TV Review: Night Gallery 1.5 “Pamela’s Voice/Lone Survivor/The Doll”

The fifth episode of Night Gallery originally aired on January 13th, 1971.  It featured three stories, each one of which was introduced by Rod Serling walking through a darkened museum.

Pamela’s Voice (dir by Richard Benedict, written by Rod Serling)

Jonathan (John Astin) kills his wife, Pamela (Phyllis Diller), because he’s sick of listening to her shrill voice.  However, it turns out that not even death can stop Pamela.  While Jonathan is staring at a coffin, he starts to hear Pamela’s voice.

At first, you might think that this is going to be one of those stories where it’s going to turn out that the murderer has been driven made by his crimes and he’s imagining being taunted by his victim.  But then Pamela makes an post-death appearance herself and the story reveals it’s final twist.

For the most part, Pamela’s Voice is entertaining.  Both John Astin and Phyllis Diller give such eccentric performances that their fun to watch even if the majority of the audience will be able to guess this segment’s big twist.

Lone Survivor (dir by Gene Levitt, written by Rod Serling)

This wonderfully atmospheric story opens in 1915, with the crew of the Lusitania discovering a man (John Colicos) floating in a lifeboat.  The lifeboat is from the Titanic and the man, who claims to be a crewmember of that doomed ship, is wearing a dress, leading the ship’s doctor to assume that the man survived the sinking of the Titanic by pretending to be a woman and stealing someone else’s rightful spot in the lifeboat.

At first, his rescuers are skeptical.  If the man was indeed a survivor of the Titanic, that would mean that he had spent the past three years floating in that lifeboat?  How could the man have survived?  And, assuming that he is telling the truth about the ship that he came from, what has now brought him to the Lusitania?  Could the man possibly be a German spy?  After all, World War I has just broken out and the sea is no longer as safe as it once was….

Lone Survivor is an example of this often uneven show at its best.  It’s a genuinely creepy short film, one that ends on a frightening and rather sad note.  Lone Survivor is the tale of man trying to escape both his own guilt and the whims of fate and discovering that neither can be easily conquered.  In the main role, John Colicos gives a wonderfully intense and haunted performance.

The Doll (dir by Rudi Dorn, written by Rod Serling)

“Our painting is called The Doll,” Rod Serling says as he introduces this one, “and it’s one that you better not play with.”  Truer words were never spoken!

In this one, British Col. Hymber Masters (John Williams) returns home from India and discovers that his niece (Jewel Branch) has a new doll.  Someone mailed the doll to her.  Everyone assumed that Col. Masters sent the doll but he actually had nothing to do with it.  Masters is not happy to see his niece carrying around that doll and it makes sense when you consider just how ugly the doll is.  I mean, this is one creepy doll!

It turns out that the Masters was correct to be concerned because the doll was sent by Pandit Chola (Henry Silva), who holds Masters responsible for the death of his brother.  The doll has been sent to take revenge….

The Doll is another triumph, largely because the doll itself is so creepy that it looks like something that sprung straight out of a nightmare.  John Williams does a good job playing the well-meaning if somewhat stuffy colonel and Henry Silva is well-cast as the villain of the piece.  This segment deserves a lot of credit for taking a fanciful story and playing it totally straight.

The fifth episode of Night Gallery is a triumph.  After a run of uneven episodes, this episode is consistently creepy and entertaining.  For this episode, at least, Night Gallery lived up to its potential.

Previous Night Gallery Reviews:

  1. The Pilot
  2. The Dead Man/The Housekeeper
  3. Room With A View/The Little Black Bag/The Nature of the Enemy
  4. The House/Certain Shadows on the Wall
  5. Make Me Laugh/Clean Kills And Other Trophies

Red Zone Cuba (1966, directed by Coleman Francis)

An escaped convict named Griffin (Coleman Francis) meets up with two other men (Anthony Cardoza and Harold Samuels) and, for some reason, all three of the fly down to Cuba where they join up with the mercenaries who are planning on overthrowing Castro during the Bay of Pigs invasion.  That doesn’t work out so, after escaping from a Cuban POW camp, they decide to fly back to America so that they can rob a mine.  Along the way, they shoot several people and they run into John Carradine who gives them a ride on a train and also sings the film’s theme song, Night Train to Mondo Fine.  “He ran all the way to Hell,” Carradine says about Griffin, even though Griffin spends most of the film either flying or moving at an ambling gait.

Red Zone Cuba is best known for being one of three Coleman Francis films to be showcased on Mystery Science Theater 3000.  Watching this film with Mike and the Bots commenting on the action is a lot of fun.  Trying to watch it without Mike the and the Bots is a different experience all together.  I always assumed that the plot seemed incoherent because I was distracted by Mike, Tom Servo, and Crow talking through the film but it turns out that the plot is incoherent regardless of how you watch the film.  Coleman Francis tried to make a tough and gritty desert noir but the only part he got right was the desert.  There’s a lot of desert in this movie.

Red Zone Cuba is a painfully slow movie but at least John Carradine’s in it for a few minutes.  A reporter shows up to interview him about the three men who rode his train all the way to Hell and Carradine answers his questions with the type of grim determination that briefly fools you into thinking Red Zone Cuba is going to be better than its reputation.  Carradine exits the film quickly, though.  He got his paycheck and then headed off to his next role, leaving Coleman Francis to carry the weight of the film.

Red Zone Cuba is a slow mess of a film that’s not even entertainingly bad but I do have to wonder: was this the first narrative film to use the Bay of Pigs as a plot point?  Hats off to Coleman Francis if it was.


A Blast From The Past: Tomorrow’s Drivers

Jimmy Stewart Standing Beside One Of His Many Cars

Since this is the ten year anniversary of the Shattered Lens, I’ve been making an effort to observe notable birthdays here on the site.  I’m sad to say that somehow, I missed the birthday of Jimmy Stewart!

Jimmy Stewart was born on May 20th, 1908 in Indiana, Pennsylvania.  He’s my favorite of the Golden Age stars, not to mention the star of one of my top films of all time, It’s A Wonderful Life.  He also served bravely in World War II and I think it can be argued that he was Jimmy Stewart before he went to war and James Stewart afterwards.

Anyway, better late than never, here’s a short 1954 film that Stewart narrated, Tomorrow’s Drivers.  The film features a bunch of kindergarten kids learning how to drive.  Apparently, it was a program designed to make sure that kids grew up with good driving habits and didn’t end up becoming a bunch of jerks like their parents.  It actually seems like a good idea to me.  Stewart doesn’t appear onscreen but he provides the narration for the film and, with his tone, he strikes just the right mix of whimsy and seriousness.


4 Shots From 4 Films: Special Howard Hawks Edition

4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

Today is the 124th anniversary of cinematic pioneer Howard Hawks!  Whether it’s gangster film, a western, or a screwball comedy, it’s hard to think of a single cinematic genre that doesn’t owe a debt of gratitude to Howard Hawks!

Here are….

4 Shots From 4 Films

Scarface (1932, dir by Howard Hawks)

Bringing Up Baby (1938, dir by Howard Hawks)

Red River (1948, dir by Howard Hawks)

Land of the Pharaohs (1955, dir by Howard Hawks)

Music Video Of The Day: Cry by Mandy Moore (2001, dir. by Chris Applebaum)

This song is from A Walk To Remember, which was Mandy Moore’s biggest starring role until she got cast on This Is Us.  If you haven’t seen A Walk To Remember, Mandy Moore plays a girl who marries Shane West but then dies a year later.

I guess this video is a sequel because now Mandy Moore is singing to Shane West from Heaven while Shane watches old home movies of him and Mandy goofing off between filming their scenes.  Shane uses a telescope and discovers that he can see Mandy in Heaven and Mandy looks really happy.  Then Shane goes into the city and is reminded that his romance with Mandy was just a part of a movie.  I don’t know if that’s a happy ending or not.