Another so-called “one of the best” episodes of Night Gallery, which usually means it will be maudlin if not unwatchable. Additionally, this is a Christmas episode, so confidence is not high.
Dr. Levine (Tony Roberts) pays a house-call (a what?) to Abraham Goldman (Edward G. Robinson). The old man is on his deathbed. Levine warns that he will surely get pneumonia if he does not go to the hospital. Goldman refuses to go as it would cause his grandson to be sent to an orphanage.
That night, grandson Mikey fixes Goldman tomato soup for dinner. Goldman says he is waiting on the Messiah — “a messenger from God, looming big and black against the sky, striking down our enemies and raising us up to health and wealth and contentment.” He will even bring ice cream, toys and the Giants back to New York.
Yada, yada, he turns out to be the real Messiah, curing Goldman’s ills and even putting a few bucks in his pocket. It’s a Festivus miracle!
It’s all well done, it’s just been done so many times before.
- Twilight Zone Legacy: Joseph Ruskin was in The Man in the Bottle, and did voice work on To Serve Man.
- Where’s your messiah now, Mikey?
I usually skip the Christmas episodes of TV shows. They too frequently use the same old tropes of a miracle actually happening, or the most popular character really being the most lonely, or an outcast character getting all squishy only to be an asshole again next week, or just generally being a downer.
But only requiring a 20 minute investment after pruning out the odious Cryptkeeper intro and the closing credits, I decided to give it a shot. And it was really good. I guess the exception to my rule is: If you can get an axe in Santa’s hands, Ho, Ho, Ho!
The episode starts out as saccharine as usual with The Christmas Song (Chestnuts roasting on an open fire . . . ), but it turns dark pretty quickly. The step-father is established as an awful man certainly deserving to be murdered on Christmas Eve with about 2 lines of semi-cranky dialogue.
When daughter Carrie comes downstairs thinking Santa has arrived, Mom hustles her back up to her bedroom, and fatefully opens the girl’s window.
Now we enter the Weekend at Bernie’s portion of our program. Mom puts plastic wrapping over Dad’s head, cheerfully tied off with a festive red bow to keep the blood contained. She drags him outside into the snow as the radio warns of an escaped killer. Her plan to toss him down the well is foiled when he suddenly reaches out to strangle her; after having had no oxygen for a several minutes. Normally, I’d give this a pass, but if he had been breathing it would have been obvious from that balloon on his head. After this brief surge, he just kind of poops out.
As she stops to take a breath, she turns to see axe-wielding Santa. An icicle to the face and a swift kick to the Chestnuts enable her to run back into the house and called the police. Remembering hubby lying outside in the snow, she hangs up on them.
It takes another attack by Santa to make Mom realize that she can pin Dad’s murder on Santa. This is the kind of brainpower that lead her to think the well was a good place to dump a body.
In the meantime, Santa has crawled into Carrie’s open window. The little girl is thrilled to see him even though he is the most disgusting Santa since Dan Aykroyd in Trading Places.
Seeing her little girl holding axe-wielding Santa’s hand, Mom gives an extended series of screams that, if they weren’t dubbed in from some horror scream library, one should be established in their honor.
- Mary Ellen Trainor was in an incredible string of hits 1980 – 2000 when she was coincidentally married to director Robert Zemeckis. Post-divorce, not so much. However she got the gig, she was great in this episode.
- Marshall Bell, who got about 2 lines here, played Kuato in Total Recall. Or more accurately, his conjoined brother, and also the voice of Kuato.
- The Cryptkeeper pulls a Hitchcock and assures us that Carrie was not killed. No mention of her having to be institutionalized for life, though.