of his “rejuvenator,” and when finished, sends his assistant Rolpho (Don Pedro Colley) into the crowd to sell what he can at a dollar a bottle.

After selling just a handful of the product, they retire to the inside of the wagon and consider their next move. A farmer (Lou Frizzell) then approaches them and appeals to the doctor to take a look at his sick daughter. Stringfellow agrees and looks at the girl (Geri Berger), who is in the man’s cart. She is extremely pale and complains of abdominal pain. Stringfellow can set that she is gravely ill, yet falsely assures the man that his rejuvenator will cure her within a few days and takes a dollar for it plus another for a “small honorarium for my time.”

Walking back to his wagon, he is confronted by Snyder (Murray Hamilton), a former actual medical doctor (Stringfellow just calls himself one). Snyder is now the town drunk, but he still retains knowledge of his former profession and upbraids Stringfellow for promising the farmer false hope when the girl has an appendicitis which will surely prove fatal in a matter of days, if not hours.

Not enjoying this dose of bitter reality, Stringfellow lashes out at Snyder, saying it’s a “diagnosis from a drunk.” “Doubtless,” replies Snyder, “but with a far sight more truth than the labels on those bottles of yours.”

That night, in the local bar, Stringfellow downs a bottle of whiskey and Rolpho eats a hard boiled egg, troubled by the morality of their business, telling Stringfellow that “it’s not fair” what the pretend doctor has done by prescribing a false elixir to the girl.

Stringfellow then launches into some excellent, classic Serling dialogue, almost making me believe how he views what he does. “Dreams should be on the label. I give hope to the hopeless, dreams to the dreamless, an illusion of health to all the poor, doomed yokels who have a dollar in their jeans. You see, I let them get a little peek over the pigsty, a view of heaven.” Forrest Tucker is really quite fine here, combining bluster with hints of conscience that he wants to do more, to be legitimately able to care for the sick, while he may be largely rationalizing what he does. Yet, there is a small ring of truth to what he says. Who can say if it’s better to be told that you or a loved one is going to die soon or to be given some hope in those final hours, even if it is false.

The farmer finds Stringfellow in the bar and informs him that his daughter has taken a turn for the worse. Stringfellow then reassures the man with some wild claims. “You know what I do, brother? I sell faith. I’m going to give that child of yours enough belief so she can kick her way out of a pine coffin if she needs to. Do you understand me? If that child crosses over into the shadows, I am going to bring her back to life!”

At this point, I thought that the episode might veer into the supernatural and the girl would indeed be saved, but she is not. She dies. And Strinfellow does not appear to be remorseful at this news and prepares with Rolpho to move on to the next town.

Stringfellow leaves the bar and as he crosses the street, which is swirling in dust, he sees someone sitting in a rocking chair on the other side at the funeral home. It is the girl. He becomes quite frightened at the sight of her, or her ghost. The wind kicks up, the girl disappears and the funeral home’s sign falls.

Next we see the undertaker and Rolpho. The undertaker tells him that the sign missed Stringfellow by a foot but his heart couldn’t take it. Rolpho bitterly says, “fool old man. You thought you were the smartest. Turns out you were the dumbest of them all,” and tosses a lantern into Stringfellow’s wagon, igniting it.

Apparently that small bit of conscience and remorse inside Dr. Stringfellow wasn’t quite enough.

———————————————————————————————————-

John Astin is an aging hippie about to discover what Hell has in store for him in the Night Gallery segment “Hell’s Bells,” reviewed here.

“Hell’s Bells”***

Teleplay by Theodore J. Flicker • Story by Harry Turner
Directed by Theodore J. Flicker
John Astin as Randy Miller
Theodore J. Flicker as the Devil/First Demon
Jody Gilbert as the Fat Lady
Ceil Cabot as Mrs. Tourist
John J. Fox as Mr. Tourist
Hank Worden as the Bore
Jack Laird as the Second Demon
Gene R. Kearney as the Third Demon

Randy Miller (John Astin, quite funny), firmly enmeshed in the counterculture of the day (1971), in both attire and argot, if a bit old for it (Astin was 41 at the time this was shot), drives his car off a dark highway and dies in a fiery crash. He sees the faces of three rotating demons who make silly faces and spout garbled words, then slides through a sort of laundry chute and is deposited into Hell…’s waiting room. Yes, Hell has a waiting room.

There’s a poster on the wall listing all the things one can’t do there: no smoking, standing, littering, talking, etc. “A bummer” of a place as Randy says. He takes out a fresh stick of gum to chew and tosses the wrapper on the floor and immediately a plump woman appears to chastise him for his transgression.

“Lady,” he begins. “Fat lady,” she corrects him. She vanishes as abruptly as she appeared and Randy begins to contemplate what he imagines is will be like once he leaves the waiting room and enters Hell. He visualizes a series of classical drawings depicting various degrees of physical human suffering.

Finally, the door to his destination opens and he steps inside…another dull-looking room. But this one has a huge stack of albums that piques his interest. However, the first one that plays is not a period selection of classic rock, but rather something a lot more “square” to his tastes and he can’t get it to stop playing.

He notices an older man in the room and is grateful for the chance at conversation. But this man, too, is not the type of person Randy finds interesting, dully discussing such topics as crop rotation.

Next appear a husband and wife, dressed in Hawaiian shirts, promising to begin showing him their 8,500-strong collection of vacation slides from their recent trip to Tijuana. Downer, man!

Growing more and more impatient, Randy demands that the Devil show himself and explain what’s going on. He does, in the form of the segment’s writer and director, Theodore J. Flicker. The Devil is dressed in red and has horns, but he’s not nearly as frightful or imposing as Randy expects. In fact, he’s kind of a short, pudgy middle-aged guy in a not-too-convincing costume.

Randy wants to know where the fire and brimstone Hell he imagined is. The Devil explains that “Hell is never what you expect it to be. But for you, this is it. It’s a curious thing, but they have the exact same room up there (gesturing toward heaven). You see, while this room is absolute Hell for you, up there it is someone else’s idea of heaven.” And with that he disappears, leaving aging hippie Randy Miller to collapse and writhe around the ground with the knowledge that this is how he will spend eternity—with boring music, a boring old farmer chattering about completely uninteresting things and a couple showing an endless parade of vacation slides. With narration, of course.

————————————————————————————————————–

A boy’s ghost seeks peace from a life cut far too short in the Night Gallery story “The Dark Boy” reviewed here.

Season 2 Episode 10—aired 11/24/71

“The Dark Boy” ***

Teleplay by Halsted Welles • Story by August Derleth
Directed by John Astin
Elizabeth Hartman as Judith Timm
Gale Sondergaard as Abigail Moore
Michael Baseleon as Tom Robb
Hope Summers as Lettie Moore
Michael Laird as Joel Robb
Ted Foulkes as the Fourth Grader
Steven Lorange as Edward Robb

In late 19th century Montana, a new teacher, Judith Timm (Elizabeth Hartman, very affecting), arrives to take over the job at a one-room schoolhouse. The morning of her journey, the widowed Mrs. Timm receives a note with just the two words, “Don’t Come.”

She meets sisters Abigail and Lettie Moore (Gale Sondergaard and Hope Summers), with whom she is renting a room. Abby is a member of the school board and has a strong interest in the new teacher’s success. When Mrs. Timm asks them why her predecessor left, they ignore the question and leave to tend to other matters.

Immediately after her first day teaching, her students exit the building and start to enjoy themselves on the playground. But when Mrs. Timm comes outside, for some reason, the children all leave.

When she returns to the Robb sisters’ home, they ask about her first day. Mrs. Timm notes that there were seventeen students. Abby corrects her and says there are sixteen. Mrs. Timm says, no, she distinctly recalls sixteen blond-haired children and one dark-haired boy, seventeen in all. The sisters exchange concerned glances at this.

She says she is going to return to the schoolhouse that night to do some additional work. “Miss Mason (her predecessor) went at night. That’s what started it,” Lettie blurts out before Abby admonishes her with at “Lettie!”

That evening, the dark-haired boy pays Mrs. Timm a visit at the schoolhouse. He peers through a window and when Mrs. Timm gently approaches him and beckons him to come inside, he runs away.

The next day at school, Mr. Tom Robb (Michael Baseleon) brings his son Edward to school, explaining that the boy can’t be there every day because some days Mr. Robb need him to help with work on their farm. He adds that he doesn’t want Edward to go up on any ladders. Mrs. Timm asks about his wife and he explains that she died three years ago.

At night, Mrs. Timm is again working at the school and the “dark boy” returns. She realizes he is Joel Robb and that the scar on his forehead is due to a fall off a ladder at school, but she apparently does not know that his fall was fatal.

The next evening, she goes to the Robb home and finds Mr. Robb outside and asks about Joel. He becomes very agitated and angrily demands, “Why are you tormenting me? Why can’t people leave us alone?” and storms off into his house with Edward.

She is stunned and pursues him inside and apologizes. He explains that Joel died two years ago. She says she saw him and he says he’s seen him, too. “He never speaks. He never comes close. He just haunts me,” the still grieving father confesses to her. She thinks Mr. Robb is afraid of Joel, or Joel’s ghost so that Joel came to her because she’s not afraid of him. He then withdraws and breaks down, sobbing.

Later, she confronts the sisters about the school being haunted by the ghost of Joel Robb. They admit that her predecessor, Miss Mason, saw the ghost. The reason the children all scattered quickly after school the first day upon seeing her outside is that they all saw her talking to an empty desk and went home to inform their parents of this strangeness. The sisters confess that they dismissed Miss Mason because they thought her visions of Joel’s ghost was a sign that she was insane.

The sisters also admit that they didn’t warn Mrs. Timm because they desperately wanted her to stay, that both they and the children need her.

Mrs. Timm goes again to see Mr. Robb. From their shared admittance of loneliness, a romance is beginning to blossom and they kiss.

Again, Mrs. Timm is at the school at night and once again, Joel’s ghost shows up. This time he comes inside. She coaxes him to sit beside her and she reads to him. Mr. Robb watches from outside then comes in. He asks Joel to repeat the whistle of the whippoorwill that he used to send to Joel to call him in from outside when he was alive.

Mrs. Timm gets up and comes over to Mr. Robb, holds his hand and asks Joel, “won’t you come home with us, Joel?” They leave and he follows them. They get to Robb’s house but Joel is no longer behind them. Robb whistles the whippoorwill’s song and we hear a whistle back. Mrs. Timm and Mr. Robb share a relieved smile and we dissolve to a grave. Joel’s grave, where his ghost need no longer walk among the living as it has finally found peace.

This is a fine, gentle, sensitively handled tale, ably directed by the star of the last segment, John Astin. Astin’s work as an actor and director on Night Gallery cannot be understated. He was a true star of this series and it’s a shame his directorial career never really took off because when given the chance, he was able to do a strong and artistic job as a director.

——————————————————————————————————-

A man reports his car stolen in order to meet the woman of his dreams, literally, in the Night Gallery story “Keep in Touch—We’ll Think of Something,” reviewed here.

“Keep in Touch—We’ll Think of Something” **1/2

Written & Directed by Gene R. Kearney
Alex Cord as Erik Sutton
Joanna Pettet as Claire Foster
Richard O’Brien as Sergeant Joe Brice
David Morick as Officer Hruska
Paul Trinka as the Motorcycle Policeman
Mike Robelo as the Chauffeur

Pianist Erik Sutton (Alex Cord) visits a police station to report his car stolen by a female hitchhiker whom he picked up at 3:00 a.m., saying that he got out of the car to buy an early morning newspaper.

Three days later his car has been recovered but shortly thereafter, Sutton returns to the police to make the same report—and that his car has again been stolen by the same woman who this time pistol whipped him, thus the injury to his forehead.

He goes through a book of police mug shots, and not finding her, he asks if an artist can make a sketch based on his description. When the sketch of a very attractive woman’s face is near-completion, the Sergeant (Richard O’Brien) comments with a knowing look, “I know why you picked her up.”

The sketch leads to the woman, Claire Foster, married and well-to-do (Joanna Pettet, Cord’s real-life wife at the time), being picked up and she obviously matches the sketch. The police, however, have found no other fingerprints besides Sutton’s on his car’s steering wheel, so they must release her and hope that she doesn’t press charges for false arrest.

She is strangely understanding of the situation and not only does she not want to press charges against Sutton, but she agrees to meet him in a nearby bar.

“You’re the one I’ve been looking for ever since I’ve been in college,” Sutton tells Claire. He has memories of unspoken encounters with her in his dreams. He’s been tormented in his life with his main source of hope being her in his dreams and his believe that they are meant to be together, if only he can find her in real life, which is why he created the story of her stealing his car.

Claire shares with Sutton that her husband also has recurring dreams—dreams of a man with a long scar across his hand who comes into his bedroom and strangles him while he’s sleeping. She grabs Sutton’s hands to examine whether he has such a scar, but he does not.

She seems embarrassed and tries to leave but Sutton grabs her and says she was hoping it would be true—that he would be the man with the scar. The share a passionate kiss and he asks her to come leave her husband and come away with him on tour. While they are still in an embrace, she pulls out a pair of scissors from her purse and makes a long cut on one of his hands.

Sutton is shocked while Claire coolly says, “Don’t worry. You can stay at my place until the stitches come out. Everything’s going to work out just perfectly.”

The ending to this story is a surprise but I’m not sure it makes as much sense as it would have if Sutton already did have the scar on his hand. Overall, a decent near-miss.

———————————————————————————————————

A late-19th century Boston artist who paints ghoulish creatures of legend is the subject of this H.P. Lovecraft Night Gallery story review, “Pickman’s Model.”

Season 2 Episode 11—aired 12/1/71

“Pickman’s Model” **1/2

Teleplay by Alvin Sapinsley • Story by H. P. Lovecraft
Directed by Jack Laird
Bradford Dillman as Richard Upton Pickman
Louise Sorel as Mavis Goldsmith
Donald Moffat as Uncle George
Jock Livingston as Larry Rand
Joshua Bryant as Eliot Blackman
Joan Tompkins as Mrs. DeWitt
Robert Prohaska as the Ghoul

One of the few, if only, times the painting that begins in Rod Serling’s opening appears in the segment itself, a canvas of a frightening looking beast, appearing something of a cross between a human and a rodent dissolves from Serling’s gallery to the opening shot, which is a framing device for this story.

Eliot Blackman (Joshua Bryant, unfortunately terrible) has come upon this painting reputed to have been done by one Richard Upton Pickman, an artist of the late 19th century and of whom little is known in present day (1971) Boston. He has bought the home where he thinks Pickman may have lived and is discussing Pickman with his friend Larry Rand (Josh Livingston, better, but seemingly acting in a different production than Bryant). This scene gets things off to a dreadful start. Bryant plays things in too contemporary a manner and Livingston is acting as if he is one of Rod Taylor’s friends at dinner in The Time Machine (think Sebastian Cabot).

They give a bit of background on Pickman, that he was broke and taught young women of well-to-do backgrounds the techniques of painting.

We then dissolve back to the late 19th century where the aforementioned Pickman is teaching such a class and using that same painting as an illustration. One of his students, Mavis Goldsmith (Louise Sorel) has a strong interest in Pickman, somewhat of a crush.

The students have been told to paint what they see and she has painted a vase of flowers which are wilted.  She tells the teacher that she sees a power, a magnetism in his eyes. He suggests that the painting of the hideous creature is what he sees, perhaps even a sort of self-portrait.

As the class concludes, Pickman is informed that his services are no longer required as some of the young women’s parents find him an improper influence on their daughters, what with examples of beastly creatures rather than bowls of fruit, one supposes.

Miss Goldsmith overhears his dismissal and expresses outrage over this injustice to Pickman. He waves her off and leaves, and she follows him to a tavern where he has taken a table to have tea. He’s surprised by her appearance there.

When she asks him more about the painting of the creature and of the rumor that he is working on an entire series of such grim paintings, he tells her a story of a legend (or maybe it’s not a legend) of creatures from the Boston area’s past that are “more foul and loathsome than the putrid slime that clings to the walls of Hell,” creatures that live underground and come up at night to feed and to “ravish young women to breed their filthy spawn.” Creepy stuff, indeed. This is the best scene of the story and both Dillman and Sorel are quite good here.

Miss Goldsmith is understandably shocked by this yet when Pickman moves to take his leave of her and return to his studio, she asks to accompany him, a suggestion which he strongly rejects. When departs, he leaves behind his painting, which Miss Goldsmith takes with her.

At home, she discusses the legend that Pickman told her with her uncle (Donald Moffat). He confirms the legend and when he looks at an earlier Pickman painting that she bought which depicts a block of buildings in Boston, he recognizes it as a hardscrabble neighborhood in Boston’s North End and concludes it must be the scene from outside Pickman’s studio.

Miss Goldsmith tracks the exact spot and goes there to return the painting Pickman left at the tavern. She discovers the door to his home is open and she lets herself in. We, but not she, see a shadowy creature scurry up the stairs. From his earlier comment that his painting of the creature was self-portrait, this appearance suggested to me that the creature is Pickman.

In the attic, she discovers the rumored series of lurid works and Pickman (has he changed back to human form) finds her and upbraids her for barging into his home uninvited. We then hear noises outside the door to this room and Pickman goes out and from the sounds of it, does battle with something (so maybe he’s not a/the creature).

There is then a silence and footsteps. The doorknob turns…and in comes the creature! He chases Miss Goldsmith around, knocking paintings off their easels and stepping on some in his wake. Pickman returns and again battles the creature, allowing Miss Goldsmith to escape. Their fight ends in the two of them breaking through a second-floor bannister and crashing to the floor below, where Pickman is either dead or unconscious and the creature drags him off.

As we go back to the present, Blackman and Rand descend to the basement of what they believe was PIckman’s studio and find a sealed well which they decide to open with a pick. We see underneath the red eyes and ghastly face of a creature, waiting to be let loose…

I have very mixed feeling about this particular segment. It has a lot of strong stuff in the middle but both the framing device and the final scene in Pickman’s time really fall flat. If Pickman was not a creature himself, then why did he apparently live with them when they were deadly? Why not just find another place to live? Was Boston’s real estate market that bad in the late 1800s that not only rats and cockroaches were accepted, but lethal man-sized hedgehogs as roommates, too?

———————————————————————————————————-

Steve Lawrence as a smooth con artist who conducts séances for wealthy patrons in the Night Gallery story “The Dear Departed,” reviewed here.

“The Dear Departed” **1/2

Teleplay by Rod Serling • Story by Alice-Mary Schnirring
Directed by Jeff Corey
Steve Lawrence as Mark Bennett
Maureen Arthur as Angela Casey
Harvey Lembeck as Joe Casey
Patricia Donahue as Mrs. Harcourt
Stanley Waxman as Mr. Harcourt
Rose Hobart as Mrs. Hugo
Steve Carlson as the Policeman

Mark Bennett (Steve Lawrence) is a former carnival hustler who’s moved way up in class. Billing himself as Radha Ramadi, he’s a fake swami with the good looks and charm to lead a high-priced swindle of wealthy clients looking to get in touch with dead loved ones. But he can’t do it without the help of his former carny partner Joe Casey (Harvey Lembeck) who is the technical brains behind the scenes, or Joe’s wife Angie(Maureen Arthur), who assists in the séances and who is also having an affair with Mark.

After a successful séance where one woman, Mrs. Harcourt (Patricia Donahue) is so moved that she gives Mark an extra $500 at its conclusion, Joe admits concern for the importance of his role in the operation.

Apart from forgetting to extinguish his cigar, which brought a slight whiff of unwelcome reality into the séance’s proceedings, he performed admirably. His timing and execution of the performance’s special effects—a floating, self-playing tambourine, a disembodied head hovering about the room, sounds and voices, and the well-timed appearance of a stuffed animal—all contributed greatly to the séance’s success. And Mark makes sure Joe understands his gratitude and how he needs his partner for the business to succeed.

Reassured, Joe leaves to get ready to go out to dinner with his wife and partner. Alone with Mark for a few minutes, Angie tells him she can’t postpone her passion for him much longer and they decide that after dinner, they’ll send Joe off to the movies by himself so that two of them can…well, use your imagination.

Later, at dinner, Joe suggests the three of them go to a movie together. Mark says he’s got work to do and Angie claims she has a headache. Joe leaves the restaurant to cross the street to get her some aspirin and Angie and Mark discuss the increasingly difficulty of keeping their affair a secret. They get an unexpected solution to that problem moments later as a police officer comes into the restaurant and informs them that while attempting to cross the street, Joe was fatally struck by a vehicle.

At the first séance after Joe’s sudden death, Angie tries to fill in on the behind-the-scenes effects, but can’t match her late husband’s professionalism and the event is steadily going down the tubes. Mrs. Harcourt has brought her husband, a cigar-smoking unbeliever and the scent of cigar smoke along with the technical snafus has Mark near his breaking point.

Suddenly, Mark and Angie realize that Mr. Harcourt’s cigar was put out upon his arrival and that the scent of this cigar is from none other than Joe, whose ghostly, green-tinted visage has suddenly appeared above them, stunning the two of them plus the rest of the paying customers.

“Here I am, Mark,” the ghost of Joe says. “You said you needed me, so I came. You didn’t think I’d let you down, did you? We’re a team, remember? And we’re gonna stay a team. For life.”

Steve Lawrence and Maureen Arthur are particular good in this segment, which does what it can with thin, fairly familiar material, and Jeff Corey’s direction is solid as well.

———————————————————————————————————-

The Spectre of Death shows Deidre Hall its elevator manners in the Night Gallery comic blackout sketch “An Act of Chivalry,” reviewed here.

“An Act of Chivalry” **

Written & Directed by Jack Laird
Deidre Hall as the Blonde
Ron Stein as the Spectre
Jimmy Cross as the Passenger

A young woman (Deidre Hall) steps onto an elevator crowded with businessmen, all of whom remove their hats upon her entrance. The next time the elevator stops, in steps a tremendously tall, black suited Spectre of Death, complete with scary skull face. And a top hat. One gentleman gestures at Death to remove his hat due to the lady’s presence. As Death does so, it seems his hat and head are all one piece and so he removes his head as well. The end.

———————————————————————————————————–

A scientist who can’t take temperatures over 55 for the most unusual reason is the subject of this Night Gallery story review of “Cool Air.”

Season 2 Episode 12—aired 12/8/71

“Cool Air” ***1/2

Teleplay by Rod Serling • Story by H. P. Lovecraft
Directed by Jeannot Szwarc
Barbara Rush as Agatha Howard
Henry Darrow as Dr. Juan Muñoz
Beatrice Kay as Mrs. Gibbons
Larry J. Blake as Charlie Crowley
Karl Lukas as the Iceman

This is a very strong and surprisingly touching romantic Night Gallery story, adapted by Rod Serling from an H.P. Lovecraft story and one of many ably directed by  Jeannot Szwarc.

The story begins with an old woman, Agatha Howard (Barbara Rush, very good), in voiceover narration as a hand-held camera walks through a cemetery on a blustery fall day. Over mournful Spanish guitar, Agatha begins to tell about her relationship some fifty years ago with a Dr. Juan Munoz, whose leaf-covered tombstone the camera ends up on.

Flash back to early 1920s New York on a hot summer afternoon. Agatha comes unannounced to visit Dr. Munoz (Henry Darrow, also quite good), who was a professional colleague of her scientist father, who has recently died. While going through her father’s papers, she found correspondence between them regarding their views on accepting (or more accurately, not accepting) the finality of death.

She’s greeted at the front door by the building’s landlady, Mrs. Gibbons (Beatrice Kay in yet another strong performance in this story) who expresses surprise that anyone would come to visit Dr. Munoz. The reason: the man has some strange habits, such as the fact that he never leaves his apartment and that he keeps it at an incredibly chilly temperature.

Dr. Munoz is quite pleased to meet his former colleague’s daughter and she finds his views on the subject of postponing physical death via force of will extremely interesting—so interesting that she asks him to dinner, but not before inquiring as to his marital status. He is a widower, his wife having committed suicide in their native Spain ten years ago, shortly after his…illness, he awkwardly adds.  Since he never leaves his apartment due to his unexplained condition which requires him to remain in a temperature-controlled environment, she invites herself to dinner at his apartment and he gladly accepts.

When she is about to take her leave of him, he graciously takes her hand into his chilly one and kisses it, and Rush does a fine job of communicating both her pleasure at the gentlemanly gesture and the shock of the frigid touch of his hand and lips.

She returns for that dinner and several more and we are treated to some lovely direction from Szwarc in these scenes as his camera revolves around the two of them seated at the dinner table, moving over photographs on the walls of his apartment and giving us a visual sense of their strong attraction and attachment to each other growing throughout these visits.

We also get some wonderful Serling dialogue delivered by Darrow on Dr. Munoz’s views on life and death. “This is the life that counts. It’s the only one that has substance. It’s the only one we can be sure of. And that is why we clutch at it so jealously and so selfishly. Because we know it to be brief and very precarious.”

One early morning, before dawn, as the heat wave continues, Agatha is awakened at her hotel by a phone call from Munoz requesting her immediate presence and assistance.

When she arrives, Dr. Munoz is wrapped in a blanket with only one eye visible and he implores her to find someone to repair his apartment’s refrigeration machine which has broken down. Mrs. Gibbons says that the man living directly below him is a mechanic and Agatha rushes downstairs to wake him. He’s none too happy for the 3:00 a.m. visit but grudgingly agrees to come upstairs to take a look.

The machine needs a part which can’t be obtained until later that morning. Desperate, Munoz asks Agatha to get him “ice—a lot of it.” She complies and shortly thereafter a worker brings up the last of 300 pounds of ice blocks and leaves it outside Munoz’s bathroom where he is ensconced, unseen to the delivery man or to Agatha.

Later that morning, Munoz’s condition has worsened. Still locked inside the bathroom with the blocks of ice, he refuses to let Agatha see him and instead speaks to her in a raspy, weak, near-whisper through the door.

Admitting that his theories on cheating death after organ failure were just that—theories, he further amplifies on the reason for his wife’ suicide ten years ago. He spells it out for her. “She couldn’t stand living with a corpse. You see, my darling, I died that time, ten years ago.”

As we take in these words and our dread grows, we hear Munoz collapse from inside the bathroom. With a rising panic, Agatha summons all her strength and breaks open the door to find a most shocking and disturbing sight—that of the gruesome, desiccated corpse of Dr. Juan Munoz. Agatha lets out a series of horrified screams as we take it all in.

The story returns to its bookend of the much-older Agatha narrating a trip to the cemetery where Munoz is buried to place flowers on his grave. “I wonder if I’m mourning something that was or something that might have been,” she reflects, then adds this disturbing thought, “’What might have been’ embraces elements of horror that could drive me insane,” which one could certainly take as her imagining that if Munoz had not died then, their relationship may have proceeded to such a point that she could eventually have, knowingly or unknowingly, engaged in necrophilia.

The final image is that of Munoz’s headstone, covered in leaves as they were in the opening scene, which are swept away by the wind revealing this: Born 1887. Died 1913. And 1923.

Overall, this is a very strong entry in the Night Gallery canon—an excellent mixture of drama, humanity and a bit of horror.

———————————————————————————————————-

A moneylender with little compassion for his debtors receives justice Night Gallery-style in “Camera Obscura,” reviewed here.

“Camera Obscura” ***1/2

Teleplay by Rod Serling • Story by Basil Copper
Directed by John Badham
Ross Martin as Mr. Gingold
Rene Auberjonois as William Sharsted Jr.
Arthur Malet as Abel Joyce
Milton Parsons as the Old Lamplighter
Brendan Dillon as Amos Drucker
Phillip Kenneally as Sanderson
John Barclay as Sharsted Sr.

Rene Auberjonois has long been an outstanding actor, appearing in hundreds of roles, best known for his runs on the tv series Benson, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Boston Legal. He has created vastly different characters throughout his long career and one of his first onscreen performances was in this Night Gallery story (the previous year he played Father Mulcahy in Robert  Altman’s film M*A*S*H*, which of course led to the long-running series (where the character was portrayed by William Christopher).

Here, Auberjonois plays William Sharsted Jr., a moneylender in an English town in the 1920s. He has come to the home of a Mr. Gingold (Ross Martin, who was the bigger star at the time, having completed his co-starring turn as Artemus Gordon on The Wild Wild West two years previously and who receives top billing despite having the secondary role. He, too, is quite good, under heavy old-guy grey wig and mustache makeup), to collect at debt of 300 pounds.

It seems odd that Gingold is unable (perhaps just unwilling) to pay Sharsted what he owes considering a collection of rare art adorns the walls of his home, although Gingold says he collects them for their beauty, not their monetary value.

Gingold gives Sharsted a sherry, shows him the paintings around his home then shows his something rare indeed: a camera obscura, which uses mirrors, prisms and lenses on the building’s roof to offer a series of panoramic views of the surrounding neighborhood inside his home.

While showing Sharsted around, Gingold presses him about his unfeeling, hardline attitude toward his debtors, particular those who are elderly or without means to repay him. Sharsted is unimpressed with Gingold’s more benevolent thoughts on such things and is impatient to leave when Gingold insists he show him just one more thing….a second camera obscura.

This one, however, shows scenes of the town’s past, a past which Sharsted recognizes as it is the time when his father was in full swing with his career as an unfeeling usurer. Like father, like son. He is stunned by images of several long-gone landmarks such as the Corn Exchange building and Victoria Greens, a park he used to play in. Concluding that Gingold has inserted some old slides into the projector, he is annoyed by what he thinks is a trick and this time really means to take his leave of Gingold, bidding him “a good evening.” Cryptically, Gingold replies, “And I, Mr. Sharsted, bid you goodbye.”

Sharsted exits Gingold’s house from a side or back door and this is when the story takes a turn for the weird and director John Badham (older brother of Mary Badham, who played Scout so memorably in To Kill A Mockingbird) really shines. First of all, everything is in greenish tint, giving the environs an otherworldly quality.

First, Sharsted encounters a man up on a ladder cleaning streetlights—gas streetlights—and asks him where he can find a taxi. The man replies that there may be a horse-drawn carriage coming through eventually.

Then, he meets a series of men, all of whose faces are in various stages of decomposition, whom he knows to have either gone to prison, committed suicide or suffered some otherwise ignoble end: Sanderson, a grave robber, whose cart can’t quite hide the feet of one such cadaver he is transporting; Drucker, a man who profited illegally off a war, who hanged himself; Joyce, another usurer long since dead, then his own late father.

Attempting to run away from these phantoms, Sharsted winds up on the plentiful steps of the Corn Exchange building where a gaggle of long-dead villains converge upon him, saying he is now amongst his own. Grasping at a last straw, Sharsted calls out to Gingold to stop this fantasy, that he has learned his lesson.

We cut back to Sharsted, watching the events unfold on his unique camera obscura and he says, “Too late for reprieve. Now you shall stumble, and weep, and swear along the alleys and squares and streets of your own private hell. And you shall do so for all eternity!”

As I said in the teaser, that is some serious justice, Night Gallery-style.

————————————————————————————————————-

Another Night Gallery comic blackout vignette, “Quoth the Raven,” is reviewed here.

“Quoth the Raven” *

Written by Jack Laird
Directed by Jeff Corey
Marty Allen as Edgar Allan Poe
Mel Blanc as the Voice of the Raven

Edgar Allan Poe (Marty Allen, yes, the frizzy-haired comic of those early-70s days), sits down to compose what would be “The Raven,” but gets stuck on a line. His downing of brandy may not be helping matters.  “While I pondered weak and…while I pondered weak and…” he repeats frustratingly. An actual raven is also in the room and, voiced by Mel Blanc of Warner Brothers cartoon shorts fame (Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, etc.), croaks mockingly, “Weary. Weary, dummy, weary,” to which Poe throws his glass at the annoying bird.

————————————————————————————————————

One of Night Gallery’s best stories, the four-star segment “The Messiah on Mott Street” is reviewed here.

Season 2 Episode 13—aired 12/15/71

“The Messiah on Mott Street” ****

Written by Rod Serling
Directed by Don Taylor
Edward G. Robinson as Abraham Goldman
Tony Roberts as Dr. Morris Levine
Yaphet Kotto as Buckner
Joseph Ruskin as the Fanatic
Ricky Powell as Mikey Goldman
John J. Fox as Santa Claus
Anne Taylor as Miss Moretti

“The Messiah on Mott Street” is one of Rod Serling’s finest original scripts, a warm, uplifting story that manages to combine both the Jewish and Christian late-year holidays. Like his previous “They’re Tearing Down Tim Riley’s Bar,” this is an atypical Night Gallery segment in that largely eschews the supernatural (although there is an element of it) and instead focuses more on real human feeling and emotion.

It’s Christmas Eve in a rather shabby New York neighborhood where seventy-seven year old Abraham Goldman (the great Edward G. Robinson) lies deathly ill in the apartment he shares with his orphaned nine-year old grandson, Mikey (Ricky Powell, in a good performance).

His doctor, paying house calls back in those days, Morris Levine (Tony Roberts, from several of Woody Allen’s movies from the 70s), wants him go to a hospital. But Abraham is concerned about the welfare of his grandson, should he leave the apartment and not return. He very clearly loves the boy and the two have some touching scenes together.

Later that night, Abraham feels and thinks he sees (in the form of a large black shadow) the Angel of Death visiting him in his bed, asking him to go with him. He adamantly refuses to go. He shares this with his grandson and tells him the most important thing for him is to help try to make his grandfather well and that, according to Jewish tradition, if the Messiah comes, he will “lift us up to health and wealth and heavenly contentment.”

Mikey, as devoted to his grandfather as his grandfather is to him, goes out to find the Messiah in the snowy nighttime streets of New York. He encounters a man dressed as Santa Claus, then a man dressed as Jesus who is a sort of evangelist, preaching his gospel of gloom and doom to the passersby, including young Mikey, who has stopped before him, wondering if he is the Messiah, and frightened by his diatribe.

A large black man (Yaphet Kotto, later in Alien, among other movies) appears and clears the evangelist off, telling him to stop frightening children. Mikey thinks he must be the Messiah, in part because of his resemblance to the large black shadow (I’m not trying to be cute here; it works given that it’s from the point-of-view of a young boy).

When Mikey explains to the man, Buckner, who he thinks he is, Buckner is gently amused and agrees to accompany the boy home to see his grandfather. When they get to the apartment an ambulance is there along with Dr. Levine. Mr. Goldman says he was again visited by the Angel of Death, who has promised to return a final time at midnight.

In the living room, Levine, exasperated at what his patient seems to think are his final hours, has a stilted chat with Buckner that includes some great Serling dialogue such as “all right, Mr. Buckner, if you have some special messianic powers, I wish you’d trot them out. I could use a miracle.”

Suddenly, a strong gust of wind blows through the windows and blasts the front door open. The wind blows into Abraham’s bedroom and a concerned Mikey enters to find the shadow of death hovering over his grandfather.

Buckner closes the door and tells Dr. Levine there is nothing he can do, to which Buckner replies, “Anybody tell you that you make a lousy Messiah?” Good Serling line, good Roberts comedic delivery and we finally get a sense that this story might turn out all right.

Then the wind stops as suddenly as it blew in. The door shuts on its own. The room has now become calm. Dr. Levine, now circumspect, turns to Buckner and says, “My apologies, Mr. Buckner. That’s the problem with ghetto dwellers—and former ghetto dwellers, of which I am one—we’re mystics, and believers, and children to our dying day.” More great Serling dialogue.

Then we go into the bedroom and find a much-revived Abraham Goldman, telling a story of a dreamlike recollection much like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz after she has awoken back home in her Kansas bed at the end of the movie. We hear Christmas bells heralding the stroke of midnight and Levine remarks “It’s kind of the season for miracles, I guess.”

Answering a knock at the door, Mikey opens it to find a postman (Buckner) there with a special delivery: a letter from Goldman’s brother. Enclosed within is a check for $10,000—an old debt repaid from one brother to another, and coming at a most-needed time.

Levine wishes the Goldmans a Happy Hanukkah and takes his leave. Outside, he sees the man kneeling near a mailbox and thanks him for what he delivered. “Did it please?” the man asks. “Dear God, how it pleased,” Levine replies.

Satisfied, the postman says “every now and then, God remembers the tenements.” Only vaguely recalling the face of the man who may indeed have been the Messiah (after the windy episode, everyone seemed kind of in a daze), Levine wishes him season’s greetings and the Messiah replies, “and to you and yours and to the whole earth” as we end with the two walking off to the sound of Christmas bells, an incredibly uplifting ending to a Night Gallery story, but then, as Rod Serling proved here, he could write just about anything and do it spectacularly.

———————————————————————————————————–

When is a mirror a portal into another reality? When it’s painted over, silly. Perplexed? Then read this review of the Night Gallery story “The Painted Mirror” co-starring Zsa Zsa Gabor.

“The Painted Mirror” ***

Teleplay by Gene R. Kearney • Story by Donald Wandrei
Directed by Gene R. Kearney
Zsa Zsa Gabor as Mrs. Moore
Arthur O’Connell as Frank Standish
Rosemary DeCamp as Ellen Chase

Frank Standish (Arthur O’Connell, very good) has long owned a sleepy, respectable antique shop, but recent financial issues have forced him to take on a co-owner, Mrs. Moore (Zsa Zsa Gabor, funny and believably mean). Frank can’t stand Mrs. Moore’s efforts to modernize the store, such as the playing of groovy music, her garish taste and most of all her unfeeling, bullying attitude.

Frank is sweet on one particular longtime client, Ellen Chase (Rosemary DeCamp, also fine). When Ellen comes into the shop to sell a full-length mirror, Frank suggests it’s worth $10. Mrs. Moore says it’s worth nothing, and needing the money, accepts Mrs. Moore’s offer to take it only on consignment, plus one measly dollar for the shopping cart she brought the mirror in on. Ellen leaves, insulted, but hoping that Frank can do something to get her a better price.

The mirror is an odd one as it is completely painted over in black. That evening, Frank, who also lives in the shop, sleeping on a cot, attempts to remove the paint, first with chemicals, then with a chisel. When he finally breaks through the paint, he is amazed to see that behind the glass is a prehistoric scene.

When Ellen returns in the morning, Frank has removed all of the paint. Incredibly, they can nearly touch the prehistoric whatever behind the glass as they can extend their hands through it. But who wants to chance stepping into it?

Mrs. Moore’s cat does because it’s being chased by her dog. The cat disappears into the ancient flora but returns quickly as if frightened. Scaredy-cat.

Mrs. Moore then enters and informs Frank that she is buying him out and he will have to soon leave. Briefly crestfallen as the loss of his life’s work and the thought of finding other employment at his age (probably 60s), Ellen comes upon an idea…

She tosses Mrs. Moore’s dog’s ball into the mirror and the dog soon gives chase. Mrs. Moore dashes after him into the mirror’s world…

While she searches for her dog, Frank and Ellen quickly begin painting over the mirror. A terrifying dinosaur spots Mrs. Moore and comes after her. Attempting to retrace her steps back to the mirror/portal, Mrs. Moore nearly gets there when Frank and Ellen complete their work covering the mirror in black paint, thus trapping the Hungarian-accenting greedy, gaudy woman in a prehistoric world of certain peril.

This is a fun, fairly quick segment, made all the better by the fine performances of O’Connell, DeCamp and Gabor along with some unexpected special effects that are a kind of precursor to Land of the Lost.

———————————————————————————————————-

A father anguishes over what to do with his facially-deformed 17-year old son in the Night Gallery story “The Different Ones,” reviewed here.

Season 2 Episode 14—aired 12/29/71

“The Different Ones” **

Written by Rod Serling
Directed by John Meredyth Lucas
Dana Andrews as Paul Koch
Monica Lewis as the Official
Jon Korkes as Victor Koch
Dennis Rucker as the Man from Boreon
Peggy Webber as the First Operator
Mary Gregory as the Second Operator

Paul Koch (Dana Andrews, too stiff and too old-looking for this role) is at his wits’ end trying to figure out what the best plan of action is for his son Victor (Jon Korkes), who suffers from a congenital facial deformity which has caused him to be an outcast and the target of taunts from neighborhood children. Victor just wants to fit in but thus far in his life has not been able to.

Set in an unspecified future, Paul seeks out options from a government official (Monica Lewis). State-sanctioned mercy-killing is apparently legal, but apart from that there are very few alternatives, no group homes or institutions, and society does not seem able to handle assimilating someone with such a gruesome appearance.

Actually, his appearance is somewhat gruesome, but also somewhat hard to take seriously as it looks like a dead crab has affixed itself to his upper forehead with its legs drooping down. Also, the skin around his eyes is heavily blackened, sort of a raccoon effect.

Just as Paul is about to trudge out of her office with no alternatives, the official receives a phone call. An inter-planetary exchange program has been brought to her attention. The planet Boreon is looking to recruit people to boost its population and they have no restrictions on the appearance of its immigrants. Victor tells his father that anyplace would be better than his current situation and he agrees to go.

A long sequence of a rocket blasting off from earth, then flying through space and decoupling suggests that this will be a longer segment than it is.

When Vic arrives on the planet Boreon, a “normal-looking” young man stops to talk for a moment as he passes by. He is leaving on the return ship to earth because he doesn’t fit in on Boreon. Then the welcoming committee arrives: a group of giggling young women who all have the same facial deformity as Vic’s. No longer morose, Vic says, “I think I’ll be very happy here. I feel as if I belong,” as he walks off arm in arm with the women, who obviously find him attractive.

The segment can’t help but make one recall the Twilight Zone story “Eye of the Beholder,” which was one of the series’ best and it can’t help but pale by comparison. This one feels more like it’s going through the motions in trying to make the same points Serling made over ten years previous regarding how we view people based on appearance and the notion of beauty.

————————————————————————————————————-

Sandra Dee gets lost in a storm and winds up at the home of her son—twenty years in the future—in this Night Gallery story review of “Tell David”

“Tell David” **1/2

Teleplay by Gerald Sanford • Story by Penelope Wallace
Directed by Jeff Corey
Sandra Dee as Ann Bolt
Jared Martin as Tony Bolt/David Blessington
Jenny Sullivan as Pat Blessington
Jan Shutan as Jane Blessington
Françoise Ruggieri as Yvonne
Anne Randall as Julie
Chris Patrick as David Bolt

Ann Bolt (Sandra Dee) is driving her station wagon one night through a strong thunderstorm and gets lost. She stops at a house to ask to use the phone and is warmly greeted by Pat Blessington (Jenny Sullivan), who invites her in.

The house has futuristic elements to it, such as a one-way security window (they can see out but you can’t see in), closed-circuit tv for security and a FaceTime-like telephone she uses to try to call her husband, which doesn’t go through.  They also have a MapQuest or Google Maps-like device to show her the route from their house to hers.  Pat’s husband, David (Jared Martin), suggests that Ann return to visit and she agrees that she’d like to do so.

When Ann returns home, not far away, she notices that everything is dry—no rainstorm. Upon entering her house, there is a masked man, but it’s her husband Tony making some weirdly dramatic point about her returning late and not calling. He says the phone never rang, despite her attempt to call from the Blessingtons’ house. They then get into a fight and we get a none-too-subtle visual cue from director Jeff Corey that Tony (also played by Jared Martin) may be having an affair with their nanny.

Ann visits the Blessingtons again, though there is apparently no weirdness getting to their home in the future in calm weather. Ann confesses her feelings of jealousy regarding her husband possibly seeing another woman and David warns her against the “green-eyed monster” of jealousy, saying he still bears a scar from his fourth birthday when he cut his thumb the day his own jealous mother killed his father then took her own life. He shows her a picture of his mother and tells her he does not blame her.

He was raised by a relative of his father, a woman whose family name was Blessington. He warns Ann to not succumb to her feelings of jealousy as they could lead to tragedy.

In the next scene, Ann’s son (about four-ish) has cut his thumb while cutting his birthday cake. The nanny was there, but she is furious at her husband for being absent and suspecting he was seeing a woman. He says he was, but the woman was his cousin who’s in town—named Jane Blessington.

These “co-incidences” drive Ann to a breakdown and while she is hospitalized, she’s visited by Jane and Ann asks her to take care of her son should that become necessary. She has put together the pieces and believes that David Blessington is her own son David, twenty years in the future, trying to warn her of her unfortunate destiny. Still, she does not believe she will follow in this path: she is adamant that she won’t kill her husband and then herself.

Back home, to finally confirm her suspicions, she notices that the box of cigarettes the Blessingtons gave her bears the words “made in 1989” on the label (this episode is from 1971).

One night she is awakened and comes downstairs to find her husband in a passionate embrace with the nanny. She finds a gun and shoots him.

Later, in prison, Jane visits Ann and is there to arrange legal representation for her. In a strong final scene, Sandra Dee gives a good performance as if in a sort of euphoric trance, calm and relieved in the knowledge that her son will grow up well. “I know he’s going to forgive me. You see, he kept my picture. He said I was very beautiful.”

An uneven segment, but with its strengths. Another interesting near-miss in the Gallery.

————————————————————————————————————

You wouldn’t think a story about an African witch doctor would be a Night Gallery strength. And you’d be right. “Logoda’s Heads” is reviewed here.

“Logoda’s Heads” *1/2

Teleplay by Robert Bloch • Story by August Derleth
Directed by Jeannot Szwarc
Patrick Macnee as Major Crosby
Brock Peters as Logoda
Denise Nicholas as Kyro
Tim Matheson as Henley
Albert Popwell as Sergeant Imo
Zara Cully as Emba
Roger E. Mosley as the Second Askari

This is one of the worst Night Gallery segments not part of the group of generally dreadful comic blackout sketches, marked by poor acting, unconvincing set design, and mainly, a terrible script, adapted by Robert Bloch (Psycho), of all people.

In some jungle in some African country in some part of the colonial period presumably, British military officer, Major Crosby (Patrick Macnee, he at least is decent) is taking a young American, Henley (Tim Matheson, completely amateurish,) to see a tribal elder who may know something about the recent disappearance of Henley’s brother, an anthropologist.

First, they have to get through the dancing Emba (Zara Cully, yes, Mother Jefferson in The Jeffersons a few years later), who lets them know that Logoda will grudgingly see them.

When they enter his hut, Logoda (Brock Peters, stolid, doing what he can to give this role some dignity) denies that he has seen Henley’s brother. Major Crosby treats him with respect but Henley seems to want to threaten him to get the information he is after.

A young woman from a neighboring village, Kyro (Denise Nicholas, quite fetching, though also, not well-directed—this is a real nadir for longtime series director Jeannot Szwarc, too, as the poor acting performances reflect badly on him), enters the hut and confirms the two white mens’ fears: that Henley’s brother is indeed dead.

She says Henley’s brother was in her village ten days before and when he heard of Logoda’s collection of shrunken heads, he ventured out to find the witch doctor. She indicates a curtained-off room where Logoda’s collection of heads are and Crosby gets Logoda to allow him and Henley to accompany the man inside the room, though not before Logoda threatens Kyro with a curse if she says any more.

There, they find a string of shrunken heads on along a bar. Henley searches for his brothers but does not find him (it?). Then Logoda begins chanting and the heads begin swaying. This is actually somewhat of a chilling scene. The heads’ motion stops and Logoda informs the white men that he has divined from the heads that Henley’s brother drowned in a nearby river.

The white men prepare to leave and Kyro begs them to take them with them back to, presumably their British colonial base, for protections from Logoda’s threat. There, she insists on an armed guard at her bedroom door, which Crosby grants.

The next morning, Kyro awakes alive and well, but a messenger comes to inform them that during the night Logoda was murdered. We get a cringe-inducing cutaway to Kyro casting her eyes down at this news, thus telegraphing her guilt in the matter.  Come on, Jeannot Szwarc, you’re better than that!

Crosby, Henley and Kyro return to Logoda’s village to investigate what has happened and what Crosby finds is Logoda’s body torn apart as if by wild animals. Kyro intones solemnly, “there were no beasts, Major. Only my magic.” She knew Logoda killed Henley’s brother but could not prove it, so she dished out some justice, Night Gallery-Africa style, which in this case is lame, heavy-handed and borderline racist. “I knew Logoda could make the heads speak,” she adds, “I know how to make them kill.”

Even if we assume this was a well-intentioned segment, it does come off as paternalistic at best and racist at worst, and beyond that, is weak dramatically. Peters tries to make his character less than a caricature and Macnee’s character shows some respect but this is probably not an area that Night Gallery should have attempted to enter.

In the indispensable “Rod Serling’s Night Gallery An After-Hours Tour,” Tim Matheson admitted that this debacle “is one of the things that made me decide I’d better learn what I was doing,” so at least there is some good that came out of this—that we can thank it for Matheson’s fine performance as Eric Stratton in Animal House in 1978.

————————————————————————————————————

“Everything I plant grows. I have ‘Green Fingers’” says Elsa Lanchester’s Mrs. Bowen, as you’ll see in this Night Gallery review.

Season 2 Episode 15—aired 1/5/72

“Green Fingers” ***

Teleplay by Rod Serling • Story by R. C. Cook
Directed by John Badham
Cameron Mitchell as Michael J. Saunders
Elsa Lanchester as Lydia Bowen
Michael Bell as Ernest
George Keymas as Crowley
Harry Hickox as the Sheriff
Bill Quinn as the Doctor
Larry Watson as the First Deputy
Jeff Burton as the Second Deputy

“Green Fingers” begins to the strains, appropriately, of “Greensleeves” in an off-kilter, synthesized version, as we see 77 year-old Lydia Bowen (Elsa Lanchester, yes, the Bride of Frankenstein thirty-six years earlier) tending to the lovely garden around her tidy house. The music changes instrumentation when two cars arrive, one of which contains wealthy business magnate Michael J. Saunders (Cameron Mitchell).

Saunders is a man who always gets what he wants, but he has met his match in the somewhat eccentric lady of this house. Saunders has planned to build a series of factories in the area and has succeeded in persuading every other landowner in the area to sell their property to him—except for Mrs. Bowen. Confidently, he tells his subordinate Ernest (Michael Bell) that everyone has their price and he’ll soon find hers.

But when he goes to speak with Mrs. Bowen, Saunders finds out that she is more stubborn than he imagined and that she apparently does not have a price. She simply does not want to sell her home at any price. This is where she has lived her entire life and she has spent untold hours toiling in her garden, with abundant results to enjoy. She explains, to Saunders’ disinterest that she has “green fingers. Everything I plant grows.”

Concluding that he can’t get her to sell, Saunders hires an unsavory character, Crowley (George Keymas) to do whatever it takes to get her off the property. Crowley comes by at night and chops off one of her fingers with an axe as a none-too-subtle warning.

When the police arrive in the morning, they amazingly find the injured Mrs. Bowen tending to her garden. Crowley died in a car crash that night trying to make his getaway.

At the hospital, Mrs. Crowley succumbs to the loss of blood and the shock to her 77 year-old body’s system.

The next night, Ernest drives up to the Bowen property and finds Saunders there, engaging in a sort of gloating victory lap, just him, his ever-present cigar and the beautiful garden, which he now grudgingly admits he admires. Some of the plants Mrs. Bowen grew are the same as he knew growing up in Atlanta.

Disgusted by his boss, Ernest drives off. Just then, Saunders notices something moving in the dirt. To his shock, it is two hands pushing their way upward, then the top of a head emerges. He turns to the road and screams for Ernest to wait, to no avail. When Saunders turns back to where the hands were working their way up, there is now just a large hole.

Freaked out, he runs into the house, where he finds Mrs. Bowen in a rocking chair, covered in dirt, with roots and branches jutting from her body, and seemingly very much alive. “Mr. Saunders, I have green fingers,” she tells him again. “Do you know that? Everything I plant grows. Even me.”

His sanity shattered, Saunders staggers outside. With his hair and mustache now white, he addresses the camera directly and in a scene that is too over-the-top and takes us out of the mood of the piece, says, “From little acorns, mighty oaks grow. That’s a fact. But do you know what grows from an old lady’s fingers? Old ladies!”

Overall, this is a fairly strong segment, with fine direction again from John Badham, who did a similarly good job in a very different story, Camera Obscura, earlier in the season, and good performances from Lanchester and Mitchell.

———————————————————————————————————-

Essentially a Night Gallery comic blackout sketch expanded to 15 minutes, and not much the better for it, “The Funeral” is reviewed here.

“The Funeral” *1/2

Written by Richard Matheson
Directed by John Meredyth Lucas
Joe Flynn as Morton Silkline
Werner Klemperer as Ludwig Asper
Harvey Jason as Morrow
Charles Macauley as the Count
Jack Laird as Ygor
Laara Lacey as Jenny of Boston
Leonidas D. Ossetynski as the Second Male Vampire
Diana Hale as the Female Vampire
Jerry Summers as Bruce

Morton Silkline (Joe Flynn, funny in an understated, mild-manner way, sort of a poor man’s Bob Newhart), runs a funeral home and is paid a visit by the distinguished Ludwig Asper (Werner Klemperer, Col. Klink from Hogan’s Heroes, with a beard), who wishes to arrange the most lavish, spare-no-expense funeral including a casket lined with gold rather than silk, that Silkline can provide.

Happy to arrange what should be a very profitable funeral, Silkline begins to take down some notes, with the first question being the name of the deceased. “Asper,” Asper replies, and we can already tell where this is going. Silkline asks if it’s a relative and Asper replies with a smile, “Me. I never had a proper going off. I always regretted that.”

Silkline is angry at what he assumes to be a joke, but Asper assures him that he is serious. He wants the event to occur in a matter of days and expects that all will be perfect. He requests that a mirror be removed from the foyer. OK, so now we now a vampire will attend, and I find myself wishing I’d been counting how many times vampires have made their way into Night Gallery stories.

Asper takes his leave and as he does so changes into a bat and flies out an open window. Because he, of course, is a vampire. Yawn.

Asper returns on the night of his funeral and surveys the room where the event will be held approvingly. Then the guests arrive and the would-be humor begins, sending the segment spiraling down the drain. A weird, “funny” vampire and witch, Ygor (series producer Jack Laird in another one of his cameos), a werewolf, a Peter Lorre-esque guy. Long, failed comedy segment short, the guests go berserk, destroy the room and Silkline faints.

Next we see Silkline some days later, recovered. He receives a package from Asper with a thank-you card apologizing for his guests’ misbehavior and a suitcase stuffed with cash, bringing a smile to Silkline’s face.

Then, a weird, futuristic creature appears at the funeral home, requesting the same full service, saying he’s been recommended by a friend. Silkline is amenable to another such funeral. After all, cash is king.

Again, the humor in this piece, as it normally does in the shorter sketches, falls flat. Incredibly, this mess was written not by Laird, but by the great science fiction author Richard Matheson. We all have our bad days, I guess.

———————————————————————————————————-

One of the more muddled Night Gallery segments, partially redeemed by some inventive direction, “The Tune in Dan’s Café” is reviewed here.

“The Tune in Dan’s Café” **

Teleplay by Gerald Sanford & Garrie Bateson • Story by Shamus Frazer
Directed by David Rawlins
Pernell Roberts as Joe Bellman
Susan Oliver as Kelly Bellman
James Nusser as Dan
James Davidson as Roy Gleason
Brooke Mills as Red

A lonely harmonica playing cues us in that we are in the West. It’s sunset and the neon signs of Dan’s Café are shorting out. Joe and Kelly Bellman (Pernell Roberts and Susan Oliver) are near the end of a long road trip vacation, which has done little to strengthen their crumbling marriage, much to Joe’s frustration.

Kelly is not forthcoming (Joe says she was silent the entire long drive there) about what exactly is making her feel dissatisfied and Joe seems to want to put whatever that is behind them and move forward to happier times. Sitting at a booth, he tries to remind her that they have a decent life together.

The café is strangely devoid of any other people, guests or staff. It has a jukebox and, still wanting to lift the dour mood, Joe discovers it has a song from their past, fifteen years ago when they first met. He feeds coins into the machine and selects the song, but his happy anticipation is ruined when the machine begins to play a different record. Kelly says grimly, “why should the jukebox work; nothing else has.”

It’s a mournful country tune with lyrics such as “Words like love and truth and goodness. Words like till death” at which point the record skips and keeps replaying that last phrase.  We then get some unexpected images of the jukebox blowing up, or appearing to receive gunshots, which is not happening in this reality but perhaps at some previous time.

Finally, the proprietor, Dan (James Nusser), shows up to take their orders. After he leaves, Kelly tells Joe she wants a divorce. Joe asks why. The jukebox then plays the same song on its own and we again get the images of it being shot up.

Joe asks the proprietor what the deal is with the jukebox deciding of its own accord to keep playing that same song. Dan explains that a while back, there were two patrons, Roy Gleeson (James Davidson) and his girlfriend, “Red” (Brooke Mills, stunning, and the wife of the director, David Rawlins), and this was “their song.”

In flashback we see that Davidson was a thief and Red, his girlfriend, was impatient with him and his need to spend time away from her to live his life of crime. It seems she may have taken up with another man while Davidson was away. Davidson finds out, slaps her, and she apparently ratted him out to the police.

Later, the police come and there is a long, slow-motion gun battle, including the shooting up of the jukebox, as well as of a number of bottles and glasses along the bar. And of course, Davidson is gunned down as well. Dan explains that Red picked up the reward money for getting Davidson and split. He says he has replaced the jukebox numerous times but it keeps playing their song. “It’s almost like every jukebox I install is waiting for her return.”

Joe and Kelly leave and as they walk to their car in the parking lot another car pulls in, with a striking redhead (apparently Red) in the passenger seat. As she and her male companion enter Dan’s Café, the same mournful tune begins to play and we hear her screams.

It’s hard to know what to make of all this, what the connection is supposed to be between the tune on the jukebox and how it connects Joe and Kelly to Davidson and Red. Sure, it seems like both their relationships are going to end, but under completely different circumstances. Director David Rawlins juices this up with some interesting visuals. Amazingly, not only did he never direct another Night Gallery story, but he never directed anything else at all. His career afterward has been as a film editor. He should have been given other directorial assignments. He injected a lot into a moribund script.

——————————————————————————————————–

A longtime fisherman, angry and bitter at his lot and at the sea, finally snares something to change his heart—a mermaid—in this Night Gallery review of “Lindemann’s Catch.”

Season 2 Episode 16—aired 1/12/72

“Lindemann’s Catch” ***1/2

Written by Rod Serling
Directed by Jeff Corey
Stuart Whitman as Captain Hendrick Lindemann
Jack Aranson as Dr. Mordecai Nichols
John Alderson as First Mate Granger
Harry Townes as Abner Suggs
Annabelle Garth as the Mermaid
Jim Boles as Bennett (Innkeeper)
Ed Bakey as Ollie
Matt Pelto as Phineas
Michael Stanwood as Charlie

First off, an aside: on these more recent reviews I have had to go back and re-watch the episodes because I saw most of them last summer, and while I took notes, the process of getting the notes transcribed into these reviews has taken, well, six months at this point, and that time has in some cases caused my memory of my initial viewings to fade.

So I watched “Lindemann’s Catch” for the second time a few nights ago and was struck by how much better I thought it was this time around than the first time. I’m at a loss to explain what caused me to put two stars next to this very well-done tale back in August, whereas now I am bumping that up a full star and a half. Mostly, I’ve moved things a half-star if at all, but for some reason last summer I failed to fully appreciate this one. Should you watch it and be disappointed the first time, might I suggest a second viewing?

On to the review…

Set in a seaport presumably in New England some decades ago, the story begins in a fisherman’s ale house where a sort of soothsayer, Abner Suggs (Harry Townes, quite good in this supporting role), is scrounging among the patrons for a bit of spare coin in exchange for fortune-readings, medicinal potions and whatnot.

Captain Hendrick Lindemann (Stuart Whitman, excellent) then enters the establishment, fresh off yet another exhausting trip out to sea to make his living catching fish. There to escape his numbing, soul-crushing routine if only for a little while, with a whiskey or two, he is approached by Suggs, who offers the Captain a palm-reading in exchange for a drink.

This benign, if annoying act, causes Lindemann to explode in a violent rage. He pushes Suggs’ head into a spittoon then slugs him with across the face, sending him sprawling onto his back. Dr. Mordecai Nichols (Jack Aranson) comes to Suggs’ aid and offers a mild rebuke to Lindemann for an unjustly violent response to the pest’s usual pitches.

Lindemann storms out of the bar and back to his boat where his crew insists he take a look at something incredible that they’ve caught. Tangled within a net is a living, breathing (haltingly breathing) mermaid. The Captain’s reflexive response is to throw her back into the sea but when she turns her face to him and reaches her arm out, he changes his mind immediately as he has become convinced of her humanness.

His crew sees dollar signs and wants to take her on the road and display her as a sort of carnival freak. The Captain says he’ll think on it and cuts her loose from the net and carries her down below.

A few days pass and, realizing the non-eating mermaid is barely clinging to life, Lindemann calls in Dr. Nichols to examine her and better yet, make her well. He tells the doctor they communicate, but not with words. The doctor says the only cure for her is to let her go back into the sea. The captain still refuses this obvious solution.

Dr. Nichols returns to the bar and fills in the patrons, who want to seize her. Nichols realizes the mermaid has given the very lonely Captain Lindemann something to finally love.

Suggs returns alone to the ship to offer Lindemann a potion which he swears will give the mermaid human legs. Desperate to transform the mermaid fully into a woman, the Captain accepts.

In the morning, Lindemann goes below and sees the legs of a woman protruding from the blanket that covers her. Elated, he rushes upstairs to the deck and calls out to his crew that something wondrous has happened.

As the group of men gather around to witness this miracle, Lindemann begins to go down to escort the woman up but he (but not us) see something that makes him recoil in horror and in sorry. We see the legs walking up the stairs and then as the camera pans up, we too are horrified to see that the mermaid’s once lovely human face has turned into that of a fish. Unfortunately, the makeup job here is actually not completely horrifying but also somewhat laughable, but still grotesque, and we get the point.

The mermaid, spying the water, takes a couple of quick steps and dives in. Lindemann follows suit and the waters gradually calm, neither one of them to be seen again.

A fine script by Rod Serling, well-directed by Jeff Corey and an outstanding lead performance from Stuart Whitman make this a memorable and moving segment.

—————————————————————————————————–

A woman visits a funeral home to inquire about a budget-minded arrangement for her husband’s “accidental” death in the Night Gallery segment “The Late Mr. Peddington,” reviewed here.

“The Late Mr. Peddington” **

Teleplay by Jack Laird • Story “The Flat Male” by Frank Sisk
Directed by Jeff Corey
Harry Morgan as Thaddeus Conway
Kim Hunter as Cora Peddington
Randy Quaid as John

Funeral director Thaddeus Conway (Harry Morgan, with a distinguished-looking beard and excellent comic chops, a solid precursor to his casting as Col. Potter in M*A*S*H* three years later) takes a couple swigs from a whiskey bottle just as he is alerted to a customer’s arrival. Washing up, freshening his breath and smoothing out his appearance in a mirror, he prepares to greet Cora Peddington (Kim Hunter, yes, Zira from the Planet of the Apes movies—her final appearance in Escape From the Planet of the Apes came out just months before this).

She explains that she is looking for the cheapest funeral possible for her husband’s accidental death, falling from their apartment’s balcony which had recently been removed for repairs. The reason she needs to economize, she tells Conway, is that her husband arranged a complicated pre-nup where she must live on just the $2,000 life insurance policy for two years before inheriting his substantial wealth.

After she leaves, Conway chats with his embalmer (Randy Quaid in an early role), telling him he thinks they’ve got the job, telling him no other mortuary can underbid them and that “she was shopping. She had to make certain that under the conditions of her husband’s will she could realistically afford the price of even a cut-rate funeral,” and we cut to Mr. Peddington falling from his missing balcony to his death.

Not particularly funny, but Harry Morgan is quite good and Kim Hunter isn’t too bad herself without ape makeup.

———————————————————————————————————–

Twisted vengeance from a rejected suitor delivered Night Gallery-style in “A Feast of Blood,” reviewed here.

“A Feast of Blood” ***

Teleplay by Stanford Whitmore • Story “The Fur Brooch” by Dulcie Gray
Directed by Jeannot Szwarc
Sondra Locke as Sheila Gray
Norman Lloyd as Henry Mallory
Hermione Baddeley as Mrs. Gray
Patrick O’Hara as Frankie (First Cyclist)
Barry Bernard as Gippo (Second Cyclist)
Cara Burgess as the Haughty Girl
Gerald S. Peters as the Chauffeur

Mrs. Gray (Hermione Baddeley, previously a maid in Mary Poppins and later in Maude as sassy old British housekeeper Mrs. Naugatuck) here is not a housekeeper so far as we know, but rather a very excited mother.

The source of her happy state of mind is a gift delivered by her daughter’s date for the evening. Sheila (Sondra Locke, beautiful and convincing as a young woman who knows how attractive she is, though not so much with her attempts at a British accent) reluctantly accepts a freaky brooch which resembles a red-eyed mouse as her mother pins it on her coat.

The gift-giver: one Henry Mallory (Norman Lloyd), considerably older and ostensibly Sheila’s backup plan as she has hopes that her other, younger suitor John will soon propose to her. Keeping her options open, she has agreed to go out with Henry for perhaps the fourth or fifth time.

Henry has gentlemanly manners but looks a bit like a vampire, though his teeth are not sharp, but rather quite discolored. Also, Henry does not appear to be British, though it’s not explained that he’s American.

He takes her to a fancy restaurant where she can barely conceal her boredom and does not hide from him her hopes to marry John rather than him. Henry says he’s figured out how to never lose, ever since he was a schoolboy. We begin to suspect that the brooch may either be alive or possessed. As they prepare to leave, he removes the pin from the brooch and explains that the mouse-like thing’s feet will keep it affixed to her coat and adds that no matter how much it is shaken, it will never fall off. Foreshadowing of something nasty to come for sure!

As Henry drives her home, he stops at one point and makes a desperate move—forcing two kisses upon her. Disgusted, she rejects his inappropriate advances and gets out of the car to walk home, though it is a cold night on a dark, deserted road, presumably a long way from home. “I’d sooner die than stay with you,” she spits. Calmly, he replies, “I shall remember you as you were Sheila—beautiful and deserving.”

As she walks, in order to ward off the chill, she pulls at her lapel to bring her coat closer to her and yelps as she has cut her finger. In short order, the same thing happens again, and as she begins to run, we get an unfortunately ridiculous sequence where the mouse/broach grows progressively larger finally into a giant sized creature (shades of the giant spider in “A Fear of Spiders”) and she meets a grisly, bloody demise.

Two old British sots on bicycles then appear, one of whom thinks he saw something resembling a giant hedgehog cross the road. They walk into a clearing where they find Sheila’s bloody remains.

At the same time, Henry has taken up a stool at a bar and is attempting to charm another attractive young woman who initially is cold to him. Moving in for the kill, so to speak, he tells her, “I am compelled to honor beauty,” and produces a small brooch which he pins on her.

This story is immensely watchable, though at times predictable and ridiculous, largely due to Norman Lloyd’s excellent portrayal of Henry. Lloyd was in Alfred Hitchcock’s Saboteur in 1942, produced Alfred Hitchcock Presents in the 50s and 60s, achieved household recognition on St. Elsewhere in the 80s and is still with us today at age 99. November 8 will mark his centenary. Here’s to you, Norman Lloyd!

————————————————————————————————————-

An insurance swindler gets a lesson handed out to him Night Gallery-style in “The Miracle at Camafeo,” reviewed here.

Season 2 Episode 17—aired 1/19/72

“The Miracle at Camafeo” ***

Teleplay by Rod Serling • Story by C. B. Gilford
Directed by Ralph Senensky
Harry Guardino as Charlie Rogan
Julie Adams as Gay Melcor
Ray Danton as Joe Melcor
Richard Yñiguez as the Priest
Rodolfo Hoyos Jr. as the Bartender
Margarita Garcia as the Blind Boy’s Mother
Thomas Trujillo as the Blind Boy

In a cantina in the Mexican town of Camafeo, where physically afflicted pilgrims came from near and far in the hopes of receiving a miracle at the holy shrine of the Nuestra Senora de Camafeo, rumpled, middle-aged American Charlie Rogan walks up to an attractive American woman, Gay Melcor, and offers to buy her a drink.

But he’s not there to chat her up in hopes of romance. Rather, he has followed her and her husband Joe there from the United States, hoping to somehow prevent Melcor from accomplishing his final victory lap in a fraudulent $500,000 claim against an insurance company.

Rogan (Harry Guardino) believes that Melcor faked a paralyzing injury after getting hit by a bus. He won a jury claim of $500,000 against the insurance company that employs Rogan as an investigator. Rogan is outraged not only at this bilking of half a million dollars, but also by Melcor’s presence in Camafeo. While untold numbers of true believers are there to be healed of real maladies, Rogan is certain that Melcor is going to fake being cured by the shrine and walk out of there scot-free.

Gay Melcor (Julie Adams) is seemingly unmoved by Rogan’s entreaties, but when she returns to the hotel room she is sharing with her husband, she confides to him her misgivings. In an excellent shot, the room is dark when Gay enters it. We hear her husband’s voice and the camera pans over to reveal a shadow on the floor—the shadow of her supposedly crippled husband standing upright.

In no uncertain terms, Joe Melcor (Ray Danton) tries to disabuse her of any notions she may be having. “If you start acting like a fallen woman on the way to confession, then my first act as a whole man will be to play handball with you against the wall. And you’ll be up at that shrine asking to have the blue marks removed. You dig?” Film noir tough guy mixed with early 70s jargon—you gotta love it. Or not.

The next day, on the way to the shrine, Rogan encounters a woman struggling to lead her blind four year-old son up the hill to get there. Moved by their struggles and their faith, he offers to carry the boy up, an offer which the mother gratefully accepts.

Also on his way up the hill is Joe Melcor, carried on a stretcher so as to help him with his “needs.” Rogan attempts to shame him but Melcor smugly dismisses Rogan saying he’s on his way to “pick up a little miracle.”

Gay Melcor tells Rogan that she’s had it with their ruse. She won’t stand by his side any longer, but neither will she officially blow the whistle on him.

Rogan enters the shrine and speaks with the priest in a scene that could probably have been deleted as it doesn’t really add anything to the story except to underscore the legitimacy of the faith of all those who come there (except for Melcor, of course). Rogan leaves and shortly thereafter Melcor enters and continues his smugness with the priest.

Suddenly there is a murmur and then a commotion in the crowd. The blind boy can now see—a true and deserving miracle. His mother is overjoyed. The priest steps out to witness this miracle. We cut back to inside the shrine and Rogan is now standing. The priest re-enters and Rogan tips him condescendingly, but still, it’s real money, and strides outside.

The sunlight hurts his eyes. We get some nice point of view shots of a blinding light (good job of directing by Ralph Senensky) and then we hear Melcor cry out in agony. Afterward, he pathetically asks for help—he has become blind! He comes upon the boy and his mother, who hand Rogan the sunglasses that the formerly blind boy no longer needs. A great twist ending, a la O. Henry.

Overall, this is a solid story, well-written, acted and directed. If it doesn’t have quite as much emotional impact at the end as it might have, that’s a minor quibble.

———————————————————————————————————–

Richard Kiley becomes understandably smitten with Jill Ireland and vows to protect her from “The Ghost of Sorworth Place,” the Night Gallery story which I shall review forthwith.

“The Ghost of Sorworth Place” ***

Teleplay by Alvin Sapinsley • Story “Sorworth Place” by Russell Kirk
Directed by Ralph Senensky
Richard Kiley as Ralph Burke
Jill Ireland as Ann Loring
Mavis Neal Palmer as Mrs. Ducker
Patrick O’Moore as Mr. MacLeod
John D. Schofield as Alistair Loring

The second half of this Night Gallery episode is also set in the UK, this time in Scotland, where middle-aged American Ralph Burke (Richard Kiley), seemingly  on a long soul-searching holiday, gets lost while hiking through a forest. He comes upon an impressive old manor, and with nightfall approaching, knocks at the door, hoping to find directions to a nearby place to stay.

Mrs. Ducker (Mavis Neal Palmer), the manor’s unwelcoming housekeeper, answers the door and tries to get rid of Burke, but the lady of the house, the beautiful Ann Loring (Jill Ireland) intercedes and gives him directions to a local inn.

In the morning, the hotel manager, Mr. MacLeod (Patrick O’Moore) assumes that Ann is a friend of Burke’s as she stopped by the previous evening to see him, and failing that, left him a note. Barely concealing his glee, as he was clearly attracted to Ann upon meeting her at the manor, he reads the note, which is an invitation to meet her for tea at Sorworth Place at 4:30 p.m.

MacLeod explains to Burke that Ann Loring is a widow,her husband having died about a year ago, although he is reticent to give Burke the cause of death. Offering Burke a drink at the hotel bar, MacLeod says, without acknowledging the irony of the two men sharing a drink so early in the day, that “it was the drink” that destroyed the late Mr. Loring, but “it was also the evil.”

Seems that he slept with the manor’s chambermaids and beat his wife. MacLeod wonders why Ann still stays at Sorworth Place when “she could have the pick of the countryside.” Burke wonders what brought him there…

At tea, Ann says her housekeeper thinks she (Ann) killed her husband. Suddenly, a window blows open and Ann asks Burke to close it. He does but as he looks out he briefly sees a man standing near a tree. Then, after closing it, he sees the man walking through the hallway, but he’s not sure if he really saw the man or if his mind was playing tricks on him.

Later, Mrs. Ducker approaches Burke and warns him, saying that at night she’s seen the late Mr. Loring at the bottom of the stairs dressed the same way that Burke has seen the man. This unsettling experience is why housekeeper Ducker always makes sure to leave work before nightfall.

Ann tells Burke that when she saw him that first time, a voice told her that he is the person to protect her from her husband and she explains what happened the night of his death. She poured the medicine her husband was dependent on down the drain. She knew he was sleeping with the servants. Their own relationship had become beyond cold and she rebuffed his attempts at marital relations with her, which resulted in beatings. When he was at death’s door at the bottom of the stairs, he warned her that he would be back in exactly one year, which would have been their second wedding anniversary.

Burke agrees that he will prevent the ghost of Mr. Loring from doing her harm that night, but Ann adds that Burke shouldn’t expect anything romantic out of the deal as she says that her husband sapped all ability to love living things out of her. Undeterred, Burke accepts these terms.

He does all he can to secure the house after Ann goes upstairs to bed. Then Ann comes back downstairs and fiddles with one of the doors and Burke sends her back up to bed. Then, for some reason, he goes outside and when he does, he sees Loring’s ghost enter the house via the door that Ann unlocked, apparently to let him in!

Burke runs inside and sees ghost Loring climbing the stairs. He runs after and finds the ghost inside Ann’s bedroom. The two duke it out and we see a smile of satisfaction on Ann’s face to find the two fighting over her. When ghost Loring is at the top of the stairs, Burke leaps at him but the specter vanishes, causing Burke to take a nasty fall down the staircase, accompanied by blood-curdling screams.

Ann, clad in just her bedsheet, looking quite fetching, waits expectantly. Burke enters the room, but he’s not exactly Burke. He’s seemingly dead himself and transformed in personality also. When Ann invites Burke to share her bed, he snarls, “In a year. In a year I’ll come for you…my Ann.”

A good, chilling finish to a solid segment.

———————————————————————————————————-

If you’re looking for a great Night Gallery story that recalls the finest of The Twilight Zone, then this review of “The Waiting Room,” written by Rod Serling, is for you.

Season 2 Episode 18—aired 1/26/72

“The Waiting Room” ****

Written by Rod Serling
Directed by Jeannot Szwarc
Steve Forrest as Sam Dichter
Albert Salmi as Joe Bristol
Buddy Ebsen as Doc Soames
Gilbert Roland as the Bartender
Jim Davis as Abe Bennett
Lex Barker as Charlie McKinley
Larry Watson as Kid Max

A man rides on horseback and approaches a tall tree that has just hosted a lynching. The hangee is still swinging from a limb, its face shrouded. The face of the man on horseback shows a sense of satisfaction at the sight.

He continues on until he comes to a saloon and enters it. The sole occupants: four men at a table playing cards and a bartender. We’re in the American West, circa late 19th century. The card-playing men look up at the new arrival while he goes to the bar and orders a whiskey. The bartender (Gilbert Roland) gives him a generous glassful and the man asks him to leave the bottle. The man, sarcastically asks the bartender if he’s always “this busy,” to which he replies,”more or less.”

The man approaches the card players’ table and they stop their game. “Don’t let me cramp you,” he says. The eldest of the men, Doc Soames (Buddy Ebsen), assures him, “you’re not, Mr. Dichter.” “You know me?” the man (Steve Forrest, excellent), replies. “The eminent Samuel Dichter,” Soames states grandly. “You have the advantage on me,” Dichter says.

As the card players don’t seem to be keen on conversation, Dichter returns to the bar and asks the barkeep if he witnessed the hanging. The bartender demurs and says that sort of thing gives him no pleasure, but to Dichter, witnessing a hanging derives great pleasure, especially if the hangee twitches and struggles some before the end, admitting a true sadistic streak.

The clock on the wall strikes 9:00 p.m. and his fellow card players remind Charlie McKinley (Lex Barker) that it’s his time to depart. He says he, too, knows Dichter, but Dichter can’t immediately recall him. With a little prodding, Dichter recalls a McKinley who was supposedly shot dead, in the back of the head, outside a saloon some years ago.

McKinley exits the bar and we hear gunfire. Alarmed, Dichter rushes to the door, expecting the others will also want to check out the commotion outside but they are all strangely nonplussed, as if what happened was completely expected. Soames tells Dichter what happened: McKinley was shot in the back of the head, just as he had been years earlier.

Moving on like nothing unusual happened, the players ask Dichter to take McKinley’s seat at the table. The man to Dichter’s left, Joe Bresto (Albert Salmi), insults Dichter because Dichter can’t figure out what’s going on (I couldn’t either here, so I’d get Bresto’s wrath, too). With more prodding, Dichter is able to summon the memory of when he witnessed Bresto get gunned down previously.

Dichter thinks he must be suffering from a fever; how else to explain how he could know these men whose violent deaths have already occurred? He demands medicine from Soames, but the doctor tells him that the only cure for his is to retire his gunbelt.

Dichter and Bresto are about to let their animosity take the form of a duel when the clock chimes 10:00 p.m.  Time for Bresto to go outside and we again hear the sound of gunshots.

More and more panicked, Dichter can’t understand what is going on. Then the clock strikes 11:00 and Abe Bennett (Jim Davis) rises, but before he leaves he tells the story of how he robbed a bank, killing a man, for a measly haul of $20. Then he tried to hide out in a belfry when he was gunned down there, getting tangled in the bell’s rope on the way down. The bell was still ringing when his lifeless carcass was tossed upon a horse to take him away. He leaves to relive his fate.

Dichter asks Soames what the point of this is. “We all of us with a gun, a Colt 45 till death do us part,” Soames begins bitterly. He stayed on the good side of things, a medical man. But he patched up wounded gunslingers who would go on to kill again and one day he realized “for all the killers I’d saved, I’d spat in God’s eye.”

Midnight chimes as Soames continues to explain that he finally could no longer live with his conscience and turned a gun upon himself. “The elusive point is that we, all of us, were doomed from the moment we took up firearms. He steps outside to again accept his fate.

Dichter, nearly crazed, asks the bartender what this place is. The bartender replies that “it’s a waiting room. Some call it hell.”

The clock then chimes 1:00. “It’s closing time, Mr. Dichter. No doubt I’ll be seeing you again,” says the bartender. Dichter strongly rejects this as he has no memory of his death, at the end of a gun barrel or otherwise.

Outside there are sounds of a crowd gathering; the bartender says it’s the sound of Dichter’s jury. Dichter steps outside and we then see him on horseback as in the beginning, approaching the corpse hanging from the tree branch. This time he pulls down the mask on the victim’s face and sees that it’s his own, bloated and pale, on the end of that man hanging. He screams and runs and comes upon a bar. The same bar as before and when he enters, the clock strikes 9:00.

This is one of my favorite Night Gallery stories. The mood is tense throughout this longish tale (twenty-seven minutes). An excellent cast, script by Rod Serling and direction by Jeannot Szwarc all add up to a superior segment.

————————————————————————————————————

A grotesque life-size statuary wreaks havoc on a young couple’s seemingly idyllic suburban life in the Night Gallery story “Last Rites for a Dead Druid,” reviewed here.

“Last Rites for a Dead Druid” ***

Written by Alvin Sapinsley (loosely based on “Out of the Eons” by Hazel Heald)
Directed by Jeannot Szwarc
Bill Bixby as Bruce Tarraday
Carol Lynley as Jenny Tarraday
Donna Douglas as Mildred McVane
Ned Glass as Mr. Bernstein
Janya Brannt as Marta

Friends, Jenny Tarraday (Carol Lynley) and Mildred McVane (Donna Douglas) peruse an antique shop when Mildred spots a statue and suggests the Jenny purchase it. It’s a life-size realization of an ancient man grimacing in anger or perhaps pain, brandishing a weapon. Jenny buys it, partly because she thinks it looks like her husband, Bruce (Bill Bixby). I have to disagree; it doesn’t look much like Bixby to me. Bruce doesn’t think it looks like him either, after she returns home with it.

Bruce complains to his wife about the influence of her friend Mildred, whom he finds extremely annoying. They put the statue in their back yard. That night, Bruce has a nightmare in which the statue appears in their bedroom doorway, then when he looks away and back again, it appears closer, nearly upon him at his bed.

In the morning, he goes outside and finds foot-sized burn marks in the grass leading from the statue’s supposedly immobile spot. He goes to visit the antique shop’s owner, Bernstein (Ned Glass in a tired “old Jewish guy” stereotypical performance) to inquire about the statue’s history.

Bernstein tells him that after his wife departed, he discovered some paperwork on the statue suggesting that it’s a Druid or pre-Druid piece depicting a sorcerer who was a particularly nasty fellow: a rapist,  debaucher and sacrificer of beings both animal and human. His name? Bruce the Black. Could he be an ancient relation of this Bruce, a mild-mannered California suburbanite lawyer?

A few days later, Jenny has invited Mildred over for dinner. While Bruce is preparing the grill, he is alone outside with Mildred and the two of them begin arguing after she asks him to introduce her to his ancestor. Suddenly, the fire on the grill erupts and something seems to possess Bruce and he takes Mildred into his arms and passionately kisses her.

The feeling quickly passes but Mildred lets him know that she wouldn’t mind if it came again. She goes inside and Bruce goes back to tending to the grill, disturbed by this inexplicable burst of lust for Mildred, whom he supposedly can’t stand. Hey, she’s played by Donna Douglas (Ellie Mae from The Beverly Hillbillies, so we the viewer can certainly understand).

As he tries to focus on food preparation, the neighbor’s cat comes walking into his yard. In the flames of the grill, he sees a bearded version of himself in ancient garb. Enraged, he picks up the cat, holds it over the grill’s flames and begins to lower it down when his housekeeper sees what he’s doing and screams, breaking this latest spell.

Stunned by what he began to do, Bruce stalks off into the house. That night, he has another nightmare where the statue is not only in his room, but is verbally commanding him to kill his wife so that he can be with Mildred. He comes close to carrying out this act but fights it off, and determined to end this, marches out into the yard, grabs a mallet and is about to smash the statue to bits when he screams and…is found by his wife transformed into a statue (this one really does look like him). On the ground lies a man who resembles the original statue depiction, apparently Bruce the Black released from his statue prison, but dead nonetheless.

The next day, Mildred brings the new statue of Bruce the Lawyer to Bernstein’s antique shop, hoping to sell it. Bernstein remarks that it’s a pity she isn’t selling the pair. Mildred, with a knowing smile, agrees that it indeed is a great pity.

This is a fine, chilling story, with a strong cast, but the role of Mildred in this is frustratingly not explained. She suggests that Jenny buy the statue and bring it home, she seems to be pleased when Bruce wants her and she wryly agrees that it’s a pity both statues can’t be sold back to Bernstein. But if she is somehow the catalyst to these events, it remains incredibly unclear as to what her motivations were. Still and all, this is an enjoyable story, directed as usual, with a sure hand by Jeannot Szwarc.

———————————————————————————————————

A nineteenth-century surgical instructor has a no-questions-asked policy regarding the source of the cadavers he demonstrates on in class in the Night Gallery story “Deliveries in the Rear,” reviewed here.

Season 2 Episode 19—aired 2/9/72

“Deliveries in the Rear” ***1/2

Written by Rod Serling
Directed by Jeff Corey
Cornel Wilde as Dr. John Fletcher
Rosemary Forsyth as Barbara Bennett
Walter Burke as Jameson
Peter Whitney as the First Grave Robber
Larry D. Mann as Detective Hannify
Kent Smith as Mr. Bennett
Peter Brocco as Dr. Shockman
Ian Wolfe as Dillingham, the Mortician
Marjorie Bennett as Mrs. Charlie Woods
John Maddison as the Second Grave Robber
Gerald McRaney as Tuttle

Our story begins on a chilly, foggy night as a horse-drawn cart pulls up to a back-alley doorway. Two shabby-looking men step out and knock at the door. When answered, they deliver their large, lumpy cargo inside, followed quickly by the man who greeted them, but not before he takes a quick, furtive look left and right to see if anyone has witnessed them.

It is a cadaver they have brought for Dr. John Fletcher (Cornel Wilde) of the Macmillan School of Medicine, to use for demonstrations to his class of medical students. At the lecture he’s currently giving, one student (Gerald McRaney later of Simon and Simon and Major Dad, in his first tv appearance) may not have what it takes as he faints at the sight of the dead body.

After class has ended, Dr. Fletcher examines his newest delivery along with one other that the men have brought. He takes a look at one body and dismisses it due to its severe decomposition—this one has been dead at least three weeks and is of no use to him. But the next one appears to have been dead a mere two hours—an excellent subject.

The two men who delivered the bodies negotiate a price of $50. Dr. Fletcher can’t help but wonder whether or not these men killed the recently deceased. It seems to cause him some concern, but not undue concern.

At the home of his fiancée, Barbara Bennett (Rosemary Forsyth), that evening, her father (Kent Smith) brings up the unpleasant subject with him that rumors have been going around as to the origin of the doctor’s cadavers, saying that grave robbing and even murder have been whispered about as the means.

In an interesting soliloquy about the value of an individual life, Fletcher agrees that it’s possible that some of his cadavers may have been recent murder victims, but he defends it because they are no doubt “scum” and now serve a higher purpose as they will help to teach men (and there were no women at this time in medical school, it would seem) to save the lives of others.

Mr. Bennett basically bawls out Dr. Fletcher for what he views as a completely callous attitude toward the murder victims that he is all too willing to accept as lab aids then later, privately to his daughter, muses “how can a man so dedicated to saving lives be so ignorant of the sanctity of life itself?”

As he climbs the steps to his home, an old woman accosts Dr. Fletcher, saying he has her late husband, and calls him a ghoul. Again, we see a pang of conscience, but no more from Fletcher.

Like Mr. Bennett, Dr. Fletcher’s supervisor at the school, Dr. Shockman (Peter Brocco) has heard the same rumors of unsavory sources for the cadavers, and he confronts Fletcher one day before class. He has heard from the old woman, complaining that her husband has ended up on a lecture hall slab. He suggests that Fletcher use animals rather than humans as his dissection subjects, but Fletcher rejects this as being a poor teaching substitute.

Shockman informs Fletcher that the police will be coming soon, looking for the woman’s husband. Fletcher insists there will be no problem as all of his current cadavers are female—which is not true.

To come up with a female cadaver, Fletcher has to again enlist the aid of the two unsavory grave-robbing, perhaps murdering men. The men find a woman walking alone that night and do their thing, delivering the body that morning before Fletcher’s next demonstration.

Shortly after, a police officer arrives to question Fletcher, convinced that he will soon catch him with a hot cadaver. Looking for the missing man who was reported, he looks under the sheet of the cadaver that Fletcher is about to demonstrate on and seeing it’s a woman, is disappointed, but vows to eventually catch Fletcher. The men demand $100 from the doctor for this corpse, and considering his needs for a female, he pays.

Fletcher then begins his lecture and begins with a lecture similar to what he said to Mr. Bennett, that “no individual life is of any consequence if it means the saving of many lives.” As he prepares to begin his demonstration, he pulls back the sheet from the body and screams in horror as we then see the face of the cadaver: Fletcher’s fiancée, Barbara.

An excellent ending to a very well-written (by Rod Serling) and performed story

———————————————————————————————————–

An extremely verbose woman comes to the police to file a complaint against her husband, who, according to her, is literally worrying her to death, in the Night Gallery story “Stop Killing Me,” reviewed here.

“Stop Killing Me” **

Teleplay by Jack Laird • Story by Hal Dresner
Directed by Jeannot Szwarc
Geraldine Page as Frances Turchin
James Gregory as Sergeant Stanley Bevelow

A one-act, two character piece, which could have used some trimming, “Stop Killing Me” is a Jack Laird script, similar to his comic blackout sketches, but expanded to about fourteen minutes. It drags, but it’s partially redeemed by the terrific performance from Geraldine Page as Frances Turchin.

Frances comes to a police station where desk Sergent Stanley Bevelow (James Gregory, always a pleasure to watch, although here he doesn’t have a whole lot to do) patiently listens to a long monologue from her detailing how she feels her husband is planning to kill her, or rather, is killing her right at that moment.

The sergeant is perplexed and he hears a long litany of complaints from Frances. For example, at the movies or at get-togethers with friends or family, he’ll turn to her out of the blue and say “I’m going to kill you, Frances.” She thinks he’s planting these seeds inside her head so that she will eventually freak out with worry and succumb to some sort of accident, such as being hit by a car or falling down a flight of stairs.

When Bevelow finally gets a word in edgewise, he asks the increasingly annoying Frances why her husband might want to do that and she explains that she won’t divorce him and asks “is that reason enough?” The sergeant replies, “I’ve known some who thought it was.” Funny line and drily delivered by the old pro James Gregory.

Eventually, she badgers the sergeant into agreeing to speak to her husband about the matter, which he does, no doubt at least in part to get her to leave.

Shortly after she departs, we hear the sound of a horn and a scream. The sergeant looks down at a photo on his desk of his wife, an almost comically stern-visaged woman. He then does indeed phone Mr. Turchin. To ask him how he did it (so he can do the same).

A too-long one-joke sketch, made tolerable by work from some solid actors, Geraldine Page and James Gregory.

—————————————————————————————————————-

A gangster on the lam (Bobby Darin) needs the services of a seasoned exporter (Jack Albertson) to get him out of the country in the Night Gallery story “Dead Weight,” reviewed here.

“Dead Weight” **

Teleplay by Jack Laird • Story “Out of the Country” by Jeffry Scott
Directed by Timothy Galfas
Jack Albertson as Bullivant
Bobby Darin as Landau
James Metropole as the Delivery Boy

A criminal named Landau (Bobby Darin), recently involved in a fatal bank heist , needs to escape the law, and therefor the country, in the worst way. He has come to a Mr. Bullivant (Jack Albertson, quite good in his usual Jack Albertson way), an exporter of goods who has experience in spriting away gangsters on the run from the authorities.

Bullivant reassures Landau that he has nothing to worry about. “Forty-seven years in the business and not one customer complaint,” he says. Bullivant suggests an escape to Argentina. “Rio’s been so overdone lately,” he adds.

When Landau supplies some details of his crime, we discover that a mother and her child were gunned down in the battle, innocent bystanders who ended up as collateral damage in Landau’s robbery, though Landau does feel bad about the kid.

Bullivant says his fee is $15,000 and Landau, without other options and time against him, pays it. Eager to leave, Landau agrees first to a glass of sherry with Bullivant, the exporter’s typical sealing of such a deal. Landau drinks up and instantly ends up face down—dead.

The next scene has a delivery boy picking up a large, heavy crate from Bullivant, bound for Argentina. The label on it says “Bullivan’t Mystery Mixture,” his own special brand of dog food.

Again, a Jack Laird script of a feeble comic idea, this time played out a bit longer than usual (seven minutes). It has a nice performance from Jack Albertson, but the “twist” at the end that this septuagenarian poisons these hoodlums then supposedly grinds them up and ships them to locales such as Argentina for dog food seems preposterous and not especially amusing.

————————————————————————————————————-

A woman, desperate to be freed of her tiresomely ill husband who just won’t die, turns to witchcraft in the Night Gallery tale “I’ll Never Leave You—Ever,” reviewed here.

Season 2 Episode 20—aired 2/16/72

“I’ll Never Leave You—Ever” ***

Teleplay by Jack Laird • Story by Rene Morris
Directed by Daniel Haller
Lois Nettleton as Moragh
John Saxon as Ianto
Royal Dano as Owen
Peggy Webber as the Old Crone

On a stormy night in Ireland, perhaps in the late 19th century, horses and sheep stir outside a barn where inside in a hayloft, two lovers are having a tryst. Moragh (Lois Nettleton, very good) and Ianto (John Saxon) are enjoying some furtive time together. Moragh is married, and her husband Owen (Royal Dano) is deathly ill, and has been so for some time. They both wish the inevitable would occur soon so that they may be allowed to be together not just covertly.

Moragh returns home to and her bedridden husband is awake, waiting for her, missing her. Nettleton does a fine job of conveying the guilt she feels at having come from her lover and also the revulsion she feels for her diseased husband, Owen, who seems to only draw what feeble strength he has from his feelings of love for her. He insists upon a kiss, and we can imagine how icky it must be to be kissed by his deathly, diseased lips. She then goes outside the house and washes her lips and face, as if to remove both her husband’s presence and her guilt from the presence of Ianto.

As a side note, it’s too bad we don’t have an idea of how things were with them before Owen fell ill. Observing the current situation, it’s easy to identify with Moragh’s wish to be free of him, but at the  same time, he is her husband, and we don’t know what went on before, so we can’t help but wonder why she seems to have no love for him.

Desperate to be rid of Owen, Moragh seeks the help of an old hag (Peggy Weber, suitably disgusting but also kind of a hammy performance). The woman has shrunken heads inside her hovel (sure sign of black magic) and asks for two spring lambs in exchange for creating a voodoo doll of Moragh’s husband. She insists that the likeness must be exact, and at that point I was suspecting that the doll would instead be the likeness of Ianto…

At home with the doll, Moragh covers it and Owen says he is now blind. Then the doll moves inside the bag she’s put it in—creepy!

The fire beckons. Moragh is torn. She tosses the doll into the flames and Owen begins a long screaming jag. Unable to hear her husband’s agonizing screams any longer, she decides to remove the doll from the fire, but it jumps out! She catches it and covers the doll in a blanket and runs with it outside until she comes to a deep quarry, into which she tosses the doll.

When she returns home, she checks on Owen and sees a charred lump on the bedroom floor with steam rising from it—totally gross! Ianto arrives, having heard a disturbance. He looks inside the bedroom and recoils in horror. “My God, what have you done to him?” She says she did it for him, but Ianto is still appalled.

Ianto says the doll must be burned completely or the witchcraft will not be completely finished. He runs off to find the doll and she follows him. They get separated and she hears Ianto should, “Moragh, I’m here!” She comes to the edge of the quarry, where she herself falls in. The camera pans down and we hear these chilling final words: “Moragh, how could I ever leave you?”

Overall, a solid chiller with a very strong performance from Lois Nettleton and probably series producer Jack Laird’s best script. Finally, he eschewed the jokes and wrote (well, adapted) a straight horror story and it turned out to be a good one.

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

A graduate student attempts to learn the black magic secrets of a long-dead ancestor who was a sorcerer in the Night Gallery story “There Aren’t Any More Macbanes,” reviewed here.

“There Aren’t Any More Macbanes” ***1/2

Teleplay by Alvin Sapinsley • Story “By One, by Two and by Three” by Stephen Hall
Directed by John Newland
Joel Grey as Andrew MacBane
Howard Duff as Uncle Arthur Porter
Darrell Larson as Elie Green
Barry Higgins as Mickey Standish
Mark Hamill as the Messenger Boy
Vincent Van Lynn as the Manservant
Ellen Blake as the Demon

It’s graduation day at Bard College and Elie Green (Darrell Larson) and Mickey Standish (Barry Higgins), still in cap and gown, drop by the apartment of their slightly older friend, Andrew MacBane (Joel Grey). Andrew is a graduate student, struggling to complete his Master’s in Philosophy and his benefactor, Uncle Arthur Porter (Howard Duff) is already there and is running out of patience with his nephew.

He delivers an ultimatum: Andrew must find a job within six months or be completely cut off financially, which would not only mean living expenses but ultimately a sizable inheritance as he is only living relative.

Elie and Mickey are stunned at this and suggest that Andrew accept a position at a bookstore, but Andrew is unconcerned over the threat to his financial stability. Instead, he is obsessed with finding ten missing pages to a journal of sorcery kept by a long-dead relative, Jedediah MacBane, reputedly a 17th century wizard, who was able to kill at great distances through the use of black magic.

This somehow got Jedediah himself killed after he killed his worst enemy, his best friend and his best friend’s wife. Andrew is certain that finding the missing ten pages of the journal will solve this mystery. The three young men drink a toast then smash their glasses into the fireplace, agreeing to meet again in six months’ time.

When six months have passed, the two friends meet again at Andrew’s apartment at night and, as Andrew is still not employed, his uncle is on hand to disinherit him in person, which will become official the next morning when his bank opens.

The uncle leaves and Andrew begins to recite a spell. As Porter walks to his car, we see red eyes through the nearby trees, then a growl, then suddenly something is upon the uncle and as we cut back Andrew’s apartment we hear screams.

Elie and Mickey hear something outside Andrew’s door, something like growling and scratching and they ask Andrew if he has a dog, which he says he does not. They leave and on their way to their car, they discover Uncle Arthur Porter’s mutilated corpse. They rush back to Andrew’s apartment and inform him that his uncle was killed by “something wild.”

Andrew inherits his uncle’s fortune but chooses to live in the family’s old ancestral home in Salem, a house without telephone service or electricity.

One night, Elie (who looks a lot like a young Phil Simms, former NFL quarterback and current game analyst) returns home to his apartment after work and a young man is at his front door to deliver a telegram. In a cameo role, it’s Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker from Star Wars!). The telegram is from Andrew and says that Mickey is in terrible danger.

Mickey was working in the African nation of Chad and Elie phones Mickey’s mother but before he can give her the warning, he receives the news that Mickey is dead, presumably from an attack by a leopard.

Elie hears growls and scratches outside his door, similar to what he heard after Andrew’s uncle was killed. He goes into the hallway, hears roars and runs down a stairwell and into a basement storage area where the roars increase. Suddenly, through a grated window, red eyes appear, paws break through the glass and Elie, screaming, loses consciousness.

Surprisingly, after a time, he wakes up, unharmed but not unalarmed. He immediately goes to Andrew’s house to tell him what occurred and to confront him as to whether he found the ten missing pages of Jedediah’s journal.

Andrew admits he did find it and now possesses the power to conjure up the same creature his relative did. The creature was inactive over the last 300 years because no one knew how to summon it—until Andrew. He was able to briefly stop the creature from killing Elie, but he can’t fully control it and now—it’s here, roaring and scratching at the door. When it finally comes in, it’s a bit laughable as it’s an old woman with hooks for hands, kind of a witch, which would be sort of scary, but when you’re expecting a savage leopard-like creature, it’s a big disappointment.

The creature and Andrew battle it out, both ultimately dying.

The story ends in a sort of disappointing way, but throughout it is a taut, well-directed (by John Newland of One Step Beyond fame) piece, with a fine, offbeat lead performace by Joel Grey, who had become a big star that year for his role in Cabaret.

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

An astonishing, full-throated performance from Richard Thomas highlights the outstanding Night Gallery story “The Sins of the Fathers,” reviewed here.

Season 2 Episode 21—aired 2/23/72

“The Sins of the Fathers” ****

Teleplay by Halsted Welles • Story by Christianna Brand
Directed by Jeannot Szwarc
Geraldine Page as Mrs. Evans
Richard Thomas as Ian Evans
Michael Dunn as the Servant
Barbara Steele as the Widow Craighill
Cyril Delevanti as the First Mourner
Alan Napier as the Second Mourner
Terence Pushman as the Third Mourner
John Barclay as the Fourth Mourner

In plague- and famine-filled Wales during the Middle Ages, a well-to-do family with a dead patriarch seeks the services of a “sin-eater,” one who takes on the deceased’s lifetime worth of sins so that he may go to heaven by feasting as his corpse lies nearby.

A dwarf servant (Michael Dunn, excellent) arrives on horseback to deliver disappointing news to the Widow Craighill (Barbara Steele, also quite good): he’s scoured the countryside for miles and can’t get any of the usual sin-eaters to come as they are all either ill, dead, or otherwise engaged. The widow insists that she must have a sin-eater to cleanse her late husband, and quickly.

The servant goes out again and tries one last house, that of a Mr. Evans. He speaks to his wife (Geraldine Page, another excellent performance) through an open window. Mr. Evans himself is ill with the plague and cannot go, yet the family, which includes their teenage son, Ian (Richard Thomas), is starving and the promise of a bounty of food, described in almost sexual terms by the servant, plus three gold coins, proves too much for Mrs. Evans to ignore.

She asks the servant to wait for a moment and explains to her son that he must go in place of his father as the sin-eater. Ian expresses severe misgivings due to fear of inheriting the dead man’s sins and to the fact that he has never done a sin-eating and does not know the right words to say or what to do. His mother basically tells him to wing it and scream at the proper moment as the sins would seem to enter his body. Further, she assuages him by saying that he should insist that the mourners leave the room so that he does not have to perform this ritual for the first time in front of an audience and that he must not eat a morsel of the food, rather he is to stuff it in his clothing and wait until he returns home before eating.

Ian and the dwarf ride the twelve miles to the Craighill home and Mrs. Craighill is taken aback at the sight of this would-be sin-eater: a scrawny, starving youth. The servant insists there is no other for the task and since her husband must be buried the next day, she reluctantly agrees to let Ian proceed.

He is able to persuade her to remove the onlookers and then begins his job alone, with the pallid corpse surrounded by mountains of delicious-looking food: bacon, rare beef, fresh fruits and vegetables and bread heavy with butter. Here, Richard Thomas performs a remarkable scene I would never have imagined he could, and abetted by Jeannot Szwarc’s usual excellent direction, goes through a sequence of a mixture of desperate hunger, revulsion at the corpse and what the ceremony represents to finally a series of shrieks which absolutely convinces the widow and the guest in the next room that he has indeed taken on the sins of the deceased.

After having stuffed all the food he can into his clothing during this episode, the spent youth flees the scene and runs all the way home, forgetting the gold coins, which the widow gratefully tosses at him as he leaves, but he is too overcome to notice.

When he arrives home, he wants to eat ravenously but his mother asks him to wait for just a moment and piles all the food onto a tray and takes it in to her husband’s room. Ian walks in and we see that his father has died during the time Ian was gone. His mother says that he may eat, but only after he has cleansed his father of his sins and we fade to black as Ian again goes through a series of agonizing screams.

This is one of the more unsettling Night Gallery stories put to film and it is an absolute top-notch segment all the way around, from Halsted Welles’ adaptation of Christianna Brand’s story to Jeannot Szwarc’s direction, to an outstanding cast led by an incredible performance from 20-year old Richard Thomas, just before he would begin his altogether different run as the steady John-Boy on The Waltons.

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Broderick Crawford and Cloris Leachman as an unlikely pair of debauched swingers, take out their frustrations on their maid—their robot maid—in the Night Gallery story “You Can’t Get Help Like That Anymore,” reviewed here.

“You Can’t Get Help Like That Anymore” ***

Written by Rod Serling
Directed by Jeff Corey
Cloris Leachman as Mrs. Fulton
Broderick Crawford as Joe Fulton
Lana Wood as the Maid
Henry Jones as Malcolm Hample
Severn Darden as Dr. Kessler
Pamela Shoop as Mrs. Foster
Christopher Law as Mr. Foster
A’leshia Lee as the Receptionist
Roberta Carol Brahm as the Damaged Maid

Sometime in the future, a young couple tours Robot-Aids, Inc, a company that supplies domestic help in the form of incredibly lifelike robots. As they walk through a hallway filled with glass-encased displays, they see (unmoving) maids, chefs, gardeners, chauffeurs and other examples of the types of workers the company can supply.

Sales Director Malcolm Hample (Henry Jones) leads them on the tour, and when he is called away to see another customer, he asks them to wait with a receptionist whom they discover is a robot herself. Incredibly lifelike, she is programmed only for the tasks in her area of work and can be shut off with the flick of a switch.

Hample is intercepted by his leading robot engineer, Dr. Kessler (Severn Darden), who is outraged over the treatment of one recently returned model, a maid who was physically assaulted by its owners. The back of its head is smashed and an arm is broken, wires and circuits now exposed.

Kessler, who is invested in his creations beyond mere financial gain, is angry that the people who owned this one could not treat it decently and is proud that his next innovation will be to install a sort of adaptive survival instinct in his robots.
The owners in question have come to complain to Hample and they burst in to the room. Mr. and Mrs. Fulton (Broderick Crawford and Cloris Leachman) are then bawled out by Dr. Kessler who accuses them of enjoying the sadistic torture of others. They are stunned by this as it seems that with their money, no one ever talks to them this way. Hample appeases them by promising a better replacement.

Hample and Kessler then have a brief discussion about what makes something human, with Hample insisting these are still mere machines, no matter how human-like they appear. Kessler then points out that the damaged robot maid is shedding a tear and the sales director begins to consider otherwise.

Later, the Fultons are hosting a party where they are both drunk, particularly Mr. Fulton, and both making passes at others. Their new maid (Lana Wood, Natalie’s sister, who shares her smoldering dark looks and who played Plenty O’Toole in Diamonds Are Forever) begins to clean up some of the mess when Mr. Fulton makes a pass at her. His wife notices this, which sets off an ugly scene. Mrs. Fulton baits the robot maid, first by knocking a glass- and tray-filled tray out of the maid’s hands, to see if she will react angrily.

She does not react angrily, but merely picks up the mess, which angers Mrs. Fulton even more. Mrs. Fulton then asks the maid to describe her debauched owners and she says Mr. Fulton is “vulgar, lusting after everything but loving nothing” and Mrs. Fulton is “vain, aging ungracefully.”

Mr. Fulton then rises up to strike the maid for her impunity and is thrown behind her, smashing down into a table. Mrs. Fulton threatens to deactivate the maid and comes at her with a bottle and…

We next are back at Robot-Aids, Inc, where a more pleasant Dr. Kessler answers the phone and tells an inquiring prospective customer that the business is temporarily closed and that they are not working on anything new and don’t know when they will reopen, while we see behind him that robots are indeed being worked on.

Kessler then gets up and walks down the hallway of glass-enclosed robot samples where he is met by the robot maid last seen tossing the rotund Broderick Crawford over her head. They appear to be a couple in love and as they walk down the hallway and we see robot displays of the Fultons, Malcolm Hemple and Kessler himself, we understand that the robots have taken over this company and are perhaps plotting their takeover of much more…

This is one of those borderline segments that I liked well enough to put it over the three-star threshold. A good script by Serling, even if he made the Fultons a bit too horrific, and solid direction from Jeff Corey make this an enjoyable futuristic outing.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————

This story and “A Question of Fear” are numbers 1 and 1a as far as the scariest in the Night Gallery. “The Caterpillar” is reviewed here.
Season 2 Episode 22—aired 3/1/72
Teleplay by Rod Serling • Story “Boomerang” by Oscar Cook
Directed by Jeannot Szwarc
Laurence Harvey as Stephen Macy
Joanna Pettet as Rhona Warwick
John Williams as the Doctor
Tom Helmore as John Warwick
Don Knight as Tommy Robinson

In endlessly rainy early 20th century Borneo, British expatriate Stephen Macy (Laurence Harvey, a real coup to be able to cast the star of such movies as The Manchurian Candidate) has signed on to work for fellow Brit John Warwick (Tom Helmore) and he lives with the 66 year-old Warwick and his much younger 28 year-old wife Rhona (Joanna Pettet).

While the Warwicks seem blissfully happy in their situation, John effusively cheerful and Rhona happily whiling away her time enjoying records and knitting, Macy is angry, resentful and morose at his lot. He left Britain to escape boredom and convention, but in Borneo he hates the rain, the isolation in the jungle and the creature comforts he left behind in England.

He can’t hide his obvious lust for Rhona and when John is briefly away, makes a play for her and is rebuffed, which only seems to fuel his desire.

A man who shares British nationality with the three and little more, Tommy Robinson (Don Knight), known to the Warwicks, drops by uninvited to peddle kindling and is tossed out by them and told not to return. He has a brief word with Macy and we find out the reason he’s in Borneo is that a British court told him it was either go to Borneo or to a British jail, so he came to Borneo and has been there for twenty years.

A clever sort, Robinson detects Macy’s attraction to Rhona and suggests he may know of a way that he can get the two of them together. To further discuss the situation, Robinson and Macy arrange to meet in a seedy bar where Robinson, amidst another heavy downpour, tells Macy of a local insect, a type of caterpillar, the earwig, which, when it crawls into a man’s ear will feed its way inside straight through to the host’s brain and “result: that’s the end of it. The complete end of it.” Don Knight is terrific in this role and in this scene in particular.

The time it takes is two to three weeks. The pain is excruciating, but in the end death will come. Robinson says he has someone who can sneak in through the window to John Warwick’s bedroom and place the insect on his pillow, completely undetected. The end result, it’s hoped, is that the widowed Rhona will then seek the comfort of Macy.

Laurence Harvey is also fantastic in this and in this scene we see the consequences of his morality flash across his face as he contemplates the agonizing death of a man for who he bears no ill will, but his unbridled lust and sense of entitlement win out and he hands Robinson a wad of cash to make the transaction official and the deed will be done that night.

The next morning at breakfast, Macy begins to feel an itching in his ear, puts a napkin to it, sees blood, realizes what has happened, and runs off screaming.

A couple weeks later, in another driving rain, Robinson has learned from a doctor leaving the Warwicks’ home (John Williams) that Macy is very bad off, his arms have been tied to his bedposts to prevent him from scratching his ears endlessly, but that he is near the end.

Robinson climbs up to Macy’s bedroom window to look in on Macy and apologizes for his associate’s error in going into the wrong bedroom that night. We get an incredible scene of Laurence Harvey wordlessly portraying his unceasing agony. With red eyes, parched lips, scratched skin on his face, his arms tied to the bedposts, he is one of the more gruesome figures I have ever seen on film.

Somehow, Macy survives his ordeal and he comes down from his room to the first floor, where the Warwicks and the doctor are waiting. They know about Macy’s plan and that it went awry and Macy assumes they will want to have him arrested, either in Borneo or in London. But they don’t plan to have him arrested. Macy wonders why.

They all look somewhat sheepish and concerned and the doctor explains that he examined the earwig after it exited Macy’s other ear. He found the insect was a female. “And females lay eggs,” the doctor intones and as the thought sinks in of Macy reliving his experience again, over and over, we cut to the outside of the house and again hear a blood-curdling scream from Laurence Harvey.

This is quite simply Night Gallery at its finest. A fantastic adapted script from Rod Serling, excellent acting, especially from Laurence Harvey and Don Knight, and as usual, sterling direction from series veteran Jeannot Szwarc.

————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

The final segment from Night Gallery’s epic Season 2, the rather heavy-handed anti-military tale “Little Girl Lost,” is reviewed here.

“Little Girl Lost” **1/2

Teleplay by Stanford Whitmore • Story by E. C. Tubb
Directed by Timothy Galfas
Ed Nelson as Tom Burke
William Windom as Professor Putman
Ivor Francis as Dr. Charles Cottrell
John Lasell as Colonel Hawes
Sandy Ward as the Irate Man
Nelson Cuevas as the Waiter

We begin with a middle-aged man alone in an observation room, seated on a chair and performing a sort of pantomime on a non-existent girl, brushing her hair and playing patty-cake with her. The man is Professor Putman (William Windom), a brilliant physicist employed by the military who is now nearly catatonic over the recent death of his young daughter, Ginny, by a hit and run driver.

Observing him are a military colonel, a psychologist, Dr. Charles Cottrell (Ivor Francis) and, as their guest, Tom Burke (Ed Nelson), a military test pilot recently injured in a crash. Burke is unsure why he is there. The colonel and doctor explain that it’s for a highly sensitive mission: to bond with the professor in such a way that his delusion of his late daughter’s existence continues, at least long enough for him to complete his top-secret work, after which point, they don’t care if he goes completely insane; in fact they wouldn’t mind that at all as he would not pose a security risk.

Burke begins to spend time with Putman and “Ginny,” pretending to go to a carnival and the beach with her, tuck her in to bed (where he begins to tear up while telling the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears and remembering the carnival rides) and generally trying to gain the professor’s trust. When the “three” are out at dinner, a man wants to take the empty seat that Ginny is purportedly sitting in and it seems to have an effect on Putman, breaking him out of his “reality” that she exists.

He bitterly tells Burke that the final set of equations will be complete that night. “Bigger and better bombs at a fraction of the cost. The demented fools!” He then storms out without stopping to bring “Ginny” along.

Driving home, Putman seems to become completely suicidal as he drives recklessly and nearly kills them. Burke exclaims “you could have killed both of us!” And with that statement of exclusion, he signals to Putman that like the boorish customer at the restaurant, he doesn’t believe in Ginny’s existence either.

Burke explains to Cottrell what happened the next day and Cottrell is terrified at the thought that Putman understands that his daughter is dead. “That is the man who worked out the means to create fission with nonradioactive materials.”

Burke realizes what Cottrell is thinking: that Putman gave the military the wrong formula – a formula for a sort of “doomsday” device and that perhaps he wishes to use it to punish the military and to be with his daughter with one horrible step. Then a mushroom cloud followed by a blinding white light proves them right.

It took me a bit of time to work out what was going on here, so it may read better than it actually plays, or at least how it played for me. There’s too much time spent with Burke and Putman pretending Ginny exists and too little getting to the military’s plans and once we understand what they are, this becomes a heavy-handed exercise indeed.

Also, William Windom, good as he is, is miscast here, at least for those of us who remember his fantastic performance in the previous season’s “They’re Tearing Down Tim Riley’s Bar” and that is because he looks and seems too much the same as that character, so this one seems a pale comparison.

8 thoughts on “Night Gallery episode guide Season 2”

  1. Glad I’m not the only person to notice Mildred’s odd role in the “Druid” story. It’s almost like she’s a Druid witch herself (which might have contributed to her divorce, her independent wealth, and even her beauty). She seems to be using her wiles (of all sorts) to maneuver the couple into reviving Bruce the Black. This also comes across when Bruce invokes her seductiveness, when he’s luring Bixby to kill his wife. Like she’s the Lola to his “Damn Yankees” devil. But like you said, this is all just hinted at.

  2. Zsa Zsa Gabor never appeared on GREEN ACRES. It starred her sister, Eva Gabor, as Lisa Douglas. Zsa Zsa is still with us, turning 99 last month.

    • Thanks, I had made that correction to the initial, stand-alone review but forgot to make it on the Season 2 compilation of reviews. Much appreciated and thanks for reading.

  3. Thanks to you for a nice look back at an often-overshadowed series.

  4. I believe you missed the point of “Pickman’s Model” – he wasn’t the creature, but he was related to it. There’s the bit about them ravishing women, plus the scene where, while battling the creature, his glove comes off and reveals that his hand resembles the creature’s, which suggest that he was a half-breed – part man, part monster. I believe he’s supposed to be a tortured soul, who due to his lineage views himself as a monster, and thus renders himself as completely monstrous in self-portraits. He likely turns a blind eye to his kin’s deeds, as suggested by his paintings and his focus on realism. However, he also holds some measure of affection towards his students/acquaintances and tries to keep them separate from that portion of his life, going so far as fight his “family” to prevent them from becoming prey.

    • To me, this is why this particular story is not a success. I believe that you may be correct, that Pickman is related to the creature. It is certainly hinted that he *is* the creature but at the end when he fights the creature, clearly the creature is not he. I watched this episode twice because my initial reaction was somewhat at odds with others who feel more affection toward it/feel it is more successful. It is certainly not without merit; however for me it does not fully succeed at what it tries to do. Perhaps for you it did more than it did for me 🙂 Thanks so much for commenting and more importantly, for reading–it is greatly appreciated.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s