Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

NIGHT GALLERY Season 2 [POST # 2000!]

Laurence Harvey has a painful problem with an earwig
NIGHT GALLERY Season 2 (1971). Hosted by Rod Serling.

"I have read thousands -- tens of thousands -- of books, and never have I read about a spider the size of a dog -- not even in Kafka."

This second full season of Night Gallery continued the format of presenting at least two or more segments per episode, with Rod Serling introducing most segments using paintings mounted in a "night" gallery. Out of nearly fifty segments [in twenty-two episodes] only seven are memorable, with many not only on a "C" level but even descending to "D" or "F." In other words, most of the stories are pretty bad. Earlier episodes include quick gags or black humor black-outs, most of which are mercilessly unfunny. Among the more notable stories are: "The Boy Who Predicted Earthquakes," in which a small child is exploited for his psychic ability; "The Devil is Not Mocked" in which Count Dracula (an excellent Francis Lederer) takes on the Nazis; an adaptation of H. P. Lovecraft's "Cool Air," in which the addition of a romantic element doesn't hurt at all [Lovecraft's "Pickman"s Model," which also adds romantic-love aspects, doesn't work as well]; and the genuinely original "Sins of the Fathers" with Richard Thomas as a starving young man who must "eat" the sins [represented by food surrounding a corpse] of Barbara Steele's late husband. Arguably the two best episodes are "The Dark Boy" [from August Derleth], a poignant mood piece in which the ghost of a dead boy unites his lonely father with an equally lonely school teacher (Elizabeth Hartman) and "The Caterpillar," in which Laurence Harvey gets a fatal surprise when he tries to kill off a rival by employing an insect, the earwig, that enters through the ear and eats its way through the brain; probably the only really classic episode of the season, and the one most people remember [with excellent performances as well]. Some of the less memorable episodes have their entertaining moments, such as slatternly Zsa Zsa Gabor running from a dinosaur that wants to eat her in the amusing "Painted Mirror." Unfortunately, far too many episodes are flat, poorly conceived and developed, and have little real entertainment value. Among the more memorable guest stars are Vincent Price, Gale Sondergaard, Joanna Pettet, Virginia Mayo, and Louise Sorel. Producer Jack Laird also wrote and directed several episodes, but the generally mediocre quality of the show can't be laid only at his feet, as Serling himself contributed many execrable episodes.

Verdict: At least the earwig sticks in your mind [literally]. **1/2.

SPECIAL NOTE: This is the 2000th post of Great Old Movies, still going strong!

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