Night Gallery | Season 1 – Episode 6

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Night Gallery | Season One | Episode 6 | January 20, 1971

Segment One | They’re Tearing Down Tim Riley’s Bar
William Windom | Diane Baker | Bert Convey | Written by Rod Serling | Directed by Don Taylor

Down-at-heel sales director Randy Lane (William Windom) reflects back upon twenty-five lost years at a plastics company, as the world around him crumbles. His sympathetic secretary Lynn Alcott (Diane Baker) tries to save him from his failing work performance, reliance upon the bottle, and up-and-coming rival executive, Harvey Doane (Bert Convey). Lane’s most cherished memories, including those of his late wife, all seem to be inexorably tied to Tim Riley’s Bar, now closed and slated for destruction, yet another erased link to a past that can never be recovered.

Windom’s empathetic portrait of a man disconnected from the modern world drives a surprisingly sentimental episode, lacking the traditional “gotcha” punch at the end. In the face of everything Lane cares about being lost to time, comes the most frightening question of all, “Who will remember?”

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Night Gallery | Season 1, Episode 5

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Night Gallery | Season One | Episode 5 | January 13, 1971

Segment One | Pamela’s Voice

Jonathan (John Astin) discovers that hell is certain other people, when the spirit of his murdered wife, Pamela (Phyllis Diller), returns from the dead to torment him. Continuing to suffer from the specter’s ceaseless nagging at the funeral home, his only hope of relief seems to be in finally burying her corpse. Although playing into the stereotype of the carping wife, Diller’s shrewish cackle—and arched, painted eyebrows–almost conjures a sense of sympathy for Astin’s homicidal husband, who discovers an unexpected difficulty in finding a moment of peace and quiet.

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Segment Two | Lone Survivor

Picking up what they believe to be a single woman alone in a lifeboat, a ship’s crew discovers a man in women’s clothing, and a boat mysteriously emblazoned with the logo of the RMS Titanic. An effective early twist regarding the perceived time of the rescue is ultimately squandered in service to a familiar story of cyclical retribution. John Colicos plays the role of the survivor with sweaty desperation–and a powdered-blue nightdress.

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Segment Three | The Doll

A British Colonel (John Williams) returning from service in India is confronted with a creepily malevolent (or maybe just grubby) doll, received via post by his young niece. Recognizing the doll as an agent of evil directed at him, the Colonel tries to convince the young girl to relinquish it–arguably, she should also have been persuaded to relinquish that satin blue ribbon in her hair. Pandit Chola (Henry Silva), the Indian mystic who devised the curse in retaliation for his brother’s execution as a resistance fighter, ultimately learns a lesson about karma from the doddering old imperialist.

Aside from a few more-silly-than-scary grimaces, the doll’s supernatural movements are left mostly to the imagination, helping to maintain the episode’s overall mood, and also proving the age-old axiom, “Never go full Chucky.”

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Night Gallery – Season 1, Episode 4

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Night Gallery | Season One | Episode 4 | January 6, 1971

Segment One | Make Me Laugh

After sixteen years on the club circuit, down-at-heel comic Jackie Slater (Godfrey Cambridge) seems to have finally bombed out. He meets Chatterje (Jackie Vernon), a self-proclaimed “klutz” of a guru [or as Chatterje pronounces it, “guh-ROO”], in a bar after a failed show, and receives an unusual offer. Chatterje has the power to create a miracle, and only needs a willing subject. Unfazed by the guru’s many disclaimers regarding his own inadequacies, and by the potential for unforeseen consequences created by this miraculous act, Slater desperately wishes for the power to make people laugh.

A fairly straightforward “be careful about what you wish for” cautionary tale, Make Me Laugh features an appropriately pathos-rich performance by Cambridge. The backstory of his bullied childhood, and the emptiness ultimately found in realizing his wish, reveals the melancholy counterpart to his comedy, but the tonal effort is undercut by the fatuous treatment of the guru. Wrapped in a turban resembling a curiously knotted pillowcase, Vernon’s miracle worker plays more like a bumbling sidekick of dubious ethnicity.

Playing the material mostly by the numbers, this segment takes the familiar path to an expected final reversal. Aside from a few nicely composed shots, this early directorial effort by Steven Spielberg shows little prescience of his trademark visual style.

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Segment Two | Clean Kills and Other Trophies

Big-game hunter Colonel Archie Dittman (Raymond Massey) tries to impart his ”whole world is a bloody hunting jungle” philosophy upon his pacifist son, Archie (Barrie Brown), by adding an unusual codicil to his trust fund. Unless Archie stalks and kills an animal, his potential two million dollar inheritance will be revoked. Unable to stand up to his sadistic father, who dismisses him as a coddled milksop, Archie agrees to the hunt.

When will Archie put down his whiskey glass and push back against his loutish, blowhard father? Never, because the Colonel’s comeuppance actually arrives by way of his servant Tom (Herbert Jefferson, Jr.), whose African heritage provides a convenient resource for a mystical revenge, the nature of which belies Tom’s own belief system.

The musings on the inherent violence in the world are just a set up for the anticipated final reveal, the most dangerous trophy of all.

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Night Gallery – Season 1, Episode 3

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Night Gallery | Season One | Episode 3 | December 30, 1970

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Segment One | The House

Elaine Latimer (Joanna Pettet) suffers from a recurring dream in which she drives to a familiar, but unidentified, house, unsuccessfully attempting to enter before she wakes. Recounting the details to her psychiatrist (Steve Franken), he assures her that the dream is harmless, before releasing her from the sanitarium where she had been receiving treatment for an unspecified illness.

Driving away to freedom, Elaine discovers that the house from her dreams actually exists—and is for sale. Undeterred by a creepy real estate agent (Paul Richards) who informs her that the house is reputedly haunted, she immediately purchases it and moves in the same day. However, owning the house does not change her condition, as her dream cycle continues.

The dreams are not traditional nightmares, but although completely lacking in scares, the repeated slow motion loops with Elaine exiting her car and walking to the house do cast an eerie spell. The agent provides an opportunity for some misdirection, as his introduction from the shadows outside the house suggests some suspicious nature, but the episode ultimately turns entirely around Elaine, coming back to her with a twist ending that provides more head-scratching than shock. However, Joanna Pettet imbues her character–and her flowing, gauzy fashions–with more than enough appeal to pull viewers through her ephemeral dreams.

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Segment Two | Certain Shadows on the Wall

Dr. Stephen Brigham (Louis Hayward) attends to his bedridden sister Emma (Agnes Moorehead), reading her passages from Dickens while their other siblings, Ann (Grayson Hall) and Rebecca (Rachel Roberts), wait for her to die.

The wait is a short one, but as Stephen makes plans to sell his sister’s estate and all its contents, the surviving family members make a strange discovery. Although now recently departed, Emma’s shadow remains behind on the wall of the house, and no amount of cleaning or repainting will make it disappear.

The shadow casts a creepy pall over the ensuing drama, looming in the background as Stephen squabbles with his sisters over the matter of inheritance—suggesting that what is carried on to those left behind after death is something less than a human spirit, but more akin to a persistent stain.

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