Two segments shot for Night Gallery’s second season, but unaired, made their way into the syndication package. The first, “Die Now, Pay Later” is reviewed here.
“Die Now, Pay Later” *1/2
Teleplay by Jack Laird
Based on the short story “Year End Clearance” by Mary Linn Roby
Directed by Timothy Galfas
Will Geer as Walt Peckinpah
Slim Pickens as Sheriff Ned Harlow
Funeral director Walt Peckinpah (Will Geer) is holding a January clearance sale and not coincidentally the death rate in his town of Taunton, Massachusetts has skyrocketed over the month. Sheriff Ned Harlow (Slim Pickens), a southern translplant, is durned agitated over what he sees as a connection and drops by the funeral parlor to confront the director.
Peckinpah, a gentlemanly sort, breezily points out that all sorts of other businesspeople run similar sales. The sheriff, worked up into the type of lather that only Slim Pickens can offer, points out that many of these recent deaths were of people who were long wanted dead by other town residents.
And according to Mrs. Harlow, Peckinpah has relatives in Salem and is a descendent of a warlock who was burned at the stake many years ago. Peckinpah is bemused at the assertion, but Harlow is worried that if the sale doesn’t end, his wife will spread a rumor around town that the funeral director is somehow casting spells and causing these long-simmering feuds to spill over into murder.
The phone rings, and it’s Harlow’s wife, calling to scold the sheriff for stopping in to see Peckinpah. Stung by the tongue-lashing, he looks sheepishly at Peckinpah, who helpfully suggests that “it wouldn’t hurt all that much to let the sale go on one more day, would it? Might even help.” The sheriff grudgingly nods his assent.
A comic blackout sketch stretched to over ten minutes, this is pretty thin gruel, made more palatable by Geer and to a lesser degree Pickens, doing his typical schtick.
Another weak Night Gallery comic blackout sketch, shot for Season Two but unaird, “Room For One Less” is reviewed here.
“Room For One Less” *
Written and Directed by Jack Laird
Lee Jay Lambert as The Thing
James Metropole as The Elevator Operator
A crowded elevator stops to let in several more people into an already tightly-filled car, some of whom are turned away by the operator. We then see a large bulbous-headed creature, to whom the operator points out a sign saying “Occupancy by more than 10 passengers prohibited by law.”
The creature says in a sophisticated accent, “Quite,” and points a long-nailed finger at operator, shooting a laser and obliterating him.
Sigh. No comment necessary.
The final Night Gallery segment to review, this comic vignette actually manages to be somewhat amusing. “Witches’ Feast” is reviewed here.
“Witches’ Feast” **1/2
Written by Gene Kearney
Directed by Jerrold Freedman
Agnes Moorehead as Head Witch
Ruth Buzzi as Hungry Witch
Fran Ryan as Third Witch
Alision McKay as Fourth Witch
Originally airing at the end of the second season episode that featured “Class of ’99,” this comic vignette was replaced in its repeat airing, and on the second season DVD with “Satisfaction Guaranteed,” in my opinion, a slightly less-successful segment.
Three witches in heavy makeup, including Agnes Moorehead and Ruth Buzzi, cackle and howl their way around a bubbling cauldron as they toss in odd bits to be consumed in the final stew. Ruth Buzzi’s witch is famished to the point of hysteria as they await the arrival of a fourth with one final ingredient.
The final witch arrives and out of a brown paper bag, she produces—sandwiches from a deli. “Now who had ham on rye?” she asks.
What could have been the usual quickie clunker is stretched out to five minutes, giving Moorehead and Buzzi time to let us get to know their witches a bit, and we can’t help but smile as we share the fun they obviously had in filming this.
Well, my nine-month project of reviewing every Night Gallery story is complete and now I wish to thank a few people.
To my readers on WordPress as these reviews were appearing, I thank you. In particular, Elaine Tyson, Janice Juhl (my mother) and Kathy Juhl (my wife). Yes, it’s been a small circle of regular readers but it’s never too late for anyone else to dive right in now that the gallery is complete.
Speaking of my wife, I want to thank her and my daughters, Maddie and Sophie, for putting up with me and all the time I have spent watching the episodes and writing the reviews. Your support has meant a lot as I have worked on, and now completed, this project.
To Scott Skelton and Jim Benson, co-authors of the definitive tome on the subject of Night Gallery — Rod Serling’s Night Gallery An After-Hours Tour. Gentlemen, your book has been an invaluable source of reference and inspiration for me. These reviews only touch the surface of the complete story you told in that book and anyone who reads my reviews and wants more information should consult your book.
To all who actually worked on Night Gallery to make it a reality for us lucky viewers. Too many people to mention, so I will cut it down to these three essential people: Jeannot Szwarc, for directing countless outstanding episodes. As my viewing of the series went on and I recognized Mr. Szwarc’s name as it kept appearing, I would hope that he would be directing the next segment I would see because it usually meant something wonderful was going to happen.
To series producer, the late Jack Laird: from what I have read in Mr. Skelton and Benson’s book, you devoted all your energy to this show to see it to fruition and without you, it would not have existed. You have my most sincere thanks.
And finally, to the late, great Rod Serling. You are the reason I first became interested in watching Night Gallery. I loved the Twilight Zone and when I discovered this show you did after, I knew I had to watch it. Your hosting bits were iconic and you wrote so many beautiful scripts for this series. I’m sorry to learn that in your final days you seemed to disavow much of it. I hope that in your final rest you are able to accept and appreciate what a wonderful gift you gave to the world with Night Gallery.
It’s been some hard work but mostly a blast watching and writing this. And that, friends, is all.