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

Thursday, March 28, 2013


Mickey Rooney as a mob boss with a problem
NIGHT GALLERY Season 3.1972.

The best thing one can say about the third and final season of Rod Serling's Night Gallery is that each episode was now only half an hour long and there weren't that many of them. Rod Serling returned as host, of course, and, unfortunately, along with him came producer and sometime writer Jack Laird, who had absolutely no feel for the dark fantasy genre and whose contributions to the series, generally those awful black-outs, were abysmal.

First, let's take a look at one of the show's many lesser episodes, "Spectre in Tap Shoes" [although Laird did not write the script, he wrote the story for the episode and generated the "idea"]. Sandra Dee plays a woman whose sister, who was a tap dancer, commits suicide. She is haunted by visions and the sound of tapping and is visited by Dane Clark, who wants to buy her house. I doubt that I am giving anything away to reveal that it turns out that Clark is behind the ghostly sounds and visions, and that at the end it is still suggested that something supernatural has nonetheless happened. Sheesh -- the old business of someone creating a ghost to get someone out of their house probably pre-dates Nancy Drew's The Hidden Staircase and by 1972 had become the hoariest of cliches. And there were other, equally unoriginal plot lines, most of which had flat endings that made the viewer groan in quite the wrong way.

There were a couple of passable moments in the third season and two reasonably memorable episodes. Largely because of the acting, "Die Now, Pay Later" is notable, as Will Geer and Slim Pickens enact a story of an undertaker who's offering a sale on coffins and the like, and a sheriff who notes that there have been many more deaths since the sale began ... The bizarre thing about this episode is that it was never aired and can only be seen on the DVD. "Other Way Out" features Ross Martin and Burl Ives in a suspense story of a murderer confronting a blackmailer way out in the desert and the trap he finds himself in; fairly standard stuff, perhaps, but better than most of the episodes, and again, well-acted. Although "Rare Objects" is not that memorable, it does boast a fine performance from Mickey Rooney as a mob boss who desperately wants to find a way out of his predicament, when the various attempts on his life become more numerous and deadly. "You Can Come Up Now," about a dizzy scientist who experiments on his own wife (starring Ozzie and Harriet!) is ironic, a little bit sad, but, again, very predictable. Other notable guest stars this season include Vincent Price, Joanna Pettet [who appeared frequently on the show and was always very good], Geraldine Page, and Agnes Moorehead in an un-aired black-out about witches.

Verdict: Distinctly third-rate horror-fantasy anthology. **.

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