Night Gallery – A Death in the Family (S2E2)

deathinthefamily07First off, out of the pilot + 8 episodes, this same house exterior is used in at least 3 episodes — not the same stock shot, but new filming at the same house.  Maybe four, but life is too short to go back and look for it. It’s too trivial a point to detract from the story; it’s just curious.  This time it is used as Soames Funeral Home.

A hearse pulls up in front of the funeral home and two men haul a casket inside.  E.G. Marshall (Creepshow) is doing an atrocious hand-job of playing the organ.  OK, it’s a TV episode, no one expects you to learn to play, but generally the notes change when the hands move.

deathinthefamily12He takes possession of a dead body from the county for $100.  The corpse is a pauper who will be put in the ground with a simple wooden marker.  No flowers, no mourners.  As the gravediggers lower the box into the hole, they comment how light it is. Hmmmmm, I wonder . . . .

On his way back to the funeral parlor, he is stopped by police to warn him of an escaped convict in the area.  Hmmmmm, I wonder . . . .

Sure enough, that night, a bleeding Desi Arnaz Jr. breaks into the funeral home (there must be synonym).  He has broken a window and climbed in despite hearing Marshall singing For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow, suggesting multiple people would be inside.

Arnaz peeks into the party room and sees that Marshall was singing to a corpse sitting straight up in a chair at the table.  Marshall is strangely accommodating, allowing Arnaz to lay on the couch and rest up.  Maybe he is confused and thinks he can get Arnaz to sing Babalu at the party.

Arnaz tells Marshall that he is facing jail for murder, and suddenly lapses into 1940’s film noir mode, “The only hand I ever got was the back of it, a kick in the pants, a taste of the sidewalk.”  Good stuff, but seems out of left field especially coming out of Arnaz’s baby face.  He finds it ironic that first warm, living person who cared in his life is in a funeral home.

Arnaz awakens to Marshall singing Jolly Good Fellow again.  He finds Marshall in the basement, in the middle of a party with his wife, mother, daughters, brother — all corpses propped up at the table, although looking very life-like.  He introduces the first corpse we saw as being his father.  This is the family he has constructed away from the competitive cruel world outside.

I think Arnaz can see the writing on the wall.  When the doorbell rings, he is ready to bail, even if it is police.  Marshall stops him on the stairs.  The police bust in when they hear gunshots.  They see blood on the floor, despite the fact Arnaz did not make it that far, and follow it to the basement — where Marshall has managed, within seconds, to drag the literal dead weight of Arnaz back to the celebration and prop him up in the role of his son.

The cops arrive at the party just in time to see Marshall join the guests by plopping down dead in his chair from a gunshot wound.  So Marshall did that dragging and propping up all after being shot?  Presumably Arnaz died of his previous wound, but the timing is pretty unlikely.  The policemen slowly back out of the room.

Arnaz is the weak point here, just not selling his character as a convicted murderer. That isn’t enough to ruin the episode, though.  Marshall’s performance, the scenes of the corpses sitting around the table, and the episode direction in general make this a good one.

Post-Post:

  • Twilight Zone Legacy: None.
  • I’m sure E.G. Marshall — from 12 Angry Men, The Caine Mutiny, The Defenders, and other classics — would have enjoyed having his legacy reduced to “the bug guy from Creepshow.”
  • Desi Arnaz Sr. was a very smart guy by all accounts, but he and wife Lucille Ball didn’t have much imagination, naming their kids Desi and Lucie.
  • The corpses sitting around the table are live actors — uncredited, so I wonder what they got paid.  Being so lifelike makes the scene even creepier. I’m not sure I noticed them barely moving, or was anticipating it because I had read that they were real people — either way, that just added to the creepiness.
  • Hulu sucks

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