The third and final season of Night Gallery begins with Vincent Price and Bill Bixby in “The Return of the Sorcerer,” reviewed here.
Season 3 Episode 1—aired 9/24/72
“The Return of the Sorcerer” ***
Teleplay by Halsted Welles • Story by Clark Ashton Smith
Directed by Jeannot Szwarc
Vincent Price as John Carnby
Bill Bixby as Noel Evans
Tisha Sterling as Fern
Noel Evans (Bill Bixby), responding to an ad for an Arabic interpreter, comes to the home of John Carnby (Vincent Price). Carnby studies sorcery from the Latin Necronomicon, but he has need for a translator of another, more obscure book of sorcery that is in Arabic. Two men previously hired to do this translating quit before completing their task, and Noel is similarly inclined once he begins reading the text, but Carnby threatens the young man’s life if he does not carry out the translation, so he reluctantly agrees to continue.
The passage he has been hired to translate is especially grotesque, involving the powers that a sorcerer maintains after his death, even after his body has been dismembered. Also, the passage states that “may he who reveals this secret be flayed slowly over burning coals and then thoroughly dismembered.” No wonder Noel and his predecessors wanted out of this job.
Carnby has an assistant, Fern (Tisha Sterling, with quite memorably fetching eyes) and she explains to Noel after a bizarre dinner that features a seated goat who is supposedly Carnby’s father that Carnby’s twin brother is recently deceased, at the hands of Carnby, dismembered (!) and buried amongst trees behind the house. Also, she totally comes on to Noel and he seems willing to reciprocate her advances.
Carnby is, to say the least, distressed at what the passage reveals, as his brother was, too, a sorcerer.
The next scene has Carnby beginning a series of indecipherable incantations designed to protect him from his late brother when he stops at the sounds from outside the room: a sort of dragging along the carpet. Noel throws open the door and finds a dismembered hand and foot slowly making their way to the door.
Carnby admits to what he’s done because “I hated him because his magic was stronger. But Fern—she caused it! She wanted to be stronger than both of us.” Fern, it seems, is a sorceress and she leads Carnby to a “black mass” where she will preside with Carnby and his brother.
This scene is difficult to understand. Difficult in that Carnby submits to Fern as his brother is seemingly put back together again (also played by Price, natch) and he lays his head on an alter while Fern chants her own incantations and the brother raises a blade to…
As Noel is hurriedly packing his bags to get out of there pronto, he hears a clang, then rushes to the room where the “mass” is being held, yet the scene seems normal. “You’re too late for mass,” says Fern. “Sorry you missed it. The brothers are together again—fragmented, but together.”
Again, she turns to Noel in an amorous way and invites him to come with her to her room. He wants her, but has a lingering concern. “Fern, in the preamble, threatening anyone who translated the passages from Arabic with fire and dismemberment? You don’t suppose there’s anything to that, do you?” She grins at him and without a word, they leave together.
There are some silly moments to this, but overall, it plays out decently well and so I give it a mild “thumbs up.”
A triumphant Night Gallery swan song in her fourth appearance, Joanna Pettet (even though she’s a woman) is “The Girl with the Hungry Eyes,” reviewed here.
Season 3 Episode 2—aired 10/1/72
“The Girl with the Hungry Eyes” ***
Teleplay by Robert Malcolm Young • Story by Fritz Leiber, Jr.
Directed by John Badham
James Farentino as David Faulkner
Joanna Pettet as the Girl
John Astin as Munsch
Kip Niven as Harry Krell
Bruce Powers as the Man on the Street
Through seemingly mysterious forces, commercial photographer David Faulkner (James Farentino, who previously co-starred the previous year in “Since Aunt Ada Came to Stay” ) stumbles upon a new subject.
A mysterious young woman who won’t give him her name and forbids him to follow her, she is nonetheless a gorgeous and transfixing subject for his camera. Joanna Pettet plays the young woman in this, her fourth and final appearance on Night Gallery, and for fans (particularly male fans, I would imagine) it is a sort of victory lap. It is her best performance, she looks gorgeous, and the entire story is built around her appeal.
David has a meeting with the owner and namesake of Munsch Beer (John Astin, another series veteran, both for acting and directing). Munsch is looking for a model to appear in his beer’s billboard ads and David shows him his portfolio of head shots. Munsch thumbs through them, quickly moving on to the next, searching for the right face.
For whatever the reason, David places Joanna Pettet’s face last, causing him some anxiety as he worries that he won’t have one of his photos selected. When Munsch comes to the last photo, that of the “girl,” he knows he’s found “the one.”
Her face goes on billboards and gains quite a lot of notice. One man who notices is David’s friend Harry (Kip Niven), who visits David one evening and really, really wants to meet the girl, almost as if obsessed. She has this effect on men, and on David, too.
After he sends Harry away, disappointed, the girl (and I wish I had something else to call her because it seems silly to call her “the girl” but she gives no name and that’s what she’s credited as) emerges from the second floor of David’s apartment—if only Harry knew! She says she’s going out for a bit (David knows he’s not allowed to follow her) and seeks out Harry on the sidewalk outside.
Harry can’t believe his eyes. And then we can’t believe her eyes, as she comes close to him, gives him a look and her eyes, well, it’s hard to explain, but we get a video effect of a greenish-colored jewel or something. In any event, it’s meant to convey other-worldly evil, so, despite the cheapness of the effect, we get its intent. She then walks away with him to a nearby park, begins to give him a kiss, and he tumbles down an embankment. David saw the two of them outside, but didn’t see what happened after they walked away.
Late the next morning, David is awakened, hungover, by a phone call alerting him to the fact that there was a murder in the park quite near his apartment. He takes in his newspaper and discovers the victim was his friend Harry.
Beer magnate Munsch is also obsessed with this “girl” and, like Harry, is quite keen on meeting her. Having more power, he insists on such a meeting but David continues to stall him, saying he can’t arrange it. Munsch follows her as she leaves the photo studio one night and winds up dead, too, though we don’t get a scene of this, which I found out from Scott Skelton and Jim Benson’s indispensable book “Rod Serling’s Night Gallery: An After-Hours Tour” was because they didn’t have the budget to pay John Astin for an additional day’s work!
One night, David does follow her and finds her seduce and kill some random guy on the street. She sees David and moves toward him, with a seductive, yet cold stare. She moves in for the kill, er, kiss, and he breaks free just before their lips meet.
David runs back to his apartment and she has somehow beat him there. The walls of his place are adorned with a vast collection of glamor shots of her, some fantastic work done in reality by famed Hollywood photographer Harry Langdon, Jr. (this fact also courtesy of Benson and Skelton’s book).
David begins tearing down the photos and creating pile of them on the floor which he begins to douse in lighter fluid. We get a sort of hysterical speech from David. “I know you now! You’re the eyes that pick our pockets and spend our lives. You’re the lure, the bait. We lust for you, for what those eyes hold out. And you, you suck the love from us because that’s what feeds you.”
So we get it all laid out for us, but, still, is she some creature? Where did she come from? Is she even real? Real enough to go down in flames. David lights the pile of photos and it erupts into a burning pyre. The girl catches fires, too, and she bends as if a photo herself, then crumples into ash.
David, spent, looks at the remaining photos of the girl still on his walls and sees that her eyes are now empty white spots. No more devouring hunger in them.
If this story had been a little better fleshed out, it could have been a classic. As it is, it stands as a Joanna Pettet fanboy highlight of the Night Gallery.
Spooky that on my episode viewing, this one came up the day I read of Mickey Rooney’s death. He stars mid-career in this Night Gallery story from 1972, “Rare Objects,” reviewed here.
Season 3 Episode 3—aired 10/22/72
“Rare Objects” **1/2
Written by Rod Serling
Directed by Jeannot Szwarc
Mickey Rooney as Augie Kolodney
Raymond Massey as Dr. Glendon
Fay Spain as Molly Mitchell
David Fresco as Blockman
Regis J. Cordic as the Doctor
Victor Sen Yung as the Butler
Ralph Adano as Tony
Jeannot Szwarc was the most-employed as best director on Night Gallery and here, he begins a story with a strong establishing shot. It starts as a close-up on a plate of pasta as a fork gathers a biteful, then pans up along with the hand holding the fork to a mouth that accepts the food, a bit of sauce not quite making it to its intended destination instead ending up just below the lip. The camera pulls back as the man chewing the food and wiping his mouth is revealed to be a middle-aged Mickey Rooney and continues to pull back so that we see he is a solitary diner in a fine, if darkened, Italian restaurant.
The shot shows the isolation in which Rooney’s character, Augie Kolodney, a mob boss, currently finds himself. Suddenly realizing that for a man in his position, being next to alone somewhere could be a very dangerous situation, he accuses the waiter of arranging for the restaurant to be devoid of other customers. As the waiter denies this, a hail of bullets comes through the front of the restaurant and Augie barely escapes with his life, grazed by a bullet in his shoulder.
He finds a doctor who treats such situations with a “no-questions asked” policy and expresses his desire to “get out,” to be finished with a life on the run, looking over his shoulder, not knowing whom to trust or when the next attempt on his life may come. The doctor concurs, adding that Augie’s blood pressure is high and this continued lifestyle, including heavy drinking and poor eating is likely to kill him sooner rather than later.
The doctor knows of someone who can help protect Augie in his retirement and he writes down the man’s contact information on a slip of paper and gives it to him. “How much will it cost me?” asks Augie. “A lot. But you’ll still be breathing,” replies the doctor.
Augie goes to the man his doctor recommended, one Dr. Glendon (Raymond Massey), who lives in a massive house filled with hard-to-find and presumably quite expensive art and pottery collectibles (rare objects).
Getting down to business, Glendon explains the terms of his offer. Augie would live a long life without any worries of his enemies doing him harm. In exchange, Augie must surrender to Glendon everything he owns. A gentleman, Glendon pours Augie a glass of vintage wine to enjoy while he mulls over the offer.
Soon, Augie becomes groggy and we suspect Glendon slipped him a mickey. Glendon, assisted by a servant, help Augie to his feet and lead him upstairs, where they say he can rest. As they slowly ascend the stairs, Glendon explains that he did indeed include something in Augie’s wine: a potion that will add untold years to his life.
Once on the second floor, Glendon can barely contain his glee as he begins to show the half out-of-it mobster the incredible results of his “hobby”: a collection of people, long presumed dead, behind bars in rooms which display them as if they were zoo animals.
Amelia Earhart, Roald Amundsen, even Adolph Hitler are there. And at the end of the corridor lies an empty cell with the name plate “Augie Kolodney” on the bars. Slowly realizing his fate, but too weakened to prevent it from happening, they show Augie to his room and lock the door behind him.
“I think you’ll find all the comforts available to you—as per our agreement,” Glendon grandly states. “And further than that, Mr. Kolodney, you shall live a long time. A very long time.”
This story is a close-call, but not quite a good one. My main issue with it is there is no possibly way that Dr. Glendon will get his hands on all, to say any, of Augie Kolodney’s assets. He never agreed to the arrangement verbally, much less in writing, so the ending, and therefore the story itself, falls flat. Otherwise, it’s a surprisingly good performance from Mickey Rooney in a role one would not expect him in, and Raymond Massey, at an advanced age, summons up some of his gentlemanly charm of old.
Sandra Dee deals with, and is haunted by the ghost of her recently deceased sister in the Night Gallery story “Spectre in Tap Shoes,” reviewed here.
Season 3 Episode 4—aired 10/29/72
“Spectre in Tap Shoes” **1/2
Teleplay by Gene R. Kearney • Story by Jack Laird
Directed by Jeannot Szwarc
Sandra Dee as Millicent Hardy/Marion Hardy
Dane Clark as William Jason
Christopher Connelly as Sam Davis
Russell Thorson as Dr. Coolidge
Michael Laird as Michael
Michael Richardson as Andy, the Mailman
Stuart Nisbet as the Policeman
Millicent Hardy (Sandra Dee) returns early from vacation to the home she shares with her twin sister, Marion. Millicent cut short her time away because she suspects something may not be quite right with her twin as they share a bit of a psychic bond, as twins sometimes do, at least in fiction.
Marion is a tap dancer as Millicent calls out for her sister, attempting to find her, she ends up in Marion’s attic studio where she come upon the ghastly scene of Marion’s lifeless body hanging from a rope dangling from the ceiling, a chair to allow her to get to that height conveniently nearby.
Millicent goes into a depression during the ensuing days, sometimes noticing signs that her sister, or perhaps her sister’s ghost, are still around the house. Sounds of tap dancing upstairs, clothes of Marion’s appearing in the closest, smoked cigarettes in ashtrays (Marion smoked but Millicent doesn’t).
William Jason (Dane Clark), a property developer who is a mutual acquaintance of Millicent’s friend Sam (Christopher Connelly) visits to try to persuade Millicent to sell him the house. It will benefit his business interests and hopefully, he suggests, it will help her to move beyond the constant reminders of her late sister.
Millicent refuses. Soon after, she hears the voice of Marion calling her to come to the studio upstairs and to put on the costume she used to wear while tap dancing: black top hat, tails, nylons and tap shoes and a red wig to match Marion’s hair color. It should be noted that Sandra Dee looks fine in this ensemble.
Once in the studio, Millicent finds a noose at the ready and hears Marion’s voice urging her to put her neck into it. The pull on Millicent is powerful, but the breaks the spell at the last moment before carrying out the act.
She is startled to find developer William Jason in the studio. He demands that Millicent hand over a series of letters that he wrote to Marion. Somehow, Millicent knows where these letters are, in a nearby chest in the attic. She produces the stack of letters—and also a revolver—just in the nick of time as Jason lunges for her throat.
Just after she announces, “no you don’t, Billy, not again. This time I’m ready for you!” she guns Jason down.
The police arrive later and explain that Marion was having an affair with the married Jason, who had written her incriminating love letters, the letters he demanded from Millicent. They also explain most of the presence of Marion’s ghost by discovering wires and speakers that allowed Jason to communicate with Millicent inside the house. He set the whole thing up after he murdered Marion, who refused to turn over the letters.
One thing still bothers Millicent. How did she know where to find the letters—Marion had never discussed them , or her relationship with Jason to her at all. The answer comes from the familiar tapping from above…
This is another decent, if near-miss, Night Gallery story. As she did in the previous season’s “Tell David,” Sandra Dee proves a better actress than one might have assumed. Perhaps too much falls on her shoulders; she is in every scene and the story itself is a fairly familiar one. As always, director Jeannot Szwarc does his best, and that helps.
Ozzie and Harriet Nelson are surprisingly well cast as a scientist with some out-there theories he struggles to prove and his forgetful wife in the Night Gallery story “You Can Come Up Now, Mrs. Millikan,” reviewed here.
Season 3 Episode 5—aired 11/12/72
“You Can Come Up Now, Mrs. Millikan” **1/2
Teleplay by Rod Serling • Story “The Secret of the Vault” by J. Wesley Rosenquest
Directed by John Badham
Ozzie Nelson as Henry Millikan
Harriet Nelson as Helena Millikan
Roger Davis as George Beaumont
Michael Lerner as Dr. Burgess
Don Keefer as Dr. Coolidge
Margaret Muse as Dr. Steinhem
Lew Brown as Detective Stacy
Stuart Nisbet as Detective Kimbrough
Henry Millikan (Ozzie Nelson) is an aging inventor/scientist with a string of failures in his career. Persistently cheerful and optimistic despite the setbacks, he’s invited a group of colleagues to witness his latest experiment, which blows up in his face. Literally. And also in the faces of his assembled guests. The most vocal and negative of them, Dr. Burgess (Michael Lerner, obese even in his early 30s), vows never to attend one of Millikan’s experiments again.
The start of the experiment was delayed a few minutes due to the late arrival due to forgetfulness of Henry’s wife, Helena (Ozzie’s real-life and tv wife Harriet Nelson). After the debacle of the explosion and his guests’ abrupt departure, Henry, undeterred, retires to his basement laboratory to work on something new. He asks Helena to tidy up and to come for him at 1:00 a.m. if he hasn’t yet come back upstairs.
Somehow this Helena cleans up the huge mess by herself, lies down on the sofa, forgets about checking on her husband at 1:00 and falls asleep.
Some days later, Henry invites is nephew George, who is physician, to visit and examine Helena, who is a ghastly shade of pale. She is dying and George cannot get her to respond to treatment, nor can he diagnose the cause of her illness.
Surprisingly, Henry seems unconcerned about this grave diagnosis and almost cheerfully asks his nephew how long he thinks she will live. “She’s been late with everything in her life. I suppose she’ll be late with her dying, too,” Henry adds.
George begins to grow suspicious and when Helena briefly comes to and he speaks with her, she informs him that she willingly took poison at Henry’s request. The reason: “Henry’s going to bring me back to life.”
Not long after, Helena dies. Henry invites George over to observe what he hopes will be his greatest professional triumph—that of reviving the dead. Henry injects Helena with the serum he’s been working on and waits…and waits…but Helena’s body remains lifeless.
Before he arrived, George phoned the police and asked them to meet him at his uncle’s house. Utterly dejected, Henry retires to his room to await their arrival and his arrest.
George remains downstairs, devastated at what has occurred. After he swallows down a glass of brandy, he hears a creaking noise from the basement. Then, footsteps from there as he becomes paralyzed with fear. Suddenly there is a hand on his shoulder. “George, where’s Henry,” asks the reanimated corpse of Helena, looking even more pallid than she did on her deathbed. Smiling, she adds, “as usual, I’m late.”
This is another near-miss, made interesting by the casting of the Nelsons, whose Eisenhower era bland optimism plays off well against the horror of the story, as well as some fine direction by Night Gallery veteran John Badham.
A young Lindsay Wagner at least has a cute English accent in the Night Gallery vignette, “Smile, Please,” reviewed here.
“Smile, Please” **
Written & Directed by Jack Laird
Cesare Danova as the Man
Lindsay Wagner as the Girl
Down a tight, crumbling stairwell in an old mansion, an older man and young camera-carrying woman descend to a waiting coffin. “Just think– I’ll be the first person in history to ever photograph a genuine vampire!” she gushes excitedly.
Her excitement is abruptly cut off at the sight of the coffin—open and empty. She wonders how she’ll get that photo with the vampire absent. “Oh, but he is here. And you shall have your photograph just as I promised,” the man says knowingly. He straightens himself, looks at the young woman and says “cheese,” revealing—you guessed it—vampire fangs.
If there’s one bright spot to this so-far disappointing third season, it’s that in its shorter, 30-minute format, Night Gallery rarely had to fill time with these blackout sketches. And this one is one of the better of a consistently bad lot, thanks basically to Lindsay Wagner being fetching.
Burl Ives, for many of us the cuddly animated snowman narrating “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” plays an old man with vengeance on his mind in the Night Gallery story “The Other Way Out,” reviewed here.
Season 3 Episode 6—aired 11/19/72
“The Other Way Out” *1/2
Teleplay by Gene R. Kearney • Story by Kurt van Elting
Directed by Gene R. Kearney
Ross Martin as Bradley Meredith
Burl Ives as Old Man Doubleday
Peggy Feury as Estelle Meredith
Jack Collins as Potter
Elizabeth Thompson as Miss Flannagan
Paul Micale as the Waiter
Adam Weed as Sonny
Wealthy middle-aged businessman Bradley Meredith (Ross Martin) returns to work in a great mood after a six-week vacation with his wife. His secretary presents him with some recent mail, one item of which is a note suggesting he look at a certain newspaper page which reports the murder of a young “go-go dancer.” Meredith’s happy countenance is immediately broken so we know he at least had some sort of relationship with this younger woman.
After a business meeting at a country club, he retrieves his sports jacket from the coat check and discovers a note has been placed inside a pocket telling him to look in his car’s glove compartment. The valet brings his car, he gets in and suddenly his wife appears, saying her car needs repairs and she asks if she can borrow his car. He dismisses her, saying he has to make a long drive to meet with a client, drives off and parks nearby so that he can see what’s inside the glove compartment.
It’s a note requesting blackmail money be delivered to a certain location. Meredith gets $10,000, packs it in a suitcase, brings a pistol and heads off.
As he nears the destination, his car crashes into a downed telephone pole and he has to continue the rest of the way on foot. His instructions suggest he is still several miles away and he has only a few minutes to get there.
He stumbles upon a house with a pack of fenced-in barking, snarling dogs, knocks at the door, receives no answer and notices the door is open. He walks inside, calls out, gets no response, finds a phone to try to call for help, finds it dead and is startled by the sudden appearance of an old man (Burl Ives). Meredith begs the man for the use of a vehicle but the man can’t do that until his grandson, “Sonny,” returns to give his permission.
Meredith gradually discovers that the old man is actually the grandfather of the dead go-go dancer (and Sonny is her brother) and that this is in fact the place he was supposed to go to. He doesn’t understand why he can’t just give the $10,000 and go on his way. The old man discovers Meredith’s gun, removes the clip, takes out one bullet and stuffs it in his pocket and tosses the clip out the window in the area where the dogs are.
Meredith becomes increasingly desperate to leave before he can find out what Sonny has in store for him and attempts to make a break for it. He is chased by the dogs, who engage him in some violence, some of them getting gunned down by Meredith. But Meredith doesn’t have enough bullets and decides to run back to the house.
Once there, the old man tells him there is “another way out” of the house and Meredith goes on a not very interesting or well-directed sequence of trying to find this way out of the house. Also, he kind of breaks down and Ross Martin gives an unfortunately bad performance here. There is some dialogue explaining what his involvement was in the girl’s death, but through Martin’s sobs, it’s unintelligible.
Finally, Meredith ends up in a pit with the ladder to the top broken. The old man says Sonny is finally here and we see that Sonny is a young boy around ten years old. Meredith shouts at the old man “you lied to me! There is no other way out!” The old man says he didn’t lie, there is another way out. And he tosses a bullet down to Meredith so he can either shoot himself or die of starvation as the old man and Sonny take their leave and shut the door to the cellar.
The only thing that makes this segment even tolerable is Burl Ives’ performance. He first seems like a kindly old rustic and we gradually see he is a sinister, sadistic man. The story has a lot of holes in it, is dull when it should be exciting from a direction standpoint and has a lead performance from Ross Martin that to me is way off the mark.
A wild haunted house chiller that suffers from a weak ending yet is a great ride up until then, the Night Gallery story “Fright Night” is reviewed here.
Season 3 Episode 7—aired 12/10/72
“Fright Night” ***1/2
Teleplay by Robert Malcolm Young • Story by Kurt van Elting
Directed by Jeff Corey
Stuart Whitman as Tom Ogilvy
Barbara Anderson as Leona Ogilvy
Ellen Corby as Miss Patience
Alan Napier as Cousin Zachariah Ogilvy
Larry Watson as the Longhaired Mover
Michael Laird as the First Goblin (Trick or Treater)
Glenna Sergent as the Second Goblin (Trick or Treater)
Author Tom Ogilvy (Stuart Whitman) and his wife Leona (Barbara Anderson) move from New York City into an old rural house previously owned by Tom’s cousin Zachariah. They are warned by the stern housekeeper, Miss Patience (Ellen Corby), who never stays at the house past dark, not to touch a certain trunk in the attic. Zachariah’s dying words were that no one move, much less open, the trunk lest they be prepared for terrible consequences.
Tom sets up his writing area in the attic, struggles with his writing, and one day observes the trunk move! He comes down to bed, apologizes to his wife for the lateness of the hour, but she is confused because she says he came to bed earlier. He’s sure he did no such thing, then notices the indentation of a person’s head on his pillow.
We then get a special-effects laden sequence around the trunk in the attic where it sounds as though a man and a woman (spirits? ghosts? demons?) are discussing how to possess the Ogilvys. The next morning, Tom discovers something in his typewriter that appears to be a sort of plan for how to carry out that possession. He knows he didn’t write it and accuses Leona of playing a trick on him, but she says she didn’t write it, either, so he chalks it up to neighborhood kids playing a prank.
The most chilling part of the paper says “a young woman shall, with a white liquid scalding hot, pressed to her lips, and then forced down her throat, be executed by the young man, her everlasting soul in forfeit.” Considering Stuart Whitman looks to be about 50 and Barbara Anderson not yet 30, perhaps Tom should not have considered himself the “young man” of the note. Just sayin’.
Gradually, the Ogilvys begin to change, growing more and more short-tempered and combative with each other (shades of the writer and his wife in similar isolation in The Shining). Leona decides that the trunk is causing this change in them and, despite the warnings of the housekeeper, arranges to have it removed. Then, after its removal, it reappears again in the attic!
One evening as Leona is heating milk on the stove for Tom, they get into another argument. Tempers and milk both begin to boil over and Tom grabs the pan of scalding milk on the stove and in a terrifying moment is about to pour it into Leona’s mouth when the doorbell rings, breaking the spell of their fury.
They answer the door and both laugh in a relieved release when it is two young trick-or-treaters. It’s Halloween—all hallow’s eve. They give the kids some treats and the tension is only momentarily broken when they suddenly receive another visitor—the decaying figure of cousin Zachariah.
The ghoul enters and ascends the staircase, causing a blood-curdling scream from Leona (nice scream, Barbara Anderson!)
We then cut to the next morning and the “what the heck” questions begin. There is a new trunk there with a note attached saying “It will be called for.” Then they split with a for-sale sign on in the lawn. No idea what this ending means, which spoils the fun that happened up until then, but not totally by any means.
Jeff Corey, in his ninth and final Night Gallery directorial assignment, shows the talent he had cultivated during the previous eight outings. In both some subtle pans and also in the special effects shots, he keeps this story rolling and engaging. This one is a real thrill ride, reminiscent of Season Two’s “A Question of Fear,” though with a much more disappointing ending. That blame would go to the script, or perhaps to time restraints which prevented a more coherent denouement.
Good acting, but a somewhat wobbly script, make this another mixed bag of a Night Gallery story. “Finnegan’s Flight” is reviewed here.
Season 3 Episode 8—aired 12/17/72
“Finnegan’s Flight” **1/2
Written by Rod Serling
Directed by Gene R. Kearney
Burgess Meredith as Charlie Finnegan
Cameron Mitchell as Pete Tuttle
Barry Sullivan as Dr. Simsich
Kenneth Tobey as the Warden
Dort Clark as the Third Prisoner
John Gilgreen as the Infirmary Guard
Roger E. Mosley as the Second Prisoner
Raymond Mayo as the First Prisoner
Michael Masters as the Tower Guard
Burgess Meredith brought Rod Serling’s characters vividly to life on several occasions, most notably in the Twilight Zone episodes “Time Enough at Last” and “The Obsolete Man” and in the first season Night Gallery story “The Little Black Bag.” Here, he’s saddled with a lesser script, but still handles Serling’s dialogue wonderfully, perhaps as well as any actor ever did.
He portrays Charlie Finnegan, an aging, longtime prisoner who longs for freedom, freedom symbolized to him while dreamily watching jet airplanes flying high above the prison yard. He marvels at the great advances in aircraft technology since his confinement with fellow prisoner Pete Tuttle (Cameron Mitchell, back for a second strong Night Gallery appearance in a completely different role following his turn as a ruthless, wealthy industrialist in the previous season’s “Green Fingers”).
Tuttle has abilities as a hypnotist and in Charlie he has found a subject who is extremely receptive to hypnotic suggestion. One afternoon in the yard, he convinces a hypnotized Charlie that his hands are indestructible and Charlie attempts to escape by punching his way through the thick brick wall of the yard, resulting in multiple fractures to the bones in his hands.
He is brought to the infirmary and examined by the prison psychiatrist, Dr. Simsich (Barry Sullivan), who has heard of Tuttle’s skill at hypnosis and asks the fellow prisoner to demonstrate on Charlie in the doctor’s office. Tuttle hypnotizes Charlie and at one point convinces him that a cup of drinking water is scalding hot. He tells Charlie to put his fingers into the cup and within a few seconds, he withdraws fingers from the heat his brain convinced him existed in that water.
Dr. Simsich arranges for more extensive hypnosis sessions to be conducted in the infirmary and Tuttle induces Charlie to believe he’s high up in the air flying a plane. For a time, it’s an exhilarating experience for Charlie, but soon things take a strange turn and he begins having difficulty breathing. The doctor recognizes these are the signs of the body running out of air. Suddenly, Charlie’s skin begins to blister and his hair begins to blow in a wind seen only by his mind.
Simsich and Tuttle understand that this hypnotic event has gone horribly wrong and Tuttle tries to “talk him down” to no avail. Charlie attempts to control his “plane” through a too-fast “descent” and without warning, there is a huge explosion in the infirmary. Charlie’s “plane” has crashed and its fiery remains along with those of its pilot are burning to a crisp in the infirmary bed.
As Tuttle returns solemnly to his cell, a prisoner in the cell next to him asks what happened—there have been rumors of a fiery explosion in the infirmary. Tuttle demurs, then wishes his late fellow prisoner a private goodbye. “Tell me, Charlie boy,” he wonders aloud, “how does it feel to be free?”
Despite the fine performances, something about the story keeps the viewer somewhat at arm’s length. We don’t get to know enough about Charlie to fully empathize with him, nor can we quite discern the various motives of Tuttle and Doctor Simsich. Another near-miss in the gallery.
Leonard Nimoy as a not-grieving-enough widower (at least in the eyes of his late wife’s friend) in the Night Gallery story “She’ll Be Company For You,” reviewed here.
Season 3 Episode 9—aired 12/24/72 (a little hard to believe NBC aired a new non-holiday themed episode on Christmas Eve, but this was apparently not that uncommon in 1972. Also, this was one of the series’ worst episodes, so perhaps the network wanted to show it when it was least likely to draw an audience)
“She’ll Be Company For You” *1/2
Teleplay by David Rayfiel • Story by Andrea Newman
Directed by Gerald Perry Finnerman
Leonard Nimoy as Henry Auden
Lorraine Gary as Barbara Morgan
Kathryn Hays as June
Bern Hoffman as the Reverend
At invalid Margaret Auden’s funeral, her husband Henry (Leonard Nimoy) can’t feel much of anything beyond relief. He wonders (in voice-over narration) why this is the only thing he feels. Likely, the years of attending to his wife’s needs have worn him down and changed their relationship from that of husband and wife to that of caregiver and patient.
After the funeral, Margaret’s friend, Barbara (Lorraine Gary, Chief Brody’s wife in Jaws) takes it upon herself to return with Henry to his house. She asks him some pointed questions about how he’s feeling and when his declarations of loneliness are unconvincing, she tells him she’ll send her pet cat over while she vacations out of town.
On Henry’s first night home, Barbara’s cat, Jennet, a common orange tabby, first sidles up to Henry’s leg, then after Henry informs her to not get used to it as she won’t be there long, he begins to feel as though his late wife is still there, mainly from the sounds he hears of the ringing of the tiny bell she used to use to summon him to tend to her.
Soon, Henry begins to see signs of a much larger, non-domesticated cat. A big paw print here, a guttural roar there, and finally a glimpse caught of what appears to be a leopard.
With these disturbances, Henry can’t sleep at home and starts to spend the night at his office. When he seeks the compassion of his secretary, June (Kathryn Hays), with whom he has had some sort of closer-than-boss-employee relationship, she rebuffs him, saying while his wife was alive, he only wanted to take from her, but now that he truly needs her, she’s no longer interested. In fact, she seems to enjoy seeing him in pain.
When he finally returns home, his mental state becomes completely unhinged as he sees both a leopard, then a tiger outside on the patio. He decides to take matters into his own hands and goes out there with a large knife, slashing through the plants, as if a hunter in the jungle stalking his prey. Finally, he passes out.
When he comes to, he is resolved to the inevitability of the large cat’s pursuit of him and grimly marches up the stairs to his bedroom, awaiting his fate and hoping it doesn’t hurt too much.
The next morning, Barbara has returned from her trip and shows up at Henry’s house looking for him. Seeing the first floor empty, she climbs the stairs and inside Henry’s bedroom she finds Jennet on the floor, licking at a patch of blood on the carpet as the camera pans up and we see Henry’s arm streaked with blood as he lies dead in his bed.
This episode is a real mess, very confusing and no way to reconcile what we’ve seen without concluding that it’s ridiculous. If Henry was hallucinating that Jennet the tabby was a wild cat, then why did he end up dead, apparently at the hands (paws) of a large feline? If it’s supposedly to have really happened, then how do we explain it? His wife’s friend happened to own a cat that could transform itself into a leopard and a tiger in the event of her friend’s husband not being a sufficiently contrite widower? Nimoy does what he can with the role, but the script and direction are confused at best, incompetent at worst. One of the series’ low points.
After a boxer wins the heavyweight championship, he finds himself transported to another reality where he must fight again in the Night Gallery story “The Ring with the Red Velvet Ropes,” reviewed here.
Season 3 Episode 10—aired 1/7/73
“The Ring with the Red Velvet Ropes” **
Teleplay by Robert Malcolm Young • Story “The Ring with the Velvet Ropes” by Edward D. Hoch
Directed by Jeannot Szwarc
Gary Lockwood as Jim Figg
Chuck Connors as Roderick Blanco
Joan van Ark as Sandra Blanco
Ralph Manza as Max
Charles Davis as Hayes
Ji-Tu Cumbuka as Big Dan Anger
James Bacon as the Second Reporter
Frankie Van as the Referee
“The Ring with the Red Velvet Ropes” begins strongly with a premise straight out of The Twilight Zone, setting us up for a moral payoff which never comes. Heavyweight boxer Jim Figg (Gary Lockwood, one of the two astronauts in 2001: A Space Odyssey) has just won the title. As his manager is shooing away the press from the dressing room, the man who Jim just defeated, previous champion “Big” Dan Anger, appears to him, his face beaten and swollen, and tells Jim that he’s no more the champion than he, Big Dan, was, suggesting something about the fight may not have been on the up-and-up.
Jim is disturbed by this cryptic comment and disturbed even more so when his manager returns and informs him that Big Dan was taken straight to the hospital after the bout for surgery, meaning he couldn’t have just spoken to Jim.
Jim’s manager tells the newly-crowned champ to hit the shower. When he emerges from the shower, he finds that he is no longer in the arena’s dressing room, but rather in what seems to be an opulent hotel suite. An attendant hands him a towel and seems to expect Jim’s presence. Jim questions the man but can get no answers as to where he is or what’s going on.
Jim suspects he’s been kidnapped when the attendant informs him that he is the guest of Mr. and Mrs. Roderick Blanco and he meets Sandra Blanco (Joan Van Ark, quite sexy), who is similarly evasive as to the reasons for Jim’s being there. She tells him he must fight her husband, a former champion.
Roderick (Chuck Conners, looking menacing, but at times given lines that make him seem ridiculous), takes Jim to a ring of fire where he explains that no one has ever defeated him. Jim just plays along.
Asleep before the bout, Sandra visits Jim in his bedroom, telling him to lose to Roderick, suggesting that it would be better for him that was. No one yet has defeated Roderick, but she thinks Jim has the ability to do so, yet she urges him to lose. He replies that he’s never thrown a match and he’s not about to start.
That match takes place in an eerie private scene where Sandra and the other house staff watch. The bout goes many rounds, and though one would imagine Lockwood and Connors had the physical ability to box for the screen, director Jeannot Szwarc gives us shot after shot of their bout in closeup, suggesting that stunt doubles did most of the fighting, diminishing the impact of this scene. As good as Szwarc was directing this series, here, he’s not at the top of his game.
The match finally ends with a knockout in favor of Jim Figgs. The referee announces. The champion is dead. Long live the champion.” The silent house staff rise from their seats to honor the new champion. Figgs looks down at Blanco’s beaten, swollen face, much like Big Dan’s from the previous bout, but here the similarities end. Blanco’s face and body wither and decay and he becomes a skeletal corpse on the boxing ring’s mat.
“Who was he,” Figg wonders in astonishment. The attendant answers, “he was the real champion,” having first won in 1861—over a century prior. He’d defended his title successfully ever since, until this bout. It now becomes clear that Jim will replace Blanco as the “host” who must attempt to defeat each successive champion.
This story is hugely disappointing given its start. It makes no attempt to explain the supernatural element in it. Namely: why is any of this happening? What is this attempting to say about Jim’s fight or boxing in general? I have no idea and apparently neither did Robert Malcolm Young, the scriptwriter, or director Jeannot Szwarc. Another third season dud.
Geraldine Page plays a lonely, alcoholic ex-wife in her third Night Gallery appearance, and she’s the reason to see this one, titled “Something in the Woodwork” and reviewed here.
Season 3 Episode 11—aired 1/14/73
“Something in the Woodwork” **1/2
Teleplay by Rod Serling • Story “Housebound” by R. Chetwynd-Hayes
Directed by Edward M. Abroms
Geraldine Page as Molly Wheatland
Leif Erickson as Charlie Wheatland
Paul Jenkins as Joe Wilson
Jonathan McMurtry as Jamie Dilman
Barbara Rhoades as Julie
Molly Wheatland (Geraldine Page), divorced from her husband Charlie (Leif Erickson), has recently moved into a bargain-priced house, the low asking price being due to its supposedly being haunted (yes, another Night Gallery haunted house story).
A handyman, Joe (Paul Jenkins) has just finished up some work and Molly, desperate for company, insists he stay for a cup of coffee and conversation. Joe is anxious to leave, sensing how clingy (and drunk) Molly is. She wants him to do one more thing before he leaves—open a door to the attic. Joe has heard the stories of how the house is haunted (a bank robber was shot to death by police there years ago), but reluctantly agrees to her request.
Molly then wanders the attic and comes upon a spirit. Sadly, the spirit is realized in a most low-budget and therefore non-frightening way. We vaguely see it in a mirror and for whatever reason director Edward M. Abroms has the actor speak in a dull monotone—not scary, merely disinterested.
To seek vengeance upon the man who left her alone, Molly invites her ex-husband over to surprise him for his birthday, but he can’t stay as he has a young woman waiting for him in the car. This infuriates Molly, whose jealously kicks into overdrive. She claims she didn’t really want him to stay, that she has friends of her own and doesn’t need his company.
Charlie, her ex, thinks she’s gone off the deep end (correctly) and says he will be back sometime soon to try to get her the help she obviously needs. Molly retreats to the attic and asks the spirit living in the woodwork there for help. The spirit’s response? A monotone “leave me alone.” Molly says that unless the spirit helps her, she’ll burn down the house and the spirit with it. The spirit doesn’t know what to do—not a truly malevolent spirit, really just a disinterested one. Molly helpfully suggests “frighten him to death.”
When Charlie next arrives, he flat-out tells her that she’s insane. She denies this and dares him to go up to the attic. Humoring her, Charlie agrees. We hear a cry and the sound of a body collapsing to the floor. Molly, satisfied, pours herself another martini, then she hears the sound of feet descending the stairs. When she looks up, she sees that it is Charlie, seeming to be in a sort of trance.
He speaks, but it is the monotone voice of the spirit who says, “Charlie is no longer with us, Mrs. Wheatland. He’s in the attic room, moving around, getting used to things. Why didn’t you leave me alone? There was peace in the woodwork.”
Then Charlie (the spirit) descends toward Molly who lets out a scream as we end in freeze frame.
Another fairly dreadful third season tale, enlivened only by another terrific performance from Geraldine Page. Three appearances, three completely different roles (well, this one is a bit like her role in “Stop Killing Me”); Geraldine Page was one terrific actress.
Leonard Nimoy, in his directorial debut, does what he can with yet another Night Gallery vampire story, this one “Death on a Barge,” starring Leslie Ann Warren and reviewed here.
Season 3 Episode 12—aired 3/3/73
“Death on a Barge” **1/2
Teleplay by Halsted Welles • Story “The Canal” by Everil Worrill
Directed by Leonard Nimoy
Lesley Ann Warren as Hyacinth
Robert Pratt as Ron
Lou Antonio as Jake
Brooke Bundy as Phyllis
Jim Boles as Hyacinth’s Father
Artie Spain as the Coastguardsman
Dorothy Konrad as Customer No. 33
De De Young as Customer No. 32
Night Gallery aired stories dealing with vampirism many times, often in “comic” blackout sketches. This is one of the full-length serious stabs at the genre and it has mixed results. The high point is the casting of Leslie Ann Warren as Hyacinth, a beautiful young woman who spends her nights on deck of the barge she shares with her father, which is tethered ashore in a small fishing village.
Often shot in gauzy compositions by first-time director Leonard Nimoy, Warren is meant to portray a dangerous, unattainable object of desire, and she certainly possesses the ability to communicate that. Barefoot, in a flowing white dress and with a face that could have launched a thousand barges, one can easily see why young fishmonger Ron (Robert Pratt) awakes at midnight after an early day’s work to come to the dock to try to get to know her better.
She keeps him at arm’s length, she on the barge, and he across a span of perhaps fifteen feet of water. She is at first coy as to the reasons why she won’t let him come aboard or why she won’t disembark her vessel, but one night, after Ron’s girlfriend Phyllis (Brooke Bundy) follows Ron on his nocturnal visit and climbs aboard the barge to find Hyacinth climbing into a crypt to sleep near dawn, the reason becomes clear.
Hyacinth attacks Phyllis and as Phyllis escapes the barge’s underneath into the dawn’s early light, Hyacinth reacts in agony as the sun’s rays fall upon her. Later, at the living quarters Ron shares with his co-worker Jake (Lou Antonio), Phyllis reads up on both the history of Hyacinth and her father and also the subject of vampirism.
News accounts describe that Hyacinth and her father lived in a nearby town where some unexplained murders occurred—murders which resulted in mutilation and exsanguination—the tell-tale signs of vampirism. Ron and Jake scoff at this, but Ron’s curiosity is piqued and also, he wouldn’t mind another excuse to visit Hyacinth, so he goes to her and confronts her with these suspicions.
She admits that she’s a vampire and that she wants Ron as much as he wants her. Only, if he gives himself to her, it will mean the death of him. As they are an inch from embracing, Ron pulls away—his survival instinct trumps is sexual drive—and he leaves.
Jake, however, has followed Ron, and he sees how immensely attractive Hyacinth is (what man wouldn’t) and he either doesn’t believe she’s a vampire or doesn’t care, and he ends up dead.
Later, Ron returns near dawn to destroy Hyacinth for the good of humanity, despite his overwhelming desire. He wants to take her out into the sunlight but Hyacinth surprises him by insisting he drive a stake through her heart instead. Her lover for him (hard as it may be to understand, given that as portrayed by Robert Pratt, he ain’t no great catch) has made her decide to end her killing ways, natural though they may be to her.
Ron has the stake positioned over her heart but can’t carry out the act and is about to finally submit to her deathly kiss when Hyacinth’s father suddenly comes upon the scene, and in a big surprise, rather than fighting Ron off, he finishes the act of driving the stake through his daughter’s heart himself. Hyacinth then dissolves into a skeleton as we fade to black.
Some good and some bad in this tale. In addition to Leslie Ann Warren, the good includes some clever compositions from Nimoy. The bad, in addition to Robert Pratt’s uninspiring performance, include an opening scene that is one of the worst attempts at “day for night” shooting I have ever seen. It does not look at all like nighttime, but the gauzy compositions do give it a certain quality that I thought signaled something otherworldly which was unintended.
Sally Field in a pre-Sybil multiple-personality role co-stars with Dean Stockwell in the Night Gallery story “Whisper” reviewed here.
Season 3 Episode 13—aired 5/13/73
Teleplay by David Rayfiel • Story by Martin Waddell
Directed by Jeannot Szwarc
Dean Stockwell as Charlie Evens
Sally Field as Irene Evens
Kent Smith as Dr. Kennaway
A high-point of the final season, “Whisper” reminds one of the good old days of the first two seasons with its serious, complex script and performances along with direction by Jeannot Szwarc that make it instantly recognizable as a “late” production with his very interesting decision to have on-screen narration that is at times spoken by Dean Stockwell’s character directly to the camera. A challenging episode, not completely successful, but this is what Night Gallery could and did do in its finest, most ambitious moments.
Field and Stockwell play young married couple Irene and Charlie Evans. Charlie, an architect by trade, has recently given up his profession and moved with his wife to rural Mississippi to, simply stated, try to make Irene herself again.
Irene channels the personalities of deceased people. She is not completely taken over by these voices and, in fact, Charlie accepts this in a way as part of her makeup. He finds it charming to a degree and is a most, perhaps, too, understanding of a husband.
Lately, however, the “occupants” inside Irene have become more insistent, more dominant. Irene always “comes back” from these experiences but of late, they have been harder to shake.
Some of this is explained by Charlie in voice-over narration which he delivers facing the camera. It is a highly unusual directorial gambit by Jeannot Szwarc, the kind of experimentation that was seen onscreen in its time (the mid-1970s).
Irene becomes frustrated by her inability to fully understand what the voice in her head, particularly a young mother named Rachel, are asking of her, and after one such attempt to get some clear answer regarding Rachel’s insistence at a cemetery that she track down some summer house, she agrees to leave with Charlie, to try to get away from the voices.
On the night before they are to leave, while enjoying a fine last dinner at home, Irene suddenly leaves the dinner table and goes outside. Charlie follows her into a nearby wooded area where he finds Irene who is speaking in a southern accent, referring to him as “Johnny.” She is now channeling Rachel.
She asks for Johnny’s assistance in pulling some stones away from a pile that seems to have been made by people in order to conceal something. After she is satisfied with his work, she opens her shawl to produce a perhaps two-foot bundle wrapped in cloth.
She says that is is their baby and that it deserves a proper burial this time. Charlie, getting more concerned at this scene, tries to open the cloth to see what is truly inside—perhaps a dead cat?—but Irene/Rachel forbids him.
She tells him to finish the job and, as she is tired, she retreats to a nearby bench to watch him finish. He places the bundle inside the rocky tomb, replaces the stones and returns to his wife, hoping that she will once again be Irene and no longer Rachel.
When he gets to the bench, he reaches out to her, but she falls back and we hear her voice say “Oh, Charlie, I can’t get back. I can’t get back!”
For me, this was some highly satisfying mid-70s cinema, truly ahead of its time, shot in late 1972. Jeannot Szwarc is to be highly complimented for what he did with this script. Sallie Field would go on to perfect this performance in the highly acclaimed tv movie Sybil a few years later. Although if I were Dean Stockwell’s character I would have been more concerned about my wife’s mental situation, but hey, I guess in the early/mid 70s things were different, at least in the realm of supernatural television.
Another Night Gallery voodoo tale, much better than “Lagoda’s Heads,” not nearly as good as “The Doll,” “The Doll of Death” lies squarely in the middle and is reviewed here.
Season 3 Episode 14—aired 5/20/73
“The Doll of Death” ***
Teleplay by Jack Guss • Story by Vivian Meik
Directed by John Badham
Susan Strasberg as Sheila Trent
Alejandro Rey as Raphael
Murray Matheson as Dr. Strang
Barry Atwater as Alec Brandon
Jean Durand as Andrew
Henry Brandon as Vereker
Late-middle-aged Brit Alec Brandon (Barry Atwater) is about to tie the knot with younger trophy wife Sheila Trent (Susan Strasberg) in a lavish ceremony at the plantation he owns in the British West Indies. As his well-to-do guests are milling about before the nuptials are about to begin, in rides upon a horse a swarthy, mustachioed young man with a sexy Spanish accent who literally sweeps his bride-to-be off her feet.
The man is Raphael (Alejandro Rey), a former lover of Sheila’s, and Brandon will not stand idly by after this extraordinarily humiliating episode. Via his West Indian valet, Andrew (Jean Durand), Brandon arranges to procure a doll from a local voodoo priest to exact his revenge upon Raphael.
Blissfully ignorant of her ex-fiancee’s plans, Sheila takes up with Raphael on his boat where they spend some romantic, and suggestively carnal, time on and below deck. Their bliss is violently interrupted when Raphael convulses in spasms of pain and then shows red marks on his back, in the distinctive shape of hands. Sheila strongly suspects that this is the work of her ex.
She enlists the aid of Brandon’s physician friend Dr. Strang (Murray Matheson). Sporting a fabulously floppy grey hairstyle, Strang pays a house (boat) call and examines Raphael. His examination comes up empty and as a friend of Brandon’s, he vouches for the elder gent’s character and refuses to believe he had anything to do with what has mysteriously stricken Sheila’s young lover.
Fearful for Raphael’s life, Sheila sneaks into the plantation’s servants’ quarters and seeks out Andrew, whom she finds near death as he has been poisoned by Brandon when the owner discovered Andrew’s attempts to thwart his boss’s voodoo efforts. Andrew gives her a ring of Brandon’s, which, if placed on the doll, will break the spell—and likely spell doom for Brandon.
As she descends the stairs, she is confronted by Brandon. He sees through her attempts at a cover story and offers her one final chance to embrace the doll (and embrace Raphael) before he finishes off his rival.
Brandon raises the doll and smashes its head down on a table, and he immediately suffers an agonizing pain, which is in fact a mortal blow, and he crumples onto the floor. Sheila had surreptitiously placed the ring on the doll and when we see him lie dead on the floor next to it, we see the ring on the doll’s finger.
I realize writing this that it sounds sillier than a three-star episode and perhaps for some it is, but I enjoyed it. Susan Strasberg is not an actress who normally would come to mind for a sensual role such as this, but I found her fairly captivating. The story is also well-directed by series pro John Badham in his final outing before going on to bigger and better things such as War Games in 1983.
An anthropologist brings a gorilla back from the African veldt to settle a mano-a-mano grudge going back perhaps millennia in the ridiculous Night Gallery story “Hatred Unto Death,” reviewed here.
Season 3 Episode 15—aired 5/27/73
“Hatred Unto Death” ½*
Teleplay by Halsted Welles • Story by Milton Geiger
Directed by Gerald Perry Finnerman
Steve Forrest as Grant Wilson
Dina Merrill as Ruth Wilson
Fernando Lamas as Dr. Ramirez
George Barrows as N’gi
Caro Kenyatta as the First Native
Ed Rue as the Second Native
David Tyrone as the Third Native
Rather than going out with a bang, Night Gallery went out with a colossal thud. The series had its uneven moments, but apart from the silly one- or two-minute blackout sketches, most of the fuller-length stories had at least some redeeming qualities to them. Not so with the major story in this, the final episode of Night Gallery, broadcast May 27, 1973.
“Hatred Unto Death” begins with married anthropologist couple Grant and Ruth Wilson driving through the African veldt. They come upon some natives who have trapped a gorilla in a dugout pit. As the two peer down at the gorilla, the gorilla takes note of them as well. It seems to like Ruth but appears to have a strong dislike for Grant. Grant, in turn, feels a big heap of dislike for the gorilla, sensing something more than just an angry ape caught in a trap.
Breaking with the conventions of his profession, Grant decides to capture the gorilla and bring it back to an American museum for “study.” Ruth strongly protests, arguing they should release the beast.
They return to the U.S. and go to the museum where the gorilla is being kept. Their colleague, Dr. Ramirez (Fernando Lamas) shares a theory with Grant whereby beings are reincarnated again and again, thus offering the possibility that the gorilla and Grant were adversaries long, long ago and that they can both sense that, and feel the need to confront that, in their current incarnations.
The men leave and Ruth stays behind with the caged gorilla, telling him a tale of two apes who fought for the love of a female. The gorilla gets upset, either by the story or his caged surroundings, or perhaps the wooden performance of Dina Merrill as Ruth.
Ruth unlocks the cage to comfort the beast and it escapes, going into a rage. She desperately phones Grant, who is working in his nearby office and he rushes over with a pistol.
A cat and mouse game between the old adversaries commences in a nearby storage area, allowing for hiding behind crates and taking cover while shooting the pistol. Grant hits the gorilla several times, slowing it, then finally seems to deliver a fatal gunshot with his final round.
Relieved, Grant turns back to Ruth, but the gorilla has one last burst of life in him and he picks Grant up and slams him down, impaling him on a set of animal horns, thus winning the battle this time around. I have no desire whatsoever to see the next round.
What can be said about this mess? Steve Forrest, who was so good in Season Two’s “The Waiting Room,” here can’t do much with a character who is forced to act in completely irrational ways. The script is a total embarrassment. Halsted Welles had done much, much better on Night Gallery before. Longtime cinematographer Gerald Finnerman was given the thankless task of directing and shows why he should have stuck to photographing the episodes. By far the worst of the fuller-length Night Gallery stories. And to cap the final episode off, another blackout sketch would follow to fill out the half-hour.
Night Gallery concluded its run with this “comic” blackout sketch, but don’t worry, there are a few “missing” segments left to cover. For now, “How to Cure the Common Vampire” is reviewed here.
“How to Cure the Common Vampire” *
Written & Directed by Jack Laird
Richard Deacon as the Man with the Mallet
Johnny Brown as the Man with the Stake
A two-minute quickie to end the series’ run, “How to Cure the Common Vampire” gives us a crew of vampire hunters as they approach a coffin deep in a rocky subterranean basement. Or dungeon. As they open the coffin’s lid, we hear the loud snores of its inhabitant. A large stake is solemnly passed to a man with a mallet. As the would-be executioner is about to do his deed, he turns to the other man and nervously asks, “Are you sure?” to which the other man replies, “Well, it couldn’t hurt.” Ha ha. End of series. But as I said, a few more tidbits to come…