TV Review: Night Gallery 1.2 “Room With A View/The Little Black Bag/The Nature of the Enemy”


The second episode of Night Gallery originally aired on December 23rd, 1970 and it featured three stories, two of which were written by Rod Serling.  Serling, himself, introduced all three of the stories by inviting us to look at the paintings that may or may not have been inspired from them.

Room With A View (dir by Jerrold Freedman, written by Hal Dresner)

When a cranky, bed-bound man (Joseph Wiseman) discovers this his wife (Angel Tompkins) is cheating on him, he comes up with an elaborate scheme to get revenge.  It all hinges on his somewhat nervous nurse (Diane Keaton), who has no idea that she’s being manipulated.

This short segment is well-done but it doesn’t really feel like it belongs on an episode of Night Gallery.  There’s no elements of horror or science fiction to be found in this story.  Instead, it’s just about a manipulative man seeking revenge on his wife.  It’s actually easy to imagine this segment as being a flashback on a Monk-style detective show.  You just need a detective saying, “I finally figured out how you did it!”

For most viewers, probably the most interesting thing about this segment will be the presence of a young Diane Keaton, playing the nurse and laughing nervously at her patient’s rather intrusive questions.

The Little Black Bag (dir by Jeannot Szwarc, written by Rod Serling)

In the 30th Century, a careless accident at a time travel station sends a black medical bag into the past.  It arrives in 1971, where it’s discovered by two homeless gentlemen.  One of the men is a disgraced former doctor named William Fall (Burgess Meredith).  The other, Hepplewhite (Chill Wills), has no medical experience but he does have a greedy spirit.  Fall wants to use the bag to do good,  Hepplewhite wants to use the bag to make money.  Meanwhile, in the future, poor put-upon Gillings (George Furth) is just trying to figure out what to do about the missing bag.

The Little Black Bag is this episode’s high point, featuring good performances from Meredith, Wills, and Furth and also ending with properly macabre twist.  This is another Rod Serling story about how terrible, at heart, most people are but Jeannot Szwarc’s direction is fast-paced and he never allows things to get too heavy-handed.

The Nature of the Enemy (dir by Allen Reisner, written by Rod Serling)

NASA’s latest expedition to the Moon has run into trouble.  The astronauts have discovered that there is something living on the lunar surface.  On Earth, the director of NASA (Joseph Campanella) tries to keep everyone calm while also figuring out the nature of the enemy.

This segment has an intriguing premise but it’s let down by a so-so execution.  Like a lot of less-than-effective Night Gallery segments, this one features a story that doesn’t so much conclude as it just stops after a somewhat weak punchline.

So, the second episode of Night Gallery was not an improvement on the first and it was nowhere close to matching the pilot.  Watching this episode, it was hard not to feel that the show had a few growing pains.  Did it want to be a horror anthology or a collection of short skits?  The 2nd episode reveals a show that was still trying to find it’s voice.

Previous Night Gallery Reviews:

  1. The Pilot
  2. The Dead Man/The Housekeeper

 

A Blast From The Past: Vincent Price Reads The Raven


 

109 years ago, Vincent Price was born in St. Louis, Missouri.

I have to admit that I’m always somewhat surprised to be reminded that Vincent Price was born in Missouri.  It seems like such a …. normal place to be born, especially for someone who was as wonderfully and cheerfully eccentric as Vincent Price.

Vincent Price is best-known for his horror roles, though he actually appeared in all sorts of films during his career.  He started out as a romantic lead and then he became a character actor, showing up in acclaimed films like The Song of Bernadette, Wilson, and Laura.  Early on his career, Price was even considered for the role of Ashley Wilkes in Gone With The Wind.  Later, he would be listed by Frank Capra as a possibility for the role of Mr. Potter in It’s A Wonderful Life.

That said, Price was always be best-known for his horror work and, because of the films that he made with Roger Corman, he will also always be associated with Edgar Allen Poe.  With today being his birthday, it seems like the perfect time to share this video of Vincent Price reading The Raven.

Unfortunately, I don’t know exactly when this was filmed.  But no matter!  It’s Vincent Price reading Edgar Allen Poe!

Enjoy!

TV Review: Night Gallery 1.1 “The Dead Man/The Housekeeper” (dir by Douglas Heyes and John Meredyth Lucas)


As I wrote yesterday, I recently decided to sit down and watch every episode of the horror anthology series, Night Gallery.  Yesterday, I watched and reviewed the pilot movie.  Tonight, I watched the first episode of the weekly series.

Though the pilot originally aired in 1969, Night Gallery did not start to air as a regular series until December of 1970.  The first episode of season one was broadcast on December 16th, 1970.  As all of the episodes did, it stated with Rod Serling walking through a dimly lit museum and inviting the audience to look at a macabre painting.  Each painting was inspired by a different story.  Or were the stories inspired by the paintings?  To be honest, I don’t think the show ever made that clear.

The first episode featured two stories, both of which dealt with mad scientists.

The Dead Man (written and directed by Douglas Heyes)

The first segment was The Dead Man, an enjoyably atmospheric if somewhat difficult-to-follow story about a scientist, a young man with an amazing ability, and the woman who is torn between the two of them.

Carl Betz plays Max Redford, a doctor who has discovered that, under hypnotic suggestion, John Michael Fearing (Michael Blodgett) can simulate any medical condition, no matter how severe.  When Max reveals his discovery to his associate, Dr. Talmadge (Jeff Corey), Talmadge is concerned that Fearing will suffer permanent damage as a result of Max’s experiments.  Nonsense! Max explains.  All he has to do is give Fearing the proper signal and he’ll pop right out of his condition, as good as new.

Max decides to put Fearing to the ultimate test by having him simulate death.  However, when Fearing goes under, he dies for real.  Was it just an accident or did Max — who suspects that Fearing was having an affair with his wife (Louise Sorel) — secretly mean for Fearing to die?

The Dead Man raises some intriguing questions about life, death, and medical ethics.  It also has a quartet of good performances with Carl Betz doing an especially good job as Max.  Michael Blodgett showed up in a lot of early 70s films and TV shows and he was always convincing as a decadent hedonist.  The entire segment is full of creepy atmosphere but the ending is a bit of a let down.  After a great set-up, the segment just kind of fizzles out.

The Housekeeper (written by Heyes, directed by John Meredyth Lucas)

In the second segment, our mad scientist is named Cedric Acton (Larry Hagman).  Whereas Max Redford, in the previous segment, was misguided, Cedric Acton is just crazy.  Through the use of black magic (it involves a frog), Cedric has been experimenting with soul and brain transference.  (There’s an oinking chicken and a clucking pig in his laboratory, just in case anyone’s wondering how the experiments are going.)

Because Cedric loves his wife’s body but hates her personality, he wants to put the soul of his kindly housekeeper (Jeanette Nolan) into the body of his wife, Carlotta (Suzy Parker).  At first, the experiment is a success but things get complicated and …. well, I’m not really sure what it all leads to because this is one of those stories that just kind of ends without really offering up any type of resolution.

The Housekeeper is meant to be a comedy but it’s a bit too mean-spirited to really work.  This segment really calls out for karma to intervene and for Cedric’s soul to end up in something else’s body but instead it just ends with Cedric continuing his experiments.  It’s more than a little dissatisfying.  Larry Hagman does a good job playing Cedric, though.  He’s convincingly crazy.

Especially after the pilot, it’s hard not to be disappointed by the first episode of Night Gallery.  Both stories had potential but they were let down by weak endings.  Oh well.  Hopefully, tomorrow’s episode will be an improvement!

Film Review: Night Gallery (dir by Boris Sagal, Barry Shear, and Steven Spielberg)


Night Gallery was a horror anthology series that aired on NBC in the early 70s.  Each episode featured Rod Serling, of Twilight Zone fame, serving as the curator of a museum where all of the paintings have a somewhat macabre theme.  (One could even say that the museum was a …. wait for it …. night gallery!)  Serling would give each painting a properly pithy introduction and then the audience would see the story behind the artwork.  It was a bit like the Twilight Zone, except the Night Gallery episodes were in color, they were all horror-themed, and, for the most part, they steered away from social commentary.  The series ran from 1970 and 1973 and it still airs in syndication and on some of the retro stations.  (I believe it currently airs on Comet TV.)  Even if it wasn’t as consistently good as Twilight Zone, it’s still a pretty fun little series.

Two Christmases ago, I was gifted  Night Gallery: The Complete Series on DVD.  Though I’ve watched several episodes from the DVD, I recently realized that I have never actually sat down and watched every episode in order.  With the world currently shut down due to the pandemic (a development that, if we’re going to be honest, sounds like something Rod Serling would have used on the Twilight Zone), I figured what better time to watch the entire series then now?

I started out by watching the Night Gallery pilot film.  This originally aired on November 8th, 1969, a full year before Night Gallery became a weekly series.  It features three different stories (all written by Rod Serling) of the macabre.  As with every episode of the subsequent series, each story is introduced by Serling standing in front of a painting.  In the pilot, though, the museum is rather bare and the painting’s are a bit minimalist.  I have to admit that, as a lover of the baroque, I was a bit disappointed in that aspect of the pilot.

But what about the stories themselves?  Read on!

The Cemetery (dir by Boris Sagal)

The first story was The Cemetery, a cheerfully gruesome little tale that featured Roddy McDowall and Ossie Davis.  McDowall plays Jeremy, a spoiled young man who murders his uncle so that he might inherit the dead man’s estate.  At first, it looks like McDowall’s plot is a complete success but then McDowall notices a painting of the family graveyard hanging above a staircase.  (To be honest, it seems odd to hang a painting of a graveyard in the foyer but I guess that’s something old rich people do.)  The painting keeps changing.  One minute, the painting looks normal.  The next minute, it features a newly dug grave.  And then something emerging grave.  And then something heading towards the house….

Is Jeremy losing his mind or is the painting warning him that his uncle has risen from the dead and is seeking revenge!?  You’ll probably be able to guess the answer long before poor Jeremy but no matter.  This is a fun little horror story and it benefits from two enjoyably arch performances, from McDowall and, in the role of a butler who may have an agenda of his own, Ossie Davis.

Eyes (dir by Steven Spielberg)

Of the three stories presented in the pilot, Eyes probably gets the most attention from critics because it not only stars Joan Crawford in one of her final performances but it was the professional directorial debut (if you don’t count Amblin’) of 22 year-old Steven Spielberg.  Spielberg apparently had some issues dealing with the veteran crew members, many of whom didn’t like the idea of taking orders from a 22 year-old.  (It probably didn’t help that pictures from that era suggest that Spielberg looked several years younger than his age.  Let’s just say that it’s easy to understand why he eventually grew that beard.)  I’d like to think that Joan Crawford yelled at everyone and defended Spielberg and maybe even Rod Serling came down with Luca Brasi and said, “You’re going to the give this kid the respect he deserves or your brains are going to be all over that union contract.”  I don’t know if that’s true but it’s a nice thought.

That said, Eyes is pretty good.  Even if the crew doubted him, Spielberg proved himself as a director with this story.  It’s about a hateful and selfish woman (Joan Crawford) who happens to be both rich and blind.  She has manipulated a doctor into performing an experimental operation that will allow her to see.  The only catch is that the operation will only be good for 22 hours and a donor (Tom Bosley, as a bookie who is in trouble with the mob) will be required to give up his eyes so that Crawford can have those 22 hours.

On the one hand, this is very-much a Rod Serling-type tale.  It’s easy to imagine Eyes, with its belief in karma and its final macabre twist, as a Twilight Zone episode.  At the same time, Spielberg very much brings his own signature style to the film, livening up dialogue-heavy scenes with interesting camera angles and getting good performances from Crawford, Barry Sullivan, and Tom Bosley.  Eyes is a clever story but, for modern viewers, the most interesting thing about it will be discovering that, even at the age of 22, Spielberg already had a clear directorial style.

The Escape Route (dir by Barry Shear)

The Escape Route is about an Nazi war criminal named Joseph Strobe (played by Richard Kiley) who is hiding out in South America and spending all of his time nervously looking over his shoulder.  One day, he enters a museum where he finds himself drawn to two paintings.  One painting features a man who has been crucified in a concentration camp, which we learn was Strobe’s trademark back when he, himself, was a camp commandant.  The other painting features a fisherman in a peaceful setting.  Even though Strobe imagines himself as the peaceful fisherman, his attention keeps getting redirected to the painting of the concentration camp.  Soon, Strobe realizes that a survivor of the camp (played by Sam Jaffe) is also in the museum and that he is studying the painting as well.

Compared to Eyes and especially The Cemetery, The Escape Route may seem like a rather low-key story but it has a power that sneaks up on you.  Hiding out (as many real-life Nazi war criminals did) in South America, Strobe is full of excuses for his past and he may indeed be sincere in his wish that he had just become a fisherman as opposed to a brutal Nazi.  But, in the end, Strobe can neither escape his past nor his final punishment.  Justice cannot be escaped, no matter how hard Strobe tries to outrun it.  In the end, there is no escape for the wicked.  Richard Kiley and Sam Jaffe both give excellent performances.  The Escape Route will stick with you.

As a series, Night Gallery was a bit uneven but the pilot stands as a classic of its type, featuring three short films that all deserve to be remembered.

As for me, I’m going to try to watch an episode or two a day.  I may review a few more Night Gallery episodes here on the Shattered Lens.  As I said, the series itself was a bit uneven and not every episode is as good as the pilot.  Still, there’s definitely some gems to be found in the Night Gallery and I’ll share them as I come across them.

Music Video Of The Day: I Belong To Me by Jessica Simpson (2006, dir by Matthew Rolston)


I went to the same high school as Jessica Simpson!

Of course, I didn’t go there at the same time that Jessica did.  Jessica was long gone by the time I started the 9th grade.  As well, I actually graduated while Jessica dropped out so she could become a super-rich celebrity instead.  That said, I did take a few classes that were taught by Jessica’s former teachers, who all agreed that Jessica was a sweet person.  To be honest, most of my classmates made a big deal about being kind of cynical about going to the same high school as Jessica Simpson.  You’re never more jaded than you are between the ages of 13 and 18.  Myself, I’ve always liked Jessica Simpson because we’re both from Texas and we both occasionally play dumb for the laughs.

Anyway, this song was written when Jessica was going through a very public divorce from Nick Lachey.  It’s an empowerment song that also happens to be really depressing, which is really the best type of song there is.  There’s something to be said for a good depressing song and a good depressing video.

Enjoy!

Cleaning Out The DVR: Black Hearted Killer (dir by Roxy Shih)


Earlier tonight, I continued my quest to clean out my DVR by watching the Lifetime film, Black Hearted Killer.  This originally aired on April 5th and I missed it because …. well, to be honest, I don’t remember why I missed it.  I mean, April 5th — that was like a month ago which, in 2020 time, is the equivalent of several years.  Well, whatever my reason for missing it was, I’m sure it was an acceptable one.  Fortunately, I set my DVR to record the film.

Black Hearted Killer tells the story of three people and one heart.  When their daughter is tragically killed in an auto accident, Juley (Julie McNiven) and Dennis (Jon Abrahams) agree to donate her organs.  They don’t want to know who is going to get their daughter’s organs but they do agree to allow the hospital to tell the recipients where the organs came from.  Months later, Juley and Dennis are approached by Vera (Kelley Jackle).  Vera tells them that she has their daughter’s heart beating away inside of her and that she owes her life to them.  Dennis is like, “That’s nice.  Go away now.”  Juley, however, invites Vera to become a part of their life.

Juley is still struggling to recover from her daughter’s death.  She’s still haunted by nightmares.  Having Vera around allows Juley to feel as if she’s close to her daughter.  Dennis, however, is more suspicious of Vera and the effect that she’s having on Juley.  Dennis suspects that Vera’s motives may not be pure.  Not surprisingly (because this is a Lifetime film after all), it turns out that Dennis is right.

Black Hearted Killer is an entertaining Lifetime film.  By this point, we all kind of know what the general plot of these films is going to be.  From the minute that Vera shows up, we know that she can’t be trusted just because she’s a stranger in a Lifetime films and strangers always turn out to be trouble in these films.  The fact that the plot is kind of predictable is really one of the main appeals of a film like this.  We don’t watch to be surprised.  Instead, we watch so we can shake our heads at characters who apparently haven’t seen as many Lifetime films as we have.  In this film, it didn’t really take Vera long to show her true nature and she was an entertaining psycho.  Kelley Jackle did a good job playing her and Julie McNiven and Jon Abrahams were both well-cast as the couple who she victimizes.  I also liked Juley and Dennis’s house which, as veteran Lifetime observes know, is a very important part of any successful Lifetime movie.  The nicer the house, the better the movie.

As I watched the film, I found myself thinking about organ donation.  I guess, if I died and my organs were donated to someone else, it wouldn’t bother me because I would be dead and I probably wouldn’t know what was happening.  A part of me does worry about getting stranded in Purgatory without my liver but I guess I’d make do.  Still, I would have to wonder who would end up with my mismatched eyes or my heart or my …. well, you get the idea.  I would hope it wouldn’t be anyone mean.  If you get one of my organs, treat it nicely.

 

Cleaning Out The DVR: A Killer In My Home (dir by Farhad Mann)


When the lockdown was first announced down here in Texas, my initial reaction was, “Well, at least I can clean out my DVR now….”

Unfortunately, it didn’t really work out like that.  First off, I got caught up trying to work my way through my collection of DVDs and Blu-rays.  Then, I ended up getting distracted by my efforts to binge my way through The Sopranos, Oz, and Deadwood.  And suddenly, here we are!  It’s nearly June.  The lockdown is in the process of ending.  And I’ve barely made a dent on working my way through the 230 programs that I have on my DVR.

Earlier today, I decided to finally get to work by watching the Lifetime film, A Killer In My Home.  A Killer In My Home originally aired on the Lifetime Movie Network back in February.  I was on vacation at the time so my wonderful sister was nice enough to record it for me.  Watching it was an interesting experience, just because there weren’t any COVID-19-themed commercials.  Instead, there were a ton of commercials for Tom Steyer and Mike Bloomberg.  I mean, seriously — whenever you think about how bad 2020 may be right now, just remember that, even before everything shut down, we had to spend a month and a half dealing with the Tom and Mike charm offensive.

As for the film itself, it tells the story of Allison Wright (Bree Williamson) and her daughter, Hollie (Hannah Vandenbygaart).  Allison and Hollie appear to have the perfect life.  Not only do they live in a huge house but Hollie appears to have the perfect future ahead of her.  Soon, she’ll graduate high school, get a nice car, and go to a good college.  But then, Allison’s husband and Hollie’s father suffers a heart attack!  While he’s dying in the hospital, he’s visited by Jenna Fallon (Krista Bridges) and her withdrawn son, Joshua (Percy Hynes White).  When Allison demands to know why Jenna is visiting her dying husband, Jenna explains that she had an affair with Allison’s husband and Joshua was the result.  Apparently, Allison’s husband spent years visiting and financially supporting Jenna and Joshua.  Now that he’s dead, Jenna and Joshua have no one left to provide for them.

Now, if you were Allison, what would you do in this situation?

Would you say, “Tough shit, you whore.  Get out of here and take that bastard with you!”

Or

Would you say, “Why don’t you come live in our guest house?”

Now, to the film’s credit, Allison’s initial reaction is to tell Jenna and Joshua to go away.  However, a few weeks later, Allison has a change of heart and she allows Jenna and Joshua to move into the guest house.  Jenna and her son are supposed to stay away from the main house and out of Allison and Hollie’s lives.  Needless to say, things don’t work out like that.

Soon, strange things start to happen.  There’s a break-in at the house.  Despite her efforts to ignore him, Joshua still tries to talk his half-sister.  Jenna starts to throw biker-populated parties at the guest house.  Despite the fact that she claims to have no money, Jenna is able to buy her son an expensive jeep.  Allison comes to realize what we realized from the beginning: Jenna has sinister motives of her own!  The only question is whether or not Joshua shares those motives or if he’s just a pawn trapped in a game he didn’t intend to play.

A Killer In My Home is okay.  If I’m not as enthusiastic about it as I am about other Lifetime films, it’s because I never believed that Allison would 1) allow Jenna to stay in the guest house and 2) allow her to continue to stay in the guest house even after it became obvious that some seriously strange stuff was going on.  Allison lost my sympathy by doing that.  However, I did really like Krista Bridges’s performance as the unstable Jenna and I though Hannah Vandenbygaart gave a good and sympathetic performance as the daughter who is basically just sick of dealing with the adults in her life.  I could definitely relate.

Finally, the house was nice.  Lifetime movies always feature the nicest houses and A Killer In My Home featured one of the best!