Night Gallery – Special Features

nightgallery03As Michael Corleone said, “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!

I really did the post-mortem on this series in an earlier post due to a mix-up.  Then I slogged through a few more episodes and thought I finally finished. Now I find there are actually 2 full segments in the Special Features.

Giving them all the respect they deserve:

Die Now, Pay Later – A 13 minute segment which never aired as it never fit into the jigsaw puzzle of irregularly-timed segments; to the series’ benefit.  Grandpa Walton (Will Geer) and Slim Pickens (Mr. Taggart) have a yak-fest interrupted only, but repeatedly, by close-ups of a black cat.

I know what they were going for at the end, but the random cruelty of it just doesn’t work. The only positive note is the completely sexist presentation of Picken’s wife on the phone — yapping away like a chipmunk or Charlie Brown’s teacher on coke.

Little Girl Lost — A 23 minute segment that was aired in an edited form in the episode with The Caterpillar.  I opted out of posting on it at the time out of deference to The Twilight Zone episode by the same name.  It’s a decent enough segment for this series, but it still bugs me that they appropriated the name of a classic TZ episode.

And some filler:

Witches Feast — A 5 minute sketch which could have benefited by trimming out 4 to 5 minutes.  Even if the ending had a shred of of merit, the annoying cackling of the witches kill the spirit.

Room for One Less — 55 seconds including Serling’s into.  And still not worth the time. It could have earned a smirk, but the design of the monster and the staging are terrible.

Thus endeth The Night Gallery.

Night Gallery – Hatred Unto Death (05/27/73)

hatredunto01Primatologists Grant and Ruth Wilson are driving through stock footage of Africa.

They are stopped by 3 natives in the road.  Grant understands enough of their language to follow them to a pit where a gorilla has fallen.  Looking up at them, the gorilla is pas-sive toward Ruth, but when he looks at Grant, he is full of hate.  Grant, not a wordsmith despite writing a book, says, “Look at that hate — it’s almost as if he knew me.”  That could be taken 2 ways, Shakespeare.

Ghatredunto04rant has the natives throw a net over the gorilla so he can take him back to America to go to a zoo. Ruth tries to convince Grant to let him go free; or at least take him to the movies instead.

Over a picture of the gorilla, we see a transparent overlay of his journey from the natural wilds of Africa to the smokestacks and freeways of evil America.  The Wilsons temporarily house him at the Museum of Natural History run by their associate Fernando Lamas (best known for not being Ricardo Montalban).

When they take Lamas to see the gorilla, it once again is subdued toward Ruth, but very belligerent toward Grant.  Grant mocks Ruth for holding the gorilla’s hand while they flew to America to keep him from going into shock.  He jokes to Ramirez that he thinks she prefers gorillas to men.  She says, not joking, “Gorillas don’t drop napalm on children.”

hatredunto10She continues, “This earth doesn’t really need man.  He’s only ruining it. The gorillas and the elephants and the porpoises would manage and work things out very well by themselves [1].  Without men, this would be a fabulous place!” Colleges all over the country would be fighting to hire this woman for every primatology, history, womyn’s studies and diversity department today.

She opts to stay the night keeping the gorilla company rather than go home with her husband.  Grant confides to Lamas that he should have left the gorilla in Africa.  But when he looked into its eyes and saw the hatred, he knew the gorilla recognized him; perhaps as Hondo Harrelson on SWAT. He wants Lamas to break the gorilla’s spirit, turn him into a vegetable.

hatredunto22Meanwhile Ruth is telling the gorilla stories about how ancestors of Grant and the gorilla fought many years ago.  Strangely, they fought over a female.  A female what is not mentioned.  Being different species, that would be interesting.  Where she is getting this scholarship is anyone’s guess, but anyone at a college knows such questions will get you fired.  The ancient man, being an ancient man had the brains to trap the gorilla in a pit, take his female, and stone him to death. Now the man smokes a pipe, wears a leather coat and bangs a hot blonde; while the gorilla’s descendant is still getting trapped in pits.

Ruth’s interpretation to the gorilla is that “down through the eons [man] has grown pale, and weak and hairless.  Still he’s your master!  What’s happened to your power?”  She is heartbroken that man has evolved to a superior state.  I swear, if the gorillas had anti-aircraft guns, she would have been yukking it up with them.  This agitates the gorilla so he grabs her earrings from her hand.  When she enters the cage to retrieve them, he makes a jailbreak, knocking her to the ground.  She manages to call the pale, weak Grant to come save her.

Luckily the weak man has invented the gun and flashlight.  And I’m sure Ruth would have called for the napalm now that the gorilla had begun attacking her.  After some cat and mouse through the museum, the gorilla — shot twice — tricks Grant by playing dead, then picks him up and impales him on a statue before dying.

The episode ends with a pan from Grant’s dead hand, to the dead gorilla to Grant’s pistol, to a bust of a caveman; which I’m sure conveys some meaning that is so stupid you have to go to grad school to get it.

Post-Post:

  • Twilight Zone Legacy:  Richard Deacon and Steve Forrest did time in the Zone.
  • [1] Apparently the cobras, lions, sharks and scorpions would not get seats at the table.
  • Skipped Segment;  How to Cure the Common Vampire.  A very short sketch which makes no logical sense as a joke or horror.

Night Gallery – Doll of Death (05/20/73)

ngdollofdeath02While Brandon is in his West Indies living room harrumphing with his cronies, his young hot wife Sheila is trying on the wedding gown that he has insisted she wear.  She tells the butler, “If Mr. Brandon wants me to be in white, I could have dazzled them with my naked body and a garland of pale roses,” thus producing the best line of Night Gallery dialogue in 3 years.

The gathering is humming along very Britishly until it is crashed by Sheila’s ex-boyfriend Raphael.  As she is descending the stairs, they lock eyes and she stops.  Raphael insists that Sheila belongs to him and it takes her only seconds to agree.

She tells her husband that somehow she belongs to Raphael and has since her first breath.  Although seconds before, it seemed to have started the night he banged her. Nonsensically, she runs off with Raphael leaving Brandon humiliated at his wedding party.

The only black man (besides the butler) shows up, which by Night Gallery rules, means he must be a voodoo master.  Brandon pays him off for a voodoo doll of Raphael.

The next day while Raphael and Sheila are frolicking on his boat, Raphael experiences an ngdollofdeath07attack that is not quite identifiable.  What is identifiable are the giant hand prints which have left red marks the size of his back.  Rather than use the traditional needles on his voodoo doll, Brandon is throttling it in his hands, attempting to squeeze the doll and Raphael to death.  Lucky this is pre-CSI or he would have left some nice 10-inch fingerprints as evidence.

That night, Sheila calls Brandon to see if his doctor will come.  The doctor says, Raphael’s had some kind of attack.  She’s hysterical, she claims he’s been murdered — and contends Brandon is the culprit.

ngdollofdeath06The doctor goes to Raphael’s boat, but he is still alive.  She tries to convince the doctor that Brandon is at fault.  The night before their wedding, Brandon took her to see a voodoo priest.

Sheila runs to Brandon’s house. She searches for the voodoo doll, but is caught by Brandon.  She claims to have seen the error of her ways, but Brandon sees through that.  He shows her the doll which has a few strands of Raphael’s hair, a few nail clippings, a swatch of his clothing, and a teeeeeny little mustache in order to make the psychic connection.

ngdollofdeath09She takes the doll and begs him not to do anything further, but he grabs the doll and slams it on the edge of the table.  Ah, but the nimble little minx has added Brandon’s ring to the doll, so he falls over dead with a broken neck.  Raphael and Sheila are reunited.

Strangely enough, even though the doll still had Raphael’s hair, mails clothes and mustache, the ring seems to trump all that, so Raphael is unharmed.

 

 ngdollofdeath10 Post-Post:

  • Twilight Zone Legacy:  Barry Atwater was in the classic The Monsters are Due on Maple Street.  Murray Matheson was in the classic Five Characters in Search of an Exit and the mediocre TZ Movie.

Night Gallery – Death on a Barge (03/04/73)

ngdeathonabarge01Local boy Ron sneaks down to the docks as he frequently does. He is checking out a beautiful girl named Hyacinth lounging in the moonlight on a boat — OK, let’s call it a barge — that consistently floats about 10 feet from the pier, with no way to board her (or the barge, heyoooo!).

She says it will be dawn soon, and she says she will have to go.  He asks to come over to the barge, but she says, “never”.

The next morning as he is working at the fish market (which could be one reason for not inviting him over), his perfectly lovely girlfriend Phyllis drops by and he says he can’t make it for their date that night.  The fish market owner confides in her that Ron has been going to bed at seven, waking up at midnight, and coming to work at dawn.

ngdeathonabarge02That night, once again, Rob begs to come aboard the barge or for Hyacinth to come ashore; but she refuses.

He suggests he could come over in the daytime, but she refuses.

He suggests that he could come aboard and meet her father, make it a proper courtship, but she refuses — she sleeps in the day and her father sleeps at night.

This guy can’t take a hint.

At dawn, she goes in the boat’s cabin and her father — sporting a genuine peg-leg comes out on the deck.  There is no mention on the actor’s IMDb page, but that peg leg sure looked real to me.  From behind some crates, Phyllis watches as he lays a plank to bridge the gulf between the barge and the pier.

After the old man goes ashore, Phyllis sneaks aboard and sees Hyacinth about to go to sleep — in her coffin.  Hyacinth puts the vampire moves on her which would have been pretty sweet, but Phyllis barely escapes when Hyacinth can’t follow her outside into the sunlight.

ngdeathonabarge04The next night Ron goes to see her and asks why she hasn’t mastered plank technology like her father.  She says the real problem she can’t cross over flowing water, although stagnant water seems to be a problem too.  However, the lagoon is being drained to flood a new marina, so pretty soon she’ll be doing a Pettit across that plank, she promises.

When the lagoon dries up, Hyacinth is able to come ashore and they meet.  Ron insists he loves her despite her obviously being a vampire.  Hyacinth insists she loves him so much she can’t let him go.  Seconds after he leaves, his boss puts the moves on Hyacinth.  Not so much in love with the boss, she has no hesitation in ripping his throat out (sadly off camera).  Ron rushes home and Phyllis has a nice candle light dinner set up for them.

This is a woman who knows her boyfriend is not having a physical relationship with another woman (not positive on that), but is at least sure that he is head over heels in love with her and he would toss Phyllis into the dry lagoon the first second he could get to Hyacinth.  Yet, she is still faithfully committed to their relationship and doesn’t even give him any shit about it.  So ya gotta love her.  If you’re a man.

ngdeathonabarge05Ron gets a call to identify the body of his boss (who would have made a much better lead actor, BTW) and goes back to the boat — which is what?  Just sitting in the dry lagoon now?  The old man didn’t think it might not be a wise investment to move his boat to higher — er, water.

Hyacinth admits killing Ron’s boss, but assures Ron he will return as the undead. And, really, in a fish market, who’s going to pick up the scent?  Still, Ron wants to kill her.  She helpfully points out where her father keeps the oak stake.  She asks Ron to cry out that he loves her as he plunges it into her. Wait, am I still on the right DVD?

Ron just can’t do it, and falls into her arms.  Hyacinth is just about to go all vampire on his neck when her father enters, picks up the stake and drives it through her heart.

Of course, had he done that years earlier, untold numbers of people would still be alive, and I could have gone to bed at a decent hour.

ngdeathonabarge06Ron is a pretty sappy leading man, but Leslie-Anne Warren was so sensual and looked so other-worldly in her simple billowing clothes that she made up for it.  Phyllis’s performance was fine, but her character is just a doormat — she knew Ron was seeing this other woman and didn’t seem to make much of a fuss about it.

The biggest problem is the cinematography.  I assume that is what accounts for the hazy scenes of Ron and Hyacinth at night, and that it was not a terrible artistic choice.  Other sources say there was a lot of filming day-for-night for budgetary reasons, so maybe this is a side effect (another union triumph — it would be filmed crisply in Vancouver today.  Nice work, guys).  Several other scenes are colorful and sharp, so I can’t blame the crummy transfer in this case.

Overall, I liked the concept, but it was sunk like the barge by the awful look of the night scenes and a lackluster leading man.

Post-Post:

  • Twilight Zone Legacy:  Jim Boles was in The Arrival and Jess-Belle.
  • If she can’t cross flowing water, why does her father go through the routine with the plank?
  • Leonard Nimoy’s directorial debut.
  • Leslie-Anne Down vs Leslie Anne Warren.  Always confused me as a kid.

Night Gallery – Something in the Woodwork (01/14/73)

ngwoodwork01Metaphors for Night Gallery abound in the opening of this episode.  There is the old house full of cobwebs and the promise of a ghost. There is the desperate 1st wife trying too hard, but unable to match the new girl that never gets old in a man’s mind.  And down the stairs comes a young handyman who she pathetically begs to stay to keep her company.

Night Gallery had a lot of political turmoil backstage, but maybe it just was doomed from the start.  Serling’s style of writing was on the way out.  Even in its contemporaries — you never see the maudlin, long-winded, preachy monologues in the other old shows covered here — Alfred Hitchcock or Thriller.

It could be argued that Serling was creating deeper characters, but was he?  Even the hour-long Thriller seems to be less padded out than a lot of Serling’s work in Twilight Zone (don’t even start on the hour-long season) and Night Gallery.  Mostly, it felt like he was just looking for a platform for his liberal (in the good way, before liberals went insane) speeches.  There’s a reason Strange Interlude never started a trend.

Even Serling himself went through a transformation which, though in step with the times, did him a disservice.  He started out a very straight-laced Don Draper type hosting Twilight Zone in 1959 — perfect dark suit, perfect short hair, perfect thin black tie. Probably wore a perfect hat.  He was the the very model of the modern major company man around whom things went askew — just as in many on his TZ episodes.  That itself lent an other-worldliness to TZ (and is why it was a mistake to ever have Boris Karloff host such shows).

By the time Night Gallery started, the 1960’s were in full swing or in full bore — ironically both cliches have appropriate double-meanings.  Serling was still hosting, but it was a different Serling.  Unlike Don Draper, he changed with the times (but did not buy the world a Coke).   He seemed a little too tan, a little oily — his dictating scripts by his pool has been described often.  And the hair — my God — the hair.  It was longer, wilder, often did not reflect a minute sitting in the make-up chair or having at least a comb run through it.  He was not our rock standing statue-still as he usually was to introduce the Twilight Zone.  He was more like a sunburned hobo with a five o’clock shadow wandering through this cheap set of mostly awful paintings (although why, for the love of God, didn’t they ever use that cool dragon sculpture?).  The societal  deterioration of the 1960s permeated Night Gallery.

It was also the curse of color television.  I have wondered whether watching some of these episodes in black & white might make them a different show — like the black & white DVD that was included in The Mist Special Edition.  Or the way color film of WWII seems to cheapen the events.  Maybe that’s true for some episodes, but I’m not going back and rewatching them in B&W (nice investment on those DVDs, pal).

And maybe, like the first wife in tonight’s episode, it would just never be able to compete with it’s younger “self” — the earlier “golden” age of TV, the newness, the younger age and energy of Serling, and the innocence of the country.  Even the iconic, tight-lipped, vaguely intimidating on-screen appearance of Serling was no longer a novelty.

By the time Night Gallery arrived, it was tarted up with color, infused with excruciating throw-away sketches, and creative control was taken away from “the man” to be be mostly controlled by lesser talents.  It was just a desperate attempt to be one of the young, hip crowd; but about as appealing as a potbelly and a comb-over.

But I digress.

ngwoodwork04Molly Wheatland invites her ex-husband over on the pretense of signing some papers. In reality, she has planned a romantic evening. Sadly, her ex-husband Charlie has a younger woman waiting in the car. Happily for him, it Barbara Rhoades who played the hot young busty redhead in every show of the 70s & 80s.  Yada yada . . .

Maybe it is just the sadness of the episode that finally brings this series crashing down for me.  Geraldine Page is great in this and certainly not unattractive.  Ironically, maybe this episode launched my rant because the sadness in it is a little too real.

Post-Post:

  • Twilight Zone Legacy:  Fittingly, none.
  • Ironically, Charlie is 13 years older than Molly, so maybe this isn’t his first trip to this particular rodeo.
  • Out of 49 episodes, this one ranked 14th from the bottom.  A better ranking than I expected, but that IMDb rating system has always been a little suspect.
  • I wish I had enough interest to mention that the black & white cookie guy in her eye above looks just like the guy in Star Trek.  Am I going to take the time to look up his name?  I am not.