The second season of Night Gallery premiered on September 15th, 1971. Once again, Rod Serling led viewers through a darkened museum, inviting them to look upon macabre paintings and imagine the story behind image.
The first episode had four — that’s right, four! — different stories! Apparently, the show’s producers demanded that, for the 2nd season, each episode feature shorter stories along with some light-heated segments. From what I’ve read, Rod Serling was not particularly happy with the directive and it’s perhaps significant that, after writing every story featured in Night Gallery‘s first season, he only wrote one of the stories featured in the second season premiere.
The Boy Who Predicted Earthquakes (dir by John Badham, written by Rod Serling)
Herbie (played by 12 year-old Clint Howard, younger brother of Ron) is a little boy with a very special gift. He can see the future. He seems like a normal child, the type who rambles about random subjects except that, at random, he’ll suddenly stop and ominously predict the future. After Herbie correctly predicts both the rescue of a missing girl and an earthquake, Herbie is given his own TV show. For a year, Herbie makes predictions, all of which come true. Then, suddenly, Herbie refuses to shares his latest prediction and says that he doesn’t want to do the show anymore. What has Herbie seen and is it a good thing or a bad thing?
The Boy Who Predicted Earthquakes gets the second season of Night Gallery off to a good start. Centered by a natural performance from Clint Howard, The Boy Who Predicted Earthquakes is an intelligently written and thought-provoking story. Not only does it examine the burden of being able to see the future but it’s also a provocative look at how society exploits the gifted. With the exception of Herbie’s grandfather (William Hansen), the people around Herbie are less concerned with what he predicts than that people keep watching. The segment ends on an appropriately dark note, one that will keep the viewer thinking.
Miss Lovecraft Sent Me (dir by Gene Kearney, written by Jack Laird)
A gum-chewing babysitter (Sue Lyon) show up for her latest job. It’s at a castle! And the owner of the castle (played by Joseph Campanella) has gray skin, is wearing a cape, and has a Transylvanian accent! What could it all mean?
This is a short comedic segment. Apparently, the producer of Night Gallery, Jack Laird, had the idea to liven things up with sketches like this one. Serling was apparently not a fan of the idea but Miss Lovecraft Sent Me isn’t that bad. It’s silly and insubstantial because Joseph Campanella and Sue Lyon handled their roles well. It’s impossible not to laugh when the babysitter reads aloud the names of the books that Campanella has sitting on his bookshelf.
The Hand of Borgus Weems (dir by John M. Lucas, written by Alvin Sapinsley)
Peter Lacland (George Maharis) sits in a doctor’s office and asks Dr. Ravadon (Ray Milland) to remoe his right hand. Peter explains that his right hand has a mind of its own and that it keeps trying to kill everyone who Peter comes into contact with. Peter explains that his hand has been possessed!
There’s a surprisingly large number of stories out there about possessed hands. The Hand of Borgus Weems doesn’t necessarily bring anything new to the genre and it gets a bit bogged down with its flashback structure but it’s still an enjoyably creepy little segment, featuring good performances from George Maharis and Ray Milland. Possessed hands are also creepy, no matter what. Like The Boy Who Predicted Earthquakes, it also has an effective ending, which is quite a contrast to the often insubstantial conclusions of Night Gallery’s first season.
Phantom Of What Opera? (written and dir by Gene Kearney)
This is a short, 4-minute comedic story — a skit really — featuring Leslie Nielsen as the Phantom of the Opera and Mary Ann Beck as Christine. This version starts out like a typical Phantom segment, with the Phantom kidnapping Christine, taking her down to the dungeon, and telling her never to remove his mask. Christine, of course, removes his mask while he’s playing the organ just for him to then discover that she’s also wearing a mask. It all leads to love and a happy ending! It’s kind of a sweet segment, actually.
So the 2nd season of Night Gallery got off to a pretty good start! Would future episodes continue the trend? We’ll find out soon as I continue to watch Night Gallery.
Previous Night Gallery Reviews: