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"Good evening. Let me welcome you to this parlor of paintings. We offer them to you for your enjoyment and edification - feel free to dwell on them at your leisure and in your own good fashion. But kindly don't touch, because here they frequently touch back..." The third and final season of the cultish horror fantasy series Night Gallery - first broadcast in 1972/1973. There were big changes for this final year and sadly they were not for the better. Night Gallery was conceived as an anthology where you got three or four stories of varying lengths spread across fifty minutes but NBC were increasingly unhappy with the show's ratings by this stage and forced the producers to abandon the compendium structure by cutting each episode down to half an hour. They then moved it from its prime time slot to Sunday night, only commissioned fifteen new episodes and slashed the budget in half. As if that wasn't enough damage they then removed the fantastic psychedelic nightmare title sequence (with spooky electronic music by Gil Mellé) for something far more generic and suggested that Rod Serling's thoughtful original scripts and Jack Laird's genre adaptations should make way as much as possible for some simpler horror/action/suspense fare. Night Gallery was always a schizophrenic show with creator Serling, head producer Laird and the meddling network all constantly fighting each other from a distance for their own vision but now the point of schism was ridiculous. It's little wonder there are episodes here that seem to have no idea what they want to be. Serling was furious and as NBC always billed it as "Rod Serling's Night Gallery" he even asked them to remove his name from promotional material. "My interest in Night Gallery is roughly the same kind I'd have in the good fortunes of a groundhog who lived forty miles from me," said Serling in 1972. "I wanted a series with distinction, with episodes that said something. I have no interest in a series which is purely and uniquely suspenseful."
Night Gallery was doomed and clearly a sinking ship so understandably perhaps this is the weakest of the three seasons. The scripts fluctuate wildly in quality, the production values are less impressive, and the pacing is noticeably strange at times (a natural consequence of screenplays having to be either ruthlessly edited or desperately padded out to meet the new twenty-five minute running time). It is unavoidably less fun and novel to just get one story in each episode now instead of three or four and if that story is rather dull you are stuck with it for the duration. There isn't another one just around the corner anymore that might be better. However, while there are no real classics in season three along the lines of Silent Snow, Secret Snow or The Caterpillar and the series feels diminished after the first two years (where by sheer volume there were plenty of memorable segments) I enjoyed around half of the episodes here and you do get a couple of good Serling screenplays and the usual number of familiar faces. Mickey Rooney, Sally Field, Leonard Nimoy, Vincent Price, Raymond Massey, Burgess Meredith, Bill Bixby, Dean Stockwell, Gary Lockwood, Joanna Pettet. Thankfully also, despite all of the offscreen wrangles and bitterness, Serling and his unmistakable voice remained to introduce each story to camera, still the curator of the spooky art gallery hung with kitsch macabre paintings by Tom Wright. Night Gallery just wouldn't have been the same without him.
The first episode - Return Of The Sorcerer - was written by Halstead Welles and directed by Jeannot Szwarc. Noel Evans (Bill Bixby) is an expert translator who responds to an advert looking for an Arabic interpreter. The interview takes him to the spooky mansion of John Carnby (Vincent Price) and his assistant Fern (Tisha Sterling). Carnby studies demonism and sorcery and makes use of Necronomicon but he has become obsessed by a much older Arabic book that contains important passages never translated into Latin. Carnby is desperate to know what a particular passage says and was deeply frustrated when two previous translators were so terrified by the passage they immediately quit and left the mansion with no explanation. When Evans deciphers the passage he realises why the others fled and this is only the beginning of what will become a night he'll never forget. The Return of the Sorcerer is not really classic Night Gallery but it still makes for a mildly enjoyable and camp opening to series three and is a decent return for the Szwarc/Price partnership that produced the brilliant season two segment Class of '99. The Return of the Sorcerer is rather stupid but gets by with suggestion and a Lovecraftian what's behind the door quality before all becoming rather silly in the end. The set design is certainly inventive though with decorations inspired by eldritch themes, Blake and Crowley, pentagrams, tarot cards, creaky staircases, statuary, candles, and a goat at the dinner table (goats are supposed to be Satan's familiars or something). All knowingly hokey and over the top and good fun.
The incantations during the black mass seem very bonkers and you get the impression that everyone enjoyed creating the occult bric-a-bric that gives the segment its extravagant theatrical atmosphere. The best thing about Return Of The Sorcerer though is the cast and without Vincent Price this could so easily have been a dull twenty-five minutes of television. The feverish and flamboyant Carnby and the ordinary, low-key Evans make for nice contrasting personalities and play to the strengths of the two respective actors. The first scene between Price and Bixby (where Carnby tries to learn more about Evans through use of numerology) is played in very droll fashion and draws the viewer into the episode in a clever way. Tisha Sterling is fine too as Carnby's bright-eyed waif assistant. Some striking shots of her in the story are rather artistic although the hippie-slang she is sometimes given to speak is horrendously dated and silly. Return Of The Sorcerer is ultimately a bit too daft for its own good and not one of my favourite Night Gallery segments but if you can't at least enjoy the mere presence of Vincent Price in a camp seventies horror story with Bruce Banner then there is no hope for you at all. Without Price and Bixby though The Return of the Sorcerer would probably have been pushing its luck as a stand-alone twenty-five minute story.
The Girl With the Hungry Eyes was written by Malcom Young (from a short story by Fritz Leiber) and directed by John Badham. Photographer David Faulkner (James Farentino) has a beautiful new model (played by Joanna Pettet) to work with but he knows absolutely nothing about her. She has no name and seemed to appear out of nowhere. Who is she and where does she live? No one knows. The model is soon plastered on billboards and much in demand but there is something strange about her eyes, like a glowing hunger, that Faulkner finds compelling but also vaguely frightening. The photographer agrees to respect her privacy and not try to learn too much about her but he is soon overwhelmed with curiosity and obsessed with gathering more information. One night, as he glances out of his studio window and watches her walking home, he notices that she stops to speak to a friend of his named Harry (Kip Niven). The next morning, Faulkner is shocked to hear that Harry has been found dead in the nearby park. The case is part of the "maybe murders" as the press have tagged them - so called because the police don't know if they are dealing with natural heart attacks or a serial killer. Could the mysterious model be involved? I could never really get into The Girl With the Hungry Eyes despite my best efforts and although there is some good stuff here it always felt curiously flat and predictable to me. It also has that Night Gallery trick of filming night scenes during the day and then altering them with a filter to effect night time. It gives the episode a sterile washed-out feel and makes it look cheap.
Sometimes this technique worked and sometimes it didn't. Many Night Gallery episodes were shot on a shoestring but they usually looked much more expensive through pure invention and clever set design. There are a number of weaknesses here beyond the fact that it's all so predictable. The most salient one is that John Astin as Munsch (a smarmy advertising executive friend of Faulkner who becomes obsessed with the model too) is absent for a key scene where it seemed fairly obvious that his character should have been there. The reason for his absence? Astin had departed the set for another job and the producers of The Girl With the Hungry Eyes didn't have any money left in their strict budget to hire him again for the one day they required. This robs us of what should be a satisfying and important moment in the plot. I know Astin was Gomez in The Addams Family but he can't have been that expensive. James Farentino is pretty dull and run of the mill in the lead but this episode is really another showcase for Night Gallery's unofficial pin-up girl Joanna Pettet. Pettet is British but could do a faultless American accent and was very hip at the time with her Carnaby Street fashions and ethereal quality. The producers of Night Gallery were so besotted with Pettet she ended up appearing in several segments, her stock in trade the elusive, illusory, mysterious woman who elicits both desire and suspicion. Hollywood photographer Harry Langdon Jr was hired to shoot huge life size pictures of Pettet for Faulkner's studio and billboard adverts in the story and the Pettet imagery is easily the most memorable thing about what is not a vintage segment at all. There are some nice optical effects near the end but The Girl With the Hungry Eyes is ultimately an underwhelming entry in this truncated third and final season.
Rare Objects was written by Rod Serling and directed by Jeannot Szwarc. This is a big improvement on the first two segments and arguably the most enjoyable thing in this third series. Mobster Augie Kolodney (Mickey Rooney) is eating alone in an Italian restaurant and barely survives another attempt on his life. Tony Soprano's life is a picnic compared to Augie. It appears that Augie's band of loyal associates is dwindling fast and he can't trust anyone now. He'll be lucky to survive another week. Augie finds a doctor (played by Regis Cordic) to remove the bullet from his shoulder but the doctor warns him that with his blood pressure and line of work he is a doomed man. He tells Augie he should retire and take it easy but the mobster wearily explains that he would never be safe even if he did retire. Wherever he went he would always be a marked man for the rest of his life. Someone would find him. The doctor offers him a mysterious solution to his problem. He gives him a contact address and says that he knows a man who will guarantee his survival. The address on the piece of paper turns out to be the remote chateau of Dr Glendon (Raymond Massey). Glendon's house is the repository of an incredible collection of rare art and pottery worth millions. He pours Augie some vintage wine and offers him life long security and safety. A long and happy life devoid of fear or tension. In return he asks for everything Augie owns. His money, securities, businesses. Will the mobster accept the terms and how exactly does Glendon propose to guarantee his safety?
Rare Objects is a lot of fun, primarily because this is exactly the sort of thing that Serling used to do on The Twilight Zone. It's a nice mystery with a great twist at the end. The segment reels you in right from the start with a fantastic opening scene. We get a close-up of Mickey Rooney as Augie silently stuffing huge forkfuls of pasta into his mouth. The camera slowly pans back and we see that he's in a deserted Italian restaurant and eating alone. This is Augie's life in capsule. He is so paranoid now he can't even eat in public. Mickey Rooney is maybe not the most believable Mafia boss in television history but it doesn't really matter. Rooney is not someone who ever just turns up for the cheque and goes through the motions and his talent and energy is always a boost to the segment. Massey is well cast too as the shadowy Dr Glendon and one of the best extended scenes occurs when he meets Augie and they begin to barter over the service being offered. Augie is used to negotiations like this and tries to take the front foot but he gradually begins to realise that the eloquent and enigmatic Glendon is a different kettle of fish altogether from his usual business associates and so starts to become curious about what the man's true motives might be for his apparently extraordinary service. The reveal at the end is very Twilight Zone and this story benefits too from some impressive cinematography by Gerald Finnnerman and the bizarre score by Eddie Sauter. I would say that out of all of the stories here I probably had the most fun with Rare Objects.
Spectre In Tap Shoes was written by Gene Kearney and directed by Jeannot Szwarc. Millicent Hardy (Sandra Dee) returns to the house she shares with her twin sister Marion and is horrified to find Marion dead in the attic dance studio having apparently hung herself. Distraught and plagued by nightmares about that terrible discovery, Millicent slides into depression and never bothers to open the antiques shop she runs anymore. She is a recluse. But every night she hears the sound of tap dancing coming from upstairs and begins to feel the presence of her dead sister everywhere. Soon, Millicent is even taking on the mannerisms and habits of Marion. Millicent's friend Sam (Christopher Connelly) urges her to sell the house to a property developer so it can be demolished but she can't bring herself to do it. Is Marion making her presence felt from beyond the grave or has Millicent gone bonkers? Not really the most exciting or interesting premise and so it probably won't come as a huge surprise to learn that Spectre In Tap Shoes is not the most exciting or interesting episode. What we have here is a standard ghost story (lifted from Diabolique and Gaslight) with no real surprises and not even a cult guest star to perk things up. Sandra Dee (who appeared in the second season segment Tell David) is ok as the frazzled Millicent although Connelly is a bit unsympathetic and bland as her friend. There is a twist of sorts right at the end but you'll see it coming a mile away. Jeannot Szwarc makes the segment look good and authentically eerie at times but the script is so dull he's always fighting a losing battle. As far as the quality control with the scripts goes this third season of Night Gallery is surprisingly mediocre at times given all the talented people who were connected to the show.
You Can Come Up Now, Mrs Millikan was written by Rod Serling (from a short story by J Wesley Rosenquest) and directed by John Badham. This is much better and a bit more like it. Henry Millikan (Ozzie Nelson) is an inept scientist and inventor who has spent his whole life trying to come up with something so amazing and astonishing it will give him instant respect in the scientific community. His absent minded wife Helena (Harriet Nelson) offers constant support and encouragement despite the fact that all of his ideas and inventions inevitably turn out to be useless or never seem to work. His latest project though is his most ambitious yet. When his young physician nephew George (Roger Davis) arrives at the house as invited, George is deeply worried to find Helena ill and looking as if she is at death's door. But Millikan is unconcerned about the fading health of his wife and even makes a few jokes about it. The suspicious George is astonished when he learns what has happened. Helena willingly took some deadly poison so that she could be a test case for the most extraordinary invention in human history. Millikan believes he has invented a serum that can revive the dead and bring them back to life. As soon as Helena dies he will inject her with the serum and she'll be as right as rain. That's the plan anyway. Will it work?
You Can Come Up Now, Mrs Millikan is one of the better segments in this last series and manages to be both amusing and creepy in an enjoyable EC Horror Comics fashion. One of the clever things about this episode is the use of Ozzie and Harriet Nelson as the eccentric scientist and his dotty wife. The pair were mainstream family sitcom stars on American television for many years in the fifties and sixties (starring with their real life children in The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet) and it's fun to see them deploying these bland ever smiling sitcom personalities in this macabre black comedy. It makes the segment feel even more offbeat and gives it a vague David Lynch quality. You could imagine living next door to these two but you'd never know that behind the scenes his wife was cheerfully eating poison to see if his immortality serum has worked. The fact that Millikan is such a bumbling idiot and seems to be really nice makes it even more frightening when he comes to testing his serum. There is real pathos here in Serling's screenplay and a nice element of the surreal. You Can Come Up Now, Mrs Millikan is one of only two episodes in series three that has one of producer Jack Laird's black out skits tacked onto it. These were short comic vignettes that were often only a few minutes long. Dracula goes to a blood bank etc. Never very funny and often a waste of time. Serling hated them and they blighted the frequently superb second season so I suppose the one good change about series three is that the new running time almost completely ended their participation. Smile, Please was written and directed by Laird and has a young woman (Lindsay Wagner) being led down the stairs of a ruined mansion by an older man (Cesare Danova) to the cellar where she has been promised the chance to become the first person to ever take a photograph of a vampire. Like most of Laird's Night Gallery shorts this has a punchline that is not so much predictable but signposted in luminous paint and announced over a loudspeaker. This is only of note for a pre-Bionic Woman Lindsay Wagner and the Balkan themed score by Eddie Sauter.
The Other Way Out was written and directed by Gene Kearney. This is a good episode and possibly the most gripping story in series three. Bradley Meredith (Ross Martin) returns to his office after a holiday with his wife and finds an unsigned letter waiting for him. The letter implicates him in the unsolved murder of a go-go dancer and the guilty Meredith is understandably shaken and worried that someone out there knows about this dark secret. There are further notes with instructions to deliver a $10,000 payment in order to guarantee the silence of anonymous letter writer. Meredith drives to a lonely, remote location with the money as instructed but hits a downed telephone pole as he careers around a corner and is forced to ask for help at the only house in the area. This belongs to a rustic bearded dancing outlaw type bumpkin grandfather (Burt Ives) but the old man doesn't prove to be of great assistance when Meredith asks for the use of a telephone or the tractor. He insists that Meredith will have to wait for his grandson Sonny to come home as he's terrified of Sonny's temper and will have to ask his permission. Meredith starts to wait for Sonny to return home but it quickly dawns on him that he might have walked unwittingly into the blackmailer's trap.
This is an enjoyably gripping twenty-five minutes of television with some solid performances and a tightly bound script that presents a good cat-and-mouse revenge story. Most of the segment is set in and around the remote country house that Meredith stumbles into by chance (or so he thinks) and it's very inventive and develops a great deal of tension. One interesting thing about the story is the way it makes us sympathise with the murderer! Meredith is plunged into a nightmare and as we experience the situation from his perspective we share his desire to escape from this nutty house and creepy old man. Burt Ives is made up to look much older as the bumpkin grandfather but he's very good. His character appears to be a few pawns short of a chess set at the start but he's really as wily as a cat and a most formidable foe. In a slightly ironic casting twist, Ross Martin, who was made up to look much older in the classic Night Gallery segment Camera Obscura, is playing his own age and now the hunted rather than the hunter. One other thing that keeps you watching here is the anticipation of the arrival of the Sonny. All nicely done. The Other Way Out is very compulsive once it gets going and certainly in the top two or three episodes in this final season.
Fright Night was written by Robert Malcom Young and directed by Jeff Corey. This is a very mediocre episode that never really makes any sense and seems to have been the victim of network meddling (the network wants more ghosts, horror, action etc!). It's a tedious haunted house story and marks a significant drop in quality after the previous segment. Tom Olgilvy (Stuart Whitman) and his wife Leona (Barbara Anderson) move into an old house they have inherited from their cousin Zachariah. Zachariah was said to have dabbled in the occult and I can see where this is going already. It turns out that Zachariah left instructions that on no account was the large trunk in the attic to ever be moved or opened. That would be very bad. So Tom naturally turns the attic into his study and works on his novel there. Characters who live in remote haunted houses are always writers aren't they? They never have a bus driver or a chef in the haunted house. Anyway, what was I talking about? Right, Fright Night. So Tom is now working on his novel in the attic where the spooky trunk resides. The house used here by the way is on the Universal Studios lot and was the house in Psycho. So not only is Tom living in Norman Bates' house he's set up his office in a creepy attic where the strange trunk he was ordered to stay away from resides. Is he insane?
Strange things soon start to happen. He goes to bed and is told by Leona that she thought he was already there as she felt him climb into bed an hour ago. The next day there is a cryptic spooky prophecy on his typewriter. What in the name of Derek Acorah is going on? What is the significance of the trunk? Who got in Leona's bed if it wasn't Tom? Was Zachariah really an occultist or did he work at Sainsburys? I have no idea to be honest because Fright Night never really answers any of these questions. It just feels like a hodge-podge of haunted house staples all shunted together in the hope that it might work. The directer Jeff Corey had been responsible for some excellent Night Gallery stories but later admitted that he thought Fright Night was terrible and had a plot that didn't make any sense. NBC were passing on instructions during the production of Fright Night to include more straight ahead horror elements and so you get every cliche in the book here. Because so much is never explained the end result is unsatisfying and plays like a complete mess.
Finnegan's Flight was written by Rod Serling and directed by Gene Kearney. After the abysmal Fright Night we are compensated with a Serling/Burgess Meredith episode, a partnership that struck gold on The Twilight Zone and produced the enjoyable first season Night Gallery segment The Little Black Bag. Finnegan's Flight doesn't quite go the distance but it is an above average episode and it's a pleasure to watch Meredith in just about anything. He plays Charlie Finnegan, a lifer in a federal penitentiary. The old man yearns for freedom and wishes he could just fly up over the stone walls into the clouds. Finnegan meets another prisoner named Tuttle (Cameron Mitchell) who has a talent for hypnosis. Tuttle quickly realises how vivid and powerful the imagination of Finnegan is and amuses himself by placing him in trances and making him believe he has wings. He even puts the old man in a trance that makes him think he can batter down walls with his fists and Finnegan breaks nearly every bone in his hands while under the delusion that he can punch his way through the stone walls. The prison psychiatrist Simsich (Barry Sullivan) becomes fascinated by Finnegan and the power that hypnosis has on him and arranges for the old man and Tuttle to conduct a hypnosis session in the infirmary. What will happen this time?
This is not a Serling classic but it is a poignant and interesting story about the effects of confinement and the human spirit. One slight problem is that the production values on this series are starting to become very hit or miss (presumably NBC knew that Night Gallery was not long for this world and were penny pinching wherever they could) and so you never really get an authentic sense of a real prison. They could easily be in a sixth form college or community centre and the claustrophobia that the screenplay implies is never conveyed. I believe this story was also padded out to 25 minutes when the compendium structure was scrapped and there are a couple of scenes that feel like they have no real reason to be here. The performances are excellent though. Meredith is sympathetic as the old man, simple on the surface but really a powder keg waiting to be ignited, while Cameron Mitchell is also very good as Tuttle. Although Tuttle explpoits Finnegan and does some terrible things to him he somehow retains a strange compassion for old prisoner.
She'll Be Company For You was written by David Rayfiel and directed by Gerald Perry Finnerman. This is a mildly interesting story but never really sparks into life and engages the viewer and it's also one of those of those Night Gallery stories where they never quite seemed to get a handle on what exactly they were trying to do. Henry Auden (Leonard Nimoy) is relieved when his invalid wife Margaret dies because she'll no longer be a burden on him. As you may have gathered he's a rather nasty piece of work and not the warmest person in the world. But Margaret's best friend Barbara (Lorraine Gray) senses his relief at her death and resents him for it. Under the pretence of checking to see if he is ok, she says she is going to give him her cat while she is on holiday to curb his loneliness. To Henry's horror she does just that and he is now lumbered with a demanding cat that serves to remind him of the demanding Margaret. Henry is soon going a bit doolally and starts to keep hearing the bedside bell that Margaret used to ring when she wanted something. Even more alarming is the evidence that a much larger cat might be prowling around the house. Huge paw tracks and midnight roars. Is Henry hallucinating? This sounds like it should be a lot of fun. Mr Spock meets Cat People meets that Tiger segment in Tales That Witness Madness. The problem is that the story is rather vague and disjointed and the director never develops the atmosphere that one would expect from a story like this. It's amusing to see Nimoy playing a villain but even that gets boring after a while and there is nothing much left to sustain interest. They sort of bungle the ending here too as if they could never quite make their mind up whether or not to use suggestion for the whole show or make a reveal. The end result doesn't make an awful lot of sense.
The Ring with the Red Velvet Ropes was written by Robert Malcom Young and directed by Jeannot Szwarc. This is not highly regarded but I like it quite a bit - maybe because of the boxing connection. Jim Figg (Chuck Connors) has just become the world heavyweight boxing champion by battering the previous champion Dan Anger (Ji-Tu Cumbuka). Figg is shaken though when Anger appears in his dressing room after the fight and says that neither of them will ever be the real champion. Figg is puzzled by this comment and things become even stranger when he emerges from the shower and finds himself in a lavish suite with a valet waiting for him. The valet tells him he is now a guest of Roderick Blanco (Gary Lockwood). Blanco's only interest is having Figg fight him in the private boxing ring he has in the house and Figg soon realises that he is not the first boxing champion who has been kidnapped and forced to challenge Blanco. The boxing ring seems to exist in a red limbo and it's apparent that Blanco has been defeating heavyweight boxing champions for a very long time. Can Figg beat him and what will be the consequences of victory or defeat? This is like a boxing twist on the famous Twilight Zone episode A Game of Pool where Jack Klugman played a pool hustler who was challenged by the ghost of the greatest pool player that ever lived. You can work out what is going on very early in and it has the same ending as A Game of Pool but it's fun anyway. The performances are nothing to write home about (especially Knots Landing star Joan van Ark as Blanco's wife) but I enjoyed the boxing match and a strange atmosphere is generated with the fight taking place in the red limbo ring with only a couple of silent Blanco staff employees as the crowd. I suspect the spartan approach to the fisticuffs sequence was a result of budget cuts as much as anything but the set designs of Joe Alves are impressive and make us believe we are in the mansion of Blanco. It's predictable but I enjoyed The Ring with the Red Velvet Ropes as far as it went.
Something in the Woodwork was written by Rod Serling from a story by R Chetwynd-Hayes and directed by Malcom Abrohms. This is one of the better episodes here I think, a nifty haunted house chiller that does everything that Fright Night failed to do. Molly Wheatland (Geraldine Page) is an alcoholic who has just got divorced. She has bought a grand house at a bargain price because the house is supposed to be haunted and no one wants to live there. Long ago, a bank robber named Jamie Dillman was shot there by the police and his spirit is said to reside in the woodwork of the house. Molly isn't bothered though and is so lonely she'd welcome a ghost for company. She decides to invite her ex-husband Charlie (Leif Erickson) over to throw him a party but it turns out he has his new girlfriend in the car and must decline the invitation. Molly is so jealous she announces that she has no need of him anyway and her own friends. Like Jamie the ghost for example. Charlie suspects his ex-wife has gone mad and says he'll return to see if she is ok. This gives Molly time to plot a little spectral revenge on him but will the ghost agree to this? Something in the Woodwork is fairly simple but spun out into an effective and enjoyable ghost story with a fun EC style coda. The actors are all good and Serling uses the domestic tension and history between them for some confrontational dialgoue and to supply plenty of conflict for the characters to grapple with. This feels far more economic and focused than Fright Night and unlike that earlier tale knows exactly where it is going and what it wants to do. The effects in the attic of the ghost (obviously accomplished by use of a mirror) are very creepy and add atmosphere to the episode. Something in the Woodwork is nothing too fancy but it is entertaining and well produced. The fact that Serling's hand is in the script is an obvious plus and bonus.
Death on a Barge was written by Halstead Welles and directed by Leonard Nimoy. This is not bad at all but nothing amazing. It's Romeo & Juliet with vampires I suppose. Ron (Robert Pratt) is a young man who spends his days selling fish on the pier but each night he sneaks away to talk to the beautiful Hyacinth (Lesley Ann Warren). Hyacinth is a mysterious woman who lives on a barge with her father and they must always converse across the water because she is fearful of crossing it. She also sleeps during daylight so is only available to talk during the night. Ron's girlfriend Phyllis (Brooke Bundy) becomes suspicious of Hyacinth and decides to investigate. The direction by Nimoy (he had a contract at Universal that promised him a chance to direct something and Night Gallery was his break) is very impressive here for such a low budget show and he develops a dreamlike atmosphere that is a perfect fit for the story. This is a moody and effective fantasy that is a trifle predictable but engaging enough while you are watching it. Lesley Ann Warren is great casting as Hyacinth, both vulnerable and carnal at the same time and sort of like a siren as she stands across the water waiting for the helpless Ron to return. If you were going to risk your immortal soul for a vampire you might as well do so with one who looks like a young Lesley Ann Warren. I'm not quite sure about the casting of the bland Robert Pratt though. It's never terribly convincing that a sultry vampire who looks like Lesley Ann Warren would be interested in him at all. This is an above average episode that only really threatens to fall apart when we get more examples of preposterous seventies hip jive lingo spoken by some of the cast, especially Robert. "It's my life! I'm not going to live it square! I dig her strangeness! I dig her mystery! I believe the whole trip!" Yes, ok.
Whisper was written by David Rayfiel and directed by Jennot Szwarc. This stars Sally Field as Irene, a woman who is constantly possessed by ghosts. She takes on the personality of these spirits to help them on their way. Her husband Charlie (Dean Stockwell) is understandably worried about this and gives up his job to monitor her activities - fearful that he might lose her to one of these spirits. Irene is about to face her greatest spiritual challenge though when she is possessed by the consciousness of a young woman who lived a long time ago. The young woman wants Irene to do something for her, a very important task, but first Irene must work out what exactly the task entails. More than that, the communication with the spirit is a great strain on her. Can she survive and complete the mission? I struggled a bit with this one I must admit. Never been a huge fan of Sally Field and this is shot with a faint dint of vaseline haze and day for night filter to make it all dreamy, the end effect being strangely bland. I was surprised to learn that this is regarded to have a deliberate English atmosphere with darker light filters and mist, like an autumnal air, but it just looked like the familar stretch of dull sun baked Californian countryside to me that you see in gazillions of American television shows. The Irene character is supposed to be ethereal and strange but Sally Field is far too normal and girl next door. I love Dean Stockwell of course (Blue Velvet and Quantum Leap!) but he has a fairly vague and thankless supporting role here and looks rather bored as if he has no idea what what he's even acting in and wants to go and play golf or have some lunch or something. Dean Stockwell breaks the fourth wall and addresses the camera too in a manner that seems pretentious and takes us out of the episode. Whisper has one of the better scripts in this third season but something was obviously lost in translation and production.
The Doll of Death was written by Jack Guss and directed by John Badham. More voodoo doll capers for the Night Gallery but this falls a long way short I'll Never Leave You - Ever from season two. Alec Brandon (Barry Atwater) is a patrician British plantation owner in the West Indies. He's bagged himself a young wife though in the form of Sheila Trent (Susan Strasberg). Or has he? A young man (with a most impressive mustache) named Raphael (Alejandro Rey) gatecrashes the wedding and it's soon clear and he and Sheila only have eyes for each other and a history together. The two lovers ride away on horseback and Brandon is humiliated. How to gain revenge? Yes, you guessed it. He asks his manservant to seek out an Obeah High Priest and dispense with Raphael through the use of a voodoo doll. Sheila is understandably annoyed and plots a voodoo themed revenge on the old duffer. This is pretty poor to be honest despite the fact that it sounds like it could be fun. You get a decent EC twist at the end but the production values are nearing rock bottom and it has an anachronistic quality that doesn't make any sense (it's supposed to be set in the present day but doesn't always play like it). The script is very threadbare and none of the characters ever stick in the memory or have anything memorable to say. Susan Strasberg feels miscast too as the coltish young woman at the centre of all this melodrama and voodoo tit for tat. I can only presume that Joanna Pettet was busy that week with other engagements.
Hatred Unto Death was written by Halstead Welles and directed Gerald Perry Finnerman. I'm not sure I even know where to start with this one. Ahem. On the Kenyan veldt, anthropologist husband and wife team Grant and Ruth Wilson (played by Steve Forrest and Dina Merrill respectively) are heading back to base camp but are forced to take a detour when a local tribe asks for their assistance. It transpires that a gorilla has been caught in a lion trap and needs to be rescued. The gorilla is entranced by Ruth but absolutely loathes Grant and seems to have a deep anger and resentment towards him. Grant is puzzled by this and senses that the two of them have been adversaries through the ages, constantly at war with one another in different incarnations. Right. That's an obvious conclusion to draw when a gorilla growls at you. Makes perfect sense. Anyway, he captures the gorilla and decides he will take it back to the United States despite the protests of Ruth. The ape (named N'gi) ends up in a cage in the bowels of their museum but Ruth's kindness may possibly lead to its escape and the renewal of its age old battle with Grant. I have absolutely no idea what Hatred Unto Death is supposed to be and you get the impression that the producers of Night Gallery didn't either. The biggest problem of course is that the gorilla is clearly a man in a rubbish suit (think of the train sequence in Trading Places) so that we can never take N'Gi seriously and it all plays like a spoof. Steve Forrest seems to be auditioning for a role in Garth Marenghi's Darkplace and Dina Merrill is awful as Ruth. Nothing really makes any sense in this one. Hatred unto Death is a bewildering episode and it's a shame that it somehow ended up as the last death wheeze of what had been a great show at its very best.
This last episode is further tarnished by one of Jack Laird's black out skits. How to Cure the Common Vampire has a group of vampire hunters about to stake Dracula in his coffin. It only lasts a few minutes and like most of Laird's comic vignettes has a punchline that isn't funny. On the whole, series three is disappointing but just about worth your while if you've watched the first two. It's a pity that they changed the format so much and you do miss the original titles and the compendium format.
You never really seem to get much in the way of extras with Night Gallery which is a shame really given the storied history of the show and all the politics and bickering that surrounded it. A Night Gallery documentary would be fantastic but they never seem to dredge up too much for these releases. This is only available on Region 1 and the extras for series three are a couple of black out skits (oh joy) that were either lost or never aired and have been restored. These are called Room for One Less and Witches Feast and don't amount to much, only running for a minute. You also get an episode called Die Now, Pay Later that was never completed in 1971 and is padded out here with footage from Universal's Eye of the Cat. It's hard to know what to make of this given that it has been changed so much from its original conception and completed by others. It revolves around a funeral director (The Waltons' Will Geer) who comes under suspicion from the Sheriff (played by Slim Pickens) when the death rate of a small town goes through the roof. Could it have something to do with the funeral director's clearance sale? It might have made a half decent short segment if it was ever finished. By the way, the introductory painting in this one is actually a self-portrait by Night Gallery artist Tom Wright. There's a bit of trivia that'll almost certainly never be of any use to you. You also get six minutes of footage that was excised from the second season segment Little Girl Lost. The final extra is an audio commentary for Return of The Sorcerer by Night Gallery experts Scott Skelton and Jim Benson. At the time of writing you can buy the third season of Night Gallery for around £17.