Directors: Boris Sagal, Steven Spielberg, and Barry Shear
Writer: Rod Serling
Cast: Joan Crawford, Ossie Davis, Richard Kiley, Roddy McDowell, Barry Sullivan, Tom Bosley, George Macready, Sam Jaffe, Norma Crane, Barry Atwater, George Murdock, Tom Basham, Byron Morrow, Garry Goodrow, Shannon Farnon, and Richard Hale
Composer: William Goldenberg
Gallery Painter: Jaroslav Gebr
Air Date: 11/8/1969
Black sheep nephew Jeremy Evans (Roddy McDowall) murders his rich, invalid uncle, William Hendricks (George Macready), in order to collect a handsome inheritance, preventing butler Osmund Portifoy (Ossie Davis) from receiving a fair share of the family fortune. Before settling into his new luxurious lifestyle, however, Jeremy is driven insane by the final painting of his late uncle.
“The Cemetery” benefits from a chilling atmosphere, a contemptible villain, and an ironic double twist in the final act. Supernatural horror and suspense fans will therefore enjoy this offering, which earns its reputation as a Night Gallery classic.
Similar to Barbara Polk from The Twilight Zone’s “Uncle Simon” (another entry written by Rod Serling), Jeremy shows no remorse for accelerating the demise of a wealthy relative—an utterly despicable act, especially when accentuated by the callous manner of Roddy McDowell’s character. Nevertheless, Jeremy may evoke pity when losing his mind over a morbid painting—the subtle changes of which indicate that William, though dead and buried in the family plot, will later emerge from his grave and seek revenge on his scoundrel of a nephew, who conveys a childlike fear response toward his imagined fate.
Employing the power of suggestion to create a spooky and surreal setting, “The Cemetery” tells a tale of karmic justice without relying on copious gore and violence—unlike the majority of anthology shows (e.g. Tales from the Crypt and Tales from the Darkside) that operate on a horror-themed premise.
A haunting introduction to the Night Gallery series, “The Cemetery” earns praise for its eerie soundtrack and psychological terror. Also noteworthy is the performance of McDowell, whose portrayal of Jeremy may elicit both sympathy and disgust from the viewer.
Overall Quality: 10/10
A rich blind woman named Claudia Menlo (Joan Crawford) blackmails Doctor Frank Heatherton (Barry Sullivan) into performing an illegal, experimental procedure. Specifically, Dr. Heatherton must transplant the eyes of Sidney Resnik (Tom Bosley)—desperate for the money to repay his debts—into Claudia, granting her eleven to thirteen hours of sight. Unfortunately for Claudia, an unforeseen problem occurs immediately after surgery.
The directorial debut of Steven Spielberg, “Eyes” deserves recognition for the acting of Joan Crawford, Tom Bosley, and Barry Sullivan. In addition to its topnotch performances, this segment concludes with a clever—albeit logically flawed—twist ending.
Forced to give up his optic nerves in order to pay back a menacing loan shark, the character of Sidney will affect viewers of a sensitive nature. In one heart-wrenching scene, for example, Sidney exhibits gratitude for the wonderful experiences that his many years of eyesight have brought him—a powerful contrast to the perspective of Claudia, who blames both God and the world for her blindness.
Astute audiences may question why Dr. Heatherton performs the operation during nighttime hours, preventing Claudia from fully enjoying her brief window of restored eyesight.
Upon removing her bandages after surgery, Claudia fails to see the objects around her due to a city-wide blackout. With windows positioned at the rear of her apartment complex, however, Claudia should still manage to observe the car headlights emanating from the street below—the most significant plot hole in the entire pilot episode.
As evidenced by the opposite reactions of Claudia—a bitter, selfish woman who has no problem using others for her own advancement—and Sidney, a simple-minded but likable man with a positive outlook on his predicament, this offering demonstrates how gratitude, kindness, and humility can compensate for a terrible situation.
“Eyes” is a well-acted and suspenseful Night Gallery segment. Especially satisfying is the comeuppance of Claudia, whose pays an awful price for her hateful attitude.
Overall Quality: 8/10
The Escape Route
Assuming a false identity in South America, Nazi fugitive Josef Strobe (Richard Kiley) finds solace in a museum painting of a fisherman. Now dreaming of a peaceful life, Strobe is confronted by a Holocaust survivor known as Bleum (Sam Jaffe)—former prisoner in a concentration camp under Strobe’s authority.
“The Escape Route” should be praised for the performance of Richard Kiley, who adds an air of humanity to the most unsympathetic character imaginable. This segment is, however, marred by its languid execution, unoriginal premise, and heavy-handed moralizing.
Despite showing no remorse for his atrocities against the Jewish people, Josef Strobe comes across as a realistic figure driven by complex motives and relatable ambitions—much in contrast to SS Captain Gunther Lutze, who, in The Twilight Zone episode entitled “Deaths-Head Revisited,” is presented as a one-dimensional sadist whose evil tendencies border on the absurd. Notably, Strobe desires nothing more than to avoid justice for his war crimes and lead a quiet, simple life as a fisherman—a poignant dream that compels the viewer to connect with Strobe on an emotional level.
Forgoing the creep factor of both preceding segments, “The Escape Route” may appeal to horror fans only for its final twist involving a macabre portrait.
Failing to explore a possible redemption angle for its main character, “The Escape Route” serves only to highlight the malice and cruelty of Nazi ideology—a concept that, though worth examining, here suffers from a lack of nuance.
This offering benefits from a ghastly ending, which may satisfy horror buffs who possess a firm sense of justice. Nevertheless, others may criticize “The Escape Route” for its generic use of a Nazi theme.
Overall Quality: 6/10
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