OK, Rod. We gets it — Nazis is bad. In Twilight Zone, we got it in Death’s Head Revisited and He’s Alive. Six years later, we’re still getting it. Not to diminish the Holocaust, but we’re just trying to have some fun here. After episodes in the pilot about a haunted painting and a crabby old woman, this is what we get? Just a little too real.
Richard Kiley is a former Nazi living in South America. At a museum, an Auschwitz survivor is looking at a painting of a crucifixion. He had a friend who died that way in one of the camps. He believes he recognizes Kiley as a guard from the camp. Kiley denies it to the old man — ironic because he had only ducked into the museum to evade Israeli agents. While there, he becomes entranced by a idyllic painting of a man in a rowboat. As he gazes at the painting, he imagines himself in that serene place. He is so captivated that at closing time, a guard must ask him to leave.
The next morning, even before the museum is open, he rushes back to see the painting. Again he gazes longingly at the painting.
That night, through the thin walls of his apartment, he talks to neighbor Gretchen. He tells her of the painting and his imaging being the man in the boat. That must have gotten her attention.
She knows his true identity. He tells her he believes he could have willed himself into the picture. She tells him he has neither soul nor conscience. Worst hooker ever.
He returns to the museum and sees the old man again. This time the old man accuses him of being a guard in the camp, and calls him by his true name. Kiley continues his denials, but after the old man leaves, he tries again to insert himself into the painting. For a few moments he actually succeeds, seeing himself in the picture, the surface rippling. The he is in the picture, feeling the water, able to look the other way, out of the picture and into the museum. .
After the museum closes, he goes to a bar where they are singing the Frito Bandito song. He coolly maintains his cover by drunkenly breaking into Deutshland uber Alles. Again, he crosses paths with the old man. He kills the old man then goes on the run.
The agents find him at a bus station and he takes off. After an escape sequence which features a few ill-advised freeze-frames, he sneaks back into the museum.
He kneels before the painting and begs God to put him into picture. In the dark gallery, he does not see that the painting of the lake is gone, having been replaced by the painting of the crucifixion. He gets his wish. D’oh!
The pilot had three solid episodes. An effort was even made to have the stories involve the paintings in the gallery, although the relevance in the 2nd story was a little thin. Whether the pilot sold the series, or if it was a done deal, it was a high point that Night Gallery would not achieve very often in its run.
- Not to be confused with Escape Clause.
- Rod Serling was a paratrooper in WWII.
- Richard Kiley was the park narrator in Jurassic Park. They spared no expense.